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

End of Month View – August 2014

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I have been off work for just short of two weeks and have completely lost track of time and the date so unfortunately the photos for this post were taken at midday when the sun was shining in my eyes so apologies. August has been very mild this year and wet and has, along with Dad’s illness and death, has meant that the garden has been somewhat overlooked.

I will start with the Big Border which I am really pleased with considering the planting was done this Spring.  Tweaking is required as there are far too many strappy leaves at the sunny end and I want to increase the amount of yellows, oranges and blues as the intention is that this time of year will be the real focus of the border.

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Conversely the Cottage Garden Border is having a real overhaul as it hasn’t been performing as per my imagination.  I now have a scheme for it which should have interest throughout the summer with some late spring interest.  I am currently digging up everything that isn’t in the right place or I have doubts about and then I am going to improve the soil and then plant out all the plants I have collected over the last couple of weeks.

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The Hardy Exotic Border is slowly filling out and I am pleased with the textures.  It will be interesting to see how it progresses next year and I want to add a mass of bulbs to give it Spring interest but I haven’t decided what.  My first instinct is tulips in reds and other rich colours but I am reluctant to do this as I am sure it will encourage the badger to visit and big up everything in the border.  I recently threw a load of tulip bulbs on the compost heap and surprise surprise the badger visited and trashed the place again.  I don’t want camassias as I have those in the Big Border so maybe a load of daffodils would be a good idea.

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The Not Bog Garden is looking OK but needs some work to give it more structure and definition. I am still pondering this but I feel a shrub is needed in the gap to the left.

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I am really pleased with the original woodland border this year.  I had been frustrated with it as after the spring bulbs and flowers it looked flat and uninteresting.  This spring I added a large persicaria from elsewhere and repositioned a shrub and this height at the back of the border has made a huge difference and added lots of interest.  In fact it has gone a little too far the other way and I need to reposition some of the original plants.

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I am also pleased with succulent border under one of the front windows but I still have to get rid of the dandelions! The sempervivums have really bulked up in the trough and I am now thinking of adding more around it.

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Nipping back round to the patio the Patio Border is entering its late summer period when the Kirengeshoma palmata comes into its own.  I need to reposition the Edgeworthia to the left of the border to balance it out better and add some more bulbs for spring.

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Finally the Staging area is at capacity with pelargoniums and succulents enjoying the last of summer.  I need to do more weeding here and remove the Mind your Business Plant yet again – never by this plant you will regret it!

So there we are at the end of August.  Not as much progress with projects as I had hoped when I wrote this post in July but then life has a habit of throwing curve balls and there isn’t anything that can’t wait.

Everyone is welcome to join in with this meme and I love visiting all your gardens to see what you are up to.  You can use the meme as you want whether its to look at one area over a period of time or just to have a tour of the garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in yours and put a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find each other.  Have fun.

Stockton Bury Gardens – August

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

My Garden this Weekend 17/8/14 – A Warts & All Tour

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I have weeded, dead-headed, cut back and generally given the garden a good sort out this weekend and during the evenings last week.  It was long overdue and the chaos that has been irritating me for weeks, if not months, is as a result of holidays, other commitments and weather either heavy rain or a heatwave.  I garden to relax, to de-stress and the lack of time I have had outside has taken a toil on me, the garden and the blog.  Anyway, as its all tidy, in fact over tidy, I thought I would take you on a warts and all tour.  I did a tour around this time last year and looking back I can see I have done some of the things I said but not others – some areas have improved and others not.

2014_08170020 We will start the tour by entering the back garden via the side path and you will see the ridiculous amount of seed trays and pots of seedlings I have.  I have been saying to online friends recently that I need to stop buying seeds.  ‘No’ they say, there is always room for seeds but to be honest I seem to have lost the fascination with growing things from seed.  I am sure it will come back at some point but I feel a real need to regroup at the moment.

Going round the corner we are on the patio with is long and thin and runs along the back of the house.  There are borders either side of the greenhouse between the patio and wall.  These were the first places planted up and have had a few changes over the eleven years we have been there but I am pretty happy with them now.

