Interview with Tom Hart Dyke of the World Map Garden
25th September 2015
As the old saying goes "Time flies when you are having fun." and Tom Hart Dyke of Lullingstone Castle has, for 10 years now, been having loads of fun (and hard work) creating a magnificent garden based on a World map, with each continent planted with plants originating from that part of the world. It is thanks to our temperate climate that so many plants can survive, regardless of where they are from, but some plants require a lot of tender loving care for tthis to be the case.
The garden is now really beginning to take shape, with more mature plants giving height to the garden. As each year passes the garden looks more and more beautiful, but the growth presents challenges. Here Tom answers some questions about the garden in its 10th year.
What has been the most labour intensive plant in the garden to care for and why?
Dendrocnide moroides "The Queensland Stinger" - also know as the worlds most dangerous plant on account of its viscious stinging qualities is the the most labour intensive plant. It needs high temperatures in the summer but not too much light - and burns in direct sunshine. So in late spring armed with gloves and protective face mask we move it to our hot cactus house and move the dangerous specimen back again when temperatures fall in autumn back to our propagation house - which is the warmest structure we have in winter. Red Spide Mite need to be controlled as does the watering or the plant will rot if overwatered. Apart from that - not too time consuming!!!
As the garden matures, do you envisage any problems with light, spacing, moving plants in winter etc and what will you do to manage this?
Yes, we have a major pruning and transplanting programme to carry out this autumn/winter with the growth in the World Garden going completely nuts over the last 10 years. With our polytunnels - lifting tender plants in the winter has become less of a chore as most are displayed undercover all year round. So we only have a handful of small tender plants to lift each year.
What is your favourite plant in the garden to date?
Currently, It has to be Puya retrorsa - commonly called "The Hummingbird Bromeliad" - a tender prickly pineapple relation that I collected in the Ecuadorean Andes - It's currently flowering for the first time anywhere outside Ecuador at The World Garden. It has gorgeous turquoise flowers.
As the garden is set out as a world map, do you have a favourite continental area within the garden and why?
Every week my favourite country/continent changes such is the diversity of what we're attempting to cultivate! But overall my year round favourite region is Mexico because of the architectural shapes of the succulents and cacti.
Which plant from your garden would you recommend to gardeners with average sized house gardens, who are looking for something that is low maintenance but has an 'exotic' look?
I love Salvia 'Hot Lips' which has been around for donkeys but is such a good doer what with its bi-coloured flowers and deliciously oily fragrant foliage. Such a low maintenance plant that flowers for months.
In the ten years of running the World Map Garden what has been the highlight so far?
There have been so many highlights - but for me its been the visitors reactions often gasps as they seen the transformation of an overgrown herb garden turned into a dynamically botanical Plantsman Paradise, in only 10 years. I get such a buzz from visitor feedback.
Has there been any plants that have been a disappointment and have not grown well in the garden?
As well as ornamental plants we strive to cultivate some well know edibles. But with very mixed results, the tomatoes always get blight, the chillies get blasted by our Kentish continental Heat and the Maize often turns into a powedery mildew mess - but hey you've got to have your dis-appointments!!
Over the last ten years you have been on many plant hunting trips overseas for the garden, which has been your favourite place you have visited and why?
I've made numerous trips to the Canary Islands and South America to bring back plants in seed form to display in the World Garden. My favourite place was Bolivia where I lay my eyes on the worlds tallest flower spike - "The Queen of the Andes" - Puya raimondii - But the alititude was knackering!!!
As the owner of a garden attraction, excluding your own, do you have a favourite garden open to visitors in the UK. If so which garden is it and why?
Great Dixter in East Sussex is a real favourite of mine especially at this time of year - with the exotic retina blasting look of beauties such as Paulownia and Dahlia
What are your plans for the next few years at the World Map Garden?
Lots going on: We're currently constructing a Tropical Orchid House and building a structure called 'Australis' which'll represent plants from the Southern Hemisphere. Also constructing a trio of termite mounds in the African section of the World Garden - like you do!!!
To find out more about the World Map Garden at Lullingstone Castle, Kent, and to plan a visit. www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk