When we moved here 16 years ago, I hadn’t really considered what kind of garden I would have after growing roses and clematis in our previous rich river loam. I brought some plants here in pots and was horrified to see the stark difference between deep, black and humus-rich soil against what I perceived to be thin and nutrient-poor sand.
A closer look proved me wrong, at least in some areas. Although light and free-draining, much of the soil was neutral and the beauty of it is that you can work on it year-round. Another advantage was the sheer range of perennials I could grow. I was ready for a new style of garden, not least because of Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s inspired planting schemes.
I soon learned that a good helping of well-rotted would bring untold rewards, the downside being that it has to be done every year as it breaks down very rapidly. You can get away with less by applying a thick layer of the magical straw mulch called Strulch which is one of the best investments I’ve made in our garden, especially with the drought-like conditions of late.
The plants in this picture have lasted all summer long and are still looking amazing – see my piece in the Suffolk magazine.
Come November, some of the plants will be cut back, save the grasses and distinctive seedheads, and it will be time to add manure and home-made compost and invest – two years on – in another layer of Strulch.
The one dahlia in the border is ‘David Howard’, introduced and named for the much-loved Suffolk nurseryman who knew all about raising healthy plants and supplied so many award-winning garden designers at Chelsea and elsewhere. His daughter Christine now runs the very successful wholesale operation Howard Nurseries selling perennials grown on neutral sandy to medium loam.