Tuesday, 25 August 2009

IN WHICH I HAVE A TOTALLY BRILLIANT TIME AT LULLINGSTONE CASTLE AND WANT YOU TO GO THERE TOO















Okay, firstly, Lullingstone Castle isn't very far away. Yes, we thought it was, because it's in Kent, but actually it's about seven minutes from junction 3 of the M25. That means that if you live north of London you can whizz round there, and from my house, in the very westermost bit of what is still technically the capital, (junction 2 of the M4, right by the big snazzy new SmithKline building) it took me just a princely one hour and five minutes to get all the way there. 

Secondly and much more importantly, it's REALLY COOL. I think that because I'd watched the Tv programme, and seen what a struggle it all was, that I hadn't imagined how magical it might be to actually be there. The corn had all been harvested, and the fields were that lovely bleached colour with the rolled haystacks. The house is unbelievably beautiful, old Tudor gatehouse n all. 

But much more importantly, the garden is really really great. The last time I saw it was on the TV show, so just being laid out into island beds with each one representing a continent. Now it is lush with the year's growth, with the beautiful seductive greys of the eucalyptus growing in the Australian corner, with the tall grasses and freakishly massive daisies and dahlias Tom Hart Dyke manages to grow. 

And there's also tons of colour, with beautiful dahlia borders interspersed with runner beans, sweetcorn, sunflowers and tomatoes. Really, really fantastic. 

The most stunning thing is that actually all this work gets done by Tom and volunteers. There's ONE member of full-time staff, and it's HIM!

When you look around, and you see how few weeds and gaps there are, this seems like a stunning revelation. You realise his statement that he 'doesn't get out much' probably underscores one of the most serious commitments to a garden of anyone I've ever met. 

And it's just in this SUCH pretty setting, with old brick walls, a Moon gate, an old red brick chapel, honestly, it's sooooooo pretty. 

My orders to you are GET YOURSELF THERE. It's the perfect September outing. Especially as they are doing two events that I know will be of interest to ye bloggers. 1) A specialist plant fair, all day on Sunday 6th September - £6 but that gives entry to the fair, the garden AND a tour of the castle. 

BUT ALSO 

2) on Saturday the 10th October the totally ameeeeeeezing Mike Nelhams is coming from Tresco to do an afternoon event in partnership with Tom - 2-6.30pm. He has been the head gardener there for many years. You get a tour of the garden, a slap-up tea in the big house, and then an illustrated talk from Mike N. I think this sounds like the kind of treat grannies, aunties and basically people like me would really like. So I say think about booking it - I've never heard Mike N speak but my grandma basically swears by him and will book any gardening holiday he's escorting she says he's that good. 


Anyway now I have been there I am basically going to go on about it until you go too. Bear in mind my penchant for the spikey and you will imagine the experience correctly. But I will say this - I thought it might be more like Futuregardens - you could see the idea was interesting, but it wasn't quite 'there' yet. Lullingstone really is there (even though Tom is modest). And the place itself is really magical, with a stupendous Roman Villa (English Heritage and a separate charge) for those who like to double up on culture. And a river with CHILDREN SWIMMING IN IT!!! I THOUGHT THAT WAS AGAINST THE LAW THESE DAYS.....

Honestly please go and have a really uncommercial, enthusiastic amateur brilliant magical experience. It's the exact opposite of going to Sissinghurst but it DOES have good plants and tudor gatehouse, and it's MUCH closer to Ealing. 

I rest my case. 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

well you can't say fairer than that Emma. Your unbridled enthusiasm has fairly leapt off the screen and poked me in the eye. It sounds fab and I'm booking October 10th. Camilla P

Ryan said...

And on that recommendation I think I will make the effort to get there.

I'm in Australia on the 10th though. The botanical gardens in Sydney will have to do!

Ryan

Rob said...

That sounds a like a 'must-do' trip. TH-D has a Puya collection too, doesn't he? Brave man.

Rob said...

Ooh, I just re-read your post... seems you make no reference to the plant in your picture. I think it's an Asclepias(???), with a very amusing common name...

Jane Perrone, Horticultural blog said...

Jeez, Emma, now you've made me want to visit yet another garden that involves a treacherous and lengthy M1/M25 journey combo. Bugger. Still I guess it's my fault for living in Bedfordshire.

VP said...

Brilliant timing Emma - you've given the perfect alternative to a visit to Sissinghirst.

