Suffolk and North Essex Garden Tour 

I am currently away on a four day tour of gardens in Suffolk and North Essex. The trip has been organised by one of our HPS members and she has been organising an annual trip for her garden friends for the last 7 years and this is my first time in the trip. Now I have photographs, not as many as is my usual habit as I have been busy talking, of the 6 gardens we have visited so far but I wanted to start with sharing with you the wonderful location of our hotel in Sudbury.

We are staying in a former water mill which overlooks water meadows and my room overlooks the mill stream so my down chorus this morning was full of the gentle quacks of the ducks with their ducklings and we have been thrilled to watch a heron standing right below the hotel window.

This evening we went for a walk after diner over the water meadow which is a nature reserve and grazed by cows who earlier we had watched cooling off in the mill pond – there is a real bucolic feel to the view which is incredibly restful. And as for the sunset it was quite magical.

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.

A Book Review BOGOF

As I am blogging less I am feeling guilty that I owe a couple of book reviews to Frances Lincoln so I thought I would go for a BOGOF approach (Blog one, get one free).

61EcrMOgs-L._SX432_BO1,204,203,200_Shakespeare’s Gardens by Jackie Bennett
As an English Literature graduate I have a love/hate relationship with Shakespeare and interestingly having despised his writing while I was studying I now find myself becoming more appreciative.  The book charts Shakespeare’s life through the gardens of the houses associated with him and in doing so gives an interesting discourse on the Elizabethan garden as well as its society. The usual tourist trail suspects of Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and New Place Garden are all featured as are the Inns of Court to represent his time in London and Kenilworth to represent the high society of the Elizabethan world in contrast to Shakespeare’s world.  Each garden is seen through the skillful lens of Andrew Lawson and his photographs are supplemented by various images, mostly paintings, to illustrate the text.  Jackie has researched the history of each property and how it came to be part of Shakespeare’s life but this embroidery the biography with a wealth of historical information, particularly around the day to day lives of normal people;  I found it refreshing not to be reading much about Elizabeth I and her court.

Jackie gives a detailed history of each garden and we learn that Ellen Willmott, she of Miss Willmott’s Ghost (Eryngium giganteum) fame was an adviser in 1911 to the Shakespeare Birthplan Trust on the improvement of Anne Hathway’s garden. Likewise,  we learn about London garden, the Globe and Gerald’s Herbal in a section on his time in London. I really liked the botanical illustrations from the Herbal which would make lovely embroidery designs.

This is a well researched book with extensive footnotes and a bibliography so if you have an interest in the life of Shakepeare or garden history it would probably be very attractive to you.

New Wild Garden – Ian Hodgson

This was a book I was looking forward to reading and it didn’t disappoint.  I am new wild gardeninterested in a more relaxed style of planting but not so keen on what I shall sweepingly call prairie planting as I find it rather boring after a while.  The premise of this book is to show you have to plant in a more relaxed style in the new style in a range of settings from meadows, woodlands, xeriscapes and ponds.  It has ideas for the largest garden to pots.

Ian talks through the book about the wildlife benefits of this approach to gardening and how you can help the declining pollinators by planting the right plants.  He looks at how you should look at the different types of ecologies and then choose the most appropriate to your own situation and then plant the plant associated with that ecology.  So you might have a warm, well-drained border which you could plant to replicate the natural landscape of the Mediterranean; this same principle is applied to pots, ponds and a wealth of border locations.

The book ends with a directory of suitable plants.  Each illustrated with details of height and spread, preferred location and what plants they will associate with. Whilst there aren’t any planting plans in the book what is very useful is that a number of the photographs of a planting combination is carefully labelled with each plant identified so you can see the elements of any combination you aspire to create.

Whilst I started out expecting a book extolling the proponents of wild planting with lots of gasses and North American perennials the New Wild Garden is actually a modernised ‘how to create a garden’ book with the pristine lawns replaced with wildflower mixes, details of how and what to plant, growing tips and suggestions of plants or bulbs that can be planted in various locations.

I think this book could be a first gardening book for the new gardener who wants to take a more modern and holistic approach to creating a garden.

I enjoyed both these books; one of them purely coffee table book and the other more instructional.  I would recommend them to any one depending on their interest in Art and Film Studies in Fife.

 

 

 

Pandora’s Box Completed

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Whilst I am finding it challenging to write about the garden, just because I don’t have anything new to say, I am feeling very enthused about sewing so I wanted to share the project I finished late last night.

