The Modern Herbaceous Border – Aubrey Barker

At our March meeting we were pleased to welcome Aubrey Barker.  Aubrey runs the  Hopleys Nursery in Much Hadham Hertfordshire where a large range of perennials, shrubs, climbers, grasses and trees are grown, many of which are not widely available elsewhere.  The nursery was started in 1968 and is set in nearly 5 acres of garden laid out in island beds planted with mixed shrubs and perennials.  The nursery is well known nationally for its collection of high quality plants and for its gold medal winning exhibits at Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows …

The focus of Aubrey’s talk was on herbaceous plants and by way of introduction Aubrey highlighted the changing fashions in herbaceous planting from the 1880s when the choice of plants was quite limited, the borders were large and deep, providing a  big show of colour in the summer but of little interest for the rest of the year, an example of this type of planting can be found at Arley Hall in Cheshire.  At the beginning of the twentieth century Gertrude Jekyll promoted colour co-ordination, ribbon planting and colour sequencing and examples of this can be found in the gardens at RHS Wisley.  The Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk developed in the 1950s by the Bloom family showcased greater varieties of plants from around the world and introduced island planting with paths surrounding the borders so that plants could be viewed from different angles.  More recently Piet Oudolf has introduced planting of grasses into borders and a good example of this type of planting can be seen in the gardens at Trentham  in Staffordshire.

So it was that following this introduction,  Aubrey began his slide presentation giving us an A to Z of herbaceous plants starting with Achillea and ending with Zauschneria.  We now know that there are 70,000 different varieties  of plants in the Plant Finder and that half of these are perennials.  Todays plants have been bred to flower for longer periods, are more disease resistant and provide a rich pallet of colours from which to choose.   Aubrey’s choice of plants for us to look at was far too numerous to mention here but he did show many unusual plants – new to most of us and talked us through the best varieties for various soil conditions and aspects.  He also gave good advice on propagation and care.  A few of Aubrey’s recommendations included Aster dumosus sapphire,  Astrantia roma, Brunnera  Jack Frost, Herbaceous clematis Roundway Bluebird, Cosmos chocca mocca, Dahia dark desire, Hellebores ericsmithii and Penstemon glaber.  The list was endless and certainly whetted our appetite for visiting the nursery at Much Hadham.

And here is a selection from Aubrey’s photos:

Talking of visits – each year the committee organise a number of trips to gardens and sites of particular horticultural interest.  This year we have places on two of our trips which we are opening to non members of the Gardener’s Association.  On 17th June we are visiting Helmingham Hall, a beautiful garden in Suffolk with herbaceous borders, deer park, fine walled garden and parterres.  The cost is £30 to include the coach, entry to the garden and buffet lunch.  On 16th July there will be an opportunity to visit Broughton Grange near Banbury.  This is an impressive modern garden, cost will be in the region of £25 which includes the coach, an introductory talk, tour of the garden and tea and biscuits.  For further details, or to book a place on either of these trips please contact Jeremy Arthern  Tel: 359166

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 21st April when Andrew Sankey will describe “A Year in the Life of a Cottage Garden”. 

                                                                                                         Linda Truscott

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