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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

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. 








Frosty December

Posted on 19th November, 2017

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. 

Now your wisteria should have dropped most of their leaves and are ready to prune. Cut back to two or three buds and prune out any large sections that have gotten out of control. Also, if you have climbing roses to prune and tie in to a frame work, check the temperature as you are much more likely to brake stems when bending them if it is too cold especially in the mornings.

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. Make sure young trees are checked as the growth rate can be quick and ties can easily cut in to the tree.

Clearing off beds and cutting back, so they are ready for mulching either now or in the spring, should be well underway. Make sure any tender plants have sufficient winter protection. Take care to protect cannas as they are tender and will not survive without help.  You could either treat them the same way as dahlias or give them a thick mulch to help protect the crown of the plant.


Posted on 20th October, 2017

November Blog

Now it’s that time of year when the leaves keep falling and you are constantly trying to keep clear and tidy your borders and lawns. But the one good thing is that leaf mould can be made from all of your hard efforts of collecting the leaves. Leaf mould is a great compost or mulch and doesn’t take too long to rot down. If you have a compost system in place you could just add it to that or make it on its own. There are many different ways people make leaf mould depending on the quantity you have do a search online to find out what option might work best for you.

For all the undesirable things in your garden such as perennial weeds, infected or diseased material its best to put it on the bonfire. So when you’re doing your pruning and leaf collecting if anything looks not quite right to you try to identify the issue and burn it. The ash can then be used in the garden or mixed in to the compost next time its turned over.


You can prune roses from now but I always wait until the leaves have dropped which makes it easier and quicker to prune. If you are not going to prune your roses until December its best to check them for any wind rock now and do a couple of snips or staking so nothing snaps off in any storms we might have. Also it is best to rake up the rose leaf to help prevent black spot from occuring. We always put rose leaves on the bonfire for this reason.

It’s not too late to plant your spring bulbs. Best to do it before the ground is frozen or too wet to work with. Tulips don’t like sitting in wet ground so if you have a particularly wet garden you might want to plant your tulips in pots and then plant out once they are more established.

It’s recommended that glue or grease bands are put around the trunks of fruit trees to help stop moths/caterpillars climbing up from the ground to mate and lay eggs. This should help prevent less damage to the trees next year.

Keep an eye on your holly if you want to make a wreath this year. Once its ready cut it off and place it in a bucket of water in the shade, somewhere cool and away from birds. It should be happy like this until you need to use it for wreath making.

Once your garden starts to look a little bare of seed and fruit it might be a good idea to put up some bird feeders to help the birds get through the winter months. Birds are also helpful when it comes to pest control so it doesn’t hurt to make sure they keep visiting your garden.

October- Dahlias

Posted on 20th September, 2017

I hope everybody has got their autumn onions, shallots and garlic ready to go in. Fingers crossed for a good crop next year.  I have chosen a mix of varieties this year so we can do a taste test and find out which ones we like most as well as which ones store well.

HarvestIt’s time to lift and store carrots, beetroot and any potatoes you have left.

Leaving a small amount of soil on can help delay the risk of decay.

Keep an eye on dahlias as when the frosts start, the foliage will turn black and they will need to be lifted and brought in.

When lifting your dahlias cut the stem down to 3 or 4 inches and remove all of the soil.

Check the tubers for signs of damage or diseases, if a tuber is soft I would suggest throwing it away as there is a good chance it will go bad and could interfere with your other dahlias.

Leave the dahlias out somewhere to dry for a couple of days and then pot them up in to bark/wood chip and store them somewhere frost free over winter.

In the spring give them a small amount of water and leave them somewhere there is light. When the new growth appears continue to water and plant them out once the frosts have past.Keep them in a frost free environment and replant in the spring once new shoots appear and frosts have past.

Wild tulipNow is a good time to plant bulbs for naturalizing in the lawn. I would suggest planting some tulipa sylvestris as it looks great and will spread by itself.

So now we are in to October this is the last chance to do any work to the lawn whether you need to re-seed or lay turf.

