Lost in the plot @RHSHydeHall

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.


View looking southwards from the Farmhouse Garden across the Upper Pond

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.


Changeable skies over the Dry Garden (after a particularly parched summer in 2018)

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.


The new Global Growth Vegetable Garden (2017) at Hyde Hall, Essex

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.


Yardlong beans

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!


Salsosa soda, a desirable halophyte

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:


Grow Your Own sweetener: Stevia

Or perhaps some Dead Man’s Fingers?


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.


Exploding cucumber!

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:


Inside the glasshouse – west

On the other side were aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, okra …


Inside the glasshouse – east

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:


Solanum sisymbriifolium

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.



About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Out and about, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Lost in the plot @RHSHydeHall

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Looks like a progressive garden with lots to offer that is new or unusual. Beautiful location!

  2. What a glorious vegetable garden and I love the greenhouse. Very inspiring. 🌼

  3. Christina says:

    Oh the vegetable garden looks amazing. Agretti is an early spring vegetable here, I grew it last year. The seeds were sold by the 100gms, whereas I bought some seed in the UK before that even if they had all germinated wouldn’t have been a serving for 2!!!!

    • Yes, it is an inspirational showcase of a vegetable plot. Hmmm, I’ll check to see if I can get Agretti seeds from Seeds of Italy. Is it like samphire?

      • Christina says:

        Yes a bit like samphire. Seeds of Italy was where I bought the very small pack. If my supplier has them soon I could buy you some and bring them to the UK , we’re coming to a wedding later this month.

      • Christina, that is so very kind of you to offer. I would be very grateful. I can let you know my address if you do find them and if you come anywhere near Cambridge, you would be most welcome to pop in for tea. 😉

      • Christina says:

        We are sometimes in the Cambridge area, but not this time. I looked in the shop the other day and they haven’t arrived yet. I think it is still much too hot to sow them here yet. We are back to 32 degrees C this week. But I’ll keep checking, we have family visiting us in October and I’m sure they would post them to you.

  4. Pingback: Six on Saturday – Doldrums and dreams | Frogend dweller's Blog

  5. carolee says:

    Love that veggie garden!

  6. Pingback: The ‘Sweet Shop’ that is RHS Hyde Hall | Frogend dweller's Blog

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