The Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden is a walled garden, on the edge of the River Stour, occupying a building gap in Pound Lane which was created in 1983 by the demolition of two 19th century cottages. An archaeological dig successfully identified the Roman origins of this north west corner section of the city wall, showing that the medieval structure of flint and ashlar sat above the original Roman core.

The garden was planted in memory of Kenneth Pinnock, a well-known local publisher and one of the founders of the Canterbury Society. In 2009 Kenneth Pinnock received the John Hayes Award for his book ‘A Canterbury Childhood’, published after his death. The Pinnock family and the John Hayes Award Committee decided that the award should go to the Canterbury Society, who used the money to help with the costs of planting in the Butterfly Garden. A memorial plaque commemorating the event was placed in the garden on 19th June 2010. In 2018 the Butterfly Garden was again refreshed with new design and re-planting by volunteer members of the Canterbury Society.

Before replanting, the moisture retention of the light soil was improved using copious amounts of compost, followed up with a good layer of old semi-rotted woodchip when the planting was complete. Plants were chosen with consideration for creating long, varied seasonal blooming, varieties which are good for pollinators and the selection of some unusual hardy plants. The plants were chosen with the aim of encouraging butterflies and bees to this peaceful haven on the riverside.  

Many plants have been donated by members of the Kent Branch of The Hardy Plant Society; for example a Dregea, a choice climber, for the North wall, which has a white flower with good perfume and a very generous donation of blue Camassia from Rachel Castle of Swallowfields Nursery, Elmsted.

Special planting along the top of the riverside wall leads the visitor into the seclusion of the garden. A mixture of dwarf rockery tulips was planted in the autumn of 2017:  Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, First Love, Albion Star and Calypso.  They have obligingly reappeared in 2019.    Tuberous begonia “Apricot Shades” were planted out as the tulips died down.   They were removed for the winter and will be brought into growth again this year before replanting. Evergreen hardy Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’, a deep blue, was also planted at intervals.

The earliest show in the central sunny bed comes with crocus and snowdrops, while winter aconites appear in the shaded area. These are followed by tulips and daffodils. In the autumn alliums were planted amongst the Dahlias in the sunny bed to provide interest while the Dahlias are getting underway. Two varieties of Single Dahlia were chosen for their generous display of golden pistils containing pollen: ‘Waltzing Matilda,’ water-melon pink and ‘Clair de Lune,’ pale Lemon.  Blue Salvia – ‘Caradonna’ was used for contrast, and white Cosmos gave extra height.  Other pollinator friendly herbaceous perennials – Phlox and Penstemon provide extra colour in this bed along with other nectar producers: wallflower, verbena, thyme and marjoram.   Lavender and jasmine are on the west facing wall. Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ provides good evergreen foliage and white flowers in winter.

In the shady bed height is provided by Thalictrum (Meadow Rue) and Aruncus ‘Horatio’ an improved Goat’s Beard. Anisodontea, ‘El Royo’, of the Malva family, is backed by the white flowered potato vine, Solanum laxum ‘album’ on the wall, where there is a little more sun.    In the shade of another wall are a group of Sarcococca for early perfume.  Several ferns have been planted in this bed, some of which will become quite tall with time, with foxgloves planted in-between them.    More unusual Veronicastrum album and Kirengeshoma have also been planted in this section. Meanwhile, hardy Geraniums ‘Biokovo’ and ‘Rozanne’ help to cover the ground.  Tall grasses Hakonechloa macra ‘albovariegata’ were kindly donated by Philip Oostenbrink, head gardener at Canterbury Cathedral, who holds the National Collection of this species.

The Canterbury Society volunteers also play a vital role in regularly watering, weeding and dead-heading flowering plants in the Butterfly Garden during the hot dry summer months.

In January 2019 the Butterfly Garden won a Highly Commended in the Open Spaces and Public Realm category of the Canterbury Society Design Awards. The judges said: ‘This is an admirable and delightful riverside garden, representing both a reversal of previous neglect and the efforts of the community volunteer labour that created it. It offers a space for contemplation within its walls and a welcome, tranquil haven of rest within the city.’ The Butterfly Garden has been entered  into the, Its Your Neighbourhood  section of the South and South East in Bloom, 2019.

This secluded walled garden on the riverside will be drawing in bees and butterflies as well as human visitors during the spring and summer months

Butterfly Garden, Pound Lane, Canterbury, CT1 2BZ

Dahlias in the Butterfly Garden

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