I saw this posted on social media recently!
“Gardening is an art that uses ﬂowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas”.
It was credited to Elizabeth Murray. It really tugged at my own perception of how I garden myself. As someone who has no formal background in gardening of any sort, and one who, to be totally honest, struggles to ﬁnd the patience to grow from seed, this description best ﬁts how I tackle my own garden, Driftwood, and prepare it for the 2,000 odd visitors that come to see it every year! I’ve always said I’m a bit of an instant gardener, as I want the area I’m creating or changing to look like the image I have in my head, instantly.
This description of being a painter and using the plants as paint is something many have said to me over the years. Interestingly, many of the plants I’ve used to paint since 2012 have come from Thompson & Morgan. Looking back to 2013, two of the trial plants I was sent were Dahlia ‘Fire and Ice’ and Tulip ‘Silver Parrot’. The former was the most impressive ﬂower to set the borders alight with some dazzling colour, easy to imagine my brushstrokes creating this dazzling bloom. Likewise with the amazing tulip too.
In 2014 the standout bit of art for me was the stunning Gazania ‘Tikal Sunbather’, whose dramatic pointed petals really set the garden canvas alive on either side of the tranquil pond. By 2015 we took delivery of the outstanding Fuchsia arborescens. This was a much talked about work of art by many garden visitors, lots of whom had never heard of it. All were captivated by its elegance and its twofold purpose in the garden, producing amazing delicate ﬂowers to paint the borders or containers and then to turn into delicious berries that could be eaten.
2016 saw the stunning Petunia ‘Night Sky’ delivered to Driftwood. These were certainly one of the most talked about pieces of ﬂower art in the garden that year, I had lots of them tumbling out of my 200 or more containers and you could just imagine them painted on a night sky canvas.
2017 saw another gorgeous petunia take the crown for the most commented on plant in the garden. Like the night sky, you could just imaging an artist’s brush delicately painting the heart shapes across the ﬂowers petals. Petunia ‘Amore™ Queen of Hearts’ was a great hit.
Moving swiftly on to 2018, the outright winner in the stand out colour and longevity category, without doubt, was the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ that arrived and was planted into a large container. They started to ﬂower very early on in the season and never seemed to stop until the garden gate was closed in September and beyond. So, what artistic contributions to the garden will 2019 bring? Well I’ve got 13 diﬀerent plants being delivered by Thompson & Morgan this Spring, 2 are here already, Acanthus mollis and Alstroemeria ‘Summer Red’. But I reckon the stand out plant for me on the artist’s palette this season will be the Salvia ‘Amethyst Lips’. You’ll have to watch this space over the summer months to see how it turns out on my garden canvas!
Interestingly, back in 2017, a visitor to the garden posted this review on Trip Advisor after seeing the garden.
“The garden was a picture created by an artist – a delight of colours, secret glades of surprise, intricacies of fronds and leaves, inspiring and challenging, completely enjoyable”.
Read more of Geoﬀ’s garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £164,500 for various charities in 12 years, £109,000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Publicity Officer for the National Garden Scheme in East & Mid Sussex. In 2023, Geoff was also crowned one of the 500 Coronation Champions.