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.

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!