Philip Oostenbrink is the Head Gardener at Canterbury Gardens who was instrumental in ensuring that Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was included as a beneficiary of the Open Gardens on May 25th and 26th May 2019.
Gardening in a historic environment
Four years ago I became Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral. Before I had the interview I imagined that the planting schemes would be quite traditional, but even when I walked around during the interview I discovered a whole array of unusual plants, Japanese gardens and tropical borders. When I told The Dean how surprised I was to find all this on a 1500 year old site he explained to me that although the building was not changing much and mainly preserved and restored, he felt the gardens should change and go along with the times. Sometimes when I do a tour through the gardens I tell this story and not long ago a lady exclaimed it should be more traditional and the gardens should be resembling the gardens as they were during Monastic times. If we did that though, we would have skipped about 700 years of history because even before the first church was built on the Canterbury grounds in 597 AD there was a Royal Palace on that spot which no doubt had its own gardens and orchards.
One project we are doing at the moment is creating a collection of Magnolia. These Magnolia have a local provenance. They are bred by Amos Pickard who had a nursery near Canterbury from the 1960s-1980s. He bred 23 different Magnolias and we are hoping to get all of these together and planted around the Cathedral grounds. Obtaining these plants is difficult and shows the importance of the conservation of garden plants as some of them are very difficult to get and some of them may already be lost completely. Once we have a sufficient amount of plants we will apply for National Collection status with Plant Heritage. It will also be our aim to redistribute any spare plants/cuttings so they are less likely to disappear. After all if you can give 5 people a Pickard Magnolia it is more likely for them to be preserved for the future than if there is only one around.
So this is how on an ancient site we extend important conservation work to the plant world and not just the buildings.
Under the National Garden Scheme
Canterbury Cathedral Gardens are open on 25th and 26th May 2019.
Please come along and support this Open Garden as Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity, Perennial and NGS will benefit from a donation from the entry fee
19 The Precincts
22 The Precincts
15 The Precincts will be open to the public
Added attractions include a new plant fair incorporating specialist nurseries with unusual plants for sale. Cathedral Gardeners’ herb stall. Home-made refreshments. Dover Beekeepers’ Association, up close and personal opportunity with Birds of Prey and unique access to Bastion Chapel. Classic cars on Green Court
It is a wonderful opportunity to visit and enjoy the private gardens within the historic precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. The Deanery Garden with scented roses, kitchen garden, unusual trees and wild fowl enclosure; the Archdeaconry includes the ancient mulberry tree, contrasting traditional and modern planting and now both a Japanese and New World influence. Other gardens offer sweeping herbaceous banks, delightful enclosed spaces, and areas planted to attract and support wildlife. Step back in time and see the herb garden, which shows the use of herbs grown for many purposes in the Middle Ages. The walled Memorial Garden has wonderful wisteria, formal roses, mixed borders and the stone war memorial at its centre, and the hidden Bastion Chapel in the city wall. A garden planted in the Friends’ name surrounds the Buffs’ statue.
The gardens of Canterbury Cathedral comprise not only of the private gardens but also the public gardens of the Precincts, including the Friends’ garden. Lovingly cared for by the Cathedral Gardening Team, the private gardens are quite diverse; from the large open spaces of the Deanery, with fruit and vegetables, showing off the Dean’s love of roses, bulbs and blossom to the small garden of No. 19, with its medlar tree and blue & white border set in the shadow of the Cathedral itself. The Archdeaconry has a slightly more formal structure, with standard roses and a quiet area with a Japanese influence, whilst the front paving is lush with well-loved hostas and beginning to reflect the New Zealand roots of the Archdeacon. No. 22, has a ‘secret’ garden to the rear with a stone water feature and gazebo and No. 15, the home of our Canon Missioner has deep herbaceous borders with the lawn crowned by the magnificent Copper Beech . Apart from the 5 residential gardens, the Precincts offers the Memorial Garden, Water Tower Garden, Friends’ Garden and of course our Medicinal Herb Garden. In this garden you will find a collection of herbs relied upon for their properties through the centuries – which are now linked to our copy of Gerard’s Herbal from 1597. An extra treat is the Lattergate garden, part of the historic King’s School. All of these gardens are set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cathedral itself. Should you wish to stay overnight, B & B is often available at the Cathedral Lodge which is within the Cathedral Precincts. For accommodation contact 01227 865350 or www.canterburycathedrallodge.org.
Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was lucky enough to catch up with Philip Oostenbrink the Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral, who is busy preparing for the open days.
His top tips of what to look out for include :-
Deanery: the garden is over 1,000 years old and features on the first ever plan of the Precincts. A large tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima stands at the end of the lawn.
No 15 garden: a lot of work has been done in there since Canon Nick (now Dean of Salisbury) left last September. The woodland walk has been planted up with more unusual trees and ornamental shrubs have been replaced with Kent Cobnuts to give more of a native woodland feel. The lower bank is still in development as an infestation of bindweed and ground elder needs to be addressed before new plants go in
Archdeaconry: a rare variegated Geranium maccrrorrhizum ‘Variegatum’ can be found at the end of the lawn, under the Pittosporum.
No 19: an espallier gooseberry was planted along the metal fence.
No 22: The lawn has been extended and new borders planted on the right hand side as you walk in to make the feel of the garden flow better.
Saturday 25th May 2019 11:00 – 17:00
Sunday 26th May 2019 14:00 – 17:00
Light refreshments on Green Court. Entry Info: Sat 25 May general precinct & gardens entry £17. Precinct pass holder £5 garden entry. Sun 26 May £5 garden entry (no precinct charge). Refreshments in aid of nominated charities.
Please note – on Saturday, in addition to £5 admission, precinct charges apply. On Sunday there are no precinct charges
Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity will be manning a stand at the Open Gardens so please pop along and see us. We would like to convey our thanks to everyone at Canterbury Cathedral who has been involved in choosing our Charity as a beneficiary, we really appreciate it.