THE HAMBLIN PLANT NURSERY
"I’ve been gardening for 40 years but never have I appreciated my garden as much as I do right now. It’s the smallest garden I’ve ever had but I wouldn’t swap it for the world at the moment.
Let me tell you a little about it. It’s a roof garden. I’m often asked how big it is and I’ve never been able to give an accurate answer. That’s because it’s an odd shape so impossible to measure. It’s basically L-shaped with some extra corners added on. We’re five floors up and the garden faces due south over central London but we also get magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Such exposure to sun and wind means I’ve had to choose my plants very carefully. I used to have a garden on the East Anglian coast and I think these conditions are very similar but without the salt. It’s also helped that for the last few years I worked with the famous plantswoman Beth Chatto while writing her biography and learned a thing or two about the right plants for dry conditions. It was impossible to come back from her marvellous garden and nursery empty-handed.
So there are two main areas – one that can be seen from the living room all year round and a larger area tucked round the corner which can’t be seen in the winter. This is a mixture of flowers, fruit and vegetables. This year, more than ever, I am growing for the plate (or the pot!). Cut-and-come-again salad greens, carrots, courgettes, French and runner beans, peas and mange tout, it’s amazing how many can be grown in containers plus the obligatory greenhouse staples of tomatoes and cucumbers. That’s where I grow my strawberries as well. A greenhouse on a roof terrace? Yes, the best birthday present ever. I can just about stand in it and turn round but it’s invaluable not just for summer veg but over-wintering my succulent collection.
I think many of us are finding that during this lockdown period, our gardens have never been better cared for. Since my husband and I have to be in total isolation, it’s the garden that is keeping me sane. From early morning trips to open the greenhouse door to late evening lingering smelling the roses with an appropriate glass of rosé to hand, I am so grateful for it and count my blessings every day."
Beth Chatto. A life with plants (Pimpernel Press) (Hot link - https://amzn.to/3dBdP2d)
Photographs by Nicola Stocken
Driftwood Garden, Seaford, East Sussex
as seen through the eyes of 6 professional garden photographers by Geoff Stonebanks.
"In 2012, when Driftwood was named as one of the four finalists in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition, the papers' picture editor commissioned a well known portrait photographer, Dan Goldsmith to shoot the garden. This enduring image of the green table, topped with a tea cup full of alyssum, surrounded by Shasta daisies, which are not fully out in this picture, was one of my favourites. This same year, the garden also won Best Small Garden in the UK with Garden News Magazine.
In 2013, the photographer, Jonathan Need had heard about the garden and asked if he could come and take a series of images. He was subsequently able to sell some, including this one to Garden Answers magazine, who commissioned an 8-page feature on the garden in their Chelsea, May 2014 issue. I still love this picture 7 years on.
In 2015 I got a call from Francine Raymond, who has a full-page column in the Sunday Telegraph. She asked if she could come and write an article for the paper. She arrived on a day when it was absolutely bucketing down with rain. Accompanying her was the world-renowned photographer, Heathcliff O’Malley. The intention had been to photograph the garden and place one of his images on the paper’s Weekend magazine cover. Needless to say poor light meant they did not come up to scratch but I love this portrait he took of me in the garden and the feature was amazing.
In 2016, Driftwood was selected as one of the 4 finalists in the newly launched Gardeners’ World “Garden of the Year Competition”. Well-known photographer, Paul Debois was dispatched to Seaford to shoot the garden. This was one of my favourites which actually appeared in Gardeners’ World Magazine in October that year. It was also published again in April 2017. This same year, BBC Gardeners' World also came and filmed the garden and Driftwood subsequently appeared in a 6 minute film on the programme in September that year!
The garden has, over the past 10 years, featured in many of the national newspapers. Brighton Pictures shot this picture in 2018. It’s an image of me in the garden that I really love. It appeared on page 3 of the Daily Mail in August that year, a year you might recall was incredibly hot and the feature was about my incessant watering in the drought with the headline “Droughbuster”.
Anyone who has visited Driftwood will know, my cakes are as infamous as my garden! Sadly Driftwood has not opened this summer due to the coronavirus. This gorgeous image was shot in July 2020 for a specific photo session, entitled “Tea For Two”, by the very talented professional garden photographer, John Glover, who asked if he could visit specifically to create this image. It is by far and away one of my favourites taken over the last 10 years!"
Read more of Geoff’s garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk and plan to visit in 2021
By Victoria Willson
"David, my husband, and I live on the sea wall in Emsworth so instead of a back garden we have the seashore!
My parents and I lived in flats until I was ten so it was a big milestone for us when we moved to a house in 1967. It was wonderful for us to have a garden to enjoy but none of us took more pleasure in it than my mother. Looking back now at my mother’s life, it seems to be that some of her happiest moments were in that garden. The pleasure she got from watching the plants grow and flourish was obvious to everyone but it also provided her with a space to just sit and ‘be’.
I have fond memories of returning from school on hot June afternoons after taking O and A level exams to find my mother waiting for me with a pot of tea for us to drink in the garden. Seeing the beauty of everything around us seemed to be a soothing balm after the pressure of a day of exams and a blessing to be able to quietly unwind and relax with my mother. The perfume of the roses, the buzz of the insects, the cooing of the wood pigeons in those late afternoons filled with warmth and sunshine all combined to make the garden a place of peace and serenity. It was as if time stood still for us as we sat in the shade of the pear tree sipping our tea – special moments to treasure."
Victoria is a trustee of the Hamblin Trust.