I went for total indulgence in the hot spell last week. I reasoned that it was too hot for serious gardening, so I may as well visit other gardens and bask in the tulip displays. So on Friday it was Great Dixter and on Saturday I took the family to Sarah Raven’s Open Garden at Perch Hill.
Sarah Raven was the garden writer who got me hooked on tulips and dahlias (see my post Five inspirational garden writers for International Women’s Day) and so I always visit her garden with a sense of gratitude. I have subsequently spent a small fortune on her bulbs and tubers over the years, and have watched her business grow into an empire. She is the Queen of Glamourous Gardening.
I was thinking that we would catch one of the talks given by Sarah Raven through the day. I have attended one of these before and found her to be engaging and eloquent. I even thought the girls would enjoy this, as might Stevie. Unfortunately the talk was £15, on top of the £7 entrance fee, which I thought was a bit excessive. So we just wandered.
I won’t show photos of the cutting patch, because it was what you would expect. Remember I had visited Dixter the day before, where I was, frankly, blown away by the verdant abundance in the borders. So it was inevitable that neat lines of tulips and euphorbia, no matter how pretty the woven supports, were not going to make me swoon today.
Like my own tulips at home, many tulip varieties in the ground were looking decidedly scraggy. This was the same at Dixter in the nursery beds. For the first time this year in my bright border I have noticed signs of possible tulip fire, where the leaves and blooms are attacked by a fungus Botrytis tulipae, which can mean you have to dig up your tulips and not grow them in the same place for three years. I overheard a gardener at Sissinghurst saying they have had the same. However it may be due to the strange weather, rather than blight, so they are not panicking.
I ordered ‘Bruine Wimpel’ and ‘La Belle Epoque’ for the first time this year. This is ‘La Belle Epoque’ (I am still waiting for ‘Bruine Wimpel’ to flower):
In the last couple of years, Sarah Raven’s catalogue has taken on softer tones, with more white, cream, pink and apricot than the bold and bright schemes she is known for. I have tried to embrace this, but I have to say I am disappointed in ‘La Belle Epoque’. She looks lovely if you peer inside, but, well… pasty from the outside.
But I am taken with ‘Violet Beauty’:
Tulipa ‘Abu Hassan’ was prominent in the farmhouse garden, which also shows off the wonderful views onto the surrounding landscape:
We wound our way around the trial beds, up to the vegetable beds, and onto the terrace.
‘Apricot Parrot’ blew me away:
Time and time again we stopped to admire the pots. Here is a wonderful display of ‘Slawa’ and ‘Brownie’:
I love that splodge at the centre of ‘Slawa’, and there is a corresponding dark feather on the outside of the petals. ‘Slawa’ and ‘Apricot Parrot’ are top of my list for next year.
We stopped for cappucinno cake (if you want children to enjoy garden visits there must be cake). And then we made our way to the Oast Garden. This really did it for all of us.
Here was that Dixterish profusion, with Honesty, Euphorbia and Smyrnium, and gazillions of alliums poking through.
But pots. Oh the pots! I adore bright pink and orange together, so this combination of ‘Louvre Orange’ and ‘Atilla Grafitti’ was my idea of a party.
There were a pair of pots at each entrance to the garden, and quite a few along the path. I momentarily worried about the cost of ramming all of these pots full of bulbs, but then I remembered who the owner is.
The Anemone coronaria (Da Caen Group, I think) were pretty stunning too:
And in case you’re bored of round pots, let’s have an oval tub:
We spent more time in the Oast Garden and Dutch Courtyard than any other part of the garden. This is what Sarah Raven does best. She has a knack of choosing three or four varieties that just look wonderful together. A dark base tone, a bright, and a couple of harmonising tones. Throw in contrasting forms and plan for longevity. Easy?
So whilst this garden visit could not possibly match the ecstasy at Dixter, it was very beautiful. I have come away with the desire to create more mixed pots for next year. I have a list as long as my arm of possible varieties to try.
Have you tried any new varieties of tulips this year? Have you ever been seduced by a catalogue description and then been disappointed? Can you share any favourite combinations for pots? Are you a pastels or brights kind of a person?