End of Month View July 2014


It seems like forever since I wrote the last End of Month View so much so that I couldn’t remember what photos I usually included so this post might be a little hit and miss.  I’ll start with my favourite part of the garden – the new seating area.  The hardy exotic planting behind the bench is beginning to fill out and the Cautleya spicata ‘Arun Flame’ is really adding to the effect.  My collection of ferns seems to be proliferating so much so that my mother has even commented on the number of ferns in the garden.  My intention is to add more to the back slope to the left of the bench.

2014_07300018The staging area is currently home to pelargoniums and my tender succulent collection.  It is slightly crowded as I grouped plants together on the patio to help my mother with the watering whilst I was away the other week.  You can also see that the dahlia is trying to climb out of its pot so I will need to do some staking this weekend.  The jasmine in the corner planted on the recommendation of readers has started to get into its stride and I am slowly beginning to guide its stems across the lattice-work.


At the shady end of the patio the Patio Border is moving into its second period of interest.  It is full of bulbs in Spring and now the Kirengshoma palmata is beginning to produce flower buds which should look stunning in a few weeks.  I need to cut back the Astrantia which has done its stuff. I am thinking of lifting and dividing it hasn’t flowered that well in recent years. I also think I need something here with foliage which will contrast better with its neighbours.


The Cottage Border isn’t quite as I want it to be at the moment.  I was a little unhappy with it last month and contemplated removing the Delphiniums which have been here for some years and take up a lot of space and crowd out other plants.  Since then I have decided that they are definitely going as I want the roses that were added last year to be the stars of the border.  However I need some perennials to plant around the roses feet and provide interest and I am thinking on focussing on foliage to provide year round interest but something that will have a floral season of interest.  I have been pondering various alternatives.  I want to keep the plant palette fairly small; it is currently roses, geraniums, delphiniums, aquilegias with the odd addition.  I have thought about foxgloves instead of the delphiniums but have gone off this idea as very tall plants have a habit of leaning in my garden due to the way the light works.  I have also considered some stacys which would compliment the purple sage but still I am dithering.  This evening I found myself thinking that bearded irises might be the best idea.  They would flower before the roses providing early summer interest and I think the border is sunny enough for them to do well.  They were here a few years back before the back lawn was dug up and then they got swamped in the chaos that followed last year.  Currently my irises are dotted around the garden whilst some have thrived others have languished.  So I am thinking of lifting and dividing them and replanting amongst the roses.  I will see if the idea remains a positive one over the next few days. Oh and maybe some dark sedums to provide late summer colour and contrast with the glaucous iris foliage.


So those were the better bits.  The Woodland Border is struggling with the dry heat we have had for the last few weeks.  It was looking good at the end of June if not a little chaotic but now many of the plants are losing the fight for moisture to my neighbours trees.  Once the weather cools and we have rain I want to get in this border and tidy it up.  There are a few plants that need rescuing from their unruly neighbours and I have still to finish painting the fence which I started back in the spring but life got in the way and stopped me completing the task.  Despite the border looking sad I am pleased to see that to date the Solomons Seal has escaped the sawfly which it fell pray to last year. I also need to add lots of mulch and organic matter over the winter to try to help retain moisture.


The former Bog Garden isn’t too bad.  The Cardiocrinum giganteum was spectacular and a complete surprise given I only bought the bulb this spring.  I am planning to collect the seed and sow it as soon as it is ripe and I am hoping that the bulb will produce bulblet so I have more lilies in the future.  I now need to look at the left hand side of the border and think about what I want here.  There is a Syringa here which isn’t very inspiring and as there are other shrubs I covert I am thinking of replacing it.  It’s a difficult space as the ground dries very quickly so I need to find plants that will enjoy the clay soil but also look good at this time of year when it all gets a little dry.


Finally the small succulent border in the front garden.  The sempervivums are bulking up and filling the trough.  I need to weed along the front and I am thinking of moving the lavender at the end of the bed and devoting the whole thing to succulents as to my mind the lavender looks a little odd.

These are the key areas of my garden, warts and all, at the end of July which for me isn’t my favourite time of year.  Hopefully by the end of August I will be feeling a little more positive about the garden and will have managed to take some areas in hand.

Anyone is welcome to join in with this monthly meme; there are no rules.  All I ask is that you link to this post in yours and that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below.


Posted in Cottage Garden Border, End of month view, gardening, July, My Garden | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 30/7/14 – North Hill, Malvern


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My Garden This Weekend – 27th July 2014

Dahlia Con Amore

Dahlia Con Amore

My friend Victoria has recently said on her blog it is good to get away from your garden for a week or so as when you return you see it with fresh eyes.  I think she is right. Having been away from home for a week and then feeling unwell when I finally got into the garden, even though it was ridiculously hot and not my kind of weather, I didn’t feel the same dis-interest as I did a month ago.  I do find this time of year hard in the garden.  I am more of a do-er so I prefer the Spring and Autumn when there are lots to do; I even don’t mind Winter as I can potter in the greenhouse or make plans.  But Summer I struggle with.  As I sit in the garden I seem to only see what needs doing and what isn’t working well and this is always a sign that I need to get away for a while.


