Wednesday, 30 September 2015

End of Month Review -September 2015

September has been and gone already and Autumn has arrived with a whoomp of falling leaves.  If I had written this a week ago I would not have said this, but suddenly it is here.   We now have misty mornings and thankfully some beautiful sunny days.  The equinox has been and gone and the days are getting shorter and shorter.  The darkness is upon us.

It has been a busy month for me and I have spent a lot of time (too long) away from the garden.  The garden, however, seems to have coped fairly well with this neglect.
I shall start with a rare view of the front hedge, which is now giving an equally rare view of the house.  It had got very tall (out of control) but after a few good attempts at it, it is now still a bit too tall but getting there.  I need to make sure I keep at it more often but birds do nest in it so for most of the summer it is left untouched.
In the Knot Garden the cypress trees are looking a bit scratty, but I am hoping they will settle in ok.
The Rhamnus that lives under the magnolia is growing suddenly really well.  It needs a bit of a prune now.
I am still pleased with this coreopsis and Petunia exserta combination.  It is now past its best and I need to collect some petunia seeds from it for next year.
The Brugmansia is about to flower.  This is very very exciting.
and I've been thrilled to bits with these fuchsia berries.
The pot collection on the table has got smaller as some have now moved into the greenhouse.  I am not expecting frost just yet, but it is soon now.
The pots in the Courtyard have made me very happy this year.  This area almost looks like I want it to.  Almost.
A look over the formal lawn in the late September sun.  On the day I am taking these photographs it has been a gloriously sunny warm day.  Not many of those days left now I fear.
The borders are looking Autumnal.  The pond border is dominated by this thuggish but beautiful perennial sunflower.  I shall be digging a lot of it out this winter, there will still be plenty next year.  The sedums are also flowering well now.  I divided them earlier this year and planted more along the Pond Border.  The more I grow them the more I like them.  They give good colour, the bees love them and they make fantastic winter structure.  What is not to love?
They just buzz this time of year.
The asters are now flowering well and making their presence known as I look along the Long Shoot.
The Four Sisters have grown really well this year.  The Edgeworthia has probably put on nearly six inches.  This gives me hope that it might get through a cold winter.  I shall be anxiously watching it as usual.
The Tree Lupin border is looking good in the late sun.  The banana plant is shining well and whilst the dahlias have been a bit disappointing this year, I am relatively happy with it.  However I have big plans now for this border.  More will be revealed later......
The Woodland Border is looking quite full and I have been fairly pleased with it this year.  It is coming together quite well now.
The Wild Garden has had its first cut of the season.  I only cut it a few times a year and it always looks rubbish after the first cut.  It will need another cut in a few days time, I have to cut it long and then slowly reduce the height of the lawnmower blades.  It never looks like neat lawn, but that is not my aim so it is not a problem.
The short grass allows the Sorbus cashmeiriana's white berries to gleam in the sun.
The Cercis candensis is still standing to attention and looking better for a bit of staking.
and the Davidia is very much alive.  It is only a foot tall after having a tree fall on it last year, but it is alive.
The Aldi acers are calling Autumn, they have begun to turn,
and this eucalyptus, bought several years ago as a twig, is starting to look like a tree.
In the borders the dill, which has been wonderful this year, is starting to set seed.
and the crocosmia are providing sparks of colour.
I have planted out the Rosa Margaret Merrill, bought from the National Holocaust Centre, into the Pond Border.  I have left the label on for now but it will be removed.  I want to make sure it it properly labelled as it is a rose about not forgetting.
The vegetable borders almost look like I know what I am doing.  I have broccled!  I am harvesting broccoli, which is still a slightly magical concept in my world.
The courgettes have been well mannered this year and the cabbages are coming on well.
There are also some flowers on some late planted broad beans.
The greenhouse is sheltering my tenders: the purchases from my Southern Weekend and my little (they are small and they are not many) agave/succulent collection.
I end as is traditional, and not so shameful as last month, on the pond.  The heaps of parrot weed need removing but the water is visible and after some welcome rain the pond is refilling well.  I am so glad that I have finally sorted it out.

Thanks to Helen as ever for hosting this meme.

