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Hi, I'm Jon Fenlon.

I am the Head Gardener at Smiths Hall, and before that I worked at Sissinghurst Castle & Smallhythe Place. Smiths Hall has over 300 rose bushes but luckily roses are a favourite of mine! 


Latest Posts


Posted on 19th March, 2019

Jon is on holiday this month so we included this special item about Martyn Jones and his terrific work at All Saints churchyard, especially coming up to Village in Bloom! 


Keeping a churchyard tidy is hard work.  Think of the uneven ground, the gravestones and the trees.  And there are lots of corners. 


So next time you are passing, stop by All Saints churchyard and admire the work of Martyn Jones and his assistants.  The Village in Bloom committee was so impressed, they decided to have a go at the special “Churchyard of the Year” award this year.

I talked to Martyn as we walked round the other day.


Martyn Jones: teenage years in West Farleigh(Martyn Jones: teenage years here in West Farleigh)


Martyn’s roots here go back a long way – his parents moved here from Snodland when he was 11, and he lived in Chequers Cottage (as it then was), next door to the Tickled Trout.  He remembers as a boy sitting on John Day’s combine harvester, shooting at rabbits, pigeons and crows as the wheat was harvested. 


As a lad, he started work at Tesco in Tovil, and then joined with an engineering company down in Paddock Wood, machining brake disks and camshafts.  The auto industry is an uncertain employer (as we see today!).  15 years later, having survived 9 rounds of cutbacks, he decided to jump ship. 


Planting spring flowers by the entrance(Planting spring flowers by the front gate)


He used his redundancy money to get the qualifications he needed to work outdoors, doing landscaping, tree work and gardening.  Starting the business was hard.  He went door to door, dropping leaflets.  His first customer was Pip Wakefield on Lower Road (and she is still a customer today!) But he persisted, and he got work all round Maidstone. 


In March 2015, MJ Garden and Property Care won the tender to look after All Saints.  Since he took over, the grass has been cut, there are no brambles and nettles and the yew bushes look as tidy as guardsmen on parade (see below)


  (Yew bushes as tidy as guardsmen on parade)


With Village in Bloom in mind, work has accelerated.  Donating several days of labour, Martyn and his crew have cleared the spaces under the trees, planted meadow flowers by the gate, and removed piles of old tiles and debris.  Even the old bonfire site has been planted with wild flowers. The work has exposed graves and memorials that haven’t been seen for a generation (see Martyn and his assistant Stephen above)




Martyn and his assistant Stephen

(Memorials that haven't been seen for decades)


Landscape gardening is not Martyn’s only passion.  He is a historian, and fascinated by the marks that the Romans left on our landscape (quarries for example).  Recently he bought a metal detector and has been prospecting along the river banks (with the landowners permission!).  The very first object he found was a mediaeval purse bar.


(The last resting place of Prince Alexander Croy and his wife Princess Primrose, 

a generous donor to All Saints.  An article about them will be on the website shortly).


We owe MJ and his wife Teresa, (who is an enthusiastic supporter of all these initiatives), a big thank you for their efforts and feel confident that the Village in Bloom judges will be just as impressed.


Come and see the churchyard for yourself at the annual plant sale on Sunday, 12th May.  2019, 10am to 5pm.  This year, it’s a joint venture with the PCC and Village in Bloom.  You can enjoy Kentish Cream Tea and buy a wide variety bedding plants and more exotic things for your garden.  And bird boxes (which can be personalised to give as presents)! 



Posted on 20th January, 2019

It's that time of year to prune back the wisteria to 2 or 3 buds ready for the next flowering period.  Any strong growth can be trained on wires if required or simply pruned in the same way. This prune is different to the summer prune in which you only remove the long tendrils. The winter prune re establishes the frame work, so this is when you can also remove larger woody sections if needed.

February will be your last chance to cut the hedges as birds will be busy building nests ready for spring breeding. Help keep your birds strong for the season ahead by putting out good quality bird seed and the odd fat ball.

Ornamental grasses can now be cut down to just above ground level. Evergreen grasses should be checked over and any dead stalks removed.

Ivy can be a pain for a lot of people but it is a great habitat for many reasons. It can be used for roosting bats and birds, hibernating insects. The flowers are full of yellow pollen that the bees and butterflys love. Ivy is not a parasitic plant it dosent live off of a host, it simply uses other plants / buildings to climb up. I would suggest if you have ivy try and keep it in order by giving it a winter trim each year. Dont allow it on to any roofs or near any guttering or it will cause you issues in the long run.


Happy Christmas

Posted on 20th December, 2018

I hope everybody has had a good and productive year in the garden. From the Garden team at Smiths Hall we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Shrub rose prune before-

Shrub rose prune after-

Now is a great time of year to dig over empty beds as you will break up any pans and the frost will break up any large clods on the surface. Once dug over add compost to help keep the soil healthy with nutrients and mulch to help supress weeds.

It is also a good time of year to check all your plant supports and make sure plant tyres are all secure and still needed. In the photo above you can see this rose has be re-trained on to the wall with all new wires. Make sure young trees are checked as the growth rate can be quick and ties can easily cut in to the tree.


