In a Vase on Monday – Dainty Lily of the Valley

2015_05090029

I have gone for simplicity this week, in fact I find myself preferring the more simple vases.  I have some lily of the valley flowering and I wanted to appreciate them properly, especially their scent.  They haven’t flowered as well as some previous years but I think they have suffered from beginning swamped by bluebells in recent years.   There was only a small posy to collect but the scent is pretty good.

2015_05090032

The vase has appeared before, a £1 find at the local flea market.  I have put it with one of my favourite photographs.  It is of me, my Mum and my paternal grandmother, who died when I was about 7.  It is one of only two photos I have of my grandmother.  I just love this photo and it takes pride of place on the mantle-piece.  With them, as you should always display things in odd numbers (!!) I added my sheep pincushion which I made last year.  It too lives on the mantle-piece as I can’t bring myself to use it.

2015_05090041

I think lily of the valley should be grown more, although I understand that some people find it hard to grow.  It is such a pretty spring flower and often overlooked due to the brighter daffodils and tulips.  I love its simple purity so it is nice to show it off this week.

For more In a Vase on Monday’s post ramble over to Cathys and check out the comment box.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 10th May 2015

2015_05090059

On queue the Deutzia is flowering in time for the Malvern Spring Festival.  I don’t know which variety it is as it was here when I moved in 13 years ago.  I cut it back heard each year after flowering or we wouldn’t be able to get up the steps to the garden! This year is seems to be groaning with flowers more than ever before.

2015_05090055

The garden is looking very lush and fresh.  Lunaria Chedglow has been wonderful for some weeks now and I plan to try and collect some seeds so I can keep these honesty going.  I do like the fresh foliage on box, it will almost a pity to clip the two cones back at the end of the month.

2015_05090056

The Woodland Border is getting into its pace with the Solomons Seal and False Solomon Seal flowering and I am pleased that the epimediums have really clumped up in the last few years to provide good ground cover.  In the background you can just spot the young leaves of the Mahonia.  I do like the fact that the new leaves are coming through in reddish hues which are bouncing off the Acer in front of it.  I am also pleased to see the Mahonia leaves as two years ago I ruthlessly chopped the plant down to the ground in the hope that it would produce a number of stems instead of its one very tall stem.  The plant sulked for a while but it is getting back into its stride now and looking good.

2015_05090053

The top grass path is still in need of a cut.  I have been rather distracted with other things this weekend so the only gardening that occured was cutting the front grass and potting up the pelargoniums.  It might look shabby but the pollinators are loving it and the cat loves the long grass.

2015_05090049

The Big Border is finally filling out this year and I am glad that I took the decision not to leave spaces for dahlias and other annuals this year.  Its main focus is late summer which lots of aster and rudbeckias but at this time of year the camassias and aquilegia provide a bit of colour.

2015_05090046

Finally one of those unexpected delights – Paris quadrifolia – which I have forgotten I planted last year.  I have to say that the flowers are a little smaller than I had anticipated but it is still a delight.

 

RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Gardens – Some Highlights

2015_05070043

I have been attending RHS Malvern Spring Festival, as it is now known, for 15 years and over this time there has been a slow increase in the quality and number of show gardens.  It is often touted as a show that attracts those garden designers who are putting their toe in the show garden water and I think this year there was a distinct improvement in the quality of planting and design on previous years.  It wasn’t many years ago when I used to flinch at the planting which had bare soil showing, completely out of line with the squeeze them in abundant planting that is required of a good show garden.

My favourite garden was Constraining Nature by Kate Durr Garden Design.  She won the Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal, not bad for a first showing.  The Festival Gardens are designed by new comers who receive a £3000 bursary to support the build and advice from various experts.  I loved the textures in her planting (top photo) particularly the shady area at the back of the garden.

2015_05070032 cropped

2015_05070044

I like the movement of the tufts of grass, not sure which it is, and the box balls.  For someone who isn’t keen on topiary I was interested to see quite a few of the gardens using them to provide structure and then in filling with seasonal interest.  Definitely an idea I think I will take forward.

2015_05070008

As per the last few years the show garden by Villaggio Verde stole the show and you have to admire the ambition of the designer.  This isn’t just a frontage with scaffolding or the like behind it but a garden you can walk around the outside of and peer through a wrought iron gate to see the baskets of pelargoniums hanging on the wall.  The only down side was the grey skies which threatened rain all day and dispelled the idea we were somewhere in Andulusia. Unsurprisingly this garden won Best Show Garden.

