It has been about three months since I have managed to write a blog post from the Gardens here at Ashburnham Place. As you can imagine, it’s one of the busiest times in the gardening year and I was also away on holiday for three weeks which meant lots of catching up to do on my return! I went to Canada and one of the many beautiful sights was wild purple lupins growing by the side of the road. It is natural displays like this that inspire me as a gardener.
Back in Sussex we have enjoyed lovely shows of flowers throughout the late Spring and Summer, starting with the Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the West Garden, continuing with the Roses on the Front Terrace and we’re currently enjoying the Hydrangeas and Fuchsias in the West Garden.
Earlier this year I started planting up two areas that have been bare for a few years now. One is a bed at the bottom end of the West Garden, on the right, just before you leave through the iron gates. I planted three different types of Penstemon there, Westminster Belle, Raven and Heavenly Blue. They have taken really well and provide a pretty purple haze as you look down the garden from the Orangery Steps. The backdrop of Cotinus leaves sets off P. Westminster Belle rather well I think.
The other area that has been planted up is around the stump of a Holm Oak that was taken down a couple of years ago. This large evergreen Oak was at the back of the big bed in the West Garden in front of the Church and once it was taken down, left a large area of bare soil. It has taken me a while to work out how it could be designed and planted and while I was weeding in there earlier this year a plan began to take shape. There were already some Buddleia bushes in the bed which are great for attracting butterflies and I thought it would be good to use other plants that also attract pollinators and other wildlife and also create an informal, colourful area of planting with a path leading through it to the tree stump so people can wander up to sit on the stump and have a moment of contemplation surrounded by flowers. Either side of the path I have planted clumps of Crocosmia whose bright orange flowers contrast well with the lilac flowers of Nepeta. I have also planted Geranium, Echinacea, Achillea and Rosemary with a drift of tall, purple flowered Verbena bonariensis at the back. All these plants are popular with pollinating insects and there are butterflies flitting around all the time, such as this Comma.
I have also planted some Caryopteris x clandonensis shrubs which have pretty silver coloured leaves and pale blue flowers in late summer. They are susceptible to Honey Fungus which we have in the Wets garden but we will keep an eye on them and hope for the best! Lastly I put in some Hypericum hidcote otherwise known as St John’s Wort, which has bright yellow flowers all summer and into Autumn. Already the area is taking shape and although the Achillea have been nibbled by rabbits and have yet to flower, everything else has taken well and is providing a lovely splash of colour in a bed that was previously barren. I will be adding to the planting in the Autumn, so make sure you have a look and wander up to the tree stump next time you are visiting.
There was much excitement here at the end of July when Songs of Praise came to film here, they were featuring Ashburnham Place because of our connection with Capability Brown but also to highlight the life changing work that goes on in the Grounds and Gardens here today. The programme aired on BBC 2 on Sunday 7th August but will still be available to watch on iplayer for about a month so do try and catch it.