The fig tree photoed above was estimated 20ft High and 14ft deep (from the wall). It has had a major prune and all new wires put in to the wall. This took just over a day and was done with a hand saw as the new growth was very close to the old. Its now 7ft high and 2ft deep. The fig has been trained for foliage to cover the wall as much as possible. It will grow some fruit but not loads.


November 2018

Posted on 19th October, 2018

Throughout October the weather has hung on in which has aloud November autumn colour to be at its best. The leaves have stayed on longer and given a broad range of copper, yellow, amber and red colours. Now they have begun to drop, its time to collect those leaves for composting. Leaves can be collected off of lawns using a lawn mower which will also shred the leaves and speed up the composting procedure. Leaf compost generally takes about two years to become a useable product. Making sure it dose not dry out and turning it a couple times should insure you get the best possible outcome.

As the wind can sometimes picks up over November take a look at your roses. If there is long new growth on your roses that you are waiting to tie in, do this when you come to prune it. You may wish to temporary tie it now or give it a slight cut back. As the wind can snap this new growth or even rock the entire plant. We have had am amazingly long season of roses this year which are still flowering now as I write this.

Now is a good time to keep an eye out for birds. Give them a helping hand by keeping your bird feeders or table stocked up. Birds can be a great help in the garden with pest problems so its always good to keep them happy and keep them coming back.

As the colder weather sets in look after your tender plants and pots. Raise pots off of the ground especially if the area their in puddles. Some plants might require being taken indoors or into a greenhouse . There are a variety of options for winter protection for example, cloches, fleece, bubble wrap, heavy mulch layer.


October 2018

Posted on 20th September, 2018

October brings a mixture of shorter days and the start of overnight frosts. As the frosts begin keep an eye on your dahlias as the foliage will begin to blacken, when this begins they will need lifting and brining in.

To lift dahlias the stem needs to be cut down to around 3-4 inches and it is important to remove all the soil in order to check the tuber for signs of damage or disease which could cause issues with your other dahlias if not detected. After lifting the dahlias ensure that they are left to dry for a few days before placing them in pots with bark or woodchip and stored somewhere frost free over the winter.


Once the frosts have begun to ease and the spring arrives you can give your dahlias a small amount of water and bring them somewhere light and await for the new growth to appear. Continue to keep them stored and watered until the frosts have past and the new shoots appear then they can be replanted.


If your soil is very free draining and dose not sit wet over the winter you may be able to mulch your dahlias and avoid the need to lift and store them. Results vary with this method depending on soil conditions, weather and thickness of mulch applied.

Autumn vegetables such as garlic and onions are ready to be planed now, and hope for the best next year, 2018 crop photo above. Any potatoes or carrots that you have now need to be lifted and stored along with any beetroot. Make sure you leave a small amount of soil on to help to delay the risk of decay.

Before the Frosts start make sure you harvest pumpkins and squashes as they will quickly turn to mush if left for too long. We have had a brilliant crop of pumpkins this year.

Now that the birds have finished nesting, spend some time getting hedges cut before spring returns.


It is time to plant daffodil and tulip bulbs for the spring in flower beds or naturalising in grass.


If you still need to complete any lawn work such as re-seeding or laying turf this will be your last opportunity. The weather will help with this as the mixture of showers and sunshine and with the soil still being warm the seed or turf should take well. Before reseeding first the lawn should be scarified, hollow tined or solid tined and finally top dress unlevel or bad patches within the lawn. Finally it is important to select the correct seed mixtures for the type of lawn required such as hard wearing or fine lawn.


September - The Rain Returns

Posted on 17th August, 2018

September is that time of year when the days start to get noticeably shorter and the winds and rain will generally increase. With this in mind and with the soil still being warm from the summer its a great time to plant trees,perennials and bulbs. Trees will put down a better rooting system this time of year and a small amount of wind can actually make them stronger as it helps to get a better footing.

Keep up with the dead heading around the garden to prolong the flowering period. Don't forget hanging baskets and planters will carry on until the first frost if kept dead headed and well fed.

September to October is the best time I find to do lawn work such as scarifying, re-seeding, edge repairs or even laying a new lawn (more detail on this in last years blog post).












I have added some photo's from around the vegetable garden of things that are looking good or might be of interest. We have grown melons for the first time and cucamelons (like a small grape sized cucumber). Also the chillies in the glass house are all doing pretty well. The zinnia from our picking garden are also looking great at the moment.



August - Sun, Sun and more Sun

Posted on 18th July, 2018

I imagine most of you will be watering your pots regularly to keep them going over this long dry spell we are having, don't forget to add some liquid feed in there as well to give your plants the nutrients to really perform. If you are watering plants in beds remember a short quick water is not that helpful. It will allow weeds to grow, make shallow roots, and evaporate on hot days before its had a chance. A long soak is needed for water to penetrate down through the soil to where the plant really needs it.

The lawns are looking a bit sorry for them selves at the moment but don't fear they will return with the rain. I would suggest you don't feed them in the drought. Raise the cutting height of your lawn mower to avoid over stressing the grass even more.

