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Kent garden in running to be nation’s favourite

Nectar-rich plants are plentiful around this barnyard conversion in Faversham

A Kent contemporary garden, created specifically to grow nectar-rich plants and set in a beautiful position overlooking Oare Creek near Faversham, has been shortlisted in a competition to find the Nation’s Favourite Garden.

Pheasant Barn owners Paul and Su Vaight were taken by complete surprise when a letter arrived in the post saying that they had been shortlisted – one of only 28 gardens across all of England and Wales.

They have been opening their garden for the National Garden Scheme for 10 years now, with visitors coming from across Europe and even as far as Uruguay!

Pheasant Barn has a series of gardens and spaces around a handsome barn conversion, a project started 20 years ago. The gardens have been created specifically to grow nectar-rich plants and to provide a haven for wildlife.

The courtyard garden, formerly the barn farmyard, has been designed by the Vaights to reflect the farmland around them. Long diagonal beds were cut out of the compacted ground and filled with lines of muscari, catmint, germander and late flowering lavender surrounded by a rosemary hedge. These lines of planting have raised oak boardwalks crossing them, a further nod to the nearby creek moorings.

Above and below – more views of this delightful garden. Pictures: Leigh Clapp

The courtyard itself is now edged with apple trees and old hop poles that are used for climbers, and there is a wonderful pebble-filled pond that creates different levels for the various birds to enjoy. Beautiful modern sculptures and the use of Corten steel bring a contemporary feel to the space. Close by is a vegetable garden with raised beds inhabited by lizards, while grass snakes and slow worms enjoy the large compost areas, created from the yearly meadow cuttings.

Beyond the courtyard is a floriferous two-acre meadow which has been a long-term project on this fertile site as wildflowers prefer poorer soil. Here, paths meander down to the creek ditch and a to magical grass labyrinth. Su and Paul have also created an area of four late season perennial beds within the meadow, inspired by visiting Piet Oudolf’s gardens in the Netherlands a couple of years ago.

Wonderful modern sculptures collected over the years are also placed throughout the garden spaces. The garden is open in June and July when the meadow flowers are at their very best.

The public are now being asked to vote for their favourite gardens across the nation in order to find regional winners as well as one overall winner.

The winners of this competition – one for each region, one public garden and one overall champion – will be revealed in the autumn.

To support Pheasant Barn click here to register your vote


David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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