End of Month View – July 2015

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July has whizzed past in the flash of an eye and here we are at the end and you would be forgiven in thinking that we have gone forward to the end of September it is so cool.  It feels as though the garden has slowed down with flowers lasting longer in bloom and the later flowers taking longer to open.

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I thought I would start this End of Month tour in the woodland area which really focusses on foliage at this time of year apart from the hosta flowers. There is a space where I had to cut the Solomon’s Seal down as it was being stripped by Solomon Sawfly.  I think I will relocate the Solomon’s Seal as it was suffocating the Hosta; this will also allow me to plant something new in the area between the Hosta and the Witch Hazel (just on the left hand edge of the photo and I am wondering about including a smaller and darker leaved hosta or a fern to provide some contrast – I need to sit on the bottom step and consider it more.

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Going back to the bottom path between the Cottage and Big Border this area isn’t doing too bad but it needs to mature and fill out.  I have been adding plants to both border so hopefully now if I sit back and wait they will fill out and have good interest throughout the year.  I do need to add more bulbs to each area.  I want to add some more Alliums to the Cottage Border to give a rhythm through the length of the border and maybe add some daffodils to the Big Border.  It already a significant number of Camassias but I think would benefit from some earlier daffodils.

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The middle path between the Big Border and the Rowan Border (formerly the Bog Garden) and I am really pleased with how this area is beginning to work.  Moving the purple phlox along a foot or too  and adding the Anemanthele lessoniana seems to have connected the two sides of the path.  The Agapanthus and Phlox appear to mirror each other and the grass and leaves of the orange Crocosmia are connecting. There are still pockets where I want to tweak the planting but that was ever so.

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The popular shed shot.  I realise now that I should have removed the Ammi majus before taking this photo as it is flattening the Stipa tenuissima, probably as a result of the rain.  I want this area to have airy planting as it is very good for catching the afternoon sun and I think this would have a nicer feel than dense heavy planting.  I was learning today about transitions between areas of gardens and how you need to have quieter areas between those of sun and shade or bright colours and pastel.  I found myself realising that my planting has begun to have the same feel throughout the garden with the exception of the woodland/shady area.  I think I had got into a mindset that everything had to be ‘look at me!!!’ with lots of interest and all points of the year.  So I am now thinking about what I learnt to day and how this would work in my space. IMG_1943Back to the shady part of the garden and I suppose you could say that this area has a different feel to it and that the seating area by the shed is a sort of transition area.  I am pleased with how the old Bog Garden has filled out, although the Regal Fern seems to be engulfing everything.  I know I want lush and full planting here but not if other plants are going to be swamped.  It maybe that I need to swap the Siberian iris with the plant that is under the fern so that the iris’s foliage can grow up through the fern.  Another thing to ponder over a cuppa in the sun.

So that is my garden at the end of July.  I have just had a look back to last July’s End of Month View post which had some of the same views and I’m glad I did.  I can see from that post how much things have filled out since last year and how my efforts are starting to pay off not just with the appearance but with the health of the plant.  The woodland border looks really parched last year but this it isn’t doing to bad and I think the mulch I put down in Spring when the soil was very damp has helped.

Anyone is welcome to join in with this meme.  All I ask is that you include a link to your post in the comments box below and you link to this post in your post.  That way the circle is completed and we can all find each other and come for a visit.

 

World Embroidery Day 2015

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It seems to me that every day of the year is a national or international something day but I was interested to discover that today, 30th July, is World Embroidery Day.  The day was established in 2011 by the Sweden Embroidery Guild whose manifesto is “The importance of embroidery must be made known and World Embroidery Day will spread around the world. Make 30th July a day filled with creativity for the sake of Peace, Freedom and Equality.” I discovered this fact via Inspiration magazine which sends out a weekly email with all sort of information and gossip from around the world relating to embroidery – and there you were thinking it was a quiet past-time of ladies from yesteryear. The purpose of World Embroidery Day is obviously to raise awareness of the craft and to encourage people to have a go.  The Sweden Embroidery Guild encourages sewers to take their embroidery out into cafes and other public places which would be very nice if I didn’t have to work plus I don’t think I want to take my work into an environment where there is potential for it to be damaged. Inspirations magazine also share this view but they are encouraging their readers to take to social media to raise awareness of this  almost minority craft.

