Salvias and lavenders – North West Kent

Great Comp Garden and Dyson’s Nurseries

For over 20 years William Dyson has been growing and raising salvias in north-west Kent and his outstanding collection numbers well over 250 different species, cultivars and hybrids tucked away in a private corner near Great Comp Garden. His particular interest is in the New World species and cultivars, that is those from Mexico, Central and South America, and the southernmost states of the USA. Very varied and beautiful they are too.

Salvias are famous sun lovers thriving in well drained soils where they bloom over several months. While many are tender, others survive here in temperatures of approximately -10°c. William showed us his propagating techniques and we admired benches of immaculate cuttings and young plants. See his website for detailed advice on increasing a salvia collection and his catalogue arranged by hardiness or colour (

A good selection of choice and uncommon hardy and half-hardy salvias is for sale at the entrance of Great Comp Garden where many of William’s plants flourish in the borders. He is currently experimenting with a low salvia hedge composed of dozens of salvias, each one different. William curates this fine 7-acre garden too
Downderry Lavender Nursery, Tonbridge (

A few miles from Great Comp Garden is Downderry, the pioneering Scientific National Plant Collection of Lavender and Rosemary of Simon and Dawn Charlesworth who claim to ‘carry the most diverse genetic pool of lavenders on earth’. Downderry has received an extraordinary number of RHS Chelsea Golds and other awards of excellence.

hen pruning – Simon urged, “the harder lavenders are pruned on the whole, the longer they will last”, as he demonstrated a certain ruthlessness with his secateurs. Many dry gardeners among us were interested that the great majority of Downderry’s lavenders are planted in little stony mounds of their own to prevent waterlogging – the death of lavenders. Follow this link to see Simon pruning.

Again, far too much to tell here. Downderry’s comprehensive website advises on lavenders particularly for the UK, including relative frost hardiness of species and cultivars for every situation.

A tip: Simon uses pure lavender oil on all cuts and bites for instant relief and speedy healing.
Juliet Walker 2014

 Photo of Great Comp: Guy Cheeseman