Monday, 31 October 2011


After a hurried picnic in the back of the car (Pimms o’clock, we were on holiday!) we dashed off to Great Dixter, just a fifteen minute drive from Sissinghurst but back over the border from Kent into East Sussex. Upon entering the garden we were stuck immediately by how full and floriferous the borders were, even compared to when I last witnessed this spectacle in August. There is undoubtedly no rush to put the garden to bed here, and in fact some areas had been completely replanted. In a year such as this when the autumn is so unseasonably warm this tactic is repaid tenfold, and it was an incredible joy to see a garden singing so loudly at the back end of the season! Speaking for myself, as a gardener I derive absolutely no pleasure from chopping down plants in autumn. The winter is such a cruel and bitter time and this act seems so blasted defeatist, as we commit ourselves to flat bleakness for months on end. Dixter seem to me set against winter, and I for one applaud their efforts to wring every last drop of colour and interest out of the border displays!

The manor, with grass. This trip, and in particular the visit to Dixter, has got me interested in grasses

View to the manor with Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis and the giant blooms of Dahlia ‘Emory Paul’ behind

A jungle of beauty in the High Garden!

Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’, backed by Anaphalis triplinervis

The tropics? No, it’s East Sussex!

More of Dahlia ‘Emory Paul’, crammed into the Exotic Garden

The Long Border, still exciting

Action shot, with some Teasel looking delightful in death

Eryngium pandanifolium 'Physic Purple', this must surely look spectacular as standing dead

Fergus the head gardener, hard at it in the shed sterilising compost for the Dixter potting mix!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Sissinghurst Castle

The next day we chugged along to Sissinghurst in Kent. I was excited to visit here, but after visiting in both spring and summer this year and being flabbergasted, I had prepared myself for the worst. Thankfully this was all the stuff of nonsense, as it seems the great beauty and romance of this garden extends all the way to the death of the season, with the threat of frosts looming that very evening! Like Hidcote, Sissinghurst is just a wonderful place to be, and particularly on a sunny day with the light streaming in and shadows being cast by the old walls and tower. The plantings here are consistently incredible. They always seem to have some jolly interesting this or that on the go, not generally seen in other gardens! Gomphocarpus physocarpus 'Hairy Balls' immediately springs to mind, or Althaea cannabina, a huge bushy Hollyhock seen flowering in the Rose Garden. The Cottage Garden, gracefully positioned out front of South Cottage, remains one of the best areas I have ever seen!

The castle entrance

Tower Lawn. 78 steps to the top of the tower! VSW’s study is halfway up

View across from the Purple Border

Salvia leucantha in the Purple Border. So often at the end of the season the salvias are being made to do all of the legwork, but when they look this good it’s easy to understand why!

View from the White Garden archway to Lower Courtyard. The lawns appear a bit worn due to the scarification that had taken place on the previous day

Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’, scurrying over an arch in the White Garden. This space was originally a rose garden dating from 1931, but in 1950 Harold & Vita decided to chuck the roses

The Rose Garden looking pleasingly full

Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ in the Rose Garden. This was completely covered in blooms both now and way back in August when I last visited. Splendid plant!

Greetings from the Cottage Garden!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


The following day we ventured a little further from Rye, heading up to Chartwell in Kent to meet my friend Jamie who is also training on the National Trust Careership (see the Chartwell blog here). Tootling along in a motor car (poop poop!) through East Sussex and Kent, one can’t fail to notice the great number of brown tourist signs by the roadside. It seems you can’t go up a single street in this region without a glorious garden waiting for you at the end of it! Chartwell is one such place, and has a great history, it being the home and garden of that great Briton Sir Winston Churchill. The garden peers out across the Weald of Kent, and has varying levels affording views back up to the house from the Kitchen Garden at the furthest point below. The garden has an extremely relaxed atmosphere, with this feeling enhanced by the sight of some people lying on the grass and others sat in a chair reading the papers. Churchill was quite a creative so and so, with many of his paintings on display at the garden. Also, to the front of the house stands a large wall separating the property from the road, and this was built by the big man himself!

