The Salutation in Sandwich, Kent is probably best known as being the former home to Steph and Dom of ‘Gogglebox’ fame. However it is also home to the most marvellous garden, the bones of which were laid out by Gertrude Jekyll to compliment the Edwin Lutyens house, built between 1911-1912.
The gardens, which are open to the public are known as the ‘Secret Gardens of Sandwich’, presumably because one would not expect to find such lushness in the middle of a town, albeit one of the best preserved medieval towns in England. Since opening in 2007, the gardens have been the inspiration and delight of Steve Edney, Head Gardener. Steve has the dream job of many gardeners, having effectively been given a free rein to manage the gardens at his will.
The garden is a ‘plant-lover’s paradise’ and is created in a series of rooms, following the original garden layout. The entrance to the garden is a tropical delight, with bamboo and palm trees complimented by colourful perennials. I was rather taken with the fun element of the ‘squirting cucumber’ plant spilling over the brick pathway. A native plant from warmer climes, the ripe fruits ‘squirt’ their seeds at opportune moments, mainly taking visitors by complete surprise!
A new addition for 2017 is the extension of the tropical garden. Steve and his team have replaced a redundant lawned area with a winding path flanked by towering canna lillies and banana plants with lower areas filled in with amaranthus, dahlias and miscanthus . One particular plant that caught my eye was the towering 7′ tall Persicaria orientale (kiss me over the garden gate).
Created from scratch this earlier this year, this new area is proof that a garden can give a mature appearance with carefully chosen plants despite being only a few months old!
The brick path, lined with a plethora of colour leads to the small lecture room which also serves as a DIY tea room, the walls of which are lined with photographs and information on the gardens.
Dahlias feature heavily in late-summer. The Salutation gardens have a great collection of over 300 cultivars and each year a Dahlia Festival is held in September with talks, tours and demonstrations.
The Salutation holds a collection of around 100 dark-stemmed dahlias and in addition they cultivate new varieties. The dahlias are planted mainly in the vegetable plot, providing a splash of colour amongst the edibles. Further dahlias are planted in a long border nearer the house.
The main part of the garden is laid out in traditional style, following the original layout. Long borders, a pond and a series of ‘rooms’ lead the visitor around towards the house. A wild flower meadow sits beside a poplar walk and Steve reports that bats roost in the ancient poplars.
Beside the house, a formal lawn is flanked with beds planted mainly in shades of red and this lawn is virtually an extension of the house since it leads to a terrace. A further garden is planted in mainly yellow shades to compliment the Ginkgo Biloba tree which produces buttery yellow leaves in autumn.
The White garden, traditionally laid out with box topiary in-filled with white flowering plants is currently undergoing a tranformation and will eventually become the ‘black and white garden’ as Steve and his team introduce dark stems and leaves – sounds interesting!
Sculptures are placed throughout the garden which are available to purchase. Artist Emily Stone creates animals and plants from copper and I particularly liked the copper pumpkins which were amusingly placed in the vegetable plot!
Also available to purchase are plants which have been raised by the team of gardeners. There is a tiny visitor’s centre and gift shop, all manned by a very friendly team. As The Salutation offers bed and breakfast in addition to teas and restaurant, it is a great excuse for a weekend away!