And on to RHS Hyde Hall

So after the upheaval of Beth Chatto's garden, would Hyde Hall be the disappointment instead?  I am a westerly and northerly living person.  London is familiar territory but outside the city I feel at home in Devon and Wales and the North West of England.  East is a bit alien to me.  I have been to Rosemoor in Devon a number of times and to Harlow Carr in Yorkshire.  I liked Harlow Carr, loved parts of Rosemoor, and made a rushed and disappointing trip to Wisley.  I don't know whether the disappointment was a result of the rush and I won't find out until I have the opportunity to go again.

So Hyde Hall was off my patch.  I knew very little about it.  I had no real expectations.  I remembered something about the garden specialising in plants for drier conditions and I thought Matthew Wilson had been curator of the garden in the early 2000s but that was about it.  Both of those things made me inclined to be interested in it but I came with an open, even vacant, mind.

The garden lies on a huge and windy site in Essex, one of the driest counties in Britain.  As we arrived the sun was shining but the wind was streaming in the trees.  Ox eye daisies were blowing on either side of the drive up to the carpark.  You could see shelter belts and hedges all over the place.


But inside it was just gently breezy and quiet too.


There were things I loved: huge beds with great sweeps of colour, challenging your sense of how much of a single plant your eye wants to see.  In the case of this salvia (nemerosa caradona I think) the answer was loads.  There were easy things done very well: alliums with nepeta, alliums with hardy geraniums.  Sometimes simple things done on a grand scale are better than self conscious attempts at cutting edge.


There was a beautiful shrub rose garden where most of the roses were higher than your head.  We walked right inside it on a tiny and inviting path and were amazed to find that no one else did.  It was exhilarating being right in the middle of the scented tumble of flower, soft and messy and lush.  I am not really a rose person and the more formal rose garden and rose walk left me cold but this was a sensual treat, colour and perfume trailing in your face as you walked.



The dry garden was interesting rather than moving and I do like to be moved in a garden.  The interest came from the relevance to my own garden with its stony soil.  Not everything that will grow in Essex will grow up a hill in North Wales but a surprising number of deeprooted plants will (docks again!).  So there was a lot to look at and think about but the planting was bitty and unsatisfying.  Perhaps it was the contrast with the tour de force which is Beth Chatto's gravel garden where the movement and shapes of the planting were as powerful as the colour.

There was also some exotic planting (cannas and the like) which looked thin and sad to my eye.  I am always acutely aware that a photograph taken one day or one week cannot be taken as anything more than a passing moment, not a judgement.  Heaven knows there are enough occasions in my garden when last week's fleeting beauty has morphed into this week's empty hole and sagging, snail snagged foliage.  Exotic planting is not my thing either, fortunately you might think, living where I do.  Which came first, the hill or the affection for hardy geraniums, the chicken or the egg?  So with that health warning, and accepting that by the end of July it will all be utterly transformed, let me show you what I mean:


But generally Hyde Hall was intriguing, occasionally exciting, sometimes dull but definitely worth visiting.  I might not be back because it is so very far away from home territory, but I am glad I went.

Comments

  1. Visiting any garden, any style, is bound to provide some inspiration, even if it is just something that settles in the back of the mind, like an impression - to influence a planting choice sometime in the future.
    I envy your access to so many different types of gardens!

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    1. You have your finger on it: it is the impression which lingers and somehow surfaces maybe months or years later.

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  2. The bed of Allium . . . very nice. A hidden tree rose arbor path would be a visit for me. Contrived gardens are of less interest for me. I like to see plants combined, popping up in unexpected places yet with obvious thought in the creation. However, any visit to a garden one can't help but come away with new ideas. I can usually vision how I want an area to look, just not always patient for the growing to mature and appear.

    I love your posts/blog!

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    1. Thanks Lynne! I agree. A lush naturalness is what I strive for, accepting that this is as much contrivance as an obvious formality, but it is what moves me.

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  3. Alas, I am not a very good gardener, but fortunately my sister-in-law is. She lives less than ten miles from Hyde Hall, but we never got around to visiting it until last summer. When we are together, I think we talk too much to accomplish anything! Only seeing one another every year or two means we have to make up for a lot of lost time.

    One of the things I find most intriguing about British gardens is the tremendous difference in soil and climate conditions within just a few miles. But even at their most neglected, you can't beat the British garden for colour or variety! I always leave one thinking, "Why don't I try that? I really must do a better job on my own garden!"

