Sarah Raven and Adam Nicolson moved to Perch Hill fifteen years ago from London. They found a rather ramshackle ex-dairy farm with a lot of concrete, corrugated iron and not much else. Since then, Adam has converted the farm to an organic 90 acres, putting in many new hedges on old lines, trying to encourage wild flowers into the meadows and introducing a herd of Sussex cattle, with Middle White pigs and a flock of Romney cross sheep.
The constant supply of favourite flowers, (cut hard for Sarah Raven's flower arranging courses) comes from the large cutting garden where the central four beds are filled with hardy and half-hardy annuals and biennials, with two or even three different crops in the same square foot of soil in one calendar year. The second growing season is manned by predominantly half-hardy annuals which take us through high summer into autumn, and some of these are replaced as they go over with biennials.
There are also two purely ornamental gardens at Perch Hill, not dedicated to harvesting – the Oast garden with an extravagant mix of colour and structure (salvias, cardoons, artichokes, brilliantly coloured dahlias, zinnias, gladioli, cannas, jungly corn and banana foliage) and the front farmhouse garden, which is designed to have a calmer feel. There is also now a willow bed which combines with silver birch coppice to give a good supply of wood to use for plant supports all around the garden.
The gardens grow enough produce to supply the kitchens with delicious homegrown fruit and vegetables at Perch Hill on open days, as well as enough flowers for Sarah's courses and to decorate Sarah's house and the demonstration room on course days.
Perch Hill is also the location of the trials for new seed and plant varieties for our catalogues – nothing makes it into our range without being grown here, and we only put in our favourites too!