The drone of a lawnmower blends withe the burbling of a diesel on the harbour. The smell of mown grass mingles with the marine smell of mud and seaweed .I have temporary charge of a different kind of garden; a walled yard only fifty yards from the sea, where frost is unlikely but the wind is a constant presence. The walls give it more shelter than its neighbours, but the air is rarely as still as it is today. Indeed the pines and macrocarpas and holm oaks planted to shelter the seaside houses are in a sorry state: last winter’s gales burnt them a depressing brown. Some of the macrocarpas should be put out of their misery.
Most of the garden is paved, with slight changes of level giving raised beds. The planting is mostly low-growing, and today, with masses of aubrieta, pink and pale mauve, with iberis and a clump of lithospermum (lithodora if you prefer) starting its sharp sapphire stars, with forget me nots and a tiny pale pink geranium, it is almost convincing as a natural seaside happening. In a wall corner a choisya is entirely covered with its white flowers. Bluebells and borage have invaded a taller side border yet to flower. I have trained the long shoots of a rose, Madame Alfred Carrière, along the whole length of one side. A little wooden pergola will be nearly crushed by the end of summer under campsis, clematis, honeysuckle and a pink everlasting pea.
Last summer, with a meddlesome itch to add what the trade calls ‘accents’, I added a few plants of Verbena bonariensis and the silveriest of elaeagnus, a little multi-stemmed tree from Cedric Morris’s Suffolk garden. I remember how his walled garden had few vertical features. Irises of course – and this one little tree. Benton End was a much-travelled garden: Morris was always giving his plants away. His legacy lives on in glory at Beth Chatto’s. And much more modestly down here on the Solent.