While I have been away the dahlia have started to flower. This year they are all planted out in large pots as I filled their previous home with other plants.  They seem to be doing very well this year, even better than last year.  I have been following John Massey, of Ashwood Nurseries, advice and putting a little feed in whenever I water the pots.

It has been too hot to do much but I am known in my family for fidgeting so I decided to give the patio table and chairs a make-over.  They, like so much else, has been neglected 2014_07270008for the last year or two and were looking pale and dry.  So I have sanded them down and applied numerous coats of teak oil.  It was satisfying to do as the results are quite quick and I do like the smell of teak oil!  The wood has been given a new lease of life and looks, in my opinion, better than when I first bought them, as you can see the grain etc better.

So now the table has had a face lift the Table of Delights has been re-instated.  I have to admit that it was for most of Spring covered in seed trays but these are now all sorted or accommodated elsewhere and I am going to try very hard to keep it looking nice!  The current residents are: Eucomis autumalis, Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’ and Allium flavum.


I’m conscious that I need to start re-potting my bulb collection but in order to do this I needed to sort out the chaos that had taken over part of the greenhouse.  This morning when it was cool this seemed like a good idea but this afternoon the temperatures have soared again much higher than they forecast.  Anyway,  I have soldiered on and I am pleased with the result.  A number of aloe seedlings and other smaller succulents, surplus to requirement, have been potted up ready to donate to the local horticultural show in a couple of weeks. All the other greenhouse residents have had a once over and where needed repotted – some borderline plants have been planted out and told they need to toughen up and take their chances!!


The result has cheered me up and I feel as though I have some handle on things – well that is until I go up the garden and see the various brambles that need to come out and the dead acer that needs removing, and….. well you could go on for ever but this is what I enjoy about gardening; there is always something new to interest or challenge you.


Posted in Greenhouse, July, My garden this weekend | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Three go to North Italy – Isola Bella

Isola Bella

One of the places I was really looking forward to visiting on our holiday was Isola Bella; one of three islands in the Borromean Bay.  I had seen the garden on Monty Don’s Italian Garden series and was really pleased to discover it was just a short ferry ride from our hotel.

The palace on the island was originally intended to also have a casino, small villa or palace, higher up on the island when it was started by Carlo III Borromeo in 1630. However, it was his sons,Vitaliano VI Borromeo and Cardinal Giberto III Borromeo who dropped the casino idea and concentrated on the introduction of a garden to compliment the palace with the notion that the island should appear to be a ship sailing across the lake.  As you can imagine the Borromeo were, and are, a very wealthy family so why not think grand.


You arrive on the island and enter via the palace.  I was so distracted by visiting the garden, which as a partner RHS garden I got to use my RHS membership card to enter, that I hadn’t really considered what the palace would be like.  As with many Italian palaces and villas particularly in this area the furniture is predominantly dark wood and quite heavy and there is lots of marble which isn’t surprising as there are two large quarry mines on the shores of Lake Maggiore.


But entering this large state-room which was the height of the palace took your breath away.  Not only the size and height but the coolness of the pale blue and white after the darkness of the other rooms.


The ground floor or I suppose basement is taken over by a huge grotto.  The walls and floor are covered in mosaic patterns made up of pebbles of different colours.  It is quite bizarre and I found it a little oppressive.  The palace is still in the Borromeo family’s ownership and they visit in September – bit like royalty. But to the garden.  Having been directed around the palace you exit into a very classical italianesque space.


Up some stairs and then up and round another set with a tightly clipped hedge running on both sides.


Sadly I had missed the flowering of the Agapanthus in these pots but they must look stunning.  Then you are confronted with the extravagance that is the garden of Isola Bella.


It’s like a mad wedding cake on steroids with all the bells and whistles.


As you can see the walls have the same pebble mosaic as the palace grotto and was no doubt completed around the same time.  Unsurprisingly I was more drawn to the ferns at the bottom of the walls than the in your face bedding.


The edifice, I can think of no other word for it, sits at the highest point of the garden and 2014_07220186is surrounded by terraces which accommodate the slope.  Some are quite narrow (as above) and some are large.  This gives a good variety of spaces and atmospheres.  Moving away from the bedazzling centrepiece you find quiet areas of ferns and other shade lovers, huge bamboos and wonderful magnolias.  2014_072202032014_07220205There are also white peacock, of course, which strut around demanding food from visitors.