This is a good time to do it as the weather helps out with showers, a good amount of sun and the soil is still warm. Now is a great time to scarify, hollow tine or solid tine and top dress unlevel or bad patches in the lawn.

Choose a good seed mix that suits your needs whether that is hard wearing, for shady areas or a fine lawn. We are also cracking on with all of the hedge cutting.  Now there are no birds nesting, it's time to get it done before they return in the spring.


Posted on 22nd August, 2017

So now the days are shortening its time to start to split and divide herbaceous perennials that have finished for the year. Make sure the plants are replanted or potted up as quickly as possible and watered to help them recover from the shock of being split.


You can also check/start to cut of runners from plants such as strawberries as by now they will have rooted well and should be able to survive on their own. There are other methods of propagation which can be done this month such as hard wood cutting to increase your plant numbers for next year, Check the RHS website for advice on what plants can be propagated in this way.

Summer raspberries can be pruned back just leaving the new young growth which will become next years fruiting canes.

If you have fruit trees in your garden try to remove damaged / mouldy fruit when you see it as it can help spread disease to the rest of the crop. You can also cut any long grass at the base of the tree to help spot windfalls.

If you are lucky enough to have a glass house now is likely to be the best time to have a good clean and tidy before any plants starts to go back in for winter protection.

Keep an eye out for seed pods in the garden as these are a great resource for growing more plants next year and can be a great help if plants do die over a hard winter.



Posted on 23rd July, 2017

Hi everyone thank you all very much for coming to are NGS open day on the 16 July we had a great day and raised a lot of money for  charity.


We had over 300 visitors and sold a lot of tea, cakes and plants.


It’s that time of year when the dead heading and watering seems to take over the garden. With dead heading doing it a little and often can go a long way.



Keep on top of the faded perennials by cutting them down when ready to allow more space for other plants to grow. It’s a good time to cut lavender back once it’s finished flowering, this will keep it compact.


Some pruning can be done this month if you find the time such as summer flowering shrubs, whippy growth on wisteria and climbing roses (I don’t normally prune climbing roses until a lot later in the year personally October-December).


Don't forget to collect seed when it’s ripe ready for sowing next year. Also if you have tender perennials try taking cuttings and growing them on ready for planting out next year.


Wildflower 2017


If you have a perennial wildflower meadow in your garden now is the time to cut it down. This can be done with a strimmer or scythe. I would suggest leaving the grass on the ground for the seed to drop out, this can be aided by flicking the grass around using a hay rake or pitch fork.


If your meadow is lacking in fauna once it is cut you can open the soil up with a scarification, or you could turn over the turf in the worst areas and sow the seed directly over the area. Sowing yellow rattle will reduce the vigour of the grass over time which will in turn help the other flowers establish.

Purple Tomato


Keep on top of harvesting all of your fruit and veg as a lot will be ready by this point. You can cut down herbs to get a fresh crop before winter. The tomatoes will still need feeding and also remove the lower leaves to aid ventilation and help prevent diseases.


Now is also a good time to go through bulb catalogues and get some ideas for next year. You can also take a stroll around the garden see where you have gaps or plants that are not performing and get good ideas from catalogues.


Posted on 22nd June, 2017

Hi everyone, my name is Jon Fenlon, I recently took over from Lee as Head Gardener at Smith’s Hall. I have always had a passion for gardening from a young age and I am really excited for the opportunity to work at such a lovely place. Please come along and say hi at our NGS open day on July 16th.



During July keep checking for dead heads on Penstemons, Lupins and foxgloves. Carefully check down the stem when dead heading to spot the next flush of flowers and cut down to this point


Some plants such as Hardy Geranium and Delphinium can be cut back fairly hard to get a second flush of young green growth and flowers. Make sure to water them well after cutting them back to give them the best start of bouncing back.


If you have any overcrowded Irises in the garden now is a great time to lift and divide them, do this with a border fork to prevent damage to the roots. Once lifted, cut off any parts of the rhizome that is damaged or soft. You will notice the rhizomes have a front and a back end so when replanting take note of which way round you are placing it.


