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: 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.

 

 

 

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 2015

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The colour theme for June seems to be very much purples and pinks with the odd splash of red and white, such as the Potentilla album above.  I have been more conscious in choosing plants that are within a colour palette to try to bring some cohesion to my garden.

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The roses are starting to flower.  This one is looking the best it has ever looked and is smothered in flowers.  I think it might be Rosa ‘Lucky’ but for the life of me I can’t remember where I bought it from or when. I deliberately didn’t prune my roses hard this year as I wanted them to be taller to add height to the border and with the exception of one which for some reason hasn’t produce any flowering stems it seems to have worked well.

Rosa Ophelia

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The second one to flower is Ophelia which is a fuller flower and prone to being damaged when it rains or there is a strong wind.  It is beautiful and the scent is heavenly but I think I prefer the form of the top rose more.

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New to me this year is Cerinthe retorta which I have really fallen in love with.  I much prefer it to the normal Cerinthe major especially the white inner flowers.  I will definitely be collecting seed from these.

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My favourite Astrantia, again I seem to have lost the label, but the colour is just stunning.  It is bulking up slowly now so maybe next year I will be able to divide it.

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One of my many alliums – I get confused which is which but I do like the shape of the flowers on this variety as they open and I really need to add more to the garden.

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Iris louisiana which I adore.  It was new last year and I was completely bewitched but its iridescent blue flowers.  It lives in the damp corner of my patio which often floods and seems to enjoy the moisture.

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I am pretty certain this is Geum Totally Tangerine; a really good plant which has been flowering already for around 6 weeks and adds a sparkle of colour to the predominantly green foliage in the woodland border.

So these are my favourite flowers this month, the stars of the show.  For more Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts pop over to Carol’s at May Dreams.

 

Of Trilliums and other shady things

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Today I went to the inaugural meeting of the HPS Shade and Woodland Group which conveniently for me was held near Tewkesbury where I go for my monthly HPS meetings and in addition to this the talk was by one of our committee members, Keith Ferguson with a visit in the afternoon to his and his wife, Lorna’s, garden. The meeting was attended by some 80 people at a rough guess which isn’t bad for the inaugural meeting of a national group.

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Keith’s talk on Trilliums and other US woodlanders was fascinating and I learnt lots, how much I will remember remains to be seen.  I did learn that it was a myth that trilliums need acidic soil, there are one or two which do, but generally this isn’t the case. I still think trilliums are a bit tricky, I have a couple and only one flowers and in 5 years it has only bulked up to two flowers! I think I need to start mulching more with leaf mould etc. I overheard Keith telling someone that they mulch extensively in November so that seems to be the answer – worth a go anyway.

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After lunch we drove 20 minutes to the Ferguson’s home which is set down a narrow country road within sight of May Hill – a very pretty part of the world.  They have lived here nearly 20 years and worked hard to develop the garden.  Both Keith and Lorna are botanists and are real plants people.  Whenever there is a tricksy shrub that needs identifying at our group meetings it is them we look to and inevitably they know or can make a knowledgeable guess.

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I frequently visit gardens generally on my own, sometimes with a friend or two but this, and a visit with some of the same group last week, are the most enjoyable garden visits I have had for some time.  I think the secret lies in visiting with such knowledgeable plants people who are generous with their knowledge and not in a stuffy or superior way. We had a laugh and it is wonderful to hear a real hum of people talking about plants and indulging in their passion. 2015_05220069One half of the garden, in front of the house is more formal and is very bright being home to lots of wonderful colourful perennials and also the vegetable garden.  The other half of the garden (which altogether is around 2.5 acres) is the newer garden which is devoted to shade loving plants.  Here were clumps of trilliums which make my tiny specimen look even more pathetic. I enjoyed the planting style here as everything intermingles giving a wild appearance albeit managed.  I suspect William Robinson would have approved.  So many new plants to discover and learn about and at the same time familiar plants to see afresh and covert.  I was particularly taken with the Papaver orientale ‘May Queen’ which I have been promised a bit of, although it comes with a warning of being a thug!

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There were also plants that I doubt I will ever grow such as this Berberis jamesiana which Sally Gregson and I were completely bewitched by.  It is hard to propagate and given its size I suspect this is something I wouldn’t be able to grow unless I moved but still it is something to aspire to.

2015_05220092Whilst the reason for the visit was due to the HPS Shade and Woodland Group meeting what I really took away from the Ferguson’s garden was a wonderful demonstration of ‘right plant right place’.  Being botanists they understand what conditions each plant needs and the plants repay this care and attention by growing incredibly well.  It was a lovely afternoon.