I probably have as many misconceptions about Essex as you do. It’s wall-to-wall tanning shops, vajazzling and golf courses, it’s culturally bereft… but of course neither are correct; I give you the RHS’s Hyde Hall and Basildon’s Depeche Mode as proof.

hyde spring 1
hyde spring pots
hyde spring tulips
hyde spring pot 3
hyde spring pot 2
hyde spring 6
hyde spring pot
hyde spring daffodil
hyde spring snowdrops
hyde spring 3
hyde spring seating
hyde spring 4
hyde spring Stachyurus praecox
hyde spring 5
hyde spring 2
hyde spring grass
hyde spring view
hyde spring 1 thumbnail
hyde spring pots thumbnail
hyde spring tulips thumbnail
hyde spring pot 3 thumbnail
hyde spring pot 2 thumbnail
hyde spring 6 thumbnail
hyde spring pot thumbnail
hyde spring daffodil thumbnail
hyde spring snowdrops thumbnail
hyde spring 3 thumbnail
hyde spring seating thumbnail
hyde spring 4 thumbnail
hyde spring Stachyurus praecox thumbnail
hyde spring 5 thumbnail
hyde spring 2 thumbnail
hyde spring grass thumbnail
hyde spring view thumbnail

There is one ‘fact’ that’s lodged in my mind which does turn out to be true. The county not only has the lowest rainfall in the UK, it’s drier than Beirut. So Hyde Hall, in this furthest bottom-right corner of England, has had to adapt accordingly, incorporating planting and dry garden techniques that make the best of this climate.

A wide variety of grasses, pines and Mediterranean perennials such as santolinas, phlomis and verbenas should give lots of inspiration for anyone with free-draining or poor soil.

However today, as the soil finally starts to warm up after months of that snow, it’s all about Spring…

And Hyde Hall is pulling out all the stops to cheer me up. Huge pots of violas greet me at the entrance and the potted show continues around the old farm buildings with massed groups of tulips and grape hyacinths basking in the sun. In a sun-trap hollow, a Spring garden is stuffed with hellebores, galanthus and narcissi nodding in front of an unexpectedly contemporary dry-stone wall of wire gabions.

As we wander further into what was once arable land reclaimed into garden, the garden gets looser; the black-stemmed dogwood Cornus alba Kesselringii, looped and tied willow and a magnificent billow of Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’. A stunning shrub, Stachyurus praecox, positively drips tiny lemon catkin-like pendants of flowers.

This woodland garden planting gives way to bleached grasses and native woody shrubs until that, again, fades naturally into the surrounding flat fields and big skies of the real Essex.

A natural beauty. Who knew?

Visit the website to find out more about the RHS garden. And New Life seems apt for the season…