Monday, March 19, 2018

An English Xeric Escape

I may have been born at 7,428′ in the icy heart of the Rocky Mountains, of 100% Greek heritage (Western Crete no less), but I'm afraid I'm a red white and blue English gardener in my heart. Less than a year ago I was lucky to be invited to speak in Sutton Valence, a village in Kent (southeasternmost England). My hosts' garden was, to put it mildly, a shock on many levels, as you may soon of many features there was this exquisite greenhouse, surrounded by xeric plantings--the last place on Mother Earth I ever dreamed I'd see such a thing!

Off the the right, the xeriscape becomes more "bulby" (yes, there's a Mediterranean greenhouse as well--not enough room to tell it all!). Notice the yucca soaring in the back: I presume it's Y. thompsoniae?

Adrian tells me that the Agave ovatifolia in front of the greenhouse are thus far surviving this coldest winter in 40 years!

All manner of choice bulbs and succulents tucked into the crevices, including a few Saxifrages (such is this amazing climate!)

Inside the greenhouse, well--you can see--a veritable encyclopaedia of succulence!

I love the way the landscape beyond the glass echoes that within...each specimen is perfect. How fun to see a Colorado specialty there...(red flowered Echinocereus coccineus 'Inermis' in the back)

 A closer look...

The Euphorbia horrida behind makes for a wonderful contrast to the heavenly flossy Mammillaria in front, with a perfect ring of magenta flowers...every detail is perfect throughout! Egad! How do they do it? The label informs us the Euphorbia dates back to 1980--the year I began my career in Denver 38 years ago! Humbling for me (I don't have many plants that go that far back myself)...

Love seeing the Monsonia (hate their lumping our beloved Sarcocaulon like that) as a crevice plant!

Honestly, what can one say? I think this greenhouse and its pristine plants speak for themselves...

Euphorbia bupleuroides

Spectacular specimen of Echinocactus polycephalus: what you can't see is that this too was dated as "1980"--I have a hunch Adrian's been growing this most of his life. Not easy to do with this very difficult cactus.

I never tire of Mammillaria--nor does Adrian apparently!

A miniature knersvlakte
 I've only been as far north as Van Rhynsdorp--not quite far enough to experience knersvlakte--but I suspect this is a pretty good simulacrum!

Some bulbs just outside (Tulipa linifolia, I believe--or possibly T. wilsonii?)  Bulbs ARE root succulents you know!

Astragalus cf. tragacantha
 If not Tragacanth, quite close. The likeliest source of "manna" in the bible. This garden did possess manna in spades!

Cheilanthes wootonii?
 An educated guess (the label ends in "onii")--and the fronds are much too green for Cheilanthes eatonii. There are a half dozen Cheilanthes this could pass for, including our local C. fendleri. I am amazed more gardens don't grow the dryland ferns, but I wasn't too surprised to see one in this garden, but growing outside! That was amazing to see....

Lest you think the Cooper home and garden were restricted to cacti and succulents...this should perhaps disabuse you!

I love the lavender between trimmed boxwood. But then I love lavender any which way!

The rock garden and alpine house were every bit as astonishing and delightful as the xeric collections. And let's not even talk about the Mediterranean bulb house, the woodland gardens, the perennial borders, the tree ferns and shrub borders...

Or the little parterres glimpsed from a staircase window out back...

Agave palmeri ex se Arizona

The succulents have even wormed their way into the ROCK Garden (much as they do around Denver...)

A last lingering glimpse at what must rate as the most successful, ambitious and grand garden I've seen just about anywhere...except possibly Great Dixter, which we visited the next day (and which I dutifully reported on more promptly.) Thank you, Adrian and Samantha! I hope I may visit again before long at other seasons!


  1. Do you know the agave on the second to last image in the album? Thanks for sharing by the way!

  2. Adrian got back to me with a few names I was missing like that one! Thanks for the kind comment!

  3. Absolutely shocking - and outstanding! Thanks for the mind-blowing morning eye-opener.

  4. This garden is astounding. Gardens within gardens and so well done. How I would love to have a long look here. Thank you so much for sharing.


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