The gardens at Hole Park cover a total of some 15 acres and were laid out and planted by Colonel Barham, the great grandfather of the present owner, in the years between the two World Wars. Much of their beauty is owed to the great variety which they offer throughout the year from the first flowers in January to the last autumn colours in October, and also a contrast between classic form on the one hand and flowering shrubs in a woodland setting on the other.
The bluebells at Hole Park are renowned for their spectacular display: a woodland walk takes visitors through the heart of a dedicated bluebell wood where spring blossom and catkins crown the native tree species which seem to float on a haze of violet blue. The birdsong at this time of year also adds to the magic of these beautiful gardens.
Immaculately trimmed yew hedges, many with geometric topiary shapes, surround much of the formal gardens, creating a strong backdrop to Italianate and walled gardens where soft golden gravel paths are lined by overflowing herbaceous borders, and statues and elaborate planted urns create a visual standpoint. Mellow brick walls with elegant wrought iron gates lead from lawns to rose gardens, while water plays a part throughout, from the formal Italian pond visible at the front of the house, through to the discreetly hedged swimming pool and on to the natural ponds.
Colour is important, too: a blue border coolly lines a long straight gravel path, while hot yellows and oranges in the tropical border complement the brick walls behind. The vineyard, a semi-circular garden, offers a pleasing palette where the rich mauves of the unusual and impressive standard wisterias are offset by lush pink hydrangeas and profusely flowering white clematis running along the inner colonnade.
Step out of the formal areas down a gentle slope into a different world, where grass or bark paths meander through woodland dells or alongside a bog garden fed by a little stream. Shady ambles lend tranquility to the scenery and visitors can admire the banks of stunningly colourful massed azaleas and rhododendrons as they continue to put on a vibrant showing after their early summer peak.
A sense of calm and unhurried pleasure pervades Hole Park and makes an afternoon out truly enjoyable. While the crowds enter on their timed tickets and press on each others’ heels at some of Kent’s gardens, garden lovers here have time to stop and admire the many delightful features and aspects and finish with tea and homemade cakes, and perhaps a browse at the plant stall.
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