In the garden news

April 2019

It is always a joy to see the arrival of spring in a garden and this year we have been particularly excited by our cherry blossoms. For me, they are one of the most remarkable groups of trees, producing the most delicate flowers through the harsh early spring weather. They seem to be flowering especially well this year and one of the most remarkable displays has been the wild cherry’s and blackthorn in the woodland surrounding the Manor. These are some of the first trees to flower in the countryside, with their pure white blooms dotted through the still naked landscape announcing the end of winter.

This is such a beautiful backdrop to Gravetye, which we have been keen to enhance by increased cherry planting throughout the garden. There have been many new plantings over the years but because of the bad spring last year, this is the first time we have seen many of them flower.

One of the most striking is the Great White Cherry, Prunus Tai-Haku’ with its pure white flowers over three inches across. We planted this lovely tree at the far end of the croquet lawn two years ago and its much-anticipated flowering has made the wait worthwhile. This particular tree was once very important in Japan and planted throughout the temple gardens of Kyoto. Sadly, by the start of the twentieth century it had become extinct and thought to be lost, until the English cherry enthusiast Collingwood Ingram made a trip to the land of the rising sun in the 1920’s. Whilst studying scrolls of temple gardens, to understand the extent of lost cherry varieties he suddenly exclaimed, “I have that one in my garden in Sussex!” It took another six years for him to repatriate Tai Haku, where it once again takes pride of place outside the temples of Kyoto. Because of his close friendship with William Robison we all felt an extra bit of satisfaction in establishing it here at Gravetye.

A single cherry tree in flower is a thing of beauty but their clouds of blossom are even more impressive en masse. This was in our mind when restoring William Robinson’s cherry lawn. The temptation is to plant a collection of different varieties but in this situation, we wanted just one, repeated, linking to the wild cherries in the landscape beyond. We considered some of the historic varieties which Robinson had written about, but in the end decided to go for a recently bred variety called ‘The Bride’. In his day Robinson would have selected the very best plants available to him, so I am sure he would have wanted us to do the same in his garden today. This spring was our young trees first flowering and I am so pleased with them, especially with the knowledge that they will only become more beautiful as the years go by.


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