Update on the Front Garden

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Some readers will recall that back at the start of the year I decided to do away with the front lawn. Since then I have been a busy bee and with the help of my sons the transformation is nearly completed.

The pile of bricks isn’t an art installation but the start of the path that we have been working on this weekend.

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My eldest has been a star and spent the morning digging a trench for the bricks to lay in and he managed to get the bricks for 25p each which has made a huge difference to the cost and allowed us to be more generous in the number used.  The next step is to cement them in place and then to put gravel down on the path.  I intend to use the same gravel as the driveway so it blends together.

From being embarrassed by my front garden I now love it – as my son says it is now a proper garden rather than a small lawn with some plants around it!

There’s more to the life than gardening (and blogging)

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I was surprised to discover today that it is 17 days since I last posted a post on this blog and even more surprising for someone who has posted 3 times a week for at least 9 years is the fact that I haven’t missed posting nor have I even thought about it.  I didn’t even share with you the photo of my blue meconopsis poppy, grown from seed, which flowered this year with half a dozen flowers nor did I ever get around to blogging about all the gardens I visited in Suffolk or my visit to Croome Park last weekend.  Something has changed in me not just in terms of blogging but in other aspects of my life and it is for the better I think.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while particularly over the last 18 months will know that my job has changed and this past 18 months has been quite unsettling for me as I step up to a much more responsible role with a huge feeling of needing to prove myself.  It has taken its toll on me at times emotionally and physically but recently a new phase seems to have started – maybe I feel more assured in my role, maybe its not as scary and new – whatever it is I am now sleeping better and I don’t feel so stressed which can be no bad thing.

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One of my coping mechanisms in recent weeks, which I think has helped enormously, is walking.  Most evenings I go out after dinner for a walk, to the adjacent common or sometimes on the hills.  And it has made a huge difference particularly to someone who spends so much of the day at a desk or in meetings.  The local common is a wonderful place to walk as the grass is allowed to grow tall with just some paths mown through it and you can just loose yourself and let your mind drift; then on my return home I embroider.  In a strange way the compulsion I used to feel to garden in order to de-stress has been relocated to walking and sewing. I am sure that some of this relates to my new neighbours clearing the fence line and reducing my privacy.  I have tried to employ my usual Pollyanna approach to this saying it will be fine but I am struggling with it and we are looking at ways of addressing it – I’m even toying with moving house!  But I also think that the garden isn’t fulfilling my need for creativity any more.  I have basically run out of spaces to dig up.

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I have nearly finished the revamp of the front garden and just need to put the path in.  I say ‘just’ but this actually means laying a brick edge hence the delay while I work through all the excuses why I can’t do it this weekend or the next until I decide to just get on with it and stop procrastinating.  I will have to post about it soon as I am rather pleased with how it is looking in its first year but I am waiting for some of the asters to flower to give it colour before I do.

There is nothing new to do in the back garden aside from day to day maintenance which I have been doing as and when but I have to make myself garden these days.  This morning I made myself deal with the dead rose blooms I could see and of course once I was outside I spent a satisfying couple of hours dead heading, cutting the grass path and re-engaging with the garden.  I was thrilled to discover some banana seeds had germinated in the greenhouse, that a wren appeared to be nesting in the old bird box and that the fig tree I had brutally pruned a couple of weeks ago, when I rediscovered it under the triffid branches of the Geranium palmatum, was covered in lots of new emerging shoots.

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Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy my garden but not in the compulsive obsessive way I used to.  I don’t drool over the bulb catalogues any more instead that bad habit has been transferred to sewing magazines.  I don’t have a desire to spend every minute of my spare time in the garden, visiting a garden or at a garden club – instead I am a more rounded person which can only be a good thing.  Whilst I enjoyed my trip last month looking at gardens in Suffolk I would have liked to have had the opportunity to visit Gainsborough’s birthplace museum which was just near our hotel but always shut by the time we returned and I have recently developed an interest in the Northern Renaissance artists which may influence my holiday choices next year.

My family and friends think I have moved to a better place and that the real me is finally emerging.  Expressions like ‘you have blossomed’, ‘you have grown’ etc are being used and I think they are right.  I will always love my garden, whether its this one or a new one, but I don’t now need to rely on it to justify who I am, to prove I can achieve something and I don’t need to blog relentlessly any more to satisfy my need to mental stimulation and desire to connect with others.

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This new phase, with adult children and a demanding but rewarding job, means that I have the time, funds and courage to embrace interests I used to have many years ago.  I want to travel more, maybe I will have a go at gliding again, I want to get fitter, I want to expand my sewing and embroidery abilities, I want to see art, I’m going to go canoeing for the first time and if I loose some weight along the way I will be thrilled.

There will be blog posts but probably more as and when and I have started a new blog to record my sewing journey and to connect to other sewers but I don’t know how successful that will be as to be honest I am actively trying to avoid looking at screens when I’m not at work but we shall see and that’s the key change instead of setting myself mad targets and schedules, looking for things to blog about, I have moved to a more relaxed ‘lets see’ approach and I am comfortable with it.  So ‘lets see’ what the future brings – I may paint the spare room or I may read a book this afternoon, it doesn’t matter.

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End of Month View June 2016 – Hugh’s Border

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A quick End of Month post from me as to be honest I had lost track of where we are in the month.  The garden is at its most full and even more so given the amount of rain we have had over the last few weeks.  Hugh’s border is looking fuller than ever, and in some places too full.

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The other end of the border which is shadier but not as shady as it used to be due to the neighbours cutting down the trees along the boundary.  This end is the home to some of my earlier fern acquisitions which are now quite substantial, there is also a Paulownia although it is battling with a rogue foxglove growing through the middle of it.  My idea is that the Paulownia will form a leafy canopy over the border but I think that will take a few years.  I spent some time this last weekend digging up Pulmonaria which grew along the edge of the steps and had started to self-seed around.  It was great when the border was so shady but had well outgrown its space so I have replaced it with another fern and some more siberian irises which I hope will bring some new textures to this end of the border.

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The front edge of the border which is a lot better than in previous years but at the moment lacking in colour.  There are some foxgloves, crocosmia and a fuschia about the flower so in a week or so it should colour up.  My approach these days is for the foliage first and then the flowers to add colour highlights during the year.  However, I need to work on how I combine the foliage.  I was very impressed with some of the combinations I saw in the gardens last week so there is food for thought on how to improve the planting.

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The back of the border from the bench and you can see this is particularly chaotic and probably too full.  I need to do some editing here and make some decisions about what should stay but I enjoy that side of gardening as it stimulates my creative side.

So that’s a whizz around Hugh’s border before I go to work.  All are welcome to join in with the end of month meme I just ask that you put a link to your post in the comments box below and link to this post in your post so we can all track you down.

Suffolk and N Essex Garden Tour – Day 2

Ultingwick, Maldon

Ultingwick, Maldon

Day 2 of our tour welcomed us with lovely sunshine and we set off optimistically to our first garden – Ultingwick, nr Maldon.  I was looking forward to visiting this garden as I have been friends with its owner, Phillippa, on Twitter for a couple of years now.  I know that Phillippa does not think this is the best time to visit her garden as she really focuses on mass tulips in Spring and then late Summer planting.

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However, the roses were out in abundance and despite the torrential rain the day before they were looking very good and smelling heavenly.  There was a very pretty yellow climbing rose over an entrance arch, which I didn’t photograph, but I was completely bewitched by its scent – apparently it is Goldfinch and it is on my wants list.  Seeing all of Phillippa’s climbing roses, has reinforced my feeling that I need to add some to my garden – to the extent that one has already been planting at the front of the house.

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Part of Phillippa’s garden is made up if a large meadow with mown paths through it.  It was just beginning to colour up with scabious flowering and I expect it will soon look glorious.  However, I did learn yesterday that due to the heavy rainfall in the area the river that runs along the boundary of the property has burst its banks and flooded the garden which is such a pity.

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I was surprised that I didn’t have more photographs of the garden particularly the herbaceous borders but I think I was distracted by talking to my colleagues about the garden and how wonderful the setting is.  What really interested me was Phillippa’s collection of succulents and other tender plants.  You can see the pots around the front door in the top photograph but work had just started on placing the late summer planting now that the tulips have been removed.  I was particularly fascinated by the way the aeoniums have been planted in the border above – a real gaggle of aeoniums all huddling together.  On the other side of the central pot is a similar group of a different type of aeoniums, a much shorter greener variety, which had taken on a sort of organic shape.

I really enjoyed Phillippa’s garden, there was a lovely atmosphere partly contributed to by the listed buildings but also partly from the elegant and generous planting.  I would love to visit again either to see the tulips or the late summer planting.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

I have to say that I was disappointed with my visit to RHS Hyde Hall because  I am annoyed with myself as it turned out later than I had missed quite a bit of the garden as I was talking to colleagues and ran out of time.  So much so that I decided the next day to look around the garden in the first instance on my own before joining up with others.  However, I did like what I saw.  As you arrive there are newish plantings near the Plant Centre with block plantings of perennials in squares rather than the traditional herbaceous border.  I particularly liked the colour of this delphinium but I don’t know its name.

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As you walk up the hill to the original garden, not that I knew that was where it was, you travel through large generous sweeping borders which had a strong impact due to the limited colour palette and were a good example of how to incorporate grasses into a herbaceous planting.  It did get a little samey though as you walked up the hill and I think that maybe different colour palettes could be used in different borders.

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At the top of the hill is the Australian/South Hemisphere garden which I really enjoyed as I have a weakness for plants from this part of the world and it was great to see them grown so well and to be envious of the free draining soil which allows this success.

I would like to visit this garden again so I can see the rest of it, maybe I could incorporate it with another visit to Phillippa’s garden.

Furzelea, Danbury

Furzelea, Danbury

Our last garden of the day was a lovely surprise.  A private garden of only 2/3rd of an acre which was a plantsmen’s delight and a demonstration that just because you collect plants it doesn’t mean you can’t have well planted borders.

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Take for example this White Garden which is clearly white but actually there is little white in the garden.  Avril, the plantswoman in charge, hasn’t fallen into the White Garden trap and filled the space with white flowering plants instead she has used white variegations with some white flowers and it just works.

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My photos of the borders are over saturated so not that great but if you look at this border you can see how the heuchera picks up on the digitalis and the poppy and how the phormium picks up on the brown leaved plant at the front of the border.  When you look closely at the planting the combinations are even more interesting.IMG_5527

Take this combination for example and look how the geranium palmatum picks up the pink tones of the Phormium leaves and in turn the heuchera picks up on the purple of the leaves.  The colours trickle right down to the front of the planting with the pink flowers of the heuchera.

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And this combination with the flowers of the grass, an annual that I don’t have the name of but an determined to find out, and how they work with the phormium leaves with the foliage of the artemisa also picking up on the silver tones in the leaves.  Interestingly the majority of the combinations I liked were foliage ones with the flowers an added bonus.

For me this garden was one of the ones that made me think about how I plant in my garden and from which I learnt some really useful lessons. I really enjoyed it

 

 

 

Suffolk and N Essex Garden Tour – Day 1

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Our first day started with torrential rain causing delays on the motorway  causing us to be late for our first garden of the four day garden visiting extravaganza that we were embarking on.  Due to the awful weather, the owners of The Moat House generously invited us into their home for morning tea and cake.  I think it rakes a real generosity of spirit to invite 38 soggy strangers into your home with their damp shoes and dripping umbrellas and coats particularly given the pale green carpet.

Moat House, Little Saxham

Moat House, Little Saxham

Being hardy gardeners, having refueled, we were keen to explore the first garden.  The Moat House is a partially moated garden of two acres which has been developed over 2 years. The garden is very much your traditional country garden with herbaceous borders full of roses, generally in pastels shades, alliums, geraniums, delphiniums, and peonies.  IMG_5343

As you would expect with any English country garden there was plenty of box edging and topiary around the garden.  Personally, I’m not that keen on box edging but I can see that it provides a nice edge and has the benefit of hiding the legs of plants and the bare soil but you need to have the discipline to keep them looking sharp in order to achieve the best effect.

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And we had the first of many parterres filled with herbs and plants for cutting.

Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow

Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow

With the rain abated and the sun shining we moved on to our next garden – Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow.  The garden was created by Bernard Tickner who has gardened here for some 50 years and has now placed the 7 acre garden in trust for the charity Perennial. Bernard is a plantsman and his approach is to create a garden which is very loosely designed, giving a natural feel, and providing interest all year round.  The garden is almost on an island created by the diverted mill stream which powered the Fullers Mill.  The Fulling Mill has existed on the site since 1458, fulling is a process through which you make cloth thicker by passing it through a series of wooden mallets, the fabric is then stretched out on the drying ground.

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I quite liked the looser planting style to the previous garden and it was the favourite garden for many that day.   generously  borders with gentle curves are planted up with shrubs and perennials merging together in soft mounds.

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However, the real feature of Fullers Mill Garden is the stream and mill-pond.  The inclusion of water in the garden was a real theme of the gardens we visited this week which was interesting as we constantly heard that we were in the driest part of the country.  Presumably this is because when the houses were built there was no water on tap so the properties were located close to streams in order to have easy access to the little water that was available.

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I think Fullers Mill Garden is one that would have benefited us having a little more time to explore but we spent the day trying to catch up the time lost in the morning on the motorway.

Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hill

Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hill

We ended the day with our first real plant buying opportunity at Bellflower Nursery.  The nursery specialising in Campanula, hence its name, and hold a national collection.  I have to admit that I’m not that keen on Campanula as they never grow very well for me but I really enjoyed visiting this garden purely due to its location within a walled garden.

