Trials in 2017 at Parham Gardens nr Pulborough

I regularly follow Parham Gardens and head gardener Tom Brown @HeadGardenerTom on Twitter, so when not visiting the garden I manage to keep abreast of what they are doing. Each year Parham runs plant trials, and they are well worth a visit as it is a great way of making a note of ideas for the next year. I have an annual membership with a friend which has just run out, however remembering my Gardeners World magazine 2 for 1 admission card, we went on Sunday, especially to see their recent trial beds.

This year is the first year I have grown gladioli and was very proud of how successful they were. It was because of this I was really interested in other colours and making a note of the varieties I particularly liked for 2018.

It was with a strange sense of satisfaction to see that one of their trial gladioli was Peche Melba, the same variety as the one I grew this year. Mine were slightly paler than the trial ones but I suppose colours do change slightly from supplier to supplier.

Opposite is another trial bed with dahlias. I have fallen in love with dahlias this year and they really do seem to be back in fashion. I have decided to have pale colours of creams, apricots and soft pinks in 2018, rather than the dark reds and purples I grew this year. Despite the information board, unlike the gladioli bed with their numbered flowerpots, in order to find the name of the dahlias we found ourselves on our hands and knees looking for the plant labels. There were several I made a note of:




The third trial bed is full of Zinnias, in an array of colours from the brightest of reds to lime green.

In keeping with my 2018 idea of a pink/peach palette I liked the above Zinnia but as there were so many of them I couldn't really work out from the blackboard board what this pink one was called.

The purple and silver borders where looking fabulous, I love this colour combination, it is so soft and gentle on the eye.

Tom, the head gardener, has some very clever planting ideas, including the agapanthus growing in the Ammi Visnaga – I think it's Visnaga and not Majus – it was most effective anyway and another idea to take away with me.

The hot border was full of oranges and yellows, always a sight to behold.

Now, with apologies to Tom, I am going to be controversial here, regarding deadheading. My friend, a gardener by profession, and I had a bit of a heated discussion when we arrived at the long white border, full of Cosmos amongst other things. Personally I admit to having an obsession about deadheading and was disturbed to see so many Cosmos in need of deadheading and my fingers were just itching to get in there. He was saying that with a large garden such as Parham other things sometimes take priority and my argument was that at least one of the gardeners, or volunteers, must pass this border every day and if they stopped just for 5-10 minutes to daily deadhead, the job would be done without it building up and ending up looking uncared for. I don't know what others think – my friend walked off muttering something along the lines of "I'm glad I don't have to work for you"!!!

Although a regular visitor I often come across things I have not noticed before, either they are new or there is so much to look at I just hadn't seen them. I loved the curved flower beds placed along a low wall. Such simple planting which anyone with the smallest plot could copy which is a joy to see in a large garden with big borders bursting with plants. The pale pink zinnia and purple statice were a great combination.

I can't end a post about Parham without a mention of the glasshouse. Always full of interesting plants, and this delicate blue climber caught our eye. We hunted for a label but it was growing in amongst other plants we couldn't find out where the stem was so we're unable track down its name. However after tweeting a photo Tom Brown kindly came back with the answer – Plumbago 'cobalt blue'. Twitter is wonderful for gardening info and ideas.

During 2017 Parham is open in the afternoons (12:00 to 17:00) until the end of September on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays & Bank Holidays.  In October they are open on Sundays only.  Please note that days and times may vary on special event days and so please always check the website before your visit.

Parham Gardens on the Last Day of April

On Sunday 30 April, my friend and I dusted off our season ticket and paid a visit to Parham Gardens in Pulborough.  We are lucky that it is only 20 minutes away and makes for an enjoyable afternoon out, without much driving. 

There is a small restaurant called The Big Kitchen at Parham that serves a light lunch of soup, quiche and salad, with some delicious looking cakes.  So we tend to eat first and then wander around the garden.  There was a kitchen issue on Sunday, sadly only sandwiches and cake were on offer, but it didn’t stop it from being busy.  The little cafe just by the main garden entrance was also closed.

In the open entrance one of the building walls was covered with wisteria and a week earlier must have looked wonderful.  Sadly it had been caught by the frost, but those flowers that had avoided the frost looked spectacular.  

As we walked through the gate into the garden,  the purple tulips made a splash of colour, although they were almost over.   I love tulips at this stage, the petals are floppy and more colourful than when they are closed and the traditional tulip shape. 

