Sandhill Farm House Garden
National Gardens Scheme
2021 open dates
Entry £5 per person
Children free / No concessions
Afternoon tea available
Parties of ten or more people by appointment
Sandhill Farm House is the much loved home and teaching garden of Rosemary Alexander. It is open regularly to visitors from all parts of the world.
Very important as first thing everyone sees. Cut five feet off beech hedge and made arch – also reduction of height allowed more light into the woodland area. Screened car parking area by digging out trench and planting semi-mature beech trees Fagus sylvatica to be clipped to cubes,and underplanted with Panicum virgatum ‘Warrior’, replacing a holly hedge ‘pruned’ by deer. Ivy Hedera helix ‘Maple Leaf’ clipped as low hedge and keeps weeds down. Groups of Allium for spring. In due course may have a more interesting entrance gate.
Inside gate – the green and white garden. Here the white flowers show up beautifully in the evening, many white flowering plants being heavily scented so attract moths. Mainly topiarised Phillyrea, Podocarpus and Hydrangea quercifolia, underplanted with Narcissi, Tulipa, Nicotiana, Cosmo, Ammi and Orlaya plus Anemone ‘Honorine Joubert’ for autumn. Scent and pale colours show up against topiary when friends arrive for supper.
The ‘motorway’ or main entrance path
Very dry and sun-baked. Clipped box balls give structure all year round. Libertia grandiflora, Dianthus cruentis for butterflies and various thymes. Blue and white crocus and other bulbs come out in March. Lavandula ‘Hidcote’ planted on top of wall to separate from ‘woodland garden’, loving the hot, dry and well-drained soil.
The most difficult area of the garden and still far from right. Dry soil at the base of walls and no matter how much new soil and compost we dig in annually, it quickly disappears. Very dry, baked and thin poor soil at base of walls. Against house walls planted Wisteria, Rosa banksia ‘Lutea’ and Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Rosa ‘Crimson Bengal’and a vine on wall when I arrived which refused to die – most years it produces about 30 bunches of sweet edible grapes. Turned it into a ‘dry’ garden with euphorbia, salvia, yucca, and other Mediterranean-type planting but still work in progress.
The woodland area
Originally full of mature conifers and very dark so we removed most of them. Although woodland very small, curved paths and raised beds make it seem larger. Used peat blocks (which last forever) to build up contour levels of beds by about 3 ft… Reduced and thinned out canopy of existing deciduous trees. Also bought in large multi-stemmed silver birch tree to give instant impression of maturity. Bright stems of Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ and lots of bulbs maintain the seasonal interest. Kept little pond to attract wildlife. Many rare plants including ferns.
Large leaf border
Newest venture set around the peeling trunk of Prunus serrula – very tactile. I will have bluebells forever as so difficult to get rid of but I pull them out after flowering. Large leaves include Tetrapanax, Fatsia polycarpa, Rheum ‘Red Herald’, Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’, Tulipa, Canna and Dahlia in hot colours for late summer.
– A mistake although fish like it!
Reached from front terrace through an old garden shed with Perspex corrugated roof to let in light, the views of the fields beyond are in contrast to the front garden.
Steps lead down into the small kitchen garden, with circular summer house, raised beds and a yew hedge grown in a hurdle raised space. Bamboo canes are used as support for climbing beans.
Double rose border
Fifteen Rosa Princess Alexandra re planted on either side of paved stone path underplanted with Muscari armeniacum, Alchemilla mollis, Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ and T. ‘Queen of Night’ plus dahlias for autumn. Down either side, Pyrus salicifolia pendula are clipped to balls and show up well.
Leads into the view of the fields behind but as the grasses grow so fast, needs thinning out by digging and splitting up the grasses every 3 years. The grasses hold their shape well into late winter and in spring the blue bells Camassia leichtlinii stand out well.
Red flowered border
Inspired by the reddish tones of the brick wall behind, this border comes into its own in summer. On the wall, Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’ and Hedera ‘Sulphur Heart’. Shrubs include Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’, Physocarpus ‘Diablo’, perennials Bergenia x Eric Smith, Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with tulips for late spring and Ricinus, dahlias and other half hardies for summer.
Border running down to guest cottage
Punctuated by clipped Hebe vernicosa, the space between each is filled with wild primulas, cowslips, Hellebores, Hemerocallis, Euphorbia, Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ and random bulbs left over from previous seasons pots.
A walk round the garden takes just under an hour but there is plenty of seasonal interest and many rare plants for keen plants people.