A nice day, chilly start, a good breakfast and I was on my own this day. I remembered a trip to Hadlow and the gardens attached to the college and its horticultural teaching faculty. So, it was gird the loins, and head off after tidying up, cuddling the cat and head toward Tonbridge on the A26. From Sheppey I deviated and drove around the back roads to the A249 at Stockbury; not because the main road worries me but because travelling on it is boring. Besides, I enjoy watching the F1 wannabe’s racing up behind me in the speed limits and buggering it up when it comes to the narrow country roads with – horror’s! – bends!
Just a note: Having done a lot of two wheel knee scraping at high speeds I have gotten the hang of getting around bends safely and quickly. It never fails to amaze me how many drivers don’t seem to manage it. (You lower your high speed and raise your low speed – let the bend take you around it after slowing or braking on the straight bit and power steadily out)
Anyway, apart from the assumption by some drivers that the speed limit signs are advisory it was pleasant, incident free journey and I arrived at the Broadview Garden centre safely. There is normally plenty of parking room and admission to the gardens is free. You are not obliged to buy anything but the quality of the plants for sale will mean that you will more than likely dig in the moth receptacle and fork out.
There are toilets and a cafe. The food is nice, cake, and I had a sandwich for lunch washed down with excellent tea, cake, which was taken outside, buns, the soup looked good too and the staff were friendly. Cake buns – the terezt is because there is cake and buns. Nice.
The gardens are unique in that other than hedges and the annual plantings, permanent trees and the layout in general you are likely to see changes each time you go there. They are seasonal so you will get a selection of spring blooms, summer and plants selected and treated to give a progressive change in appearance throughout the year. The winter display is impressive. As a teaching area students are encouraged to work on themes and designs and present them as part of the project, hence the changes. This year it is a Japanese style garden, sans the raked pebbles and sand but with an echo of that minimalistic beauty that takes years to achieve. This is a beautiful piece of work and well worth seeing, although it is contained within the very European look of the surroundings it works. It lacks the bamboo and the acer background for summer and autumn shape and colour, but if you can transport yourself to the land of the rising sun and imagine spring cherry blossom followed by azaleas you have the idea.
However, this is an English setting and a training ground for young horticulturalists which means that you will see a changing, well managed garden using combinations that you could easily use in your own suburban plot.
I like the idea of growing shrubs, flowers and vegetables including essential herbs (with an ‘H’ so it is not Urbs or ‘erbs) that you want to grow and plants such as lavender and marigolds that liven up a plot as well as help your beans and spuds. It is all about pollination and attracting bees and insects and in this garden I was glad to see plenty.
The bees seemed to like the Grevillia, a plant that likes a hot spot and will produce a wealth of flowers on spiky leaves and stems. We used to grow them in New Zealand and I recall creating a plot with azaleas, grevillias, flax, pittisporums, small seasonal bedding plants and the Kowhai for its yellow, aromatic flowers in spring.
These gardens utilise tulips and there was evidence of daffodils and narcissus and all the gardens were separated by trimmed yew hedges that act as wind breaks creating localised eco-systems that seem to work well.
As I said, I had lunch in the cafe sitting outside in the sunshine and afterwards finished my walk around to return to the nursery and buy some sturdy brassicas. I was impressed by the quality of the plants on sale, but then I should be, they know what to do with them.