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The owner of the nursery, Sue Wooster, not only has her nursery to run but also the ornamental side of the walled garden to maintain and she shared with us that she has also just taken on the tenancy of the edible part of the walled garden. She was doing a sterling job is maintaining the borders which I think also act as stock beds for the nursery but what I enjoyed was the slightly dishevelled aspect of parts of the garden which Sue admitted had a habit of getting the better of her.  There is something particularly romantic about a walled garden especially one that has the ghosts of its past still evident.

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So day 1 having started a bit wet under foot ended well with us in high spirits and our coach driver rapidly becoming aware that he was going to have to develop skills in packing plants.

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Let there be light

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As gardeners we need to be continually adapting, whether it is to changing weather patterns, replacing ailing and much loved plants or in my case losing the tree canopy from the woodland end of the garden; to the extent that there is no woodland.

I have been anticipating this change for a number of years now.  Ever since the couple who lived next door split and their children went to University I knew it was only a matter of time before the house was sold and new owners would be tackling the garden.  I don’t think in the 13 odd years we have lived here that my neighbours had ever done any gardening other than cutting the grass, chopping off the odd branch that got in their way and weeding the driveway.  The garden had obviously been much loved by their predecessors and there have always been signs of good plants hidden amongst the undergrowth.  The house was on the market for a year and during this time I have made sure that I planted some shrubs in the woodland border to replace the tree canopy should new owners tidy up on the boundary line.

End of July 2015

End of July 2015

The new owners finally took up ownership about a month ago.  They are a young family full of energy and enthusiasm with two sets of grandparents helping to sort out the property before they move in.  I found myself wondering how the house felt yesterday as over the last few weeks every weekend the air has been filled with the sound of sanders and drills and I think they have painted every room in the house – they say the interior was as neglected as the exterior.  But more fascinating to me has been the gungho attitude to sorting out the garden.  One of the grandfathers (or ‘olds’ as his son refers to them) is a dab hand with a chain saw and strimmer.  On the first weekend they set too in the front and by the end not only did they have a pile of debris some 10 foot tall but you could actually see the far front corner of the house up which was growing a beautiful climbing hydrangea.  They have worked along the furthest boundary, finding a shed on their way and yesterday it was the turn of our shared boundary.

Having been blessed with complete privacy from this side of the garden ever since we moved here it was rather startling to come round the side of the house from planting in the front to see two men clearing the fence line.  They have removed the majority of the trees and intend to remove the sycamore and ash trees as well.  The intention is to only keep a large oak tree, which we didn’t even know existed, and some prunus.  The large sycamore is going as its roots are pushing over the retaining brick wall that holds up the garden – my reaction is ‘hoorah, no more sycamore seedlings!’ They think they have doubled the size of the garden already; certainly they have gained something like 6-7 foot along our fence line and probably 15 along the back fence. You can just about see the difference if you compare the two top pictures and they still have a lot to clear so the sunlight levels should increase further.

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The impact on the garden has been quite dramatic with sunlight flooding in to what was the shady part of the garden.  The shade had been so dense in the past that the ‘lawn’ was just moss which is partly why it was dug up.  Being a perennial Pollyanna I am trying to look past the fact that they can see into my garden and vice versa and focus on the fact that the patio is now much sunnier which means that it might be worth getting a couple of nice chairs.  I don’t have to group all my sun loving pots down one end of the patio any more which means I can arrange things better.  It also means that I had to spend some time today moving the shade loving pots to the opposite side of the garden into a smaller area of shade and replacing them with pots of bulbs which should really benefit from the extra light.

It will be interesting to see how the shade loving plants cope and whether the shrubs I have planted will give them enough shade.  There are a couple of self-sown hawthorns in my garden along the fence line which I have deliberately left for some years and they are now higher than the fence so I will allow those to grow up into trees and provide some privacy.  But what I am really interested to see if whether my perennials which have a tendency to lean towards the right of the garden will straighten up if they are getting all round sun-shine. It really is quite fascinating.

This week’s obsessions

Iris hollandica 'Autumn Princess'

Iris hollandica ‘Autumn Princess’

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Note to self: plant more of these for next year amongst the grasses.

I really discovered Dutch Irises a few years ago but last year the penny dropped that you really need to plant them amongst grasses or grassy looking plants which will support the flowers but also hide the long stems. Whilst the whites, yellows and blues are nice I just adore the colours and tones on this variety, they light up the border in a most elegant way.

