A Burning Question

IMG_0067This time of year – January  and February is the time of year when Paul and I start to burn down our Sussex Prairie garden and people are shocked and stunned and always ask us why . So it is time to tell the story.

IMG_5740Why do we Burn our Prairie ?

Big spaces require big solutions and our garden is no exception to this . We have probably now over eight acres of garden requiring to be razed to the ground at some point over the winter months. More traditional methods in your average garden would include cutting down with secateurs, scythe or strimmer. But we have a different solution because of the size of the task.

Burning is a quick , clean and dramatic way of clearing away all the dead last years growth and solves the problem of what to do with the mountain of material created in such a clearance.

IMG_1260Because it is Fun and a little bit dangerous !

Burning the garden on a big scale is a whole load of fun too and is one of the tasks our volunteers love to lend us a hand with . Everyone loves a good blaze after all .

IMG_5854How do you do it ?

In ideal weather and ground conditions we prefer to be able to leave the garden standing all winter and allow the winter frosts and winds dry the stems,stalks and leaves to a crisp.This would mean that on a windy and dry day we could burn the garden in situ without further ado. A dramatic and scary solution !

This year has been a bit of an exception with major wet  and warm weather leaving many plants green in many parts and this means that they  will not burn fully whilst standing in place. So we have created the bonfire burn this year . This involves building mini bonfires throughout the bed on the pathways and  we have had to cut and burn as we go.

However the big clumps of grasses have been burnt in their place and what a roar of flame and crackle of fire ensued!

IMG_5847But what about the plants ?

people ask do the plants get damaged ..?. well they don’t because we do this at a time of year when the plants themselves are dormant . Their roots  and buds are safely underground and are not damaged by the fire which moves quickly overhead (thats why we need a windy day to carry the fire quickly and ferociously over the top of the plants) A good Wind and Dry weather is the key !



Running Wild

DSC06215when we look for that freedom of planting  and subtle touch of colour and texture we really need look no further than some of the planting schemes devised by nature herself .

DSC06206On the beach on the fringes of Napier, New Zealand , we saw some of the most wonderful combinations and hues artlessly put together without any hand of man involved. It is for this artless and effortless beauty that we all strive.

DSC06214Some of the flowers would open but fleetingly during the day in the sunshine giving a totally different scene if you happened upon them later in the day.DSC06209

Fergburger Phenomenon

DSC07730The Queen of Queenstown

there is a burger bar in town that seems to be beating all boundaries of culinary fare. I refer to the legendary Fergburger bar in Queenstown, New Zealand . A seemingly insignificantly tiny space on one of the main thoroughfares which attracts a wild horde of ravenous diners for the legendary burgers it serves from hour to hour . Legend has it the space only closes for 3 hours cleaning  before it is up and serving again from dawn to veritable dusk.

DSC07733Cue the Queue

Due to its extreme popularity ,it goes without saying that this is a place at which you have to queue to be served . Queue busters regularly patrol telling you how long you are likely to wait . Our time was a mere 15 minutes until being able to place our order with a follow on 15 minutes to receiving said order.

DSC07734What is the Fergburger  Love all about ?

it is a simple formula of course – all you need to do is make a high quality , delicious, and  outsize burger – slightly spicy -served in a homemade bun with all the salad and sauce you can handle. Make some tasty Fries to match and you have  a winning formula fuelled with a cult status to boot.



Our event 

on Saturday 10th October , 10am until 5pm  we shall be holding a creative day , as part of the Big Draw project ,making prayer flags for Nepal and raising funds to send to The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for the Nepalese Earthquake Appeal .This will go towards helping to the peoples of Nepal  to rebuild their lives and businesses after the Earthquake struck on 25th April 2015.

Big Draw Flyer (3)-2

Our Aim is to :

  • Make a vast display of prayer flags to display across a long fence in the garden which will be displayed in our 2015 and 2016 garden open seasons.
  • as well as asking for a minimal donation for materials from flag makers , and donating garden entrance fees ,we shall have donation boxes in place to collect funds which will be sent to the Disasters emergency committee to assist Nepal in rebuilding itself.

