Thursday, June 4, 2009

Glen Chantry, Essex, England

The Chelsea Flower Show was a great and unforgettable experience, and you’d think the extravagance of attending it would be enough. But actually, it was only the beginning of a long weekend of visiting beautiful gardens in England. I was completely spoiled!

After the show in London, we went off to Essex to visit the great gardens of Beth Chatto, one of my (many) gardening heroes. Since our time was limited, we decided to stay in Essex and visit some more gardens in the area. Each was unique and different, and each impressed me: the arid, hilltop garden at RHS Hyde Hall Gardens, the perfectly maintained nursery garden of Glen Chantry, and the wild and romantic Gibberd Gardens. We finished off with the “mother of all gardens”, the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew back in London.

The first garden on the tour was Glen Chantry. Owners Wol and Sue Staines have been developing this garden since 1976, along with a nursery for perennials. The site is 3acres, slightly sloping, and the design is informal. The majority of the garden is taken up by large borders chockfull of plants - it looks and feels like the perfect English garden. The flawless colour coordination was really noticeable - no plant was just placed somewhere to fill an empty spot.
One of the features of the garden is a sequence of ponds and streams that that runs through the site, which provides habitat for moisture loving plants. I particularly noticed some amazing specimens of Carex "Bowles Golden" grass, which made the one in my old garden look like a poor excuse for a plant.
Lastly, there is also a huge rock garden at the front of the house with what seems like hundreds of miniature plants many of which were blooming during our end of May visit.

Glen Chantry is first and foremost a plants garden. If you want to see what a plant looks like when grown to perfection, this is the place go. The colour and foliage coordination was also beautiful. And as a gardener, I was also marveling at the impeccable state of the whole site - I'm not sure how much help the owners have, but every bed was perfectly edged, every space perfectly balanced with plants and there was not a weed in site. A beautiful garden, but if you want to visit, this year is your last chance. The owners will be closing the garden and nursery at the end of the year, while still carrying on with "serious gardening" privately.

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