Castello Churchill

Shifts in levels, banked by rosemary and buddleia

These fascinating mounds are in fact Lunaria annua, Honesty, who missed their moment for flowering and decided their time would be better spent putting on masses of leaves instead! Jamie is hoping for gigantic flowers next year, fingers crossed!

Salvia horminum ‘Pink Sunday’, in the cutting patch of the Kitchen Garden

View down on the hedging surrounding Lady Chruchill’s rose garden

A pleasant spot to sit at the centre of the rose garden

Churchill was a butterfly fanatic and this Butterfly House was where he raised his own species to release in the garden!

One of the highlights of the trip, a Small Copper butterfly! The first one I have ever seen just casually breezed past as Jamie was showing me the cold frames. Interesting piece on such topics here

Winston looking wonderfully eccentric

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Pashley Manor

Just around the corner from Merriments is Pashley Manor, a private garden plonked on the border of East Sussex and Kent. It is a wonderful garden and seems to have quite ‘good bones’, as they so often say about Hidcote, but I would like to visit again earlier in the year when the planting is closer to its peak!

The house is clad in a great myriad of greenery. Quite stunning!

The rose garden was looking somewhat tired but the structure is beautifully laid out

Osteospermum ‘Whirligig'
When I wandered through this gate…

I certainly did not expect to find this! Enticing to say the least but it was unfortunately too cold to take a dip. The triangle structure to the left is their plant house

Inside a Cobaea scandens has reached fruiting stage, and presumably seed will be harvested when the pod ripens here in the warmth

A delightful Passion Flower scrambling away

One of these wider shots of the bearded manor

Monday, 24 October 2011


Last week, accompanied by Helen from the Anemone Times blog, I spent a splendid six days tootling around some of the gardens down in the beautiful south east of England! We stopped at Rye, a delightful old town in East Sussex, which I will definitely return to one day. It is a charming place and wonderfully atmospheric, with lots of old buildings and narrow cobbled streets dating back to when the town was an important port. There are many antique stores to poke about in, but of particular interest was an Aladdin’s cave of a shop I stumbled upon called Classic Chaps, stocking a vast array of incredible vintage clothing! We started our garden touring with a whirl around Merriments, just up the road from Rye, which had officially closed for the season but was allowing visitors anyway due to the inclement weather. Here four acres have been planted up with some truly wonderful specimens, dotted around a garden layout that is particularly congenial to wandering about and drinking it all in. There is an extensive plant sales attached to the garden, and a restaurant in which we feasted like knights of old. This strikes me as a hidden gem and I strongly encourage visiting here!

A peek through a yew hedge, not quite ‘not a cloud in the sky’ but pretty good for October

Tulbaghia ‘John May’s Special’

The seed pods of Nicandra physalodes, the Shoo-fly plant

Rhus typhina ‘Dissecta’

There are several stunning water features to behold here

Allium neapolitanum

Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’ with the leaf of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis

One of my favourite trees, Taxodium distichum

Monday, 17 October 2011


 I hope my college tutors don’t read this blog, as today I’m off to Kent for a week of a joyful times and garden visiting! The weather is looking promising; we might just sneak in there before the frosts take hold. Full garden visit reports next week. Cheerio!

Insect activity

I fear this may be the last such insect report of the year, which disheartens me greatly. The bees are preparing for winter, the ladybirds are hiding all over the bally place, and the sight of the butterflies is becoming a rare treat! The end is nigh.

The Commas have had a good year!

No sooner than I’d taken a few bites from this here windfall pear, a hornet landed wanting in on the action too! What a hornet wants, a hornet gets. They’re wonderfully terrifying beasts, and heroes hide in ditches when they fly by!

Butterflies like fruit too! Here’s a Red Admiral in the Orchard at Reaseheath College

Finally, this is the first Painted Lady I have seen in action this year! These migrants fly here like the Hummingbird hawk-moths from warm places such as North Africa

The Red Admirals have been abundant this year, on this day there were seven feeding! Note the glass panel in the background, as the front has been put back on the Plant House

Large Yellow Underwing moth

Lesser Marsh grasshopper

No open flower? No problem!
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