Summer in the garden

Tom Whalley, Gardener Tom Whalley Gardener
The summer borders in full flower

One of the highlights of the season is Nymans dramatic summer borders which have been around since the Edwardian period. They're still as flamboyant and colourful today as they were when first created, with the focal point being the beautiful Verona marble fountain.

The summer borders are a mix of herbaceous perennials which tier down to a double row of annuals. We use fillers such dahlias and sunflowers and plant around 5,000 annuals into the front of the border at the end of May each year. The latter are all grown in the Nursery here at Nymans.    

Gardener tending the flower borders
Gardener tending the flower borders
Gardener tending the flower borders

June borders

Before the summer borders dazzle with colour and scale you'll be wowed by the June borders, planted and designed in the 1960s by the Countess of Rosse and renowned gardener Graham Stewart Thomas. They peak in June but can still be found flowering throughout the summer. The border is a mix of herbaceous plants, such as Euphorbia 'Excalibur', Geranium 'Orion' and Cirsium rivalare 'Atropurpureum' and summer flowering shrubs, Staphylea holocarpa 'Rosea' and Deutzia longifolia 'Veitchii'.

These borders, over 80m long and around 4m wide, run north/south in the Top Garden and were planted following the Great Storm of 1987. The sudden loss of many large trees, and the intense competition that they create for light and moisture, enabled us to contemplate planting perennials.

Hydrangeas peeking through a stone gateway
Hydrangeas peeking through a stone gateway
Hydrangeas peeking through a stone gateway

Hydrangeas

There is a long association of hydrangeas with Nymans because they are so suited to the soil type. Many varieties date back to the 1960’s when the Messel family was well known for showing blooms at both the Chelsea Flower Show and at RHS shows. The romantic setting of the house and ruins lends itself to large groups of mop-head and lace-cap varieties which can be seen on the main lawn.

As the Hydrangeas enter the autumn phase many of the leaves change to give vibrant autumn colours. The flower heads provide structural interest throughout the winter and can be picked and dried for decoration.

Elegant and bright - red salvias
Red salvias
Elegant and bright - red salvias

Salvias                 

Partially encircling the Rose Garden the Salvia beds (aka Salvia Triangle) contain around 40 different cultivars and species of sage, as well as some unusual flowering shrubs and trees. Each year half-hardy salvias are propagated in our nursery and planted out in late May where they join the hardier forms, the layout and design changing subtly each time.  

Salvias are in the mint family, whose traits include square stems and aromatic leaves. They hail from almost every continent and are widely grown for their dependability and ease of cultivation, but it is the striking range of colours and foliage of salvias that appeals most of all. Flowering in many-hued drifts from early summer right through to the first frosts, salvias are wonderful plants for late summer colour and are a magnet for bees too.

The South African meadow in August
The South African meadow in August
The South African meadow in August

South African beds

The South African beds are a celebration of the plants of the region, making great use of herbaceous perennials, bulbs, daisies and annuals to give maximum colour, playful textures and rhythmic patterns together with bold drifts. In keeping with the Messel family style they aim to have a theatrical element too. The South African Beds are an experiment in hardiness, with the aim to try and have fun, testing new plants whilst increasing the South African collection at Nymans. 

Nymans Terrace planting in front of the entrance to the House
Nymans Terrace planting in front of the entrance to the House
Nymans Terrace planting in front of the entrance to the House

The Terrace in front of the house

The planting on the House Terrace combines shape and texture, using hardy exotics and tender summer plants together with annual bedding, all against the dramatic backdrop of the ruined mansion. Instantly striking are the huge, woolly leaves of Tetrapanax papyrifer and the smooth, paddle-shaped ones of Musa basjoo. Adding contrast are the bronze tones of the large-leaved Canna indica purpurea and the palmate Ricinus communis. The architectural feel is further enhanced by the tree ferns and Aeoniums. More common plants have a place on the terrace too. Euphorbia mellifera and Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ both grow vigorously through their neighbours and annuals including Venidium fastuosum ‘Orange Prince’ add warmth of colour at ground level.