A visit to Hyde Hall

This is the first of several posts showing some of the gardens I visited when in England to celebrate my birthday.  We arrived on 31st August; collecting the hire car was a bit of a nightmare as the one they wanted to give us didn’t have a large enough boot. In the end they gave us a larger car 4 wheel drive and comfortable so all was well; the time spent arguing plus lots of traffic on the way to the Dartford tunnel meant we almost didn’t get to Hyde Hall in time. The woman at the entrance said “we’re open until six but last entry is 5.00, it was 5.02! luckily she was kind and let us in, phew!

I wanted to see the dry garden, I’d seen it just over ten years ago; when I’d visited the garden and taken notes about the planting and been given a planting list (that’s not available now!).  It was interesting to see which plants had grown well and which had died.

This could almost be my garden!

This could almost be my garden!

Islands beds in gravel, now where have I seen that before?

Islands beds in gravel, now where have I seen that before?

There was more soil and gravel showing than I really like and there is evidence that changes have been made to the planting.

There were many plants I have in my garden, but also some things that wouldn’t take the Italian heat or intense sun. Drought tolerance is totally dependent on the temperature as well as the length of time without water.


I found it slightly strange seeing all the drought tolerant plants with all the green trees and fields in the background, but I’m sure no one else would see the anomaly.

I saw some lovely silver leaved plants that I must try to find.

Any ideas what this plant is?

Any ideas what this plant is? Sorry about the quality of the image, the evening light was lovely but difficult to get well defined images

These are the seed pods

These are the seed pods

We passed the formal border as we made our way out I was captivated by the beautiful yew hedges sculpted to form protected zones. I really liked the combination of tightly clipped hedge and free growing perennials.

Yew hedges used to great effect

Yew hedges used to great effect

Is that grass green or what?  It almost hurt my eyes, so very English even in this dry part of the country.

With exuberant planting in the protected bays

With exuberant planting in the protected bays

The tropical planting was also very impressive, but too high maintenance for me. The Anxious Gardener’s recent post about his tropical border looked even better; strangely I don’t have any images of the tropical border.

32 thoughts on “A visit to Hyde Hall

  1. What irritated me most about the creation of the dry garden was the fact that it cost so much to create it. I always feel one should garden with the circumstances not go through great effort and costs (not to mention sustainability).

    • Why was it so expensive to create. Beth Chatto’s garden that isn’t so far away was just built on the old car park. I don’t know what happened at Hyde Hall. I agree, sustainability is a very important part of gardening, or it should be.

  2. glad you arrived in time in the end Christina,
    I read this post earlier and was going to leave a comment but when I read the first comment from Annette and your reply I wanted to re think, like you I can see the almost ridiculous contrast between a dry garden and the green beyond, also in reference to Beth Chatto’s dry garden I was surprised to read in one of her descriptions of it’s creation that there is underground water running under it, which to me means it’s not excatly dry?? with the tons of gravel these gardens require I don’t think any of them are cheap, I’m talking UK not where you are, from what you have told me of your soil, and what I see of the conditions in your area yours is a natural dry garden, in the UK they are not natural, they are a bit like a fashion thing,
    thanks for sharing, I’d not heard of this garden before, I like the shelter bays, have a nice Sunday, Frances

    • Hi Frances, I should have said in the post that this is a RHS garden in Essex; it is one of the driest parts of the country which is why I think they decided to build this example of a dry garden here. But from the surrounding fields you can see there is water, and as I realise more and more it isn’t just the lack of water but how high the tempeatures are on a regular basis that make the difference. I haven’t read about the water running under the dry garden at Beth Chatto’s; but I do know it was built on the old car park, so on very compacted ground and I imagine that the water is probably an underground stream which would give water to the trees as there roots would reach it but probably wouldn’t help the perennials. I think I must write more about different garden conditions because when you read lots of blogs you realise just how much difference even a small change in temperature, amount of rain etc. make. Christina

