Monday, 29 August 2011

Dishing the Dirt on Denman's

Just at a time when my brain has been brimful of blogs to write I have been unable to do so because of some problem with my eyes adjusting to the new computer monitor.  The blogs are now stacked up in my consciousness but I can only allow myself limited screen time so my new Dullas Sockmovie, which I really want to work on, will have to wait.  In the meantime the dog-end of August has been considerably cheered by various meet-ups with my gardening blogger and twitter friends.  The first on a lovely warm sunny Sussex day, in the company of LazyTrollop and the highly organised Helen Reeley, at  a place I have driven past so many times but never visited - Denman's Gardens.

I should start by saying that I had no great expectations of gardens in late August it being that time of limbo when the garden is no longer in its salad days, all is a little blowsy and blown but not so far over as to make it Autumn interesting.  Then I remember that the last few gardens that have blown me away were Keith Wiley's Wildside, The Garden House and Sussex Prairies - all visited in August.

Denman's fulfilled my original idea of an August garden - for the most part pleasant without being incredibly pleasing.

A promising start as straight in from the entrance (a very reasonable £4.50) the first walled garden was a rich eruption of colour and texture

 A verbascum provided attractive architectural shape

and as I have noticed in so many gardens over recent years, wild fennel is a real winner and I have now introduced it in my own border.

After the gravel garden we spent some time wandering around the interestingly shaped lawns and borders.  All pleasing enough to the eye but nothing special, nothing really grabbed us with that kind of excitement that makes your heart beat a little faster.

Helen and LazyT spent some time vying for who could name the most plants.  It was even stevens most of the way but I think LazyT just pipped Helen at the post with a late spurt of eucomis..

A pond at the bottom of the garden felt a little drowned by the heavy overhanging trees, although this statue on the water margin made a charming composition.

After bad-mouthing hydrangeas on my last blog, we did find some attractive ones, their frothy tops picking up the dappled light through the trees along a shaded path.

Some of the borders were rather patchy and it wasn't always clear whether new planting was arriving to fill it.  However, we must hope that if new planting is to be, that it isn't all like this!

Really... yes it is that bad look at the close-up!

Sorry if you are growing the same in your garden - I would say it was just a matter of taste but as the three of us totally agreed it was awful it must just be wrong!

I hope I'm not coming over as too mealy-mouthed and overly negative here.  I have developed a much stronger view of what I do and don't like over the past few years of garden visiting but I wouldn't want to put people off Denman's. A sunny day, a garden and the company of fun friends is always going to be a fine thing and of course it always makes it more interesting to have a difference of opinion to discuss.

Perhaps more importantly than anything else, there is an excellent cafĂ© (Relais Routier recommended) with attractive indoor and outdoor seating area and a wide range of cakes of which Helen sampled three! 

PS. Apparently the Plant Centre there was voted 8th best in the country by the Telegraph (not sure when).  It WAS a small but interesting Plant Centre however a lot of the plant pots were full of weeds along with pot bound plants.  I almost ached to clean-up and re-pot some of the plants.  I know its late in the year but perhaps a Saturday job for a student just giving them  a bit of tlc?


patientgardener said...

Those plants are truely horrid. I too am forming firmer ideas of what I like and don't like which hopefully will improve my garden. Thanks for the reminder about fennel, I saw masses of it at Bryans Ground last year and meant to grow some so I will add it to the list for next year.

Glad you had a good day

James Golden said...

How can this be? I'm a fan of John Brookes and Denman's was on my list, if I ever get to England again. He must be off in Argentina or some other far-away place, and the help has let things go.

Papaver said...

It was looking quite pleasant until you showed the garage forecourt flowers - oh dear

VP said...

Oh dear. Strangely I had a conversation with someone a week ago about Denman's. She's wanting to go on a tour of contemporary gardens, so I suggested this one. She told me that it's 'looking rather tired nowadays' and your post confirms it

Arabella Sock said...

As I said in the blog I don't like to be overly critical of gardens - mainly because my blog is primarily about 'what I have been up to' rather than a serious critique of gardens. My companions (both more knowledgeable than me in the horticultural field) made some more interesting criticisms of the planting schemes but for me it was more an overall feeling of being a bit ordinary. Sorry James Golden - I wouldn't rush to go there although it will be interesting to here your opinion if you do.

hurtlingtowards60 said...

I did a blog post on Denmans in July. You are welcome to pop over and have a read. I made the comment it was looking uncontrolled and untidy. We wondered if they have new gardeners, it seemed to have lost something. I thought perhaps I had just visited it too often. The horrid little plants were not there then.

Plant Mad Nige said...

Those chrysanthanasties really are shockers. Horrible in one colour, but three crammed together in isolated little blobs make a bad thing worse. I'm reminded of cheap restaurants when you follow your overdone rump steak with ice cream - three scoops, one of which is ALWAYS bloody strawberry.

BUT - Denmans is a remarkable garden and John Brookes an inspired designer. I think part of the problem might be that much of his style of planting looks less ravishing in August than in early summer.

I'd always recommend this garden, even if only for the gravel. It may have declined a bit since my last visit, But I still want to go back some time.

Plant Mad Nige said...

Sorry - forgot to say how much I liked the small copper butterfly picture, and the quote. I'm now going to listen to Strauss's Four Last Songs - AGAIN!