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.
I have a passion for bulbs, as well as ferns and some other groups of plants, but bulbs I really love. I love that there is so much energy and possibility packed into a small bulb, or corm. I love that bulbs send up their flower, like a rocket, and then die down allowing space for something else to shine.
I’m especially proud of the clumps of Watsonia as I grew them from seed some years ago. The clumps have got so big that they have been divided and moved around the garden. Watsonia isn’t a plant I see much in English gardens, but a few years back when I visited gardens in Ireland it was everywhere.
I’ve included Asphodeline lutea as I was super excited to spot it’s flower spikes yesterday. Like the Watsonia I grew it from seed a few years ago but it has never flowered, there’s just been some wiry leaves but this year there are two flowers spikes. Hopefully in the next few days the flowers will open.
Brodiaea has been growing in my garden for a few year’s now, the original bulbs were bought from a supermarket and it seems to just seed around the garden, popping up here and there as in the gravel outside the seed where I would never have managed to plant it.
A tiny little allium, label missing, which grows in my front garden. I do like alliums and have all sorts that appear throughout the year but I’m appalling at labelling and when I do remember to include the label the birds remove it. But does it really matter, its a cut clump of alliums which I suspect I bought from an AGS plant sale when I was dabbling in alpines.
And my sixth bulb is Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ which also grows in the front garden is at the other end of the size spectrum to the allium. There are two forms of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ one flowering before the other and I have the early flowering variety. It’s a rather glamour bulb – tall and dramatic.
Those are my Six on Saturday at the end of a warm week which has benefited the bulbs greatly, especially those from South Africa.
For more Six on Saturday posts check out The Propagator’s blog
Its far too hot to spend time in the garden today, the patio thermometer is showing 36C although it is fair to say that is probably a little exaggerated as the thermometer is on the house wall and sitting in the sun – but its hot!
However, I did spend a very pleasant hour or so last night weeding made all the better by the new fence my neighbours have put up but more of that another day. Hopefully, I might be able to do some pottering this evening or tomorrow. In the meantime, I thought I would showcase my favourite roses.
I grow fonder and fonder of roses. Its something about the tissue like quality of the flowers, the scent, the old fashioned nature they bring to my garden. The first two on the post are David Austin roses which are now doing very well. When I first got them they had habit of not supporting their flower heads which can be a little OTT at times but I think that as the plants have matures and established the stems are stronger.
I can’t remember where I got this rose from; I have had it for years. Its flowers start off with strong colouration around the petal edges which slowly fade. It has added value as it is one of those roses which has multiple flowers per stem, unlike the two David Austin roses.
If you want lots of flowers then Lucky really delivers. It flowers for weeks on end especially if I remember to do a bit of dead-heading. Again a rose I have had for some time; it may have come from Peter Beales as thats where I bought a number of roses a couple of years ago.
Blush Noisette is a small climber which grows in a pot on my patio climbing up trellis. Another generous rose but looking a little pale this year compared to previous years, not a lot of Blush.
Finally my Marmite rose which was in the garden when we arrived. It has persisted for years crowded in under various shrubs especially from my neighbours garden. But due to the neighbours undertaking some heavy pruning the rose suddenly has loads of light and is flowering like mad. It is one of those flowers that I think you either love or hate – I love it as its just so different.
So six roses for a hot summers day. For more Six on Saturday posts pop over to The Propagators Blog and check out the links in the comments box.
Take one group of overgrown leggy aeoniums add…
a pile of old terracotta pots and
a few trugs of sandy gritty compost and you get
a whole load of aeoniums which I am now wondering what I will do with if they take.
When I got my first aeonium it took me some time before I had the courage to chop the top of the plant and pot it up. But when I did I also, having read up on the subject, took stem cutting which took surprisingly well. Whenever you cut the top of an aeonium off, if you are lucky, the plant shots from the cut and produces branches so you end up with a more interesting plant.
As you can see I have quite a few stems which I am hoping will reshoot to create interesting branched plants. As for all the pots of aeoniums, if they take, quite a few of them will be donated to the work charity plant sale next year, where this year, the last batch of aeonium cuttings I took proved to be surprisingly popular. That is most of my succulents sorted aside from the Echiverias which need to be divided but thats for another day.
A stunningly beautiful day today; the sun is shining, there is a light breeze and the birds are singing. Well for some of the day but with the sunshine comes the fair weather gardeners and the peace is shattered by the sound of lawn-mowers and strimmers and no doubt later the air will be full of the waft of BBQ smoke but at least its not raining and it does actually feel like June.
