Yeo Valley Organic Garden

The other week I spent  lovely 4 days with a group of friends exploring the gardens of Somerset and Wiltshire.  One of the gardens I was quietly looking forward to seeing was the Yeo Valley Organic Garden which we were due to see on our way home.

I’ve been aware of this garden for some time now.  It regularly features in magazines and on television sometimes because of its gravel garden and sometimes because it is one of only a handful of certified ornamental gardens in the country. Interestingly, their plants come from a small organic nursery just over the hill from me.

You arrive at the garden, nestled in the beautiful Yeo Valley, through the organic diary (I eat their yoghurt every morning).  You enter through a corridor of hedges, past a stunning greenhouse full of exotics and seedlings, a vegetable garden.  Where oh where was the gravel garden?  Past some yellow themed herbaceous borders.

Very nice and interesting use of yellow foliage.

Turn right past the grass border – lovely especially on a windy day such as when we visited. And then you go up the driveway to the house and round a corner and wow!

You can get a fantastic overview on entering if you go up the small mount with the viewpoint on the top (see top photo).

The gravel garden was planted up in 2011 and I just love its abundance.  This is my sort of garden. Swathes of perennials with plenty of space for them to grow tall and strong, merging into each other creating an amazing tapestry.

There’s a pond in the garden singing with damsel flies.

The farmhouse provides a focal point for the garden and it almost feels as though the house provides the backdrop for the garden rather than the garden providing the backdrop for the house.

Oh and off to one side is the birch grove with shade loving planting, a perennial meadow and an annual meadow which had just been recently tilled.

And all of this has been done organically with no pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals.

It was my favourite garden of the whole trip.  I have so many photos of the gravel garden which is always a sign that I loved it.   I have included just a handful of my favourite photos in this post but if you are down in Somerset I would really recommend making a small detour to visit this garden – it has a great cafe as well.

Foliage Follow Up – June 2018

A day late but am joining in with Pam’s Foliage Follow Up meme.  I thought I would share some photos of my front garden which is in transition from its spring bulbs to late summer perennials.  However, I am thrilled at how much texture and interest there is at the moment just from the foliage.

There are numerous grasses including Stipa tenuissima, Molinia ‘Skyracer’, and Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’. The verticals are added to with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and another bronze leaved crocosmia which I don’t think I have ever known the name of, as well as a Phormium.

The horizontal leaves are made up of sedums, geraniums, euphorbia, rudbeckia, persicaria and asters.  Currently there is a pale chartreuse glow from the Alchemilla mollis. Airiness added with the bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare purpureum). The structure is provided by trees and shrubs including two different Sorbus, Grevillea‘Canberra Gem’, Grevillea victoriae, Corokia cotoneaster and Cotinus ‘Grace’.

 

Pondering on the Front Garden project

I suspect I was unconsciously thinking about taking up the front lawn when I decided to feature the front garden this year as the End of Month view.  It made me smile that I made no reference to lifting the lawn in my post but the view of commentators was unanimous that it should go and I should use the space to embrace my plant obsessions.  It didn’t take many such comments to win me round, I don’t think I actually needed persuading but it is always nice when someone else unwittingly confirms your view – its a vote of confidence and encouragement.

Since then there has been much pondering.  I look at the front garden when I do the weekly pile of ironing (yes I do the ironing weekly, I quite like ironing as it appeals to my neat-nick tendencies).  I also look at it each morning from my bedroom window while I get ready for work.  I have found in recent years that I need to have an image in my mind before I can start to develop part of the garden.  Not in the sense of knowing the structure, paths, borders etc but its more of a sense of the visual impact.  So having pondered a hardy exotic look I strangely found myself seeing the front garden in terms of bright and warm colours – very floriferous.

Driving back from Kate’s last week and pondering her generally late summer interest garden the idea of moving my asters to the front garden started to form.  If you recall the front garden is already home to a number of red shrubby salvias which do well and also crocosmia.  I could see how the asters would benefit from the sunny location and how finally I could create the late summer border I have tried to achieve in the Big Border.  This hasn’t worked as asters are generally tall and no matter how hard I try due to the slope I end up looking at their stems.  If I move the asters and the calmagrostis to the front garden then the image in my head might finally start to work.  I can augment them with more crocosmia and rudbeckias and maybe some echinacea.  I want to add a small tree or tall shrub to add some height and I am currently toying with a adding an eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’ which I have been admiring for some years, although I know it has a tendency to sucker.

