It’s Glorious at Glyndebourne

A view of Glyndebournethe team behind the gardens at GlyndebourneGardening Team of Stephen Brockhurst, Head Gardener Kevin Martin at the piano, Dawn Aldridge & Garden Advisor John Hoyland

Bloggers perks are fairly rare and generally a very mixed bag, but occasionally something comes along that is quite irresistible. An invitation to tour the gardens at Glyndebourne with their gardens advisor John Hoyland and the gardening team and then attend the final dress rehearsal of Handel’s opera Rinaldo was definitely up at the top of the list. I’m not a great opera aficionado, but I knew the music would be lovely – and reading the synopsis established that there was a happy ending – so I accepted. I know that makes me a bit of a lightweight, but I have a theory that serious opera needs to be saved for times when life is less-than-happy – those times when sitting in the dark for several hours sharing extreme emotions with the cast is cathartic and healing. Anyway, enough of my thoughts on opera – back to the garden. It was a perfect summer’s day and the garden looked lush and lovely. Like all great gardens, it is in a constant state of evolution as the team introduces new ideas and replant over-mature borders.
cornflowers and yellows in this meadow at Glyndebournepictorial meadow at Glyndebournepictorial meadow in full flowerThe recent relocation of the coach park has allowed the family’s private gardens in front of the Manor to be planted with drifts of pictorial meadow mixes which give a wonderfully informal feel to what might otherwise be a more conventional setting for the house.
the double border at GlyndebourneSenorita Rosalita in flower at Glyndebourne
This has also had the effect of making the fabulous double borders along the Terrace the main entrance to the garden for those who have been wise enough to use the shuttle bus from Lewes Station (recommended). At the moment it is a mass of moody and magnificent mid-summer colour including a dwarf cleome which may be called ‘Senorita Rosalita’. (John thought it was called ‘Rosalie’ – this is the closest I can find)
view across the lake
Those familiar with Glyndebourne will know that the gardens are an essential part of the whole experience and the venue for the interval picnics. There are extensive manicured lawns in front of the house and alongside the lake, ensuring space for everyone to find a spot with a great view. You can lay your table on the lawn below the terrace and fantasise that you live in the Manor, spread your rug next to the lake and watch the ducks dabbling, or perch next to the ha-ha and admire the view of the South Downs. The picnics are as varied as the opera goers – from grand and elaborate, to simple and ungarnished. Everyone finds their spot before the performance so that come the interval the maximum time is available for eating, drinking and making merry. And should picnics not be your thing there are restaurants – as well as balconies on the opera house that provide covered areas for picnics if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
looking up the steps toward Glyndebourneferns mixed with flowers in this garden bordera close up of the flowering clerodendronclose up of cobaea scandens
Given plantsman John Hoyland’s involvement, it’s not surprising that there are pots planted with many unusual tender and half-hardy plants clustered around the entrance to the opera house and some wonderful exotic planting in the Bourne Garden including a huge and wonderfully fragrant clerodendron. Even the building itself has cobaea scandens scrambling skywards with its purple flowers nodding in the breeze. Practically all the plants in the garden are raised from seed, or propagated from cuttings, so backstage of the garden is just as busy as backstage of the theatre.
cut flowers in vase at chapel in Glyndebourneanother attractive vase of flowers from the cutting garden
There’s even a cutting garden to provide flowers for eye-catching arrangements indoors.
I’ve discovered that at Glyndebourne it’s not just the stage that provides stellar events – the gardens put on a very fine performance too.
Normally only opera goers get to see the gardens, but there is an open morning on the 11th of October when non-ticket-holders can explore all aspects of Glyndebourne, including gardening talks and workshops, as well as the opportunity to explore the grounds on a self-guided gardening trail. More info here
p.s. I loved the opera!

A Cupcake that’s Guaranteed to be Non-Fattening

I was invited to look round Thompson & Morgan’s trial grounds this week and of all the flowers that I saw there, the one that stole my heart was a new cosmos that they are trialling – I think it looks rather like a cross between a cosmos and an Angels Choir poppy.  I’m not sure that Cupcake would be my choice of name, but then I’m not a fan of said cakes, but I do think it is a great addition to the cosmos range and will make a lovely cut flower.  Unfortunately we will have to wait a year before the seed is available as they are still building stocks. Cosmos are invaluable in the garden at this time of year when they fill the spaces left by the earlier flowers that have gone to seed.

A United Nations of Tomatoes

A bowl of home grown exotic tomatoesPicking this lovely selection of tomatoes from the greenhouse it occurred to me that  the days are long gone when we just grew British varieties like Ailsa Craig and Moneymaker – here we have American Brandywine, Italian Costoluto de Fiorentino and Russian Black Krim – they all have superb flavour and will look wonderful combined in a salad.


Rosa helenae

Rosa helenae in bloom

Rosa helenae

On my recent Swedish visit I was bowled over by this wonderful species rambling rose – in Sweden it is known as the honey-rose for the very good reason that it has an intense honey scent.  Clusters of the semi-double flowers with a yellow eye smother the plant and later in the year it bears orange hips.  I’ve prowled the garden looking for somewhere I might be able to squeeze it in – so far without success – but if you have space for a once-flowering and deliciously fragrant rose, this is definitely the one.

The Blooming Fantastic Tigridia

Tigridia in bloomI sometimes wonder why I bother growing this bulb/corm – its foliage is rather unremarkable and made less so by the slugs and snails munching on it – and then one morning I go outside and find one of its extraordinary flowers and decide its worth the effort. Each flower lasts just one day and it’s not the most free-flowering of plants for me, but I glory in it while it’s there.