In September, I visited RHS Hyde Hall in Chelmsford, Essex. This garden which was originally a working farm, is situated on a hill in the very dry Essex climate and with heavy clay soil.
The garden was created by Dick and Helen Robinson starting in 1955. The site was cleared and 60 trees were purchased from Wickford market, forming the basis of the current Woodland Garden. In the 1960s shelter belts of Lawson and Leyland cypresses were created. A farmyard to the west of the hilltop was added in 1976. In the same year the Robinsons created the Hyde Hall Garden Trust. The site was bequeathed to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) in 1993.
The garden contains many different areas, including:
Winter garden and lake walk
Clover Hill borders
Global growth vegetable garden
Hilltop garden which includes lawns, roses, ponds and herbaceous borders
The Robinson garden including a sunken dell and gabion wall
Dry garden containing mostly Mediterranean plants
Courtyard gardens with traditional and modern planting schemes
Woodland walk and bird hide
The Global growth vegetable garden was designed by Xa Tollemache and is based on a circular design symbolising a globe with 4 quarters representing Europe and the Middle East, Asia, North and Central America, and South America.
The Winter Garden opened in 2018 and features colourful stems and leaves, peeling barks and berries. There is a feature of coppiced willow and the varied plants include Prunus, Pinus, Acer, Cornus, Betula and Japanese cedar. There are 100 types of Cornus, forming part of an RHS trial.
The next stages which are planned include a large perennial meadow, Big Sky Meadows. This will be up to 20 ha or 50 acres of perennial meadows opening in 2019.The meadows radiate out from an old oak tree. There will be hundreds of species from Africa, North America and Europe including Agapanthus, Gazania, Echinacea, Panicum, Euphorbia and Kniphofia. The peak period of interest will be from mid-May to the end of August, then there will be autumnal interest and textures.
I really enjoyed this visit which coincided with a spell of really warm and sunny autumn weather. The garden has a very open feel helped by the hillside location and the open Essex skies. The rose garden in particular was fabulous and the whole impression was of bright colours and very healthy and well cared for plants. There is also the opportunity to experience many different types of garden within the whole, and to learn from the experience, which is common to many RHS gardens.
The garden visit was also made more enjoyable by having a pleasant restaurant and shop, including a garden shop, and a new exhibition centre which at the time was showing an exhibition of textile art and embroidery.