Hot August at Perch Hill

After months of hot dry weather and no rain since May, a day out somewhere invigorating with refreshment began to dance round in my mind. Although I visited only last year, it had been by contrast wet and damp, the garden looked glossy and happy. This year I was intrigued to see how the plants were coping in this heat, as the design is exposed to a glut of sun and soil that needs considerable feeding and work. I was wondering if the dahlias were out, and by goodness, on arrival everything was out!

The A21 has been repaired so the journey was restored to a trim hour’s drive. The first thing that struck me was the scent. Everything smelt lovely, the roses, the annuals, the Phlox and Stocks, above all the sweet peas. As I went straight for the shop to get into the shade, I paused at the heady tomatoes and basil. All luscious and energising. It was good to see the shop had had a thorough re-design and the cafe area moved into the big barn and garden marquee. A super place to relax and have a picnic lunch, thus avoiding the queue for the lunch menu, gorgeous though it appeared.

Time was of the essence. After this restoration I was ready for the exploration. It certainly looked good, but I could see a completely understandable, slightly parched look to some of the smaller dahlias, who have to cope in full sun. Not a weed in sight! But nevertheless the effect was admirable given the conditions. My favourite cutting garden was very good, with the whopping Cafe au Lait, the pale large pink dahlia. I managed to make sketches in about 15 mins flat, in full sun, which was enough. The heat was burning and it had the fortunate effect of driving many into the barns leaving the garden less crowded by mid afternoon. The sweet peas were flowering faster than the team could dead head! The beautifully designed layout made any photographer’s job easy, it was so beautiful.

I was glad to see a new rose garden cleverly paired with herbs, good varieties that really had good scent were on show. Rosa de Recht and Jaques Cartier stood out. The trial beds were less so, after all they are simply work in progress, and a block of sweetcorn limited the view. The overall theme and my memory was one of huge production and intense energy with powerful fruitfulness. However in any garden I think areas of slowness provide solace, with seating to make one be still and simple absorb. The meadow was one such area and some new small huts for pots and chairs were a welcome refuge. I liked the new compost hut, perhaps another field could be developed into a slow area, or a large pond? One thing that I was conscious of this year is water for wildlife.

There is no natural water visible here and in this heat it seems to be on the public’s mind. I’m normally not a great fan of artificial water ‘features’ but any large house usually has something, usually an oblong pond on a flat lawn, here that would be tricky. The area near the Oast house could work with a number of small square ponds for wildlife if anything like that were ever contemplated, perhaps a chequerboard design of small pools. A water trough was nice to touch and pleasantly noisy. But I did notice a simple round base filled with water in the rose garden, instant cool for birds and other creatures. It was a bonus to see the owners walking around being so accessible.

With the heatwave at home, I had taken the opportunity to begin a clear out of an old pond near our forest which was the only cool job I could do. After my day out, I went straight into the garage and pulled out a base for rainwater and placed two of them beneath the apple tree. I hope this will distract the crows and wasps from attacking the apples and swiping 90% of the crop every year!

There was a very striking flower arrangement in the ‘school’ area next to the shop, (see top of post),  inspiring, with an affective space between the vases. It reminded me of my art training. We were often told to look at the spaces in between things. Heading for the marquee, I couldn’t resist trying out the Rhubarb and Star Anise cordial which was a fantastic, original soft drink which was instantly reviving. If only I could have brought a bottle home I would have done. A return visit in autumn would make an interesting contrast. I think we’ve forgotten what mist, damp and fog look like!