Sunday, 2 August 2015

My Garden School: Garden History Course Week 4

I have arrived at my last breakfast with Toby,  I shall miss his soothing tones on a Sunday morning.   This week is called 'Art, Craft, Nature and Modernism' and starts from 1840 looking at the Italianate style for houses and gardens.  Toby then talks us through the bedding revolution and how it was the sign of wealth and it appears to me, a bit of bling.
We then move into the rise of exotic looking bedding planting.  At this mid-19th century point there was the development of the large glasshouses in which to house these exotic finds, brought back at great expense and some risk by plant hunters.  Toby goes on to tell us about the head gardeners who looked after these precious plants and how they developed hot houses and regimes to keep these plants alive and preferably flowering.

We look at Paxton and move on to Bateman of Biddulph Grange.  We particularly look at how art and nature can co-exist.  Both Chatsworth (where Paxton was based) and Bateman developed highly formal planting alongside naturalistic gardens.  The reaction to this was the work typified and led by William Robinson, who wanted less formality and more plants and gardening than overtly controlled spaces.  Toby calls this a battle of architect vs gardener.  It can be no surprise then that we swiftly move on to discuss the partnership of  Edward Lutyens (architect) and Gertrude Jekyll (garden designer)  (yes a woman, at last!).
The period comes to a pause for the First World War, a time a great change particularly with the loss of so many men.  This hit many of the stately home gardens hard.  They lost so many of their male staff and their sons and heirs.  Life was never to be the same again.

The inter-war period is one of the rise of the middle-classes, modernism and also the development of Sissinghurst.  Gardens in Britain did not take on the call of modernism as such, we are shown the gardens of Tunnard that surround Bentley Wood, which simplified and stripped back the landscape.

After the Second World War modernism appeared but more overseas than in Britain.  We look at the work of Burle-Marx.  The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought modernist planting to Britain at a time when people were more receptive to it.  The easy, less maintenance, style appealed particularly to the middle-classes who were working all week, had more disposable income and had precious weekend time.

The course ends with Toby saying "gardens are for individuals, we should take our inspiration from where-ever and whenever we want and do whatever we want" which I think is a good thought.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the course, it has told me things I did not know and added knowledge to areas where I did.  The sessions are only thirty minutes and cover a lot of information, this inevitably means that there are some areas where you are left wanting to know more and go off and explore for yourself.  I like this very much.  Toby talks with quiet authority, he clearly knows and loves this subject.  What has been the end result of me taking part in this course?  I now want to do another one.