It was here, it struck us as to the amount of frost damage which hit Parham.  We also wondered whether some of the wilted planting, especially the Buddleia, were also suffering from lack of water.  It hasn’t rained for weeks in our area so all gardens must be very dry, not what is needed during the growing season.  

Last year, May 2016,  I wrote about the tulip trials held at Parham (click here) and it was lovely to see the best of the tulips in flower beds in the walled garden.  Considering all my tulips are over, including the late varieties, it was so good to see these still in bloom. 

I managed to find the names for most of the tulips but the fringed orange one escaped me.  It is similar to my favourite tulip I grew at home this year called ‘Bastia’. 

There is a bed of Alstromeria with the tulips and that too had succumbed to the sudden frost last week.  It will recover but I wonder if this year it will flower as prolifically as it usually does. 

At this stage, my friend checked me in and I was told not to take anymore photos of frost damage, especially if I was going to blog about the garden, because it wasn’t fair, the garden is still beautiful and interesting, which of course it is! 

One very bright, striking border was the one above.   The black and orange tulips contrasted so well against the green.   These varieties are in my notebook for 2018. 

You will have already seen on the first photo of this post the meadow full of camassia.  Such an impressive plant and one I never think to have in my own garden.  This is probably because I first met camassia in this meadow and assume meadows are the place they grow.  There are also a lot of alliums planted here which will be in flower very soon.   

There is always a lull in the garden  between the colourful spring displays leaving a mass of green.  The clever planting of orange Geum breaks up the green until the alliums and peonies open, and they are not far off.

Talking about alliums, my one and only dislike are their leaves which always look so untidy.  I noticed in the Rose Garden (sorry no photos) that some of the alliums had their leaves stripped leaving just the flower stems remaining.  An interesting idea and one I might try.  

A season ticket is really good value if you are going to visit a garden regularly.  Ours cost £42 and weighed against the ticket price of £9 each for the garden only is excellent value, and has more than paid for itself, and you get 10% off plant sales!

Opening times:  Parham is closed Monday, Tuesday and Saturdays unless there are events, see below. 

House | 14:00 – 17:00
Gardens | 12:00 – 17:00
Big Kitchen Restaurant | 12:00 – 17:00
Last Admission | 16:30

Parham Nursery & Garden Shop open to visitors free of charge from 10:30am to 12 noon on standard open days and from 12 noon to 5pm for paying Garden visitors.

Parham always has interesting events, which you can find HERE.

Rousham Gardens – A Must to Visit

Day 3 of my short break to Oxford was a visit to Rousham Gardens.  I was surprised at the number of people who had not heard of Rousham when I spoke of our itinerary, it is clearly a little known, but very important in the history of garden design.  Rousham is an original English Landscape Garden, almost unchanged since William Kent (1685-1748) remodelled the garden created by Charles Bridgeman in the 1720’s.

Rousham is a favourite of Monty Don and in this video he describes it as the best landscape garden in the country.  I have included it in this post as it really does give you an excellent feel as to why it is such a great place.   Having spent several hours at Rousham I now fully understand his love of the garden.   Monty’s video concentrates on the landscape part of the garden with its Palladian style of architecture, classic temples, follies and statues.  As you will see later in this post there is more to the garden than landscape.

A brief history of William Kent

William Kent was born in Bridlington, and started as a painter decorator.  He was encouraged by an employer to study art, design and architecture and had a period of study in Italy.  Kent became an eminent architect of both houses and landscapes originating English Landscape gardens.   He was involved with Stowe Gardens and this is probably why when walking around Rousham it definitely has a Stowe feeling about it.

Kent’s folly The Pyramid has a quintessential English countryside view, over the river, to the cattle grazing in the field opposite.

Some of the views, such as the Praeneste Terrace are probably not the same as it was in Kent’s time due to the well established trees, leaving the intended view to your imagination.   The eagle eyed of you who have watched Monty’s video (filmed I believe in 2012) will notice there are no benches in the Terrrace but there are now, so I wonder if they were being renovated.  I would like to think they are the original benches.

As I said earlier, there is more to Rounsham than landscape gardening.   When you walk around to the back of the house, which by the way is open by prior arrangement, you are met with an immaculate, manicured, expanse of lawn, known as the Bowling Green.

