Head Gardener's Notes

Our Gardens in September: Blooms and Maintenance

1st of Sep, 2023

As September rolls in and autumn appears on the horizon, we start the month with an odd combination of misty, spiderweb-strewn mornings followed by days filled with warm weather and bright sunshine. The beginning of the month is sure to accelerate the autumnal fruit growth and perhaps confuse many of the insects and animals who would usually be preparing for the cooler temperatures.

The cooler months are traditionally the maintenance months at Penshurst Place, and though the weather may be warmer, jobs will persevere largely per the schedule in preparation for winter.



The Walled Garden design was originally adopted in the 1560’s as a means to protect the fruit trees that were grown at Penshurst Place. Today you will still find a myriad of fruit trees here, in most abundance are the apple trees which thrive in the Orchard, alongside Jubilee Walk and on Coronation Walk. The apples we pick are now being collected and given to our Chef for use in the catering operations, as well as stored in the apple store.

As they grow in abundance, please help yourself to any windfalls you find on the ground during your visit, but please leave those still on the tree for us to collect as you may cause damage to the trees by picking them which could affect their fruit production in future years.


The Yew

Forming the walls in the Gardens is over 1 mile of yew hedging that will soon be receiving its annual cut. The process of cutting the yew is not as simple as taking off a few inches, before we begin we have to carefully line up and level the new shape with guiding rope, before cutting both sides and the top, making the total full cutting distance about 3 miles.

The whole process usually takes between 6 and 8 weeks, as well as a lot of upper arm strength from our team!

You’ll probably notice during your visit that the yew isn’t the only topiary in the gardens, it’s accompanied by the globes on the Demi Lune, the pillars in the Magnolia Garden, the box in the Italian Garden, and of course, the Porcupine and Bear. These will also all soon benefit from a trim ahead of the cooler weather.


Plant Divisions

Ahead of the winter arriving, we will be dividing the plants on the herbaceous borders which is essentially the job of thinning out and replanting. This will not leave empty patches in the beds, in fact it will ensure the opposite. If we were to leave the plants to expand on their own, they will naturally do so in a ring shape, leaving a gap in the centre. This is a great job to do at home at this time of year to ensure your beds look full and vibrant ready for next year.


Preparing for Winter

Before the frosts begin and the ground becomes hard, we will be turning the soil in the Italian Garden beds ready for rose planting. In my earlier notes I mentioned that the previous tulip display had been removed ready for a new rose display in 2024. Tulips will still feature in the beds for the Spring, but the main display will now be in the summer.

We’ll also be scheduling the heavier maintenance jobs that are too disruptive to do in the open season, such as the removal of dead trees, and other tree surgeries. Most noticeably this is planned for the Orchard where a few of the trees are simply not coping with the change in the UK climate year on year and must now be replaced with varieties better suited to warmer temperatures. This will sadly mean the loss of some historical British varieties of apples which are suffering the effects of climate change.