Welcome to The Grange Open Gardens virtual tour, raising funds for Friends of Benenden Grange.
In these challenging times we are all isolating and unable to open our gardens to the public. Embracing technology we thought we would take the opportunity to share a virtual tour. We all need some beauty and mindfulness in these challenging times.
If you can identify species or add more information to any images, please do get in touch. We love learning more about our sensational heritage.
Thank you for those who have visited the gardens in the past for continuing to support us and to our newcomers for taking the time to visit virtually. We plan to open the gardens in 2021, and look forward to seeing you then.
There will be an opportunity to join our mailing list for information about our future events at the bottom of the page.
Friends of Benenden Grange (FOBG)
The Open Gardens generate revenue for Friends of Benenden Grange who provide additional support to the services to enrich the lives of the people we support.
With the cancellation of the Open Gardens, the charity has incurred costs ahead of the event which we are unable to recoup. In the absence of this fundraising event, if you enjoy our virtual tour, you can still make a donation through our Just Giving page
It is believed that The Grange was built between 1859-1862 by the 1st Earl of Cranbrook Gathorne Hardy.
In 1919, Collingwood Ingram purchased The Grange and during his time he developed the gardens. Collingwood Ingram passed away in 1981.
The Grange had a number of owners in the next 10 years including audio engineer, songwriter, musician and record producer Alan Parsons.
In 1991, The Grange began it’s journey as home to adults with Learning Disabilities. There are currently 16 people who live at The Grange who are supported by The Grange (2016) Ltd. The Grange has an amazing staff team who support exceptional people.
The Grange (2016) Ltd have 3 services in the Cranbrook area and are a proud subsidiary of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People.
There really is something very unique and engaging about all of our services. We feel very honoured to not only come to work in outstanding beauty at The Grange and our services in the Kent countryside but also to be part of something very special. We are of course biased!
With the permission of the people who live at The Grange, the gardens are opened once a year for the public to enjoy. At the bottom of the page, you will be able to register your interest in joining the Open Gardens mailing list so we can keep you informed of future events.
The Gardens Map
We have 7 acres of gardens, it would be impossible to document everything on the map, but here are a few highlights.
Thanks to our friend Michael at Burning Leaf Creatives for producing our map for the event. Burning Leaf have been a great resource over the last few years and both The Grange (2016) Ltd and FOBG are grateful for all our branding support.
Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram
The beautiful gardens at The Grange were carefully cultivated by the celebrated horticulturalist, Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram, whose love of flowering cherry trees was ignited 100 springs ago.
Ingram moved to The Grange in the Summer of 1919 and in spring 1920 was delighted to witness 2 flowering cherries in full bloom in the otherwise unremarkable garden. He named this variety of cherry Hokusai after the world-famous Japanese woodblock artist whose work Ingram loved.
Over the following 60 years, Ingram dedicated his life to his love of plants, travelling all over the world hunting and collecting plants for his garden. To this day, the garden is crammed full of stunning blossoms, rare treasures and exotic curiosities. It feels like a continuous treasure hunt with more and more information being unveiled with each educated visitor and enthusiast we encounter.
The jewel in the crown of Ingram’s legacy is the Taihaku flowering cherry. Its giant white blossoms are a truly majestic sight to behold and the story of its existence and repopulation is just as wonderful.
Written by Masuhiko Kayama and sent to Collingwood Ingram in 1932:
Oh cherries, cherries, my dear cherries
Go across two oceans and a continent safely.
You don’t know England yet
But there are your friends and your kind master.
Bloom! Bloom, beautifully as in your native home
Your blossoms are a chain of friendship
Between England and Japan.
You are a speechless diplomat
Oh sakura, sakura, my dear sakura
On entrance to The Grange
The Grange has two driveways which give visitors a clue about what’s ahead.
From Iden Green Road
The entrance from The Green
Ingram, whilst visiting a friend in nearby Winchelsea, noticed a variety of cherry tree that was struggling to survive in her garden. He asked to take a scion, which she allowed, and from that successfully cultivated it in his own garden at The Grange.
A few years later on his 1926 visit to Japan, Ingram recognised from a painting, the blossom and leaves of his great white flowering cherry. He asked the cherry expert, whose great-grandfather had painted the picture some 130 years previously, what the variety of cherry was called. He said it was called Akatsuki, but it had long since disappeared. Ingram was astounded – the painting captured perfectly his Taihaku; he told the cherry expert, Mr Funatsu, but it was clear that he was doubtful. Ingram now vowed to prove it to Mr Funatsu and reintroduce this variety back to Japan.
After 6 years and 5 separate attempts to send Taihaku saplings to Japan, in 1932, he finally succeeded, sending the scions pushed into potatoes and transported on the Trans-Siberian Railway. And there begins the story of the reintroduction of the Taihaku, not just to Japan, but to the rest of the world.
The homecoming of the Taihaku was bittersweet in one respect; Mr Funatsu died in 1929 and so never got to see its return to Japan.
And here, in the garden of The Grange, still stands the proud and beautiful Mother Tree, at almost 100 years old; she is truly magnificent.
But Taihaku is only the beginning, around every twist and turn of the garden lays another treat, another rarity, and different treasures greet us throughout the year.
You can find out more about this amazing story in the brilliant book written by Naoko Abe – ‘Cherry’ Ingram The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms
What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms
Ingram despised artificial garden design and set out to create what he termed “a succession of sylvan glades” connected by curving paths that seemed to have no finishing point.
Collingwood Ingram bought this incredible Cedar back from the Atlas Mountains as a sapling. It now stands as a mighty giant on the lawn.
Springtime in the gardens
The high winds in recent weeks have not been good for the blossom but we’ve captured as much as we can for you to enjoy.
“Blossom by blossom the spring begins” Algernon Charles Swinburne
“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size” Gertrude S. Wister
Thanks to Ed from The Grange leadership team for putting together this video of the gardens on 31.3.2020.
Sakura Cherry Tree Planting Project
In September 2017 the Prime Minister, Teresa May, and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced in Tokyo that during 2019 and 2020 the two countries would mark the Japan-UK Season of Culture.
During that period, it has been agreed that the UK would plant thousands of Japanese Sakura cherry trees all across the UK.
We are delighted to be part of this project and are excited to share that in late 2020, we will welcome 27 new cherry trees of 9 different varieties, all with links to the legacy of Collingwood Ingram.
Keep an eye on our news, we will share the story of our planting ceremony.
Join us next year at the open gardens to see our new additions.
Saigyo, a twelfth century Buddhist monk and poet:
Let me die
Underneath the blossoms
In the spring
Around the day
Of the full moon
Can you help?
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne
Maintaining the gardens can be quite challenging, we have a lot of weeds of the kind we’d rather not get to know! If you would like to get involved as a volunteer to help us then please get in touch and add a comment below.
Thank you for taking the time to view our gardens. If you have enjoyed our virtual tour and would like to make a donation to FOBG you can do so here
Stay in touch
We hope to add more news stories as the gardens develop over the spring and summer. Keep visiting to see the gardens bloom.
If you would like to be kept up to date with news about the Open Gardens, please provide your details below and we will add you to our mailing list.