The Percy Cane garden
Percy Cane was an esteemed garden-designer of the 20th century, creating Italianate landscaping and planting for places including nearby Dartington Hall, owned by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst. When their daughter Ruth married Maurice Ash, and settled downriver in Sharpham House, the Elmhirsts commissioned Cane to work there.
In 1963, he drew up a geometric garden, using his trademark terracing, steep banks, cypresses and steps, for the couple, who later founded The Sharpham Trust.
Cane created gardens throughout Great Britain, some which are of national importance. He exhibited show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show over a number of years, winning multiple gold and silver-gilt medals. In the same year as designing for Sharpham he was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal - an international prize awarded to "persons of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the art, science or practice of horticulture."
The landscape at Sharpham is registered Grade II* by Historic England, with the area designed by Percy Cane contributing to the grounds’ significance.
The making of a refreshing tea-garden
The Sharpham Trust – the charity that operates the House and the Sharpham Estate – has a mission to connect people to the land. One way to do that is by offering food – and now drink! – that is grown on site in the Trust’s organic gardens.
Bryony conceived the idea of turning the Percy Cane gardens into a place where tea & tisane plants would grow and be harvested to make drinks for people participating in retreats and courses at Sharpham.
Thanks to £1,400 worth of funding from the Devon Gardens Trust and the hard work of Sharpham’s garden team, her idea's have been realised.
Bryony dug into the history of the landscaping, working with Sharpham’s archivist Polly Morrow. “We looked at the old plans that Percy Cane had drawn and although we don’t have any planting plans or any reference to the plants he wanted to use, we have the pencil drawings,” said Bryony.
She found that the original plans had not been carried out correctly, and so she devised a new garden that returned it to its origins and gave it a fresh purpose as a place for growing herbs for teas and infusions.
The plants there
Lavender ‘Hidcote’ plants, compact with deep purple blooms, are precisely planted around the borders of each 'quarter' bed, a traditional physic garden look.
Other fragrant and medicinal plants have been carefully selected, including Korean mint, chamomile, thyme, echinacea, lemon verbena and oregano. Rose bushes remain at the centre of each of the four beds.
Plants have been chosen for their power to attract bees and pollinators.
Work in progress - a video
The finished Percy Cane garden - a video
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