As you walk up the street towards Sarah Langton-Lockton’s house in Faversham your eye is caught by a blood red cloud of dahlias and rose blossoms clustered around the gate to her house – a foretaste of the plantsman’s feast that will greet you in her garden. (For those who want to know, the rose is ‘L.D.Braithwaite’ and the dahlia ‘Chat Noir’.) Because Sarah, who for some years was gardening editor of The Lady, is a ‘real’ gardener. Not one like me who is happy to trawl garden centres for plants on which skilled gardeners have lavished care so all I need to do is pop them into the ground.
Year round Sarah is scanning seed catalogues, bringing on cuttings in propagators on her bedroom windowsill, assessing which bullying plants in her bulging borders need to be severely restrained, which might fare better if moved to a more sympathetic spot and planning which new plants could be accommodated in a corner of a border. Meanwhile, she rules her weeds with a rod of iron. How else could her perpetual spinach and her strawberries flourish in such a perfect tilth?
Her garden is not that big – maybe 15 metres long and 6 metres wide – but it accommodates a deep mixed border (a combination of shrubs and perennials – a herbaceous border contains only perennials) which runs the length of the garden – a riot, at this time of year, of wonderful exciting plants varying in height, in flower, in foliage and in shade. (Sadly this image does not do justice to the subtlety of its colouring as it was miserably flat grey day when I was there.)
Down at the bottom of the garden, wrapping itself round the compost bins, was another exciting clematis, this time Clematis Jouiniana, a creeping clematis with large crinkly edged leaves and more pretty white flowers.
…and in the greenhouse the largest tomatoes I have ever seen, aptly named ‘Bloody Butchers’.
Outside the greenhouse, at the end of that bed of perpetual spinach, a tower of ‘Cosse Violette’ beans rises majestically and is genuinely the gift that goes on giving. I stripped it of beans three times in the 24 hours that I was there and I could positively see the new ones growing as I pulled the ripe ones off.
The beans are a delicate violent when they are picked, turning an even more delicate green when steamed and served in a light vinaigrette Although, to be honest, they were so delicous raw, that steaming was almost de trop.
And finally, as you go back out the front door you realise that the dahlias and the roses are not having it all their own way in the front garden. Over to the side Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Kardinal Violet’ was having a colour riot all of its own.
Although the garden now looks as though it has been there for decades, Sarah only finished her first year’s planting six years ago. Since then she has opened it for both the Faverhsam Open Gardens Day and for the National Gardens Scheme although of course neither have happened for the last two years. So come next year, those keen gardeners who had been following with interest the development of, in particular, her massive mixed border, will have a lot of catching up to do.