The potting shed is lined with row after row of seedlings, painstakingly pricked out and potted up for the next big project later this year; digging up the entire length of the long border and replanting it with the aim of bringing back the individual characteristics of the flowers. A fantastic array of colour and mingling of flower forms at present, but a cosseted mass that Joshua Sparkes is keen to edit and refine; contrasting textures with structure, solids with lights and giving plants their own space to grow and perform. A real intimacy and beauty more pronounced when flowers are more singular in form.
In practical terms, this means a very busy October and November. Everything, including the dahlias will come out and will be split and divided. Maybe 500/600 or up to 1000 plants will come out of this. The dahlias will be split and stored in readiness to go into bedding pockets running through the design, but the rest will go in a new cut flower section in the kitchen garden, a higgedly piggedly array of herbeceous planting (the very opposite to the neat and orderly lines of vegetables grown by Olly) that will become a stock bed.
Starting again with a blank canvas, allows Josh to tweak and edit the design. There’ll be annual tulips and lupins and once they’re finished, they’ll come out and the dahlias will go in; successional gardening which is the most intensive and the most beautiful and the most highly rewarding type of design. The long border, Josh insists, must be singing from March right the way through to the end of October. It’s the spine of the garden, the backbone from which other pockets of the garden will reference.
Starting again, there will be room for the perennials to develop and empty spaces created around each perennial which become bedding rivers to put annuals, bi annuals and perennials used as annuals, allowing opportunists to seed freely and grow through the gaps. For the first time, we’ll be threading tulips through the long border. Because of the nature of Forde Abbey, pastel colours work best and it’s going to be very much black tulips, with purples and pinks and whites and blood red wall flowers: Pink species tulips, chionodoxa, muscari blues, creamy narcissus coming through biennials such as hesperis and verbascum, grown in bedding rivers with the bulbs pushing up through.
Follow the team’s progress on instagram.