30 years of Perch Hill: 6 lessons from Sarah

From plot to plate and increasing biodiversity to colour theory and the importance of biodiversity, Sarah shares her learnings from three decades of trialling and testing in her garden at Perch Hill.


the power of production 

For Sarah, when it comes to choosing what to plant in the Cutting Garden or Kitchen Garden at Perch Hill Farm, it’s all about productivity and getting the most from the space, no matter the size. 

As the name suggests, ‘cut and come again’ plants are exactly that. Varieties that, when picked correctly, will produce more flowers or will be suitable for picking again within a short space of time. 

With many different plants, the more flowers you harvest, the more healthy, axillary buds will form which signify the start of new flowers. Choosing ‘cut and come again’ varieties is a tried and tested method for creating the perfect cutting garden that will produce bold and brilliant cut flowers, well into the winter months. 

Whether you’re looking to start a cutting garden of your very own or an abundant kitchen garden, here are some varieties that are excellent producers… 

  • Dahlias – No summer garden is complete without dahlias for colour, impact, and production per square inch. Plus, all dahlia flowers are edible, scatter their petals on salads for flavour, texture, and colour. 
  • Mizuna - A slightly spicy Japanese green that is exceptional for spring, autumn, and winter salads. Its sharply serrated, bright green leaves look lovely in the salad bowl and can be picked year-round. 
  • Lettuce - In particular, 'Merveille de Quatre Saisons'. This is an old variety, with a big, open structure and beautiful, crumpled bronze outer leaves around a good small heart. This has an excellent flavour profile and is ideal for serial sowing, three or four times (from early spring to autumn,) for picking almost all year. 

get creative in the kitchen

There really is so much joy in harvesting your own homegrown produce and then using it to create delicious, fresh, and nutritious meals for friends and family. 

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply sitting outside for your evening meal, something as simple as incorporating fresh herbs into bowls of salad or letting high-quality ingredients speak for themselves is the key to success. 

Discover some of Sarah’s absolute favourite, tried and tested recipes, here

experimenting with colour

Bold and brilliant colour is the inspiration behind so much of Sarah’s work. And often, the secret to elevating even the smallest of outdoor spaces. Sarah divides colours into four essential palettes that can be used in isolation or blended with others to create a serious statement in pots or borders alike. 

Palette 1: Dark and Rich 

Incredibly decadent and undeniably rich, this colour palette was one of Sarah’s first true loves. Try in combination or use for turning down the brights - or why not incorporate just a few of these dark and romantic varieties, or plant en masse for unrivalled impact? 

Palette 2: Boiled-sweet  

Bold and brilliant – this is definitely one for the colour lovers amongst us. 

Palette 3: Soft & warm 

This palette is so fashionable, with a vintage, 1970s air. These are the cashmere jersey colour crew. 

Palette 4: soft and warm 

This is the chicest palette. Crisp and smart, like well-pressed clothes or elegant stilettos 

Inspired by over 30 years of experimenting with colour, Sarah’s book is a true masterclass on how to create stunning and colourful pots in every season. Learn more here

prioritising biodiversity

At our core, we believe in transforming gardens into havens for wildlife to thrive and are committed to working towards a greener future. 

Whether you’re looking to introduce bodies of water for birds, bees, and visiting wildlife or you’re adopting a loose and lovely planting scheme and allowing native plants to thrive, there has never been a better time to embrace nature. 

To find even more inspiration, listen to our podcast, ‘Grow, cook, eat’ arrange’. Here, you will find episodes with leading horticulturalists and ecologists who offer bright ideas for maximizing your garden’s environmental potential.

companion planting

A concept which truly blends the boundaries of environmental benefits and optimum production, companion planting is the simple art of planting varieties together for their mutually beneficial properties. This concept is used far and wide at Perch Hill, in the greenhouse and in the borders too. 

Here are some of Sarah’s tried and tested combinations for organic gardening at different times of the year: 

  • Roses and salvias – Thanks to the sulphuric scent profile and fungicidal of the salvias, we’ve found that our roses remain black spot and mildew-free. Underplanting your roses will make for a beautiful display without reliance on fungicides and pesticides. 
  • Tomatoes and tagetes – A true match made in heaven. The tagetes produce a chemical called limonene which works as an effective repellent against whitefly, meaning bigger more abundant tomatoes. 
  • Kale and alliums – Underplanting brassicas with alliums will help to introduce essential nitrogen into the soil and increase plant health. They will also add great flavour to the plants along with keeping many pests at bay. 

Looking for more inspiration? Discover some of our tried and tested favourites that make the ultimate companion plants here

the importance of experimentation, trials, and responsible plant breeding

Our plant selection is a recipe for success. It all starts with Sarah’s annual hunt for the latest breeding breakthroughs in the famous Dutch growing fields, followed by our own honest garden trials, conducted by the team at Perch Hill, to test for backbone as well as beauty. 

We have formed lasting connections with responsible breeders that, not only prioritise the quality of the tubers and plants our customers know and love, but also help us to discover varieties you simply can’t find anywhere else. 

In 2022, we purchased Rookery Farm, a nursery in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside, with whom we have built an enduring, 15-year relationship. Not only has this allowed us to high levels of quality control but it also allows us to experiment with sustainable innovation. 

Discover more by reading our environmental policy here