The Old English Garden, Battersea Park

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I’d been keen to see garden designer Sarah Price’s redesign of Battersea Park’s Old English Garden since reading about the glamorous and beautifully shot opening party in ES magazine two years ago.

When I finally tracked down the down the garden, one hot July morning, hidden behind high brick walls in the heart of the park, I found it as romantic and dreamy as I’d hoped.

Originally built in the 1900s, the garden had become neglected. So it was Sarah’s job, with the help of gardeners from the mental health charity Thrive, for whom it is intended, and the sponsorship of Jo Malone Ltd, to breathe new life into it.

Old roses, honeysuckle and wisteria are in abundance, but there’s an airy, naturalism to the planting that’s fresh and contemporary. Masses of white umbilifers such as the giant Selinum wallichianum and the lower growing Ammi majus, together with great clouds of Centranthus ruber ‘Alba’ give a pretty, lacy feel. Mounds of hot pink Geranium ‘Patricia’ with the dark purply blue spikes of Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ growing up through it, add colour and contrast.

There’s a wonderful sense of height as you wander amongst the beds with Hollyhocks and Veronicastrum towering above you. I loved the combination of giant frothy heads of Astilbe and delicate yellow evening primrose ‘Oenothera’biennis, complemented perfectly by the purples of the Verbena bonariensis and Alliums.

So if you fancy losing yourself in nature for a little while - seek out this little oasis in the city.

Great Dixter in June

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We picked a perfect day for our trip to the famous gardens of Great Dixter, and after a meandering bus journey from Rye, through the Sussex Weald, we arrived at the low-key ticket office.

Your first glimpse through the small garden gate is of a long path leading up to the beautiful half-timbered Arts and Crafts house, bordered on either side by pretty meadow dotted with native orchids and buttercups.

The late Christopher Lloyd made the garden famous with his open-minded and experimental style, which is carried on today by head gardener Fergus Garrett, who favours a relaxed, naturalistic planting.

It’s the contrast of formal and informal that makes Great Dixter so refreshing. In the Peacock garden, the architectural yew topiary is softened by the mass of dancing white  daisies that surround it, with a huge drift of deep red lupins adding a striking splash of colour.

The paths in the High Garden are so small, with flowers towering up either side of you, it’s like being lost in an English garden jungle. Often a riot of colour, with geraniums, forget-me -nots and poppies roaming free and giant fennels, thalictrum aquilegifolium, and even flowering parsnips swaying airily above. Free-standing rose briars and rambling clematis add to the untamed feel.

I have to admit, I was drawn to the soft, romantic border in the vegetable garden, a harmony in pinks and purples, with its repeated tall feathery bronze fennel, mauve valerian and splashes of hot pink plume thistle ‘Atropurpureum.’

Yet it’s only by experimenting that you can find surprising new plant combinations and Great Dixter is a lesson in letting your gardening hair down and giving it a go. It’s like a breath of fresh air.