Lullingstone Castle & Tom Hart Dyke

I was making my circuitous way through Wikipedia the other day and came across quite a gardening personality: Tom Hart Dyke, heir to Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent. Lullingstone was built in 1497, (not 1947, like I originally misread. Which would still be considered old in California.....sorry mum!) It was actually mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was written in 1085. So that's sort of old.
Villas, Saints & Herb Gardens
Besides the oldest stained glass windows in England, a chapel named after a ridiculously obscure saint (St. Botolph, patron saint of Botox), and an entire Roman Villa, Lullingstone Castle was once home to quite a famous herb garden. This garden was designed by Eleanor Sophy Sinclair Rohde (1881-1950), a well-known garden historian, designer and herb-garden fancier. Apparently it was grubbed up to make way for an idea of the latest Hart Dyke, something called 'The World Garden'.....
In March 2000, Tom Hart Dyke, in the style of the great Victorian plant hunters, was searching for rare orchids in the dark and dangerous Darien Gap, in Panama, with a friend. He had already traveled the world over, collected plants from far and wide. I don't know if he ever found his orchids, but they did come across something that knocked a serious hole in their travel itinerary: FARC guerillas who kidnapped them and held them for 9 months.

According to Tom, the thing that kept him going was designing a garden in the shape of the continents of the world that featured plants from all his travels. So, I can relate, a little bit. I mean, I used to design gardens to keep from falling asleep during boring lectures like 'Business Aspects of Horticulture', super-yawn. But here in the jungle, at gunpoint, we find Tom Hart Dyke trying to figure out where to put the water features. Wow. Now that's a hard-core gardener. And so as soon as they were set free, he did. Check out the link at the top of this post, the gardens looks amazing. And apparently he's gotten some plants to flower for the first time ever in the UK. His blog is funny- lots of exclamation points!!! I can tell he's passionate about his gardens. I'd be interested to see how his designs actually play out in real life, not just on drawings etched in coconut husks, or however he did it.

And did I mention that this guy is barely in his 30's? I feel like a massive under-achiever. I think I'm older than he is, and have never been heir to an ancient castle, not once have I hacked through jungles whilst stalking wild epiphytes, been kidnapped by guerrillas or razed famous herb gardens. Sheesh! I better get busy.
An End Note To Esther:
Have you ever been to this garden? Kent seems nearish, at least to my American measurement of nearness. But so does Scotland, so there you go.


b said...

wow! let's go

rosa said...


Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting bit of coincidence: when I jumped over from your blog this morning to Tom Hart Dyke's, the flower featured was the California Poppy! How fun to pass them now on the side of the road and imagine them stirring the excitement of British tourists--"Ohhh, lovely, that. How exotic!"
posted with a smile by lisa c

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Rosa . . . I was hoping we might see you in 2009, not have to wait until 2010!

I'm glad you wrote this post.

I heard Tom Hart Dyke on the radio several years ago and had forgotten about him until I read this. (It must have been very soon after he returned to this country.)

I came across Lullingston Castle (internet version!) a few months ago when I was trying to work out what kind of sage I have in my garden - but didn't connect the two.

I'm glad I read your post because, when I read about the international garden, I thought it sounded naff - but the context you have given it makes sense.

(Do you know the word 'naff'? I'm hoping you do - as a result of your time in Britain. I've tried to explain its meaning to Philip Bewley, a San Fransisco Blogger (Philip's Garden Blog http://www.philipsgardenblog.com/ ) but you might know a Californian synonym.)

How far is it from Dorset?


You'd have to be pretty determined without a car.

With a car - you'd need to stay overnight when you got there to make it worth the distance.

By the way - I know time means different things on either side of the Atlantic, but I think it was probably in one of the more recent centuries that Tom was kidnapped in Panama. 200 seems a little early, even by British standards!


Esther Montgomery said...

Ah! Now I understand!

I've taken a look at his blog - and he's a great fan of the Californian Poppy.


rosa said...

How silly! I wonder what sort of guerrillas were living in Panama in the year 200. I'll leave it to the anthropologists, and correct my mistake.
I always forget about the word naff. I don't know a proper Californian synonym. Bogus? Lame? That's some genuine Valley Girl/Surfer speak for you.

And about us coming over next year, I think I'll email you the particulars instead of revealing all in this (ahem) public forum!

rosa said...

Lisa! Thank you for commenting! I'm glad you finally got your feet wet! Yes, it's funny to hear about our CA natives, and how treasured and 'exotic' they are, when grown elsewhere. It's like me swooning over fritillaria meleagris, the checkered lily, which is a common British native. My CA poppies run wild throughout my garden, and I love them too. They are esp. amazing when seen growing amidst the wild pruple lupines, don't you just love it?

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.