‘We’ve got 750 varieties of rose now!’
The first plant I ever grew
In Cyprus, where I was born, we would sit, most evenings, in the cool of the outdoors surrounded by the amazing scent of tentura or mastic tree
Pistacia lentiscus, which got me hooked on scented species. My parents loved to garden and grew vines and fruits. My father liked to propagate by grafting and showed me how to do it at a very young age.
The plant that changed my life
I’d have to say it was the whole plant collection at Borde Hill. My husband Andrewjohn is great grandson of Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke, the creator of this magnificent garden. He created it from seeds gathered by the great plant hunters of the early 1900s. When Andrewjohn’s father passed away in 1987, we moved to take care of the garden and estate. Here began the biggest project of my life as we created new garden areas to extend the colour from spring through to autumn.
The plant that shaped the gardener I am today
The trees at Borde Hill are many and diverse. Inheriting this collection drove me to take my RHS qualifications to better my understanding of how to look after them and keep their important historical stories alive for future generations.
My favourite plant in the world
Twenty-five years ago I came across a 1902 Country Life article on Mrs Stephenson Clarke’s garden, which included the rose garden at Borde Hill. I was so inspired I set about persuading the garden’s council to allow me to re-establish it. We planted 450 fragrant varieties from David Austin. My obsession grew, and we’ve extended the collection to 750 now!
The plant I’d love to grow more of
We planted a few echinacea two years ago, but they died. I’ve taken some advice from a grower and we’ll try again by planting them in a drier, more free-draining position.
The plant that’s made me work hardest
The Himalayan blue poppy,
Meconopsis betonicifolia, needs good drainage, but we’ve heavy clay here which dries out in the summer. They’re a challenge in the south – even a couple of days of direct sunshine can scorch them. We plant them in partial shade with some shelter and dig in home-made compost and grit. Some years they do well, other years not so much, but they’re such a striking plant I haven’t wanted to give up on them!
The plant I am in human form
It would definitely be a highlycoloured, scented rose. I love ‘Falstaff’ by David Austin, with its dark crimson-red colour.
Plant I would always give as a gift
I’d always give a rose! I love ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ for its beautiful, glowing pink flowers.
Cyprus-born Eleni has developed a deep love of roses and ornamental trees