Hadspen Gardens

by Don Hyatt

Hadspen Garden and Nursery

The basic Victorian design of Hadspen Garden was conceived by Margaret Hobhouse in order to give a setting to the 18th century Hobhouse home. Around 1960, noted garden expert Penelope Hobhouse started restoring the garden, and that restoration continues today under the direction of garden writer and nurseryman Nori Pope and his wife. The Popes have been particularly interested in garden color, and have worked to create monochromatic themes in their garden.

We started in the "Purple Garden", a carefully designed garden room filled with lavender and purple tulips, columbine, alliums, and companion plants. It was there that Nori Pope (shown to the right) introduced us to his fascination with garden color. He then led our tour past a formal waterlily pool flanked by large leaved Gunneras and hostas, to other garden rooms in various color themes. He noted that since the natural pH of their soil ranges from 7.5 to 8.0, they did not raise many ericaceous plants. He added that they did incorporate 150 tons of manure into their garden each year, which is, he said with a smile, "a fair pile of muck!"

Hadspen Gardens releases many of their introductions, especially new hosta varieties, through Herronswood Nursery in the United States. We all nodded, finally making the association between Hadspen Gardens and the familiar blue hosta, "Hadspen Blue". We were amazed to learn that they have even extended their hybridizing programs to include vegetables in the proper tone in order to keep the garden color coordinated. As we walked through the yellow garden, I quietly wondered if they had carefully selected strains of yellow slugs to eat their yellow hostas.

We were particulary impressed with Nori's command of plant knowledge, along with his witty comments. He pointed to an unusual green flowered bulb that he said everyone should grow, just to be able to drop the name at cocktail parties. With a slight smile he remarked how impressive it is to ask, "How is your Nectaroscordum siculum bulgaricum doing?" A member of the allium family with an exceptionally offensive smell to the foliage, this bulb is a marvelous plant because nothing will eat the darned thing. It is completely deer proof. Now that's my kind of plant!

The brick walls around the circular garden were exceptionally attractive, perennials and annuals selected for warm tones from yellow, to orange, and red to complement the brick tones. Some areas adorned with vines like honeysuckle variety, Lonicera "Miss Honey Dyson", yet other areas hosted pockets of annuals and perennials. I admired a little composite yellow daisy that was perched on top of the wall, growing in a most unlikely spot but seemingly as happy as a plant could be. Then I recognized a little plant that had come up in a pot in my greenhouse several years ago, and has now become an irritating pest. Inquiring what is was, I learned that this was Scroffulacea, which could become somewhat of a pest if not kept under control. Well, in my greenhouse, it is totally out of control and reminds me of a miniature form of Kudzu.

Strolling through pots of nursery plants, I wished that I could purchase some of the remarkable selections to use in my garden at home. There were two problems with that, however. First, the United States wisely prohibits people from importing plant materials without going through proper quarantine. Second, I only had three British pounds, a few coins I had left over from a trip the previous summer. We had all expected to change our money when we arrived in England after our ferry ride from Ireland. However, we discovered that the exchange bureau for our channel crossing was located on the other side of the English Channel, back in Ireland. We hadn't been to a bank, yet.

Vistas of the Garden

Waterlily Pond

Nectaroscordum siculum

Composite Growing on
Top of the Wall

Warm Colors in the
Walled Garden