2015_04250013cropped

This garden, As Mad as a Hatter, by Gary Bristow was quite appealing.  However although I loved the textures I would have preferred a bit of cross over between the two areas.  I think a few oranges in the purple side would have lifted it and vice versa but I am sure there is some theme idea behind it.

2015_05070054

2015_05070056

I quite liked the planting and the clean lines of Out of Darkness by Lisa Burchill and Robin Ideson which won a silver. I suspect the dead moss square seats may have had something to do with the silver. However, as someone who has a preference for foliage over flowers I like the combinations of not only leaf shape but also the shades of greens, yellow and purple in the variegation.

2015_05070067

I was surprised at how many ideas I came away with this year.  In the past at Malvern the show gardens have some interesting plants but I rarely feel inspired by the planting combinations and never about any sort of landscaping/structure.  But this year, the Cornerstone garden, by Pip Probert and Gareth Wilson, showed a renewed interest in alpines and presented them in such a way that I can see being possible to recreate even in the most modern urban garden – so a rockery is no longer needed to grow these delights. Again I think this is something I might try to replicate in a future garden.

2015_05070070

The garden is not all just alpine troughs but on the other side there is this delightful cottage style garden – a real winner from my perspective.

I really enjoyed the show gardens this year and it is good to see so much good quality planting. I hope the standard continues to improve and maybe one year soon Malvern will start to get the same excellent reputation for its show gardens as it already does for its nurseries.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 7th – 10th May – its a good day out, why not go

In A Vase on Monday – Blue Spires

2015_05030001

Given the wonderful display of camassias I have in the garden this year I thought I should feature some in a Vase on Monday post.  Following on from Christina’s idea I decided to add some blue pebbles in the bottom of the vase to help keep the stems upright.  I wanted to add variegated hosta but also added some geranium palmatum leaves to bulk it out.  I am quite pleased with the effect but I’m not sure how well the hosta leaves will last as one has already, in only a matter of hours, drooped.  Not having any flower arranging experience or knowledge my approach is to give things a go and see what happens.

Last week’s vase which featured violas and other small spring delights taught me that I need to pick the flowers as they are opening as the violas only lasted a matter of days.  That requires a bit more thought and planning so is unlikely to happen!  I also have learnt that the flowers from my garden probably won’t last as long as a bunch bought from the shops which I presume are treated in such a way to help keep them fresh for longer.  But I am enjoying this meme and thinking about what I can include each week, it is making me look at the plants slightly differently and it is nice to enjoy the flowers inside as well as in the garden.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting this weekly meme – you can find links to more Monday vases over at hers if you look in the comment box.

 

Bryans Ground, Herefordshire – a Country Retreat

2015_05020053

I love Bryans Ground in Herefordshire. It’s just one of those places that always delights me and which oozes with the spirit of the owners, so much character and personality.  I have visited probably four times over recent years but haven’t managed a visit for the last couple of years so it was interesting to see the changes. 2015_05020046The house is typical Arts and Crafts style having been built in 1913.  The current owners, David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell (who publish Hortus) moved here in 1993 and started to develop the garden.  I haven’t visited this early in the season before so it was fascinating to see the almost bare bones of the garden.  In the past when I have visited in high summer the area above has been a wonderful froth of fennel but with these currently less than a foot tall you can appreciate the strength and size of the topiary.  2015_05020015From the house the canal is one of the first garden rooms you encounter.  Cool and elegant on a sunny day and I think very reflective of the classical Italian gardens but with an English twist.

2015_05020028

I realised today that Bryans Ground is all about vistas, journeys and viewpoints – the classic elements of garden design.  With the July haze of flowers still waiting to come alive you start to realise how strong the structure and design of the garden is.  But it isn’t all serious the garden is full of jokes and humour and has the best use of objet trouves I have come across even better than the wonderful displays I saw in San Francisco a few years back. I loved the flying bikes (top photo) which made me laugh out loud when I came round a corner and the rusty lawnmower in a sea of variegated ground elder also made me chuckle.

2015_05020041

Simon Dorrell is an artist and designer and has contributed to the design, particularly of garden buildings, in a number of gardens in the area including the rose garden at Hampton Court Gardens in Herefordshire.  His talent has manifested itself at Bryans Ground not only in the placement of found objects but also in the quirky garden buildings and more recently in the wonderful new sculpture in the formal garden – which I thought was beautiful but also amusing.

