Drought Tolerant Gardens 3

The Old Vicarage East Ruston.

During our tour of East Anglia, this garden was high on my Wish list to visit.

When Alan Gray and Graham Robeson first came to the old vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas. Every garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings, their sole aim has been to try and enhance the setting of their home. Alan occasionally writes for the RHS magazine and has his own YouTube channel. Throughout the garden there are many rare and unusual plants growing. They propagate from these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. There is a converted barn for a tea room with a wonderful display of vintage garden tools on the walls. The garden lies 1½ miles from the North sea.

The pedestrian entrance court.

The pedestrian entrance court with its free draining gravely soil is planted each spring with a variety of succulents, with Aeonium ‘zwartkop’ and the slaty blue Cotyledon orbiculata taking centre stage.

The garden spans 32 acres, containing many garden rooms to discover and explore. Herbaceous borders, gravel gardens, sub-tropical gardens, a box parterre, sunken rose garden, Mediterranean garden, Walled garden, large woodland garden and a Desert Wash garden.

The Desert Wash. 

This area of the garden is designed to resemble parts of Arizona where, it probably only rains, once or twice a year, but when it does rain it floods and great rushes of water channel through the landscape tossing rocks and stones around and leaving behind dry channels and islands where succulent plants flourish.

The real work in making this garden started one metre below the surface where they broke up the sub-soil and incorporated lots of gravel. Then they built layer upon layer of gravel and gravel mixed with soil, the aim being to keep this area very free draining especially during the winter.

Many of the plants grown here are able to tolerate some cold provided they remain dry at the root. Some four hundred tonnes of flint of various sizes have been used in the construction of this area.

They are always experimenting and pushing the boundaries with the planting. Besides the usual drought tolerant plants you will find Puyas, Bromeliads, Agaves and Aloes. Nothing is wrapped for winter protection, the excellent drainage prevents water lying around their roots.

Slide Show The Desert Wash.

Viewed through a porthole cut in the shelter belt is this much photographed borrowed view of Happisburgh lighthouse.

St Mary’s church at the end of the garden.

This is one area of the garden, there is so much more to see not least its magnificent Walled Garden which was built to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Drought Tolerant Gardens 2

RHS Hyde Hall.

In 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to Hyde Hall in 1955 there were only six trees on the top of a windswept hill and no garden. They donated the 42-acre garden, Hyde Hall, to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. We visited there in August 2012 during our garden tour of Essex and East Anglia.

A dry garden was created in 2001 by Mathew Wilson, curator at the time, it aimed to show visitors how they can work with the environment and use drought-tolerant plants.

This path leads into the dry garden, described as one of the crowning achievements of Hyde Hall.

Work began in the winter of 2000, which ironically was one of their wettest winters. It is home to more than 400 different species of plant.

The garden has been built on a south-facing slope covering 0.4 acres, using Gabbro boulders and subsoil mounded over the rubble.

The topsoil was mixed with grit and sand to offer a free-draining environment for the plants.

On summer days, with the rolling hills in the backdrop, the garden looks rather like a Mediterranean outcrop, and it’s easy to forget that you are in the heart of Essex.

In spring, the garden shines with golden Euphorbia, conifers are included for winter interest and drought tolerance, while in summer it turns purple as Verbena bonariensis attracts hosts of butterflies and ornamental grasses towers high above the garden.

Such as the wonderful Stipa gigantea below. Alliums are planted for spring colour with Agapanthus, which you just see on the left for later in the year. Also on the left is Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which provides colour over a long season.

Echinops ‘platinum blue’ and Verbascum olympicum enjoy these conditions.

Also, the beautiful Crinum Powelli is here with Eryngium planum.

From here you could look down onto the gravel or scree garden which had more recently been developed.

Some of the stars up close.

Hyde Hall is well worth a visit if you are in the area, this is only one of the many inspirational gardens within its boundary. Do you have any drought tolerant stars shining in your garden?