About the garden
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
You can see Hyde Hall long before you reach the RHS Garden. It sits on top of a hill, surrounded by trees like a villa in Tuscany. The approach is so full of dramatic promise that it comes as a surprise to learn that 50 years ago the house had only six trees and no garden. In 1955 Helen and Dick Robinson started to convert the 24 acres of farmland into a garden and then gifted it to the RHS in 1993. Helen's first decision was to buy some 60 young trees at an auction sale in Wickford Market. She quickly became an enthusiastic plantsman. The garden she created around the Farmhouse was a triumph of cultivation which helped to create many microclimates: Eriobotrya japonica, and Pittosporum tenuifolium were grown in the open, Buddleja officinalis and Crinodendron patagua against a wall of the yard and Acca sellowiana against the house. The garden that the RHS inherited had much to commend it: masses of naturalised spring bulbs, a rich collection of roses, a national collection of viburnums and a striking collection of Malus (crab apples). However, it needed a lot of infrastructure to turn it into a garden that could welcome large numbers of visitors. The challenge was to convert an extensive private paradise into a garden designed and maintained on a scale that people could still relate to at home. This involved such improvements as re-working the long herbaceous border so that it had new shelter hedges of yew to divide the plantings into smaller bays. It also meant replacing the old with the new. The Robinsons had a particular passion for roses, but their collection was ancient and not in the best of health. Therefore, the RHS employed Robin Williams to design a new rose garden with both modern and old-fashioned roses including climbers and ramblers. As Hyde Hall is located in one of the driest areas of the British Isles, where annual rainfall can be as little as just 600mm (24in), the RHS took advantage of its location and designed and planted an extensive Dry Garden to demonstrate how a garden can be created without the need for artificial irrigation. It is a model of sustainability both for the region and for low rainfall areas in general. Large boulders and stone mulch give the impression of a natural rocky outcrop, similar to the natural environment of many of the chosen species. The plants are tolerant of drought, wind and high light levels and all are thoroughly garden-worthy. The Dry Garden has over 4,000 plants representing 730 different species and cultivars from around the world; many carry the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). Other recent developments include two Courtyard Gardens, a lake and the replanting and re-designing of the Australian & New Zealand Garden. On the wider estate the RHS started a programme to reinstate some of the original ancient woodland and since 1998 some 50,000 trees have been planted. Additionally, around 120-acres of arable farmland have been transformed into hay meadows to help increase biodiversity.