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
I write this end of month post with a sense of relief as July seems to have been a very long and dry month. We finally had rain on Friday after something like 6-8 weeks with only a small downpour one day. The rain started on Friday and has been off and on ever since. The garden has perked up, well those bits that haven’t withered away in the heat and this gardener has also perked up.
I thought it would be interesting to show how the garden has changed over the last nine years when I first started the End of Month meme. There have been some quite drastic changes so it isn’t easy to do a direct comparison but I will do my best. Above is the view from the top of the patio steps up to my son’s workshop (which went in around 5 years ago). Below is a similar view from 2009, but from the bottom of the steps, showing the garden before the workshop and when I still had a lawn; it was obviously from the greeness of the grass, a wet July in 2009. In both pairs of photos the rosemary growing over the wall is a useful reference point.
The next pair show the main area of the garden but from opposite view points. The first photo is now with my neighbour’s delightful trampoline in the background. The plants are looking a little dry around the edges but I have started to tidy up and cut back the dead flowers and foliage. I think the garden has benefited in the past heat from my dense planting as the areas which have suffered the most are those with the most recent plantings and consequently more soil showing. I think the dense planting has shaded the soil and helped to reduce moisture loss.
Anyway, the second photo from 2009 shows the old sloping lawn and my polite narrow border. If I have only learnt one thing over the past nine years it is that you need to be generous in your borders. Narrow borders just don’t work you are limited on space so its difficult to create a range of height and textures.
The next two pairs of photos is the top border which in 2009 was the pond border. The fourth photo is another view of the border in 2009 and if you peer very hard you can just make out the pond weed on the pond which is one of the reasons the pond went. It was never a sensible place to have a pond under the large cherry tree and it was a constant battle to improve the quality of the water. The border planting was some of my best back then but over the following years it faded and struggled and in the end I gave up on it and converted the pond into a bog garden which is the basis of what is in place now except it isnt very boggy due to over zealous puncturing of the liner!
The 2018 photo shows the workshop again and the shrubs that have been added over recent years. I prefer the garden now and the planting in this border is slowly improving although it has always been a challenging spot. You can also see the stems of the bamboos along the back fence line. In 2009 the fence was exposed due to us removing an huge laurel bush and I have again struggled ever since with the steep slope and shade of the trees. You will see in the 2009 photo terracing but this has been removed this year and I am reverting back to the slope and planting up with lots of foliage and texture.
The final pair of photos show the area of the workshop. Back in 2009 this area was a battle due to the shade created by my neighbours trees which also sucked all the moisture out of the ground. The shed is set back into the slope to minimise its impact on my garden and it took hours for my son to dig it all out by hand. The workshop is now very much a key part of the garden and creates a strange focal point. Long term readers will recall that I laboured over what colour the shed should be and almost went mad after a visit to gardens in San Francisco when I seriously considered painting it orange. I’m glad I saw sense and I am very pleased with the natural and low key finish it now has. This has been repeated on another smaller shed we have and I am thinking of treating the benches in a similar way.
I hope you have enjoyed a trip down memory lane. I think it shows my change of approach and an increase in plant knowledge and obsession.
This post demonstrates one of the benefits of the End of Month meme as if I hadn’t started writing it back in 2009 I wouldn’t now be able to look back to see where I have come from.
Everyone is welcome to join in with the meme and you can use it however you like.. All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below.
When I started taking photos in the garden this morning it didn’t feel as though there was a lot in flower. My garden feels like it is in a bit of a lull between early summer and late summer which I am sure the lack of rain for the last month hasn’t helped.
The roses and geraniums are over, although many of the roses are building up for a second flush, and now we are moving into the stronger colours of the crocosmia, agapanthus, asters, kniphofia and rudbeckia; but we aren’t quite there yet.
