Archive for the ‘Gardens to visit in Sussex’ Category

Jardins des Sericourt

Although my blogging has been rather minimal this year, I have quietly visited a few corking gardens and nurseries that I couldn’t resist writing about. My previous post noted the merits of Les Jardins Agapanthe just north of Rouen, and above are Les Jardins de Sericourt, roughly halfway between Calais and Amiens, also in northern France.

Topiary 3 at Jardins de SericourtI must say that I didn’t find the gardens as a whole as satisfying as the exceptional Jardins Agapanthe, but this magical topiary walk really took my breath away and justified the trip.

Topiary walk at Jardins des Sericourt

I do seem to be developing a penchant for evergreens. Does this come with age? I think so. I’m not going to be throwing out my lush perennials, but I find that a fine bit of topiary increasingly gives pleasure and I’m (finally) starting to really understand the merits of year round structure, even in smaller gardens, where space is always fiercely fought over. And some evergreens, such as Myrtle, Sarcococcas, Pittosporums and Skimmias will also give you scent and berries.

Chilean Guava wholeThis Chilean Guava is such an evergreen shrub (part of the Myrtle family I think) and was covered in the most moreish deep red berries at Edulis Nursery in Pangbourne (near Reading). Wouldn’t this be great for an edible hedge?

Chilean Guava berries

It needs neutral to acid soil, and a sunny sheltered spot, although it should tolerate temperatures to about -10. There’s also a rather attractive variegated variety and one of these might be featuring in a client’s garden (or two) as well as my own next year.

Szechuan Peppers square

Edulis is a wonderfully exciting nursery to visit, with so many unusual edible plants to tempt you. I also came away with a few fantastic varieties of chives (edible flowers, stems, and roots), some which will grow in shady areas and others that have gorgeous flowers in September and October and all the way through to December.  The Szechuan Pepper tree (above) is also on my list for when I get that extra half an acre.

Niwaki Ladder by elephants

Next on my favourite things list is this great Niwaki ladder which I’ve been lusting after for years. I’m absolutely delighted with it. I’m not great with heights, but I feel safe and secure working from it and it’s light and easy to carry around. What more could you want? Different heights? It comes in quite a few. Alas, more temptation!

Gravetye ManorAnd I finally got to visit Gravetye Manor in July for a spot of lunch and a good wander around the gardens, which are now under the very capable hands of Tom Coward, formerly Fergus Garrett’s deputy at Great Dixter. One needs to be a resident or lunching to visit the gardens, but there are some talks and tours in the gardens this year (see below in comments). Not a cheap option, but worth the visit.

Garvetye flower border

The deep borders were soft and romantic,

Romantic borders at Gravetye Manor

packed full of summer colour and very uplifting.

Walled veg garden at Gravetye ManorHowever, the main draw for me was the enormous 2 acre oval-shaped walled veg garden (walled garden envy alert!).

Trained fruit trees at Gravetye Manor

All the beds were immaculately maintained, with trained fruit trees dotted along the walls,

Stepover apples at Gravetye Manor

as well as step-overs edging some of the beds.

Garvetye walled garden flowers

And there was a great hum of insects from the flowers that were generously planted along the margins of the beds.

Picking gooseberries at Gravetye Manor

It’s great to see varied growing techniques in different gardens and I found these Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries, trained as cordons, very inspiring. A lot easier to harvest than from a bush, these upright fruits would be wonderful to grow in tight urban spaces and I’ve already ordered a few to experiment with in my own garden.

Siew Lee's front garen July 2015So onwards for 2016. I’m looking forward to visiting lots more exciting gardens. Above and below are the delightful airily planted gardens of Siew Lee Vorley, another Great Dixter gardener with an abundance of vision.Siew Lee's back garden 2 July 2015

Her gardens are packed full of artful plant combinations, (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ above from Marchants Hardy Plants, flanked by the annual, Larkspur ‘Sublime Lilac’)

Siew Lee's back garen July 2015 with truly gorgeous colours and textures. This delicate Kniphofia ‘Rufa’ (above), is a non edible plant from Edulis. They do flowers too!

Siew Lee in her garden 2Siew Lee’s garden is in Brightling, East Sussex, a hop skip and a jump from Sarah Raven’s flower picking patch, and if you’d like to visit her gardens this year, you can contact her at slvorley@googlemail.com.

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Crocuses, 26 March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Every time I go to the heavenly gardens at Great Dixter, I learn something new. And I gain even more appreciation about what this fantastic garden and the ethos of its gardeners have to offer.

