Alexan­dra Camp­bell seeks in­spi­ra­tion in an his­toric gar­den

Alexan­dra Camp­bell finds in­spi­ra­tion in a gar­den de­signed by Edwin Lu­tyens..

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I’VE been in the gar­den at the Sa­lu­ta­tion in Sand­wich, Kent, with head gar­dener Steven Ed­ney, to get tips for our own smaller gar­dens. If you re­mem­ber the 2013 storms, you may have read that this gar­den was com­pletely washed away by a surge tide, al­though you would never know it now.

The Sa­lu­ta­tion house and gar­den were both de­signed by Edwin Lu­tyens in 1912. The land­scap­ing and her­ba­ceous bor­der are still faith­ful to his orig­i­nal de­sign, but the plant­ing is dif­fer­ent.

Now a ho­tel, it’s thought to be one of the few houses and gar­dens en­tirely de­signed as a whole by Lu­tyens him­self.

There is al­ways an is­sue over how to take a gar­den for­ward when it was orig­i­nally drawn up by a fa­mous de­signer. Restor­ing a house can be com­plex, but at least it doesn’t grow.

Gar­dens have a mind of their own – new plants are de­vel­oped and weather, pests or dis­eases change. It isn’t pos­si­ble to pre­serve a gar­den in the same way that you re­store a house.

So head gar­den­ers such as Fergus Gar­rett at Great Dix­ter or Troy Scott-smith at Siss­inghurst don’t ask them­selves what Christo­pher Lloyd or Vita Sackville-west would do in this part of the gar­den, but what would fit with their phi­los­o­phy and char­ac­ter if they were alive to­day.

Lu­tyens’ ca­reer was about style and in­no­va­tion so that’s how Steven in­ter­prets the gar­den.

The gar­den is fa­mous for its dahlias and has a Dahlia Fes­ti­val each Septem­ber. Steven is also de­vel­op­ing a ex­otic theme.

There are beau­ti­ful can­nas which are sur­pris­ingly easy to grow.

Like dahlias, they are not al­ways fully win­ter-hardy, but un­less you live in the cold­est parts of the UK, you don’t al­ways have to dig them up in Oc­to­ber.

Steven sug­gests you let the frost-dam­aged fo­liage col­lapse over the top of them, then pile mulch on

top. Can­nas have bright, trop­i­cal flow­ers with strik­ing, sculp­tural leaves, of­ten striped. They make a big pres­ence in the gar­den.

“It’s im­por­tant to think about the shape and colour of fo­liage when choos­ing a plant,” Steven says.

“Leaves will stay for months, but the flow­ers may only last a few weeks.”

Steven also looks for un­usual va­ri­eties of com­mon gar­den plants. We all know Erigeron karvin­skianus – flea­bane. Its daisy-like flow­ers self-seed ev­ery­where.

Steven has found Erigeron an­nuus, a tall, wispy ver­sion which sways charm­ingly in the wind.

“If you grow a tall, airy plant, grow it in clumps,” he ad­vises. “One or two are lost on their own.”

He also grows an un­usual sun­flower – Sun­flower Rigidus – which has much smaller flow­ers than the sun­flow­ers we know. It looks like a very tall daisy.

Pro­fes­sional gar­den­ers want us ama­teurs to try more new va­ri­eties of plants as it helps main­tain plant di­ver­sity.

You can of­ten buy rare va­ri­eties at plant shops run by gar­dens like the Sa­lu­ta­tion or at Rare Plant Fairs.

Steven uses taller plants, such as grasses or even can­nas, as a sum­mer hedge, as he says a row of tall plants can cre­ate a se­cluded corner in a gar­den in sum­mer. In win­ter it will have died down and you won’t lose the light.

Patches of meadow in gar­dens were fashionable when the Sa­lu­ta­tion was built and to­day it has a wild meadow lawn with a con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture in the mid­dle. Edwin Lu­tyens would ap­prove, I think.

The Sa­lu­ta­tion ho­tel and gar­dens are open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day of the year. ■

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