The number of agapanthus in my garden are slowly growing. They are all planted out in the borders, apart from the white one above which is in a pot.. I have to admit that I’m not sure about the varieties as I have had some of them for years. Most of them are in the big border which is the sunny past of the garden and relatively free draining plus the slope helps avoid them becoming too water logged over winter. One of the benefits of my neighbours removing all the trees along the fence line is that my agapanthus now grow more upright.
Bulbs as probably my favourite plant group and the big border is home to all sorts which bring colour throughout the year. I am particularly fond of alliums and have one variety or another flowering throughout late spring to late summer. Allium sphaerocephalon is actually in the front garden and is left over from when I had borders and a lawn. It pops up here and there with its long stems and pointy flower heads which waft around in the breeze. These two are intent on being together, no matter how many times I untangled them for their photo.
I’m not a huge fan of Phlox, I find them a little fussy and their big flower heads feel a little incongruous with the rest of the plants in the garden. However, this is Phlox paniculata ‘David’ which has the most heavenly scent. I bought it a number of years back from Wollerton Old Hall and the scent was so strong on the way home it was almost intoxicating. Sadly whilst it reappears dutifully each year it is very slow to bulk up.
Having said I’m not mad on the big flower heads of the Phlox I do like Hydrangeas, although it’s the dry flower heads that I have a real weakness for. This hydrangea lives in a large pot on the patio and is flowering its socks off yet again this year.
Also on the patio are two large pots of Kangaroo Paw (Angiozanthos) which I am hugely proud of having grown them from seed some years back, so you have two photos so I can show off. This is the third year they have flowered – I just love the strangeness of them.
I also love the flowers of the Aloe striatula var. caesia which I bought probably 4 years ago. It has come through a number of very old winters here outside planted in the ground. The only thing I do to protect it is to cover it with fleece if a long period of cold is forecast. It grows in a narrow border along the front of the house in full sun. The border is predominantly gravel and builders rubble which helps with the drainage allowing me to grow a few more exotic looking plants.
Finally a trio of perennials which are adding a little sparkle ahead of the main late summer display.
Thank you to Carol over at May Dreams for hosting this meme, which may well be the longest running garden related meme.
Opps sneaking in a day late with the post which is disgraceful as I host the meme but there you go. Life moves on, you find yourself blogging less and less and losing track of the days and the pattern of posting and the next thing you know you are late like the proverbial White Rabbit.
Anyway, what is there to say about Hugh’s Border except it is very full and interestingly and is probably faring better than most of the garden given the dry conditions we have had recently. The only real casualty are the Sensitive Ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) which are looking a little frazzled. They need moisture even when they are in the shade despite what the reference books say. I have some in a very damp corner of the garden which look wonderful but the ones in Hugh’s Border despite it not having as good drainage as the rest of the garden give in at this time of year every year and every year I think I really must pull them out. But I forget and then in the spring the new fronds with their red stems appear showing that they are spreading around and I relent. “No more” I cry – well mutter. I am determined not to be hoodwinked into a reprieve and I intend to drastically cull the Sensitive Fern and replace it with some ferns that are a little more robust and not so touchy about things.
As for the front of the border the phlox are looking and smelling wonderful and I find myself thinking that as they seem to like these conditions then maybe I should add to them but I need to be very particular about the colour as I don’t want a garish pink and I think the colour palette for phlox is quite limited. Anyway, a bit of research is needed.
There isn’t much else to say about the border as its one of those areas that just gets on with it and finally has filled out enough to have a bit of interest happening whatever the time of year.
As ever any one can join in the end of month meme just decide on what part of your garden you want to feature or maybe give us a tour of the whole garden. The instructions are on the tab at the top of the blog. I look forward to seeing your links in the comment box below and having a mooch over to see what is happening at yours particularly as it is now raining here.
Back to my trip to Ireland, day 4 saw us arrive at Kilmacurragh, Kilbride, Co Wicklow. I have skipped ahead a little as I wanted to show you something other than private gardens.
Kilmacurragh is the outpost for the Dublin Botanic Garden, just as Kew has Wakehurst Place. It allows the botanic garden to grow plants it doesn’t have the right environment for in Dublin. The garden was one of the most important private gardens in Ireland due to the extensive plant collections made by its owners, the Acton family, from the 1750s to the First World War. However, like many family estates at this time it suffered from the deaths of three heirs in quick succession and large inheritance tax payments. Eventually the property was bought by the National Botanic Gardens in 1996 and in 2006 the redevelopment of the garden, led by Head Gardener, Seamus O’Brien, started. The gardens, and those in Dublin, have benefitted from a positive approach by the Irish government and have been lucky in receiving significant levels of funding in recent years; a pity this approach is not matched elsewhere.
As with most of the other gardens we visited we had the benefit of being shown around by Seamus. This adds so much to a visit as you learn about individual plants, you have a context to place them and the garden in and you hear all sorts of interesting facts and stories that bring the place alive – something that was really missing from our unguided visit to Mt Usher the day before.
The house in the top photo was destroyed by fires in 1978 and 1982 but now funding has become available for the roof to be replaced which will allow the building to be used as a visitor centre and presumably provide opportunities for further fund-raising.
One of the collections Kilmacurragh is known for is its collection of rhododendrons collected by Joseph Hooker. You can see how huge they have grown from the photograph above, I can imagine they are stunning when in flower.
This is one of the last ones to flower. I did right its name down but my phonetic scrawl is illegible but it is some sort of hybrid beginning with g!! Whatever its name, for someone who finds the plant hunter stories fascinating, it was a real thrill to see plants that were actually collected by someone I had read about.
The plants at Kilmacurragh really demonstrate the benefits of Ireland’s damper climate. I was captivated by the light on these ferns until I walked a few steps further and spotted the giant lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum)
There are several clumps throughout the shady part of the long borders and last year, to mark the centenary of the First World War and the men from the estate who lost their lives in it, they planted enough bulbs to have 100 flowering. I wish I had seen that it must have been breath-taking and heavenly to smell.
I loved the long herbaceous border. It is a beautiful mixture of foliage and flowers with plants repeated to give rhythm but many of the plants aren’t those you would expect to see in a long border as hidden away are some wonderful meconopsis paniculata poppies, echiums, white willowherb, astibles, geraniums, and various calmagrostis – wonderful.
From the long border we headed out into the arboretum again and saw many delights which to be honest I don’t think I appreciated as much as I should have since my tree knowledge is limited. However, I do know the tree above is vast and very old, possibly dating back to the time of Janet Acton, in the 1870s
However, I do know that this tree is a Magnolia rostrata and a fairly new addition showing that the collection of plants, particularly trees is continuing. Future plans include the creation of areas specifically for plants of China, Chile and the Himilaya. There are even plants that have been bred in the garden by Seamus and named for it such as the Cornus capitata ‘Kilmacurragh Rose’ which was named recently (below).
But while you are marvelling at the flowers on this new introduction you are aware that just behind you is the original main road through the area down which Oliver Cromwell’s troops marched in the 17th century bringing with them Thomas Acton. Thomas was given the land, in lieu of pay. His son, Thomas II had the derelict St Mochorog’s Abbey torn down and the stone reused to build the house you see in the top picture in the Queen Anne style.
We saw how the gardens have been clearing the area of the road and opening up the site with a view to reinstating various historical references around the site.
But the history is evidenced even further back as the pond above is the original 7th century fish stew which provided for the monastery, established around a hermitage founded by St Mochorog, of British royal birth.
Given that throughout our trip we received a potted history of Ireland from our tour leader, Noel Kingsbury, this garden managed to encompass Irish history in one site and I haven’t included all the stories about the various uprisings and their impact on the estate. For me, a plant nut and a lover of history with a fascinating for early medieval Irish history, this was a special garden for us to visit.