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I am especially pleased with the fern border as I love the textures here and most of the ferns are evergreen so it even looks Ok in the winter.

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At the end of the patio we find the steps up to the back garden and just to the right is the staging which appears every month in the End of Month View.  The steps are quite narrow 2014_08170030and are the only access to the back garden so everything – plants, compost etc have to be dragged up here by hand; wheelbarrows are useless.

The gravel steps, at the top of the steep steps,  which were finished last year have been a boon. When we moved in this was all grass, in fact the garden was mainly grass, and there was a path of large paving slabs which sloped with the angle of the garden and were really slippery.

If you stand at the top of the steep steps before the gravel steps and turn left you have the newish path that runs between the ‘Cottage Border’ and the ‘Big Border.  This was put in as an access path but I use it more than any other path in the garden and its the cat’s favourite place to sunbath.

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The Cottage Border has been the focus of much irritation over the last few months.  You may recall that it has been home to a collection of delphiniums which looked wonderful.  However, they only flowered for a couple of weeks and the foliage and size of the plants were smothering everything around them and then when the stems were cut down large holes in the border appeared.  I made the decision to take them out as they were boring me!  Today they were lifted and the border tidied and sorted.  I have a collection of plants waiting to go in which should add texture and foliage interest and compliment the roses.

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Big gaps in the borders have appeared which made me smile as I have been saying for a while I don’t have any more room.  However, I want to think through my options carefully.  I have had a range of plants in this area and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do messy or the billowing prairie/grass look – I am too much of a neat nick. The plants I love are ferns, roses, irises, epimediums, peonies and bulbs such as narcissus and crocus and I think I need to focus on these more.

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As the path curves up to the right you come to the original woodland border.  This is the first year I have been pleased with it – I am such a tough critic.  I have been mentally stuck with having small short woodland plants in this area which are great in the spring but dull the rest of the year.  This spring I moved things around and added some large plants

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including melianthus, some asters, persicaria and euphorbia.  They have given the border substance (although the persicaria really needs reducing before it engulfs its neighbours).  This is the sort of planting I enjoy and am trying to replicate elsewhere in the garden. The

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path brings you to an area of sadness.  Here was an Acer that my sons and late sister bought for me some years back.  It has looked stunning for years but for some reason that I cannot fathom it died this winter.  This weekend we pulled it out and it has left a large gap in the border.  You can see how dry the soil is and this is due to the neighbour’s trees whose roots fill this area.  Interestingly though the fatsia planted two years ago just the left of the photo is going great guns.  Turning our back to this area we have the grass path in front of us which runs along the other side of the Big Border to the first path.  On the left of the path is the front of the Not Very Bog Border and this is another area I struggle with.

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I am pleased with the Big Border – I need to add some shorter plants along the edges to hide the legs of the asters etc and I need to sort out the far end as there are too many strappy leaves here so its all a little samey.  I have some ideas I just need to implement them.

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This is the most, probably, troublesome area.  The ground gets quite dry here and I have been trying to find a character for it for years.  In fact I said the same a year ago when I did the tour of the garden.  There are some rusty foxgloves which do well here and also ferns but then, as you will see, I have lots of ferns elsewhere.  I am toying with removing the Spirea to the right of the variegated Cornus and replacing it with a Cotinus.  I think this might give the foxgloves a good backdrop and I have some Crocosmia and Geums that I was thinking of putting in here which would also look good with a purple background.

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At the end of the grass path if you turn left up the gravel steps you head to the new seating area which I love.  However, there is this corner which perplexes me.  It the other end of the border in the photo above – in fact the whole border challenges me.  There are phloxs in here which have looked wonderful albeit bitty and also Lobelia tupa.  I am thinking of moving the lobelia to the Big Border and also maybe the Phloxes and starting again but with what?

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The new seating area is in front of the Hardy Exotic Border and I though I would pull the seat out so you can see how it is coming along and so I can weed.  Again I am pleased with the textures here and its all foliage based.  I could move the Lobelia tupa here but I’m not sure there is room.   Turning around we have the Not Very Bog Border which is alright but looking back to last year’s post there was more interest with the bronze foliage of the Ligularia.  However, I am going to leave it to establish and fill out and see how things go.

