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

Plant Sale and Community Day at Charlton House on Sunday May 22nd

Thank you to everyone who came to our Plant Sale and Community Day at Charlton House on Sunday May 22nd, what a fabulous day, sunny and successful!  Plants were either donated by members or grown on by the Volunteers in the Old Pond Garden. We were slightly staggered by how popular our plants were, and we had pretty well sold out by 1pm, which was amazing. Everyone was very generous, either buying plants or donating for our home made lavender bags, or the Discovery Trail.

Our Community event was shared with Charlton Community Garden, who ran the “Pot up a plant” stall, Blackheath Flower Arranging club, Friends of Greenwich Park, The Charlton Society, Montessori Moments, Greenwich Music School and the Charlton Toy Library. And of course the Greenwich & Blackheath WI cake stall.

We were very pleased to be part of the Trusts “Sustainability Sunday”, it was certainly lively and great to see so much going on. The Producers Market was on the Front Lawn, there were tours of the House, talks about Heritage and garden tours with our very own Head Gardener, Jason Sylvan. Frilly’s café was open and the Old Library had items from the Greenwich Archive on display as well as installations by local artists Fiona Veacock and CraftA, and other childrens activities.

Funds raised from plant sales will go to the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, our Speaker programme and the Walled Gardens revival. Thank you all!

Kathy

Plant Sale and Community Day

We are very pleased to be running our Plant Sale and Community Day again, on Sunday May 22nd from 11 am. This year, we will be part of the Charlton House event Sustainability Sunday, so lots of other exciting things will be going on too. Put it in your diary now! More details to come, but as well as plants and cakes for sale there will be lots of children’s activities including our popular Discovery Trail around the grounds and crafts to make. As well as the Horticultural Society, you can find out what lots of other local groups are up to. Look forward to seeing you there!

Advert for Plant Sale and Community Day

Did you ‘Follow the Carrots’ for Easter Bunnies, Plants and a Gorgeous Garden?

Thank you to everyone who came to last Sunday’s ‘Bunnies in the Beds’ and open garden at Charlton House. The ‘Follow the Carrots’ signs worked out a treat, and lots of small people arrived at the Peace Garden ready to find the Easter Bunnies and claim their prize. We gave it an International twist this year, after finding out how other countries celebrate Easter. So as well as Bunnies, the children had to find eg a Bilby from Australia, a Witch from Sweden, and some Willow sticks & feathers from Finland. No-one could really miss the kites (Bermuda) and we had a set of beautiful eggs from Ukraine to find too.

Here they come! Queues for the trail, and let the Hunt begin..

Ladies giving out Easter Egg prizes

The day included a successful plant sale too, and Blackheath Flower Arranging Club joined us for a bit of promotion. Not to mention the Producers Market and Frilly’s cafe open all day.

Thank you everyone, these are wonderful gardens in which to hold an event!

Charlton House Horn Fair 2021

A super-successful day at our CABAHS plant stall at the Horn Fair on 17 October. This annual festival on St Luke’s Day has had a re-boot by the new team at Charlton House and was a very lively event. Our stall made £760, thank you to all who donated plants or helped on the day, these things cannot be done without you all! Lots of commercial and artisan stalls, talks and exhibitions.

Thank you from the hospice

We received a lovely letter of appreciation from Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, when we sent them £950 raised at our recent Charlton House plant sale. They looked back over the last 17 years and sent us this certificate showing how much we have raised in total for them. Well done everyone!

OPG diary – May 2021

Early May
The rainiest May for years, wet volunteers still working away. (They come for the Lotus biscuits at half time…). The gravel garden looks rather good in the rain actually. But for heaven’s sake when is that Alianthus (Tree of Heaven) going to come into leaf? It’s almost as slow as the Mulberry.

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Bird bath being used, and our lovely Cotinus (Smoke Bush) is coming out.

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Sunday 30 May
Our Plant Sale and Community Day was a great success – all those pleas were answered and the sun did come out. Thank you so much to everyone who donated plants or gave their time on the day to help. This was the biggest plant sale CABAHS has ever held, and has raised over £950 for the Hospice, plus more funds to continue the garden revival.

OPG diary – April 2021

The gardens opened to the public on18 April for our ‘Bunnies in the Beds’ Easter trail, and a plant sale in the Long Borders.   We were very impressed to receive a visit from keen gardener, the Mayor of Greenwich, Linda Bird. The gardens are now open Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm.

Charlton House gardens, April 2021: Mayor Greenwich, plant sales stall.

More pics below:  top right is Viv in front of her re-located driveway, now the gravel garden. And the bottom left picture is of Bunny number 4, Borage, or Panic Bunny as he is better known since we discovered rather late that there was no Borage in the Peace Garden, so we had to hastily plant some!

Charlton House gardens, April 2021: gravel garden, Bunnies in the Beds Easter trail, CABAHS volunteers

Flowers out! And thirsty bees out too.

Charlton House gardens, April 2021: bees, Epimedium, Narcissus, blossom

A year in the life of the Old Pond Garden, 2020-21

At the AGM a year ago, I nervously stood in front of the packed Long Gallery at Charlton House and gave a talk about the Old Pond Garden walled garden.

