Opening Pains


Had we opened our seaside garden on the usual weekend, this is the scene that would have greeted our visitors. Not bad, even if I do say so myself. Instead, we spent the weekend in London, celebrating Him Indoors’ birthday and not worrying about deadheading or watering for a change. At Polegate Cottage, the garden I left behind looked very much like a set from Saving Private Ryan. In three weeks’ time this is where we will be serving teas – let’s hope the waste pipes are safely back underground by then! Alas it seems we might not have our French windows delivered in time, so those classy plywood doors will perform the role of serving hatch. We like to do things properly in Broadstairs you know. When asked by the builder if I wanted to keep “any of the good soil” he’d excavated, you can imagine my reply.


Polegate Cottage building site, July 2016


Now I have to work out how to keep the plants going so that they look just as good in three weeks’ time. Dahlias, geraniums and begonias I don’t need to worry about; they will just get better and better as summer progresses. Gingers will do as they please. Most flower once, and briefly at that, so if they are out they are out, and if they are over, there’s nothing to be done about it. Hedychium yunnanense, a ginger with beautiful green leaves and fragrant, spidery, white flowers, has clumped up a treat since I purchased it last year and has produced five spikes already. Meanwhile H. ‘Tara’ is only just throwing up new shoots and getting into its stride.


Hedychium yunnanense, The Watch House, July 2016


I love gloriosas but have never been brave enough to grow them outdoors. Their tender leaves and ruffled flowers have “eat me” written all over them. However, this year I decided to take the plunge and buy a few new tubers, which I started into growth in the greenhouse before dotting them amongst other plants in pots on the terrace. This has worked well as these twining vines are tall and slender, peeking out above the canopy and looking totally tropical. Only time will tell if they escape being devoured by hungry slugs and snails.


Gloriosas, The Watch House, July 2016


My agapanthus have produced a disappointingly low number of flower spikes this year, about half what I’d normally expect. This can only be down to lack of sunlight as they are treated to a generous dose of a special agapanthus feed every fortnight. Given the profusion of alternative flowers it hardly seems to matter and they still create a hazy galaxy of blue above all the rowdier colours.

Whatever happens it’s going to be a rather unusual and unorthodox garden opening this year. Perhaps instead of teas we should be selling bags of our “good soil”, or offering lessons in bricklaying instead of gardening tips. Either way I’m sure it’ll be a hoot!

Our garden at The Watch House will be open from 12-4 on Saturday, August 20th and Sunday, August 21st. Click here for more details on the NGS website.


The Watch House garden, panorama, July 2016