Saturday, 13 August 2011

Laurel, and Hardy Plants

To the utterly charming and most inspiring Marchants Hardy Plants today, a wonderful garden and nursery not far from Lewes in East Sussex. I’d love to give you the exact location but, in spite of printing out instructions from the infernal interweb, we got slightly lost, and spent rather longer getting there than intended.

The small car park was overflowing when we finally arrived, so we pulled up on the roadside just before the entrance, next to an artfully pruned hedge of what I took to be field maple. But what this place specialises in is as fine a selection of home grown herbacious perennials and ornamental grasses as you are likely to find anywhere, and that's what we'd come to see.

Accompanied by the sound of the breeze whispering in two fine willows flanking the entrance to the garden, we descended from a grassy knoll into the beautifully landscaped space, which acts as a showcase for the plants in the nursery. Here inspiration in abundance awaits, from planting combinations suggesting myriad ways in which grasses can be used together with perennials and shrubs, through the soft landscaping of the undulating grassland and creatively shaped hornbeam hedges, to the subtle use of hard landscaping materials. Any questions we had were answered by Graham Gough and his partner, textile designer Lucy Goffin, whose passion and enthusiasm for both plants and garden was clearly evident.

Leaving empty handed was never an option, and we took with us the prettiest, pale pink flowered pelargonium, P. ‘Shannon’ (the stunning, dark maroon flowered P. sidoides was on show but, alas, not on sale this year), and a magnificent willow, Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’ – all mahogany stems and long, pale, olivey leaves – which I’d spied making a fantastic backdrop to clumps of Stipa gigantea in the garden. Lucy has made the single most creative example of a living willow fence I’ve ever seen from whips of this plant, which we spied as we drove away.

And as for the laurels? I might have missed them, but I’m afraid we didn’t see any. Just a shameless, bad pun to give me a half decent title for a blog post!