Old Pond Garden, February 2020

The Society has been meeting once a month at Charlton House for over 30 years, and yet a large proportion of our members (myself included until a couple of months prior to that) had no idea the walled gardens existed. Local Charlton members knew of course, but our membership is drawn from a wide area of South East London, so this was news for many of them.

We proposed that a volunteer scheme should be set up to help renovate and maintain the gardens, since the RBG gardeners were too stretched to do more than trim and mow. We had the support of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, and with their help had applied for some funding from the Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund.

But it was a bit of a leap of faith- CABAHS has only ventured into volunteering once in its history, back in the 1990’s, when members helped run the garden and greenhouse at Greenwich Hospital. So in February we launched the volunteer scheme in the garden, on the weekend of Storm Dennis, with our carefully prepared flyers flying about everywhere, and everyone taking a quick look at the garden and running for cover (and coffee and cakes) in the House. But apart from the weather it was a success as we had 34 interested people sign up on the spot.

The volunteers started work very enthusiastically on a lovely sunny Sunday in late February, tackling the early weeds and brimming with ideas of what should stay, go or could be donated from their own gardens. So many discussions about what is a weed, whether the giant Phormiums should be kept, and whether forget-me-nots are invasive! We developed an Old Pond Garden committee, to administer and run the scheme (and deal with the interesting Health & Safety issues– eg don’t eat the plants). Volunteer sessions were very well attended, even as the nastier weather set in, and a tea and homemade cake routine developed alongside the weeding.

While enjoying our time in the garden, of course world events were catching up with us and we had to close the scheme on March 21st as the first Covid-19 Lockdown hit.

During that first Lockdown, the weather decided to become unseasonably hot, which was nice for all of us stuck at home, but totally fried the primroses and snowdrops we had planted in the garden. Behind the scenes, the Old Pond Garden committee carried on planning. Melanie and Kay filmed a 2 minute clip of the garden for the Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Open Gardens, which raised our profile tremendously and helped with funding for the Hospice.

June 30th and we were back on track! But by now we had even more volunteers, and they included local garden designer Jason Carty. The very professional and lovely planting plan that Jason came up with was quickly adopted and the Volunteers set to with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Old Pond Garden planting plan - Jason Carty

After the March-June shortages of compost and seeds, it was great to be able to swap plants again, and the garden became a useful exchange point. We had to add antiseptic hand gel to our Health & Safety rules, but most gardeners wear gloves anyway and we learned all about the importance of hand cream after a grubby planting session! Homemade cakes were replaced with cellophane wrapped biscuits, and work carried on.

By August the garden beds were clear enough to be able to hold a Plant Sale with all plants grown and donated by members (THANK YOU!). There were also displays of the gardens in past times and our plans for the future. The public turned up in droves and we sold out by 2pm. Even the Mayor of Greenwich visited just in time to pick up the last of the plants, and we made over £1,000, for the garden fund and Hospice.

Other creative achievements: Some volunteers cut the remaining lavender in the garden, to dry, and other volunteers made bespoke CABAHS Charlton House Lavender Bags (applying for copyright!) for sale. The old cherry tree stump was dug up, after Herculean effort from David, and made into a wildlife area for the Stag Beetle larvae we disturbed. A leaf store was built, in readiness for Autumn leaf fall, to recycle the goodness back into the garden. A “Grand Designs Luxury Shelter” has been built, unbelievably from old building hoardings though you would never guess, and is now hidden in one corner of the garden. With coat hooks for volunteers’ coats, so practical!

In September we received £6,000 funding from Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund, a huge boost for our planting plans. The committee negotiated a 50% trade discount with Provender Nurseries and went on a shopping spree.

The CABAHS 70th Anniversary bench, Old Pond Garden Charlton House, December 2020

In October we took delivery of a new bench seat, to commemorate CABAHS 70th Anniversary, kindly funded by members subscriptions. We also received interest and some practical help from students from the University of Greenwich Landscape Architecture department. By November the second Lockdown had hit, but this time the weather was being more normal and plants were becoming dormant anyway. We got back to work in December, and carried on planting in the mild weather. There was a wonderful surprise from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, who awarded us £500 to buy some special plants for the garden (big thank you Melanie for applying!). In the week before Christmas, volunteers fashioned stylish wreath decorations forthe gates from leaves and berries from the garden itself and a socially distanced mince-pie-fest, courtesy Charlton Bakehouse, concluded the year.

CABAHS Christmas wreath and decorations, Old Pond Garden Charlton House, December 2020

January came and brought the Third Lockdown, but the garden is coping fine with two local volunteers a week popping in to check it over. The tree surgeon Amber Treecare paid a longawaited visit in the first week in February to give the garden a haircut. So much better and lighter, with a lot of overgrown Pyracantha removed and the ivy trimmed to the top of the walls. You can see the House properly again!

Tree surgery and pruning in the Old Pond Garden, February 2021. Before and After

As we await the vaccine roll out, lots of virtual planning has been going on, with a new application for funds to extend the Volunteer scheme into the Long Borders garden in 2021. We hope to include the fabulous ancient Mulberry Tree enclosure in our care too, keeping it weed and rubbish free. Such a lot to look forward to and be grateful for.

See you in the garden soon, more volunteers always welcome!

Kathy

Grateful thanks to all our Volunteers, and the Old Pond Garden committee: Vija, Terry, Kay, Angela, Mandy, Melanie, Juli and Jason. Also to Tracy, Edward and the staff at Charlton House.