A Dream of an Herbaceous Border

I spent most of last week trundling around Yorkshire with a large group of friends indulging in visiting gardens, plant buying and eating cake – what’s not to love.  I have been on this holiday for four years now, to different parts of the UK, and this year for some reason I was acutely aware that my taste and preferences in terms of gardens had changed, or maybe had become clearer.  I also found it interesting that some of my preferences were at odds with many of my travelling companions and this seemed to be possibly a generational divide.

It is some years since I wrote ‘reviews’ about specific gardens as they can become quite repetitive to read and my plan was to write a post which captured the gardens that I loved, and why I loved them as well as what I didn’t feel enthusiastic about but maybe others did.  However, looking at my photos I got stuck at the first garden we visited which I adored and took so many photos of.  So before I write a more analytical post of the gardens I thought I would indulge in a little flurry of herbaceous border photos.

The garden in question is Felley Priory, which is in North Nottinghamshire – we stopped on the way to Yorkshire.  I had never heard of it before but I learnt from fellow travellers that it hosts a wonderful plant sale later in the year so obviously is well known in the area.

If you asked me if I liked topiary I think my response would be indifferent but when I stop and think about it I realise that there is a deep sub-conscious attraction to some of these idiosyncratic creations.  I love the topiary at Levens Hall in the Lake District which reminds me of Alice in Wonderland and whilst not on the same scale as Levens Hall I loved the humour in the topiary at Felley Priory.  The topiary is something you encounter before you come across the herbaceous borders which are behind the yew hedges you see in the photo above.

For me the borders were breathtaking.  The planting was of an exceptional quality with a high level of unobtrusive maintenance.  Being someone who struggles with plants flopping I spent some time peering between the plants to see if I could see what supports were being used.  Our group, including professional plant growers and gardeners, all felt that there was no support so well was it hidden.  But supports there were, hidden away and clearly demonstrating the benefits of putting in supports early in the season so the plants grow up through them and not my approach of retrospective staking which never looks good.

I also loved the colour combinations in the borders which was wide ranging but not clashing, as many of the borders we saw later in the week were.  There is also something about the scale of the flowers to each other.  Nothing is big and blowsey and overshadowing anything else.  Each plant is part of the overall whole but allowed to shine in its own way. Some of the other borders we saw elsewhere had a complete imbalance of flower size and colour meaning that the border did not make a cohesive whole but felt very bitty to me – well that was my view.

I really liked this part of the border which is essentially red, white and blue but so subtle due to the inclusion of the burgundy scabious which provides a good link between the red mondara and the blues of the phlox and the eryginium. The skill is that the mondara is a bluey red, if you know what I mean, as opposed to an orangey red again adding to a harmonious whole. I also loved that the gardeners were happy to use white meadow sweet which many would worry was a weed.  The meadow sweet isn’t planted in a large clump or solid ‘drift’ but instead the planting is starting to move more towards the matrix style of planting which we came across a few more times on our trip and is, for me, the way forward.

 

 

End of Month View – October 2018

Another month has passed and for me, as a gardener, it has been a bit of a non-event but for the garden with the changing seasons nothing stays still.  Gardening time is now limited to weekends due to the nights moving in and over the last few weeks there has been strong winds, rain, and family events so the garden is looking rather shabby – but I did plant up some pots of bulbs and violas this weekend (above).

The field maple, to the right of the path, is always the first to lose its leaves but I always find it interesting at this time of year to see just how much ever green foliage I have in the garden.  I do like foliage and will always choose a plant with good foliage over one with good flowers as flowers are so fleeting.

Not the best photo but the best I could do between the rain and the low sun at the weekend. Whilst the colour in the photo is washed out with the sunlight this does give a truer impression of the Big Border which is frequently backlit by the sun.  The border is benefiting from Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ and Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.  I love this salvia and thought I might have lost it over last winter.  It’s too big to lift now so I risk leaving it in the ground with a thick mulch over it.  I normally take a couple of back up cuttings but these failed this year due to gardener lack of engagement.  The salvia was slow to reappear but it has caught up and is looking stunning.

