As you can see from the picture above, the Rose Garden here at Chartwell is still doing its thing well into late August, which we are obviously very happy about. However, I’ve been working in there a lot this week, busying myself with deadheading, edging, weeding, applying foliar feeds, mowing the lawn areas, clearing up dropped petals and the like, and it isn’t the roses themselves that most of our visitors are asking about. No, the two most popular questions right now are about another couple of magnificent plants that can be found in the outer beds. In fact we are getting so many inquiries about them that I might print this blog post out and hand it to visitors as they walk through the gates!
This stunning Hydrangea is probably the most photographed plant here in the Chartwell gardens at the moment! Most cameras however cannot do justice to the amazing mix of mauves and purples that the flowers are exhibiting. The large colourful flat heads are surrounded by complimentary white ray florets and the overall effect is fantastic. We hope that they will extend well into Autumn too so there’s still plenty of time to come and have a look for yourself.
Hydrangea aspera is a shrub native to the region around China and Tibet. Awarded the RHS AGM, this Villosa Group Hydrangea will tolerate full sun or partial shade but the blooms may be better the more sun they receive. It can reach up to two and half metres in both height and spread, but prefers an acidic or neutral soil rather than an alkaline one to fully achieve this. Officially this plant falls into Pruning Group 1, which means that only very light pruning for shape and removal of dead or diseased wood is recommended. However, our Head Gardener Giles convinced us to prune it back hard last year and it really seems to have benefited from that this Summer! In fact, right now is probably the best its looked for several years. Other attractive features of the Villosa Group Hydrangea include the large velvety dark green foliage and the pretty peeling bark.
The big rival for the Hydrangea in terms of public attention currently comes from this beautiful Eucryphia which can be found in the opposite corner of the Rose Garden. This columnar evergreen tree can reach up to 12 metres in height in the right conditions. Once again it prefers either acidic or neutral soil over alkaline. It also prefers a more sheltered spot which the walls of our Rose Garden obviously offer it. In fact, it is often said that this Eucryphia needs its feet in the shade and its head in the sun. The extra rainfall this Summer also really seems to agree with it too. Actually some of our longer serving gardeners cannot remember seeing it covered in this many blooms!
The bees also seem to be very keen on the flowers. You can hear them buzzing around this tree almost before you even see it. The creamy white petals appear to almost glow in the sun and they are nicely offset by the prominent yellow stamen within, as you can see in the picture above.
Eucryphia x nymansensis ‘Nymansay’ is the offspring of a cross between Eucryphia glutinosa and Eucryphia cordifolia. It was raised at Nymans in West Sussex at the time of the First World War. Nymans is of course another National Trust property well worth a visit if you are down in our neck of the woods. More information can be found about Nymans here.
Hopefully having an insight into these two feature plants at Chartwell has whetted your appetite to come and pay us a visit very soon. There is plenty to see and do throughout the gardens and estate if the queues of people taking pictures of our Hydrangea and Eucryphia show-offs is getting too long!