End of Month View – November 2014

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November this year has been wet and mild resulting in the weeds and grass still growing, even the drop of temperature earlier this week was short-lived and we are back to mild temperatures for the time of year and fog. Whilst I’m not so keen on the continual dampness the fog does add to the real autumnal feel which is nice as there are less fallen leaves in the garden this year due to the removal of the majority of the willow and some of the large prunus.

The hardy exotic border and new seating area remains my favourite part of the garden and I hope the plants are hardy enough to come through whatever this winter throws at us. I am hoping that it will be a mild winter and the plant will have another year to establish before they have to cope with prolonged cold.

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I am surprised at how lush the garden still is. The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border) is filling out and I am hopefully for a good display next year when the roses, aquilegias and geraniums start to flower.

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I worked through the Big Border last week, weeding and cutting back.  I want to move the Cotinus to the corner of the border in the foreground and I need to build up the log edging of the path but aside from that the border should look after itself now until the hellebores flower in the early spring.  I will cut the hellebore foliage back probably in late December.

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The other end of the Big Border.  I have also tidied up the border on the other side of the grass path and as I mentioned last week this is an area I want to tackle next year to make the planting stronger, it can’t get any weaker!  I have finally got the start of an idea of what I want to put in here and it won’t surprise you to learn it is foliage based.  I have a hankering for a dark-leaved banana or maybe as Rusty Duck has suggested a hardy Hedychium and this has led to me deciding to extend the hardy exotic planting from the slope behind but with plants that appreciate a little more light.  2014_11280005

The other end of the border I am talking about which has been much shadier but I suspect will be lighter now due to the willow being cut back so drastically.  The planting here is predominately foliage based so I think I will finally be able to make the whole border work rather than it feeling like two halves.

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The next area due an autumn tidy up is the original woodland border.  Again it will be interesting next year to see how the shade has been affected by the tree work.  I think I need to do a little re-jigging just to stop plants swamping each other but I need them to reappear in the spring so I can remember what I had planned to do. However, I am very pleased with how the changes I made to the back of the border have worked out this year adding depth and interest as well as height.

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Going down in scale the spring/patio border is at one of its low points in the year.  The late summer interest is well over but hopefully come early spring there will be lots of colour from snowdrops and other bulbs.  Saying that I have a sneaky suspicion that I meant to add more bulbs this autumn and if so I have failed to do this.

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The staging is still working hard and currently supporting the collection of pots planted up with collections of various alpine plants and the hardy succulents.  It is also hosting all the pots I have emptied of dahlias.  Last year I planted these up with tulips which were OK but I think I want to add some more permanent plantings in them so I have decided to leave them empty over winter.

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Finally the hardy succulent trough has been more successful than I ever anticipated.  The various sempervivums have bulked up and filled out.  However, I will be happier once my amateurish concrete repair mellows a little.

As ever any one is welcome to join in this monthly post and use it how they wish.  Some focus on one area of their garden and others the whole garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can come and visit you.

Embracing the slope

2014_05260038Sometimes you happen upon a speaker or hear a talk which causes you to have one of those light bulb moment.  Such an occurrence happened this weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference in Stratford.  The majority of the speakers talked about a particular genus – who knew there were so many species of Meconopsis about particularly parts of the world.  For me the speaker of the conference was Keith Wiley who gardens with his wife at Wildside in Devon.

I have known of Keith for some years now and the whole time my youngest was a student at Plymouth University I tried to visit his garden but its openings never coincided with my visits to the area and sadly it will be closed next year.  I have seen his work at The Garden House and read his book Gardening on the Wild Side.  I knew that he had created vast ravines in his new garden but I had never really understood the reasoning why.

Keith’s talk was about a broader view of the woodland border.  Oh good thought I, lots of nice ferns, epimediums and erythroniums which will make a nice change to all the cushion and scree loving plants in the talks so far.  However, Keith’s talk was more than that, it was about creating an environment to grow ‘woodland’ plants and how you do this when you are presented with a flat field with no trees and you have a love of many woodland plants.  The solution is to create the hills and troughs, banks and ravines that many of us saw him building on The Landscape Man and now it makes sense.  By taking this approach Keith has created borders which face north, south, east and west and by planting trees and shrubs on the tops of the mounds and banks he is creating shade.  As he explained woodland plants don’t need to grow under the tree canopy just in the shade created by the trees and shrubs.

As many know I have a sloping garden.  It probably slopes at 45 degrees.  I am so used to it the slope doesn’t bother me to work on but I do struggle with how the plant it and achieve the best results. I have never yearned for a flat garden but I have to admit having a garden sloping up from the house has, and continues, to challenge me.  Sometimes I almost feel paralysed by the borders and this leaves to dithering and inertia and dis-satisfaction in the result.

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So what has changed? Well Keith talked about mirroring nature in the borders and how he used inspiration from sights he had seen around the world and indeed in others gardens to create vignettes and views.  Admittedly his vignettes are equal to a substantial size of my garden and when I asked him later what he followed the erythroniums with in his magnolia glade he admitted that the interest in the garden moved to another area.  This is a luxury I don’t have, every part of my garden has to work hard to give as much interest as possible but talking with others and looking carefully at Keith’s photos I can see how I can use many of the plants I already have in a better way with the shorter geraniums underplanting the taller and more vase shaped woodlanders such as Maianthemum racemosum. I am also going to think about how I position some of my shrubs in order to create more shaded areas for my favourite woodlanders.