As you can see the I have a lot of tidying up to do and the grass needs cutting but I have managed to get the majority of the bulbs planted, just the tulips to go in, and I have pruned out some of the willow branches and reduced the large fatsia at the back of the garden.

And I will leave you with a shot of the front garden.  I have done some tidying up here as this week the driveway is being replaced so I have had to remove a couple of old lavenders from outside the front door.  I’m pleased with the space created which will give me a new planting opportunity and I think I will extend the hardy succulent planting that I have here but never show as it’s still quite young.

As ever everyone is welcome to join in with this monthly meme.  You can use it as you wish 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 – simple!

 

 

Early Autumn in the Front Garden

When I posted at the end of September I included a photo of the front garden, which I rarely post pictures of.  One of my readers suggested that I post more often on the front garden as it looks interesting so here you go.  It is timely as the planting in the front garden was designed to peak at this time of year. If you look carefully there is a gravel path in a curve through the garden.  It is rarely used as the only place it actually goes is to the side access to the back garden but it does give me access to the planting. I created the front garden space just over two years ago.  It was previously mainly lawn and unloved.  So the lawn came up and I planted the space mainly with late summer/early autumn perennials which were being rehoused from the back garden. There are several different asters here as well as rudbeckia and sedum – I’m not sure about the yellow rudbeckia and the red mauve sedums together but it’s a passing phase.
The grasses are Calmagrostis ‘Overdam’.  There are is also some Fennel and Euphorbia in the border which give more interest earlier in the year.   The structure is provided a Phormium; two Sorbus – one Sorbus aucuparia  and Sorbus pseudohupehenis ‘Pink Pagoda; a birch; and two Grevilleas – Canberra Gem and Grevillea victoriae.  The space is surrounded by beech and laurel hedges.
So that’s my front garden – hope you enjoyed the whistle top tour  

End of Month View – September 2018

I do enjoy this time of year as much as I enjoy Spring. I enjoy tidying up in the garden, because of the sense of achievement you get, and then there is the bulb planting with promise of Spring.

I should have taken the photo first thing before the sun came round

I realised this afternoon in the garden that I have actually managed to do quite a bit over the past month, although to the outside observer this probably isn’t that obvious.  I’ve added three Stipa tenuissima to the corner of the Big Border where all the bulbs live.  This is an area I worked on earlier in the year and replanted.  There is a lot of gravel in this area to help the bulbs survive the winter but there was a lack of height and substance so I am hoping that the Stipa will bring this and provide a foil for my bulb collection.

You can just see the Tithonia’s in the corner of this picture which have been a triumph this year. I love the vibrancy of the orange which acts as a good contrast to the asters.

Even the bottom corner of Hugh’s border (Hugh is the owl) hasn’t been too bad this year and this one of those bits of the garden which really challenges me as the ground dries out to much here.  I am slowly changing the planting to take advantage of this.

The top of the slope is one of the areas of the garden I keep coming back to when I have a spare moment.  Earlier in the year we removed the very top path, which was never used and was just a home for weeds.  This has given me more space and I have been using it to spread the plants out.  Over the last few weeks a couple of large ferns have been relocated and the Bottlebrush shrub has been given more room.

So thats my garden at the end of September.  To finish off I thought I would show you the front garden which I rarely feature on the blog, I know not why, but its just coming into its own with late summer perennials

The meme is open to anyone to join in with and you can use it how you wish – we would all love to see your garden, warts and all.  All I ask is that you post a link to your post in the comments box and a link to this post in your post, that gives us a chance to find each other.

The Real Flower Petal Confetti Company

This started as a Wordless Wednesday post but then I couldn’t choose which photo and now its a full blog post.

