Thursday, 11 February 2016

25 years of Hodsock snowdrops

Snowdrops have been growing at Hodsock Priory in north Nottinghamshire for a lot more than 25 years, but the gardens have only been opened to the public for snowdrops since 1991.  I was lucky enough to be invited along to their Press/Blogger day for an opportunity to share this special date with them and to have a tour around the gardens.
We were greeted by the family when we arrived, George, Lady Belinda, Sir Andrew and Katherine Buchanan.  George talked us through some of the stats that are around this snowdrop event.  When they first opened back in 1991 they did not think many people would come, they had a biscuit tin to collect the entrance money.  Over 600 people attended which gave a good indication that this might be a successful thing to do.  They receive over 60,000 visitors for the three weeks that they now open for the snowdrop festival.  There are over 4,000,000 snowdrops to be inspected and oohed and ahhed over.
We were very lucky with the weather, that has been changeable to say the least recently.  The snowdrops were shimmering in the sun.
These clipped beech trees dotted around the woodland make a great foil for the tiny white flowers.
Daffodils were providing a foreground for the Tudor gatehouse, once visited by HenryVIII and Catherine Howard.
There were also many hellebores to be seen.  The strange weather has brought some flowers forward and there was a superb mix of colour and form throughout the garden.
There were a lot of irises flowering, we thought these George irises were very apt.
The garden was looking stunning, this cornus was shining the in the winter sunlight.
It is a well planned winter garden, with bright stems giving colour;
and scent from hamamelis, sarcococca and winter honeysuckle that perfume the paths around the garden.
There are terraces of hellebores, daffodils, snowdrops and more along the stream.
The mild weather means that there are still carnations flowering in the garden.
There are excellent viewpoints across the lake, from the house.....
and to the house.
and there are snowdrops everywhere you turn.

Wait!  I hear you say, but did you buy any plants?
Oh yes, snowdrops and some cyclamen were purchased.  Each flower a reminder of an excellent day.

Snowdrops at Hodsock will open daily between Saturday 6th February and Sunday 6th March 2016, from 10am to 4pm. Prices: £5 for adults, £4.50 for groups of 10+, £1 for children over 6. Infants and wheelchair users go FREE. Advance tickets are available online at

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tree Following - February 2016 Some Day My Quince Will Come

or should it be 'The Unfurling'?

Some day my quince will come
Some day I'll find my love
And how thrilling that moment will be
When the quince of my dreams comes to me  (with more apologies than are possible to Frank Churchill and Larry Morey)

The early Spring continues a pace, we have had a touch of frost, a sprinkle of snow, but generally it has rained and been mild.  The quince tree is responding to this by slowly starting to unfurl.  The young growth is emerging like Gypsy Rose Lee in the film 'Gypsy' peeling off her long evening gloves.  Expectation is everything, speed matters and I wonder, oh I wonder, if it is all just not a little too soon.
Are you my quince?

Are you my quince??

Are you, the more cautious, the less obvious and the slow starter, my quince.

Hi ho - time will tell.

More trees that are being followed can be found at The Squirrelbasket  the generous current host of this meme.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

A quick wander around Winterbourne Gardens

It is always nice to be asked to do things so when I was asked to help present a session at a work event that was on a Saturday I happily agreed to do it.  Once I was told the venue I realised quickly it was very close to Winterbourne House and Gardens.  That sealed the deal, I agreed to go as I planned in my head stopping off on the way home to visit the gardens.  As the timetable for the day was revealed I realised that I would not be able to do this as I would not be finishing until dusk.  Slightly disappointed I shrugged and thought little more about it other than it being an opportunity missed.

