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Hot and spikey

PUBLISHED: 16:12 26 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:25 12 August 2010

GARDEN enthusiasts arrived from all over the country to witness the opening of a plant hunter s latest star attraction, writes Martin Sawden. Tom Hart Dyke, star of BBC s Return to Lullingstone Castle and Times Green Man columnist, unveiled the Hot and

GARDEN enthusiasts arrived from all over the country to witness the opening of a plant hunter's latest star attraction, writes Martin Sawden.

Tom Hart Dyke, star of BBC's Return to Lullingstone Castle and Times Green Man columnist, unveiled the Hot and Spikey house at his family home in Eynsford on Saturday.

He invited expert 'Cactus' Jim Earles, from Eltham, to officially open the feature started in December 2007 containing some of the rarest species on the planet.

Over 100 guests filed through the World Garden in awe of over 500 plants, some nearly a century old and many thought to be extinct in the wild.

Mr Earles said: "When you think all of these plants were put in place in just six days, it's an incredible achievement.

"Some of the species here you won't find in a collection anywhere else."

With a pair of scissors on his trusty Swiss Army penknife he cut the ribbon.

Mr Hart Dyke said: "I didn't really know what to call it, so I threw it open to the public and the response was brilliant, we had emails from all over the country.

"In the end we picked a great name Hot and Spikey, it sums up the new project well."

A stunning mural measuring 58ft by 18ft by Sevenoaks artist Will Jordan sets an atmosphere with dark blue storm clouds about to break over an arid pink sunset.

Five beds represent species from the African continent, South America, Mexico, USA and the Canary Islands.

Mr Hart Dyke said: "The star of the show is the Aloe Ferox from South Africa. It's a big beast, I brought it over from Billingshurst strapped to the top of my Astra.

"Barrel cacti donated by Jim have pride of place in the Mexico section."

An 8ft Argentinian Echinopsis Pasacana grown in 1922 had to be carried in wrapped in a blanket on a ladder.

Visitor Hilary Allen from Sevenoaks said: "It's very impressive, just shows what you can do with a bit of inspiration. I love Tom's enthusiasm, he is a good role model for young and old people."

Amanda Groom, 33, from Hartley said: "I read Tom's book about the creation of the World Garden, An Englishman's Home, so have been waiting for months to come down for this opening. It's fantastic."

* Lullingstone Castle and gardens are now open until September, check visitor times on 01322 862114 or log on to www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk

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