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.

 

Notes from the Garden – 8th May 2016

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It has finally dawned on me that the best way to photograph the garden is to stand on a garden chair.  That way the viewpoint is above the top of the retaining wall (4ft ish) which holds the garden up above the patio – simple when you think about it!

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A sort of panorama of left hand side of the garden if you use the orange tulips as the reference point with the first photou.  I am really thrilled with the garden this year.  Finally after years for labouring, pondering, moving of plants, weeding and wondering it has come together and really gladdens my heart every time I look at it.  It will be interesting to see if I continue to feel this way as the garden progresses through the year but so far its scored 100% since the start of the year.

Moraea huttonii (probably)

Moraea huttonii (probably)

Aside from starting to tackle the front garden planting I have spent quite a bit of time pottering around the garden tidying and weeding.  Yesterday was a cooler day with rain constantly threatened so I spent most of my gardening time sowing and potting up in the greenhouse.  I have finally cleared all the overwintered plants from both of the cold frames and repotted as necessary.  Most plants have come through the winter and it was nice to rediscover seedlings that I had forgotten all about such as a tray of 12 eucomis seedlings.

Today, with the heat I retreated to the shady end of the garden and spent time cutting back snowdrop leaves from the slope so that my fern collection can emerge.  I am sure there are those that will say I should leave the snowdrop leaves to dry out and wither and I know they are right but the snowdrops and ferns live cheek by jowl and the ferns are more important to me that the snowdrops so its a case of tough love.  While I was tidying up I discovered the flower buds above growing amongst very long strappy leaves.  After much pondering I think they are the buds of Moraea huttonii.  I sowed the seeds years ago and the seedlings have languished in pots in the protection of the greenhouse or cold frame as I assumed being South African they needed some protection.  Last year I got fed up with them and planted them out.  The result seems to be healthy looking plants with big fat buds – fingers crossed.

Buddleja salvifolia

Buddleja salvifolia

The Buddleja salvifolia is beginning to flower, a beautiful blue which has come out almost true in the photograph.  However, what really surprises me is the lack of insect activity on the flower heads.  I rarely see butterflies in my garden but it is groaning with other pollinators so I would have thought they would like this buddleja – very strange, maybe its too exotic for the local wildlife.

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Finally I am really enjoying this garish combination.  There are other white honesty in this area so the white is even more dominant that this picture implies.  This is where I was thinking the Tulip Rosy Bouquet that I saw at Malvern would help to bring the planting together.  Alternatively, given the honesty is biennial maybe next year I could go for something else in this area, even Lunaria Chedglow would probably be an improvement!  What you can’t see is that on the other side of the rhododendron there is a small pale pink rhododendron which looks wonderful with the white honesty so its all about the choices and viewpoints I suppose.

 

 

End of Month View – April 2016 – Hugh’s Border

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Hugh’s Border has really filled out in the last month especially with the hostas planted under the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ emerging. I am determined to crack this border this year.  It looks Ok but in previous years there has been something lacking and it has felt bitty and not really me.  Over the last month I have added some lupins with red/orange flowers and also Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’.  These will add to the red and orange theme that seems to be the emerging in this area.

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Here’s the other end of Hugh’s Border (Hugh is the owl).  This part of the border is more woodland/shade planting.  The Pulmonaria are beginning to go over which I am sure will disappoint the bees.  Just behind them are some trillium and lots of Onoclea sensibilis as it seems to have decided to spread after sitting quietly for years – I presume due to the mild wet winter.

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Here is the other end of the woodland bit of the border (nearest the bench).  The big round leaves are Cardiocrinum giganteum which has reappeared this year and hopefully will flower. The lime green strappy leaves are Iris sibirica, I think it is a pale blue variety but it hasn’t flowered for a few years due to being moved so maybe this year will be the year when I discover which variety they are.

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This is the front of the border and the area of the border which has been really perplexing me.  I have moved a couple of hellebores here from near the bench as it was difficult to see their flowers in their old location.  It seems hellebores like to face the sun so from the bench you just saw the back of the flowers in their new location you can see the flowers from the grass path.  I am trying to bulk up the planting and foliage textures in this area so plan to add to it as the year progresses.

So that is the border at mid Spring, lots of new shoots appearing and promise of things to come.

If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome.  All I ask is that you add a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below.  You can use the meme however you want – to focus on one area in particular, to look around the whole garden, whatever suits you.

 

Notes from the Garden – 24/4/16 – Bye bye lawn

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So this was the front garden this morning.  Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn.  I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden.  I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.

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Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today.  I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between.  Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us.  We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost.  I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority.  And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.

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Now, what to do with the turf?  Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn.  Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down.  Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland!  It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it.  Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!!  If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf.  There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.

 

 

 

From small things

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I have been on annual leave this week and as ever had plans to spend time sorting the garden out, as well as redecorating the living room – I am always over ambitious! Firstly, the weather at the start of the week was not very conducive to gardening being dreary and wet and various unexpected family commitments eat into more of my time. It was becoming increasingly frustrating.  Finally on Wednesday having painted the woodwork I found myself outside exploring the garden to see what had emerged over the previous few days.  I am particularly obsessed with my epimediums at the moment and which ones are flowering.  Most of them seemed to be sulking last year but this year, possibly due to the wet winter, they are virtually all (there are some 14 different varieties at the moment) full of flower buds.  Anyway, during one of these forays into the flower border I somehow stepped backwards, caught my heel on the nearby step and managed to fall right over and literally roll down the garden and into the border stamping off Primula denticulata flower stalks on my way.

It really knocked the stuffing out of me and I had to sit on the offending step for a while before I risked standing up; luckily I hadn’t done any real damage which was a relief.  However, despite not banging my head, the tumble left me completely befuddled and I just couldn’t work out what I had been planning to do in the garden and what I had planted to do where.  Quite unsettling.

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So I drifted into the front garden to cut back a few plants that I remembered had been offending me for some time from my bedroom window.  Looking around I noticed the trough under the front window and how dishevelled the succulents appeared.  Suddenly, this trough become the focus of all my efforts and I spent probably an hour slowly removing all the plants, cleaning them up and replanting.  I planted the trough with hardy sempervivums back in April 2014 – you can see a photo in this post.   Since then it has fared well surviving only with the occasional splash of water as I water the pots outside the front door. However, as is their wont the semps have multiplied and multiplied, worse than rabbits, and basically they had run out of space and were growing on top of each other.  So much so that many of them barely had any roots in the soil.

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Interestingly, the semps that I planted in the gravel around the base of the sink looked a lot healthier.  They haven’t multiplied quite so quickly, probably less favourable conditions, and were looking full and glossy.   Having emptied out the trough and removed all the dead foliage I replanted possibly more sparsely than last time and then I used some of the leftovers to continue the planting along the edge of the border the sink stands in.  It is located in one of those narrow borders that builders insist on putting in against the front of a house but which are full of rumble and hopeless for growing most things.   As the rumble makes it very free draining I have over the years added compost and planted it up with lavender and bearded irises all of which are doing well.  I think the semps along the front edge will provide an interesting contrast and hopefully help to cover the ground.

Having completed this task and being pleased with the result I found that my head had cleared and got a second wind and started to work through my original plans for the back garden.  Over the last few days I have made significant changes to the Big Border which I think will move the garden forward over the next year.  So “from small things …. big things one day come”.

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