One of our jobs as gardeners, is always to look at how we can improve our work. By their very nature gardens are constantly changing and if we are not developing with them, our plantings quickly become static, tired and dull. Introducing new plant material is an important aspect of this and the search for our next introduction is one of my greatest joys.
Trialing plants can sometimes take a lot of work, often resulting in various forms of disappointment. But when we find a new plant with truly exceptional qualities, and will fit well into Gravetye, it all becomes worthwhile. A good example of this is our figs, which we have been trying to find the best flavoured variety to grow in our peach house. After two years work, this summer was the first time we could taste any of the fruit. All 12 varieties were lovely but only one, Rouge de Bordeaux was truly out of this world. Our young plant only produced two fruit, but enough to show us what delicacies this tree has in store. The small purple fruit were sweet and rich like toffee and possibly one of the tastiest things I have ever grown. To increase production of this wonderful thing we are now increasing our stock by taking hard wood cuttings, and in time we should be able to supply the restraint with some of the tastiest figs in the world!
Another good way of finding new plants is to get out and visit other gardens. Not only can this be an inspiration, but if the gardener is friendly enough it can also be a source of new plant material. Us gardeners are always swapping plants and this is how I managed to find some of my most treasured gems. It also makes a plant collection very personal. I love to look around the garden and with each plant be reminded of the friend who introduced it to me. This week I have just returned from visiting a friend’s garden in Brittany and have returned to Gravetye refreshed, inspired and excited. Tangi was a gardener with us for some years and now manages one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen on the Côtes-d’Armor, not far from Roscoff, called Kerdalo (http://www.lesjardinsdekerdalo.com/).
As well as being a very talented gardener he is a generous friend and my car was full of plants on the boat home. I am so looking forward to seeing how they all do in our Sussex climate but the one that’s particularly interesting is the Pilea matsudai ‘Taiwan Silver’. This is a lovely foliage plant in the stinging nettle family, which should take quite a lot of shade. At Kerdalo it made beautiful big clumps under the trees and I really hope it will do as well in the East Garden at Gravetye.