Perch Hill in Sussex is the home and empire of the divine Sarah Raven. Rather glamorously we met her just after we had been to the loo. It was a long long way to her place from ours.
The first thing she asked us what which colours we wanted in our wedding flowers. Totally thrown as we hadn’t even thought about this up until now, we suggested purples and blues and off she went. Our job today was to film a section for our episode which involved us getting ‘inspiration’ for our own garden. The film crew had kept our day out as a secret but we had worked it out and had been secretly thrilled for weeks. Sarah Raven has been a gardening icon for me personally for many years. She was the main reason I got an allotment, to grow cut flowers. I was envious of her lifestyle as it appeared to me, wafting around fields of pretty flowers picking them for the house. Of course, Sarah Raven the business is a different matter. However, we were charmed and delighted and simply blown away by her home and gardens. She generously chatted to us despite having several other commitments that day and was ultimately calm and cheerful.
We filmed all day, we talked flowers, annuals, choosing things to grow, pinching out cosmos. Firstly we were amazed by what she had to tell us about growing annuals. We honestly thought we had missed the boat for October as it was now late June. Not at all; big piece of news is you can sow seed anytime you like, just work backwards from when you want the flowers. This revelation meant we had a whole world of varieties to choose from which would just about make it to the first frosts. Sarah gave us a list and we scrabbled to remember it all. Second huge revelation is the more you pick annuals, the more you get. Again, we felt like floral dunces but so happy to realise that our wedding would be colourful and vibrant not seed head city.
We filmed some varieties that Sarah had picked for us based on our colour choices and then we were whisked into her greenhouse, well, green palace really. And then, Sarah Raven showed us how to tie the perfect bouquet. First she did it, perfectly, then she took it all apart and I had a go, almost perfectly. It was a real confidence boost. The varieties we used were; euphorbia oblongata; rose Rhapsody in Blue; penstemon Heavenly Blue; geranium Attar of Roses; salvia Amistad and cerinthe.
Then, Sarah Raven MADE US A CUP OF TEA. Well, she probably asked someone else to make it but she went and got it. So we stood around, drinking tea, looking at the beautiful view, watching the film crew fussing over shots and just soaking it all up in all its perfectness.
We had the most delicious picnic lunch sitting on Sarah’s lawn, talking and laughing with the crew and spent the rest of the afternoon filming more plant know how. We were given a tray of amazing plants to take home with us, the euphorbia and the stunningly scented geranium, enough to get us started. Both are still going strong in the garden, the euphorbia is superb and is the backbone of all my bouquets and the geranium has overwintered well in the greenhouse smelling stupendous.
We had a lovely chat with Sarah’s husband Adam Nicholson who asked after ‘Montague’ and asked us to pass on his best. We said we would of course. It wasn’t until we were well on our way home we realised who Adam Nicolson is (historian, Sackville-West stock, so well connected it’s painful).
However, we were empowered. Despite the chaos at home, we had plants to grow, flowers to find and a real structure to our garden as far as planting went. The bouquet we made was so beautiful we decided to use all the varieties in our garden and work around them. We needed to get on with making the beds so we could get some annuals on the go, and fast.
Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; It’s Beginning to Feel A Lot Like a Garden