It’s called Pandora’s Box and the pattern is available free online from Blackwork Journey.  Why I loved this project is that it is broken down into 8 sections and Elizabeth, the lady behind it, published a section on the 1st of each month so you have plenty of time to complete four blocks.  Each section includes some pulled thread work, blackwork (although mine is red) and some Assisi, which is cross-stitch with edging and finally some cross-stitch.  It is easy, even for someone with little experience as me, to complete a block (square) in an evening and as you work through the project your confidence in these techniques grows.

The other wonderful thing about this project is that it is accompanied by a Facebook Group, which currently has 680 members from across the world.  As the project started there was a lot of discussion about fabric and threads, then as we completed a couple of sections we started to show our progress which prompted more discussion on colour choices.  Through the FB group is you couldn’t understand one of the instructions, although Elizabeth writes them so well and they are very clearly articulated in diagrams, you could ask for advice and within an hour or so you would have a response.

I am thrilled with the finished piece of work, I think it is the most satisfying thing I have stitched for a very long time.  I am planning on having it framed and I think it will go in the living room which has recently been redecorated with a red highlights in tartan curtains – trust me they look wonderful!

Elizabeth is now working on another project which she will start to publish later in the year, from memory I think it is November.

Note: if you are interested in following this project you need to look at the Freebies section on the Blackwork Journey website.

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.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2016

Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’

Lamprocapbos spectablis ‘Valentine’

Every gardener I know seems to be saying this last week ‘Goodness hasn’t the garden shot up this week’ and yes we have been blessed finally with warmer temperatures which coupled with the rain has given plants a real boost.  Needless to say having moaned about the cool spring for weeks and weeks those same gardeners are now moaning that they can’t keep on top of things!  Personally, with my more lackadaisical approach I don’t worry too much about weeds or that the last bit of lawn needs cutting – they will all be dealt with as and when I have time.  At this time of year I am spending more time looking and spotting familiar friends reappearing or studying new acquisitions to see how they grow. So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I am going to showcase my favourite flowers this weekend.

Trillium albidum

Trillium albidum

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum

Unknown Trillium

Unknown Trillium

I am completely obsessed with the trilliums that have reappeared this year, there are two more but they aren’t flowering yet.  To be honest I had forgotten about two of them so did a ridiculous little dance when suddenly I spotted them in the border.  I can’t work out what the bottom one is, it might be that the flower will develop more and be easier to identify over the next week.

Uvularia

Uvularia

Another woodland delight that took me by surprise but not for long and I soon remembered what it was.  Such a pretty dainty flower and I do like the way the petals twist.

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On a larger scale in the shady side of the garden the rhododendrons are flowering, these two are my favourites.  If I ever am lucky enough to have a larger garden with the right soil I will definitely indulge myself with lots more rhododendrons especially those wonderful ones with furry leaves.

Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely

Moving out of the shade into the sunshine the first of the umbellifers is flowering, lovely Sweet Cicely, such an pretty flower.

Allium cameleon

Allium cameleon

Allium cameleon is in its second year in the garden and already bulking up well.  It is a short, front of the border allium, much daintier than alliums such as Allium Purple Sensation.  I really like the way the flowers are blushed with pink.

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One of those bigger blowsy alliums just starting to open; I can’t remember which but I suspect it is Purple Sensation.  I do love alliums in all their varieties and have them flowering in the garden right through to high summer.

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The sea of camassias which have dominated the Big Border creating a delicious blue haze for the last few weeks is coming to an end.  It is only the very top of the stems which still have flowers and I can’t bring myself to remove them until they have lost every single flower.

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My favourite Aquilegia, its a seedling of the mckenna varieties with the long spurs at the back of the flower which I much prefer to the more chubby looking aquilegias which I think are varieties of the native columbine, whereas the mckenna varieties come from the USA.   I have lots of aquilegias, I went through a slightly obsessive period of growing them from seed and interestingly certain colours predominate.  I think I will weed out the ones that don’t appeal so much and maybe try to increase the mckenna varieties.  There are some who argue that over time all aquilegias revert to the muddy pink variety.  This just isn’t true what actually happens is they loose their original aquilegias and the muddy pink ones are seedlings which tend to revert back.

So those are the stars of my garden this week for other gardeners blooms pop over to Carol at May Dreams and check out the links.