But I also need to add some sort of access to this area to make it easier to work and I am currently thinking this will a slab and gravel path leading from near the beginning of the driveway partly into the front garden, with one path splitting off to the house and the other heading towards the large grevillea where there might be a large pot or a pot like water feature.  This will add a focal point and purpose to the paths – I think.

But I don’t want the front garden to only look good in late summer so I need another season of interest and I am thinking that this will come mainly from bulbs with orange and burgundy tulips, alliums and also bearded irises which I hope will benefit from the light levels.

So there seems to be a plan forming but as so often with such things one thing has lead to another and now I am having to re-think the back garden.  Not drasticly but if I move the majority of the asters, some of the grasses and other such plants to the front from the Big Border it will need a new identity.  I want to try and bring some sort of cohesion into the back garden.  My magpie approach to plants has led to a garden which can seem quite fragmented at times.  So I am trying to arrange the plants in such a way that they enhance each other rather than my usual ‘where is there a gap’ approach.  In the back I have been tending more and more towards foliage interest with some floral highlights. I am today, it may change tomorrow, currently toying with using the Big Border for adding to the exotic approach by adding tenders in the summer, after the bulbs have gone over.  I didn’t grow dahlias last year for the first time in years and I missed them so I could use this space for them along with some cannas and gingers and I have wanted an banana for some time but not had the space.

Who knew a simple blog post could lead to so much pondering and potentially upheaval!! I may have to change the focus of the end of month meme this year as I suspect there might not be much to see for a while. I’m now off to ponder dahlias in the Sarah Raven catalogue

A day in the Wye Valley

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Last Sunday I had a very pleasant day out in the Wye Valley, along the English and Welsh border.  The purpose of my trip was to visit my friends Kate and Hitesh at their lovely garden on the side of the valley but with a little time in hand I decided to pop further down towards Chepstow and have a quick look at Tintern Abbey

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I have to confess that I didn’t actually go into the Abbey, I have visited before, but I had enough time to take some photographs and a quick walk along the River Wye, beloved of the likes of Gilpin, the chief exponent of the Picturesque Movement.

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It was a chilly grey day with the occasional moment of sunshine but this didn’t deter people getting out and about and the area was busy with walkers, cyclists as well as those visiting the Abbey.  It was so chilly that I was glad to get back in the car and head up hill to the Barn House Garden.

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I first visited in the summer after Kate made contact through our blogs. Like mine the garden at Barn House slopes up from the house but possibly not as steeply as mine and there is definitely more space than in my garden.  What really interests me about Barn House is the use of grasses, a group of plants that I have never really managed to get a grip of.  I have seen them used time and again and rarely been impressed but somehow Kate has really managed to make a garden with a significant grass component that  works.  I suspect part of the success is the quantity of each variety that are included in the plantings so you get a feel of the character of the grass.

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I have to admit I am one of those gardeners that likes to tidy up the garden at the end of Autumn and I’m not very good at leaving seed heads over the winter.  However, when you see the almost black seedheads of the rudbeckia (I think this is what they are) against the bleached grass it is very effective. As you can see Kate has  worked on creating some round the year interest with the inclusion of cornus and the birches which provide wonderful colour at this time of year.

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Kate and Hitesh normally open their garden for the NGS at this time of year, as well as in September, but sadly due to the wet winter the field they borrow for car parking is too sodden to be used so they had to cancel although there were still some keen garden visitors who appeared and were made very welcome.

After a lovely day out I wended my way home across country and pondered using a few more grasses in my garden, especially the front garden.

Barn House Garden, Wye Valley

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The blogging world is a funny old place.  You find yourself accepting invitations from people you have never met either to meet up with them at events or visit their gardens.  My mother often raises an eyebrow at this since of course back in the day you, especially a single lady like myself, would never accept an invitation from a stranger.  However, whilst sometimes I set off to these meet ups with trepidation I am always pleased that I do as I have met some great people and been lucky to visit some wonderful gardens.

