As late summer ambles along, with the weather becoming slightly more stable, a day out for inspiration beckoned. I was flagging and a refreshing outing was sorely needed. Studying the list of garden events, Perch Hill was rooted in my mind as a garden of strength, originality, femininity and bursting with energy and ideas. It was time to pay another visit to see how things were going.
I decided to go the slower route to see villages on the way, but it took rather longer than expected and so I recommend sticking to the A21 route, in spite of some road works until December.
On arrival one is confronted immediately with a short pathway of long grass and meadow areas either side and one walks straight into the visually powerful Cutting Garden. As with previous visits, it did not disappoint and this year was as beautiful and frothy as ever. August is I suspect the best time of year to see Perch Hill. Of the few less than glowing reviews online, most are written in spring. Most gardens struggle in spring, with bulbs and a lot of soil prepared for later jewels. This is a summer and late summer into autumn garden, very cleverly designed with very carefully chosen plants and flowers which really have a painters eye with ready made pictures from virtually all angles.
The cutting garden which is the main feature, is dominated by the most magnificent dahlias, all propped up in a grid of hazel wood and bamboo. The real wow factor one for me is a large pink maroon ‘pom pom’ variety below and feels like a sponge ball (below right). Variety to come as it was labelled Sam Hopkins, but that isn’t the Pom Pom below, Downham Royal is a favourite similar recommendation in her catalogue. I don’t have much room now for dahlias, and the front garden is deer fodder, and there is increasing shade in the back, but here, you can really see what you can do if you do find the right place.
The rows of flowers work well in strict large chunks, cosmos providing the main soft froth, Purity I think…I didn’t see Click Cranberries so much this time, Zinnia’s featured slightly less, but the sweet peas literally towered over one at about 8-9 foot tall on a supported cage. Tithonia was in full force (see orange flower at the base of this article) and looked very elegant with the flat flowers acting as small plates for the bees, easy to grow I know from experience. Here, it was very effective with tall grass like varieties in between.
But for me it was the nasturtiums (left) trained up a wigwam that was an easy idea to pinch. Gladioli are clearly the new trial flower, although a regular flower for arrangements, previously I hadn’t noticed it in the beds but here it was doing brilliant things with stabs of pink amongst the cosmos. Now that was clever and looked superb. Photographing in mid-afternoon sunlight wasn’t easy, I daresay in the early morning or evening it would all look even more luscious and mystical.
There were various notices referring to the updating and repair of the buildings. It was good to see that, in spite of an increasing respect for heritage and original features for old properties, when it comes to wood, there is only so much you can put up with: a rotting plank, or wall. Eventually it has to be replaced and so here I saw new cladding on the side of one building and a new-looking door on another. Given a few years they will weather down very nicely. Dull green painted windows and dark bottle green blend well into the landscape. I greatly agree with this philosophy, although sadly it is rather late for the plastic window disease that blights so many homes now.
Near the study, is a slightly claustrophobic small garden area with narrow paths, but this and nearby are stuffed with fennel and other plants, all dancing and swaying in the breeze. Fat box look very ‘at home’ and happy crossing over another small garden, where gladioli feature again. Slightly gaudy in the garden, but I bet they look super in a vase…
I’m not over keen on growing my own fruit and vegetables, after a childhood dominated by the boring maintenance of them. I recall only too well, the endless net cages and weeding, rather than the luscious produce that we took for granted. But I can see the labour involved here is huge, not a weed to be seen anywhere and every slope and bed growing something, the team are to be congratulated on such a daunting task. However I am now a little more tempted try the odd edible provided it is easy to maintain. The Rhubarb looked good even with gladioli next to it, and a cousin grows loganberries, which I would rather like to try in order to make the jam. The visual feast is brilliant, but as a rest from the eye, the odd field, or meadow area is welcome. Perhaps a few more plank benches might not go amiss.
It was time to go inside for tea, now here was a new idea. A new barn had been made available for tea and cake, separate from the main cafe area, which perhaps had outgrown the space. So perched under a cool shady area, one can relax, think and absorb. It is also a good place to chat to fellow travellers, as is the garden and we bumped into one another, held back plant labels for each other and compared experiences of gardening. The shop is rather crowded and I think rather too small for the space now. The items are lovely, such as the larger vases but some of the smaller ones are rather pricey, tempted a little, I thought a few coloured candles would be useful at home.
I decided to go round once more to make sure I hadn’t missed a good view point. A last minute second look at the Ammus Maji (see white umbel below) delivering the dewy haze in my memory. Always worthwhile after a rest I think. A few more snaps and I felt I’d done it. As hoped for, it was a great blast of a reminder of what can be done given certain conditions and Perch Hill and the team have delivered the wow factor again.
Larger vases, above, and Lemon Dahlias below.