The importance of yellow in the border


My small-scale quest to find examples of good late summer borders, and in particular mixed borders looking good now, has continued.  Hampton Court in Herefordshire is a pleasant cross-country hours drive from me and a garden I visit at some point most years.  I haven’t been this late in the season so it was interesting to see how the garden looks later in the year.


The walled vegetable garden was looking amazing in its own inimitable fashion.  I’m not a huge fan of veg gardens but there is always something fascinating as well as exuberant about Hampton Court’s garden.  They use a wide range of herbs and annuals to add colour and draw in the pollinators.  However this did not help me with my quest.


Although I was rather taken with the combination of the Chocolate Cosmos and the Nepeta above – another idea to take away and maybe use in my own garden.

2014_08270056For me the highlight of the garden is what I refer to as the Blue and Yellow Garden.  It always seems to look good whatever time of year I visit but I think late summer is its high point.  You can see there is a good mix of perennials in the double borders which lead to the wisteria tunnel and beyond.


Whilst I am always attracted to Inulas they are just too big for my garden.  I can say this from experience since I diligently grew some from seed a few years back and they took over the back slope and were a nightmare to dig up. However I do like the combination of the yellow and the blue and I think this could be a good theme for the Big Border at this time of year.  I already have some asters and a few rudbeckias so it is a case of considering other plants to incorporate which will also add to the interest at other points in the year.


Nepeta is a feature of these borders along with rudbeckias and they seem to add a rhythm to the borders which works along the long length but I don’t think I have space for that approach. Also included are roses, both yellow and white, and echinops which I had already added to my ‘to get’ list from my visit to Stockton Bury.


Interestingly although the border at first glance looks full of colour and flower when you look closely you can see that there are lots of plants which are no longer in flower but the vibrancy of the yellow draws your eye away from those.  At a recent talk by Rosie Hardy of Hardy’s Plants she recommended the inclusion of yellow in borders, even in small quantities as a highlight plant which drew the eye but also helped to lift other flowering plants.  I think in the photo above the rudbeckia really lifts both the nepeta and echinops.

2014_08270050I do like the use of blue throughout the garden at this time of year.  It seems to bring all the spaces together despite there being distantly different areas.

In the Italian Garden which is dominated by a long oblong pool the borders running either side are planted up with box edging and bay and in filled with verbena bonariensis, ageratum and I think heliotrope.  Again the blue and green work well together and I think it is food for thought that not all plants need to be in flower to provide interest and the green can be used to frame a small selection of flowers to draw attention to them and increase their impact.

Elsewhere echinops, eryngium and cardoons provide colour against the fading earlier flowers. However, this was not as effective as the blue and yellow combinations. So it seems that yellow is the way forward for the Big Border and learning from Stockton Bury pink Anemones is the way forward for the Cottage Border – luckily there is a path between them!



Posted in August, days out, garden, Gardens, My Garden, Visiting Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 27/8/14 – Eryngium alpinum ‘Blue Star’

Eryngium alpinum 'Blue Star'

Eryngium alpinum ‘Blue Star’

Posted in August, gardening, Perennials, Photography, Plants, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Pomegranate Flower Crewel Work Completed

Originally posted on Nellie Makes:


Back on the 1st January I blogged about learning a new skill – crewel work.  I have an inability to sit and do nothing of an evening so I tend to either knit, crochet, blog, or do tapestry.  Many years ago I used to do embroidery but always from pre-printed kits and I fancied the challenge of trying something more advanced and learning some new stitches.

The kit is from The Royal School of Needlework and comprises the fabric, thread, pattern to transfer and instructions.  As I said in January the first challenge was learn to transfer the design using pouncing.  I enjoyed doing this but then lost my nerve at the next stage which was the Trellis Stitch in the middle of the flower.

2014_08250002However, picked up the work again I conquered the stitch and went on to learn Burden Stitch, Spit Stem Stitch and Padded Satin Stitch and…

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Stockton Bury Gardens – August


Some may recall that earlier this year I set out to visit Stockton Bury Gardens, a garden local to me, on a regular basis.  I have to admit I failed to make a monthly visit for far too many reasons to bore you with and so I missed the high summer months.  However, today in need of an escape and some horticultural therapy I dug out my season ticket and returned.


