• In aid of a good cause is reason enough to look at gardens, drink tea and eat cake is another one! So on Sunday afternoon I took myself and my lovely garden chum, Liz,  to visit the gardens at Serge Hill.  This is one of the many gardens open to the public under the National Garden Scheme ‘NGS’. NGS has well over 3,500 gardens in England and Wales open to the public for charity, these tend to be privately owned and opened perhaps just once or twice a year.  All the money charged for entrance, tea and cakes is paid to NGS who last year donated some £2.5million to support nursing, caring and gardening charities.  Its patron is HRH The Prince of Wales.   Image
  • The two gardens at Serge Hill are quite different: The Barn is the private garden of Landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith, and Serge Hill is the garden of a Queen Anne house, remodelled by Busby (architect of Brighton and Hove) for those who are interested in these things, belonging to the Stuart-Smith family.
  • Pressed for time, we headed straight to the garden at The Barn. We took a look at the vegetable garden which has a most wonderful greenhouse at one end and a galvanized corrugated shed at the opposite end. (Reference to “The Barn Garden” by Tom and Sue Stuart-Smith credits the shed to Ptolemy Dean). Its pale muted silver tones blend seamlessly with the fading timber window frames and the band of lavender planted against its walls. Not really like any shed I have ever seen, more, rather stylish outbuilding.  The greenhouse was stuffed with a delightful selection of scented leaf geraniums, seedlings and rows of beautiful old terracotta pots. Raised beds housing a range of vegetables, sweet peas and anemones were set out on a grid.  We appreciated that all produce did not look pristine and reminded us that veg growing can be a tricky business. Phew that got us off the hook then!

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  • From here we strolled through the recently created wildflower meadow which has yet to flower, thanks to our lengthy winter and slow-to-start Summer, onto the outer rooms created by high walls of Hornbeam hedges.
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  • How peaceful to sit a while in such a tranquil green setting.
  • Following the paths you are eventually lead into the garden proper.Image
  • Wow is the only word which adequately describes what awaits you.
  • The planting is lush, full, tall. Planting combinations are repeated and weave around the beds creating a fluid, balanced effect.  I cannot guess how many people were visiting the garden while we were there, but judging by the field full of cars, a great number and yet the garden remained peaceful.  There was an audible hush as people strolled around in admiration, chatting quietly to one another, photographing at every turn.
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  • Then there is the courtyard garden, which is a sunken garden area housing a version of one of Stuart-Smiths award winning Chelsea gardens.  It comprises wonderful reflective pools of water set in striking corten steel tanks.  The deep rust colour of the steel is reflected by the planting which includes Astrantia “Ruby Wedding” Iris “Supreme Sultan” Euphorbia grifithii “Dixter”in deep moody earthy tones.  This is stylish and sits beautifully in its rural scene and its great to see a ‘show’ garden in a real life situation.
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  • From here, we crossed the lane into the magnificent gardens of Serge Hill.  The contrast is clear as soon as you enter the garden facing out to the countryside. No walls of Hornbeam here, rather a vast level lawn flanking the house, with a ha-ha serving to keep the Jersey cows at bay. The view in the distance is uninteruppted.  To one side you follow a gravel path which runs parallel to a large garden wall.  The wall acts as backstop to a traditional herbaceous border which blooms and tumbles onto the path.  Entering the walled garden via a beautiful gate an abundance of plant life awaits.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Step over fruit trees, lupins, paeonies, vegetables and herbs abound.  I liked the path of Nepeta, simple and pretty.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Out of time, we by-passed the cake and teas, agreeing to save that for next year, stopping to collect a couple of plants which Liz had bought for her own walled garden. Our visit to the gardens at Serge Hill was brief due to forces outside our control, but in that short space of time we left full of ideas and inspiration and eager to return again next year.