Friday, 31 July 2015

End of Month Review July 2015

July has been quite warm, quite windy and at times (thankfully) quite rainy.  It took a few rain showers before it started to really make the ground wet, but we have had a few soakings now and the garden is thankful for it.
I start in the front garden, it usually feels the right place to start.  The Knot Garden is looking ok and the lavender edging is at its peak.
It is full of bees the moment there is any hint of sun.
It was, however, also in need of a hair cut as the path was disappearing.  Every time I walked through I got soaked from the recent rain so the sides have had to be cut back.
The pelagoniums on the front step are still doing well,
and the green woman keeps a watchful eye.
Around to the back garden and its all a bit pot-tastic.  The fuchsias are doing very well and the Petunia exserta are just starting to flower.  It is a petunia I am very fond of.
This mix of herbs, pelagoniums, auriculas, lewisia and now a yucca are all doing well.  They are being fed regularly and are very happy for it.
The pots that lead into the garden are also doing well.  The begonias are very colourful and all made it through the winter ok.
The pelagonium stand is happy in its sunny side of the courtyard.
and the new hostas are enjoying being on the shady side.  Only a couple have been potted up so far.  I know where the others are going but they have been divided so that I have more and are recuperating in the greenhouse before I set them out.
Looking across from the Conservatory the borders are looking full of flowers.  This makes me very happy.  The Leucanthemum x superbum (super-bum) Phyllis Smith are really doing well this year.  I started with one plant and now it has been divided around so I have several largish clumps now.  It is probably my favourite daisy.  The Crocosmia lucifer is also flowering really well and again, has been divided several times from one plant.
In the pond border the verbascums are doing well this year.  I over-weeded last year and so did not have a lot.  I learned from this mistake and have a better show this year.
I love the height the verbascums give me especially in the Pond Border.  It is a big border and it needs this points of height to give it some rhythm.
This day lily, Scarlet Oak, is also flowering well now.  It is always a late starter but it is one I am very fond of.  It is a very good red.
If I look down to the Formal Lawn it is all looking quite lush, which is good, but it is hiding a multitude of sins.  I had been cutting back a lot before taking these photographs, especially the astrantias and the geraniums.  They have had their first flush and needed a hair cut in the hope they will reflower again soon.
The Prairie Borders are now full on blonde.  I love them when they look like this.
The Stipa Gigantica which is spotted around in the Pond Border, the Grassy Knoll (where this one is) and the Prairie Borders get bigger and better each year.
In the Tree-Lupin Border the Banana I bought last year is putting on some good leafage.  I will have to protect it over the winter, but I thought it would like to be in the border for a while.
The border is a bit behind at the moment, but the dahlias are just starting to flower and the gladioli have been good this year.
Sheltering under the apple tree, by the Dancing Lawn, Alice looks on.
The Woodland Border/Bog Garden is looking quite full and quite established now.  It is still work in progress but it is getting there.
The teasel patch is good this year too.  The bees are loving it.
In the Wild Garden there are jewels to be found.
The Cercis candensis 'Forest Pansy', which is a brittle tree and has lost several bits of it over the years, has been tied to a stick and told to pull itself together.  I cannot tell if it will respond to this, but I decided it was time for some tough-love.  Its been lolling around looking sorry for itself for too long now.
The Davidia has proved itself to be a tough little thing.  Despite huge chunks of Poplar Tree falling on it last year it has decided to live and put on some good growth.  I reckon another twenty years and it could be spectacular.
The clematis are doing well over the pergola.  I had to take a screwdriver to the pergola the other day as it was getting a bit wibbly.  It is now feeling more stable.
This view, the other way towards the pergola is one of my favourite views of the garden at the moment.  The Rosa Hyde Hall hedge borders the veg beds and the formal lawn goes off down to the right.
The Four Sisters are putting on good growth and look good in their sheltered spot in front of the pleached hornbeams.  The hornbeams are growing really strongly and need a hair cut, I only did it the other day but the rain is clearly encouraging it.  This is not a bad thing.
In the vegetable borders the courgettes are yellow and are coming along.  There has been a good crop of peas (Thompson and Morgan 'Bingo' - I can recommend) and the cobra beans are also just starting to produce some good beans.  I harvest the first of my potatoes the other day as well.
The greenhouse has various seedlings and some perennial plugs growing on.
and outside on the waiting table is the Tree Peony I bought a good five years ago that failed to thrive.  So earlier this year I dug it up and put it in a pot to see if that would encourage it to build some strength.  It has responded really well so I think I will keep it in a pot for probably another year, potting it on as needed, to help it get ready for a flower one day.  There are also two Amicia zygomeris cuttings that have rooted very well.  They are far too small to be planted out yet and will need a good year or so of coddling before I let them loose into the world.
On the way into the garden the Tea-Tree is suddenly looking rather large.  It was a twig when I planted it not long after moving into this house.  It is now, well, a tree.  It is smothered in flowers that the bees adore.
I have taken to shaping it to make it a bit more columular.  It is responding well to this and so at the moment I am not too worried about its size.  I am keeping an eye on it though.
I end, as traditional, on the pond.  Yes this is the pond, yes it is completely choked, yes it is my fault, yes I am going to sort out it out this Autumn - promise!

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Questions - Tanya Batkin


Tanya Batkin is a Director of Vergette Gardens and is an award winning garden designer based in Worcestershire.  She has designed medal winning gardens for the RHS Malvern Spring Show and is just about to go on a very big adventure.  Tanya has been selected as the only, yes only, female garden designer to represent England in the Japan Flower and Garden Show, also known as the Gardening World Cup.
Tanya's Garden is called A Place for Nature and Nurture.  The design is accepted but Tanya needs funding to actually get there.  A key part of any show garden is the sponsorship and funding to make it happen and not everyone has access to huge sponsorship funds.  Tanya is raising money through her Crowdfunding page, it is £10 well spent to help send Tanya to Japan (other donation values are available).
The Crowdfunding website can be found here http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-place-for-nature-and-nurture/   the page will  be open until the 5th August 2015.

