This is one garden I have wanted to visit for many years, Perch Hill, home to cut flower expert and grower, Sarah Raven. Based in a quiet valley in East Sussex, I hadn’t been prepared for how peaceful a spot it is. Surrounded by trees, you are removed from everywhere else.
There is no denying that Sarah Raven has had an impact on my own preferences in the plants I grow and in particular, bravery with colour, something I’ve been drawn to ever since a boy studying art. Sarah’s catalogue, when I was a newbie gardener all those years ago, a breath of fresh air, escaping the drab or gaudy colours I’d associated with gardening. Here were contemporary, exciting, modern colour combinations and the ever evolving plant lists feel as fresh today.
Zinnia I must have seen early on in Sarah’s catalogues. Seeing them grow at Perch Hill on mass left me wishing to grow even more next year. The bright colours throughout the garden from all of the flowers are heady and enthralling. A reminder that we mustn’t forget to grow some plants for ourselves.
Everywhere has a picturesque quality to it, art with flowers. And while a large chunk of the garden is for cutting, the combinations in the garden are just as beautiful as those seen dotted around in vases.
I wasn’t prepared for the rustic nature of Perch Hill itself, the website and brochures I’m familiar with are so modern looking. At times the garden in real life takes my breath away. Structural hedges, lots of simple brick paths and a small network of buildings create areas that at one time feel like a tiny cottage garden on a small hill, or the large productive spaces for cutting and vegetables, and another an enclosed exotic courtyard.
I’m particularly drawn to the rich colours of plum and crimson, combined with ochres and oranges, there’s something about this palette I’ve always liked. Perhaps because it makes no excuses, it’s real and strong colour. Thick drops of paint squeezed from the tube.
The central courtyard with oast house Sarah explains is intended to invoke the feeling of a Dutch painting and it really does, textured and rich in those oil paint colours. It’s more than the colour and the plants and buildings, it’s an emotion – that elusive sense of place. I’m so captivated by it I couldn’t stop looking.
Perch Hill is one of those rare gardens I will carry with me, more than I had dreamt – it has genius and skill flowing through it. Deservedly recognised as one of the great gardens. Can gardens be art? The answer at Perch Hill is an unrefuted “well, obviously”.