Sussex Prairie Gardens

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.

Beds of mixed grasses and herbaceous perennials

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.

Beds of mixed grasses and herbaceous perennials

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.

Vija

A view of my garden is an excellent tonic!

Since my recent spinal surgery I have been frustratingly incapacitated. However who would not be cheered-up and consoled by a view like mine? From a prone position on my living room sofa I look out, through a huge glass sliding door, onto a beautiful panorama of colourful flowers. I had worked so hard in spring to prepare the garden knowing that my operation would put me out of action for a while.

Viv's garden

Looking from the sofa my eyes encounter the patio first, which is packed with pots of pelargoniums, lilies, geraniums, dahlias, fuchsias and a huge hanging basket overflowing with lemon -scented begonias. As I write I lament the denuding of our lemon tree outside the window, which bore 18 ripe, juicy lemons in early summer. I can’t complain, however, as my husband and I have enjoyed the fruits of its bounty in the form of 36 gin and tonics on many warm summers evenings!!

Soft grey patio pavers slope down from the patio onto a small lawn, it’s curved edges lined, on every side, with colourful flower beds. Although I have been cursing the snails, which have been devouring most of the annuals that I grew in the spring, they have at least left abundant golden rudbeckia and fluffy blue ageratum which tumble merrily onto the lawn.

Viv's garden

It’s a real delight to take a morning stroll (or hobble) around the borders to discover what has come into flower each new day. I have been thrilled with my new Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer ‘ that are in full bloom right now. Hugh and I were so impressed when we spotted them growing on Wisley’s trial beds, that I came home to order them that very evening.

Beyond the alstroemeria, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ never fails to impress with masses of rich blue flowers from June to October. They create an excellent foil for Rudbeckia and blue spires of Perovskia beyond.  I’m so proud to have grown 6 different colours of Phlox this year. My latest addition, called Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ is an incredible purplish blue. It’s just  wonderful!

Viv's garden

Towering flame orange Tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers), Cosmos ‘Purity’, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and evening primrose all add excitement and height at the back of the borders. Fortunately each bed is so jam-packed that there is not much room for weeds!

The only problem is… it’s snail & slug heaven! I have been shocked to find that this year’s snails must be a super-breed with jaws strong enough to eat through the hairy tough stems of sunflowers( all of them!!)

A tantalising glimpse of a brick-paved area and vegetable patch can be seen through an arch beyond the lawn. Today Hugh re-potted his banana tree and it can now be seen waving it’s huge leaves behind the bird bath in the middle of the brick circle. I can just about glimpse the scarlet flowers on the runner bean canes in our miniature veg plot on the far side of the brick circle, reminding me to ask Hugh to keep picking the veg for dinner each day. The enormous cucumbers (‘Swing’ F1) have been a real surprise this year. I grew them up a vertical support for them just before going into hospital and so many have grown in a few weeks just from one plant in one pot!

Well, I could carry on like this for ever. I haven’t even mentioned my new shade border with 4 newly purchased, remarkable clematis. (the best has turned out to be one called ‘Pernille’) My enthusiasm for my garden never wanes! Unfortunately the same cannot be said of my stamina which is being curtailed by too many painkillers currently.

Although I could not join  you all in Charlton House garden for the first real live meeting since Covid struck, I will be thinking of you all and hoping that the evening goes well.

Recovery from my op can take months but I am determined to bounce back in record time so wish me luck. Anyway how could I fail to recover quickly when I can see the biggest incentive outside my window?

Viv