The Real Flower Petal Confetti Company are based in Pershore about 30 minutes from me.  As you can see they grow larkspur and cornflowers from which they make confetti.

I have wanted to visit for some years now but they only open for about 10 days a year when the flowers are looking stunning and I keep missing the opportunity.  However, with my youngest and fiancée getting married next June not far from the confetti fields it was the perfect opportunity to make sure we went for a look see last weekend.

Biodegradable confetti is becoming more popular in the UK as many venues prefer not to have to clean up piles of paper confetti or even rice.  Our wedding venue is located in a deer park and they have very strict rules that any confetti has to be edible by deer so flowers it is.

The sheer volume and colour was stunning.  Aside from poppy and rape fields I have never seen so many flowers growing in one area.  Even the wild flowers we saw in Texas were interspersed with lots of grass whereas this is hedge to hedge flowers.

As you can see I took many photos, mostly because I am looking for design inspiration for my embroidery design course.  I particularly liked the white larkspur with the cerise in the background.  There is something to my eye especially pleasing with the combination of the white flowers and their very green centres.

I foresee some very flowery embroidery design in the future, which no doubt will include my favourite stitch French Knots.

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.

The new front garden – end of the first year.

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The stalwarts amongst my readership will recall that I have had a love/hate relationship with my front garden.  The lawn has changed its shape a number of times over the years but I still didn’t enjoy being out there.  Then back at the start of the year I bit the bullet and decided to get rid of the lawn once and for all and plant up the whole of the front garden.

January 2016
January 2016

This is how the front garden looked at the end of January – all very neat and tidy but dull, uninspiring and as some of my regular readers said just not me. So during the course of the first half of the year the lawn was lifted and removed and a curving path put in from the driveway to the side gate.  The path is more decorative and to give the front garden some structure rather than for a specific purpose but I have seen it used by a visitor which was very gratifying.

July 2016
July 2016

We decided that the path needed a good strong edge as it is the only landscape feature so my eldest kindly put in a  brick edge which I am really pleased with.  In fact if it wasn’t for him doing the edging and my youngest son lifting the lawn I don’t think I would have got very far with the project at all.  In my usual back to front way the path went in after the majority of the plants mainly because I wanted to see where the natural route would fall and also because the plants needed to get in the ground before the summer was over.

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The path is finished now and the majority of the planting is done.  I need to tweak the asters around a bit as they went in quite small and I had lost their labels years ago so it was a bit hit and miss how it would turn out.  I have a darker flowered aster – Symphytrochium novea-angliae ‘St Michaels’-  in the back garden which I will divide and add to the new border as I think I need a darker purple to lift the others.

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This is the view from the driveway to the front of the house and I love how pretty it looks. These photos were taken at the start of the month and last weekend I lifted all the zinnias.  They will be replaced with tulips and maybe some wallflowers. I have also added some snowdrops and small narcissus along the path edges. Next year I suspect I will also add alliums.

So to conclude I am absolutely delighted that I took the plunge and got rid of the lawn.  I actually enjoy being in the front garden now, I love looking at it in the morning from my bedroom window – it just makes me smile. In addition it is more wildlife friendly than the previous front garden with lots of bees and other pollinators buzzing around the flowers and more birds fidgeting around the border.

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 9th October 2016

Amarine belladiva
Amarine belladiva

So its been many weeks, no months, since I wrote a ‘My garden this weekend’ post. I won’t bore you yet again with my emotional struggles with the garden and my lack of enthusiasm.  Suffice to say that this weekend I had to really push myself to get on with some of the tasks that are needed.  The patio is full of purchases from the summer that need planting out or I will be struggling over the winter to protect the plants.  However, of course it’s not that simple.  I bought the plants for a particular project – the Big Border revamp – but I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped.

I think I may have mentioned before that I want to replant the Big Border to benefit from the soil which drains very well. My plan is to use it for the various bulbs that I have a weakness for.  I think last weekend I reported that I had started to relocate some of the peonies to Hugh’s Border and I have added a couple of Miscanthus to the Big Border which weren’t happy behind the shed.

