Ambrose Congreve’s planting style – at his Mount Congreve Garden – was very often designed to impress, to wow, to stop the visitors in their tracks and take their breath away and the Paeonia Borders do all of this in the most dramatic manner.
There are other similar areas throughout the garden – the amazing view over the tops of dozens of Magnolia campbellii in February, a scene unparalleled in any garden in the world; the Magnolia Walk in March and April, a downhill vista of about 200 magnolia trees; the Deciduous Azalea Walk, 150 metres of walkway bordered on both sides by flamboyantly coloured azaleas or the almost two kilometres of hydrangeas from August onwards. However, the Paeonia Borders provide the view and the impact which most often astounds the visitor.
It has the design benefit of coming quickly and surprisingly. One enters the Walled Garden and within a few steps it stretches approximately 70 metres in front, a view of fabulous beauty. It certainly stops visitors in their tracks for I sat yesterday and watched as they arrived, stopped, opened their mouths, put hands to mouth and gasped in astonishment.
The planting has an edging of catmint, Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’ which gives that unifying ribbon of light blue running the length of the borders; behind are the herbaceous paeonias – Paeonia suffruticosa cultivars – in various colours, whites, pinks and deep reds. Tall blue Delphiniums lift the eye at the rear of the borders to the roses growing on tall sways above – Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ and Rosa ‘ Veilchenblau’ though though ‘Veilchenblau’ is less obvious these days as ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ is so vigorous as to swamp it. ‘Pauls’ Himalayan Musk’ was brought under control over the last two winters – an unenviable task for the gardener – and this planting may perform as originally intended again shortly.
This annual display generally is at its best in the first week of June but is a little later than usual this year, despite our mild winter and early spring. It is looking splendid at the moment and will continue to improve for another short while – though rain is the enemy of paeonias!