Garden Visit – the birthplace of Crocus

Last weekend I had the delight of visiting Brockhampton Cottage, near Ross on Wye with a group of friends from Hardy Plant Society.  Brockhampton Cottage is the home of Peter Clay, part owner of Crocus (the online plant company) and was designed with the help of Tom Stuart-Smith.

The house sits on top of a hill in a site of several acres.  As you can see the views from the house are stunning, probably more so from the upstairs windows.  You can see for miles. Peter showed us around the garden and spent time explaining the ethos behind the development of the garden and how it inadvertently led to the creation of Crocus.

Peter is not a gardener by trade, coming instead from a marketing background but having inherited the property back in the 1990s he decided to create the garden of his childhood dreams – that country garden surrounded by wild flowers and meadows; the ideal of many a retrospective childhood dream.

He learnt that with a large space he needed to plant in large quantities and quickly became frustrated with phoning around nurseries tracking down a couple of plants here and a couple there.  This led to a evening conversation with a close friend, where fuelled by beer, they postulated about how the new worldwide web should be able to change things and make it possible to choose plants to decorate your outside space just as you could chose furniture and paint to decorate your inside space. This mad idea is where Crocus was formed leading to Peter having a career he had never envisaged.

Around this time Peter met a young designer called Tom Stuart-Smith and asked him to help him with his garden, their collaboration on the garden as continued ever since.

What I found fascinating about this garden was the complete celebration of its location.  The view is king and Peter explained how having cleared the land in front of the house he decided to mirror the natural landscape by planting a range of trees of different sizes and shapes to reflect the variety of trees in the wider landscape.

We also learnt how having planted a selection of trees across the site, these were under-planted by box bushes which in their growth habit replicated the shrubby under-planting you could see in the distant landscape.

Close to the house the planting is more formal with wide herbaceous borders full of large drifts of perennials.  The intention is that the colour pallet is limited and is partly driven by the naturally pink coloured bricks of the house.  This house can be seen for miles and there is a conscious attempt to help it sit comfortably within its landscape through the use of climbers, with only white flowers, and the creation of three wide shallow steps across the front of the house to help ground the house.

As the planting moves away from the house the colours fade into whites and greens – many different greens and many textures again referencing the landscape.

The landscape drops steeply away from the side of the house and the view of the house is broken with these beech columns which also act to filter the wind coming through the valleys.

The meadows and the sweeping grass paths are the real triumph of this garden but tucked away along the side of the property is a shady garden with a brook which flows down the side of the property and is clothed in ferns, siberian irises and these wonderful Primula florindae which caused many oo’s and arh’s.  On reaching the bottom of the hill you find wide beds of foliage rich herbaceous plants primarily with white or cream foliage.  This planting is in large blocks following the matrix approach which Tom Stuart-Smith is known for and which works so well on this scale.

The visit was a delight and I took away some interesting thoughts and ideas to play with in my own space.

The garden opens under the National Garden Scheme each year to coincide with the orchids flowering in the meadows.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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




Garden Visit: Montpelier Cottage


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Of Trilliums and other shady things


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

Stone House Cottage Garden, Worcestershire

I’m on annual leave for two weeks with no plans at all during this first week.  I have done stuff in the garden and house but half way through the week I got itchy feet and needed a change of scenery and some stimulation.   I had a ponder about where to go and decided to finally get around to visiting Stone House Cottage Garden and Nursery.  It has been recommended to me a number of times and I have read a few interesting articles on it over the years.  Less than an hours  drive from me it seemed very inviting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect especially at this time of year when garden can often seem to have gone over.  The first path I took wasn’t that inspiring as you can see above.  I am sure it looks wonderful earlier in the year as the ground is covered in geraniums but this is obviously its down time.  Off a couple of paths lined with yew there are various paths leading to small intimate garden spaces.

I really liked these narrow spaces which was surprising as often in the past I have found lots of clipped hedges claustrophobic but I think in this garden the borders draw your eye away from the hedge although in the winter I am sure the hedges add wonderful winter interest.  The other thing I was really interested in was the narrowness of some of the borders and how much was in them.  This was particularly interesting given the size of my garden and borders and my plantaholic tendencies.

I found myself even pacing out the depth of the borders which drew a curious look from another visitor.  So many gorgeous interesting plants and I was quietly chuffed that there were quite a few I have already although that really makes me sound like I have a problem.  The textures of the foliage are so interesting, something which I think is the way to go when you are planting in shady settings and an approach I am trying to take.