Dead heading will also be at the top of your list to keep your flowers going for longer. When dead heading also consider what you would like to collect seed from or would like to let spread naturally by self seeding where it is. Some plants also fruit have attractive seed pods that you can put in a display in the winter, for example rose hips, echinops. Some perennials will need cutting back to keep them tidy such as geraniums.

If you have a Wisteria in your garden that has now finished flowering you can cut off the long straggly growth back to five leaves. This is generally needed when a wisteria is near paths windows or doors. The main prune will not be done until later.

August is the time to cut down your long grass / perennial meadows. Cutting now will help disperse all of the seed that is currently in the flower pods. This is done by strimming it all down at the base then using a pitch fork to move and turn the cut long grass. I have had this method work well over a number of years especial helps getting yellow rattle to spread quicker.

Most importantly enjoy your garden how ever big or small, maintained or jungle. Sit outside and just take it all in.


July - Blooming Great

Posted on 19th June, 2018

As the garden is full of flowers the best thing to keep it this way for as long as possible is to dead head, dead head and then dead head some more. You can cut hardy geraniums and delphiniums back to encourage new growth. Sweet peas can go on for months if dead heading frequently, so plenty of cut flowers for your home.



Watering is a must this time of year, water your newly planted plants, pots, crops and lawns if needed. Small pots will dry out quickly so check them daily to be safe.

Keep on top of the tying in of climbers, sweet peas and clematis. You will want to check your climbing roses as the new young growth is easy broken in the wind.

Pests and diseases are on a war path to take over the garden. Everything from rabbits to lily beetles, aphids, rust and powdery mildew. Plans should be made for control measures to be put in. Try cultural and preventative measures first before turning to chemicals.

If your Irises are looking crowded, now is the time to split and divide them. Cut the leaves down to 2/3inches, dig them up and split them using a weeding knife and remove any dead or damage. Once replanted in the chosen bed keep on top of the watering. Iris should be planted with only half the rhizome below the soil level.


Keep are NGS open day in your calendar Sunday 1st July 11am-5pm. See you then


June- Its all Rosey

Posted on 20th May, 2018

Its that time of year when the garden is growing quicker then you can keep up with it. All of the newly designed beds have been planted now the frosts have passed and everything needs a good watering to get it established. The weeds are trying there best to take over so use a hoe on a warm dry day to knock them back, or if you have the time a hand fork is best to remove them all completely.


Go around your garden and fill any gaps with annuals or even sow some Poppys direct. Poppys can flower in as little as 8 weeks. When going through the borders make sure to check tall plants and top heavy plants for staking. Dahlias especially as their flowers can be so big they get top heavy as soon as they bloom.


Roses are out and doing what they do best. Keep on top of the dead heading for repeat flowers and tie in any new long young shoots to avoid them being broken in the wind. We had a restoration prune on are roses over last winter and mulched the rose garden. This has had a great effect on reducing the amount of black spot we have without using any chemicals.


Even this time of year pruning still needs to be done . Its time to prune spring flowering shrubs once they have finished flowering. Lilacs can be pruned and they will regrow over the rest of the year producing fresh shoots which will flower next year.


If you would like some wallflowers next year now is the time to sow the seed these biennials will perform for you in the spring. Are you a fan of hanging baskets? Now is the time to put them out on display. Keep on top of the watering and feed them once a week to help get a great display.


The kitchen garden is now very productive and earning its place in the garden. Fresh salad from your own garden is great, everybody should give it ago. Keep watching your onions and garlic that you planted last year as the leaves begin to go yellow, you know its time to harvest and reap the rewards from your crop.


At Smiths Hall last summer I planted a banana tree in the sunk garden and am happy to say it survived the winter wrapped up and is now growing well. Smiths Hall NGS open day is on the 1st of July please come and visit and support this good cause. I hope everyone's sunflowers are doing well for West Farleigh in Bloom.



May - The end of the frost

Posted on 19th April, 2018

The garden is now in bloom and full of life. Its time to plant up your hanging baskets and harden off your cannas and dahlias by leaving them out during the day and taking them in at night for a week or two. Just keep an eye on the weather and temperature.

Keep track of your climbing and rambling roses as they start to grow as you do not want the new shoots braking off. The same goes for climbers like clematis and sweet pies keep them tied in to a frame work to get the best display and to stop them from splaying out and smothering other plants.


Also look out for pests and diseases. Blackspot on roses can be sprayed with systemic fungicide. Make sure you read the label and spray at the correct time for the most effect.


Try your best to keep on top of the weeding, this will not only make your garden look tidy it will mean less competition for water and nutrients for your other plants which in turn will make your plants develop and grow stronger.


Whilst weeding don't be tempted to clear the foliage from spring bulbs that have finished flowering until the foliage has faded. This will allow the bulb to get the most energy stores for next year.

Now the weather should be warming up, so make sure you water your pots and add a granular fertilizer or liquid feed depending on what is in your pots. All pots will require different amounts of watering each week depending on the plants you have in them. You can get water crystals that store water which should mean you can water them less. They are available at most garden centres.