Ascot Spring Garden Show

On Point, Tom Hill Garden Design

Yesterday, I spent a pleasant day down in Berkshire visiting the inaugural Ascot Spring Garden Show and also The Savill Garden.  It was particularly interesting to me as I grew up near Ascot and Windsor, only moving to Malvern in 2000, so the day proved to be a real trip down memory lane.

The show is the result of a partnership between Ascot Racecourse, The Savill Garden and The Valley Gardens at Windsor Great Park. Unlike the vastness of Malvern Spring Show in about a month’s time, this is very much a boutique event with just the right mix of nurseries and show gardens.

The event is held at Ascot Racecourse in the area adjacent to the Parade Ring with some nurseries and show gardens outside and some in the Grandstand.

On the Point, Tom Hill Garden Design

In addition to a Young Gardeners show garden competition, the show included six show gardens based on a “Town and Country theme”,  They were all of a good standard and I have included some images from my three favourites on this post.  What was particularly interesting was the amount of colour that had been achieved especially as the gardening season has barely started.

A Garden for all Seasons, Kate Gould Gardens

I like the planting in Kate Gould’s Garden.  The Corten screening provided a wonderful back drop to the fresh spring flowers and foliage. I particularly liked the above combination.

The clever placing of large pots gives interest before the new foliage appears.

The Courtyard, Longview Design

I really liked the almost understated planting in Joe Perkins ‘The Courtyard’ garden, again benefiting from the wonderful spring freshness of Euphorbia, I think this time it was Euphorbia martinii but elsewhere in the garden was my new fascination, Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’. These have been under planted with drumstick primulas and Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, ferns and what looks like young Dicentra leaves.  I really must try Erysimum again.

There were also around 30 nurseries and a whole host of trade stands but not so many that you found yourself looking for the plants which is the case these days at the bigger horticultural shows.  As you would expect at this time of year the bulb growers were out in force but also some nurseries that I rarely see at Malvern: Architectural Plants, Botanic Nursery Gardens, New Forest Hostas and Hemerocallis.

And I will leave you with my favourite plant from the nurseries, Muscari ‘Siberian Tiger’ and before you ask yes of course some came home with me, along with some Nerine bulbs for the Autumn.

I thought the Ascot Spring Garden Show was really good, and that’s on a cold, damp and overcast day.  As I said earlier it’s a small show, more somewhere to go for a couple of hours than the whole day and maybe combine with a visit to The Savill Garden as we did or a trip to Windsor.

I do hope they repeat the show next year – I will certainly be hoping to go again.

Cars, Countryside, Speed – whats not to love

I have confessed before my quiet appreciation of the combustion engine. I have often made the excuse that because I have two sons I’ve spent a lot of time when they were little on steam trains and watching motor racing. If I am honest I suspect that I am unfairly blaming my sons as even before they came along I have loved steam trains and motor sport.

This weekend I dragged one of them, with his girlfriend and my mother to Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb which is only about 30 minutes from us buried in the Worcestershire countryside.  As you wend your way through the narrow windy country lanes it seems strange that you are going to a motor racing event; there aren’t even any queues.

Shelsley Walsh has been hosting hill climbs since 1905 and predates Indianapolis, Le Mans and Monza.  It has a unique charm. You can walk around the pits looking at an eclectic collection of cars of all ages and designs, owned and driven by an equally eclectic group of people.

You can stand at the start line and watch each car individually set off on its climb up the 1000 yard track, on a 1 in 6 gradient. If you are feeling energetic you can make your way up the track and view from different points, but only the die-hards make it to the top where it is rumoured there are ice creams!

And for me the icing on the cake is the stunning location with bucolic cows completely un-phased by the strange activities of their neighbours.

 

 

Windy Ridge 

Windy Ridge, Little Wenlock
There is a faint possibility that my gardening mojo may be within faint sight of the horizon, it certainly has been away somewhere for most of this year. However, I am spending a few days with gardening friends visiting gardens largely based in Cheshire, last year we went to Essex and Suffolk, and there is the twinkle of inspiration forming somewhere in my mind.

Our journey north today was broken up by three gardens, all very distinct from each other not only in size but in style and it was the second one, Windy Ridge that I enjoyed most.

As you might suppose from the garden’s name it is located on a ridge and is windy according to the owners. However I think any wind is mitigated by the wealth of trees, hedges and shrubs in and around the garden.

This is a plantsman’s  garden but one that benefits from having at least one of its owners with an eye for colour, texture and form. The owners, Fiona Chancellor and her husband, whose name I strangely didn’t get, have gardened the two thirds of an acre plot for some thirty years. As you can see the quality of then horticulture and maintenance is exemplary but whilst the quality of the lawn may have impressed me it was the planting around the pond and also the gravel border that I really enjoyed.

