Merriments Gardens are a little gem recommended to be by the kind gardeners at Sissinghurst. The drive to the nursery itself was beautiful taking me through arching woodland lanes. I like nurseries that have display gardens. In a commercial sense it seems to me every nursery should have one, even if it is on a small scale.
It is a living catalogue for plants and planting combinations. It displays the company’s landscaping prowess and plantsmanship. It invites people to the nursery for repeat visits. Combine this with a café offering a variety of food, from lighter bites to main meals, it seems a winning recipe.
It also begs the question of the nature of the commercial section of gardens, be they historic or private. Having spent time recently at Sissinghurst, their model made perfect sense. The garden has a specialist propagation department that produces plants on demand for the garden, and also for sale to the public. The commercial side being secondary to the garden. Having an in house nursery means the progeny and quality of plants for the garden never needs to be questioned. Biosecurity can be controlled. The commercial side brings in money to be reinvested in the garden, and the public has access to high quality plants, representative of a garden they are inspired by.
The only question with true specialism is the balance of multiskilling. I think it is preferential for everyone to be able to do everything. But that is the model in which I have been trained. We do find natural niches to pursue, as different people are better at different skills. So I guess good team work and collaboration is key. Also, it depends to different extents on the nature of the garden. It does interest me how many gardens could have improved nurseries, and how many nurseries could have improved gardens.
Anyway back to Merriments. The garden has begun to be put to bed for the winter, however I was kindly allowed to saunter through. At this late stage in the season there was still lots of interest. It gave me a chance to appreciate the structure of the garden, that belies it’s compactness. Some areas are defined into formal compartments, whereas others are found by a gentle sinuous pathways. The garden has a golden border, ponds and tropical borders, hot borders, a blue gravel garden, and a formal garden. The garden also has a strong ethos of providing wildlife habitats, shown in particular by a purpose built hide, in which a wild garden can be viewed.
The garden’s herbaceous borders have lovely planting combinations. Winding lawns lead the visitor through the mixed borders. Through a window in yew hedging one glimpses the formal gardens, with lovely symmetry heightened by grasses edging the canal. The garden is a miniature version of design principles used in other places on much larger scales. It could be thought of as platitudinous. However, although it does lack the grandeur imposed by large scale, it made me think that if done well, style should not be secondary to scale. It makes beautiful garden design accessible to more people and this I think is a good thing.
The garden has great structure achieved by neat planting with great balance. From trees to dainty rock plants the garden has examples of all with none dominating the space. For all the garden’s variety, my favourite space was an intimate compartment simply planted with red sedums and low growing grasses. Planted within gravel, containing a rustic roofed structure, situated in the corner of the gardens, I found this a perfect space for contemplation.