From the shady areas you come to the house and this interesting paved brick area where there were all sorts of small delights.  I mentioned in a post last week that I was thinking of converting part of my garden to a raised veg area when I give up the allotment but this morning doubts had started to creep in and seeing this area as fed those doubts and pushed the idea of a similar area with a nice bench.

A close up of the border you can see in the background of the above photograph.  Here I found myself peering under the plants at the front to see how they manage to plant up so close to the grass without everything flopping and causing problems for grass cutting.  Lots of hidden staking – more food for thought.

This though was the area that made me say ‘wow’ out loud.  The border was a mass of bees and other pollinators all enjoying the mix of phloxs and monardas.  This is the second garden in the last month I have seen with masses of phlox and I am definitely thinking about where I can incorporate something similar although a lot smaller.  I asked the owner about the border and whether it had one season of interest or more.  She confirmed that, as I suspected, this border had one season of interest and was the only one like it in the garden.  I don’t think that is a problem and I find myself getting torn between having parts of the garden looking great at one part of the year and then thinking they look dull the rest of the year.   I wonder if it just a case that in a large garden you can have areas which you ignore for part of the year whereas in a smaller garden everything has to work much harder.  Saying that though I have found that when I have started to add other things to a border to try to extend the season the whole effect is diluted.  Even more to ponder.

The garden at Stone House Cottage is now one of my favourite local gardens along with Bryans Ground in Herefordshire.  Interestingly they are similar in their compartmentalized approach, the long hedges, romantic planting and eccentric and wonderful buildings.  It seems to me that this is my style of garden. Whilst I don’t have space for the hedges and alleys I can try to emulate the planting style.  I particularly like Stone House Cottage as it has many unusual plants, something that the nursery is known for and which consequently meant I came home a little poorer than I went and the plant list I also bought back means poverty beckons even more.

The garden is open along with the nursery as all the plants for sale are in the garden too but it also opens for the National Garden Scheme.


The Garden House, Devon

I knew there must be an upside  to my son studying at Plymouth University, a 3 hour  drive from us, though I was a little slow to pick up on what it was.  My glee when I realised that The Garden House was only 30 mins drive from his student house cannot be described.  I have wanted to visit this garden for a couple of years now having seen it mention in various publications and having recently reviewed Keith Wiley’s On the Wild Side.  Whilst Keith Wiley has moved on to make a new garden The Garden House has continued to be developed by the new Head Gardener, Matt Bishop, who seems to be an extraordinary plantsman.

This weekend I had to collect my son for the Easter break and so a visit was in order. The top view is the one you see time and again on publicity about the garden.  This is The Cottage Garden although obviously not at the best time of year to see it.  The flowering trees you can see are Magnolias.  I have never seen so many Magnolias flowering so floriferously as at The Garden House – they were stunning and made the garden worth a visit on their own. The view above is up the Long Walk to the house. I have no idea why it is on an angle but there are quite a few that have come out this way and I know I was tired so I assume I was holding the camera wonky!

Of course its far too early for the South Africa garden to be in bloom and I suspect that I will never see it on my University trips as I cannot convince my son that he should wait until July to be collected!  Whilst a lot of the garden is dependent on annual  and later flowering perennials which haven’t appeared yet the grasses through the garden still provided movement and I particularly liked the composition at the entrance to the garden (above).

The main reason I enjoyed our visit so much was due to the spring flowers.  I adore small dainty spring flowers particularly Erythronium, Epimediums and Primulas – all of which were in plentiful supply.  Along with wonderful plantings of Fritillaria, Bluebells and other spring delights.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that The Garden House is building up National Plant Collections of Erythronium and Epimediums nor that there were a couple of irresistible Epimediums  that found their way home with me.

Interestingly whilst it was the area around the Long Walk that I thought I would really enjoy I was really taken with the Walled Garden which is the original garden dating back from the 1940s when it was developed by  the Fortescues.  I have been beguiled in recent years by meadow and prairie planting and I have disliked the formality of hedges and clipped box but I have noticed that recently whilst I like the wilder look I am becoming more and more drawn back to the Arts and Crafts style.  Even more interestingly is that this last week I have been looking at the work of Gertrude Jekyll on my garden history course.  Whilst The Garden House is later in date there is a definite Jekyll/Arts and Crafts influence on the Walled Garden. However, ducking round a corner we came across The Oval Garden, a newer creation, designed by Keith Wiley in 1992 as a way of linking the terraces.  It is such a clever design and my design student son took far too many photographs of the way the walls curve and merge.

We  caught a sneaky peak of the new Gold Jubilee Arboretum which is being developed. The arboretum covers 2 acres and will contain over 100 new trees “many of them recent introductions from the temperate zones of the world“.  If the rest of the garden is anything to go  by it will be worth visiting.