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn purple

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Southern Weekend: Episode One, A day at Beth Chattos

Its been a while since I have had a weekend of gardening bothering with a good friend of mine.  We usually see each other about once a year, most often to go to Chelsea Flower Show, but despite the lack of contact in between times we always pick up just where we left off.  I hesitate to say how long we have been friends as it is too many decades than I care to think about.  Just being able to measure it in decades is scary.  Anyhoo, this year we did not go to Chelsea together but decided it was time we got on the road again.  So the three day weekend was planned and booked and we set off fairly early on a Saturday morning.
We were booked onto a workshop at Beth Chattos that was looking at late garden colour.  It was interesting and we had a nice lunch.  The afternoon was to be a guided talk around the gardens.  Now here I have a confession.  Our need to look around the garden was stronger than our wish to listen to the talk.  The talk was good, it was interesting, but because so many people were asking questions we felt we had to move on and wander around the gardens at our own pace.  Yes, we are that impatient.
I'm currently having a bit of an agave-moment so I wandered around the gravel garden largely pointing out prickly plants and making Ah noises (sometimes an ouch noise if I got too close).
There were many many colchicums in the garden, they were in the driveway, the car park, the gravel garden and the main gardens.  They are great plants and I rushed home to look at mine to find no sign of them.  Such if life.
I am not going to give you sweeping views of the garden, there are many of those to be found and I tend to think of Beth Chattos as being all about the plants.  This planting of Actaea simplex was just stunning.  It was tucked around the back of the gardens and probably was stock planting, but we really liked it and it because one of the theme-plants of the weekend.  Yes it is now on the list.
I had a moment of Toad lily envy - I have tried several times to grow Tricyrtis formosana and failed.  It is now very much on the 'I cannot grow this plant so must not try again' list.  Yet I admire it greatly.
There was a lot of berry admiration as well.
My favourite part of this garden is always the Woodland Garden.  I find it very inspiring and we spent a lot of time wandering around this area
There are streams running through the gardens,
and it was a perfect day to view the bottom lake which was gleaming in the sunlight.
We stopped and admired this theatre of succulent planting and spent quite a bit of time wandering around the nursery.  We were however very restrained and no purchases were made.  I know, I was amazed too.  Put it down to the time of year as most things I wanted were not frost hardy and I did not want to buy something and fail to get it through the winter.  Also we had a whole weekend ahead of us and the car is not that large.
As we left we did pause to consider the size of the moles in this area.

So, day one was complete and we wended our way to our evening place of rest.
It will not surprise any of your that we spent the whole evening listening to the upstairs resident clip-clippity-clopping around.  (ok, a slightly heavy footed human guest, I assure you it was not mice with clogs on).

We slept well and then we were ready for Episode 2: Ulting Wick  (to follow)

Episode 3: Lullingstone Castle

Episode 4: Great Dixter

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Book Review: The Gardens of Arne Maynard by Rosie Atkins and Arne Maynard

A few years ago I was went on a course run by Arne Maynard at Allt y bela, his home close to the Welsh Border.  Arne talked us through his design principles and philosophy and it was a fascinating couple of days.  When I saw that this book was going to be published I knew I wanted to review this book.
It is a beautiful book, written in a very personal style.  It is very definitely the clear voice of Arne speaking to you from its pages.  The photography by William Collinson works perfectly with the text.
Arne takes us through gardens he has designed and also the essential design features.  We look at Allt y bela and then move on to Haddon Hall, East Hampton and La Frateria amongst others.  There are all quite different gardens for different clients yet there is that something that links them, which is of course Arne.   We are led through topiary and pleaching and also through the craftsmanship that makes all the difference.  The devil is very definitely in the detail and to make a truly great garden it needs heart, soul and attention to that detail.  The photographs hone in on thyme planted through pebbles, through to gates and door-knockers.  This focussing down rather than just looking at the bigger picture gives a great sense of place and of personalisation that is important to understanding what is being achieved.

This is a book that will give you inspiration, I cannot see how it will fail to do so.  I think this book also shows us what an important designer Arne Maynard is.  Most of these gardens I will never visit, but the book makes up for this by talking us through them so carefully and with such passion.  This is a book I think I will be returning to again and again.

The book is published by Merrell Publishers on September 10th.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Questions - Sara Venn

Sara Venn makes people who are described as a human dynamo look a bit laid back.  Sara is a horticulturist and plantswoman.  She is the founder of Edible Bristol, a keen allotmenteer and campaigner for the protection of allotments.  Sara has been known on a Friday evening during the growing months, between 8.30 and 9.00pm, to get a little shouty.
Sara also kindly agreed to pause momentarily to answer the Questions.

