June – Members Meeting – Steve Edney

We were back in the Old Library for an interesting and entertaining talk given by Steve Edney on his work as head gardener at Salutation and subsequent development of his own private garden and nursery. He is also a RHS volunteer trial judge involved in the Nepeta AGM.

Salutation House and garden is located in Sandwich by the River Stour.  Designed  by Edward Lutyens in 1912 as a weekend retreat for the three London-based Farrer brothers. Noted for the outstanding design symmetry between house and garden. Sold in 1945 when the brothers died, the magnificent gardens became  somewhat overgrown and neglected over time. In the 1970’s  Portland Stone was smashed up and laid as crazy paving!

Steve was appointed head gardener in 2005 to oversee the restoration. The owners by then were Steph and Dom of Gogglebox fame. With little interest in the garden apart from being a party space,  they allowed him a somewhat free hand.

An initial task was stripping back an avenue of 50’ Holm trees to almost sticks. Our own Old Pond Garden volunteers were very interested in his idea of topiary using Holm Oaks, given how many we have at Charlton House!

2013 saw the garden devastated by salt water flooding and 1,500 plants, 9 mature trees and hedging were lost. 5 million litres of water became trapped in the lower third of the garden and had to be pumped out. Steve and his team overcame this and in 2019 they went on to win Gold at Chelsea for a winter border, which only cost £157! He followed with his Plant Hunter’s Jungle Camp taking best exhibit in the Floral Marquee at Hampton Court.

When Salutation went into receivership, after a stint at Canterbury Cathedral Steve concentrated his efforts on his own exotic garden, Sweet Briar in the village of Ash, near Sandwich. The first plant installed in 2013 was a huge 20’ Trachycarpus fortunei.  Foliage and texture are considered the mainstay of the garden as the flowers are only fleeting. Steve showed pictures of his garden in summer, when it certainly lives up to the description of ‘Jungle’ and you cannot even see his greenhouse for foliage. This garden is open to the public occasionally through the NGS scheme and is well worth a visit: https://findagarden.ngs.org.uk/garden/34053/sweetbriar

He has 4 National collections of Persicara virginiana cv’s, dark leaved Dahlias, Pseudopanax cv’s and Plectranthus. His latest venture is the No Name nursery which comprises a Nut walk, 2 polytunnels, orchard meadow and 1 acre jungle garden. The nursery is not open to the general public, although you can catch his stall regularly at the Plant Fairs Roadshows:

Kay, June 2022

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