The Garden Museum was created in 1977 in order to rescue from demolition the then abandoned church of St Mary’s at Lambeth, a church which now is restored and renewed: restored in the outer and inner structure of the church, and renewed as exhibition spaces on all matters related to the history of gardening, and to the history of the Tradescant family, father and son both named John, in turn each appointed Royal Gardener to the Stuarts and whose family tomb is within the grounds, fittingly in a garden that reflects their world-wide plant collecting.
The Tradescant family tomb though is overshadowed by that of William Bligh, the hero/villain of the Mutiny on the Bounty.
The visitor must tread over centuries-old gravestones set in the floor, and past memorials to some very late indeed Archbishops of Canterbury: St Mary-at-Lambeth was a popular resting place, right next door to Lambeth Palace.
The Museum has a permanent exhibition of the history of gardening in all aspects from grand estates to allotmenteering, from Gertrude Jekyll to Alan Titchmarsh. Art is of interest generally here, with currently a showing of Lucian Freud’s paintings of plants. The Museum has an archive/study room on garden design: visits for research are by appointment.
I’m sure we can all remember the particular joy that gardens gave us during the dark days of lockdown. Gardeners of course have always known the benefits that green spaces can bring.
This fact was brought home to me recently when I spent time in the Florence Nightingale Garden at St Thomas’s Hospital, Southwark – happily as a guest, not a patient or loved-one of a patient. The theme of the garden is ‘nurture through nature’.
The archivist in me loved the fact that enlarged extracts from Florence Nightingale’s letters in which she campaigned for healthcare reform featured in the original design, printed onto the boundary walls and overlaid with images of her pressed flower collection.
Our October members meeting was held on 17th October in the magnificent Old Library at Charlton House. A well attended meeting, we were treated to a great talk from Peter of Thorncroft Clematis, a wonderful Show Table, bulbs for sale and an amazing Autumn mandala from members gardens, which covered the entire grand piano!
It was clear that we were in for a treat of a talk. As well as a box of Thorncroft Clematis Catalogues, Peter Skeggs-Gooch laid out the nursery’s impressive collection of Flower Show medals: several Chelsea golds as well as a smattering of Silver-Gilts. Peter’s slide show took us from evergreen winter varieties such as the familiar ‘Freckles’ and the lovely, if large, armandii ‘Apple Blossom’; through Spring, with much-loved montanas now smaller and more manageable; into Summer with several scented varieties including the coconut-perfumed ‘Lambton Park’; and finally finishing with the viticellas of Autumn such as ‘Prince William’ and super easy ‘Alba Luxurians’. His nursery produces over three hundred varieties, so we were being given only a glimpse of what is on offer. For more information or to order head to their website.
Charlton House held another very successful Horn Fair on Sunday 16th October and CABAHS contributed to that with a range of opportunities for adults and children. We focused on the Old Pond Garden, with a Spooky Spider, Bat and Pumpkin trail for the children, and well-attended tours by Head Gardener Jason Sylvan who explained the work he is leading with the volunteers there. Just outside the Peace Garden, we held one of our famous plant stalls – it was as popular as ever! Here are some photographs of all the activities. Thank you to everyone who contributed to its success.
Our Autumn Show was held on Monday September 26th in the Old Library of Charlton House, having been delayed a week for the Queen’s funeral. We counted 56 attendees and there were nearly 100 entries across all the classes, a marvellous effort!
Our guest judge, Joe Woodcock, had agreed to undertake this onerous task again this year. He made it clear how impressed he was with all the entries, providing an encouraging commentary on the horticultural skills demonstrated, and explained why he selected the winning entry in each class.
The classes and winners were as follows: 1. Vase of flowers, 3 stems – Nicholas B 2. Bowl of mixed flowers – Georgina P 3. Vase of shrubs or foliage, 3 stems – Liz K 4. Display of ornamental seed heads – Viv P 5. Five Fuchsia blooms – Viv P 6. Ornamental pot plant – Pat K 7. Display of fruit, mixed – Lynda F 8. Display of vegetables, mixed – Annie H 9. Tomatoes (dish of 5) – Karen S 10. A display of herbs – Maggie T 11. Preserves – Maggie T 12. Baking – Coconut cake – Kathy A 13. Floral arrangement in a teacup – Debbie W 14. Largest Sunflower – Ruth Y 15. Highest yield, Potato – Ann F
Joe presented trophies to Annie H for Class 8, to Viv P for Class 5 and to Georgina P for Best in Show for her bowl of mixed flowers in Class 2.
