Monday, April 22, 2013

Springtime at Orchards

A view from the bottom gate

It is racing towards ten years since I gave up my Sussex garden but the memories of its beauty and tranquility do not lessen. I still miss it but no longer pine, knowing that another family enjoy the garden as much as we did: and now when I look back at the projects that we undertook I marvel at the energy we both had.  Life is so much different now...less stressful and more tranquil as many may think befits our age but I long for the English countryside and all the wonderful garden plants that grow so much easier there than in Italy. The vista was awash with different varieties of daffodils, the majority planted in the late 1930s/40s when Arthur and Gay were planning to run the garden as a smallholding, many clumps were lost beneath the every maturing conifers which flanked the edge of the front vista. Many more were planted in the 'back' garden where the ground levelled out. These were picked, boxed and sold to local nurseries and taken by rail to London.  Once retired Gay had a passion for the more unusual introductions of the late 1960s/70s when the peachy trumpets and larger fully double daffodils were for sale.

The Camellia Grove
The Camellia Grove was created by Arthur and myself in the late 1970s moving large camellia plants from their crowded situation to create a wide curve around the Styrax japonica. Like most gardeners, no matter how experienced, we didn't allow enough space and by the 1990s these camellias were congested once more: now much too large for me to deal with. On the woodland edge of this group was a Camellia williamsonii which was at least 12 feet in height by that time...always the first to flower, it became a traditional part of the indoor Christmas decorations. The first camellias were planted on the west side of the property beneath the goat sheds but these never fared as well as the ones planted in the top arboretum. 

Rhododendron 'Seta'
Rhododendron 'Seta' was the first rhododendron to flower and it was often frosted. We flung fleece over it each winter to protect it from the worst weather but I think in maturity and increased height Jack Frost always managed to damage the flowers. There were  dozens of different rhododendron's planted at Orchards, many whose names were lost over the years. Gay loved the new small azaleas sporting purple and lilac flowers. 

Daffodils beneath Gay's Oak
Scilla messeniaca followed the snowdrops that were planted on this shady border (above) where both spilled over the narrow sandstone wall. A large yellow tree peony is the stick-like growth springing from their midst. I moved the scilla to other places around the garden where it performed differently in more light shade. I brought it with me to Italy where it behaves differently once again. Planted in Italy beneath an inherited acer, it becomes leggy and paler blue. But I am glad to have it nonetheless.

There were many, many other spring gems at Orchards, but these pictures bring back some happy memories.


  1. Oh my God that looks so beautiful. I want to live there. Please. :-D

    Emma x

    1. Thanks is beautiful...I've only returned once since I left...but the new family living there keep in touch...

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Lana for visiting ...come back soon...if you click on the link 'An English Garden/Lake Como' you'll see more lovely pictures.

  3. Dear Penelope, I can see why it was so difficult to leave. What a perfectly beautiful house and garden. How wonderful that everything is still being looked after the way it should, and that you can relax a bit more and enjoy your scillas :) Bye for now, Jane

    1. Thank you Jane for visiting and commenting...the beauty of it all can only make me smile...if you click the link 'An English Garden/Lake Como' you'll see how plants from that garden fared in Italy...