Today I went to the inaugural meeting of the HPS Shade and Woodland Group which conveniently for me was held near Tewkesbury where I go for my monthly HPS meetings and in addition to this the talk was by one of our committee members, Keith Ferguson with a visit in the afternoon to his and his wife, Lorna’s, garden. The meeting was attended by some 80 people at a rough guess which isn’t bad for the inaugural meeting of a national group.
Keith’s talk on Trilliums and other US woodlanders was fascinating and I learnt lots, how much I will remember remains to be seen. I did learn that it was a myth that trilliums need acidic soil, there are one or two which do, but generally this isn’t the case. I still think trilliums are a bit tricky, I have a couple and only one flowers and in 5 years it has only bulked up to two flowers! I think I need to start mulching more with leaf mould etc. I overheard Keith telling someone that they mulch extensively in November so that seems to be the answer – worth a go anyway.
After lunch we drove 20 minutes to the Ferguson’s home which is set down a narrow country road within sight of May Hill – a very pretty part of the world. They have lived here nearly 20 years and worked hard to develop the garden. Both Keith and Lorna are botanists and are real plants people. Whenever there is a tricksy shrub that needs identifying at our group meetings it is them we look to and inevitably they know or can make a knowledgeable guess.
I frequently visit gardens generally on my own, sometimes with a friend or two but this, and a visit with some of the same group last week, are the most enjoyable garden visits I have had for some time. I think the secret lies in visiting with such knowledgeable plants people who are generous with their knowledge and not in a stuffy or superior way. We had a laugh and it is wonderful to hear a real hum of people talking about plants and indulging in their passion. One half of the garden, in front of the house is more formal and is very bright being home to lots of wonderful colourful perennials and also the vegetable garden. The other half of the garden (which altogether is around 2.5 acres) is the newer garden which is devoted to shade loving plants. Here were clumps of trilliums which make my tiny specimen look even more pathetic. I enjoyed the planting style here as everything intermingles giving a wild appearance albeit managed. I suspect William Robinson would have approved. So many new plants to discover and learn about and at the same time familiar plants to see afresh and covert. I was particularly taken with the Papaver orientale ‘May Queen’ which I have been promised a bit of, although it comes with a warning of being a thug!
There were also plants that I doubt I will ever grow such as this Berberis jamesiana which Sally Gregson and I were completely bewitched by. It is hard to propagate and given its size I suspect this is something I wouldn’t be able to grow unless I moved but still it is something to aspire to.
Whilst the reason for the visit was due to the HPS Shade and Woodland Group meeting what I really took away from the Ferguson’s garden was a wonderful demonstration of ‘right plant right place’. Being botanists they understand what conditions each plant needs and the plants repay this care and attention by growing incredibly well. It was a lovely afternoon.
I’m struggling a little with life at the moment and to top everything else off my car has died on me so I have the irritation of having the phone the garage tomorrow and no doubt part with large sums of money at some point this week. The only time this past week when I have felt calm and at peace as been in the garden. Even though I am not conscious of worrying about things in particular I think when you are ‘working’ in the garden your mind focussing on what you are doing, the plants, what you could plant in a space and the other things which might only be bothering your sub-conscious leave. Interestingly I started off today deciding not to do anything but I twitched around so much that I decided to potter for an hour in the garden.
The theme of removing sycamore seedlings continued and today’s focus was the hardy exotic slope and the back border. I wrote about tackling the back border about a month ago and I am quite pleased so far with how it is going. I am trying for a leafy texture of plants ideally with some all year round interest. I think planting up the area behind the shed has also helped and it feels more gardened now rather than part of the garden which challenges me. I added a half hardy salvia amongst the bamboos – its a bit of a beast so should fill the space here and the pink flowers will work well with the geranium palmatums which can be a little garish on their own. I have also added some impatiens qingchanganica bought from Growild Nursery, a wonderful new online retailer of plants and seeds. Also added was an Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ bought from Sally Gregson when she gave my local horticultural club a talk on epimediums last week.
The hardy exotic slope is coming together and this year I need to add to the shorter perennials to cover the ground and reduce the bare soil on show. You can see there are some daffodils in the border which are OK and interesting but you can’t see them from the bottom of the slope as they disappear behind the bench. I think I might forget about spring bulbs here and concentrate them elsewhere as to me you need to be able to see spring flowers from the house so they cheer you on a cold or rainy day. I am pleased to say that the ridiculous collection of plants waiting on the patio waiting to be planted out is diminishing, its generally one year old perennial seedlings or bulbs now. The downside of this is that the pile of empty terracotta pots is ridiculous and shows just how much effort and funds I invested in growing alpines and bulbs over the last couple of years but I feel a lot happier with the plants in the ground and concentrating on growing perennials from seed.
I am really pleased with how most of the garden is filling out now and the view from the living room (top photo) makes me smile which is very important. I can see great combinations from the sofa; such as the way the blue rosemary flowers pick up on the camassias and then the honesty at the back of the garden. It wasn’t planned at all but seeing it work makes me understand a little how to bring the garden together and make it more cohesive instead of seeming piecemeal; Mother Nature is obviously showing me how things should be!
And then there is the first trillium to flower. I planted it some 4 or 5 years ago and it disappeared but a c0uple of years back it reappeared and flowered. Last year it has two flowers but it seems we are back to one this year but it is flowering which is a thrill. I learnt recently that trillims shouldn’t be planted too deep and if they are they will pull themselves into the right position which is probably why it disappeared for a couple of years. I will have to make sure I mulch well around it to give it a little moisture and hopefully encourage it to bulk up and spread.
Finally I had to smile as my youngest son, 22, has been to Wilkinsons buying herb seed pots in advance of getting his first home. He says adamantly “I’m not a gardener”, he doesn’t want to admit that some of my passion may have rubbed off on him but showing him how to sow a few rocket seeds this afternoon was an amusing delight.