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This Thursday was no exception.  I had excepted an invitation from Kate to visit her garden in the Wye Valley.  Kate had picked up on my curiosity about grasses and my tentative steps to start introducing them into my garden and had invited me to visit her and her husband’s garden which has a strong focus on grasses.  The journey to the Kate’s was interesting.  You follow the road from Monmouth to Chepstow along the River Wye; it is a beautiful piece of road with pretty villages and views of the river and the steep hills behind.  If you know anything about the Picturesque art movement or the work of Gilpin then you will know that the area around Tintern Abbey and the Wye River featured heavily in paintings of this style.  Back to my journey, just before Tintern you cross the river and take a road heading up the hill.  The road quickly becomes narrow and step and I crawled along from house to house, taking a wrong turn only to be put right by a helpful postman.  Finally I found Barn House and as soon as I looked over the gate I knew I was in the right place.

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Kate is an expert on grasses, although she is quite self-deprecating, she rattles off the names of the various grasses and she can tell you how they grow in sun, shade, good soil, bad soil, when to cut them back, by how much, which ones are from where etc.  Not only is she very knowledgeable  she is passionate about her grasses too, she really loves them.  Many of the grasses are planted in large groups; she has some miscanthus which she has used as a hedge in front of the mixed boundary hedge and there are other large groups of single cultivars as you work you way down the terraces to the house.

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At this point I have to apologise for not taking any wider shots of the garden to show you it in its glory but I was so busy talking to Kate that I forgot and the only ones I took are close ups taken while we were chatting.  I have also forgotten most of the plant names although Kate did give me a list along with a map so I will be able to sit down and work some of them out.  However, I do know that the grass in the photo above is Anemanthele lessoniana as I have recently planted some in my garden and I was excited to see what  they will look like when they mature.   If you would like to see wide shots of the garden visit Kate’s website where she tells you the history of the garden

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Seeing all these different types of grasses together really helped me identify the types I liked.  Molinias are definitely ones I am keen on as I like the way their flower spikes waft well above the leaves and shimmer in the sun.  I have Molinia caerulea ‘Skyracer’ and I would like to add some to the front garden as I think they would work well in front of the laurel hedge, wafting above it.

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Kate also has a very impressive display of bamboo, which are just huge and some of the stems are almost at the size where you could imagine them being used as scaffolding poles as they do in their native Asia.  I really liked the effect of the stems being cleared of the lower twigs and branches and I think I will have a go at doing the same with my bamboos.  Kate’s are under-planted with crocosmia and where there was a long stand of the bamboo, blocking the view of a neighbour, the crocosmia was very effective bring a warm glow to the base of the plants.

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Whilst I really liked the movement and effect of the big plantings of grasses I also appreciated the more delicate combinations which were generally around the end and back of the house.  Here Kate has some of her special grasses and you will also find more exotic plants which are used in pots in combination with the grasses.  I like the way the grasses above have been used as a ‘skirt’ round the Acer, so much so that I have planted the Pennisetum villosum that Kate gave me at the base of the Mountain Ash in the front garden – it’s a start but there are germs of ideas forming based on what I saw and learnt during my visit.  But I think the best piece of advice Kate gave me when I was trying to write down some plant names before I left was not to worry about specific varieties but if I saw a nice looking plant to buy it and give it a go – how very sensible and just the advice you need when you are dipping your toe into a new area of horticulture.

Thank you Kate for a lovely afternoon – if you would like to visit Kate’s garden the details are on her website.

Irish Garden Odyssey: The Bay Garden

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As with any tour of this type towards the end we found ourselves discussing which garden we had liked best.  I think for all of us it was hard to identify one garden that stood out above the others but different gardens had different elements that appealed to us.  For me the stand out planting was The Barn Garden at The Bay Garden in Co. Wexford.

The Bay Garden belongs to Iain and Frances MacDonald.  They are both qualified horticulturists and met whilst working at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.  These days Frances is the Garden Tours Manager for Travel Department, the company that organised our top, and Iain also leads tours as well as giving talks and designing and landscaping private gardens.

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The majority of the garden is laid out in large mixed borders with themed areas.  As you can see from the photograph above the MacDonalds are very good at combining plants. The quality of the plants and the standard of the upkeep of the garden show the MacDonalds’ passion and horticultural background.  However, walking through a gap in a hedge you enter the Barn Garden and I have to say my heart really sang at this point.

