7 Reasons to love the Charleston Festival of the Garden

The Concept: the two-day Festival of the Garden was curated by leading landscape designer and 8 times Chelsea gold medallist Tom Stuart-Smith. This year’s subtitle was ‘Gardening for Curious Minds’, with themes including husbandry versus wildness, allotments and sustainability and the healing garden. I was only able to attend – as a volunteer – on…

An Arts and Crafts Garden

Standen in East Sussex is one of our go-to places for a family day out. There is something there to please everyone. The house was designed in the Sussex vernacular by Philip Webb as the country retreat for the Beale family who moved there in 1894. Featuring a wealth of William Morris wallpapers and fabrics,…

Six on Saturday: How to plant an apple tree

This week’s six come not from my own garden, but from the garden at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex where I volunteer one day a week. This week, we were joined by Zuky from Sussex Apple Trees, who showed us the best way to plant an apple tree. Charleston has bought a small collection of…

Nymans: a theatrical garden for all seasons

Overlooking the beautiful South Downs in the West Sussex village of Handcross, Nymans, now a National Trust garden, was once home to the Messel family, whose descendants included the famous theatre designer Oliver Messel and photographer Lord Snowdon. The garden is perhaps best known for its herbaceous border, which blazes with colour in the height…

Lakeland, wolves and Peter Rabbit

The first time I visited the Chelsea Flower Show was in 2005, when my favourite garden was designed by the former pop singer Kim Wilde on a Lakeland theme. I thought about this when we visited the Lake District in May and I was blown away by the lushness of the vegetation. I grew up…

Hardy heaven: Marchants Hardy Plants, East Sussex

I could be forgiven for thinking I had slipped into heaven this morning when I visited Marchants Hardy Plants in East Sussex, on the first day of their autumn sale. With only two weeks to go until they close for the winter, there is 25% off all plants and I did not come home empty…

Gravetye: in an English country garden

“How many kinds of sweet flowers grow/ In an English country garden?” asks the song. It is an irony that perhaps the most classic example of an English country garden was created by an Irishman, William Robinson, editor of The Garden and pioneer of a new style of gardening which saw Victorian bedding replaced with…

Six on Saturday: Sunshine, no rain

I wonder how other SOS-ers in Europe are coping with the current dry weather? Two water authorities in the UK have now declared a hosepipe ban. If Southern Water follows suit I don’t hold out much hope for our new lawn. I am beginning to think that I will have to choose only drought tolerant plants…

Six on Saturday: Blooming madness

Today is our wedding anniversary and last night we stayed over at The Bell in Ticehurst, East Sussex. The Bell is quite an unusual pub with rooms, which also organises literary events and a mini music festival. We stayed in one of four lodges set in a charming, slightly overgrown garden which was designed by…

Smelling the roses at Charleston

After nearly a month away, it was wonderful this week to be back volunteering in the garden at Charleston – the former country retreat of artist Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf and her painting partner Duncan Grant. Boy has the garden bloomed since I was last there. This week, head gardener Fi gave me…