The gardens at Saling Hall compress into the relatively small space of12 acres much of the tradition of the English country house, its park and pleasure grounds. They have been created in their present form over some eighty years, by two owners. For the past thirty-seven years

Hugh and Judy Johnson have been restoring and enlarging the already admired work of Isabel Lady Carlyle, who moved to Saling in 1936.

Our contribution has been to maintain and adapt what we inherited, and to double its size by landscaping what was formerly a paddock and gravel pit, during World War II a camp and subsequently a poplar plantation. Since 1972 this has gradually become an arboretum with ponds and a temple. Now, in the 2000s, it is more of a woodland garden.


Saling is a garden of moods. Our philosophy in designing it has been to evoke different responses by deliberately enclosing or releasing the visitor in tighter or more open spaces, each with a mood of its own. Some are bright, airy, high-coloured, others romantic with the play of water in shadow, or tranquil with patterns of trunks and leaves. It uses sculpture as reference points to memories of the classical world or the orient. It uses plants for their intrinsic beauty and botanical interest, but also for the many different senses of place and mood they can contribute to a frankly escapist horticultural excursion.

You can use the website as a virtual tour of the garden, or just to visit out of curiosity. It shows photographs of twenty named areas changing with the season and lists the 1,000 or so permanent (more or less) woody plants to be found. There is a tree of the month and a plant of the week (most weeks) in either the garden or the conservatory. There are timely ruminations, in the manner of my old monthly column in The Garden, Trad's Diary.  There is a notice board for visitors to leave their comments and questions. To that extent anyone can join in. 

Welcome to Saling Hall.

Some facts and figures

Saling Hall Garden is 12 acres or 5 hectares of rural Essex, 300 feet above sea level on chalky boulder clay (including patches of gravel). Average rainfall is 23 inches, the highest since 1990 being 34 inches and the
lowest 16. The last winter with extensive cold damage to woody plants was in 1982. Recently frosts have been rare between April and November.

Two gardeners (beside myself) work here full time. Eric Kirby joined us in 1974 and Aileen Foulis in 1995.
Our approach is not fanatically organic, but what the French call ' utte
raisonnee ' or 'reasonable battle' against pests and diseases. Birdlife is rich and mammal life too rich (in grey squirrels, rabbits, muntjac and sometimes roe deer).