The day arrived and off I went.  Only to find that we had a rather generous lunch break in the middle of the day, followed by a session that I did not have to attend.  An escape plan was quickly formed, I checked that no one would mind (notice) if I disappeared.  I swallowed a couple of sandwiches quickly and headed for the gardens snickety-snack.
It was a cold, but beautifully sunny day, perfect for a lunchtime walk.  I had never been to these gardens before and so when entering the walled garden just the other side of the ticket office, I stopped and paused to take in the view.  It is a garden of good structure.
There are also some rather nice hot-houses which are beautifully maintained.
I keep not buying Clivias, everytime I see one I cannot understand why I keep not buying them.  I am going to have to sort this out.
I loved the shadows in the hot-house.  Shadows = sun and are a very good sign.
There is also an orchid house, 
which was small but packed with plants including these dangly things (technical term),
these tiny bananas,
and of course some orchids.  
I loved this arrangement/planting.
and I really loved this small pink Cryptanthus 'Pink Starlight'.  
There was various display greenhouses including this alpine house.  I really like a good alpine house but they are such a luxurious use of space.  I would like to have one except I just cannot spare the room for a greenhouse just to lay out like this.  If I was a dedicated collector of course it would be very worthwhile, but for the generalist that I am it is something to look at and enjoy but move on.
I moved into the next greenhouse that was largely spiky.
I am not a great fan of cactii but this was quite large and it caught my eye.
and yes, I did stand in front of this agave and sigh wistfully.
I also paused briefly in front of this stone trough with iris in as they were sparkling like jewels in the sun.
The garden is comprised of good vistas that draw the eye,
and this rather fine nut walk that the original owners installed.
It is a very nice house, I had not got time to go inside, but it sits well in its surroundings.  It was built in 1903 for Jon and Margaret Nettlefold and was set in several acres.  It is been grade II listed since 2008.  On the death of the owner it was bequeathed to the University of Birmingham and it is now their botanic garden.
I really need to go back again at other points in the year to see how the gardens develop through the year.
There is a fine terrace that overlooks a somewhat plain lawn.  I admit to being a bit underwhelmed by this view.
but I was wrong to judge so quickly as the other side of this row of yews is....
this - a really good space that really shows how well the garden is designed.  This feature is just waiting to be discovered, you turn a corner and there it is.  I was very impressed.
There is this parterre to the side of the house, it appeared to me to be the christmas tree graveyard...
it is a good space and quite unusual by having this conifer planting.  I would have expected possibly more of a fragrant garden in this setting.  It is really good to not find what you expect.  Those moments in a garden when you pause and think 'oh' and have to pause to process are not wasted moments.  I did not expect to be challenged by what I found here and I rather enjoyed that I was.
Around the corner from this parterre is this Winter Garden.  Now it might not look much from this distance, but it is one of the best winter gardens I have ever experienced.
It was made up of winter honeysuckle, Cornus mas, twisted hazel and daphne.  There was also several hamamelis in this area and in other parts of the garden.  They are clearly a favoured tree of the garden.

and then, dear reader, something happened.  It happened suddenly without warning.

The battery in my phone died and I could not take any more photographs.  I had not brought my camera with me as I had not hoped to escape.  I tutted to myself with my stupidity.

The gardens also contain some beds planted in relation to different countries/continents.  I am sorry to have no photographs as these borders were very good.  There was Japan, China and Australasia plus others.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 'great escape', it was a very good way to break up the day and refresh me for the afternoon.  It also gave me the opportunity to buy a couple of plants.......
.......because I would really go and visit and not buy any plants - like that is realistic!  I bought a small Haworthia and a Prunus Kojo-no-mai.  Now I have bought (and killed) a Kojo-no-mai previously so I am a little anxious about looking after it.  I have put it in the Courtyard for now as I think it might be destined to be a container planting for the foreseeable.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

End of Month Review - January 2016

January has been, as ever, rather long.  There is something about January that involves it having at least one week longer than any other month, possibly two.  It is of such a length that the very idea of Christmas and New Year is a dim distant memory.

