Explore Great Comp

A seven acre garden of exceptional beauty, Great Comp is set in the heart of the Garden of England in Sevenoaks, Kent. A garden for all seasons in spring this tranquil space bursts into life with Magnolias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, underplanted with large drifts of spring bulbs and Hellebores. Usually open for the National Garden Scheme in October, when ornamental grasses punctuate the colourful borders and combine beautifully with the myriad colours of late autumn, we’re delighted to share this walk through the magnolias in spring.

More about magnolias…


Fossils show that magnolias evolved before bees more than 20 million years ago. They are one of the most ancient of flowering trees and the famous Hillier’s Manual of Trees and Shrubs says: ‘The magnolias embrace the most magnificent of flowering trees hardy in the temperate regions.’ Because of regular breeding of new varieties many have long and complicated Latin names.

Most gardens with extensive magnolia collections in Britain tend to be where the climate is mild to avoid the danger of frost damage to the flowers to which many are particularly susceptible. So the extensive collection at Great Comp in Kent is somewhat unusual. Built up during the second half of the 20th century, it now contains some impressive trees including a fine Pink Tulip Tree, (Magnolia campbellii subsp. mollicomata) often the largest of all magnolias. Other highlights include Magnolia denudate which has strongly scented pure white flowers, Magnolia ‘Heaven Scent’ which originates from California and Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ from New Zealand.

Lead photo shows, with the house at Great Comp in background: Magnolia loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ – bred at Nymans in Sussex and named after the designer by his uncle.

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