Samantha Mayling has horticultural inspiration on a trip to the RHS garden at Hyde Hall in Essex.
If you want to know your osteospermums from your aquilegia, or your salvia from your euphorbia, then the RHS has the answers.
After a day with the RHS at Hyde Hall, I know what these wonderfully evocative names mean – and how the flowers behind those Latin names would look in my own garden.
Thanks to Monty Don, Charlie Dimmock and other TV gardeners, horticulture is hip and it’s the remit of the RHS to spread the word.
Rob Brett, Hyde Hall garden curator, told me how the charity’s mission is to inspire people to get digging, and the acres of flowers, bushes and trees at the attraction are certainly inspiring.
After strolling up the gentle slope of Clover Hill – past the new winter garden – we had a panoramic view of the 360-acre site’s location among rolling hills.
Nearby, we saw the new Hilltop facilities – part of an investment of almost £8 million over the past three years – with the recently-opened Gardeners’ Rest restaurant and learning centre.
Hyde Hall welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year, including 4,500 children on school visits, and will be able to accommodate twice as many pupils thanks to the new facilities.
The restaurant catered for all tastes, with dishes ranging from traditional Sunday roasts to exotic, colourful vegan salads. My salad was worthy of Instagram and tasted as good as it look.
And ingredients for some of the meals came from another new feature – the Global Growth Vegetable Garden (pictured), which opened in 2017.
At its centre is an octagonal glasshouse, growing vegetables from around the world, surrounded by a circular garden featuring edible plants, divided into the continents from which they originate.
I now know what quinoa and aniseed look like while they’re growing.
Next door was the new Floral Fantasia garden, with more than 1,000 colourful summer bedding plants, displayed in pots, containers and hanging baskets.
It ends on September 30 but the attraction hopes to repeat the display next summer.
When we visited, Hyde Hall was having its ‘Rose Weekend’ with themed demonstrations, walks and talks – just one of many events in a packed annual calendar.
It hosts an annual flower show in August, woodland walks, ‘Taste of Autumn’ (October 6-7), Halloween fun for kids, and new for 2018, the Glow Garden Illuminations on selected dates in the Christmas season.
After browsing the fabulous rose displays, we strolled to the Mediterranean-inspired setting of the Dry Garden, showcasing drought-resistant plants, as Essex is one of the country’s driest counties.
Finally we perused the ‘Modern Country Garden’ and ‘Cottage Garden’ for a final burst of inspiration before reaching the shop and plant centre.
Armed with fresh information about plant names and soil types, I loaded up my trolley with pots for my own garden. And yes, I did buy lots of salvias and aqualegias.
Children (5-16) £5.75
Pre-booked groups (10+) £9.50 per person
Group benefits include free coach parking and entry for driver; free entry for group organiser; and private tours for specialist groups.
Call 020 7821 3170 for group visits.