When I wrote the December End of Month Review we were being visited by Storm Frank, we are now being visited by Storm Gertrude.  There have been others in between as January has continued the theme of this winter as being largely about rain.   Yes we had brief snow, but it came and went swiftly.  There have still been very few totally dry days and as I writing this the rain continues.  I decided to go out into the rain to take this month's photographs as it felt fitting and I have not had a time when it was not raining that I could get outside into the garden.
I begin in the driveway where the clump of snowdrops I planted in the first winter I moved in are starting to flower.  Had there been sun they might have been open.  They have made quite a nice clump now and I shall probably divide them a little when they have finished flowering.
A closer to the house, the Cornus officinalis is flowering and a newly planted mahonia is also colouring up well.
In to the front garden and the Knot Garden looks green.  I did some tidying/weeding the other day and it has made it look neater again.
In the side lawn, the first signs of winter aconites are starting to appear.  This is incredibly exciting to me as I planted these two years ago.  If they turn out to look like I hoped they would I shall be very happy.  It is a real case of patience has its rewards.
The quince hedge, also something that has made me wait quite a while before seeing real results, has been flowering for weeks.  I am very pleased with it now and it approaches what I want it to look like.
The back garden is wet, saturated, soggy, just very very wet.
The Courtyard is looking quite green, my dislike of evergreens is clearly being undermined.
There are signs of Spring as some crocii start to make their way up to flower.
These hellebores are flowering for the first time.  I let them self seed in the Spring Border and then I move the seedlings around to see what they will turn out like.  These are pretty little ones and they are adding a bit of colour into an otherwise mainly muddy Conservatory Border.
There are also signs of blue from these anemones.
Further along to the Spring Border and it looks,well, rather Springy.  The hellebores have been flowering for some time now and you can see the first sign of daffs starting to open.
As I look back from this point I remain pleased with the shape of the borders.  I am not sure if I will ever tire of this view.  This time of year in particular it is very apparent and I like that I became aware/less aware of it at different times in the year.
The Plant of the Year is still sprawly and flowering.
and last year's wallflowers that never got removed are flowering again.
There are a surprising amount of coconuts littered around the garden.  These are (of course) the remains of suet filled bird food but whenever I see them in the garden I think a) one day I ought to pick them up b) gosh they do not compost quickly do they and c) I wonder if a passing horse has cast them off (we all know that the sound of horses hooves come from coconuts don't we?).
The Four Sisters are patiently waiting for their moment.  The Edgeworthia is not dead (result!) but also has not yet flowered (non result).
The Cornus mas and the yellow hamamelis are flowering well just the other side of the pleached hornbeams and...
..... joy of joys the orange hamamelis that is by the pond is also flowering well.  This tree has sulked for a good couple of years and I wondered if I had upset it somehow, it has decided to forgive me this year and has rewarded me with flowers.
In the dark corner the Boy Who Waited is being being kept company by hellebores.  This corner needs some work.  I'm thinking ferns at this moment in time.
The snowdrops are coming up well.  I planted quite a few last year and also divided several of the existing clumps so I am hoping for a good display this year.
I also planted quite a lot of cyclamen coum as well and they are flowering their little hearts out at the moment.
The Prunus Ben-chidori is also flowering very well this year.  I have been pruning it to keep it more at a shrub height then let it be a tree.  So far this is working ok.
The Woodland Border/Bog Garden (I think the whole garden is a bog garden at the moment) looks wet and the Prairie Borders can be seen shimmering behind it.
It is a time of year for standing and thinking, I like standing here and looking down the Wild Garden.  The Winter Honeysuckle is flowering well and the garden is sort of waiting for its moment to get going.  It needs some warmth, I think it has enough rain at the moment.
The teasel patch has been good this year.  The biennial nature of these plants means that the patch is never the same year after year and I like this.  They do self-seed with vigour but they are so easy to identify when seedlings that I can generally edit them out quite well.
In the veg borders the purple sprouting broccoli is sprouting.
and the greenhouse remains shrouded.  We are getting intermittent frosty nights so I think it does still need to be in its winter white.
The winter collection of pots, that keep getting blown over by the winds, are doing well and the Primula Don Keefe has been flowering for weeks. It gives some very welcome colour.
and my pond over-floweth.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.