2014_07220170You cannot fault the horticultural standards of the garden, it is immaculate.  On the day we visited there had been high temperatures, for some days, but also winds and then when we were there downpours but there was hardly a leaf on the ground, unlike on the main land, and all the plants looked incredibly healthy.  Whilst this style of garden really isn’t my thing I found it interesting to note how they had used the different aspects of each of the four sides of the edifice to accommodate different plant needs.  So one side was a rose garden, another had citrus fruit, another rubeckias and yet another flowering shrubs.

But all the time you are distracted by the beautiful views across the lake to the mainland and its villages with their picturesque terracotta roofs and the alps in the background.  It was almost as though the planting had to be over the top to keep the attention of the visitor. The planting and statues certainly shout for your attention and personally on a bright sunny day I found it a little too much – even one of my son’s commented that he was surprised I had wanted to visit as he didn’t think it was my sort of garden.


Would I recommend a visit? Absolutely if you are in the area. It is a wonderful and exuberant confection of all things horticulture and brings a smile to your face even on the hottest and humid of days.









Posted in days out, Gardens, July, Visiting Gardens | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Three go to Northern Italy – Lake Orta

Lake Maggiore - the Borromean Bay

Lake Maggiore – the Borromean Bay

My sons and I have just returned from a wonderful week on Lake Maggiore which is located in the shadow of the Alps in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy.  I am constantly amazed that my sons still want to come on holiday with me and every year suspect it will be the last family holiday as they are both in their early 20s.  However, I think the reason is that we get on very well and it is more like 3 adults going on holiday together than a mother and two sons; and before you suggesting it is because they get a free holiday I should say one pays his own way and the other makes a sizeable contribution.   I did think I would cover our holiday in one post but having loaded up the first photos I think I will have to bore you over a series of posts as there are just so many views and images to share.

So to start with we were based in Baveno on the shores of Lake Maggiore which is less touristy than its sister lakes Como and Garda.  However on our first day we decided to visit Lake Orta which is the least well known lake and often referred to as the Cinderella of the lakes.

Isola di San Guilio, Lake Orta

Isola di San Guilio, Lake Orta

Lake Orta is  about 45 minutes to an hour from Baveno, west of Lake Maggiore.  I first visited the village of Orta San Giulio probably 10 years ago when I went to a friend’s wedding there and was completely captivated by the area’s romance and old worldly charm.  You get a real feel for Italy here as the tourist industry hasn’t got its claws in and you have to be able to translate the menus etc from Italian rather than been spoon-fed an English version.  There are lots of small villages/hamlets along the shore as well as grand villas presumably owned by the rich of Milan and campsites; so a real mix of scenery as you travel along.  The lake has been popular with many writers over the centuries including Lord Byron, Friedrich Nietzsche, Samuel Butler, Honoré de Balzac and Robert Browning and there is still a British run poetry festival in September.


However the highlight of the lake is the island just off the shore of Orta San Giulio which shares the village’s name.  The primary building is a Benedictine monastery with a Romanesque basilica which groans with frescos and sculptures and a pulpit dating back to the 12th century.  Work has been under way for some years uncovering the layers of frescos. We learnt that back in the 13th/14th century there were a serious of plagues and as a result mass had to be held outside in the open air to avoid people being in close contact. To try to prevent the disease-spreading the walls of the basilica were painted over probably with lime wash, or something similar, and the art work started again. Now the restorers have to task of deciding which frescos to keep and which to remove to see what is underneath.

Orta San Giulio

Orta San Giulio

A quick 10 minute hop across to the main land brings you to the village of Orta San Giulio.  The village is tucked in by the lake side and surrounded by the lower hills of the Alps.  As with many old Italian villages, and our Cornish villages, the roads are narrow and so cars 2014_07220057have been banned to a car park just outside the town. This has helped the village to retain its charm and character.  However, it was interesting to note the changes from my first visit.  There were definitely more restaurants and bars than before, I am sure we only had 3 or 4 to choose from and there was an increase in the number of small boats trying to attract business from visiting tourists.

We have a good wander around so I could find the tiny hotel I stayed in, the registry office and other places I had remembered.  Despite being a blistering hot day the streets and side roads were cool due to their narrowness and with the addition of the first of many ice creams last week we managed to keep cool before boarding the boat again to cross the lake back to our transportation.

Lake Orta

Lake Orta

Posted in days out, July | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 23/7/14 – Lake Maggiore from Isola Madre

Lake Maggiore from Isola Madre

Lake Maggiore from Isola Madre

Posted in Monthly photo, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 16/7/14 – Cardicocrinum giganteum

Cardicocrinum giganteum

Cardicocrinum giganteum

Cardicocrinum giganteum

Cardicocrinum giganteum


Posted in bog garden, Bulbs, garden, July, My Garden, Photography, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments