I am on annual leave this week using  up the last of my leave allowance and enjoying the late summer sunshine.  It has been a strange week and dominated by visits to two very different gardens.

As some of you may have picked up a group of 25 of us  UK garden bloggers/twitters visited Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove yesterday.  Due to security no cameras etc were allowed so I can’t entertain you with photos.  It was fascinating to see the reactions of a group of knowledgeable gardeners and particularly fascinating as I had visited the garden two years ago with a very different group. On my previous visit I had felt frustrated as no  one was really engaging with the garden apart from in the ‘isn’t that nice’, ‘what’s that plant’ way.  I felt strongly about some aspects that I didn’t like but was a lone voice so had to just shut up so to speak.  Yesterday with a very lively group who weren’t afraid of saying what they thought I discovered that my impressions from two years before where shared by  others which was nice.  We had a lovely day, very entertaining and fun and no doubt there will be future trips.

In complete contrast the day before I visited a small  local garden – Picton Gardens. This garden is well known for housing the national collection of Michaelmas Daisies and only really opens for visitors from mid August to mid October.  The garden is only 10 minutes drive from my house and despite living in Malvern for 10 years I am ashamed to say I have never got there.  So as I had some spare time and I wanted some Asters for my bank I decided to go  and see what it was like.  To be honest my visit was several weeks too early as the majority of the flowers were still in bud.  They are after all called Michaelmas Daisies because they open around Michaelmas Day at the end of September!  However there were some open along with Echineacea, Solidago and Heleniums.  The garden also has a lot of grasses, bamboos, acers amongst other shrubs and it was interesting to see how these worked with the perennials.  There was one small area which really jarred for me – the Centenary Garden.  This included a lot of clipped purple berberis and I don’t know whether it was the colours of the berberis or the fact that I am not keen on topiary and low clipped hedges but I really didn’t like it.

The garden is not that big and doesn’t take long to go round and I spent nearly as long in the nursery selecting my Asters.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one area at the same time.  The nursery does a mail order service and I presume the vast quantities are to accommodate this.  I selected a Sanguisorba canadensis, I know that’s not an Aster but it is fab looking plant and will add height to the border.  I bought three Asters as a starting point – Sonia, St  Micheal and Umbellatus, hopefully they will do well and I can add to them in the future.

Unlike the merriment of visiting Highgrove I visited the Picton Gardens on my own and I always find that these solo visits are much quicker as there is  no one to say ‘What do you think of that?’ etc to.  However, my primary reason for visiting Picton was to buy Asters so going on my own was fine but I am so glad that I  spent yesterday with the group I did as  I havent laughed so much in ages. Thank you all – you know who you are!

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