Courses & Events

Courses & Events

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The Creation of Sarah Raven's Garden at Perch Hill

Sarah Raven and Adam Nicolson moved to Perch Hill 24 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, they have converted the farm into 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 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 2 large cutting gardens. The original is used mainly to trial perennials for picking, and the second is the annual cutting garden where the 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. 

Dahlias and chrysanthemums have their own trial garden. Every year new varieites of dahlias go in there, gathered from Sarah's trips to Holland the previous autumn. Another garden is for testing new annuals from seed, seeing how many buckets they produce through the whole season per square metre and whether they are easy to grow. Sloped gardens round the school grow edible crops in an ornamental way and serve as trial grounds, as well as growing produce (particularly salads and herbs) to supply the school kitchen with home-grown fruit and vegetables.

There are also four 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) and the front farmhouse garden, which is designed to have a calmer feel, with perennials and roses in soft pinks and blues.

Two additional gardens include the rose and herb garden. The herbs are the best culinary varieties (advised by Jekka McVicar), and are picked for the school kitchen nearby. In the winter of 2016, the Dutch Yard was created. The well was reopened and the whole area bricked and filled with pots and classic Dutch yard plants such as hydrangeas and a mulberry tree.

There are two wildflower meadows, one of which contains a willow bed which combines a silver birch coppice to give a good wood supply to be used for plant supports around the garden.