Ever since university, where our course leader Richard Bisgrove was an acknowledged expert on Gertrude Jekyll, I have been fascinated by the relationship between this famous plantswoman and her working partner, the great architect Edwin Lutyens.
In my dreams I live in one of Lutyens’ legendary houses – Castle Drogo, Folly Farm, The Deanery in Sonning – any of them would do. They all share a wonderful attention to detail and a special relationship with their gardens, which were often designed by Lutyens but planted by the talented Miss Jekyll.
Lutyens and Jekyll were at their most prolific in Surrey and Berkshire, but also created this beautiful Queen Anne style house as a holiday home for three wealthy brothers from London in the sleepy old port of Sandwich, Kent.
At the beginning of the 21st century the garden had fallen into significant disrepair and was virtually unknown. Hence it’s now known at “The Secret Garden”. The current owners have worked miracles, breathing life back into the place. On our first visit 4 or 5 years ago it was still very much work in progress, but on this visit the garden had really “arrived”. Once again the 3.5 acre plot inside the mediaeval walls of Sandwich is bursting with life and a wonderful selection of plants and sculptures, carefully arranged. As you’d expect it also has great structure. The tightly clipped columns above are holm oaks (Quercus ilex) and form a neat avenue leading away from the front of the house. These are joined throughout the garden by numerous slim poplars, creating strong vertical accents.
The main glory of the garden is its gigantic herbaceous borders, all of which were overflowing with colour. The shot above features Hemerocallis (despite most plants being clearly labelled, I could not find the name of this one), shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), Alstromeria and smoky Macleya in the background. However, my favourite border brought together the juicy colours of more Alstromeria, Geranium psilostemon, Lysimachia punctata, Phlomis russeliana, variegated holly and Miscanthus in one huge riot of colour. I am not sure what Gertrude Jekyll would have thought of it, but it worked for me.
The plant sales area, below, has also grown since our last visit and is joined by a small gift shop and tea room to die for. The size of the cream tea was something to behold and almost beat us. All in all The Salutation is now a real treat – for the eyes, the nose and the stomach!
Part 2 coming soon.