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The garden is surrounded by hedges on three sides with the fourth looking out towards the surrounding fields.  The path serpentine through the space allowing you to feel completely surrounded in the grasses which, given it was  a windy day, positively billowed backwards and forwards.

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You can see the extent of the movement in the photograph above.  It was one of those days where the air seems still and then there is a sudden period of gusty window; all adding to the atmosphere of the space.

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What I found particularly fascinating was the combination of plants in the garden.  My enthusiasm for adding grasses to my garden has come and gone.  I have  seen many a poor grass border or garden where the focus is purely on the grasses with little to lift them.  I also don’t like borders which are huge blocks of one grass as I find them quite dense and dull.  So to see a range of grasses mixed with an interesting range of perennials was great. IMG_1413

I think this photograph, albeit slightly out of focus, shows the MacDonald’s skill with combining plants.  You can see that the magenta flower centres of the verbascum picks up on the magenta sanguisorba buttons behind.  It allows the planting to have a more cohesive feel.

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As with the other gardens I enjoyed during my time in Ireland the garden was planted densely.  Of course this is something that takes time to achieve and I forgot to find out how long ago the garden had been planted.  I think it had been in for a couple of years as I remember Frances saying they had to wait for it to bulk up and that last year the amount of rain and warmer temperatures had led to the grasses being so tall that you were dwarfed by them.

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Look how the dark burgundy of the scabious picks up on the helenium flower centres and then on the grass behind which I think might be Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’. The finer small grass in the foreground, unknown, blurs the divisions between the different plants. And who knew Lychnis could looks so lovely with grasses.

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Persicaria was also a key plant in the garden and I think the broader leaves add a good contrast to the grass as well as adding some green substance to the planting.

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I also like the way the colours pick up on the rusty roof behind the hedge; a very simple effect but it really ties the garden to its space.

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I loved this garden and it re-ignited my view that I should use grasses in my front garden.  It’s interesting how they work against the hedge which I think is beech. My front garden is bordered by a beech hedge and a laurel hedge.  The beech would work well especially as the grasses fade against the rusty autumn beech leaves but as for the laurel hedge – well I think if I am going to take this approach it will have to go.  The thinking hat is well and truly on.

End of Month View – July 2015

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July has whizzed past in the flash of an eye and here we are at the end and you would be forgiven in thinking that we have gone forward to the end of September it is so cool.  It feels as though the garden has slowed down with flowers lasting longer in bloom and the later flowers taking longer to open.

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I thought I would start this End of Month tour in the woodland area which really focusses on foliage at this time of year apart from the hosta flowers. There is a space where I had to cut the Solomon’s Seal down as it was being stripped by Solomon Sawfly.  I think I will relocate the Solomon’s Seal as it was suffocating the Hosta; this will also allow me to plant something new in the area between the Hosta and the Witch Hazel (just on the left hand edge of the photo and I am wondering about including a smaller and darker leaved hosta or a fern to provide some contrast – I need to sit on the bottom step and consider it more.

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Going back to the bottom path between the Cottage and Big Border this area isn’t doing too bad but it needs to mature and fill out.  I have been adding plants to both border so hopefully now if I sit back and wait they will fill out and have good interest throughout the year.  I do need to add more bulbs to each area.  I want to add some more Alliums to the Cottage Border to give a rhythm through the length of the border and maybe add some daffodils to the Big Border.  It already a significant number of Camassias but I think would benefit from some earlier daffodils.

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The middle path between the Big Border and the Rowan Border (formerly the Bog Garden) and I am really pleased with how this area is beginning to work.  Moving the purple phlox along a foot or too  and adding the Anemanthele lessoniana seems to have connected the two sides of the path.  The Agapanthus and Phlox appear to mirror each other and the grass and leaves of the orange Crocosmia are connecting. There are still pockets where I want to tweak the planting but that was ever so.