To the side of the house is the Walled Garden.  The rose garden was very sheltered and warm which would probably explain why the roses are still in full bloom.  We sat here and had our picnic.   There are no refreshment facilities at Rousham and visitors are welcome to bring picnics and spend all day enjoying the garden.    The dahlia border was spectacular with the overwhelming colour being purple.


Just before you enter the Rose Garden there is a very well cared for greenhouse and a shed with onions drying. i usually see them roped and hanging from a ceiling, I have never seen then drying like the ones above.

Further down is a well stocked kitchen garden and a large area of grass with a walk of apple trees and espalier trees.  It was a hot day, despite being the last day of September, and as we entered the orchard the aroma of apples was wonderful.   We spoke to the gardeners who told us that this part of the walled garden was the original vegetable garden, and the smaller kitchen garden was the fruit and berries garden.


Rousham Gardens are open every day of the year from 10 am. Last admission is at 4.30 pm and the gardens close at dusk. Tickets for the garden are from a self service ticket machine at £5 per person.  Rousham House is open by prior arrangement.

I loved Rousham and would really recommend a visit.  This is one garden I will definitely go back to see.

Waterperry Gardens, nr Oxford

The first of our brief tour of gardens in the Oxford area was to Waterperry Gardens close to Oxford.


It is always a bit hit and miss visiting gardens at the end of September, you never really know what you are going to see as so much of the summer planting is over.   However, judging from the photographs on Twitter, we were on a pretty good bet at seeing some fabulous Asters or Symphyotrichum as they are now called.


Brief History of Waterperry Gardens

Beatrix Havergal and her friend Avice Saunders established a Ladies Garden School in 1932. During World War II Waterperry was home to ladies in the Women’s Land Army who worked on the land digging for victory.  By the end of the war Waterperry was established as a well respected gardening school.  When Avice Saunders died in 1971 Waterperry was sold to the School of Economic Science, who continued with day courses for horticultural teaching which is still does to this day.  Many courses are run including the RHS Level 2 Principals of Horticulture. Miss Havergal died in 1980.


I wrote a book review about First Ladies of Gardening.  in March 2015 and Miss Havergal is mentioned in this interesting  book.   Back now to our visit to the garden.


We were right in hoping the Asters would be good.  They were spectacular!

As to be expected there was still a lot to look at.


The borders with grasses looked good, although there were some tall grasses at the front hiding shorter plants behind.   Whether this was deliberate planting or trial and error I am not sure but it did seem a pity.  I know that sometimes when a planting plan is new, it is not always easy to guess exactly how tall plants will grow and things like this are rectified in following years.

dsc_0017 I am a great believer in tranquil gardens, and whilst Waterperry cannot be held responsible for noise, or the wind direction, I found the constant drum of the M40 traffic, the Chinook helicopters overhead (I presume from RAF Benson) and private jets from the local Oxford airport, was far from a relaxing experience.  Maybe on another day with the wind blowing the other way it may possibly have been a quieter visit.


Waterperry Gardens is open daily apart from Christmas Day and New Years Day.  In October it is free for RHS Members.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden

Today I visited The University of Oxford Botanic Garden and despite it being the end of September and most things are well past their best, I found it impressive and inspiring.  My friend, being  particularly fond of prairie gardens, was keen to see The Merton Borders.

The Merton Borders

The Merton Borders were sown by seed directly in 2011 in collaboration with Professor James Hitchmough from the Department of Landscape at University of Sheffield, and it is a stunning area of 955 m2 covered by naturalistic, ornamental planting based on plants from North America, South Africa and the Mediterranean.   Sand mulch is used to suppress weed growth and promote longevity. Many of the plants originate from dry grassland and this type of planting is quite drought-resistant.

Silphium terebinthinaceum

I was really taken with the dried planting, which included Stipa Gigantea, Eryngiums, Rudbekia, Asters, Kniphofias many are now minus their foliage and weather beaten.  There were a lot of spectacular Silphium terebinthinaceum, with its yellow flowers still intact, which must have been at least 10ft tall if not higher.

Berkheya purpurea

What struck me were the remains of some of the flowering plants nestled in amongst the flatten grasses.  I discovered a very pretty Berkheya purpurea tucked away deep in the dried grass.

The garden is divided mainly into two parts, The Lower Garden and The Walled Garden.

The Walled Garden

The Walled Garden has a variety of  beds containing medicinal plants, with information labels.  Being a cancer survivor I was interested in the Oncology bed.  Amongst the other beds was a Cannabis plant growing in the neurology bed.  Note the sign saying the cannabis contains no THC – the hallucinagenic part of the plant.

