by Janis on 11th August 2023 / 0 comments

An Edwardian retreat in Kent

Yay, we’re off to explore another magnificent National Trust site in Kent. We’re visiting Emmetts Garden, a beautiful hillside retreat overlooking the picturesque Wealden countryside and the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

If you’ve been keeping up with our National Trust garden visits, we’ve previously explored Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Scotney Castle in Kent and Nymans Garden in West Sussex.

I would just like to add that if you have a bit of a penchant for alpine and rock gardens, you’ll love Emmetts Garden. It’s incredible how the National Trust gardeners keep their properties looking so magnificent.


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A little background on Emmetts Garden

Brings global planting to Kent
Emmetts Garden is a picturesque Edwardian estate located on one of the highest points in Kent. Before 1860 this area of Kent was rural farmland; a gorgeous residential home was built on the land, and in 1893 Frederic Lubbock purchased the estate.
Emmett's house as seen from the rose garden with a central circular fountain
House & rose garden

Although Frederic Lubbock was a banker, he was also a passionate plantsman. Frederic Lubbock adored plants in all shapes and sizes, especially trees. His vision was to create a wonderful Edwardian garden containing plants from around the globe, particularly from Asia.

To assist Frederic in his venture was his friend William Robinson, a well-respected horticulturist and garden designer. Robinson had extensive knowledge, and between them, they began to create a magnificent garden filled with rare and unusual trees, shrubs, and plants.

Frederic Lubbock died in 1927, and Emmetts Garden was acquired by American geologist Charles Boise. Charles wanted the garden to continue to flourish in the same vein; therefore, he continued to employ Frederic’s head gardener George Tylor for another 34 years.

The delightful gardens you can explore at Emmetts today have been lovingly managed and manicured by the National Trust since 1964, when they were bequeathed to the trust by Charles Boise.

A bronze nymph atop a fountain at the centre of the rose garden at emmets gardens in kent
Exploring the North Garden

Frederic Lubbock died in 1927, and Emmetts Garden was acquired by American geologist Charles Boise. Charles wanted the garden to continue to flourish in the same vein; therefore, he continued to employ Frederic’s head gardener George Tylor for another 34 years.

The delightful gardens you can explore at Emmetts today have been lovingly managed and manicured by the National Trust since 1964, when they were bequeathed to the trust by Charles Boise.

National Trust further reading

If, like us, you enjoy visiting the National Trust gardens around the United Kingdom, then grab yourself a copy of the latest ‘Gardens of the National Trust’.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip.

Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden

An enchanting escape

I loved exploring the Alpine and Rock Garden at Emmetts; it was like you were on a voyage of discovery, and peeking out through every crevice was another delightful plant.

We are looking to create a rockery in our own garden, so visiting Emmetts gave us so much inspiration; however, theirs was on a much larger scale.

The dappled shade provided by ruby red acers and lush green ceders in Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden in kent
Exploring the Rock Garden

What I especially enjoyed was that you actually wandered through the middle of the rockery. We entered the Rock Garden at the top through a charming little wrought-iron gate and snaked our way along the meandering path.

The enchanting Alpine and Rock Garden was one of my favourite areas of Emmetts Garden, and the diverse planting was magnificent.

A close-up of purple flowers clumped together on hard planting within the Rock and alpine section within emmett's gardens
Happy planting

The ornamental and wispy garnet-coloured Acers offer dappled shade as you wend your way amongst the 95 tons of Kentish ragstone. Tiny delicate flower heads poke through the loose gravel, which is such a contrast to the gnarled rocks.

The planting throughout the rock garden was tremendous; there was such a diverse mix of plants from across the world and plenty of hardy British species. Minute little alpines gave way to heathers, feathery ferns, and sedums.

A small waterfall flows over the rocks in Emmetts Alpine and Rock Garden into a small lily pond.
 Lilly Pond in Emmetts Rock Garden
As you slowly make your way along the honey-coloured pathway to the bottom of the rockery, you’ll discover one of the many ponds located throughout Emmetts Garden. This lily pond was alive, with different species of wildlife enjoying their new aquatic home.
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Emmetts flowering meadows

It’s all about the wildlife
As you exit the rock garden at the lower gate, you’ll have an unobscured view across the Kent countryside and the Wealden landscape, which is amazing. It’s also from here, where you can admire the Wildflower Meadow stretching into the distance.
A densely planted meadow of blue cornflowers and tall golden grasses at emmetts garden in kent
Cornflower Meadow

Just nearby the Wildflower Meadow is the Tulip Meadow; this meadow has been planted with tulips since the Lubbock family owned the estate, attracting all the local butterflies and bees.