The Sussex Prairie Garden is a six acre garden with naturalistic planting, created by Paul and Pauline McBride, who worked with Piet Oudolf some years ago. The garden is on a farm and surrounded by oak trees, featuring a wide range of herbaceous perennials, Veronicastrums, Thalictrums, Persicarias, Sanguisorbas, Kniphofias and Hemerocallis. Huge drifts of ornamental grasses and Asters extend the season of interest hugely. In addition to the planting in the borders there are some massive pots beautifully planted up with huge salvias, Melianthus Major and splendid Pelargonium Tomentosum. The expansive beds are planned with winding rough paths to allow visitors to wander through, brushing grasses and Heleniums as they pass. It is definitely a garden for a late summer visit and seems to have managed remarkably well through this hot summer of 2022.
The plant fair on the day of our visit was spread out through the garden and accompanied by a band and stalls selling refreshments. It had a decidedly festive air! There are dozens of varieties of Miscanthus, Panicums, Molinias, Sporobolis and Penisetum and several of the plant stalls capitalize on this by selling a good selection of grasses.
The garden is at its best in late summer and into the autumn as might be expected from the nature of the plants. I have visited earlier in the year when there is far less to see.
The planting is bold and on a grand scale, not much of it less than a metre tall, but for anyone interested in growing prairie type plants or simply just interested, this is a garden well worth visiting.
A lovely day was had by all, despite the rain, for our visit to Pashley Manor Gardens, on Wednesday 14 September. The first wow factor was the magnificent and absolutely huge 500-year-old spreading oak tree that is the same age as the frontage of the Manor House. The second wow factor are the gardens: exquisitely beautiful, divided into several colour-co-ordinated garden ‘rooms’ which lead to the fabulous terrace, with sweeping views of the long borders, lawns, lake (once a moat) and surrounding trees to the countryside beyond. After a refreshing coffee, many joined a half-hour gardener’s dahlia ‘talk and walk’ around sections of the garden’s long borders. I loved the gardens so much that I am aiming to visit again on a sunny day so that I can relax on the terrace and absorb the spirit of the place.
During this blistering summer a number of people have commented on the colour in my garden (such as it is). I think this is down to a very few plants. (For those of you not enamoured with Sarah Raven, look away now). The top photograph is of Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. These have flowered continuously all through the summer and I think the contrast of the leaf and flower is lovely. Although often grown as an annual, I have found that if I keep them in a sheltered and frost-free place over the winter they will flower again year-on-year. But be patient! The little stone-like tubers look thoroughly lifeless for a long time and, just when you might think they were totally dead, little green shoots appear.
The bottom photograph is of Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’. These were originally plants in pots with cosmos and coleus, the latter two turned up their toes leaving only the petunia to inhabit the pot. It is only one plant and this too has continued to flower continuously through the summer. The pots have only been watered with waste water and have had no additional feed.
Both of these hard workers have come from Sarah Raven and, no, I don’t get a discount!
Thinking we would take advantage of the extra days made available for visits to Perch Hill, we chose the one for container planting. However, on the day it was the dahlias that stole the show and which we will remember!
Although rain was not forecast, we arrived to a little bit of a mizzle and a very grey sky – in the photographs this has tended to deaden the exuberant colours. We were knocked out by Penhill Watermelon, Geri Scott and the delicious Apricot Desire, but it would be impossible to choose one favourite out of all the lovely colours. Although some are critical of the Sarah Raven enterprise, there is no question that the gardens are beautifully styled. Of course, plants are labelled so that anything you see you will find on their website, but it is a commercial business. In fact, it is good to find a label so that you can identify what you are looking at! Salvias are everywhere, edging the herbaceous borders, in pots as well as mixed through the beds. These are such versatile plants.