And thanks for pointing out earlier on today what my spellchecker and eyes didn't :)

It's very, very tempting - even though it's so far from Chippenham...

And Ryan - you are going to be completely blown away by Sydney Botanical Gardens. It's one my favourite places in the whole wide world.

Juliet said...

I'm not sure I went on a single school trip which did not involve a visit to Lullingstone in some form or another (must admit I mostly remember the villa, but I wasn't into gardens in those days). May I be excused please? - I feel I have done it to death.

Catherine said...

I went last year and was pretty un-blownaway by the garden...although I wanted to be because Tom is so lovely, enthusiastic and completely dedicated. Mind you I may have been feeling a bit negative by the time I got to it because I had just sat through a talk organised by the Kent Gardens Trust in which poor Chris Bailes (the curator at Rosemoor)had struggled to present a slide show on African plants. As the KGT had, in their wisdom, decided to hold the event in a big, white marquee facing south on what turned out to be the sunniest day of last year, we watched a white screen as Chris apologised again and again and tried to describe what we should have been seeing.

Having said all that, I'm going again in October because Mike Nelhams is soooo interesting...lets just hope he doesn't bring any slides!

emmat said...

Uh oh Catherine, I have a nasty feeling I read it was an 'illustrated' talk...
I think the thing for me is that I really love the kind of spikey plants he grows there. So I was immediately suckered by that... but I also thought the garden was looking really lovely - I do like a big herbaceous border this time of year, full of sunflowers, dahlias, sweetcorn, penstemons and tomato plants... can't be beaten :-) And it's all just so eccentric, and old-fashioned, and NOT like RHS gardens, and there's NO herbal sniff pillows or mugs or tea towels, and for me, that's the way I like it. I can see it might not be for everybody, but it's so unlike other garden visits that I rate it highly. Tom HD said when Roy Lancaster came last year there was one plant he'd never heard of before - that HAS to be pretty amazing!

Ryan I hope you have a brill time in Australia, we look forward to many blog posts.

Juliet, you are excused, but on the other hand, my mother spent my entire childhood making us go on forced cliff walks but that doesn't mean i don't enjoy them now :-)

Rob I think a lot of the tender stuff goes in the polytunnels in winter, they have hard sharp frost in Kent, so I'd imagine that goes for quite a lot of the Puyas. Though my puya which I bought as a baby from tresco seems to thrive on a bit of snow most winters. I better add a bit about the green balls hadn't I????

Arabella Sock said...

OK I'll go. Who could resist it now? And anyway I've been put off Sissinghurst until people forget about the TV series and the visitors tail off.

emmat said...

I am now really worried that everyone else is going to HATE it. This is why i never recommend films to other people. Sigh.

LittleGreenFingers said...

I was quite tempted until the 'children swimming in river' incident was mentioned. My eldest two can't really swim, but rather worryingly, I have bred such confidence in them that they believe they can.

Perhaps I can scoot down then on my own as you do make it sound rather fabulous...(can I jsut check which films you tend to recommend first?)

emmat said...

The river is about eighteen inches deep so I imagine they would probably survive. Though, you know, I was amazed at the whole thing.

Films I would recommend? I really enjoyed the new Star Trek movie! My favourite film is the Big Lebowski, probably closely followed by When Harry Met Sally and the Philadelphia Story. Does that help? :-)

Mark D said...

case well rested Mrs T. Will try and find my way there from the less than convenient parts of the country that I live in

LittleGreenFingers said...

That'll do - I'll go!

Simon said...

Yes but you really should know the difference between corn, wheat and hay. Where's Kent?

Catherine said...

Kent is the Garden of England and the most beautiful county in this fair and bounteous land.

Sorry, my prospective Conservative MP has just been shouting things at us from a microphone and I think I may have soaked up his style a little (he's replacing Anne Widdecome by the way).

Don't worry about the 'illustrated' bit Emma, I'm sure they've got that little technical problem sorted by now.

Just noticed that my word verication is 'grows'. I've taken it as a sign that I will fall as deeply in love with Lullingstone as you have.

emmat said...

Simon, I think I was using corn in the old fashioned Victorian ballady sense, not as in, sweetcorn. And even though I know the things in the fields are rolled things of straw, can't you call them haystacks? What else can you call them???

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Basically I'm sold on a visit to Lullingstone, but oh that name! For Dutch people it's hysterical (and rude), Roman villa and Tudor Gatehouse not withstanding.

Glad you enjoyed it so Emma!