Having admired the structures and Magnolias etc my gaze was drawn suddenly downwards when we went across The Front Lawns.  My son’s cake was delayed whilst I was busy peering at the Primula collection and taking photos.  I hadn’t realised that there were so many old varieties but I think I will save those for another blog.

I am completely smitten by this garden and am already planning another visit at the end of May (son needs collecting at the end of the academic year) and September (oh son needs dropping off at start of academic year) and probably doing the same in the following 2 years.  Much to my son’s amusement on the way to the garden I was saying that we would have to find somewhere else to visit in May and then when we left the garden I said I would be back in May.  This is only the second garden I have come across which I want to visit time and time again – the other being Bryans Ground – and interestingly they have some similarities of style.  So having been exposed to countless styles of garden design and learnt through my course how landscapes have developed it seems my overriding passion is still for the Arts and Crafts period.

Welsh Hills Again

After my visit to Karen’s I trekked round Lake Bala and across North Wales to Elizabeth’s. 

When Elizabeth says she lives on a hillside she isn’t joking.  The single track road to their house is very steep in places and I wondered how they coped when it snowed.  The house is a very old farmhouse (which I forgot to photograph along with most of the garden) and you have to drive through the farmyard  to get to it.  The farm belongs to someone else but as Elizabeth has a self-catering cottage it is all very well signposted.

Elizabeth was quite apologetic about her garden which was completely unnecessary.  There was no garden when they arrived 6 years ago and, like my garden, everything slopes.  There is a very productive fruit and veg garden, a herb garden which Elizabeth has more plans for and what I would call a cottage garden (see photos above).  However, there are two big problems with the site.  Firstly the soil is very stoney so very free draining and given the lack of rain this year, even in North Wales, the soil is very dry.  This really impacts on what can be grown successfully without endless watering.  Saying that I thought the cottage garden was delightful and I loved the contrasting foliage textures.  The other problem, and it wasn’t until Elizabeth pointed it out that it occurred to me there was a problem, is the view.  It is stunning and big – huge hills, big skies.  The view had been a leading factor in the house purchase so to hide it behind hedges and thick planting would be foolish but a bed that would look big and substantial in my suburban garden looks lost in Elizabeth’s.

The photo above is a poor demonstration of the scenery.  I was so transfixed by it I forgot to take photos of the view, the house and most  of the garden and only realised half way home – sorry Elizabeth – but you can see lots on her blog.  They say you should work with the landscape so Elizabeth is exploring grasses and sweeps of annuals to pick up on the natural surrounding grassland.  I think her plans sound fab but I think she needs to be brave and do them on a larger scale than she would have done at her last house so the scheme doesn’t get swamped by the view.

I was surprised to discover that Offa’s Dyke finishes just up the path from Elizabeth’s.  It starts about an hour from my house and having done the long 3 hour drive it made me realise just how long the Dyke  is and I was even more impressed that Elizabeth had walked the length of it 2 years ago.  The area is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and therefore carefully maintained.  This was very evident in the field of Harebells we saw which were just lovely.

So that was my short trip to North Wales.  It was great to visit two friends and see their very different gardens, to chat, gossip and laugh.  I came home feeling refreshed and clearer headed.  Thanks Karen and Elizabeth.

Cottage Garden Stalwarts

In the last week all the Aquilegas in my garden have burst  into flower.  I’m sure that this isn’t normally the case and that there is a more staggered opening of flowers but nevertheless it is very nice to see so many flowers in one go.

Aquilegas are really cottage  garden flowers probably because they are so easy to grow from seed.  In fact,  left to their own devices they will self-seed all over the garden and you will end up with a quickly growing colony.  However, beware since Aquilegas are known for cross pollinating so your seedlings are unlikely to be the same as their parents.

I have to confess although my tastes are changing and I think that I am going off the cottage garden style when I see thesee delightful flowers I am suckered back in again.  My favourites are the McKenna Hybrids which are like the one above.  They have the long spurs at the back which I find particularly attractive.  I think they are more elegant than the other Aquilegas like the ones below.

The one above, Raspberry Ripple (I think), reminds me of a pink blancmange fresh out of its mould.  I’m not that keen on these more compact or should I say dumpy flowers although these types seem to have more flowers per stem than the McKenna ones.

The final photo is of Magpie which is quite attractive and seems to be a cross between the two types as you can see from the short spurs at the back.

Sadly the flowers will all be over in the next week and then the foilage has a nasty habit of looking very tatty so I tend to plant later flowering plants around them which will hid the foilage in due course.