Paul Seaborne's garden at Pelham Plants
Nursery owner Paul Seaborne’s passion for propagation began as a way of filling the exuberant borders of his East Sussex garden, but seeded the idea for a successful business. Words Benjamin Pope Photographs Éva Németh
Tucked away down a small country lane in the Weald of East Sussex sits a charming cottage. Woodland wraps around its eastern side giving it the feeling of seclusion that drew owners Paul Seaborne and his husband Glenn when they first saw the property 15 years ago.“We instantly fell in love with the place, and peace it offered,” says Paul.
In the early days of developing the garden Paul collected seeds of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) from neighbouring trees to grow saplings for the hedging that now provides essential structure and shelter. “It seems ridiculous to grow hedging from seed but the hornbeam grows fast here and enjoys our heavy soil. There is also something rewarding about having local provenance; a connection rooting the garden with its surroundings.”
Name Rose Cottage.
What A contemporary perennial garden that sits alongside the nursery Pelham Plants.
Where East Sussex.
Size One-and-a-half acre garden within a two-and-a-half-acre site.
Soil Heavy worked, improved Wealden clay; slightly acidic.
Climate Temperate Maritime.
Hardiness zone USDA 9.
As well as hedging, Paul also began to propagate herbaceous perennials to fill his new borders. “It was all about getting sufficient numbers to make a real impact,” he explains. He grew plants in such great numbers that he began to sell his surplus from the gate and at local plant sales, which not only generated a small income, but also sowed the seeds of a new venture.
Today, Paul runs the nursery Pelham Plants, which specialises in choice herbaceous perennials, propagated and grown on site by Paul and his team. His garden, meanwhile, has matured beautifully, gently weaving between and separating the house and nursery.
The garden feels exciting yet also relaxing, as curved hedges dramatically slice through the site, forming layers of shelter as well as discovery. Alongside the plants, places to sit and enjoy the garden are top of Paul’s list. These spaces have evolved much like the borders, selected by observing the seasons and the way light falls so as to maximise the enjoyment.
Late afternoon sunlight filters through the planting towards the western side of the cottage, making this the perfect vantage point to enjoy myriad illuminated flowers and seedheads.
Colour, shape and form informally blend in the borders at Rose Cottage. Here Pennisetum orientale ‘Tall Tails’ elegantly arches over a stand of Molinia caerulea ‘Dark Defender’ and Helenium ‘Fox Cub’, personally selected by Paul from his seed raised stock.
Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, Sanguisorba hakusanensis ‘Lilac Squirrel’ and Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ gently jostle, enjoying the protection of a hedge of miscanthus and a Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’.
A pair of Adirondack chairs at the base of one of the garden’s feature windbreak hedges, provide a resting spot to take in the view.
Rose Cottage gently slopes north and sits on Wealden clay, which on the whole creates cool growing conditions that reduce the need for watering. However, the retaining wall around the sunken terrace and cottage provide free-draining and warm conditions, where Paul grows echinaceas, salvias and other sun lovers that can be beautifully appreciated at eye level when seated at the table.
A network of partially hidden paths cross the garden, through gaps in hedges and between generous borders overflowing with plants. While giving access for maintenance and enjoyment, they also provide the visitor with enchanting options and routes of discovery. Bold hedges carve through the garden, anchoring the soft naturalistic planting and framing vistas to entice the viewer to discover what lies beyond, while seating offers the alternative to take a moment to sit and ponder.
Beneath a veteran red maple on the northwest side of the cottage is an old privy, beautifully nestled among Ageratum houstonianum ‘Blue Horizon’, Pennisetum orientale ‘Shogun’ and Penstemon ‘Raven’.
Throughout the garden Paul and Glenn have created several places to rest and take in the abundant planting. Surrounding this quiet dining area the ever-reliable Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ grabs attention from the developing seedheads of agapanthus and miscanthus.
A moment of beauty when the late summer sun begins to set, casting dramatic shadows and painting golden halos around flowers and seedheads alike. Here Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ dance, enhancing the natural feel of the borders, with a hedge of miscanthus forming a golden backdrop.
8 key plants of Paul's garden
Helenium ‘Fox Cub’
One of Paul’s own selections. Its unusual soft-orange flowers have a rich-bronze underside, with a streaky upper side to the petals that start yellow-orange and fade to amber-bronze. 70cm x 40cm.
Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
An attractive, semi-evergreen perennial forming a mound of large, palmate, apple-green leaves and spires of creamy- white flowers during late summer. 50cm x 50cm.
A refined pale-yellow, perennial, multi-stemmed sunflower with mid-green leaves and dark stems, producing flowers from midsummer to autumn. 1.4m x 90cm.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Black Beauty’
A perennial clump-forming grass with narrow, arching, green leaves and distinctive, purplish to black, bottlebrush flowers that appear late summer and continue
to autumn. 1.2m x 80cm.
Sphaeralcea incana ‘Sourup’
A semi-evergreen, shrubby perennial with silvery, lobed leaves held on numerous thin stems, joined by mallow-like orange flowers from summer to autumn. 1.2m x 50cm.
Kalimeris mongolica ‘Mon Jardin’
A deciduous perennial with fine graceful foliage and starry, white, daisy-like flowers that go on through all of summer. 1m x 40cm.
A tuberous perennial of great vigour rising to more than 2m with numerous lateral stems that carry the heart-shaped leaves and electric-blue flowers from late summer to autumn. 2.2m x 1.2m.
Here's everything you need to know about salvia
Helenium ‘Die Blonde’
An upright, clump-forming perennial with daisy-shaped flowers that have a large central boss. Its clean, rich-yellow petals take on amber tones as they age in autumn. 1.5m x 40cm.
Address Pelham Plants Nursery, Rose Cottage, Spences’ Farm Lane, off Common Lane, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BX.
Tel 07377 145970
Open Nursery open March to September, Tuesday to Saturday, 2pm-6pm, by appointment only. Garden open to groups of 15-25, by appointment only.
13 issues for £30 when you subscribe
Subscribe to Gardens Illustrated magazine and receive your first 13 issues for £30!
Transform your Garden- Special Edition
Transform Your Garden
This special edition features advice on designing your garden from the world’s top garden designers, including top tips for redesigning your plot or creating a new garden from scratch.
Discover eight inspirational gardens in town and country, and beautiful planting ideas for year-round colour. Learn how to make the most of a small space, how to cope with a slope, and the ten most common mistakes people make, according to professional garden designers, and how to avoid them.
Enjoy insights on everything from paths and parking spaces to wildflowers and water features, so that you can be confident in starting to create the garden of your dreams.
Just £9.99 inc UK p&p
Gardens of the Globe
From botanical wonders in Australia to tranquil havens closer to home in Ireland, let this guide help you to discover some of the most glorious gardens around the world