The Lower Garden

I was sorely tempted to walk away with the wicker cloches!   Aren’t they lovely. These beds all had detailed and interesting information boards with a brief history of fruit and vegetable plants such as maize, tomatoes and sunflowers.

In another border I came across a white Japanese Anenome almost hidden in a Deschampsia ‘Golden Veil’. 

The Glasshouses

Before leaving the Botanic Garden we paid a visit to the glasshouses housing some enormous palms.   The one with the palms was closed, another has a series of rooms at different temperatures.  One room was full of Sarracenia, they were fascinating and veined colouring of greens and reds they were so interesting.    Unfortunately and annoyingly my camera battery was low so I had to be selective of what to take photos of.   In another room of the glasshouse was a large pond with the most beautiful pale blue lily, but it looks white in the photo.  Dancing and chirping around the pool was the sweetest little Robin who I managed to capture as he jumped from plants to plants playing chase me.   In the last room right up in the roof was a fabulous purple orchid.

If you get the opportunity to visit the Botanic Garden please do, it was tranquil and fascinating.

Opening Times

November – February:  Open daily 9.00am until 4.00pm (last admission 3.15pm)

The Garden is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day

March – April:  Open daily 9.00am until 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm)

May – August: Open daily 9.00am until 6.00pm (last admission 5.15pm)

September – October:  Open daily 9.00am until 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm)

Parham House and Garden – Glasshouse

At the beginning of July we bought a season ticket for Parham Garden we only have one more visit and it’s paid for itself, then we can continue to visit for free!


We went again yesterday and having written several blog posts about  Parham I decided to go with a specific theme for this post.

Initially I was going to photograph unusual plants or plants that we may not use in a smaller garden due to their size.   The one above is an Eupatorium  which can grow to almost 7ft, far too big and overpowering for my small garden.


However, after walking into the glasshouse full to bursting with Pelargoniums, Plectranthus, Begonias and Heliotrope, a virtual bee heaven, I decided to concentrate on this part of the garden.  The temperature inside here was comfortable, and not that sticky humid heat you often meet in a greenhouse.   I did look up if there was any difference between a greenhouse and a glasshouse and apparently the only difference is in the name.


There was an interesting scent wafting about which, like a bloodhound, made me sniff around to locate where it was coming from.   I honed in eventually to the flower above.  We hunted under the leaves to see if there was a label but with no luck.  Maybe you can name it.image

This interesting, unusual plant is Brilliantasia Owariensis.  We continued in our dig around for the hope that some plants were labelled and luckily this one was.   I Googled it for a bit more information and was puzzled when searching using the full name only Spanish pages came up,  but when changing the search criteria, dropping the Owariensis part, lots of information on Brilliantasia Subulugurica, a plant from Zimbabwe, came up. It certainly was different.


Another pretty bluish/purple flower is Tibouchina urvilleana from Brazil.  This was the only glasshouse plant we could find for sale in the plant nursery.  That is how we know what it was called.


There are many fascinating fuchsias, one in particular is the above Fuchsia Boliviana ‘Alba’ from Peru.

This bright red flower is Begonia Fuchsioides it was such a bright red that the camera on my iPhone, usually great for photos, only managed to produce a slightly blurred pic.


As I leave the glasshouse, this is a photograph from the other end, with a very pretty salmon pink fuchsia in the foreground.


I couldn’t resist the temptation to continuing taking photographs after we left the glasshouse.   Rather than stray away from the sole purpose of blogging about the glasshouse, I am ending with just one pic of the garden.   The array of sunflowers was a sight to behold, from little bright yellow ones to the tallest bronze flowers you could hope to see.

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holidays until the end of September. In October Parham is open on Sundays only.

House | 14:00 – 17:00
Gardens | 12:00 – 17:00
Big Kitchen Restaurant | 12:00 – 17:00
Last Admission | 16:30

Parham Plant & Garden Shop is open to visitors free of charge from 10:30am – 12noon on standard open days (excluding event days) and from 12noon to 5pm for paying Garden visitors.

The next event at Parham is the HARVEST FAIR on 24th and 25th September from 10:30 to 17:00

Live cookery demonstrations, deer walks, gun dog displays, fungi talks, working horse cart rides in the Parkland, falconry displays, Tudor cooking demonstrations and Tudor dancing in the House. Wide array of stalls selling food, drink and country wares.