A Profusion of Pots at Perch Hill

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, 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.

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 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:

Tulipa ‘Apricot Parrot’

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.

Oast Garden, Perch Hill

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:

Tulipa ‘Brownie’, ‘Antraciet’, ‘Copper Image’, ‘Dream Touch’

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.

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50 Comments Add yours

  1. annpappas says:

    I think I must try growing some Tulips in containers next Spring – but then the weevils might get them?! I love our indigenous Spring bulbs, such as Freesias, and Sparaxis.

    1. Ali says:

      Freesias were my gran’s favourite flower. They are lovely.

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    Oh what a delightful garden. I am not surprised that “Apricot Parrot” blew you away. It’s a stunner!

    1. Ali says:

      It really was. Thanks Emma!

  3. I am a traditionalist when it comes to tulips – I like bold solid colours and solid curves. No frilly edges for the most part (may be swayed if it is a great colour) but I think I will surely be referring back to your blog in autumn to get a reminder of the names/colours to buy for next year.

    1. Ali says:

      I am totally greedy and don’t know when to stop. I like to have a mix of parrots, lily-flowered, singles, doubles…

      1. I am greedy too but I still like to have a ‘theme’ you should check out the tulips I saw today; I thought of you. https://tinyurbanfarmer.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/living-vicariously-part-two

  4. Tish Farrell says:

    Just been leafing through her catalogue which, you will know, causes unbridled plant lust. Fabulous to see Perch Hill in tulip bloom.

    1. Ali says:

      It does! I have to have a cool-down period after reading it! Though I have found alternative suppliers the last couple of years…

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        Me too. Chiltern Seeds have lovely catalogues.

      2. Tish Farrell says:

        Of course. I read that post. Duh! 🙂

      3. Ali says:

        Sorry Tish. It’s tulip-onset dementia.

  5. Susan Beard. says:

    Love the mix of Tulips. ,I will be putting baby pink with grandma mauve and buttermilk cream -embraced by clouds of Forget me Nots ….next year. 🌾😀

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds divine!

  6. Cathy says:

    I love the pinks and oranges together too. I grew Apricot Parrot in pots this year and was stunned for a day or two, but then they turned decidedly pink with not a slightest tinge of apricot left. The smaller Creme Lizard I planted in the same pot didn’t show up at all either… you win some and lose some! I looked back at my tulip posts in past years and was sad to note that around 2 thirds of my tulips have been lost to mice this winter. I wish you better luck with your bulbs!

    1. Ali says:

      It is interesting observing them over the whole flowering period, as they really do change, don’t they? I wonder if SR had been bringing some varieties on and holding others back so that they were all flowering together at their peak – the ones in pots at least. The parrots are the worst repeaters – they are much smaller the second year, and have largely disappeared the third. Whereas the lily-flowered and viridifloras are fantastic for repeating.

  7. The Oast Garden is just superb and those pots! Magnificent…

    1. Ali says:

      The Oast garden really did take your breath away. I thought it was all very nice until we got to the Oast Garden, and then it went up a notch.

  8. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I see ‘Slawa’ makes another appearance! I think I should put the two big pots languishing behind my shed to good use and plant some tulips in them. And the bright colours are tempting me…..

    1. Ali says:

      ‘Slawa’ does seem to be the Zeitgeist, along with ‘Belle Epoque’.

  9. pommepal says:

    Lucky you having such beautiful gardens so close that you can visit regularly.

    1. Ali says:

      I do feel a bit spoilt. And a bit like I have been let loose in a sweet shop for too long, and now need to detox a bit with some cabbage soup.

      1. pommepal says:

        Chuckling… ah but flowers are not fattening…

  10. Chloris says:

    A great post. Lucky you, what a treat. I have grown tulips in pots this year. I have decided that if you grow them in the ground you need to spend a fortune to make any impact and then you have it all to do again next year.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s true Chloris. Small gardens are fabulous for tulips because you really can make an impact. I was mentally calculating how many tulips you would need to create the same effect – particularly when I went to Dixter, because there were tulips in almost every border. You really would need a team of gardeners and an alarming amount of grit (in my clay). So I think I too am going to concentrate on pots, my raised bed, and areas of my borders. And grow honesty, forget-me-nots and smyrnium through them. ‘Ballerina’ comes back well for me, and even seems to increase, and also ‘Tambour Maitre’. ‘Recreado’ and ‘Purple Dream’ also hold their own. I think the parrots can be pot luxuries. Lots to think about!!

  11. bcparkison says:

    Been along time since I have had tulips ( except paper ) but I think pots would be the way to go.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, they do maximise the impact, and are relatively easy to plant up.

    1. Ali says:

      I am glad you enjoyed it. X

  12. Heyjude says:

    Oh, you do have some lovely gardens nearby. I would love to visit Perch Hill. I too get swayed by her catalogue and circle loads of things I want. Then I leave it a while and go back and put some of them in my wishlist. Then I leave it a while longer before actually ordering anything. I have had some hits and missed with her plants, though the tulips have on the whole been marvellous. New to me this year is the Parrot tulip ‘Avignon’ now open and what a show-off! I will have a post on her soon. Also Purple Dream which is lighter than I expected, more a lavender – lilac. I do like the very dark purples, but other than Sarah Raven, didn’t buy any for this year. I have to say I like the lily-flower ones the best, they seem so simple and elegant.
    Bruine Wimpel I grew last year – https://smallbluegreenflowers.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/plant-focus-2/
    be interesting to see what you think of it when yours opens.

    1. Ali says:

      Your photos are just gorgeous. What colour has ‘Avignon Parrot’ come up as? Mine is not what I expected. It is red, and I wonder whether it is actually ‘Rococo’.
      That is an excellent management plan for catalogues! Particularly the more seductive ones!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Mine is mostly red too with striations of pink and green and yellow edges. Only one in full flower, shall see what the others do.

  13. One thing’s for sure: after all these incredible tulip posts I want to grow more of them too! 😉

    1. Ali says:

      It can be expensive, reading blogs, can’t it?!

      1. Yes it can! It’s one area of spending I never mind as the flowers and plants provide visual beauty for years and help keep our air cleaner! 😉

      2. Ali says:

        Yes! It’s like we’re not even spending money on ourselves, but on the world! 😂

      3. I couldn’t have said it better myself! 😉🌷

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    What a beautiful garden – thanks for sharing your visit with us, Ali. I love that combo of pink and orange. You would think it’d be garish, but combining the right hues works brilliantly!

    1. Ali says:

      Gorgeously garish, maybe?!

  15. Rupali says:

    The flowers in natural light look much more beautiful. It’s a wonderful garden.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s true, Rupali. You would have taken some beautiful pictures.

      1. Rupali says:

        You did a great job.

  16. Clare Pooley says:

    I grow all my tulips in pots these days as I can protect them more easily from rodents and deer though the deer are very good at finding ways to get at them despite my barriers. I made my decision to do this after watching Carol Klein’s ‘Life in a Cottage Garden’ and then reading the book ( I saw you were impressed by this too). I like the way we can crowd the bulbs together in a tub and then move them about the garden and create different effects. She replaces all her bulbs every year which I can’t afford to do and some tulips cope better in tubs than others. The results aren’t quite as good as hers but I am pleased in the main. I love Sarah Raven’s catalogues and plants and I have also had good results from Hayloft Plants as well ( an all-woman company it seems).

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Clare, I will check out Hayloft Plants!
      That’s interesting about some tulips coping better in pots than others. You really have to pack them in too, don’t you? I’m going to try to create my own combos next year.

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