RHS Hyde Hall is situated in the flat Essex countryside near Chelmsford and conveniently only about a half hour drive from the M25. Previously owned and gardened by Dr and Mrs Robinson, the former farm did not originally lend itself to horticulture due to the exposed, windswept site, not to mention the heavy clay soil! To ensure a safe future for the garden, it was bequeathed to a Trust in 1976 and handed over to the RHS in 1993. Under the guidance of the RHS and with increasing visitor numbers in mind, the garden underwent a number of tranformations starting with a 10 million gallon reservoir to ensure the garden was water-efficient.
Hyde Hall is famed for its Dry Garden, designed by then-curator, Matthew Wilson in 2001 to promote mediterranean style planting which suits the clay soil and low average rainfall in the area. Set amidst free-draining gravel on a south-facing slope, the drought-tolerant plants flourish in their exposed position. Textured grasses mingle with clouds of Gaura and Verbena bonariensis with the warmer tones of Kniphofia and Verbascum giving a contrast against the cool grey glacial rocks dotted around the area. The garden has never been watered and the 8,000 drought tolerant plants in this garden have flourished.
I was looking forward to seeing the new Global Growth Vegetable Garden, designed by Xa Tollemache. At the centre of the garden sits an impressive 14′ wide octagonal glasshouse which was planted with an exciting crop of different chillies, amongst other tender edibles. Outside, the potager is divided into four sections, each representing a different quarter of the world where unusual vegetables from across the globe are grown to represent the type of crops grown in Asia, Europe & the Middle East, South America and North & Central America. The variety and diverse range of crops did not disappoint and it was exciting to see sunflowers, millet and amaranthus growing amongst fennel, unusual beans and colourful leaves. Did you know dahlia tubers were edible? Me neither. Here’s a list of some of the plants grown this year in the Global Growth garden: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall/garden-highlights/Top-10-veg-with-a-difference.
Due to being a little short on time I did not really have the opportunity to explore the rest of the garden fully although I did have time for a quick coffee stop in the rather sophisticated cafe which is adjacent to the small book and gift shop. Huge plans are afoot with a second new restaurant and teaching centre being built. Hyde Hall is certainly a watch-this-space garden and I look forward to returning for a longer visit next time!