I haven’t posted about my garden for a few weeks due to my travels but despite the rain over the last few days I have managed to spend a few hours outside, weeding and tidying. It is always amazing how much the weeds grow when you turn your back for a week. In my absence the Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ has flowered; flowers which are welcome in the shady woodland area. This plant is especially popular with my cat as I have discovered that she likes to sleep under its leaves on a sunny day.
Another surprise was the discovering that the Cautleya spicata robusta is flowering as is the Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ behind it. I did plan this combination so I am pleased that it is working well. The Melianthus major does seem to be swamping the Cautleya and I would have previously thought about moving one of them. However having seen Hester Forde and Carmel Duigan’s gardens in Ireland last week I have realised that I can plant more densely, although of course it will mean more management.
I decided last week that I need to add more grasses to my garden, particularly after visiting The Bay Garden. I have used grasses before but I think now I understand better how they can lift a planting, adding movement, and light. I have started with adding a Stipa tenuissima to the edge of the Big Border so it softens the edge of the border alongside the steps. Here it catches the late afternoon light and yesterday looked magical, although today it looks rather sodden. Also in this border I have added a Chocolate Cosmos whose flowers I am hoping will bob around amongst the Stipa, and a Campanula lactiflora. The Campanula is only a couple of feet tall as the nursery woman I bought it from had been experimenting with doing the Chelsea Chop on Campanulas to see how they responded. It seems a good idea as the plant is flowering well and isn’t flopping everywhere or in need of staking. I will have to remember to do the same thing next year. I have pulled up most of the spent opium poppies and Ammi majus but I have left one ammi as I would like to collect the seed – hence the messy plant draped across the plants.
I have also added a Anemabthele lessoniana to the corner of the Rowan Border. I think the bronze tones pick up on the Digitalis ferruginea, and there is a bronzey flowered day lily here which has just finished flowering. Yesterday I planted out some Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The only problem is linking this combination with the purple phlox which I am loath to move as it does well in this position and is the start of a group of phloxes which have taken a while to establish. However, I would also like to add a Rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ to this space and this may bridge the gap between the two groups. It is a sumptuous red rose with a touch of bronze in it; I discovered it on the last day of my trip and it is definitely on the ‘get’ list – ‘get’ you note, not ‘want’!!
Aside from rushing around planting plants ahead of the rain I have finally sorted out the path behind the former Bog Garden. This path is a real problem in the winter and during wet periods at other times of the year. There seems to be a spring which runs down the slope just by the bench causing the start of the path to be sodden. The other problem is that this path is important during the winter as I try to avoid the grass path as it is very slippery. The solution has been to buy some paving slabs which almost look like cut off logs and then I surrounded them with wood chip. It looks so much neater and is far more practical now.
I leave you with a new acquisition – Gladiolus flanaganii. I couldn’t resist the flowers and it is meant to be hardy so we shall see; with my grass head on, I think it might look good with some Anemanthele lessoniana.
Oh and this is my 1500th blog post!!!!
I have just returned from a week visiting gardens around Dublin and Cork with a group of 22 led by Noel Kingsbury. I was apprehensive at first as I went not knowing anyone but our small multinational group was incredibly friendly and fun and I would love to do another trip. The main driver for booking the trip was to visit the gardens of June and her brother Jimi Blake and also Helen Dillon. June’s garden was the first garden of the tour and with the sun shining we were off to a good start. The beauty of this trip is that each owner/gardener introduced us to their garden and was available to answer questions or indeed take us on a tour.
In June’s case she was very particular that she showed us around before we were allowed to wander at leisure. The garden is carved out of sloping field by the house and June is very keen on the relationship between the garden and the house with the lines of the raised borders relating to the lines of the house, its brickwork and its associated out buildings. The main garden area is made up of 9 raised beds each with its own loose theme. I rather liked the bed nearest the house, I think due to the vibrant colours, something which appears to be lacking in my own garden at the moment. I liked the contrast of the achillea with, I think, the purple salvia or it may be veronicastrum. Not only do the colours contrast but also the spires contrast with the flat heads of the achillea. Through the border are actea simplex whose foliage adds some depth to the planting.
