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20 May 2018 - 8:59pm

Memorable garden visits

Last month we ventured down south to visit Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, two inspirational but very different gardens. Sissinghurst is beautifully designed and planted, no weeds, very neat. The spring walk, flanked by pleached limes is wonderful at this time of year. Daffodils, grape hyacinths, a few crocus hanging on, early tulips, primroses, all looked so pretty. In the nuttery, woodlanders prevail including those rather curious trilliums that seem to me to have a slightly sinister quality but I know they have their admirers! A lovely splash of colour was provided by a generous group of tulips ‘Orange Emperor’: one to look up in the bulb catalogue this Autumn. Great Dixter by contrast is messy and not weed free but if you are obsessive about plants like me, you will notice that again the planting is superb. It is designed to create an overall effect of complete submersion by Summer. The large, rolling meadow (pictured) behind the gorgeous house, part designed by Lutyens , looked fabulous. Several different kinds of daffodil are gently planted in small groups so the ratio between the bright green meadow grass and the pale yellow and creamy white flowers looks perfect. One planting combination I am keen to copy is golden bamboo underplanted with blue Chionodoxa (or may have been Scillas, either would do the job), the bright blue stars next to the shiny gold stems looked fabulous together. Dead easy too, plant and let them get on with it! There was also a plant fair going on that weekend at Dixter so, needless to say, we came home with a few treasures. Peter looked very quizzical when I appeared with three small bits of stick for £2. When I explained they were willow and would produce wonderful catkins he remained unconvinced. Clearly when we have a fab display of fluffy pussy willow he will soon he realise what a wise and very modest investment it was. When you go to a good plant fair, where really sound, detailed advice is on tap from skilled nursery women and men, you can appreciate their real understanding and passions for plants. Carol Klein must be one of the best living plantswoman around today and, at 72, is still going strong. Surely a testament to the health benefits of gardening. These wise words appear in her book ‘Carol Klein’s Favourite Plants’: ‘The only way to get to know a plant really well is through growing it’. So I was delighted to hear that Carol has recently been awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour. Established in 1897, the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) is awarded to British horticulturists by the RHS and is awarded for life. Only 63 medals may be held at any one time, in recognition of the duration in years of Queen Victoria’s reign. So a massive honour, but so well deserved. The first 63 medals were awarded in 1897; I could only find two women among that list, Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Willmott. Miss Willmott, it is told, used to sprinkle sea holly seeds in people’s gardens when they weren’t looking, hence the common name ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’. More recent recipients of the VMH were Percy Thrower in 1977 and Jekka McVicar in 2017. May is such a wonderful month in the garden, please make sure you take some time out to enjoy it!