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I first embroidered as a child and into my teens.  Above is a tray cloth I must have worked around the age of 12. I have always been somewhat of a restless soul particularly when I am meant to be watching television and so I have always had some sort of handicraft to occupy me. If I don’t keep my hands occupied I end up chewing my fingers without realising which causes callous, not a good look.

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Back then I always did my embroidery from kits with the picture pre-printed on the material and following instructions.  Above is a picture I must have done around the age of 15 when I was obsessed with Australia.  Anyway, I grew up, life got interesting, children came along and the embroidery stopped.  It was replaced by various things like knitting and sewing particularly making things for my children.  Now, as I near 50 I have re-discovered my love of embroidery and with it a sense of calm.

I started again with a cross stitch sampler and some other kits which were interesting but not challenging at all and I need a challenge.  I have a mind that is thirsty for new things – it occurs to me that I may be slightly hyperactive! Anyway, for Christmas my sons bought me Hazel Blomkamp’s Crewel Twists and I have been slowly working on the Spring Trellis design which I have blogged about from time to time.

However, as I said I have recently discovered Inspirations magazine which is based in Australia and published four times a year (I think) and it really lives up to its name. It seems that there is a very active embroidery world out in the Southern Hemisphere which is intriguing.  You quickly realise that cross stitch and the printed kits are only the beginning, there are so many techniques and styles to learn.  I have even managed to find a couple of fellow embroideries on twitter and facebook and through them I have learnt about the benefits of using a stand for my work and also I have witnessed, via videos, the stunning constructions of some of the hauteur couture creations which feature embroidery.  It makes me wish I was a teenager again and could maybe follow a career in this area.

My passion for embroidery is growing so rapidly that it is beginning to via with my gardening and blogging.

So I do support World Embroidery Day as embroidery lets me channel my creative energies and helps me to relax and recharge after a stressful day  – why do have a go yourself?

Irish Garden Odyssey: Kilmacurragh

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Back to my trip to Ireland, day 4 saw us arrive at Kilmacurragh, Kilbride, Co Wicklow.  I have skipped ahead a little as I wanted to show you something other than private gardens.

Kilmacurragh is the outpost for the Dublin Botanic Garden, just as Kew has Wakehurst Place.  It allows the botanic garden to grow plants it doesn’t have the right environment for in Dublin. The garden was one of the most important private gardens in Ireland due to the extensive plant collections made by its owners, the Acton family, from the 1750s to the First World War.  However, like many family estates at this time it suffered from the deaths of three heirs in quick succession and large inheritance tax payments. Eventually the property was bought by the National Botanic Gardens in 1996 and in 2006 the redevelopment of the garden, led by Head Gardener, Seamus O’Brien, started.  The gardens, and those in Dublin, have benefitted from a positive approach by the Irish government and have been lucky in receiving significant levels of funding in recent years; a pity this approach is not matched elsewhere.

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As with most of the other gardens we visited we had the benefit of being shown around by Seamus.  This adds so much to a visit as you learn about individual plants, you have a context to place them and the garden in and you hear all sorts of interesting facts and stories that bring the place alive – something that was really missing from our unguided visit to Mt Usher the day before.

The house in the top photo was destroyed by fires in 1978 and 1982 but now funding has become available for the roof to be replaced which will allow the building to be used as a visitor centre and presumably provide opportunities for further fund-raising.

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One of the collections Kilmacurragh is known for is its collection of rhododendrons collected by Joseph Hooker.  You can see how huge they have grown from the photograph above, I can imagine they are stunning when in flower.

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This is one of the last ones to flower.  I did right its name down but my phonetic scrawl is illegible but it is some sort of hybrid beginning with g!!  Whatever its name, for someone who finds the plant hunter stories fascinating, it was a real thrill to see plants that were actually collected by someone I had read about.

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The plants at Kilmacurragh really demonstrate the benefits of Ireland’s damper climate. I was captivated by the light on these ferns until I walked a few steps further and spotted the giant lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum)

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There are several clumps throughout the shady part of the long borders and last year, to mark the centenary of the First World War and the men from the estate who lost their lives in it, they planted enough bulbs to have 100 flowering.  I wish I had seen that it must have been breath-taking and heavenly to smell.

