The World Garden of Plants, Lullingstone Castle April 18, 2016 14:32

Tropical plants and succulents at Lullingstone CastleWhen you are confined to barracks for much of the week, knee deep in deckchair slings and the like, the idea of traveling off to far flung destinations is very appealing. While travelling the world is currently not an option, an afternoon trip to the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle is doable. Which is exactly where I found myself on Saturday afternoon. 

What a treat. 

Despite a very cold, damp day, the loveliness of Lullingstone was not lost on me. The World Garden is in fact a two acre walled garden, with beds and borders dedicated to various continents around the world. 

The backstory to its development is pretty sensational. Sixteen years ago, Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter had been held captive for nine months while plant hunting in South America. During his captivity at a particularly dark time, he decided, there and then, to make plans for the World Garden. When he was finally released, Tom set about making those plans a reality. 

golden barrel cactus at the World Garden, LullingstoneLullingstone Castle is a place and within it, a garden, in which a serious amount of hard work, passion and care are evident around every corner. The World Garden has made use of over 2000 unwanted tyres to replicate the rocky, mountainous climes of South America and beyond. Volunteers carefully tend the Garden, in which around 80% of the plants are not native to the UK. Several large greenhouses are home to a wide variety of cacti, succulents and tropical plants. Meanwhile outside the confines of the walled World Garden, the wider grounds are equally lovely - with an orchid meadow under development and some really pretty little woodland walks. 

At 2pm precisely, the doors to the castle were opened and we (myself and six other fairly soggy visitors) were welcomed and shown around by the current owners; Tom's Mum and Dad. They shared their knowledge of the castle and grounds with a kindness and hospitality that left a real impression. 

I came away from Lullingstone not just with a notepad full of lovely plants and trees that I'd like to consider for my own garden in the years to come, but with a real sense of admiration and inspiration from the place and the people within it. To me, Lullingstone Castle is a place full of contradiction. From confinement and captivity came the freedom and creativity to build a totally unique garden. The castle has a history entwined with kings and queens, but it is also an ongoing, hard working family home. And one that celebrates plants and landscapes that are entirely untraditional and unimaginable within our UK context.

This sense of contradiction, without a hint of pretension, gives Lullingstone Castle something else that is pretty unique: a genuine, charming sense of eccentricity. Perhaps contradiction is the wrong term - maybe it's all about balance. Either way, it makes for a really refreshing afternoon out... the tea and selection of cakes on offer are very nice too! Check the website for opening times, pick a warmer day than mine, add a picnic, notepad and pen, and enjoy.