Trials at Parham Garden, Storrington, West Sussex

I love Parham Gardens not only because it is just a 20 minute drive away, but it has a good feel to it and is a garden that is not beyond your own dreams.  It is full of interesting planting ideas and a well stocked plant sales area, which means we never come away having not bought anything.

This year as we walked towards the garden, we saw that just before the garden entrance they have turned a building into a tearoom.    It serves a decent sized pot of tea and delicious brownies!  There were some tasty looking homemade cakes also.   Such a good idea to have a well positioned stop off for a cuppa and great to be able to sit outside.

I did take quite a number of photos of the borders with the intention of writing about the garden at the end of April.  Also by the plant centre there was a useful board listing the plants in the borders.  I hope they continue this idea throughout the summer.

My intention to write about Parham garden in the spring changed when I saw all the sweet pea supports running the stretch of wall to the right of the garden.  I have decided to blog specifically about the trials they are running.

In the same border they ran their sunflower trials last year, Parham have planted 50 varieties of sweet peas and have asked visitors once the are in bloom – the sweet peas that is not the visitors –  to name their favorite.   Remember when you visit, take a notebook with you, if you don’t usually.   You can see from the blackboard the interesting, and some unusual, varieties  they have chosen to plant.  There was a low wire fence running the length of the border with wires attached to a solar box.   No signage could be seen to warn of electric shocks so we assumed it is switched on at night to ward off marauding animals.

On the left hand side of the garden, opposite the sweet peas,  there is an allium trial.  Again you can see how many the Parham gardeners have planted.   Very cleverly, little terracotta plant pots have been placed next to each variety painted with a number matching that on the blackboard  list.  There were a surprising number with buds, so we will return in a few weeks to see a colourful array of blues and purples.

In the background of the photo above you may be able to make out the Camassia.   Unfortunately the blue flower spikes are are not showing up well, but they were everywhere in the meadow and really quite impressive.

As we reached the end of the path and turned left, we were faced with two tulip trial beds.   For the first few minutes as we went up and down the beds, noting the number (also painted on pots) of tulips we liked and returning to the blackboard to check the names.  Then it occurred to us it would be far simpler to take a photo of the board on our phone and use that – obvious!!  The first bed, containing 30 varieties,  were in the  lighter colour palette such as white, pale yellows and pink.

Bed 2 had a further 30 varieties, this time stronger bold colours.  I particularly liked the bronze and orange double late tulip ‘Allegretto’.   I know that some tulip purists believe that a tulip should look like a tulip and not a blousey multi petaled flower, but I do like a lot of them, I think it’s exciting to find different varieties.

Having said that, there are one or two oddities that I wouldn’t find a place for.  One such tulip is the very aptly named ‘Ice Cream’.  It does look like an ice cream cone but in my opinion, it looks stunted and a bit silly.  I don’t know what you think?

During May and June the Parham gardeners will assess the tulips for their colour and performance etc.  As with the sweet peas they will ask the opinion of visitors, which will help them make a decision as to what plants to use at Parham next year.

If you have the chance, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Parham, near Storrington, West Sussex.   It is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.  During the weekday it is free to RHS members, but not on a Sunday, which was sad for us as we are RHS members and like to go at weekends.  I think I feel the need to buy a season ticket, it comes with 10% off plants – excellent!


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