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I loved the long herbaceous border.  It is a beautiful mixture of foliage and flowers with plants repeated to give rhythm but many of the plants aren’t those you would expect to see in a long border as hidden away are some wonderful meconopsis paniculata poppies, echiums, white willowherb, astibles, geraniums, and various calmagrostis – wonderful.

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From the long border we headed out into the arboretum again and saw many delights which to be honest I don’t think I appreciated as much as I should have since my tree knowledge is limited.  However, I do know the tree above is vast and very old, possibly dating back to the time of Janet Acton, in the 1870s

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However, I do know that this tree is a Magnolia rostrata and a fairly new addition showing that the collection of plants, particularly trees is continuing.  Future plans include the creation of areas specifically for plants of China, Chile and the Himilaya.  There are even plants that have been bred in the garden by Seamus and named for it such as the Cornus capitata ‘Kilmacurragh Rose’ which was named recently (below).

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But while you are marvelling at the flowers on this new introduction you are aware that just behind you is the original main road through the area down which Oliver Cromwell’s troops marched in the 17th century bringing with them Thomas Acton. Thomas was given the land, in lieu of pay.  His son, Thomas II had the derelict St Mochorog’s Abbey torn down and the stone reused to build the house you see in the top picture in the Queen Anne style.

The old road down which Oliver Cromwell marched

The old road down which Oliver Cromwell marched

We saw how the gardens have been clearing the area of the road and opening up the site with a view to reinstating various historical references around the site.

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But the history is evidenced even further back as the pond above is the original 7th century fish stew which provided for the monastery, established around a hermitage founded by St Mochorog, of British royal birth.

Given that throughout our trip we received a potted history of Ireland from our tour leader, Noel Kingsbury, this garden managed to encompass Irish history in one site and I haven’t included all the stories about the various uprisings and their impact on the estate. For me, a plant nut and a lover of history with a fascinating for early medieval Irish history, this was a special garden for us to visit.

My Garden This Weekend – 26/7/15

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I haven’t posted about my garden for  a few weeks due to my travels but despite the rain over the last few days I have managed to spend a few hours outside, weeding and tidying.  It is always amazing how much the weeds grow when you turn your back for a week. In my absence the Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ has flowered; flowers which are welcome in the shady woodland area.  This plant is especially popular with my cat as I have discovered that she likes to sleep under its leaves on a sunny day.

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Another surprise was the discovering that the Cautleya spicata robusta is flowering as is the Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ behind it.  I did plan this combination so I am pleased that it is working well. The Melianthus major does seem to be swamping the Cautleya and I would have previously thought about moving one of them. However having seen Hester Forde and Carmel Duigan’s gardens in Ireland last week I have realised that I can plant more densely, although of course it will mean more management.

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I decided last week that I need to add more grasses to my garden, particularly after visiting The Bay Garden. I have used grasses before but I think now I understand better how they can lift a planting, adding movement, and light.  I have started with adding a Stipa tenuissima to the edge of the Big Border so it softens the edge of the border alongside the steps.  Here it catches the late afternoon light and yesterday looked magical, although today it looks rather sodden.  Also in this border I have added a Chocolate Cosmos whose flowers I am hoping will bob around amongst the Stipa, and a Campanula lactiflora.  The Campanula is only a couple of feet tall as the nursery woman I bought it from had been experimenting with doing the Chelsea Chop on Campanulas to see how they responded.  It seems a good idea as the plant is flowering well and isn’t flopping everywhere or in need of staking.  I will have to remember to do the same thing next year.  I have pulled up most of the spent opium poppies and Ammi majus but I have left one ammi as I would like to collect the seed – hence the messy plant draped across the plants.

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I have also added a Anemabthele lessoniana to the corner of the Rowan Border.  I think the bronze tones pick up on the Digitalis ferruginea, and there is a bronzey flowered day lily here which has just finished flowering.  Yesterday I planted out some Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The only problem is linking this combination with the purple phlox which I am loath to move as it does well in this position and is the start of a group of phloxes which have taken a while to establish.  However, I would also like to add a Rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ to this space and this may bridge the gap between the two groups.  It is a sumptuous red rose with a touch of bronze in it; I discovered it on the last day of my trip and it is definitely on the ‘get’ list – ‘get’ you note, not ‘want’!!