Whilst all this is going on Tanya still found time to answer The Questions.

The Questions


1.
In which garden do you feel happiest?
Where the garden meets the brook at the end of my Mother’s garden. A place of swimming, lost shoes, haymaking and cider.
2.
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
My Macbook (it’s where I keep all of my gardening notes), a pair of number 8 Felcos, a two pronged weeder (fork) which makes hand weeding a doddle along with a border fork and my Great-Grandfather’s spade, which has an edge like a razor.  
3.
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
Geoff Hamiltons Cottage Gardens brings back happy memories of the conversations with my Grandmother about gardens.

Plant Names Simplified - Johnson and Smith a handy pocket sized book that gives you the pronunciation and the route of a plant name. No need to fear botanical Latin with this to guide you. 

A Flower For Everyday - Margery Fish. A beautifully written book that I dip in and out of especially in the winter months.

The Gardeners Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs - B Davis. Does what its says on the cover.

Hidden Natural Histories: Herbs - Kim Hurst.
Unlike lots of reference books this also includes propagation and cultivation tips from one of the UK’s foremost herb growers. Another dip in and out of book.
4.
What was the most defining moment of your life so far?
Professionally it would be the run on the banks in 2007 which was the deciding factor in a radical career change to Garden Design.

Personally it would be having my children.
5.
What are you most proud of?
Tough question. I’m very proud of both my children and my family, but really it would be my ability to make stonkingly good compost - sorry kids!
6.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Pay off our mortgage and build a show garden at Chelsea.
7.
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
George London - garden designer and nurseryman c.1640–1714.

Geoff Hamilton who made me believe when I was in my teens I could be a gardener when I had no money and no experience.

My Grandmother who had a joy of gardening and passed it on though my Mother to me.
8.
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
Photography. 
9.
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
The Garden Of Cosmic Speculation.
10.
What is your current plant obsession?
Trained fruit trees and annuals.
11.
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
Two pronged weeder.
12.
What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?
Hmm so many choices....Bastard Trenching....Mr Cockburn and his Rubus....Mulch....... I think I’ll go for “Mulch” it has such a gloriously earthy feel. 
13.
What do you wish you could do better?
Use my camera.
14.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
To listen to what is being said but most importantly to what is being un-said.
15.
What makes a perfect day for you?
Tea and a peaceful place to drink it.
16.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?
Go for it.
17.
Gnome or no-gnome?
Hmm these are seriously tough questions......they do say “There’s no place like gnome” 



Next time:  Anne Wareham

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My Garden School: Garden History Week 3

I'm having breakfast with Toby again.  This week we have learned about how fashions in gardening changed dramatically within 150 years.  Toby begins by looking at the Palace of Versailles and its origins.  It is the most amazing place, which I have yet to visit but I think I should probably add it to the mythical list that I keep in my head.  The overwhelming message I took from this part of the course was that of wealth and power and how they are portrayed through the garden.  This was not news to me, but to see and hear exactly what this meant in terms of use of resources and to think of the differences between the rich and poor at that time, you can imagine why revolution was not that far away.  One of the most interesting nuggets though for me was the description of the Machine de Marly, what a fascinating piece of engineering that was.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the channel at that point England was in the throes of its own revolution, the Civil War and its outcome and then eventually Restoration.   At this point symmetry was the thing: gardens were lavish, structured and formal.

Toby takes us through the phases of English gardening and landscape design leading us up to the early 19th century.  He guides us through more gardens that I have visited so that yet again I can do that nod of recognition.  He talks us through the growth of a more natural approach, well, I say natural, I mean an unnatural creation of a landscape to look natural.  We are introduced to Lord Burlington and Alexander Pope, who in turn in his Epistle IV to Lord Burlington talks of "consult the genius of the place in all".  It is a time when the senses are opened up, to look beyond the strict formal constructs and look beyond the near and through the landscape.
Gardens were also being influenced by the returners from their Grand Tour, the year or so spent wandering around Europe which invariably resulted in various bits of Europe coming home with them in the form of statues and ideas.  The influences of this are writ large on the homes and landscapes of these wealthy (and lets face it overwhelmingly) men.

