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.
A rainy start to October! Autumnal tones everywhere now. The bees are still out in force though.
Our Halloween Spooky Spiders Trail went down well with Charlton House Explorers this half term. There were 10 spooks to find around the garden, and it kept them all busy after their Ghosts and Gargoyles session in the Long Gallery. We had 140 children through the gardens over the two days, phew. Great fun, although we didn’t do much gardening this week!
I have been reading that the Autumn colours this year should be lovely, following an unusually warm September and the coming month will provide an opportunity to get out into the gardens to experience these first hand.
One of the most spectacular displays may be at Stourhead in Wiltshire, where exotic species such as tulip and katsura trees stand alongside natives such as oak, beech and birch. Tom Hill, who looks after sites at Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey and Petworth Park in West Sussex, says he can already see the colours beginning to change. And it isn’t just the colour of the trees. At Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, the assistant head gardener, Oliver Johnson, says he loves the light at this time of year.
Living as we do, on the edge of Kent, within fairly easy reach of a number of lovely gardens, it might be worth taking advantage of our privileged location. With the evenings already drawing in and with the potential of further localised lockdowns due to coronavirus, taking the time to notice nature and to take in the colourful landscapes that we can see at this time of year seems more important than ever.
Simon Toomer, a plant specialist at the National Trust, says that “The particular dusky, heavy scent of autumn and the sounds of crisp leaves crunching under foot, will all serve to help our wellbeing through the next few colder, darker months.”
13 October Heroic (and very wet) volunteers in the garden today. A lot of the plants from our shopping trip to Provender Nurseries are now in place. We really appreciated extra help from students from the University of Greenwich, who sportingly also got very wet. Donations of cinnamon buns from Charlton Bakehouse went down well. Thank you everyone. The picture below will be used as a ‘Before’ picture – so looking forward to taking some ‘After’ pictures next year!
20 October Another glorious Autumn day! Lots of volunteers and a bit of sun, what more do you want? We discovered the friendly Greenwich Carers café in the Stables next door. Bring your own cup/mug.
22 October Our Oak-leaved Hydrangea is turning a lovely colour. Look what has taken up residence in it – a crab spider. Apparently they camouflage themselves but it takes a few days to change colour – this one must have been in a white flower recently!
The winner of 2020’s competition was Tim, with an enormous harvest weighing 3lbs 13 oz! The prized packet of crisps was donated to the food bank instead of being presented to Tim as meetings were suspended. Close runner-up was Peter with a yield of 3lbs 8 3/4 oz. Peter’s consolation was that he had a well deserved bangers & mash supper. Thank you to everyone who competed and sent in their photos!