I love gunneras but have never had a garden big enough to accommodate it. Here at Windy Ridge you push past the gunnera to find your way down a path to the back of the pond. I love planting that grows in volume as the season progresses bringing with it a temporary feeling of mystery and surprise to the garden. In any case I am a bit of a foliage nut so all the ferns, bamboo and oversized gunnera leaves were bound to make me happy.

More sumptuous foliage, there is hardly any colour in this picture except for green and yet it is alive with interest from the tall vertical leaves of the irises to the round shiny discs of the water lilies, one texture building on another giving depth and interest.

I’m not generally a fan of topiary and have a perverse dislike for box purely because it seems to be what everyone grows; the more people rave about something the less likely I am to engage with it. However, I did like the box at Windy Ridge. I liked the way the box ball give structure and rhythm to the planting. Their presence allows the surrounding planting to be freer and almost more informal; I suppose the balls anchor the planting.

So there was lots to learn from Windy Ridge, things to mull over in the future which is a nice feeling.

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

Old Court Nursery
Old Court Nursery

I am so lucky to live where I do and days like today just remind me of this.  My eldest and I decided at very short notice that we fancied going to the Malvern Autumn Show.  It is literally a 5 minute drive from home so we were able to arrive as the second day of the show was opening and beat the crowds.

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I haven’t been to the Autumn Show for some years, there always seems to be something clashing with it.  We stopped first in the Harvest Pavilion where the serious showing happens.  As you can see we have everything from vegetables through to dahlias.  To the other side of this pavilion is the ‘Open Competition’ for a whole range of plants such as succulents, alpines, foliage, roses etc.  I have quite a few pics of these as I have been thinking for a few years now of entering.  We sussed out the competition so now I have a good idea of the standard I am aiming for.

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Whilst I might be thinking of entering an aeonium or two I really take my hat off to those growers who can produce a trug of vegetables like these – sheer perfection.  I would be chuffed to get 4 ripe tomatoes let alone 5 matching ones or even a whole trug of matching perfection.

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Its not all competitive vegetable and flower growing; the show is very much a local country show that has grown over the years.  Elsewhere there are pigs being paraded, as well as sheep, cows, rabbits and goats  but our preference was to watch the agility dogs and later the gun dogs who were having a lovely time showing off.

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But much as I could watch the dogs for ages the plants inevitably call and we found ourselves in another pavilion which focussed on growing your own (I think).  As you entered there was this display by the National Dahlia Society which I thought was pretty special.  It really shows how dahlias can be used to create a wonderful exotic look – the colour seems a little blown on this photo possibly due to the lighting in the marquee.

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Whilst the dahlias were impressive I was quickly distracted by the Jacques Armand display.  My poor son was suffering from my bulb addiction as I had already bought a considerable number of bulbs from Rose Cottage who had been relocated to the Produce Pavilion having lost their marquee in the wind yesterday. There is always something interesting to buy and between the two nurseries I came away with a good haul of tulips for the front garden, some more colchicums – Nancy Lindsay and Dick Trotter, a large Scilla and some punky looking muscari.

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At the far side of the show ground to where we parked we came to the nurseries.  The number of nurseries both inside and out have grown considerably over the 15 years I have been going to the show.  There is now a reasonable number exhibiting inside under cover with large displays.  I was really pleased for my friend Helen Picton who was awarded another Gold for her display of asters.  I was also rather entranced my the Tale Valley display as it combined all the plants I love; ferns and bulbs and lots of wonderful foliage – food for thought.

 

 

And now for something completely different

Morgan 3 Wheeler
Morgan 3 Wheeler

Long term readers will recall that I have an interest in fast cars especially vintage cars; they speak to the romantic in me. Strangely in a moment of serendipity on a visit to a local plant retailer earlier this week we happened upon a flyer for the inaugural Bromyard Speed Festival.  With the event being free and only some 30 minutes from home there was no question over whether we would go.

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What people may not realise is that Bromyard, a small market town in Herefordshire, has a long association with the British motor industry.  Early in automotive history the chairmen of Austin, Bean and Morgan all lived in the vicinity. Consequently it was fitting that in its first year Morgan, located in nearby Malvern, was the feature marque (brand) of the Festival.

