Go West: Visit to a New Partner Garden of the Royal Horticultural Society

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Ruth Pavey walks the West Country in August to visit Midney’s new gardens and nurseries


Midney Gardens and Nurseries, Somerset
– Credit: Ruth Pavey

The West Country is a good place for gardens and nurseries, some famous for a long time, others just becoming so. Midney Gardens and Nurseries, Somerton, Somerset, is one of these, having recently become a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). David Chase asked RHS why his garden was chosen for this honor. The answer… that after a few incognito visits, they had chosen Midney Gardens for the variety and interest of its plantation in a relatively small space (about 1 acre) and for its originality.

There are indeed some quirks, for example, an old kerosene stove here, a bus stop there, but the eccentricity is not the main point. The subtle and exciting combinations of colors created by David are more prominent. He says he’s not a painter, at least only with plants, but he certainly has a good eye and a good imagination, and the skill to make plants work for him. In a series of interconnected gardens, with views of each other and green as a constant leaf, the color combinations change, for example, from deep reds and purples, to purplish blues, to softer pinks and peaches. with bright yellows and oranges. You might be thinking, what’s so special about it, that a lot of gardeners don’t evaluate their colors? Well yes, but not often so well.

I asked David how he started to think of a new planting pattern (patterns always change) for example, the bed we were standing next to, with its reds, deep reds, and brassy tones. The idea here, he said, had been to make a fire garden, a place to sit in the evening sun, cooking over a campfire (something that has yet to happen. ). Plants include Echinacea ‘tomato’, Zinnia ‘single fire’, Persicaria ‘red dragon’, red currants, black perennial blueberries, Dahlia ‘Arabian night’ and Rose ‘hot chocolate’. This is the garden in which the kerosene stove makes an associative appearance, peeking between the leaves. Fire is only one theme among many others, for example, white, oriental, seaside, gin, cooking, sleep, wild….

Previously, we had stopped at the entrance to the parking lot for David to critique his own color composition, deeming a dark blue agapanthus too strong against the tender green weeping grass (a wild grass already on the site) and a golden stalk too brilliant… “this garden is not as free and soft as one might think, especially the colors”. He often places the plants in pots to see what they look like before planting them. The offending agapanthus will likely be divided and potted for the nursery.


Midney Gardens and Nurseries, Somerset

Midney Gardens and Nurseries, Somerset
– Credit: Ruth Pavey


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David grew up in Lowestoft. His father worked at Birdseye, but Lowestoft’s employment opportunities dwindled just when he himself needed an apprenticeship. There was one available at the florist. So that was the start from which, with a few diversions in drums and vocals in punk rock bands, he made a career in horticulture, sometimes as a head gardener, sometimes with his own landscaping business.

The company was based in Reading but David often worked in London, especially around Bloomsbury. When the recession hit in 2009, he and Alison Hoghton decided it was time to head west to find a place where they could live and grow a garden. The property they found was originally built for a game warden, but a variety of activities have taken place there since. These include the manufacture of concrete cherubs, fence paneling, watercress production, quarries, all of which have left their mark. An old bus is reputed to be buried in the quarry, hence the bus stop standing out among the undulating greens of the wild garden.

A lot of work has been done to tame it all, but now it’s a very enjoyable place to visit, not least because of Alison’s cakes in the tearoom, and the ability to buy plants propagated there. Plan a little time, there is a lot to assimilate….

Midney Gardens and Nurseries, Mill Lane, Somerton, Somerset, TA11 7:00 am Open Thursday to Sunday, April to October

For more details visit midneygardens.co.uk

UPCOMING EVENTS, all worth a visit

Sat September 2 Plant Heritage, Grand Plant Fair, 10:00 am – 3:30 pm, Highgate School, N6 4 AY.

Sat September 2. Muswell Hill Horticultural Society Fall Show, 3:00 p.m., North Bank, Pages Lane, N10.

Sun. 3rd Sep Golf courses, Winton Road, N11, open for the National Gardens Scheme from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.

Sat September 9. Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society Fall Show, 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Free Church Hall, Northway, NW11.

Sat September 16. Highgate Horticultural Society Fall Show, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., United Reformed Church, South Grove, N6 6BA.


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