      • yes I know Essex has low rainfall, the underground water at BC is a stream and she said it runs into the damp garden, I knew it was a car park and she described the soil as very stoney there, as you say it will only help the large plants, I agree the heat makes a big difference as the plants are put under more stress, interesting for me, is that some plants that tolerate drought, also tolerate strong winds as the moisture conservation works the same, but some do not tolerate too much winter wet, finding out how small differences can make big differences to plants is something I never even thought of when I started gardening but now has become an interest as I try to understand my own garden conditions, Frances

        • In the UK winter wet with not even very low temperatures is a big killer of plants in the UK. I already knew something about right plant right place but until I lived with such extreme conditions I really didn’t appreciate how ‘life and death’ it was. Gardeners in Southern England have a huge choice of plants that will thrive or even just survive, here and I imagine the same for you, the choice is very much smaller.

  3. I definitely would say your mystery plant is Baptisia, could be australis or one of the related species like leucantha. Common name is False or Wild Indigo. It is a slow-growing, long lived, and drought tolerant leguminous plant.

      • Yes Christina I think your plant is Baptisia australis. It is a lovely plant but doesn’t stand very dry conditions nor wind well. As gardeninacity says, it is long lived however.
        Having been to both Hyde Hall and Beth Chatto’s, I agree with your comments. Beth Chatto may have water in her shady garden, but her dry garden in Anglia is dry for the UK, and well away from the water on her site talked of above. Her choice to create a garden without water in the UK reduces need for water infrastructure – a great sustainable example rather than just a ‘fashion’ I believe.
        I garden In Central Otago, NZ where my rainfall is around 300 mm p.a. and occasionally less, and the wind is howling as I write. I am really enjoying reading your blog !

        • I agree about Beth Chatto creating her dry garden to be sustainable, Hyde Hall was also trying to show gardeners that you could create a garden that required no additional water. As I’ve said many times, drought is a moveable concept in the sense that temperature and soil conditions also have a major impact. Obviously not everything that grows in BC’s dry garden without water will grow in my much higher (and for longer) temperatures.

  4. Hyde Hall is the only RHS garden I have yet to visit. I think the combination of the pristinely managed lawns and the dry garden a bit strange to be honest – a garden with a split personality. 😉 It does look beautiful though. That was quite a whistle stop trip. Glad you made it in time.

  5. Lovely to get a glimpse of this garden, I’ve never visited before but do enjoy RHS Harlow Carr on a regular basis. How lovely that you received a plant list last time you were there! Must have been really interesting comparing then to now! Sounds like your first visit all those years ago might have given you some inspiration for your garden – lovely that you now have the real thing 🙂 I really like the formal sharp lines of the yew and the soft borders in-between.

    • When I visited before we were just about to leave for Italy, I’d even cancelled my RHS membership but that visit actually decided me to remain a member, I’ve never regreted it. I’ve never been to Harlow Carr.

      • Then I really must visit when I’m next in the south as it sounds like such a great garden. Harlow Carr is only 35 minutes from where I live, just outside Harrogate so membership is definitely worth it. I was there last weekend and I always find something inspiring. I can’t understand people who say they can’t take inspiration from garden visits?? It’s one of the ways that I learn and get new ideas. I was disappointed with Wisley this year though but it was still thought provoking and enjoyable, just not as enjoyable as some of the other gardens I’ve visited if that makes sense!! I’ve really enjoyed catching up on your posts today 🙂

        • Thank you, I do agree about inspiration from garden visits. I also think that I learn more about design and what works from gardens I don’t like because I have to think about why I don’t like them. It’s easy just to like something and then not think about why or maybe it’s harder to know why something good than why it doesn’t work.

  6. Hi Christina, I’ve come to you blog very late, but perhaps you can help me? I really enjoyed reading about your experiences at Hyde Hall, and your observations were very interesting. I too am designing a dry garden and would be fascinated to see the original plant list. Do you still have it, and is there a way of you posting it online?

    • I think the list is in paper form. If I can get it scanned into electric format I’ll post it for you. Obviously all the in my garden have to be pretty drought tolerant. If you look at any of my weekly posts about the slope you’ll see plants that thrive in the heat and dry without any additional irrigation.

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