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Aside from rushing around planting plants ahead of the rain I have finally sorted out the path behind the former Bog Garden.  This path is a real problem in the winter and during wet periods at other times of the year.  There seems to be a spring which runs down the slope just by the bench causing the start of the path to be sodden.  The other problem is that this path is important during the winter as I try to avoid the grass path as it is very slippery.  The solution has been to buy some paving slabs which almost look like cut off logs and then I surrounded them with wood chip.  It looks so much neater and is far more practical now.

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I leave you with a new acquisition – Gladiolus flanaganii.  I couldn’t resist the flowers and it is meant to be hardy so we shall see; with my grass head on, I think it might look good with some Anemanthele lessoniana.

Oh and this is my 1500th blog post!!!!

 

Irish Garden Odyssey: Hunting Brook Gardens

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Jimi Blake is one of those passionate plants people whose enthusiasm is infectious.  You can’t help but smile as he almost bounces along telling you about his unusual ferns or his new fascination with bergenias.  Hunting Brook was the reason I booked myself on the trip last week.  I had seen it in magazines and followed Jimi on Facebook for the last year.  The vibrant colours and his ‘ignore the rule book’ approach fascinated me, just as Christopher Lloyd had some years back.

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The garden is not far from his sister’s garden; they are both situated on the former family farm.  Unlike June, Jimi has been gardening from an early age, helping his mother in the garden as a small boy and again there were faint overtures of Lloyd’s childhood.

You approach the property up a long curving driveway with sloping borders on either side.  These are richly and densely planted and are full of interesting plants.  This year Jimi is particularly fascinated with the vibrant colours he saw on his winter trip to Bali and is trying to replicate them in the garden.

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To the front of the house the predominant plants are the Aralia echinocaulis, which Jimi had collected in the wild and which I have already shown you in his sister’s garden.  These have recently had their branches thinned to bring in more light and I think Jimi said they were 12 years old. They are indeed very striking and I like the way they add height and structure whilst allowing you to see through them.  The geraniums on the bank are Geranium psilostemon ‘Mt.Venus’ from the nursery of the same name, also outside Dublin, which we visited later in the week.  I enjoyed the exuberance of the geraniums but some of our party found it too much of the same and I can see looking back through my photographs that there were a lot, maybe some oranges or a dark purple amongst the pink would lift it and add some zing.

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I particularly liked the planting at the top of the driveway with the various red, rusts and oranges. Again, like at June’s, grasses are used extensively in this garden and I found myself beginning to rethink their use in my own garden.  There were also a lot of lupins which I found challenging as I went off lupins some years ago due to their messy way of dying and the amount of space they take up when out of flower but I am wondering whether I might revisit them, particularly if I can source some orangey and red ones.

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This is the view from the far side of the garden looking back at the house and you can see the wealth of texture from foliage throughout the garden and again the Aralias.  I have to admit that I didn’t take as many photographs as I thought I had at this garden, I think I was so preoccupied listening to Jimi and taking it all in.  We also spent some time having a lovely lunch, courtesy of Jimi, in the garden.

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After lunch we headed off for a tour of the woodland and meadow. The path was quite steep, you can see from the photograph above how much it sloped if you look at the height of the heads behind the ferns. Jimi led us down one side of the valley and up the other side showing us his collection of woodland plants, and in particular ferns, on the way.

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Here is our motley crew around the ‘party table’ at the bottom of the valley – the photo is courtesy of Jimi Blake.

I got the impression that the woodland is his real passion at the moment and he is looking to start removing some of the trees to bring in more light but also because some of them are in danger of coming down of their own accord and damaging the planting.  There is a stream which runs through the bottom of the valley which you cross over a small bridge before starting the climb up the other side.  From here you emerge into a sun filled meadow where orchids are starting to grow.

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The meadow is very managed with Jimi and his helpers spending one day a year adding perennials in the form of plug plants. Looking out across the rolling Irish countryside, listening to the insects buzzing and watching the butterflies flit amongst the ox-eyed daisies was very special.

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Returning to the garden I was particularly drawn to the bed above which I found intriguing.  You can just about make out the allium seed heads throughout the border and these will be followed by cannas and fennel; there were also astibles and grasses.  I found I had a really mixed response to this space; initially it went against my natural need for order looking chaotic but the more I looked at it the more I felt drawn to it.  There is a sort of tapestry feel to it with all the plants merging together but again, like the geraniums, I wonder if when the fennel flowers there will be too much lime green.