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Bits of it are coming together but the main part of the project is to formalise the lower edge of the Big Border.  The path has for some years been edged with Malvern stone found in the garden or logs from  tree pruning.  I have always gardened on a shoestring and never had funds for major landscaping so the garden has developed through hard work and making do with what was to hand.  When the Big Border went in around 4 years ago I wasn’t sure about the path and waited to see where the natural path appeared.  It’s all been a little Heath Robinson.  Originally the path was finished with woodchips but over the years this has disintegrated and the stone edging isn’t strong enough to clearly define the border from the path.  I need it to look smart and tidy.

The trouble is that I have concluded that I need structure and tidiness in my life or I become stressed.  With less time, energy or enthusiasm for the garden this year it has become untidy and this in turn has made it harder for me to re-engage as I just don’t know where to start.  I feel that if I can get some good structure or bones in place then the messiness won’t be so bad – just like edging the lawn makes a huge difference to a garden without you doing much else.  Thankfully funds are a little more plentiful these days and my long-suffering eldest has ‘volunteered’ to help me with putting in some thick wood edging.  Then, probably in the Spring, we will put some wood edging on the other side of the path but probably something thinner.  I will then cover the path probably with wood chip – the cat doesn’t approve of gravel!

img_6741I have moved all the plants along the path edge and the Malvern stone so my eldest can get on with the improvements.  We now have a large pile of Malvern stone to find something to do with. A suggestion has been made that I could use them to create a home for my hardy succulents, alpines and tiny bulbs.  I am resisting using the word ‘rockery’ as I really dislike rockeries but there is a small gem of an idea mumbling away at the back of my mind.

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In my bid to take control of the garden again I have seized the day and removed a couple of large shrubs that I haven’t liked for years.  One went from the border above, as did a large persicaria and some common ferns which swamped the area and used up all the moisture.  The photo doesn’t quite show you how much space there is here but  I am quietly excited as it’s quite a big space and will, after some feeding and soil improvement, provide a home for the remaining peonies that need rehoming.

Hopefully with all our efforts this Autumn the garden will be more manageable next year so I don’t feel I need to spend as much time working in it and I can do some of the other things I want to do without feeling guilty or maybe even just sit and enjoy the garden.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – September 2016

 

Grevillea victoriae
Grevillea victoriae

I’ve decided not to focus on the asters this month but to showcase four plants which have just started to flower and whose flowers I am always thrilled to see.  They all need to be sought out in the garden as they can be a little shy.

First up is Grevillea victoriae which has wonderful exotic orange flowers. Similar to Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ but flowering later.  Last year I thought it hadn’t flowered but discovered all the flowers at the bottom of the shrub.  This year the shrub is a year older and has been moved into a sunnier location and the flowers are beginning to appear higher on the shrub so I am hoping that next year it will look amazing.

Unknown Nerine
Unknown Nerine

I have started to extend the bulb season in my garden with the inclusion of Nerines.  This is the first to flower and is from a hugh pot full of bulbs that I bought for a couple of pounds last year at the local HPS group.  I was really thrilled to see it, and its fellow flowers, as it shows that I have found a good location for it and confirms my plan to plant more Southern Hemisphere bulbs in this particular area.

Massonia
Massonia

I am always pleased when the Massonia flowers in the greenhouse.  I had a Massonia pustulata but I think I lost that and as its name indicates the leaves were quite blistered looking so its not that variety, maybe I will find the label one day but either way I am pleased it has flowered again.

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I have various Colchicums of differing quality and these are always the first to flower and are slowly but surely beginning to spread.  They are one of those plants whose flowers appear under the foliage of other plants but as you pass something catches you eye and you find yourself on your hands and knees looking to see what the colour is from.

So those are my 4 secret gems for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – for more GBBD posts visit Carol at May Dream Gardens