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I have re-introduced Lupins in the garden this year having not grown them for years mainly because of the tatty state of the leaves as the flowers fade.  I had forgotten how beautiful the young fresh leaves can be and what an interesting addition they make to the border.  I am also really pleased with the colour of the flowers as they were an impulse buy at the local garden centre back in the Spring when I was looking for some strong colours for the borders.

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Last year I became quite obsessed when visiting a nearby garden with the large block of poppies that were about to open.  I just love the hairs on the buds especially when they are back-lit.

End of month view and time-out

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I’m afraid it’s a short and sweet (hopefully) end of month view post from me this time. I have decided to take some sort of break from the blog for a while but the end of month meme was upsetting my plan so at the last minute I have decided to post some pics of Hugh’s border which as you can see is looking very lush at the moment, though the pink Sweet Rocket (I think ) aren’t what I planned and will be shortly replaced by some Crocosmia Lucifer which will tie in better with the rest of the planting here.

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The reason for my sabbatical from the blog is nothing more sinister than work commitments. My new role is developing rapidly and as I said to the Vice Chancellor today there isn’t much of a curve in my learning curve! But it is exciting and I am enjoying the challenge and learning loads. However I am working longer days and to be honest the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at a screen or try to write something even vaguely interesting – before this new role the blog was one of the only outlets for my whitterings and thoughts; now I have to write numerous policies and reports so I have no energy for the smallest of whitterings. All I want to do with my spare time is potter, mainly in the garden, and sew.

So instead of making myself blog because I feel guilty for not blogging I thought I would take some time out for an undefined period of time. I don’t want to say I will stop blogging or make some grand announcement, but I didn’t want anyone thinking the worse.

Images of RHS Chelsea

Primrose Hall Nursery

Primrose Hall Nursery

I have been lucky enough to go to RHS Chelsea on Press Day this year as I get a RHS Committee pass due to the Aster Trial.  Its been a long day starting with catching the train at 5:55 so instead of writing about my impressions I am just posting some of my favourite images.

Ashwood Nursery

Ashwood Nursery

Andy Sturgeon Telegraph Garden (my favourite)

Andy Sturgeon Telegraph Garden (my favourite)

The Morgan Stanley Garden

The Morgan Stanley Garden

Detail planting on The Chelsea Barracks Garden

Detail planting on The Chelsea Barracks Garden

Cleve West M&G Garden (consummate planting as ever)

Cleve West M&G Garden (consummate planting as ever)

Senri-Sentei Garage Garden

Senri-Sentei Garage Garden

Avon Bulbs

Avon Bulbs

Digitalis purpurea 'Pams Split'

Digitalis purpurea ‘Pams Split’

Jacques Armand

Jacques Armand

 

Garden Visit: Montpelier Cottage

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I had a delightful afternoon visiting Noel Kingsbury and Jo Eliot’s garden in deepest darkest Herefordshire within spitting distance of the Welsh borders.  I nearly didn’t go as I wanted to get on with the front garden but having planted up half the space in the morning and with unexpected blue skies at lunchtime I set off for what is always an enjoyable drive west.

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Noel’s garden is not what many would call the traditional style of garden.  Indeed I ran into someone I know from a garden club who hadn’t visited before and was a little perplexed by the research beds and the intensive planting in some areas and the large meadow and ponds with wildflower planting.   We agreed that it made a nice change from many of the gardens you visit, particularly under the National Garden Scheme, and my fellow garden club member said it had certainly given him real food for thought.

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Personally I really enjoy this garden.  I have visited before, last August, when I went for lunch and had a proper tour with Noel.  The garden demonstrates Noel’s interests in plant communities and how perennials, in particular, grow together.  The area above is a series of research beds with various perennials planted out in blocks to see how they fare in Noel’s heavy clay soil  However, plants are allowed to self seed as is evident from the prolific number of aquilegia and trollis which are scattered around the garden and really pull everything together.

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I really like the intensity of this area of planting with all the purples and cerise flowers; it was alive with insects.  It is this intense style I am trying to achieve but its a style which looks more natural than the traditional style of perennial planting and I think that although it looks so natural it is quite hard to make work well.  It is one of those things that everyone thinks looks easy until you try it yourself. As the year progresses the grasses and late perennials which are currently hidden amongst the early flowering plant will have bulked up and bring a new wave of interest and colour.

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And finally a real surprise as Noel’s Aeoniums are already out on the patio, and have been out for two weeks.  Mine are still lurking in the greenhouse and looking the worse for it so this week they will be moved out into the fresh air and hopefully it wont be long before they look as glossy and healthy as Noel’s.

I’m off to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if any of the show gardens, with all their immaculate planting, have the same sense of place as Noel and Jo’s garden; I suspect not.