Siew Lee Vorley explaining palnting in the Long Border at Great Dixter March 2013

This visit I spent a day volunteering and a day in the company of fellow bloggers being shown around the gardens by the very welcoming Great Dixter team. Above is deputy head gardener Siew Lee Vorley, explaining how mulch is added to the long border using a tickling fork. The soil and mulch are mixed together with the long-handled fork, so that self-seeded seeds don’t get buried under the mulch and are encouraged to germinate. Just one of the practices that Great Dixter employ that make this garden so appealing.

Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter March 2013

Head gardener Fergus Garrett’s gave a great talk about successional planting in the gardens,

Purple Hellebore planted with Cardimine quinquefolia

where layer upon layer of planting follows on in each area, providing a richness of changing plant combinations throughout the seasons.  (Above is a purple Hellebore planted with the delicate Cardimine quinquefolia and with Cynara cardunculus emerging behind.) Fergus’ desire and enthusiasm for experimentation is infectious and many ideas can be taken away or scaled down to use in smaller gardens too.

Snowdrops Feb 2011

Designing borders in petite London gardens that will provide year round interest can be challenging, but underplanting deciduous shrubs and trees with spring bulbs is a useful idea to take away as is choosing the right cultivar of perennials for longer flowering. If you’re planting blue Geraniums, choose ‘Russell Pritchard’ or ‘Mavis Simpson’ which will flower for 3 months rather than the gorgeous ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which will sadly only put on a show for 3 weeks.

Clematis at Great Dixter

Another idea I’ll be putting into action this year is growing late flowering, not-too vigorous clematises into shrubs to provide late summer interest. I have a client where there’s lots of spring and early summer interest in the garden, but come late summer, the garden is missing any joyous splash of colour. With not much room in the border to pop in an all singing all dancing Dahlia or two (or any other plants for that matter), viticella type Clematises growing into shrubs that have already flowered should add an extra layer of interest to the border, without smothering their host plants.

Clematis climbing up a tree

I can’t wait to see how these Clematises fare later this year, hopefully delighting both myself and the client! Michael in the Great Dixter nursery, also gave invaluable advice, letting me know that these less blousy Clematis do not need to be planted as deep as their more showy summer flowering relatives (although it won’t hurt them either) and are less susceptible to Clematis wilt too. It’s a good time to get planting Clematises and the nursery have a good range of cultivars (and offer mail order too) if you have a bare spot that needs some late summer colour. These Clematises also have an undemanding pruning regime, and can be cut back down to a foot or so (or left a bit taller if to grow into taller shrubs or trees) every spring.

Yew hedging defining the gardens, March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Back in the gardens, and Fergus explained that at this time of year, Great Dixter is looking at its tidiest with most winter stems cut down and beds mulched (and tickled), ready for the year ahead.

Peacock yew hedging , March 2013,  at Great Dixter

And it’s now that you can really see how the Yew hedges define and structure the gardens.

Yew hedging creating drama and defining differenet areas at Great Dixter

Fergus explained that they give a visual barrier to each garden, so that your eyes can focus on each distinct area and the planting is not diluted. And as the gardens wrap themselves around the house, so the hedging creates more intimate spaces where the planting experimentation continues.

I’m really looking forward to going back to Great Dixter at the end of April, when hopefully the next layer of planting will be coming through (although it is still snowing today here in London!).

Great Dixter Long Border 26th March 2013

But here’s a quick taste of how the long border in spring,

Long Border at Great Dixter Oct 2011

is transformed into glorious colours and textures in summer (via Tulips and many other plant combinations in between),

Enthusiastic visitor taking pics of the long border at Great Dixter August 2011

(and here just to give you the scale and depth of the planting),

Exotic Garden all wrapped up at Great Dixter

and how these sculptural pyramids in March,

The Exotic Garden at Great Dixter, August 2011

will develop into this exotic paradise come late summer. If you fancy learning more at the gardens, there are many courses running throughout the year including successional planting, meadow planting, monthly visits around the gardens and propagation days. The gardeners at Great Dixter are so generous about sharing their knowledge, you certainly won’t be disappointed!

If you want to see more high summer drama from Great Dixter, click here and here

And here’s some wonderful posts written by other enthusiastic bloggers from the day too:

An Inspiring Talk by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter Gardens from Real Men Sow

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 1

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 2

Great Dixter – A Pause for Thought from Veg Plotting

Great Dixter:It was just a perfect day from Urban Veg Patch

Great Dixter from Alternative Eden

A great day at Great Dixter house and gardens from Dig the Outside

A great (Dixter) reason for repeat garden visits from Weeding the Web

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