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If I moved the Cotinus to this border it will also provide a backdrop to this area which might be good.

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There is a secret path which runs between the Not Very Bog Border and the Slope.  I have been planting my growing collection of epimediums and ferns around this area but there is room for more. We go to the end of the path and there are some slabs steps which go up and to the right and lead to a path along the top of the slope.  You can see a small border at the base of the tree and I need to sort this out as it has suffered neglect.  There is space in here for a shrub at the back and I have a number of ideas which I will investigate.

2014_08170051The long narrow border along the fence has been a struggle over the years.  I planted some bamboo in here four years ago to act as a screen to the neighbour’s house behind and they are now finally establishing and filling out.  I want to add some more big foliage in here but again need to decide what.

As you can see the path needs sorting.  It was covered in wood chip which the birds and badger loved and in the winter it was like a mine field to walk along because of the holes dug in it.  I want to replace the bark with gravel and hopefully I will find the time and energy to do this soon.

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All my tidying up has added to the compost heap which was out of control before I started.  You can just see the bamboo to the left of the heaps which I thinned today.  This is just to the right of where the Acer has been taken out and acts as a screen to the bins when it isn’t collapsing everywhere.  I am thinking of taking the bamboo out and possibly moving it somewhere in front of the back fence and replacing it with an ever green shrub.  The biggest problem I have now which only came to light yesterday is that the top branch of the willow has snapped and it has partially fallen.

2014_08170053I need to get a tree surgeon to sort it out and also to look at the whole tree which is far to big for its location.  I’m not sure how the surgery will affect the light in this area so I will probably have to wait and see before I make any significant changes to the planting.

I am currently reading Margery Fish as I like her attitude and she liked the plants I do.  I think I might try and fit in a trip to East Lambrook in the coming weeks to see what it looks like at this time of year as this is when I struggle most as my favourite plants have all finished.  I have a couple of weeks leave coming up so I hope to do some planting and planning then.

Anyway, that’s my garden warts and all

Isole Madre – an Italian Botanical Delight

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Now some of my readers have kindly described my garden as lush when they saw my EOMV photos but I don’t see it this way.  For me the photo above shows a lush garden.  The garden in question is Isola Madre, the garden I discovered on holiday in Italy which was the highlight of our trip for me.

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2014_07220405Isola Madre is the third island in the Borromea Bay and a sister island to Isola Bella.  Whilst Isola Bella is a personal wedding cake of a garden, Isola Madre is now a botanical garden and a partner RHS garden – so I got to use my RHS card twice on holiday.

As with Isola Bella I found the vistas and glimpses through trees and down paths quite captivating.

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2014_07220265The standard of horticulture is exceptional not surprising as the curator, Gianfranco Giustina, was awarded a Veitch medal by the RHS in 2014.  I knew I was in for a good garden visit when I saw the coleus, which I’m not that keen on, looking so good amongst ferns.  In fact there were many ferns, including various tree ferns, so I was very happy.  Not only were the plants generally labelled but the guide book also gave lots of details about key plants.

As with the Isola Bella the garden paths lead you up to the high part of the island.  The garden has a wealth of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias but sadly we were a little late in the season to see these in flower.

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The ferns and the bamboos do well due to the climate of the region as despite the temperatures being in the high 20s/low 30s there was rain many days and so the plants were thriving.

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The highlight of the garden is the oldest Cypress of Cashmir in Europe. If you look closely 2014_07220410at some of the photos you will see lots of wires leading to this tree and there is an amazing story behind this.  In 2006 the tree was toppled by a tornado.  Whilst many would be sad and think that was the end of a tree which had been grown from seed collected from the Himalayas in 1846, the staff on Isola Madre had other ideas.  With the help of helicopters and three huge cranes they righted the tree.  Then they covered the root ball with constantly damp sheeting and the leaves were sprayed with anti-transpirants. The result is that the tree has re-established and is growing well – what an achievement.