However, I really didn’t like this border at all. The poppies had come up unexpectedly and June had decided to leave them but I found them too dense in their planting, giving something of a stationary feel to the border which for me jarred with other planting in the garden especially the stipas. I also find the bare stems distracting.
From the central path you are led up to the slope above. As you can see the border nearest the wilder slope has a significant amount of grasses planted in it, stipa tenuissima featured heavily, and this provided a blurred move from the formal garden to the wilder area. You can also see a few of my fellow travellers who will no doubt appear on a regular basis in this and future posts. On the slope is Thekla, who gardens in Germany and Italy. Then we have Noel and Vasily and his wife, Nadezhda, from Russia, and in the hat Ines from Argentina. Both Ines and Nadezhda are garden designers.
June leads you up to this point at the perimeter of the garden so you can see how the formal planting fits into the whole scheme. The trees in the borders are Aralia echinocaulis, collected by June’s plant hunting brother Jimi Blake. The Aralia reminded me of data palms which added to the feeling that the formal area of the garden was an oasis of colour nestling at the foot of the slope.
The sleepers added structure and a sense of purpose to the wide path and I particularly liked the way they curved at the ends. June had acquired the sleepers with the curve and had used them in this way to discourage visitors from walking in the long grass.
You descend down the slope to see the far end of the borders and also a formal pool (just in the lower left corner). It was clear that the pool is meant to be a surprise to the visitor and it was interesting that June had given a lot of thought to have the garden was viewed by the visitor particularly from outside of the formal area. This was an approach we encountered a couple of times during our trip.
The border you can see to the left of the photo above was my favourite. There was more substance to the planting with interesting contrasting foliage. We also liked the way the lower foliage had been stripped from the bamboo stems allowing a view through the plant to planting beyond.
Here is the pool I mentioned above and I can now introduce you to Ginette, a garden designer from Montreal in Canada – adding French to the many languages being spoken. Personally I struggled to engage with the pool; for me it doesn’t sit well in the space but I have felt the same with other similar pools in gardens so maybe its just a landscape style that doesn’t appeal to me at all. I suspect the idea is to provide an area of calm in contrast to the floriferous borders. The ‘tree’ on the slope at the end of the pool is a dead elm which has been planted upside down to create a sculpture accent.
You can see from the photographs above how densely planted the borders are and this was a common theme throughout the gardens we visited. Of course these are gardens of real enthusiasts who put in significant time in their gardens often with little help. In June’s case there were a couple of helpers who attend maybe one day a week with June doing the majority of the work.
From June’s garden I started to think about the denseness of planting – good and bad, and how grasses can add a sense of movement and softness to the border. I also liked the vibrancy of the colour palette and I want to look at improving this in my garden.
With the arrival of the next group of visitors we bordered our coach and headed off to Jimi Blakes’ up the garden for lunch and a tour of his garden – a post will follow soon.
Thankfully today and over night we have had a good deluge of rain, topping up the water butts. Sadly, whilst it appears a lot of rain the actual total for the last 24 hours is only 1.6mm which will only really impact on the top inch of the soil but its something I suppose. My love of strong colours is slowly becoming more apparent in the garden, at the moment I am loving the heliotropiums that I have flowering in a pot. They were planted with vibrant orange calibrachoa but the plants never did well producing one stem at a time whilst the other stems withered. I wonder if I planted them out too early given the coolness of the spring and early summer.
I am particularly pleased with the flowers on the Aloe striatula. This is growing in the front garden under the window by the succulent trough and was a bit of an experiment. It has come through the winter fine and I think I would like to add more although I know that I might lose them if we have a particularly hard winter.
