Some of Phillippa Lambert's work.
GARDENING ANYONE seeing the warm glow of colour welcoming visitors to Robin Hill and Blackgang Chine might think a considerable amount of money had been poured into the gardens.
True, displays of this kind don’t come cheap but there are great money-saving lessons that can be gleaned from the displays, which have provided colour right through from June to now.
Garden and landscape designer Phillippa Lambert was commissioned by Alec Dabell, who has taken the reins of the family business and wanted a new, colourful, look.
The keen gardener had a vision and the professional relished making it reality and putting her own stamp on it.
Phillippa said: "Although these vibrantly exotic plantings are such a visual feast, there is a tight budget on which this richly woven tapestry is achieved.
"The dahlias and cannas are either protected in the ground with mulch each winter, or lifted when more are needed for propagation, by splitting, in the spring.
"The tender perennials — including some of the verbenas, venidio arctotis, plectranthus argentatus and iresine are held over the winter as cuttings that are taken at about this time of year.
"Keeping them on the dry side and just frost-free is the key to success, with little input of labour or heat. This is the cheap and cheerful way to a really classy look, with virtually nothing bought in year to year."
Phillippa relished the double challenges of Robin Hill and Blackgang.
She’s used to the constraints of public works schemes, which usually require low maintenance and of the "bit of colour all-year-round" insistence for private gardens but the brief to provide exuberant, show-stopping displays for nearly half a year was a delightful challenge and change.
The restored water garden scheme at Blackgang Chine was themed loosely on the idea of an exotic pirate garden.
There has been lots of imaginative planting to engage the adult audience but also barrel fountains, decking and ship’s rigging 'balustrades’ to provide a fun element for younger visitors.
The planting backbone of the schemes are exotic-looking foliage, from euphorbia pasteurii, cotinus Grace, tetrapanax and paulownias, which are pollarded each year for massive leaves.
However, the really stunning colour comes from rare dahlia and canna varieties, designed to complement each other, while flowering non-stop until the first frost.
Phillippa’s favourites are cannas Bethany, La France and Orange Punch, set against dahlias Magenta Star, Karma Naomi and Happy Halloween. Interweaving to link the themes together are carefully-chosen annuals and perennials that flower non-stop through a long summer season.
She especially values those in the purple and blue range, which contrast well with the hot colours of the cannas and dahlias.
Top of the list are geranium Rozanne and the larger verbenas, such as bonariensis, Blue Prince and Homestead Purple. Although the latter is one of the hardiest, even these are started from cuttings each year for best effect.
Also invaluable for their contrast of form, and stunning purple-blues, are the salvias — Amistad, an exceptional new hybrid — and Mystic Spire.