It is interesting as many of Keith’s ideas weren’t particularly revolutionary and I had heard and seen various elements that he was using in various places but somehow it was how he brought it all together, and of course his infectious enthusiasm, that really struck a chord with me.  As he said to me when we discussed his talk this morning – slopes give you so much more scope and interest and why would anyone want a flat garden!

So here I am home ready to plan and scheme over the coming winter and learn to love and embrace my garden taking into account how the slope and positioning of taller plants can provide different environments for my favourite plants.  Roll on the spring.

 

*The photos are of the Big Border back in May which actually looking back isn’t too bad and I need to do more looking back at photographs before I make any rash decisions.

Sheepish Pincushion – An Update

Originally posted on Nellie Makes:

IMG_0558I have been plodding along with the pincushion for a couple of weeks, albeit it only a few evenings a week.  It has been a challenge right from the start as I have had to learn drizzle stitch and also bullion stitch.

I have followed the instructions carefully and also watched the video tutorials on Needle and Thread which are great.  However, the ears have come out rather large I think.  My eldest son keeps telling me that it doesn’t have to be identical to the photograph and that it is my interpretation – how kind.  Whilst I like learning the new stitches I think I prefer the neatness and precision of the Jacobean crewel work I did two projects ago to this kind of project so I think I will be heading back in this direction once the pincushion is done.  It has been helpful though as I am…

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A Sheepish Pincushion

Originally posted on Nellie Makes:

I have finished the paisley cushion cover; I just need to sew it all together which I plan to do one wet weekend.  In my bid to learn more embroidery skills I have identified a couple of kits through which I can learn some new stitches and techniques, hopefully gain more confidence and feel empowered to start coming up with my own ideas.  I have mentioned before the course I was thinking of doing to give me confidence with design but I have decided that I will be trying to run before I can walk so this is my new approach which I am quite excited about.

First up is an embroidery kit from Lorna Bateman which will give me a taste of stumpwork, something which intrigues me, and teach me some new stitches such a bullion knots and drizzle stitches.  The kit also has the advantage of turning into…

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An Unexpected Arts and Crafts Gem – Perrycroft

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It’s funny how you can trek all over the place, even all over the world, and yet it turns out that there is a wonderful gem of a garden right under your nose and you had no idea.

Perrycroft turned out to be such a garden today.  Situated just over the Malvern Hills from me, nestled just below the ridge and with panoramic views of British Camp and out across Herefordshire towards the Black Mountains of Wales, the house and garden were stunning and I wasn’t alone in this opinion.

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The house was the first commissioned the renown Arts and Craft’s architect, CFA Vosey received for a house.  Vosey had started his career designing wallpaper and furniture and was very inspired by William Morris, Pugin, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and railed against the over decorative approach of the Victorians.

“Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences.” (CFA Voysey)

The white walls and green woodwork are peculiar to his designs and I was completely transfixed by it. The green works so well with the lawn and surroundings and really ties the house into its location.

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Adjacent to the house is the formal garden studded with topiary. I really liked the simple alternating approach of the blocks of sedum and grey foliage but more so that you look down into the square which gives you an interesting viewpoint and reminded me of the medieval gardens which had raised walkways around them.

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The topiary continues down into the next part of the formal garden.  You don’t really get a sense of the slope in the photograph above but they are quite steep and it is interesting that the owners haven’t been tempted to put in lots of horizontal terracing to tame the slope – in fact the box squares working down the slope actually emphasis the slope.

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The chickens are demonstrating the steepness of the slope in the shadow of their topiary cushion.  I have said many times before that I am not a huge fan of hedges and garden rooms mainly because I find them claustrophobia but this wasn’t the case at Perrycroft –  there was a luxurious generosity of space in each area.

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A sense of movement is achieved going down the slope with the repetition of key plants and colours as you can see with the asters and I like the way the verbena bonariensis is planted in front of the dark purple berberis hedge.

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There is a wonderful exuberance in the planting which is as generous as the space.  It is clear that a confident hand is behind this garden.  The owner, Gillian Archer, is very much a hands on gardener and is ably assisted by two full-time gardeners hardly surprising when you consider there are 10 acres to tame and manage.

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If ever there was an example of how wonderful a late summer border can look here it is.  The borders positively glowed with colour.

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As I have said there are 10 acres and aside from the formal gardens there is a woodland and also a wilder area with a chain of three ponds working their way down the slope,  a couple of wildflower meadow type areas, an orchard and a vegetable area.

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Throughout the garden are these very high back benches and I wonder if they are based on Voysey designs.  My research tells me that he liked to design the house including the furnishings and I understand that he partly designed some of the garden are Perrycroft.  It seems to me that the benches are reminiscent of his style.

The number of photographs I take of a garden are always a good indicator of whether I am enjoying it, am inspired by it or, as in this case, just bowled over.  When Voysey died in 1941 amongst the various tributes to his contribution to design and architecture was one from Pevsner, a German born art historian who commented:

“…he never regarded himself as the great artist whose genius must be respected and accepted without querying. He built what was to be useful and enjoyable, that was all. Hence the undated perfection of the best of his work. … his [pattern] designs were so perfectly balanced between stylization and love of nature that the best of them have, to my mind, never been surpassed. Voysey believed in a humane, homely, honest life, in simplicity with domestic care and comfort, and in leisure judiciously and pleasurably spent amidst trees and flowers. … the essence of his work and his personality does not belong to our age but to an age gone for ever.”

Perrycroft opens under the National Garden Scheme