The species Petunia exserta have started to flower. As with many species the flowers are much smaller than the hybrids that we are used to seeing. I like the purpleness of the buds before the flowers open but I’m not really a fan of petunias so I will see how these do over the summer. I’ve also planted out lobelia spicata and some agastache to fill the gaps where the early perennials have been cut back so hopefully there will be a second burst of colour.
I’m also enjoying this flower whose label has disappeared. Its small plant and I know the seeds were from the Alpine Garden Society but that’s as far as it goes, but it is a lovely colour.
A new bench has also appeared by the shed. Hewn by hand from a tree by my eldest during his week on a Ray Mears Woodsman course this week. Its made from Sweet Chestnut which they felled with axe and hand-made saws. It is extra special to my son as the great man sat on the bench with him the other evening when he dropped into the course. I asked if he had asked Mr Mears to sign it but my son scoffed at this suggestion, although I suspect he wishes he had thought of this.
I haven’t shown you the patio border since it was full of snowdrops in early spring. This time of year is it’s next prime moment of interest with the Kirengshoma being the star of the show. I am not one to boost but I have to say that to date I haven’t encountered a Kirengshoma better than my specimen, of which I am every proud. In this combination I like the link between the hosta flowers and the actea behind. I am hoping that the actea may flower this year. It has been blind for a few years now and I’m not quite sure why. In the spring I moved it slightly sideways so it wasn’t competing with Kirengshoma so much and hopefully this will help.
The other end of the border is beginning to fill out and continues the green/yellow/purple theme. I don’t think I will plant the two peony plants you can see in the border as they will quickly out grow the space. Whilst I like the bright colours I also really enjoy the textures of foliage and this seems to interest me more and more.
I’m off to visit gardens on the east coast of Ireland tomorrow so who knows what inspiration I will gain over the coming week.
I haven’t been to Stockton Bury for a month and the borders seem to have exploded with campanulas. For the first time I took my mother to the garden. She has been having a rough time with sciatica so I thought a trip out to a garden and some cake was just the thing. I don’t think I have been to Stockton Bury at this time of year before, I certainly don’t remember seeing the mass of campanulas before.
We particularly liked the way they were used in contrast with bright coloured flowers – I think contrasting colours work so well. Pastels and subtle colour combinations are all very nice but there is nothing like the zingyness of bright yellow against the cooling blue.
Or the blue of the campanulas against this Lychnis chalcedonica.
but I especially like the blues against the chartreuse green of the euphorbia and the emerging flowers of the soldiago.
But it’s not all campanulas. Mum really fell for the eringiums, especially eringium alpinum superbum which were smothered in bees. A seemingly bland statement but my mother has always been a gardener who likes neat and short plants, never anything tall or leggy so the fact that she was smitten by the eringiums is quite fascinating. In fact since Dad died her approach to the garden has completely changed. She has a small garden which was predominately shrubs with some small perennials but over this year some of the shrubs have been removed and the whole garden is starting to feel more cottagey and is suddenly quite feminine. I find it fascinating as Dad was never really that bothered by the garden although he did the lawn and pruned the shrubs but I was never aware of him really influencing the planting. She is really getting a sense of enjoyment and achievement from the garden and every time I visit there are new plans, plants to move and replace and she is thrilled with learning about new plants – not bad for a 76 year old.
What about this for an electric combination? I really like it and must make a note to try it next year although I have never done very well with Monardas in the past but its worth a go.
This is one plant I will never convince Mum to consider growing as she thinks they are really creepy!! I, on the other hand, love them.
I leave you with one of the many paths at Stockton Bury which lead you in gentle curves around the garden.
Mum loved the garden and how she was constantly surprised going round a corner to come across another bank of flowers. The outing was a complete success, including the delicious coffee and walnut cake, so much so that she picked up a leaflet with a map on it so she could find her way back with her friend.