But this is what is so interesting about the way Jimi Blake approaches his garden.  He loves to experiment not only with trying new plants but how to combine them.  His garden is his play ground and I think that it a wonderful approach to have.

 

Irish Garden Odyssey: June Blake

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I have just returned from a week visiting gardens around Dublin and Cork with a group of 22 led by Noel Kingsbury.  I was apprehensive at first as I went not knowing anyone but our small multinational group was incredibly friendly and fun and I would love to do another trip.  The main driver for booking the trip was to visit the gardens of June and her brother Jimi Blake and also Helen Dillon June’s garden was the first garden of the tour and with the sun shining we were off to a good start.  The beauty of this trip is that each owner/gardener introduced us to their garden and was available to answer questions or indeed take us on a tour.

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In June’s case she was very particular that she showed us around before we were allowed to wander at leisure.  The garden is carved out of  sloping field by the house and June is very keen on the relationship between the garden and the house with the lines of the raised borders relating to the lines of the house, its brickwork and its associated out buildings.  The main garden area is made up of 9 raised beds each with its own loose theme. IMG_0811I rather liked the bed nearest the house, I think due to the vibrant colours, something which appears to be lacking in my own garden at the moment.  I liked the contrast of the achillea with, I think, the purple salvia or it may be veronicastrum.  Not only do the colours contrast but also the spires contrast with the flat heads of the achillea.  Through the border are actea simplex whose foliage adds some depth to the planting.

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However, I really didn’t like this border at all.  The poppies had come up unexpectedly and June had decided to leave them but I found them too dense in their planting, giving something of a stationary feel to the border which for me jarred with other planting in the garden especially the stipas.  I also find the bare stems distracting.

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From the central path you are led up to the slope above.  As you can see the border nearest the wilder slope has a significant amount of grasses planted in it, stipa tenuissima featured heavily, and this provided a blurred move from the formal garden to the wilder area.  You can also see a few of my fellow travellers who will no doubt appear on a regular basis in this and future posts.  On the slope is Thekla, who gardens in Germany and Italy.  Then we have Noel and Vasily and his wife, Nadezhda, from Russia, and in the hat Ines from Argentina. Both Ines and Nadezhda are garden designers.

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June leads you up to this point at the perimeter of the garden so you can see how the formal planting fits into the whole scheme.  The trees in the borders are Aralia echinocaulis, collected by June’s plant hunting brother Jimi Blake. The Aralia reminded me of data palms which added to the feeling that the formal area of the garden was an oasis of colour nestling at the foot of the slope.

The sleepers added  structure  and a sense of purpose to the wide path and I particularly liked the way they curved at the ends.  June had acquired the sleepers with the curve and had used them in this way to discourage visitors from walking in the long grass.

 

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You descend down the slope to see the far end of the borders and also a formal pool (just in the lower left corner). It was clear that the pool is meant to be a surprise to the visitor and it was interesting that June had given a lot of thought to have the garden was viewed by the visitor particularly from outside of the formal area. This was an approach we encountered a couple of times during our trip.

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The border you can see to the left of the photo above was my favourite.  There was more substance to the planting with interesting contrasting foliage.  We also liked the way the lower foliage had been stripped from the bamboo stems allowing a view through the plant to planting beyond.

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Here is the pool I mentioned above and I can now introduce you to Ginette, a garden designer from Montreal in Canada – adding French to the many languages being spoken.  Personally I struggled to engage with the pool; for me it doesn’t sit well in the space but I have felt the same with other similar pools in gardens so maybe its just a landscape style that doesn’t appeal to me at all. I suspect the idea is to provide an area of calm in contrast to the floriferous borders.  The ‘tree’ on the slope at the end of the pool is a dead elm which has been planted upside down to create a sculpture accent.

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You can see from the photographs above how densely planted the borders are and this was a common theme throughout the gardens we visited.  Of course these are gardens of real enthusiasts who put in significant time in their gardens often with little help.  In June’s case there were a couple of helpers who attend maybe one day a week with June doing the majority of the work.

From June’s garden I started to think about the denseness of planting – good and bad, and how grasses can add a sense of movement and softness to the border. I also liked the vibrancy of the colour palette and I want to look at improving this in my garden.

With the arrival of the next group of visitors we bordered our coach and headed off to Jimi Blakes’ up the garden for lunch and a tour of his garden – a post will follow soon.