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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

Summer Newsletter

Hi there Gardeners – summer is definitely here!

We have all had our fair share of sunbeams and rain drops these past few weeks. The sun is great for annuals and sun tans but hard work for us gardeners keeping all our plants and pots watered. In total contrast the torrents of sudden deluges of rain are certainly keeping water butts full.

It has been a busy and fun few months here. Firstly the big news was my brand new website went live in April. Great to get it launched. Hope you find it interesting.

In the ‘Diary’ section I post the month-by-month gardening tips which clients receive as a hard copy so they can use them throughout the month to refer back to them.

June was very exciting for garden visits. I had a wonderful five days at my parents in East Sussex visiting two iconic gardens: Sissinghurst and Charleston. A dream come true - exceeding all expectations.


Head Gardener Troy Scott-Smith and his team at Sissinghurst have been working very hard to regain the rambling beauty and romance of Vita’s original garden. In March I listened to his “Vita’s Roses’ talk at Garden’s Illustrated Festival where he explained the garden developments.

There had been suggestions that some of the magic had been lost due to paths being altered for health and safety to accommodate the vast number of visitors and to keep inline with National Trust requirements. He said precision had taken over from Horticulture.

With a team of 300 volunteers and a dedicated team of crack dead headers, a lot of work had been done to restore areas to how the original garden once looked and reinstate Vita’s ideology of a practical, romantic and experimental garden.

‘A garden should be strictest formality of design, with maximum informality in planting.’ Vita Sackville-West.

Sissinghurst is well known for its rose collection. When the National Trust took it on in 1967 there were around 100 different cultivars on site. The former head gardener Jack Vass (from 1939-1941 and again returning to Sissinghurst after the war in 1946 until 1957) kept a record of all the roses planted at Sissinghurst and this has proved an invaluable key to restoration. In total there were around 300 originally recorded so the task was source the rest.

Troy Scott-Smith said 500 roses were planted in 2014, followed by 300 in 2016 with just over another 50 cultivars still to source. All planted in mycorrhizal fungi to give them the best start.

I truly felt that there was a dreamy ethereal feel about the grounds; once you had passed the National Trust shops and cafes! Roses sprawled ever inch of wall or border as if posing for a Pre Raphaelite painting. The sheer volume of plants and combinations were breathtaking. An absolute delight. You move from garden room to garden room and are really taken on a diverse floral journey around the whole site.

Although there was a heavy volume of visitors, there was also a calm uplifting atmosphere and from speaking to some people I met there, there was a general air of joy to have actually made it to the famous gardens. It was lovely to hear sound bites of people’s conversations as they passed - awe and amazement. It is truly marvellous that the power of gardens and plants can make people feel so elated and unite everyone, strangers all suddenly discovering the wonders of Sissinghurst together.


Also visited during my East Sussex stay was Charleston Farmhouse. Charleston is set in the picturesque village of Firle in the South Downs and is steeped in the rich artistic and literary history of the Bloomsbury group.

Home to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant from 1916-1978. Their walled garden was designed by Roger Fry but created by themselves and mixed cottage garden with Mediterranean influences – a painter’s garden.

Sculptures nestled in the foliage; a constant surprise; many made by their son Quentin Bell such as 1973 ‘Levitating Lady’ and 1954 ‘Pomona,’ as well tiled-edged pools and mosaic pathways.

Head Gardener is the highly acclaimed Fiona Dennis; who kindly took time to talk to me about some of the plants and even show me a secret pheasant’s nest complete with mum sitting proudly on her eggs!

Charleston is an absolute joy. I was completely smitten. A plethora of colour burst out of the beds. Spectacular. Well worth a visit.

Garden Visits and Horticultural Talks

The past few months have been very busy visiting gardens and attending some fabulous horticultural talks:

  • Spent a week in Aberystwyth area. Great coastal walks and woodlands explored.

  • RHS Malvern Show. Saw James Alexander-Sinclair and Raymond Blanc. Met up with Craig Cactus House. Inspiring show gardens and floral marquee.

  • Nailsea Allotment Plant Sale.

  • Visited Bloomsbury set’s Charleston Farmhouse & Gardens in East Sussex.

  • Visited Sissinghurst, Kent, for the first time. It was everything I dreamt it would be!

  • BBC Gardeners World Live 50th Anniversary at the NEC. Saw Monty Don, James Alexander-Sinclair talk about Long Meadow; Rob Smith, winner of Big Allotment Challenge, speak about creating a ‘mini’ fruit garden and chatted to him afterward, met up with Craig Cactus House & met in person online buddy, allotmenteer & Vlogger Annabelle of Life at No.27. Lots of ideas and plant buying!

  • Fagus talk by Neil Lovesey of Picket Lane Nursery; ‘The History of the Cottage Garden.’ Enlightening. Hilarious, entertaining and highly factual. Excellent talk.

Above are some highlights from Gardeners World Live.

Left to right: Monty Don and James Andrew-Sinclair talking about Long Meadow, Monty, Monty, James & Nigel, Rob Smith talking about mini fruit, James Andrew-Sinclair, GWL display, Stan and Vicki of Craig Cactus House, myself with Rob Smith and finally myself with Annabelle of Life at No.27.

Gardening tips can be found on the Diary blog section on my website. There are suggestions for month-by-month gardening jobs to take us from summer to autumn. Many tasks are transferable between months and can be carried out as and when weather and time permits.

Happy gardening!


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