Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Tree Following: the trail of the lonesome quince

In the blue ridge mountains of virginia 
On the trail of the lonesome pine (Harry Carroll 1913). 

Except it's not anywhere near a blue ridge mountain (maybe a small hillock) and its not a pine, it's a quincelet. Just the one remains, sadly, solitary.  As the song says: like the mountains I'm blue. 
and let's face it, its a dead one.  Yes, all my cherished quinclets have dropped off.  They are no more, they could become part of a dead parrot sketch with the word parrot replaced by quince.  I considered placing it in the a fruit cellar, in a chair and pretending it was still alive, but for one thing I do not own a cellar never mind a fruit one and, also, films tell us this is not a good move. 
I am left with the memories of where the quinclets were.

Oh well, there's always next year.

Thanks to Lucy for hosting this meme, more trees can be found here:

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Questions - Chris Collins

Chris Collins is a familiar face from television.  I think the first time I remember seeing him was on Gardeners' World when he was the Head Gardener at Westminster Abbey.  Later Chris did a very good series called The Plantsman that I watched avidly.  For many children he is known as the Blue Peter gardener, a role he had until 2013.  Chris has just designed, along with Oli Blanc and Charlotte Salt, the Bronze Medal winning Henri le Worm Community Garden for the Hampton Court Flower Show.  This garden is designed to promote an app that is aimed at linking to the National Curriculum and encouraging children into growing food, nature and gardening.
The Questions

In which garden do you feel happiest?
Benmore Botanic Gardens -  I love  that garden .  Pretty content in my own also ,  never  feel  anything but happy  when I’m in garden
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
Secateurs .  Spade . Knife . Border  Fork . Rake
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
RHS Gardening  dictionary . Garden Organic encyclopaedia . RHS  Dictionary of gardening . Hilliars manual of trees & shrubs . Botanica 
What was the most defining moment of your life so far?
Planting  a   Ulmus ‘augustifolia’ in Preston Park 1984
What are you most proud of?
My career
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
At  odds of  16 billion to  one  , don’t  really  give it  much thought .
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
Peter  Seabrook .
Roy  Lancaster .
Geoff Hamilton
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
Carpentry -  anything creative and  done  with the hands I find  incredibly satisfying by
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
Benmore Botanic garden
What is your current plant obsession?
In Spring  it  would  be  trees
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?
What do you wish you could do better?
Plenty of things
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
Life is a gift  
What makes a perfect day for you?
The 15  minutes I have  in my  garden at  the start  of  each day
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?
Be kind  but  don’t take  any  nonsense
Gnome or no-gnome?
No  Gnome

A big thanks to Chris for taking part and to Sarah Gartside.

Next time:  Anna Murphy 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A William Morris inspired wild flower meadow by Dan Pearson

A new exhibition opened on the 27th June at Compton Verney to celebrate the 'Arts and Crafts House, Then and Now'.  This is a major exhibition including many items from the Arts and Crafts period.  I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the press launch and spent a very enjoyable day being shown around the exhibits.  I admit that my primary reason for wanting to go was the promise of a tour around the William Morris inspired meadow by its designer, Dan Pearson.  It was an opportunity I did not want to miss.
Before I get to that though, the exhibition itself is worthy of visit.  The focus is on 'the house', so you can see design drawings for The Red House, the house Philip Webb designed for William and Jane Morris.  There is embroidery on display by May Morris and others.  There are designs and pictures of work by Charles Francis Anneseley Voysey.  There are also the designs for Stoneywell, a cottage I visited not so long ago and it was very interesting to see the plans with the planting for the thickets laid out.
It was also really interesting to see some of the furniture that was originally in the cottage such as this huge settle, the scale of which you cannot tell from this photograph but it is a good 6 foot high and just speaks of 'solid'.  It is the most amazing piece of furniture.
There are lots of objects and textiles both old and new in the exhibition, plus a fascinating silver exhibition.  Well it was fascinating to me as silver making is not something I am very knowledgeable about and I was very interested to see the incredibly beautiful design drawings of some of the pieces and then the pieces themselves.  The exhibition turns around the Hart family who are still making silver-ware today in the same way that generations before have done so.

The exhibition is about then and now, so there are contemporary pieces alongside the old.  There were photographs of Munstead Wood, taken by Gertrude Jekyll herself as she crafted this garden around her home.  There was also photographs old and new of Folly Farm, a Lutyens/Jekyll collaboration updated and revamped by Dan Pearson 2009-13.  The exhibition is skillfully put together and it was interesting to be able to meet and talk with the curator Antonia Harrison.

The main event for me though was the Dan Pearson meadow, that was what I had really gone to see.  The meadow was originally crowd funded last year to help get it going.  Compton Verney relies on its subscribers and visitors so to make this happen additional funding had to be found.  Dan Pearson is a bit 'the man of the moment' fresh from his Best in Show and gold medal at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Of course a meadow does not appear overnight, it was planted out last October where there were the beginnings of a wild flower meadow already in progress.  The area was de-thatched and then the seed mix was applied into the layout that had been decided.
The meadow is based upon the 'Trellis' wallpaper design of William Morris.  This was the first wallpaper that Morris designed and was based on a rose trellis at this home in Bexleyheath.  When walking around the meadow it is quite hard to see this, but there is a terrace where the design is more easy to see.
Within the meadow there are circles of specific planting that are to represent the roses in the original wallpaper design.  These are not flowering yet, but in a couple of weeks it should look really good.
The meadow was helped by the addition of yellow-rattle into the seed mix.  This is a parasitical plant that helps reduce the vigour of the grasses and allows the other planting to come through.  This is a tried and trusted method used by many meadow-growers. 
Dan explained that the meadow will evolve and develop, next year it will contain more daisies, then the year after other plants will gain dominancy with orchids (hopefully) arriving around year seven.  By this time the meadow will have stabilised and change less.  The meadow will be treated as a hay meadow, mowed in the Autumn and grazed over the Winter.  In future years it can continue to be a key part of new exhibits as it can be mown into new designs.
Dan led the tour of the meadow explaining that Compton Verney was a huge landscape but with limited resources.  He wanted to design something that would encourage people to go outside.  A key part of the Arts and Crafts movement was the connection between art and nature so it felt in tune with the ethos of the period.
Very importantly the meadow is already making a significant difference to the ecology of the Park.  Already the amount of bees and butterflies has increased.  This again is in accord with the ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement, it is beautiful and it is useful.
Dan was clearly seeing himself as carrying on in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  I was very interested in his suggestion that he would love someone to weave a tapestry of his meadow, so taking the art in full circle: from the original wallpaper design, to the growing meadow, to a piece of tapestry.  What an interesting idea this is and how wonderful if would be if someone took him up on this.

I had a really nice day at Compton Verney and realised very quickly I did not have enough time to see everything I would like to.  I predict a return visit.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

End of Month Review - June 2015

June has been a month of fairly chilly, rather hot, a bit rainy and yet rather dry.  Thankfully we were spared frost though it looked a bit close at times. Whilst the garden still feels a bit behind, it is now growing apace, things are happening at last.
In the driveway the foxgloves are flowering, I am going to move more into the driveway over the autumn and then hope that they will self-seed in future years and multiply.  I love these white foxgloves which were a gift, they add a wonderful shaft of light.
Moving into the front garden, after a recent bought of cutting back the hedges so I can get into the garden I found the remnants of a gate.  I don't think I knew of this gate, but it is useless so it was no great find.  Still, a bit of garden archaeology none-the-less.
The Knot Garden has had its first trim and is looking green and lovely.  The roses are all doing well, from the Leda closest to the camera and the Graham Thomas glowing yellow by the hedge.
By the front door the Gertrude Jekyll rose has had its first flush and is now recouping to flower again.  The three pots of pelagoniums from The Vernon Nursery are doing very well.  They kindly sent me these to try and I am very pleased with them.
The gravel garden is looking quite lush.  It is mainly self-seeded and never watered so it does self-regulate what will grow there well.
On the metal coal bunker thing that sits under the kitchen window, that serves no purpose other than to host pots of fuchsias, it is doing its job well as the fuchsias are very happy there.
The Rosa Maidens Blush, once a small scraggy thing that I referred to as manky, is now a thriving tall bush of a plant.  It does not flower for long but it is worth it when it does.  It does rather block the view from the kitchen window now, but I don't mind.  I will cut it back hard this autumn I think.
The table is now full of pots.  There are all sorts on here (no liquorice sadly).  The begonias are just starting to flower, there are pelagoniums and a couple of crinodendrons have appeared after falling in love with them in Wales this year.
The pots by the way into the back garden are also doing well, as are the roses and the cardoon.  The Tea-Tree tree is also growing very well, it had to have a bit of a trim as it was spreading sideways a bit too much and I want more of a column from it.
The view up the garden looks quite bouffant.
The Long Shoot looks like I like it to look.  Lots of colour, quite good height and I am happy with the shape of the formal lawn at the moment.
The courtyard has acquired a couple of small acers to add to its collection.
and the pellie stand has proved to be a good idea.  It makes me very happy.
The view across the Conservatory Border also makes me happy.  When I look at this view I realise I have quite a lot of roses and as I breathe in and inhale their scent I know this is no bad thing.
This is the view back along the Long Shoot from the other way, I don't often take this view but I like it and I think it works.
This is the view down towards the formal lawn taken from the Bermuda Triangle.  Usually I focus on this view in the winter when the growth is less and the shapes more defined but actually I don't know why I wait as I like it at the moment.  Esme decided she wanted to feature as well.
The Prairie Borders are now coming into their own.  The Stipa tenuissima is growing well, the echinops are getting huge and the Verbena bonariensis (which you cannot see well from this view) is getting ready to flower.
The Tree Lupin border is dominated by the tree lupin which is huge this year and covered in flowers.
The Dancing Lawn is looking a little dry and has acquired a clover-patch.  I just hadn't the heart to mow all of it, it was growing so well and the bees love it.
The Bog Garden is looking very colourful.  It is now quite well established, it has taken a few years to reach this stage but it is now a good addition to the garden.
The Wild Garden is all tall grass, ox-eye daisies, thistles and nettles.  It buzzes with life and generally I like it.  The soil is quite fertile and the grass does get rather long.  I am going to try and reduce the vigour of the grass with yellow-rattle as I think it needs it.
In the top corner I have cut back the cow parsley as it had finished flowering and I am trying to reduce the amount it seeds.  It also gives more space for the other planting to develop.  These white foxgloves are doing very well.
The view back down the garden, over the Dancing Lawn towards the Tree Lupin Border is one I like a lot.
In the hedge the Kiftsgate rose is starting to flower.  It has lurked for a few years but this year it is going for it big time.  I wanted something large and spiky to be a natural barbed wire, this rose does the job well.
The Four Sisters are doing well, the Carol Klein acer has enjoyed not having a late frost.  The Philadelphus Belle Etoile is flowering well and the Edgeworthia is still alive.  The Clethra is getting ready to flower in a few weeks time.
I have strimmed around the veg beds, it needed doing, I had sudden 'oh crikey the garden is a mess guilt' after a visit from a friend who wanted to look around the garden.  She was kind enough not to make bad comments, but still I felt a bit ashamed.  The veg is coming along well.  The peas are podding and the cobra beans are thinking about flowering.  I am growing fewer spuds than in previous years which has given me more room for broccoli.
I am also growing kale and perpetual spinach this year.  Now I have to cook with it.
The greenhouse is still fairly full.  There are some seedlings to be put out and some perennial plugs from one of those 'lucky dip 48 perennial plugs' offers.  These only arrived the other day and they are tiny so I cannot imagine planting them out until next year, however for a fiver they were good value and it was worth a punt.
The pond (yes this is the pond) is getting really quite low of water and really very full of weed.  I will sort it out this autumn, promise.  More worryingly I have not seen any damsel or dragon flies yet this year. I am hoping they are just a bit delayed and not disappeared.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Product Review - Gtech HT05-Plus cordless hedge trimmer

I was approached the other day to see if I would like to review the Gtech HT05-Plus cordless hedge trimmer.  I agreed and the hedge trimmer duly arrived.
I took one look at it and thought 'light saber', this made me smile.  The hedge trimmers take about three hours to charge, you have to plug the charger into the handle of the trimmer which means you do need to find somewhere you can leave this long appliance.  I left mine on the kitchen table and this worked out well.
The handle is telescopic and the trimming head can be angled either straight or at 90 degrees so you can cut across the top of hedges.  The battery promises around 45 minutes, so with this in mind I set out to find things to trim.  This is not a good time for trimming hedges as birds can still be nesting, I was very aware of this so knew I had to choose carefully.
One job I knew I needed to do was to cut back the entrance to the house, the holly hedge on one side and the mixed hedge on the other had grown to make the entrance really quite small.  Some trimming later and the trimmer had made short work of this task.  I was very pleased.

I then moved into the garden itself.  A thought had struck me whilst I was thinking about jobs I needed to do.....
.....the Manx Rose has grown hugely already this year and it needed cutting back.
It is now much smaller and neater,
The trimmer worked through its quick thick stems with no problems at all.  I have no qualms about using trimmers on this type of rose, it does them no harm at all and it will grow back well.  The main downside is that if it does not re-flower I will miss out on its wonderful black rose hips this year, a shame but not the end of the world.

I then thought that I had not tried the angled head option.  I stood there for a moment or two wondering what I could trim.  I looked down the garden, pondering pondering, and then my eyes fell upon the pleached hornbeams.
Five minutes later the top growth had been trimmed.  The telescopic handle and angled head meant I did not have to resort to a ladder as usual.  This is a great benefit for me as for one thing it saves quite a bit of time and faffing about.  Also, I am not hugely good with ladders, I wobble.  I only have to be a step or two up and I start to wobble, so a wobble-free task is a good task.

I was probably trimming for about thirty minutes all told and the battery was holding up well, there was no diminution in power.  I can happily recommend these trimmers, they did what they said they would and they did it well.....

.... and it reminds me of a light saber, who would not want to trim hedges with a light saber?

The trimmer can be purchased from  www.gtech.co.uk  and retails at £119.95 including free delivery and a 30 day money back guarantee.