Making the Best of What You Have, by Benjamin Pope

On 10th March 2021 Grayshott Gardeners held the latest in their series of Zoom lectures.  This time it was Ben Pope who brightened up our evening, with a virtual tour around the beautiful garden where he is Head Gardener, and some valuable lessons to help us make the most of our own spaces.  It certainly took our minds off the howling winds outside.

To set the scene, Ben showed us round the garden he curates.  It has a romantic style, but is careful to make sure it sits sympathetically in its Sussex landscape, whilst making the most of the borrowed views.  The periphery of the garden is less formally planted than the beds near the house, helping the garden to seep out into the countryside. 

Ben explained how much focus he and his team put on extending the season in the flower borders – using a combination of spring bulbs, herbaceous perennials and frothy annuals to make sure there is colour and interest from February to November.  The garden has many distinct areas, so to make it hang together they choose “signature” plants to repeat throughout the space to give a sense of coherence.  They also use topiary and hedges to cleverly link the architecture with the planting.

Ben then drew out some key principles that we can all use to make the most of our own gardens.  To start he urged us to take time to understand our own site and soil – and to appreciate the problems and opportunities that both bring.  And then to extend that to really knowing the plants we are going to use – not just when they are in flower, but how they behave before and after.  This knowledge provides a sound basis for creating harmonious plant partnerships.

Make maintenance a pleasure not a chore, by tackling a job before it becomes too big.  It really is true that “a stitch in time saves nine” in a garden.  And get ideas and inspiration from other people, visiting gardens and speaking to fellow gardeners (of course that’s what GG is so good for – when we can finally meet up again).

We all love getting produce from our gardens, but grow like an artist.  Mix up ornamentals with vegetables to give a lovely effect.  And finally take time – to stop and look, to take notes and to think.

And the most important lesson of the evening?  Mistakes are great lessons!  Don’t let the things that don’t work out make you afraid to have another go, putting your new found experience into practice.  That’s what will turn us all into great gardeners 😀