We visited Emmetts Garden in early summer; therefore, the tulip meadow had evolved effortlessly into a cornflower meadow. The charming meadow was a sea of spellbinding sapphire cornflowers.

This striking section of the garden was captivating as the gorgeous blend of delicate cornflowers and golden ears of corn brings a smile to your face.

The rose garden at Emmetts

A tranquil retreat

The formal yet enchanting Edwardian Rose Garden at Emmetts is especially beautiful and was created by Frederic Lubbock for his wife Catherine between 1910 and 1920.

The Rose Garden lies in front of Emmetts House, making it easily accessible for the Lubbock family to enjoy throughout the day. I should imagine a delightful place to sit of an evening.

A view of the rose garden at emmett's to the countryside of the kent weald beyond
Beneath the rose pergola

The Italianate Rose Garden is meticulously managed by the National Trust gardeners, and it is the only section within Emmetts Garden that is formal in its design.

The focal point within Rose Garden is a circular stone pond and fountain filled with waterlilies. The symmetrical design of the garden works so well with roses, especially the exquisite standard roses around the pond.

It’s a lovely garden to relax in, just take a seat and appreciate the vision around you. The simplicity of just using pastel pink and white roses makes the garden even more mesmerising, and the delicate perfume is heavenly.
The abundant flowers of the Pink Octavia Hill standard rose in the rose garden of the national trust emmett's gardens in kent
Pink Octavia Hill standard rose

We have a few roses in our garden and are considering buying another couple; Gary’s philosophy is that you can never have too many.

Ensure you stroll up the few steps to the dreamlike rose-canopied pergola to admire the far-reaching Wealden landscape.

Exploring Emmetts North Garden

A voyage of discovery

As we continue to stroll deeper into Emmetts Garden, we effortlessly find ourselves in the North Garden. It’s from here that you can truly appreciate the views over Ide Hill.

The North Garden is stunning; you’ll feel like you’re on a journey of exploration around the globe. The meandering pathway leads you from one lush area to another, with extraordinary species of plants in all shapes, sizes, and textures.

The lush cottage garden planting of the north garden at emmets gardens in kent
Across the North Garden

The North Garden has progressively been nurtured back to how Frederic Lubbock and his family would have once appreciated it. At the top of the high path is a verdant and healthy pond, a nirvana for the local wildlife.

The garden gradually angles down the fertile ridge to another impressive pond below. Everywhere you look, there are unusual species of plants collected from around the globe. The planting in the North Garden is such a credit to Lubbock and William Robinson; it’s tremendous.

A path running through the north garden at emmets gardens in kent
Emmetts North Garden

In the North Garden, you’ll discover an astonishing array of Japanese Maples, Magnolias, and Rhododendrons, and some old favourites, too, that you’ll recognise from your own garden.

This section of Emmetts gave us some ideas and inspiration for our own cottage garden bed. If I spot a plant I like, I use the app ‘PlantNet’ to identify it; you must download it if you haven’t already. It is so useful.

Strolling the South Garden at Emmetts

Discovering its rare species
Once you’ve explored the lower section of the North Garden, it’s just a short hop across the path to Emmetts South Garden. We wend our way into the South Garden and discover a Quiet Zone where you can sit and enjoy the delightful sounds of nature. I must admit I found it extremely peaceful anyway.
A path running through the lush planting in the south garden at emmets gardens in kent
The South Garden

In the South Garden, there is also a charming gazebo that offers a place to rest and admire the landscape beyond. Even with the sheep baahing in the neighbouring field, it’s so tranquil here.

Emmetts South Garden is a pretty large area, home to many exotic trees and shrubs, some of which are scarcely seen in the British Isles. These rare species were transported back to the UK from Lubbock’s overseas expeditions.

A small wooden gazebo tucked away in the south garden at emmets gardens
Gazebo in the South Garden

The South Garden, along with many other parts of Emmetts, suffered significantly during the awful storm in 1987. Some species were saved; however, 95% of the surrounding woodland was lost. The National Trust has taken considerable steps to bolster the planting of trees; however, these things take a significant amount of time.

You can head off on a woodland walk from within the South Garden. If you love Bluebells, then Emmetts Garden is the place to visit in late spring, when a stunning ocean of delicate bluebells can be seen.

Visiting Emmetts Garden

There’s a story to be told

As you wind your way back towards the National Trust visitors centre, ensure you stop at the Discovery Cabin.

This charming log cabin is full of fascinating tales and images relating to Emmetts Garden.

The wooden discovery cabin tucked away within emmett's gardens
The Discovery Cabin

When you step inside, you’ll begin to uncover the history of Emmetts Garden through the eyes of the Lubbock and the Boise families.

Go on, grab your National Trust membership card, and visit Emmetts Garden in Kent.

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