Kent part 1: Perch Hill

Confession: I have a girl crush. I’ve been ruthlessly marketed to and have fallen like a sucker. In short, I’ve been got by Sarah Raven.

If you’re not aware of Sarah Raven, she’s a writer, broadcaster and gardener who also has a very successful business selling seeds, plants, cookery and gardening classes and a certain kind of lifestyle.

My family do not understand this crush. It’s because they don’t tick the demographic boxes: my Mum’s too good at gardening to fall for all the pretty pictures in the seed catalogue, and the men are, well, men. As someone who works in marketing, I am woefully aware that I’m falling for a clever branding exercise…but nonetheless I’m willing to be seduced.

So we went to Kent to poke around Perch Hill, the public face of Sarah Raven, and whilst there also took a look at those classic gardens, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter.

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Perch Hill, the public-facing garden of Sarah Raven. There’s spaces devoted to veg, herbs, flowers for cutting, plus many opportunities to spend hard-earned cash.

The concept behind Perch Hill makes a huge amount of sense to me. The point is this: grow flowers for cutting (TICK!). Grow veg for eating (TICK!). Grow the two together so that your garden is pretty (TICK!). Cook what you grow (TICK! TICK! TICK!). Grow stuff all year round so there’s always something to eat (I’m still working on that bit).

Perch Hill is made up of lots of smaller garden rooms, devoted to flowers, veg, herbs and so on. I’ve come away with several ideas for next year’s allotmenting.

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The cutting garden is framed by rusted arches

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A classic view of Kent with oast house, tiling and wood

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Grasses break up the flowers in the cutting garden

First idea to pinch: bright sweet peas were grown against firm meshing. On the allotments a lot of people use flimsy net reclaimed from building sites, but this looks smarter and more able to survive a few years of Brummie weather.

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Idea to steal: sweet peas grow in abundance up semi-permanent willow structures fitted with wire mesh

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This planting style looks familiar… bishop’s finger with white cosmos

The flimsy mesh though would be useful in holding up floppy flowers:

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Idea to steal: The cosmos and other tall flowers are grown through mesh to stop them flopping over

In the cutting garden, flowers are grown in blocks through supportive string frameworks. This dahlia caught my eye, a vivid lurid orange.

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Dahlias are out in Kent. This one is called Happy Halloween.

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Idea to steal: Dahlias are grown in blocks through string support. I think this is easier to do than a lot of individual staking.

I have a lot of white flowers this year, which frame the purple lavender, nigella and sweet peas well. Next year I’d like more bright colours, possibly including this extravagant cosmos.

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I am PINK and PROUD

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Agapanthus give shots of blue colour

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Drifts of lavender line the paths

Over to the veg. There were still baby courgette plants pushing through the soil, and masses of kale and brassicas. Plus a few surprises including quinoa, which I’ve never seen in plant-form before.

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To the veg: we’re growing this variety of onion, but there’s still a way to go before ours get this big

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Cavalo nero envy. Mine are still seedlings, the first sowing have been scoffed by the slug

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This is quinoa! It’s a long flower spike. Who knew?

There’s also a massive greenhouse and converted barn, home to the cookery school and shop. The antiqued vases gave me a mental note to take a look in charity shops for old glass at a fraction of the price.

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Matt cannot stay away from wood; these massive doors frame the barn.

The crush continues…

www.sarahraven.com