Last week we visited Hyde Hall in Essex. Hyde Hall is one of the RHS‘s flagship gardens, but it is in fact a relatively new creation. As recently as 1950 it was just a windswept farm on a bare hilltop. Bequeathed to the RHS in ’90s, Hyde Hall has gradually been transformed into the garden that visitors flock to today and it is gaining its own, increasingly strong, identity.
Although there is a substantial on-going tree planting project (~50,000 around the site as of 2017), one of the most striking characteristics of almost every view in the garden is the backdrop of wide open skies.
Interestingly, although we enjoyed our only other visit (in 2013), we weren’t overly impressed with the total amount of landscaped ground or variety of gardens to explore at Hyde Hall. This time it was a complete contrast.
There were a surprising number of newly developed areas to see, but the one that had me most excited, running around making notes and taking hundreds of photos was the vegetable plot.
So, why was I so enthused with a vegetable garden developed only a year ago?
Firstly the plot is a pleasing circular design. The evolution of the Global Growth Vegetable Garden is described here. Secondly, the (Hartley Botanic) glasshouse is just beautiful and brilliantly reflects and enhances the surrounding countryside. Thirdly, the garden is still brimming with produce, even at the end of august, i.e. it is successionally planted and well maintained. And lastly, it is filled with many, many unusual vegetables which are demonstrably growing outside, even in the UK.
The vegetables are all labelled, but where they are less well-known, there a plaques describing their origin, cultivation and usage. So here, for instance, is that well known edible tuber called … Dahlia
Other common garden flowers on display there included daylilies (flowers), hostas (shoots), fuchsia (magellanica – the berries), amaranthus (seed) and celosia (leaf and seeds).
Then there were the vegetables that we might know about, but expect to be growing in warmer climes: Yardlong beans, tiger nuts, sweet potato, oca, buckwheat.
I tried to grow yardlong beans a few years ago, but no beans set. This year seems to have been hot enough for them to do fine.
Another vegetable that I’ve tried and failed with is Salsola soda (Agretti), but it was growing wonderfully, in an orderly row, at Hyde Hall. They are obviously better gardeners!
Now that I read the sign, it does say that it is known for its poor germination!
But how about trying to grow some Stevia? Your own by-the-backdoor sugar substitute:
Or perhaps some Dead Man’s Fingers?
(Not sure I can see this one catching on with that name and ‘blue sausage tree’ doesn’t sound any better.)
I was very happy when I found a big patch Achocha in one of their beds, growing up tented bean poles, at the same stage of flowering as mine at home. I had been worried that mine were way behind and that I wouldn’t get to taste the ‘cucumbers’ or collect any seed, but within this last week the gourds have been rapidly forming. Hurray! My seeds came from a friend, but I’ve seen Achocha seeds advertised in The Real Seed Catalogue.
So we’ve slowly been circling the beds around the lovely glasshouse, but what was the RHS growing inside?
Well, lots and lots of tomatoes, chillis and basil:
On the other side were aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, okra …
To the left in the above photo the potato-like flowers are from an interesting plant called Vila-vila or the Litchi tomato (Solanum sisymbriifolium). Here’s a close-up:
This is a prickly perennial and those red berries apparently taste like a cross between a cherry and a tomato. Sounds like fun to try. I wonder if it does outside?
I’ve come away with a great many ideas for next year just from this small section of the gardens. I would wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Hyde Hall if you can manage it. I am certain that it won’t be five years before we return next time.