As I think I said last week I really struggle with getting the garden to look good at this time of year as my preference is for spring and early summer plants so I am trying to visit a couple of gardens over the next couple of weeks which are open almost all year to see how they address this.


Interestingly at Stockton Bury the approach seems to be mixed herbaceous borders with some early summer plants and some later flowering plants.  Unlike me the dead flower stems are generally left in place presumably for a big tidy up later in the year or next spring.  I struggle with this approach as my obsessively tidy mind can’t cope with the idea

2014_08240043but I quite liked it at Stockton Bury especially the seed heads of Echinops and Eryngiums.  I have grown Eryngiums in the past but struggled with them falling over in the garden but having seen how wonderful the seed heads are I think I might try again especially as the bright blues will work well with the other colours in the borders.


I have also decided that I need some pink Japanese Anemones.  I have some of the white ones which seem to move around the garden depending on my mood but the pinks will be wonderful especially against the mauve asters which I already have.


Lots of crocosmias were in evidence and I have noticed that I seem to be bringing quite a few home.  Today Emily McKenzie slipped into my shopping bag along with a rogue Babylon that had slipped into the pot.  I love the vibrancy of the colours and will be following recent advice I received and plant them in moister locations than I have in the past.


If you look back at my previous posts you will see how the pillar border has transformed.  I’m quite taken with the Solidago but I think my garden isn’t big enough to accommodate yet another imposing plant.


Though the shorter varieties in this photo are quite appealing!

Stockton Bury Gardens might not be cutting edge in its design and some may not like the planting but the reason I love it is because it is a personal garden and loved and cared for by skilled plantsmen with a pedigree of plantsmanship.  I can relate to this garden as it is like my garden but on a huge scale.  Every time I visit I learn something, I see a combination I like, a new plant, or a plant used in a way I hadn’t thought of.  Every time I visit I chat to the owners and learn something from them.  They are generous with their time and knowledge and yes every time I visit I come home with plants.  Today I also came home with some seed pods which I had been given permission to pick.


I hope to squeeze in another visit before they close next month.

Posted in August, gardening, Gardens, Visiting Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A fine example of hedgehoggery


It is a family joke that my parents, especially my father, loved to dome shrubs when he was pruning.  I often despaired as to me the beauty of many shrubs is their ranging wide-spread form.

Over the last few days I have been seeking solace in Christopher Lloyd’s The Adventurous Gardener and reading bits of mum which amuse me.  The passage entitled ‘Some Reactions to Cutting Back’ made her chuckle too.  In it Lloyd discusses the differences between pruning and cutting back:

“Pruning is supposed to be for the welfare of the tree or shrub; cutting back is for the satisfaction of the satisfaction of the cutter. Some gardeners have a cutting back mentality..”

Lloyd argues that regular cutting back of shrubs which should have “branches laden with swags of blossom” turns them into a “kind of hedgehog on stilts”.  Mum and I laughed as this reminded us of Dad and his doming.

Shortly afterwards I went out to tackle the Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ which has been outgrowing its space in the front garden (see top photograph – taken in May). If we have heavy snow the branches can snap so I wanted to give it a good cutting back which I also hoped would promote more flowers next year since over the last few years the amount of flowers have declined.  The Grevillea has a very coniferous appearance with branches splaying out.  The shrub was completely dominating the border in the front garden which was fine but it had got to the stage were the branches at the back were beginning to obstruct the footpath and crowd the birch.


And the result? A dome much to my mother’s amusement.  A fine example of ‘hedgehoggery’.  However I don’t see how else I could have pruned it! I suspect I should have cut it further back as you should prune a shrub to smaller than the actual size you want but I was worried that if I went further it would look really awful. No doubt I will regret this decision and if so I will prune it again next year and be more aggressive.   I shall give the shrub a feed and hope that it will reshoot in a less dome like fashion.  Now to work out what to plant in the border in front of it which is a disaster.