Making Prayer Flags :

IMG_4844Participants will be encouraged to use a making method to suit their time commitment and their preferred media (A4 size approximately) from:

  • Fabric painting
  • Fabric block printing
  • Fabric Collage / applique
  • Hand embroidery
  • Machine embroidery
  • Any combination of the above

IMG_4934Making methods will be simple. There will be lots of raw edges to suit the floaty nature of these ephemeral objects and participants will be able to complete in 1, 2,3 hours or take all day, depending on their level of interest and time availability. There will be at least 3 sewing machines available on the day to sew the tape onto the flags and for the more ambitious to add machine embroidery.


Base Colours of the Flags

IMG_1951we will be using the traditional Tibetan colors of the five elements:

  • blue for sky or space
  • white for air or clouds
  • red for fire
  • green for water
  • yellow for earth.

Top decoration will be completely personal to each maker and they will use recycled fabrics ,fabric paint/print and stitch if they want to. Whilst this event is in aid of the Nepalese earthquake disaster fund we want to promote joy, colour and hopefulness for the peoples of Nepal.

The Outdoor Exhibition space

IMG_2258will be a long fence at the bottom of the garden . All the prayer flags will be tied on to the fence to make a beautiful and moving display.They will be on display for the final days of our 2015 garden open season and then will return for our 2016 season on 1st June 2016.

Come and be creative and have fun and Send your blessings on the wind to the peoples of Nepal ! 



DSC05092(ok so its not a slug but a snail ! a slug proved too horrendous to photograph !!)

In the past two days I have been offered much sagely advice on how to deal with that stickiest of characters, the loathsome slug.

Both sets of advice were imparted to me with a kind of reverence and double  dip of the head as though these were trade secrets indeed. Let’s be honest there is not that much to endear slugs to you. That ghastly tutu frilled undulating skirt is not winsome and a reminder of a ballerina , no -more the reminder of a grotesque puppet show mannequin. And that attractive  leopard skin look is not visions of Africa but more visions of a ghastly drag queen soiree  in Belgrade.

The first recipe  involved copious bulbs of garlic , hot water and a judicious decanting and mixing of the liquor with water . The idea was to then water this mixture over the beleaguered plants and voila !  but questions arise from this already .. how many times do you water this in ? ratios of mixture to water..? another drawback mentioned by the partner of the sorcerer was the fact that you have to put up with your house stinking of garlic for days , whilst and during the miracle product is created.

The second recipe went for the completely chemical approach. The lady suggesting this anti slug remedy advocated the use of WD40 sprayed all over the upper and under side of hosta leaves . The Wd40 spray apparently works a treat and deters all slugs. Mention was not made about the long term effect on the plant !

This is the time for  Big Love in a small garden

If you are hunting for mini prairie inspiration then this is surely it . Our bijou jewel box of a garden is hidden just around the corner from our pay in bothy at the garden entrance. Not many people discover its treasures so I feel that I should point it out for  a special mention. While the big prairie landscape is all about brash and bragging on size , Charlottes garden is petite and shy and unassuming.Hidden behind a hornbeam hedge it is a little tricky to find and sits to the north of the main house.

DSC05067We designed and planted this garden with a lovely french  student called Charlotte  who came to do a placement with us  a few years ago. hence the name of the garden.Plants include Astrantia major Rosea,Allium Summer Beauty, Deschampsia cespitosa Goldtau, Pulmonaria ( a lovely pink one under the apple tree mixed with hellebores ), Phlomis russelliana, Persicaria Firedance  among others! Prairie mix in miniature .

DSC05065Here it is , shaded by its apple tree guardians and goose shed companion. In this garden we have tried to show how prairie planting can still work successfully but on a smaller scale to elsewhere in the garden. Groups are still generous but again it is important to use texture and structure of leaf and stem to bring about the unity and difference.There are no hard surfaces as all the pathways through the garden are made of wood chip.

DSC05064And in the lee of the house the hostas grow enormous !

DSC05063A sweet little place for secret assignations , intrigue and dalliance . make sure you don’t miss it !  It can be seen at Sussex Prairies every day except Tuesdays , 1pm until 5pm  until 11th october 2015

Saddle Up

New rustlers out on the New Frontier Border this week !

IMG_1567we were adding to the pioneer mix by adding in Angelica, poppies and the gorgeous dark purple Chenopodium.Now we are wondering who will triumph , who will fall .. so far little impact or swing to any party but I can see them flexing their pecs and tightening their belts. The spurs clatter menacingly  and the tumbleweed blows through.





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