A report by Jeremy Spon on our garden visit in May to Hill Farm Oast in Yalding.
Most garden visits are quite leisurely affairs – a stroll round, stopping here and there to admire a view or a special plant, or to discuss soil or climate. But our host, Paul Reddy, is a bundle of enthusiasm and energy who doesn’t really do ‘leisurely’, as his amazing garden demonstrates. After expertly fitting all our cars into what looked like far too small a parking area, he set off at a brisk pace to show us the many rare plants scattered all over what is a very large garden. We began in a sloping area Paul refers to as a ‘xeriscape’, with a very free-draining soil which allows several agaves and Australian shrubs to flourish with minimal protection.
Then we entered what is effectively an arboretum, where a whole succession of rare and striking trees and shrubs were pointed out, with Paul from time to time challenging us to guess their identities – which we mostly failed to do! I struggled to keep up with noting down names, even of those plants which I found particularly interesting or exciting But the examples of Berberis jamesiana, Viburnum fansipanense, Phellodendron sachalinense and Deutzia multiradiata (the last an evergreen member of what I had always supposed to be an exclusively deciduous genus) should be enough to suggest just how special this collection of woody plants is.
Having reached the bottom of the garden, which is laid out on the south-facing slope of the greensand ridge, we turned back to view the huge spring-fed pond (more of a lake really) which, it turned out, Paul had constructed himself to act as a reservoir. He confessed to doing quite a lot of his gardening with a mini-digger! Further fine specimens of unusual members of familiar genera, such as Juglans cathayensis, Quercus candicans and Betula insignis, were introduced as we made our way around the pond to where Paul had created his latest project – a vast stumpery, planted up with a whole host of woodland plants and complete with its own irrigation system. We finished up back at the house, with the chance to climb up to a balcony giving a view down over the garden, and of the top of a spectacular paulownia in full flower.
It would be fair to say that this is not a typical Hardy Planter’s garden, reflecting as it does Paul’s passion for trees, shrubs, and semi-desert plants, but no-one can have failed to be impressed by the sheer scale and ambition of it all, or by Paul’s passion for and knowledge of his plants.
As you can tell from Jeremy’s report, it was very difficult to keep up with names as well as taking photographs so, I’m afraid, captions are a bit sparse in this gallery. Hopefully, I can add them as I find out what the plants are called. However, you will still be able to appreciate what an interesting and stunning garden it is.