During a particularly difficult time in my life that was full of uncertainty, I picked up a couple of seed packets from the local Woolworths. Why on earth I chose to do this at a time where I was renting a two up two down coalminers cottage in Yorkshire seems a bit odd in retrospect, I think I desperately needed to lay down roots. I sowed the seeds into trays of compost and they reluctantly germinated on top of a cold northern garden wall.
Later that spring I crammed those seedlings in amongst all our worldly possessions and drove down to East Sussex. During the chaos of settling into our new house, I found solace in the garden as I planted out those tiny plants.
I learned two things that first summer. When all my tomatoes abruptly died of blight just as the green fruits were looking so full of promise, I learned resilience. Later when the sunflowers ascended to world record heights, nodding their heads over the garden fence, in defiance of their inauspicious start in life, I learned hope for the future.
Some years later after having decided to pursue a career in horticulture, I once again purchased a packet of seeds on a whim, this time I decided to try a mixed packet of ornamental grasses. Having seen grasses used in planting schemes, I was keen to try using them. Unfortunately the seeds were as advertised (Mixed) not named or even separated by type (Lucky dip). When they germinated they were impossible for me to identify, not being satisfied with not knowing I took my young grass to my local nursery. They frowned at my seedling and directed me to take it to a nurseryman who knew grasses inside and out.
As I crunched up the gravel path at marchants Graham Gough came marching toward me and at 10 paces away pointed his finger at my potted seedling and exclaimed “Erogrostis curvula!” not only had I discovered an excellent plantsman, I walked into one of the most magical gardens I had yet experienced.
The gardens sinuous paths and the soft textural planting providing a soothing foreground to the south down scenery in the distance. I was astonished to find a type of planting that took its inspiration from an American prairie, looking so utterly right in the heart of the English countryside. After expressing my desire to work in an environment principally about plants, and my longing to know them better, he offered me a job. For five years I worked part time in his nursery and garden whist training at university. During my time at Marchants I was extremely fortunate to spend many hours with Graham dividing, taking cuttings potting and tending the gardens.
I experienced the gardens through the seasons and years, as with all gardens this state of transition is the only constant.
Whilst many traditional ‘cottage’ gardens are being ‘put to bed’ in the autumn the gardens at Marchants reach a zenith, the lowering angle of the suns rays bring an ethereal light to the flowered plumes of grasses. Blooms of Rosa sanguinea appear to change hue with every shortening day. The nodding heads of “kiss me over the garden gate” (Persicaria orientalis) draped with spiderwebs kissed with glistening dewdrops. There is a tendency amongst us gardeners to consider autumn as a time to turn our compost heap and begin the functional task of tidying up fallen leaves and snipping stems of herbaceous perennials to the ground. Although these tasks are cathartic, giving one the satisfaction or wrestling the garden back into control after the exuberance of summer.
Graham encourages you to pause and enjoy autumn plants such as Phlomis tuberosum an how its dried seeds heads interplay with enduring displays of Persicaria amplexicaulis.
Come along to Grahams talk on the 17th of May for an illustrated talk, delicious lunch and tour of our garden at Fairlight Hall.
GRAHAM GOUGH: The Autumn – A Season of Drama
TUESDAY 17TH MAY 2016
10.30AM TO 2.00PM
TICKETS £40.00 INCLUDING 2 COURSE LUNCH & TOUR OF THE GARDEN WITH WHITNEY HEDGES. HEAD GARDENER.