I’ve been meaning to head to Hyde Hall for longer than I care to share, it’s been on the ever growing list and because it’s not all THAT far away there was a certain level of guilt that I hadn’t made the effort.

As we skidded into the end of April, and my looming birthday, a pal and I booked a day together tramping the big beautiful dry gardens of the very East of England. RHS Hyde Hall followed by Beth Chatto Gardens.

What a day we picked, for windy East of England was at it’s very windiest, gusting burst skudding in from the North East whisking hair totally out of place and unzipped coats aflap.

It seems a bit disconnected to me the modern new visitors centre snuggled at the base of the hill looking up towards the old buildings which were presumably once a farmstead, perched on top the hill giving a perfect view of the surrounding countryside but exposing itself to brutal ‘weather’. The distance between has been and is being planted, deep wide beds sprawling across the hillside filled with shrubs, woody and herbaceous perennials and on this day a gaggle of gardening staff and volunteers (we counted 9 on that first windward bank).

one windy side of RHS Hyde Hall

one windy side of RHS Hyde Hall

What strikes is how robust all these plants must be to resist such gusty onslaughts (avg wind speed in April is around 50kpm). Add to that it’s going to be on the drier side with sloping ground and high transpirations rates from wind and sun exposure and these plants start to look pretty hardy, indestructible and highly garden worthy.

In planting design we are often advised to “go with the tried and tested”, the indestructibles, “right plant, right place” and all that, which is a reliable course of action. Of course plants, some plants, are a good deal more flexible and determined than plant encyclopaedia would have us believe. ‘Live’ examples such as these borders demonstrate the versatility in some unexpected varieties.

Salix (Willow) has long been coppiced for functional use of material and more recently  for  decorative colour in winter months. These Salix sculptures show off the plant in a quirky and creative manner and had me wondering the how and when, not to mention what will it look like in full summer.


Creeping Euphorbia myrsinites pint sized Juno Iris

A new Dry garden flanked the ‘old’ and had suffered from both wet, last year, and extended cold this winter and spring. More volunteers were pulling out non-survivors but again the thriving mounds of unexpected toughies had me scribbling in my notebook. The Iris bucharica, one of the  Juno’s,  looks deceptively delicate,  the unspoiled fresh growth of the Euphorbia myrsinites belies the exposed site. From here the views are expansive over to the north and east, stretching for several miles and reminds one that there is a cold wind blowing.

Neatly tucked into the exposed hillside is a dry stone wall, making the most of the views with several opportunistic plants huddled on the leeward side

Dry stone wall providing sheltered crevices for plants

Dry stone wall providing sheltered crevices for plants

with Papaver and Aubretia brave the windward side.

Windward plants

Windward plants clinging to the wall

At the top of the dry gardens sits a gloriously scented and not commonly seen Wattle, at least that’s what they are commonly called in Australia where I smelt my first hedge of them. Acacia pravissima is in bloom and flavouring the air with rich spicy scents.

Acacia pravissima

Highly scented Acacia pravissima

The gardens reaching behind the hill feel far more sheltered full of woodland planting, bog loving tax odium with it’s ‘knees’ up and damp plantings of Cornus and Salix all scattered with spring bulbs.

Once through the Camelia and highly scented Skimmia walk a new looking gabion wall, filled meticulously with horizontal slabs, surrounds a sunken garden of tree ferns and and rodgersias. Plenty more to come in the summer months.

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