Bugatti Brescia T13
Bugatti Brescia T13

Bromyard Speed Festival benefited from the support of Shelsley Walsh, located just 20 minutes away, which is the oldest motorsport venue in the world. Shelsley maintains an intimate charm with spectators being able to walk around the paddocks and stand next to the start line. Given its pedigree it is strange that it is such a small-scale spectator event; there are few, even people who live in the area, who know of its existence.  That charm and intimacy was replicated at Bromyard as the cars motored around the small town centre, revving up the slope and out of corners.  Of course they couldn’t reach the speeds they do elsewhere due to the narrowness of the road and the closeness of spectators but it wasn’t all about the speed it was really about bringing the cars into a new environment which might attract more spectators and of course bringing revenue into the town, which is known for its programme of festivals throughout the year.

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It wasn’t just vintage cars but also more modern cars including a Jaguar Project 7, one of a limited number produced and a mini that had competed in the Monte Carlo mini, numerous Austin Healeys and Morgans. But I still prefer the vintage cars and I wouldn’t let the family go home until we had seen them despite the weather getting chillier.  And I shouldn’t forget to mention the presence of the Sunbeam Bluebird land speech record breaker whose engines were heard in public for the first time in 50 years.  Being a somewhat long car it couldn’t go round the track due to the tight corners but it made its way down the High Street in one direction thrilling the crowd.

Bugatti Brescia T13
Bugatti Brescia T13

It was fascinating to see the expressions on the driver and passenger faces as they went past lap after lap.  Some had an expression of sheer joy, others a fierce determination, some concern as they negotiated the corners and increasing tyre debris and churned up grit from the road that increased during the afternoon.  As the laps for each class progressed the cars were either getting slower or in the case of the vintage cars, faster and more joyful.  Our theory was that having completed laps in the morning and being near the end of the afternoon session with their cars intact the drivers were going all out.  What was also great was to see numerous cars with children or grandchildren as passengers, some of whom were furiously waving to the crowds as they whizzed past.  The guys in the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the top photo took delight in trying to wheel spin their car; strangely after two warnings they didn’t appear for another lap – we assume they were told off!!

Talbot 105 Tourer
Talbot 105 Tourer

Our consensus was that Bromyard Speed Festival was a great event.  Well organised with out of town parking and shuttle buses, plenty of catering options, friendly, welcoming and fun.  We, as a family, hope that it continues as we will certainly be back next year given half a chance.

A horticultural weekend away

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A quick post today as I am away for the weekend in Stratford upon Avon attending the annual Alpine Garden Society AGM and conference.

The theme of the conference is Reaching for the Heights and so far today we have explored the mountain heights of Turkey and also Nepal.  The Turkey talk was by the Wallis, well known for growing amazing bulbs so this talk was very appealing to me – lots of crocus and the talk on Nepal started in the lower wooded slopes so my fascination with woodland plants was satisfied. Before that the E B Anderson Memorial Lecture was on the plants of New Zealand which I enjoyed as I really don’t know much about that part of the world.

Of course there were opportunities for plant buying and me being me I bought two ferns from Keith Wiley.  I also bought some bulbs and seeds from the distribution scheme which need sowing ASAP which is exciting as I missed out last year.

So now I have to dash to dinner and the plant auction which is always a laugh and at times very competitive.

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.

 

 

 

 

Great Dixter – A Revelation

imageThere are some places that you dream of visiting. You study the photos in books or on-line and you create an impression, maybe a little gilded, in your mind’s eye. For me Great Dixter is such a place.  I have longed to visit for years but just as you hesitate to watch a film of your favourite book I was nervous that it would not live up to my imaginations.

As soon as I approached the house through the lawn/meadow area I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed but I was thrilled to discover the garden actually exceeded my expectations. I was completely bewitched by the area called the stock beds (above). The exuberance of the planting, the scale was fabulous.

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But back to the real purpose of the visit – to attend a study day. I figured that if I was going to trek across country to visit the garden I wanted to get the most out of it and so a study day was the answer.  I booked the Succession Planting day, as although I had heard Fergus talk about this subject before, it was the only one which fitted with work commitments and I knew I would pick up lots more tips and tricks. The talk was held in the Yeomans Hall with its wonderful exposed timbers, the atmosphere added to with the crackling of the log fire which had been lit to combat the unexpected cold of the day.

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I never tire of listening to Fergus Garrett, he has a quiet charisma and he is so knowledgeable, I just sat and soaked it all up. Whilst I had remembered somethings from before, either some of it was new or my gardening knowledge has improved so I can take on board more things. There is a mental list which I really need to write down of immediate changes I want to make but I think the real lesson was to look and consider. You need to assess plants, consider them from all aspects, what seasons of interest do they have and, most importantly, if they aren’t earning their keep ditch them for something better. In a small garden such as mine this is a really important lesson. But there is also the lesson that if you combine the plants better taking into account texture and shape and seasons of interest you might improve how a plant appears. Finally focus on one big moment of impact in an area, get that right, then think about how you can extend the season – maybe with bulbs earlier in the year, adding some annuals to create interest in the planting before (or after) the main plants have performed.