Lilies at Smiths Hall


Lilies will now be flowering in the garden and smelling lovely but keep an eye out for the Lily beetle. It is bright red with a black head and legs so it’s very easy to spot, also keep an eye out for their larvae which just look like brown lumps.  If you only have a couple of lilies then remove by hand otherwise use an organic insecticide such as bug clear.


If you are growing cucumbers but wish so save space train them up a structure by tying them in. This will give you more space for other crops and also keep your cucumbers off of the floor.


By July your tomatoes will be cropping which will make them very hungry for extra nutrients; you can help them out by feeding them once a week with high potash feed. Make sure you water the top of the soil as this is the quickest way to the fibrous roots that run just under the top layer of soil.


Most people will have some herbs in the garden but not everybody is using them to their full potential. Herbs are best used when they are fresh young leaves, so keep on picking it. If it is currently rather large use the older growth in a cut flower arrangement. Once you get in the cycle of harvesting the young growth, you may well have an influx of herbs but don’t worry you can dry them or freeze them.


June has been fairly dry and if this continues in to July I would recommend cutting the lawn at a higher setting. The lower you mow the lawn the more stress you are putting it under which in turn may well make it go brown quicker.  Whilst the lawn is slightly longer you will also notice where all of the weeds are. This is a good time to spray them off with a selective lawn weed killer. Once the weeds are dying off, feed the lawn with a nitrogen based fertilise to bring back its lush green colour and strong new growth.  

I would recommend that everybody takes a look at autumn crocus as a new edition to their gardens. The autumn crocus is a very over looked plant, but it can add a splash of colour almost anywhere. So take a look in some bulb catalogues this month to find the right one for your garden.  

The one thing you must do this month is to just enjoy the garden. I look forward to seeing everybody on the open day.  

Blooming June

Posted on 21st May, 2017



The lovely month of June brings the glorious British summer and loads of exciting growth and colour to our gardens. The mad rush to get all things planted has passed and it’s time to enjoy all your garden has to offer.

Keeping on top of your garden is the order for June and with regular pruning, trimming, weeding and cutting you will ensure you will have a garden worth enjoying all summer long.




A question often asked is when should you clear away or cut down the old daffodil and tulip leaves. They do look unsightly after the flowers have faded and are often in front of borders and can be untidy as your summer borders start to take shape. Best to just wait until they die down naturally and start to go brown. The foliage just pulls away and can easily be cleared.

A lovely late spring/ early summer bulb which are flowering now are Alliums. So many different varieties to choose from and they have become very popular in recent years. I planted a new collection of purple varieties under a tree last autumn which are now flowering. ( see pic)





We have had a magnificent multicoloured display of bearded irises this year. They started mid May but hopefully will continue into June for our NGS garden open day!

After flowering you can split and divide over crowded clumps of irises. Choose the healthy new plants while discarding the old to the bonfire. Cut the leaves back to about 9 inches in length so as to avoid the roots been loosened by the wind.

Remember they like their rhizomes in the sun so don't plant them too deep.

This should generally be done every 3/4 years.





Your summer borders full of perennials will be in full flow by now. Some of these you can get to repeat flower, especially the early ones such as poppies, delphiniums and lupins. Cutting them back hard after flowering will result in a second wave of foliage and in some cases a second summer flush of flowers.

Remember to keep staking and tying in the tall ones!




June is typically the month in which roses are at their peak, so ensure you stay on top of deadheading to keep your displays looking as stunning as possible. Watch out for black spot on leaves, simply remove these when you see them. Aphids will also attack fresh flower buds and growth on roses. Keeping them sprayed regularly with a rose spray will help.




I am sad to say unfortunately this will be my last article. I have decided that after gardening for 35 years, since I was 12, it is time to make a career change.

Gardening will always be my passion and I have loved every day of my career and especially working for the Norman family at Smiths Hall for the last 28 years.

The garden will be open on June 4th which will be my last day and I would love to see you all there.