Great Comp. 26.09.12.

Great Comp is a 17th century Manor in north Kent. Roderick and Joy Cameron moved to the Manor in 1957 and started to build the garden that now occupies 7 acres around the house. The garden also houses William Dyson's nursery and collection of Salvia. Late autumn perennials were trying to reach a peak of performance, but it was pouring with rain and we were all rather battered down.

The front of the house looks down along this vista which cleverly masks visitor parking and the drive coming in from the right. There is a balance between architectural forms and loose planting that is both inviting and personal, without the institutional coldness that spoils some large gardens.

The path to the Tea Rooms (essential first port of call on a cold rainy day) leads through the large square garden behind the house. We were travelling in a charabanc of gardeners. Those filled with enthusiasm explored the gardens, those less filled topped themselves up with a selection of sponge cakes.

The central lawn is surrounded by mixed borders with gently controlled colour themes. The combination of a simple plan and a light touch result in a beauty that seems inevitable and artless rather than contrived. (I'm not always a fan of 'colour' borders. It often seems that a lot of time, cleverness and money have been spent to duplicate the effect of a can of emulsion paint. Not the case here.) Make-up should be applied with similar skill, though it isn't always the case.

The Square leads on to the Italian garden. Recent brickwork combines with much older walls. The bold mixture of styles and colection of statues and artifacts is playful and fun. This moon gate is unconventional but fits the environment perfectly.

I enjoyed the combination of mellow stone statuary and objects in a loose herbaceous setting. The Italian garden wanders through a design idea without getting trapped in it.

Further out from the house, the garden is a network of lawns and paths that flow between the mature trees. In spring and early summer flowering trees and shrubs must be spectacular but at this season the subtle tones of evergreens were very satisfying.

The garden has a great sense of poise. The mature planting is dense enough to enclose and divide the garden into comfortable pieces without obscuring the magnificent scale of the whole. The structure has been encanced with a lively modern selection of plants and feels refreshingly personal.
Fortunately we had arranged to stay with friends of mine nearby and left the charabanc. We were spared the difficulties of travelling home in a small vehicle with a group of wet gardeners.

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