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Yesterday afternoon my Dad, Roy, passed away.  He had suffered a major heart attack and cardiac arrest in the 3rd August at Worcester hospital. At the time we were thankful that Mum had sensed something was very wrong and had phoned an ambulance but now two and half weeks later there is part of me that wonders if it wouldn’t have been better for all of us if she hadn’t. He seemed to rally and was transferred to Coventry hospital to undergo a double bypass.  There was concern about his strength: he had prostrate cancer and had undergone some five hernia operations during his life, had terrible arthritis in his hands and had had two replacement knees.  The doctors waited a week and Tuesday was the day for the operation.  We visited Monday night and he was laughing and joking with us about the mobile we had bought him so he could stay in touch with Mum – Dad was very much still in the 20th century and found modern technology quite baffling.  Sadly what should have been a routine operation wasn’t and his heart failed and we lost him.

My Dad’s passion was aviation. On leaving school at 15 he trained as a draughts man with an aviation firm.  As time progressed he became a sales engineer in the aviation industry and when I was about 10 he took a big step and set up a subsidiary company of a French aviation firm here in the UK.  The company sold oxygen and fuel gauge systems to all the major aviation companies in the UK; of which there were many back then.  Interestingly whilst in hospital he met a chap with a similar background and they spent a jolly hour or so comparing stories and listing all the old aviation companies – I think they came up with 16.  He often lamented the decline of the industry in this country.  As children my sister and I grew up in a world dominated with aviation.  The names of all the major companies were second place to us, we went to the biannual Farnborough airshow on the opening day and were blasé about sitting in the ‘good’ seats while Tornadoes wiped past and Harrier Jump-Jets did their amazing stunts and bowed to the audience.  Seeing the Red Arrows display close up wasn’t an unusual event for us.  I even used to sit in the pilot’s seat that Dad had on his exhibition stand with a pilots oxygen mask on my head – how cool was I.

I often think that Dad would have liked to have had two sons rather than daughters.  My sister, being a tom boy, shared my Dad’s interests and spent time in her early teens learning to fly model planes with him.  As for me, well he tried, he encouraged me at the age of 18 to spend a week learning to fly gliders.  Not many people know that I know how to get a glider out of a spin and can land one – well that’s if I can still remember what to do. Outside of work Dad’s hobby was radio model planes.  He built beautiful models spending hours on the details. Once built he would disappear off to one of the flying clubs he belonged to, to fly his planes.  However, despite being a good flyer for one reason or another he sometimes came home with a pile of bits rather than a plane but he would set too and patiently rebuild the plane – I admire his tenacity.  My youngest son shared his love of radio model planes and Dad taught him to fly them and gain his first licence.  Sadly, Matt won’t have the opportunity to start building models again now he has finished University, only this Monday he and Dad started to talk about what they could build.

Dad was typical of his generation and found it hard to show emotion or even praise.  He often seemed in recent years bemused by the world and how it had changed.  Often trying to understand technology but laughing at his own inability to grasp it.   He worried about me not remarrying – to him it was wrong for me to bring my sons up on my own despite me telling him it was my choice; he would have loved for me to find someone to look after me.  We are alike in many ways and talking to Mum over the last 48 hours I have realised how much alike we actually are – in some ways this last 48 hours has not only been about losing Dad but understanding myself better.

The last five years were often difficult for Dad.  He never really came to terms with losing my sister suddenly five years ago but then I don’t think any parent comes to terms with losing a child no matter how old they are.  Two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and last September Mum had a stroke which although she is more or less recovered affected Dad and sometimes put a strain on their relationship.  I tried telling her that given that they have been married for some 53 years it’s not surprising they should disagree from time to time.  But stroke survivors often suffer from strong mood swings and despite knowing this Dad struggled with this aspect of Mum during the last 6 months.

Dad is the only man I have ever respected.  I love him very much and will miss him terribly even though at times he drove me mad with his fussing.  He was a kind, generous, clever, talented and had a lovely sense of humour.

Like my blogging friend Elizabeth I have been in two minds about writing this post but like Elizabeth this blog is a record of my life as well as my garden and so I feel a need to write this post however I am turning off the comments as although I appreciate them I don’t feel able to cope with kind words right now.


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Wordless Wednesday 20/8/14 – Colchicum

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