I popped into the local garden centre on the way home from work yesterday just to buy a bag of compost and a hanging basket. I came home with two bags of compost, a bag of horticultural grit and a bag of sharp sand, fertilizer, a hanging basket, three heathers (don’t laugh), two trays of bedding dianthus, two salvias and an eryngium. But in my defence they were all considered and planned purchases. The compost, gravel and sand were needed so I could sort out the pots on the patio and also my succulent collection which is in desperate need of tidying up and potting on. The dianthus are for a couple of shallow pots to add some colour by the front door and on the patio and have already been potted up and are on display. The salivas and eryngium are just want I need to add to the Big Border grassland style planting (I use that term very loosely) and fill the gaps left by the oriental poppy which I removed last week and the heathers are an experiment for under the big field maple to add some interest in the summer.
The salvias and eryngium have already been planted and I think the top photo shows how well the salvias have blended into the existing planting but lifted it a little.
The heathers aren’t planted yet as I have to do quite bit of preparation work in the area before they are planted and I think I want to mulch around them so I need to get some wood chip ready. Its meant to rain heavily in a few days so I might take advantage of the ground being wet and put the mulch on afterwards to try and retain the moisture.
Here is another view of the Big Border from the other side and end. I really like how full it is and I am enjoying the combination of the baby blue geranium with the unopened flowers of Anthemis ‘Sauce Hollandaise’. I have no idea what the geranium is. I have quite a few which I have acquired over the years as I feel I should like geraniums but they have never really performed that well until this year. I think it is a combination of the neglect of the last few years, the fact that the poor things haven’t been moved for a while, and the significant rain we have had. They are really looking great at the moment.
The final photo is of my patio which I spent several hours sorting out this morning. It needs a weed but everything that needs to be planted out has been planted out; everything that needs to be potted up has been potted up and its all neat and tidy. Tomorrow the plan is to get up early and tackle the greenhouse before it warms up too much.
For the triumphs and tribulations of other gardeners this week check out the links in the comment box on The Propagators weekly meme –
I was reading the introduction of an embroidery book yesterday morning which really spoke to my inner gardener, as much as my embroidery self. The book, Needlework Antique Flowers by Elizabeth Bradley is from the early 1990s and belonged to a former member of my Embroiderers Guild who sadly died earlier this year. I love ‘old’ embroidery books as they often have real instructions on all sorts of lost stitches and techniques. This book is about woolwork which is essentially like tapestry by done with cross stitch instead of tent stitch. Anyway, I digress, the thing that struck a chord with me was the following comment from the author:
“Modern gardeners and gardening writers seem to fall loosely into two schools. The first are plantsmen whom I greatly admire. They really know their charges, can remember their Latin names however often they change, and thoroughly understand what each plant needs to thrive. Their gardens, although often beautifully designed and laid out, differ from others by their plants also growing perfectly, each well staked and with enough space around it so that it can grow properly and be seen to best advantage…..I as a gardener, fall into a second category that can only be described as the school of enthusiastic amateurs. I love my plants and know most of their names but just will not make the time to really find out what is necessary to get best out each.”
The reason this struck a chord with me is I often like to think of myself as a plantsmen, although I recognise I am being a little presumptive. Some gardening friends seem to think I am very knowledgeable ad plants (if they read this blog they would know I can’t remember one name from one week to another) and I do research what conditions my plants need but I fail completely when it comes to showing my plants perfectly so they can be seen to the best advantage.
Maybe this passage was in my mind when I spent some time on Sunday morning tackling the big border. What started out as a little dead-heading quickly become more involved and the large red opium poppy was dug up. Its huge leaves have been smothering so many other plants and I have decided that it is just to substantial for the border, which I am trying to focus more on grasses, bulbs and grassland plants. The poppy has been cut back hard and potted up ready to be planted out in the front garden, as part of the editing work that needs to take place. The camassia foliage has added to the problem as the leaves are dense, sword like and long and when it rains are flattened down on new foliage from other plants which are trying to grow; so they too are being edited. The alliums suffered the most from the suffocating foliage and were growing almost horizontally with weird kinks in their stems. So……
…each allium ended up with its own stake – how mad is that! I think this must surely be the way to madness. The lesson I take away from this is to plant alliums amongst less dominating plants.
Whilst, I aspire to show each of my plants to their best advantage, because of my preference for well filled borders I don’t think I will ever grow my plants “with enough space around it so that it can grow properly” .