Sarah Raven's Garden at Perch Hill - Battleaxe is not a proper lady.

Earlier in the week Battleaxe went on a Women's Institute outing to Sarah Raven's garden at Perch Hill Farm, in Brightling, which is in the depths of the country miles from anywhere between Battle and Robertsbridge.
     Battleaxe organises our WI Gardening Group, and this was one of our scheduled garden visits.
     I'd never really heard of Sarah Raven, but turns out she writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph. (Only the Guardian gets across this threshold). She is married to Adam Nicolson, and now, apparently, they live at Sissinghurst. She has published many glossy and expensive books, most of which were on display in the shop at Perch Hill, which is the base for her cookery and flower-arranging school.
The Sarah Raven Lifestyle experience
     Not being a proper lady, Battleaxe does not do flower-arranging, but I was struck by the set-up on our table in the coffee place, one or two blooms in a collection of little mismatched bottles on a big plate. The photo is not very good. I had to crop most of it because I had managed to include a view straight down the front of one of my friend's dresses over the top of the flowers. I'll maybe collect some bottles, the only empty one in the kitchen now is a Budweiser World Cup Special Edition bottle - not quite the desired look, I feel.
I could do that
     Anyway, back to the start. Getting a group of women in different cars to the same place at the same time is always slightly hit and miss.  I issued maps, but that didn't seem to help much. I was driving with four others in the Yeti - we had almost arrived at the garden only to meet another car full of our colleagues belting briskly past us in the wrong direction. There was much shrieking and scrambling for mobiles and numbers, but the only woman whose number we could find had her phone turned off.....
      We all got there eventually, paid our £5 entrance, and a further £5 for coffee and a piece of cake.
      The garden was pretty, but not very big. It is primarily a cutting garden for flower-arranging, so there were beautiful drifts of one type of flower. The vegetables were also excellent.
Sweet peas

Poppies

Cornflowers - I love them


Astrantia, cornflowers and some white thing....
       There were many Telegraph reading types drifting about - lots of laydees in flowing linen and big hats. Not to say we don't have stylish laydees in our group, of course. Battleaxe has never been a lady. I'm too sweary, for a start. I don't make cakes, and I don't knit or sew.
       In the shop, the packeted seeds were at least £2.50, and everything else seemed a bit expensive.
       I enjoyed the outing, and I hope our gang did too, but I kept on getting Not Value For Money messages flashing across my brain, and I sense that S Raven Enterprises Inc. is a mean money-generating machine.
       Never mind that, what puzzles me in this life is why so much in my garden is either stunted, dried up or eaten by snails, while plants in the gardens we visit are huge, thick, lush and free from nibbling and holes. Sarah R says no pesticides are used, but perhaps the staff are out there with industrial-size vats of chemicals as soon as the public's back is turned.
       I am out in our garden day after day with the hose, but it is so dry. The snails this year have overwintered, and are as big as golf-balls. I collected a whole flower-pot full the other day, and went to chuck them over the back, but my foot slipped and they ended up back in our garden again.
Our lettuces would never look like this....
      We also have lily beetles, which I pick off whenever I see one, but my canna lily looks like a lace doily. I am trying to make our front garden a bit Great Dixter-ish, so I planted a cardoon this year. It has grown well, but the developing flowers are now home to a colony of aphids, assiduously farmed by a gang of ants. Those ants must burn much energy running up and down the tall stems. Why have I got them, and not Great Dixter?
      Now, here's a question to finish up with. How do specialist pests, like lily beetles, carrot flies etc. know that you have got the relevant foodstuff? Last year we were visited by a gooseberry saw-fly and one of our new bushes turned into a skeleton overnight. None of the neighbours have gooseberries, so how did the fly know to call on us? We were watching Monty Don, and he said that carrot flies only fly a couple of feet off the ground. So how do they get over high fences into gardens in the first place?
       

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