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After lunch we split up, my group went off to explore and the two ladies I had met and I had a lovely wander. We went to the stock beds first, pushing along narrow paths past sodden plants. Then on to the exotic garden which was a surprisingly small space waiting for the seasonal planting to be done – we later learnt that Fergus plans to plant out conifers here which caused some sharp intakes of breath but I think it will be interesting to see how they combine with the bananas etc.

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My reaction to the Long Border was interesting. It is the part of the garden that is always featured in magazines etc and you feel a familiarity with it. The border is beautiful and a real lesson in the art of mixed planting with shrubs, perennials, biennials, annuals, bulbs and climbers but it didn’t make my heart sing as the stock beds did. I wonder why? Aside from the stock beds the plantings that I also really enjoyed, although you understand all of the garden was wonderful,  were in the sunken garden area where there was narrow small borders with shade lovers which showed you how to bring the best out of them by combining the plants well; here I could really relate ideas to my own garden and the plants I love to grow.

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We finished with a tour with Fergus so he could demonstrate the points he had previously made. The tour ended with the stock beds where we learnt some of the tall umbellifers were actually parsnips gone to seed – I am wondering if I could get away with anything so dramatic and big. The other tip I picked up was that you only need to add a handful of annuals in a large area, kind of running them through the plants, to make an impact and the poppies in this area were a good demonstration of this – so I only need to grow 10 of an annual at the most for a space such as my Big Border.

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So that was my magical day at Great Dixter, which I will visit again, if not later this year definitely next year. I love the way the garden pushes the boundaries, it challenges the rule books and creates its own rules but they aren’t really rules – Fergus calls his approach a system which can be adapted. I think that is a fair description but I think ethos is a better word to system which sounds so hard and manufactured. And yes I did buy plants but I can’t remember what as they are hiding in the car. Tomorrow I am off to Sissinghurst which no doubt will provide an interesting contrast.

I also took masses of photos but am writing this post from my B&B and I have only downloaded a few from the camera so there may be another post soon covering things I have forgotten, such as the pots – I need more pots.

A Country Gardeners Day Out

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Stockton Bury is one of my favourite local gardens so the idea of a visit which also combined a country gardeners market with a range of local nurseries was an opportunity impossible to resist.  Luckily for all concerned the heavy and relentless rain we had yesterday was not present and in the morning the sun shone adding to the jolliness of the event.

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I realise now that I don’t have any photos of the actual market with nurseries.  I was so busy buying plants that I didn’t think to take photographs until I was walking around the garden.  The market was set up in the courtyard just beyond the main house above.  Although much smaller than some fairs I have been to the quality of the plants for sale was excellent and wide-ranging and there was a really friendly atmosphere.  It was really nice to bump into lots of people I know whether they were nursery men (or should I say ladies) or other visitors.  I really like buying plants this way as you often come across plants you wouldn’t find anywhere else and you can get lots of helpful advice.

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Despite the lack of people in my pictures there were quite a few looking around the garden and it seemed that many had never visited before which was excellent for the garden as hopefully they will visit again. I don’t think I have visited at this time of year before, I seem to always visit earlier in the year so I was quite surprised to see the borders so full and the plants so tall – silly I know.

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The pond at the far end of the garden had almost disappeared from view behind the foliage of the Gunnera and Lysichiton americanus. You can see how much by clicking on this link to my post about an April visit.   This is one of my favourite areas of the garden as I have a weakness for gunnera and also other moisture loving plants, maybe because I can’t grow them myself.

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The tree peonies which I have admired in previous years were going over and the roses were beginning to take the starring role.  I do like the vertical accents of the columns although this is maybe a little grand for my small garden!

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One of the things I always notice in this garden is the part the trees play. They add a nice canopy but without plunging the garden into deep shade. In some ways it is a good ploy to give you a range of environments from bright and open to more shady borders and this in turn extends the range of plants you can grow – always a good thing in my view.

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Finally my favourite – the bee boles.  I would love one of these if I had a bigger garden.  There is something quite romantic about them, maybe it’s because they hark back to how things used to be which always seems to be attractive, although I am sure the reality would be very different.

And yes I did buy plants, have I ever managed to resist.  I bought a Salvia amistad, a white siberian iris, Lathyrus rotundifolius, Bomarea salsilla, Liriope muscari okina and Dactylorhiza praetermissa.  Some of my purchases were bought for specific locations but I must admit to some whims so I spent time this afternoon wandering around the garden pondering where I could shoe-horn then in.

All in all a great day, and there was cake too.  I will definitely go again next year.