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“Oh to be in England now that spring is here”
Jilly and Carl’s newly created woodland garden framed by a copper beech

My husband Michael’s sister(Jilly) and mother live in a beautiful part of Britain – the Kentish Weald – otherwise known as the Garden of England for it’s centuries old cultivation of orchards: apples, pears, plums and cherries, and berry farms – especially strawberries and raspberries.

Jilly and Carl have a lovely garden (about 2,000sq.m.) and are keen gardeners. It’s wonderful to see, every time I return, the rewards of their labours.  Since Carl retired he has done a RHS horticultural course so we always have lots ‘compos’t and ‘worm’ type chats.

Kentish apple orchards with oast houses

Kent was once also famous for its hop gardens too (used in the making of beer), now long gone – the only memory in the landscape are the conical shaped oast houses that were used for drying the hops.  Many families in my grandparents era from the East End of London used to come to come to Kent for their summer holidays to go hop picking.

Flowering horse chestnut (for you Alison)

We have arrived in late spring and the beautiful old deciduous trees are in full, fresh green leaf – oak, birch, linden/lime, hazelnut, chestnut and my favourite – the copper beach.  They are also in flower and the air is full of the fragrance of hawthorn, chestnut and linden trees.

The house we are staying in is over a hundred years old and the backdrop that frames the garden are two magnificent copper beech trees (seen in the first photo above).Which brings me to the CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW celebrating it’s centenary in 2013.  It’s been a treat for me to watch the all-day live broadcasts from the Show, to hear the word horticulture dozens of times, and see the craftsmanship that goes into the bones of a garden: stonemasonry paving, hedging, pollarding, topiary, fencing, espaliering, plant selection and, this years star – pleaching – read on.

Themes this year from the Chelsea Flower Show:

Laurent-Perrier Gold medal garden with pleached copper beech

Design: A formal Italianate garden was the Gold medal winner.  It had lovely water features, topiary and a pleached copper beach hedge – how to explain this – it’s a sort of living fence, the trunks of which are bare underneath and then it is clipped to height and width.  I first saw this as a feature at Sissinghurst (Vita Sackville West’s garden) with a pleached lime walk with spring bulbs underneath.

I don’t think this is a trend that will take on in Mullumbimby – we don’t have the staff to maintain them!  But, I do love the skill of separating spaces in the garden and creating privacy with plants and not built structures; we don’t think of the vertical enough when designing a garden.
Recycled water was also incorporated into lots of designs as well as ‘wild and sustainable plantings’.  There was another award winning very small back yard with an old caravan as the central feature and plantings reminiscent of an Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ holiday – hollyhocks, columbines, tumbling roses and forget-me-nots and lashings of ginger beer.  In fact, I sometimes think here, back in England,  that I am going to see Rupert Bear and Bill Badger appearing from behind a hedge at any moment.  Jet-lag allows you to welcome the dawn at 4.30am and as I look out in the garden I see rabbits, squirrels and hedgehogs scurrying about.  On my cycle ride back from West Malling yesterday – in a shady country lane – I came across a fox with a cub that stayed quite still until I got really close to them.

Colour:  Lots of metallic colours in leaves and flowers, silver, copper and bronze.  Note the use of silver artichoke as a feature plant in the garden above.

NOTE:  If you want to see the garden an Australian team won the gold medal with in 2013 go to this link.

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