Autumn Colour at Perch Hill10th September 2018 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
My own garden seems somewhat lacking in colour at the moment and what colour there is, is fairly low key as I wait for the asters to add some vibrancy. The same cannot be said at Perch Hill, Sarah Raven’s garden near Brightling in East Sussex where it is positively kaleidoscopic at the moment.
Sarah’s vegetable beds are quite awe-inspiring. The mix of ornamentals and edibles, as well as the health and size of the plants is a sight to behold. Of course, she does have the luxury of space, allowing a glorious combination of aesthetics and productivity. Not something that most of us can manage on the same scale, but it is always worth having a pot or two of ornamentals amongst the vegetables to brighten things up.
It has been a great year for dahlias, with the hot dry weather keeping the slugs at bay and allowing the plants to grow strongly without first being savaged by the munchers. Sarah’s trial beds are a perfect place to make your selection for next year. As much as I love the pale beauty ‘Café au Lait’, it is quite difficult to place in the border unless you favour a fairly subtle colour range of plants. I prefer a bit of full-on colour and my favourite was ‘Tartan’, a swirling mass of crimson and white that looks like blackcurrants being swirled into a dish of yoghourt – it really is yummy!
I was enchanted by one of the roses in the garden at Perch Hill – ‘Simple Life’ – it is a short climber/tall shrub that has a purity and delicacy that makes me want to have one. I just need to find somewhere I can plant it in my crowded garden.
A Compost Palace
New since my last visit earlier in the summer is a magnificent structure where Perch Hill will be producing all its own compost from now on. There was a notice saying that they have had a problem with imported compost made from green waste that was contaminated with herbicide. It has devastated one of their dahlia trial beds, so I suspect that they are planning to avoid this by producing all their own compost. The ‘palace’ will allow them to produce compost on a very large scale – seldom has a compost heap looked so inviting.
The Power of Instagram
After my recent visit to Perch Hill, I posted a photo of an ornamental grass that I really liked and wrongly identified as an annual called Agrostis Nebulosa. The Perch Hill instagrammer let me know (very nicely) that I had misidentified it and it was actually the perennial Panicum elegans ‘Sparkling Fountain’. A local friend and fellow instagrammer saw the post and replied that she had lots of the self-sown plants growing in her garden and I could have one. She delivered it to my door the following day and it is now happily ensconced in my garden. Go Instagram!