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The popular shed shot.  I realise now that I should have removed the Ammi majus before taking this photo as it is flattening the Stipa tenuissima, probably as a result of the rain.  I want this area to have airy planting as it is very good for catching the afternoon sun and I think this would have a nicer feel than dense heavy planting.  I was learning today about transitions between areas of gardens and how you need to have quieter areas between those of sun and shade or bright colours and pastel.  I found myself realising that my planting has begun to have the same feel throughout the garden with the exception of the woodland/shady area.  I think I had got into a mindset that everything had to be ‘look at me!!!’ with lots of interest and all points of the year.  So I am now thinking about what I learnt to day and how this would work in my space. IMG_1943Back to the shady part of the garden and I suppose you could say that this area has a different feel to it and that the seating area by the shed is a sort of transition area.  I am pleased with how the old Bog Garden has filled out, although the Regal Fern seems to be engulfing everything.  I know I want lush and full planting here but not if other plants are going to be swamped.  It maybe that I need to swap the Siberian iris with the plant that is under the fern so that the iris’s foliage can grow up through the fern.  Another thing to ponder over a cuppa in the sun.

So that is my garden at the end of July.  I have just had a look back to last July’s End of Month View post which had some of the same views and I’m glad I did.  I can see from that post how much things have filled out since last year and how my efforts are starting to pay off not just with the appearance but with the health of the plant.  The woodland border looks really parched last year but this it isn’t doing to bad and I think the mulch I put down in Spring when the soil was very damp has helped.

Anyone is welcome to join in with this meme.  All I ask is that you include a link to your post in the comments box below and you link to this post in your post.  That way the circle is completed and we can all find each other and come for a visit.

 

My Garden this Weekend – 30th March

Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussey'
Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussey’

Another lovely weekend and this time a three-day one as I had some time due to me.  I started clearing the slope on Friday although the rain stopped play after an hour.  I am moving the asters and grasses and a few other bits from the slope to the Big Border.  I want to plant up the slope with hardy exotics aiming for a jungley sort of look. I have the overall effect in my head but am still working on the possible plants to include plus we 2014_03300006logoneed to cut back the slope to allow for a bench.

Saturday was the monthly HPS meeting.  Always a good day and despite my initial reservations when I first joined at spending a whole day of my precious weekend at the meeting I really enjoy it and rarely don’t stay for the whole day.  This month’s talk was on cut and come again perennials which was interesting. Our speaker, a local nursery woman, showcases a whole range of perennials which I would never have thought of cutting including solomons seal as well as old favourite such as asters and aquilegia.  The morning discussion or show

Muscari latifolium
Muscari latifolium

and tell featured a collection of heritage daffodils, various alpines, a Melianthus major flower and to the amazement of everyone an Aeonium Schwarzkopf in flower – I really should have taken my camera.  Needless to say I came home with some plants a veratrum  for the woodland border and also two small aeoniums which are destined for the succulent border in the front garden.

Today I was outside at 9 setting to.  I started off with finishing off re-potting some alpines, mainly primulas, which I am hoping might be up to showing in the novice section of an Alpine Garden Society over the next month.  Then I relocated some plants to the cottage border and also the woodland border which really is beginning to have the right feel about it finally – its only taken 3 years.

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The next big job was to finish clearing the plants I wanted from the edge of the slope as we want to push the wall back to make way for the bench.  This involved relocated a number of Camassia to the Big Border. Hardly, the ideal time of year to do this but I had to do the same last year but with different Camassia and they did OK.  As you can see the Big

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Border is filling up and I am hopeful that the image I have in my mind will come to fruition.  Aside from the shrubs and a couple of structural perennials such as the

Corydalis solida
Corydalis solida

Melianthus the main plants are asters and Calamgrostis overdam which I am hoping will link the Stipa gigantea in to the border.  I have spread the Camassia through the border in between the perennials as I read or heard somewhere recently that tall late summer perennials were a good way of hiding the dying Camassia foliage.

Having completed the required plant moving I started to dig out the dry stone wall.  I have to admit that I was running out of steam by this time but thankfully my eldest son came to my rescue.  Any excuse to wield his pickaxe.  The stones making up the wall were soon removed and he has dug quite a way back into the slope ready for the wall to be rebuilt and a seating area made.   As we worked I could start to see how the planting on the slope could work to create a good jungley effect.  I am going plant buying at the end of the week with some friends to Pan Global Plants and Cotswold Garden Flowers so I think this will give me the opportunity to get the main structural components I want.

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Oh and we also moved the sink trough into the succulent border in the front garden but I will save that for the End of Month View post tomorrow.

Narcissus 'Sophies Choice'
Narcissus ‘Sophies Choice’