Great Comp Garden

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British Gardens

Great Comp Garden in late July is a study in green.  The spring flowers have long faded and spindly Salvias, for which the garden is renowned, linger but, apart from one hot bed of red hot pokers (Kniphofia sp.) and yellow Dahlias by the old quiet house, this is a world of verdant, restful shades; yellow greens, green greens, dark greens and blue greens.

The weather is cool with a strong westerly blowing great grey slabs of cloud low across the sky. Cloud watching is essential to find the next splash of blue and the sunshine that promises warmth; when the patch arrives and the light brightens, comfort returns but never for very long. This is the great game of many an English summer. The bright sunshine against the dark clouds livens the garden; views that are monochrome mundane are at once interesting and entrancing.

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Conifers and heathers surround a clipped lawn creating a space of calm and contemplation.

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The old house half-hidden by high trees from the far end of the serpentine lawn.

There is nothing natural about Great Comp bar a few native broadleaf trees. The great majority of plants, shrubs and trees are imports and so, like most gardens, it is an ecological bomb site full of genetic interlopers ever ready to escape and colonise the monoculture of drab farmed land beyond. Most of the three thousand or so species don’t rush anywhere, but sit where they were sited in splendid and lonely isolation, far removed from their natural habitats located across the temperate regions of the globe.

That said, the garden like any other is a chess game of creativity fought against the largely pliant rules of nature; the result an idiosyncratic cornucopia. Gardeners are green dictators, albeit reliant on a streak of serendipity and fair play from the weather.

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The path to the Italian garden; formal squares with running water, high walls, sculptures and Mediterranean plants.

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Wonderful architecture: the hole in the wall.

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Hot border and old house.

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Red martagon lily (Lilium martagon var. cattaniae) against a flint wall in the Italian Garden; this spectacular species is originally from Central Europe and Asia.

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Blue Hydrangea varieties; originally native to southern and eastern Asia and America.

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Tall conifer, something similar to a Wellingtonia, and 17th Century manor house.

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The nursery behind the wall; where plants learn to live in straight lines.

There are a myriad of plants here: tall grasses are flowing and some plants are catwalk pretty. The lawns are sinuous and the borders bulging and buxom. A garden like this is not a wild habitat full of plain, uncrossed flowers with uninflated features, where anarchy rules, anything goes and the many surprises and disappointments of the natural world are genuine and always enlightening but a meticulous, prescriptive and confirmational art. The allure of coffee and a slice of cinnamon and blackcurrant cake in the tea room is overpowering.

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