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Hi, I'm Jon Fenlon.

I am the new Head Gardener at Smiths Hall, having previously worked at Sissinghurst Castle & Smallhythe Place. During my time at Smallhythe Place I undertook a rejuvenation project of the entire garden including designing a Rose Pergola, reinstating the Rose Garden and creating wild life habitats.


Latest Posts

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.


April - Spring

Posted on 20th March, 2018

Now lets hope the snow has passed and the weather starts to warm up so we can start to enjoy the garden once again. You will see lots of your plants starting to spring in to life and put on new young growth. There is still time to mulch your beds or add organic matter to give your plants a good start to the season.



Prune Penstemons as you see the new growth start to appear at the base of the plant. The older growth is left on to protect the base of the plant from the harshest of the frost.


Its a good time of year to split and divide Hostas as you see the new growth appear and Primroses as there flowers fade.


If your planning on moving any evergreens or planting new topiary now is the time as the soil warms and April showers help water the plants in so they establish well.



You can now sow hardy annuals outdoors and annual wildflower meadows. Make sure you check for weeds during the germination process as they can outcompete your flowers very quickly.


In the glasshouse make sure to check for pests and diseases and clean the glass if you haven't done already. If your glasshouse is heated you can start off your hanging baskets now ready to put out once the frosts have passed or the plants are more established.


Don't forget your lawn at the beginning of the season, over sow bare patches, fertilize established lawns with a high nitrogen feed. Make sure to edge the lawn as this little touch can make the entire lawn look a lot smarter.




Posted on 18th February, 2018

Spring is now fast approaching and an excellent time to get back into the garden after the winter.Now we are in March it is a great time to plant your bare root roses, make sure you plant them to the correct depth with a good mulching. An organic slow release fertilizer can be used to aid root establishment, you can look for a specialized rose fertilizer in the shops.

If you have any shrubs in the garden that need to be moved, now would be a good time to do so, just make sure the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. You can also still split and divide herbaceous perennials. This can make your plants actually perform better because you are removing any competition for space as well as nutrients. A general fertiliser like fish, blood and bone can be used on your shrubs or hedgerows to help improve their growth. Lightly fork the fertiliser in to the top of the soil. With your hellebores don't forget to remove the leaves to expose the flowers.

When the soil is no longer frozen or waterlogged you can consider sowing hardy annuals directly in to the flower beds. Another way of doing this is by buying plug plants, order them now to be delivered in May for direct planting in to the garden. Keep a close eye out for slugs as they like fresh new growth. Its best to put some control measures in place.


Staking rapidly growing plants is best done now while they are small. It will become more difficult and messy if you leave it too late. There is a variety of ways and methods of staking from simply using sticks from the garden, canes, metal structures and twine/ mesh systems. For smaller plants I personally try to use hazel from the garden its natural, looks good and its free.

Rhubarb can be forced for an early crop simply by blocking out the light. You will get a crop of tender sweeter growth earlier than the rest of the crop which will extend your cropping season.

For anybody wanting a nicer lawn this year now is the time to fix and repair the edges, use a sharp half moon edger to get a good line. If moss is present in the lawn use a moss killer and rake/ scarify when ready. Also remove any tap rooted weeds and spray off with a selective weed killer which will not effect the lawn.


Don't forget to keep feeding the birds over march as they are starting to build there nests.


February Flowers

Posted on 20th January, 2018

Hi everbody, as Spring is just around the corner I thought I would share with you some of the flowers that are just popping up around the garden as well as some berries that are still looking good.