    Such a nice report on the gardens. Thank you for sharing. Take care, Carol

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I think you are right that British gardens have a very wide range of soil types and conditions. I can't speak for anywhere else as I have only ever gardened seriously here but the conditions in each of the four gardens which I looked after have been wide rangingly different.

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  4. What wonderful colours. Love the Allium.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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    1. I keep planting alliums and feeling I haven't got enough and planting some more!

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  5. Often the thing I enjoy most about a garden is the sense of tranquillity so many bestow upon the visitor. Am I sensing that this garden didn't give you that?

    I could smell the roses though, reading this :D

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    1. There was plenty of excitement in the large beds and tranquility in the shrub rose area. I think there were so many different forms of gardening going on that it was a rather bitty experience but then an RHS garden is doing a large number of different things so perhaps will never feel like a coherent whole.

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  6. I know what you mean about photographing gardens... every time I photograph a large area of garden, it never comes out looking like what it looks like to me just standing there... which is why I do most of my photography up-close and bloom-individual. Love that allium pic! Whoooosh!

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    1. I do agree. Up close photos I can do but the sweep of a larger area eludes me!

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  7. Hello Elizabeth. I didn't know you were visiting my patch! I would have loved to join you at Beth Chatto's garden - a regular pilgrimage now we live just the other side of Colchester. It is stunning and I have never seen it looking as good as in your photos - the recent heavy rains have been very kind to our normally dry eastern gardens. I never come away without a few more shade loving plants to try in my borders - always lovely healthy specimens.

    We moved up this way from the Kent/Sussex border where my influences were the stunning gardens at Sissinghurst Castle (a former head gardener is now living just round the corner here in Suffolk) and Christopher Lloyd's intriguing and inspiring garden at Great Dixter. Apparently he and Beth Chatto were good gardening friends and both have made the most of their different gardening challenges.

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    1. I have the book of the letters between Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd. It always amuses me as their different take on the use of pesticides etc could be me and my husband!

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  8. It's a bit like visiting the gardens on the NGS scheme only bigger! Some I love and get inspired by and others don't do anything for me. But unless you experience all types, how do you know that what you are trying to achieve (especially with all the hard work it takes on your patch) is actually what you want?

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    1. It's a bit of a balancing act isn't it? I find if I spend too much time looking at other people's gardens firstly I don't get anything done here and secondly I lose my own focus. If I never go visiting at all I do become a bit one eyed about the whole thing! That's why around about once a year in a big blast suits me quite well!

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  9. The allium bed is so classic and the shrub roses so very romantic - everything is outdone by the glorious foxglove in your heading. I am so appreciative of their pure beauty, - well really, I'm terribly envious...

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    1. The foxgloves are glorious and, more to the point, easy!

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  10. Thank you for all that lilac rush, my most favourite colour. The shrub roses are oh so English and one can almost smell their lingering scent from your pictures. Seriously, how fortunate you are and how very envious of it all I am!

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    1. We are fortunate, both in having our own gardens in a climate that allows us a huge range of possibilities and in having gardens to see. It is easy to lose that in the rush of slugs and docks!

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  11. I have an aversion to tropical style planting. I know it's a dry part of the country and it can get very hot (well, sometimes)but I always think they stand out a bit in our countryside and I don't think we have the right light levels for them to work really well. Our northern light suits pastel colours much better. However, the gardens look interesting and I'd still like to visit if I'm ever in the area.

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    1. Ah, another one who is not keen on tropical stuff! I never feel they fit, except perhaps in small city gardens where the exotic is not so out of place.

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  12. Having lived in Essex and with family in East Anglia I know it can be dry but the soil is full of clay which seems to hold moisture far longer than our soils here. Never have I grown such abundant tomatoes or strawberries as when we lived there and my brother in law grows all manner of exotic plants. Lawns seem to do well, and tall trees, well, any kind of tree, really. And when you are bored with the plants you can look up and see those great, arching skies that go on and over for ever and ever. Indeed, you are making me quite homesick. No wonder folk from Norwich tend to stay put.

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    1. Now that is funny because I did begin to long for hills. The shapes of the land were a bit alien, a bit smooth and flat. Felt quite odd after a bit!

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  13. Enjoyed both your tours immensely - not only the choice of images but your succinct reviews. Sometimes feel that the enormous beds are too much of a good thing but otherwise agree with the 'simple done well rather than the self conscious attempts at cutting edge.' Spot on

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    1. Thanks! glad you enjoyed them. I know what you mean about the enormous beds. Certainly it's not a thing easy to reproduce!

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