A report by Peter Jacob on our garden visit in September to Woods Ley in Ash.
Philip Oostenbrinck’s front garden is easily spotted from the top of Woods Ley – beyond a row of small oblong patches of neatly cut front lawns, the last one is a complete contrast: a billowing mass of foliage and flowers. These include Salvia elegans, nicotiana, canna, tagetes, euryops and, a favourite of Philip’s, Kniphofia erecta, as well as many more, covering every square inch. There is a narrow strip of soil between the side of the house and the pavement, and even this is planted up.
By the front door is an agave which has survived a few winters here, as the minimum temperature, which never lasts for long, is only –5ºC. We were led through the front door and into the lounge, where we were surrounded by potted aspidistras. Philip is an avid collector of these, and now has the National Collection of Aspidistra elatior; he told us that there are about 130 species and cultivars worldwide.
At the back of the house is a small patio, made even smaller by many pots. As you might have guessed by now, Philip is a plantaholic, with a penchant for variegated plants. There were two different spotted farfugium, and he even has a variegated Fallopia japonica – the dreaded Japanese knotweed, but safely ensconced in a pot. Another potted plant to catch the eye was Begonia ‘Black Knight’. The back garden itself, although not large is, like the front, jam-packed with plants with not a patch of soil visible.
A catapala and a trachycarpus give height on one side, underplanted with a medley of shrubs, including Strobilanthes dyeriana ‘Persian Shield’, with purple new leaves, an attractive Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, with dark red petals turned inwards like a tube, and a Euphorbia mellifera enhancing the tropical look of the garden. Surprisingly there were two prickly solanums that are hardy here despite being listed as zone 9/H3-H4 (I’ve lost one, even in the greenhouse!). These are Solanum pyracanthos and S. atropurpureum (aptly nicknamed ‘Malevolence’ by one botanist) – two very spiny customers, but weirdly attractive.
Finally, a very narrow (one person at a time) path led to a small greenhouse and a gate, outside which was Philip’s garage, where tea, coffee and munchies were served. Thank you, Philip, for an interesting and informative afternoon.