We move through Kent, to Brown and Repton and come to rest at John Loudon and the Gardenesque.  If I may be permitted a small sigh, I have a disappointment in that there is no mention of Jane Loudon and how she contributed to her husband's work and the work she did in her own right.

But small sighs aside I am enjoying the course very much.  I am learning a lot and it is making me think which is wanted I wanted from it.  Next week is the last week and it brings us to the present day.

Week 1 Review:  http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/2015/07/my-garden-school-garden-history-course.html

Week 2 Review:  http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/2015/07/my-garden-school-garden-history-course_19.html

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hosta la vista baby......

Or 'For a few hostas more'

At this time I have to take a deep intake of breath and admit, I don't like hostas.  I don't, I have said it before and said it quite often.  Except, except.....
 
Most years when I go to RHS Chelsea with my friend and we stand for a while in front of the hosta stand in the Great Pavilion and we have pretty much the same conversation.  My friend tries to convince me that hostas are good and I point out the ones I really do not like, but then also point to some that I do.  For I have also said often that you cannot dismiss a whole plant family as there is always at least one where you can find a point of attraction.

Add into this mix my very good friends Colin and Karan Ward taking over the stewardship of the National Collection of Hostas at their nursery in Market Deeping.   I watched with interest as they started to prepare the hosta garden they were going to create and looked forward to going to visit when the hostas were doing their thing.  I decided the other day it was time to visit and see how they were getting on.
Well it is all looking very good.  I really liked the garden display, it is the product of a lot of hard work and this shows.  The beds are lined with dead tree ferns that died a few years ago in a bad winter.  As I am still the proud owner of two dead tree ferns from the same winter, that I also cannot quite let go of, I really like this re-use of them.

I also love this eagle sculpture.  Isn't it great?  As the garden grows up around it, it will look even better.  What I love about this garden is that it is clearly work in progress but there is a lot of other planting being set out as well.
 
Colin explained that he wanted to create natural dappled shade for the hostas the same as you would want to place them in in your own gardens.  Colin sells some great trees and shrubs so this all adds to it being a living catalogue for the nursery.
I went on a tour of the poly tunnels, always dangerous as I always see things I want.  I paused briefly in the hosta tunnel as there I found for the Trekkies:
and for the twitterers out there:
I love the acer tunnel, these specimens are so well grown, acers are just such good garden trees as there is always one that will suit pretty much any garden (in my opinion anyway).
But I had not gone there for acers, it was a hosta visit so it was hostas I took home with me.
This is Tea at Bettys,  I like tea at Bettys and I liked this hosta.  Good colour, good leaf shape.
June Fever - this is destined for a pot, I love the colour and the strappy leaves,

Lakestorm Watch, this has dark purple flowers.  Hosta flowers can be variable, but this one sounds good.
This is Red Alert, I love the red stems.
and this one jumped off the shelf at me, Rainbow's End, which is also destined to live in a pot.  This is my absolute favourite.

Then this also jumped off the shelf at me, it caught my eye and I had to have it:
Yucca gloriosa Bright Star, and just so we are clear, I don't like yuccas either, but look at the leaf shape and look at the shadow it casts - just brilliant.  Apparently it will turn apricot as it gets colder, personally I turn blue.

The more observant amongst you will note that there is a similarity between all that I have bought today.  Yes, strappy leaves and not a glaucous one amongst them.  I cannot explain why I do not like the broad paddle leaved hostas, or the glaucous ones, but I don't.  I don't have a general issue with big leaves, I love some big leaved plants (some of my best friends are big leafed plants.....) I also like some glaucous leaves.  There is just something about them in hostas that I do not like.......... maybe I should add the word yet in there......


.........I have never said I am consistent, it is just so dull!