The Questions

In which garden do you feel happiest?
The garden at Common Farm Flowers always makes me feel cossetted.
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
Felco No 2 secateurs, the border fork bought and sent to me by a sweet Twitter pal when mine was pinched, Japanese onion hoe, a good, heavy hand trowel and a trug.
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
The Well Tempered Garden-Christopher Lloyd, The Organic Garden Book-Geoff Hamilton, The Dynamic Landscape-Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough, The Origin of Plants-Maggie Campbell Culver, Radical Gardening-George McKay
What was the most defining moment of your life so far?
Without wanting to sound dramatic, the death of my mum-made me determined to really shout about what I believe in.
What are you most proud of?
Incredible Edible Bristol
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Buy some land and create an urban farm, training people to grow food so that they could begin their own enterprises.
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
Christopher Lloyd, Ron Finley,
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
Willow weaving, and only partly for an excuse to grow loads of willow varieties. I’d love to make baskets and trugs.
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
Great Dixter. Every time.
What is your current plant obsession?
Lime balm-it’s extraordinary!
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
Japanese onion hoe
What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?
What do you wish you could do better?
Fight my own corner!!
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
That you must just keep on keeping on
What makes a perfect day for you?
Knowing that someone has been touched by what I do.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?
Be the change you want to see.
Gnome or no-gnome?
Gnome-in fact an entire army of them;))

Next Time: Michael Perry

(photo taken from Linkedin)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

An afternoon at Plas Tan Y Bwylch

I have driven past Plas Tan y Bwlch regularly for the last twenty years or so.  I sometimes looked at the sign and wondered what it was.  I sometimes looked at leaflets and thought about visiting.  This year I finally actually visited.

Plas Tan y Bwlch is the Snowdonia National Park environmental studies centre. They run a series of public and professional courses from this base, near to the village of Maentwrog.  The gardens are mainly based on a steep hillside.  The path takes you quite gently up past a series of stopping points where the leaflet explains items of interest.  This works rather well.  There are other steeper paths and I think it could take a few hours to do the whole area.  On this our first visit we stuck to the path, but with a mental note that we will return.
You quickly realise as you walk around the grounds that the area is quite sheltered.  The gardens were planted up mainly in the 1880s for William Oakeley who made his fortune from the nearby slate mines.
I was reminded of Y Gwyllt in places, it is of a similar age and had many similar plants.
There was evidence of the serious damage the storm in February 2014 had caused.
Enormous trees were still lying felled by the winds.  The Japanese Garden had been more or less obliterated and large areas of space were opened up.  This is both sad and an exciting opportunity at the same time.
The house itself is placed high on the bank so that it has views down across the garden and the Dwyryd valley.
There are some very nice iron gates around the property.
A solid looking gardeners' bothy,
and the most amazing retaining walls holding the house up above the garden,
with a well planted long border along the base of the wall.
From the top of the wall you get amazing views down the garden.
This is the pond, it is a little overgrown at the moment, but I am not able to cast the first stone on this at all.
We loved this view that shows the River Dwyryd, which may have been altered on the orders of Oakeley to make it meander in a more picturesque way.  Apparently in the hillside opposite he has his initials picked out in different species of trees.  You cannot see from this photograph, but it is thought you can still see the O and, I have to say, we thought we could see this.  I just love the ability to be able to point vaguely at a hill and demand that your initials are planted into it.  We mused as we drank tea and ate our cake, that this would be similar to a premiership footballer maybe, or a very rich pop star/celebrity (insert the name of whoever you wish into this).
There is a caged fernery in the ruins of what they believe was an old ice house.
I loved the shape of the ivy stems growing into the building.
I like that the walls have had to give in to the ancient rhododendrons.
The ground is very rocky and these rocks are used to great planting effect.
We admired the beautiful trees like this Catalpa,
and this Magnolia grandiflora
The twisted trunk on this tree was just wonderful.
Where the storm has cleared areas there are signs of new plants enjoying the sudden light.
and signs of life returning as many of the huge stumps had new growth already showing.

Like most postponed visits, I now wonder why I was so foolish to leave it so long.  I think I will be returning soon.