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2014_07220346Having explored the shady end of the lower island you find yourself up by the house and the Chapel Square and the Nymphaeas pond.  The planting is more colourful around the house with the use of quite a bit of bedding and annuals. Whilst I wasn’t that keen on the garish colours on Isola Bella I did like the same plants on Isola Madre.  I think this is because the permanent planting tones them down.  The bright colours work very well against the cool colour of the walls and I think the blue/grey of the woodwork is a good foil.  The borders are quite narrow and it was impressive how many plants had been shoe-horned into the space.  No doubt they are watered and fed a lot.

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We did spot the odd gardener but they were generally working in the areas which weren’t open or having a break for lunch.  Many of the annuals were kept in check by the white peacocks who strutted around and seemed to have quite a thing about the Cleome which were growing along the bottom of the house walls.

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One of the things that made me smile when visiting this garden was the range of plants growing there and planted permanently outside.  The cactus growing on the cliff side of the island particularly amused me as it seemed so incongruous to see a huge cactus hanging over a large inland lake.

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It was views like this which add to the magic for me and will stay in my mind for some time to come.

 

End of Month View – June 1014

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We are going through a bit of a floral lull in the back garden at the end of June.  I have just cut back most of the geraniums which had finished flowering so the Big Border isn’t looking as voluptuous along the grass path as earlier in the month.  The focus of the Big Border is meant to be late summer and I am hoping that in about a month the border will be full of Asters although it will be its first season so it will be interesting to see what happens.  The border to the right of the path is the far side of the old Bog Garden and is in need of an identity. There are phlox and Lobelia tupa about to flower and I think this is an area I might work on next year by which time inspiration may have struck.

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The bottom path runs along the bottom of the Big Border and on the other side is the Cottage Border which is really too narrow and proving troublesome.  The delphiniums are just going over and I think they will be cut back hard next weekend.  Next year I need to be more ruthless and remove the skinny side blooms so the main flowers are even better.  The trouble with this border is its depth.  I had under estimated how big and floppy the Artemis ‘Sauce Hollandise’ was and although I like pushing amongst the flowers it had become impossible so is pushed back now by supports which isn’t showing the plants to their best.  I have a few ideas of where they can be moved to so they can look wonderful next year and I am thinking of replacing them with Astrantia which need a new home. It is clear that the Echinacea planted last year haven’t returned, just as I suspected.  I think slugs are to blame.  Instead I have some pots of Gladiolus which I will put in amongst the cut back delphiniums which should continue the show.

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The succulent trough in the front garden is filling out and despite my dodgy cement repairs I think it is looking quite good and adding some real interest to the border.

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The popular staging area is now playing host to pelargoniums and succulents and looking very jolly.  I could swap the pelargoniums around and move the Red Vogue ones elsewhere and add more scented pelargoniums with pink flowers but I quite like the vibrancy of the red and pink!

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The patio border is very full and about to come into its second season of interest.  Its first season is early Spring with snowdrops and other bulbs.  Now it is mainly foliage with a 2014_06290031yellow and purple theme. The large green bush in the middle is my favourite Kirgenshoma palmata which I adore so it is a real event when it flowers.  There is also a yellow rose in the border, Chinatown, which has a fabulous scent and seems to be disease free.

An added view – from the top of the bottom steps looking towards my son’s workshop.  I really like the gravel steps as they were built in two stages by my father and then my eldest and they just work so well.  It this time of year the sun makes a wonderful effect through the tree and Stipa gigantea to the left.

Finally I will leave you with a view of the new seating area which is adjacent to the workshop.  It is a little busy at the moment as I have trays of

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perennial seedlings hiding away here in the shade.  The tin bath in the foreground is probably going to be used as a small pond which will take the rain water collected by the shed guttering.  We are trying it out at the moment to decide if we think it is a good idea.

So this is my garden at mid-year.  Please feel free to join in with this meme.  You can use it however you like all I ask is that you link to this post from yours and add a link to your post in the comments box so we can all come and have a nose around your space.