2015_05020023

There are probably 12 or 15 of these rabbits, although I think they might be hares, on plinths forming a square in the middle of a square lawn. It is as though the owners are saying “if you can’t beat them you might as well join them”. And they are such wonderful sculptures.

2015_05020022

Whilst I enjoy the garden the arboretum, Cricket Wood, is becoming more and more of a greater attraction to me.  I do have a growing interest in trees and shrubs and I have enjoyed seeing how the wood has developed.  Since my last visit a number of hydrangeas, azaleas and I think tree peonies have been added. It is so nice to encounter a young arboretum. The interest in views and vistas is continued here.  This is no a wood with rambling paths but is designed very much along the 17th century garden style with strong straight paths which split to give you two or three choices.  I also noticed that there were a number of small areas enclosed with hedges with a specimen plant in the centre, just like the  bosquets in  17th century ‘wilderness’ gardens.

2015_05020077

2015_05020066

2015_05020073

Whilst the visitor’s eye is drawn along avenues into the garden into enclosed areas there is conversely an appreciation of the surrounding landscape with many paths finishing with a view out to the surrounding farmland.  There were numerous places with seats and benches placed with their backs to the garden looking out but I was particularly intrigued with the seating area below.

2015_05020070

I think this takes framing the view to a new level and quite simply sums up everything I have said above – classic design and humour all with a slight twist.

 

 

Small Triumphs

2015_05010017

I think one of the things I love about gardening are the small moments of delight and joy when something has germinated, a planting combination works well, or a gamble pays off.  They are all small triumphs which often only the gardener really appreciates but they come with such a good feel factor that they make a real difference to day to day life.

2015_05010013 2015_05010015

Back last November I took a plunge and had the willow that dominated the end of the garden lopped back, I would say pruned but it just wouldn’t give credit to the drastic work that was undertaken.  For a while I wondered if I had done the right thing but gaining so much sky and extended views to the Malverns compensated for the starkness of the tree.  As Spring has progressed we have been peering at the willow to see if there was any sign of life.  I know that it is hard to keep a good willow down but the tree surgery had been so severe I was sceptical that it would re-shoot.  I had even got to the point of deciding that if the tree didn’t re-shoot then it would be fine as I could cut it back further and grow a climber over it and enjoy the view of the neighbour’s trees which had been revealed due to the tree surgery.  Of course as soon as the tree heard me talking to my son about maybe giving up on it it started to produce shoots and over the last couple of weeks there has been a distinct fringe of foliage appearing.

2015_05010007

By cutting the willow back the surroundings border have found themselves open to the sky.  I have worried that the woodland shade lovers would suffer but so far they seem to be thriving.  Take for example the Osmunda reglais above.  I have never known it to grow so upright and so tall, I am sure that the warm weather we have had has contributed but I also believe that the plant is benefiting from a more open aspect. It will be interesting to see how they do over the summer.

2015_05010012

My focus in the last year has been on gardening better, learning more and caring for my plants better.  The rhododendron at the top of the post is a case in point.  This was bought some years back as a dwarf rhododendron, it has lived in the woodland border for many years, rarely producing any flowers and generally looking sad and unloved. With the departure of the Acer and the clearing of the area around it I moved the rhododendron up to the slope by the base of the Prunus.  It managed to survive the big feet of the tree surgeons and thanks to a good dollop of ericaceous compost it has put on good growth and this year for the first time is covered in flowers. I am really pleased.

2015_05010021

Whilst I get pleased when plants work well together or seeds germinate what thrills me most is when a plant reappears that has struggled or in the case of the Arisaema above has suffered from being relocated too many times.  I grew this from seed some years back and this is its third location – I have promised it and its 4 friends they will stay put.  They have suffered from the attention of the badger, or maybe a fox, and I have found the bulbs on the soil in the winter, carefully replanting them.  This year they are looking very strong and healthy and again I think they are benefiting from the removal of the heavy tree canopy. The only downside is that the flower spathe is at the back of the leaf stem so not very obvious but I have been told that you can rotate Arisaema bulbs to bring the flower to the front so I will try to remember to do that once it has finished flowering.

2015_05010006

Finally the Eranthis are seeding and hopefully there will be seedlings next year and they will start to spread and I will have another small moment of triumph.