06 July 2011

The Next Big Thing

We are living through the Age of the Corn Cockle. It is the most commented on plant in the Terrace Border at Brooke Hall, both from visitors and in the press. This is not a demure border and there is plenty to look up at, down at and peer through. But the elegant and well-mannered Agrostemma 'Ocean Pearl' floats around all of it, bringing it together, like the perfect host. There are other borders, new ones, and they're fine, they're coming along, but they lack the nonchalant perfection which the corn cockle brings. Considered a 'noxious weed' in places like South Carolina, they are less noxious in Northamptonshire. The seeds were provided by the amiable American Derry Watkins, and her plants really make a garden sing.

But even though we are living through the Age of the Corn Cockle (above) we always look ahead. Despite all the new planting, new layouts and new roses at Brooke Hall, an old-ish rose has been grabbing the attention, possibly because it adorns its column so perfectly. It was here before any of us and its name is Creme de la Creme. A forgettable sort of rose-name until you notice that the petals really are like folds of cream, with a subtle yellow in the centre of the goblet-sized flowers.

The head gardener isn't sure where it came from. I suspect it is from Gandy, a venerable rose grower in Leicestershire which was a destination for people who liked to buy locally and didn't mind picking their way around broken down glass houses.* One of my leaving presents from the Observer was 'a rose' and I bought the appropriately named New Dawn. They really tried their darnedest at Gandy's to sell me a Creme de la Creme. It was one of their own, and it came very strongly recommended. I wasn't having it and still think very highly of my New Dawn (below), by the back door.

Now though I'd like to put a Creme de la Creme (top) on the front of our house, having seen it looking glorious at Brooke Hall. I also want to put it on the front of a client's house in Rutland: it goes equally well with brick or sand-coloured ironstone.

At a big fair at Brooke Hall recently thousands of visitors saw this rose and took note, as it was next to the talks tent. Maybe the speakers did as well. Its location could be crucial: the latest garden designer at Brooke Hall has admired it, growing as it does next to his rarefied borders. He has ordered some for his chic customers, in the Cotswolds and way beyond... It could be that Rosa Creme de la Creme is one of the next zeitgeist plants, just from looking so right this summer, while growing up a perfectly placed pillar in the East Midlands.

*Gandy's has since closed but the Gandy rose Creme de la Creme is carried by Peter Beale and David Austin.

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