28 March 2012 By Andy Lewis
I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Alitex Gardeners’ Question Time event recently. It was hugely successful and has to be a fixture on the calendar from now, I would think...
I had responded to a request from the event organisers for a question in advance. After some head scratching and quite a lot of saw dust, I came up with a question:
"I manage a National Trust garden, Uppark House and Garden, (set in the most fabulous environment with stunning views of the South Downs and out to sea...) the garden is being presented around the time of 1810 which is when Humphry Repton was commissioned by Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh to make some improvements to the garden and house at Uppark. Can the panel give me any advice regarding sourcing plants that were available at this time?"
If you are unfamiliar with Humphry Repton and his work, he was Capability Brown’s natural successor, his style, slightly more forgiving than his predecessor’s brutal approach to developing the landscape. It was a great opportunity to canvass both horticultural and arboricultural opinion all at the same time, a captive panel and hopefully the audience was equally captivated.
Initially I put the question to Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials and Sarah Wain, a Garden Supervisor at West Dean Gardens. Marina had done her research and had provided a brilliant list of perennials that we will find most helpful, there are even some surprises in there, so plenty to work with.
Sarah responded by saying what a wonderful place to work and what an exciting project, she encouraged me to look at other Regency style gardens and suggested visiting the Brighton Pavilion as a good starting point along with other National Trust gardens that are managed along a similar timescale. I can feel a trip to Brighton coming along very soon...
I then asked the wonderfully engaging and charismatic Tony Kirkham of Kew for his thoughts; he offered me some research that he’d done and talked about plant hunters of the day which gave me more food for thought.
So how does Alitex fit into all this? Well, we’ll be using the glasshouses for our propagation, they’ve very kindly allowed us to use one of their show glasshouses for the last two years. I’ve always had a soft spot for Alitex glasshouses, I spent many happy years working in an Alitex glasshouse before I worked for National Trust. I can still feel the excitement of walking into the garden every morning this time of year, taking a deep breath to take in all the scent as I move deeper into the garden, listening for the birdsong and looking which seedlings have emerged overnight...magic!
If you’d like to be kept up to date with what’s going on at Uppark House and Garden @ UpparkHG on Twitter.
To find out more about our guest speakers and how the evening went, please click here.