Gardening Club June Report

Gardening Club Report – June Harris.                       June 2021

It was an uplifting experience for us all as many members of the gardening club met up again for the first time since March last year, just before the world changed so disastrously.  We were finally able to go ahead with our planned visit, arranged in 2019 for the 2020 schedule, to professional garden designer Kristina Clode’s own garden at Waterworks Cottages in Brede.  Kristina and her family moved into their house about thirteen years ago, but began work in earnest on the garden ten years ago when, with plant machinery on hand for their house extension, they could divert the diggers to the property’s land.  Kristina told us the garden was one steep slope, from the front gate to the back garden boundary, so the first job was to “move the mountain”, levelling and evening up the ground, digging out the pond, zoning and creating different areas and generally turning an unusable plot into the foundations for the artistic and colourful garden it is today.

From the lane, a path leads from the gate through the front garden which comprises a lovely wildflower meadow, full of summer colour.  When successful these can be so enchanting, bucolic and nostalgic, belying the considerable amount of blood, sweat and tears expended to achieve the final aim!  Kristina told us she began with a standard wildflower seed mix for clay soil, to which she has added over the years many more species.  As is often advised, the successful cultivation of yellow rattle is the key to a healthy and varied meadow as Kristina herself discovered.  In the early days it often appeared, disappointingly however, that some plants were missing, but the following year, up they popped!  The pretty purple and lilac orchids we also have here in Pett, were a particular concern as they appeared to have been unsuccessful, but then one year, there they were and they have settled and multiplied since.  Kristina has consulted Fergus from Great Dixter on occasions regarding issues with the meadow, but his response is always reassuring, basically, don’t worry, be patient and they will appear – and they do!  Nowadays this most successful meadow has a long succession of interest from fritillaries in spring to wild carrots in the autumn, with the balance of plants also changing each year as nature dictates.

The garden continues down the side of the house, where there is a small courtyard area with simple wooden bench seating and a fire pit, called by the family, The Fire Circle.  High hornbeam hedging, already there when they moved in, but overgrown and spindly, now tamed and layered, surrounds it and creates a secluded and self-contained social space, handy for the house.  From here the garden then opens out at the back of the house, where a sizeable lawn is surrounded by luxuriant flower and shrub borders, specimen trees, and a separate prolific vegetable garden with two greenhouses containing tender plants.

Kristina had also very kindly arranged for us to visit another, this time naturally wild meadow, back in the village.  The view from this meadow and adjacent house and garden is stunning – literally visible (just) across the Brede valley is Fairlight Church!  To the east a similar view reaches right across, with Icklesham to the right and Rye Bay straight ahead – breathtaking scenery!

Our visit to Brede concluded very sociably as we all adjourned to the Red Lion pub for lunch.  We ate in the pretty garden, enjoying the food, company and summer sunshine – it felt good to be able to socialise (almost) as normal and we were all grateful for the opportunity.  We will be visiting Borde Hill gardens in July – details will be sent out by email to all members in due course, plus, advance notice that in August we will be holding our annual plant sale fundraiser and social in the village, so this is a plea to nurture seedlings and divide perennials to donate!