A Mystery Lily – a case of mistaken identity

Occasionally we buy plants wrongly labelled and usually realise the mistake the nursery has made but this is impossible to do when bulbs are wrongly named. It is a long wait for the error to reveal itself. Early in the year we bought a batch of Asiatic Lily bulbs to boost the range we currently grow in containers throughout our garden. We chose varieties of deep reds with some almost black. Most performed just as expected and we loved them. They added depth to the colour range.

But one pot of bulbs was late throwing up its flowering stems and when we saw how it grew with thin dark stems it made us realise we had something rather unexpected. When it started to produce flower buds in large groups atop each stem we realised it definitely wasn’t what the label said. This Lily was supposed to be Lilium Landini with very dark red almost black flowers.

Just look at what our mystery Lily turned out to be!

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And just look how each beautiful golden flower opens up for us to enjoy!

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What a wonderful mystery! A golden Turks Cap Lily!

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But what would have grown in our pot if the label was correct – an equally beautiful but oh so different so dark bloom. Almost black velvet! Luckily we had three pots full of these too.

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Croft Castle month by month – July

It was getting towards the end of July so was time for our monthly visit to see what had changed throughout the garden at Croft Castle. The weather certainly wasn’t what we expected in July, as rain fell intermittently and temperatures failed to rise much above the mid-teens.

The first big change in the garden was in the long border we have to pass on every visit on our way to the walled garden.

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Our first view of the walled garden convinced us that we were in for a colourful time.

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The beautiful pink poker like flowers of this Francoa caught our eyes in the borders opposite the grape vines, which were now showing the first signs of little bunches of tiny bright green grapes.

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July was definitely the month for Crocosmias and Japanese Anemones. Crocosmias provided hot colours to enjoy while the Anemones gave us the cooler colours.

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On the north wall Nicotiana and Dahlias were flowering well among a mixture of flowering shrubs, annuals and perennials. Buddlejas were already flowering and we hope to see each bush covered in long racemes of butterfly-attracting blooms on our next couple of visits. Let us hope the sun is out then so that all the wildlife that loves Buddleja will be out seeking nectar and pollen.

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Apples were beginning to show the first signs of ripening as they blush a little. Close by there were plenty of Figs forming on the plants grown close to the walls for extra protection. The borders along this side of the walled garden were mostly blue and white.

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There were few Rose flowers to be seen on this visit but perennials did make up for it, with Morinia, Geraniums and herbaceous Clematis taking centre stage.

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The veggie beds were looking good with healthy rows of salad crops and the newly created willow walkway was coming on nicely.

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Views looking over the perennial plantings in the main borders towards the castle and its surrounding buildings showed the softness of the plantings.

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The final part of our monthly tour involved us leaving the shelter of the walled garden with its own special micro-climate and wandering towards the castle followed by a walk around the perimeter of the building. We noticed that the old Walnut tree is now loaded with green shelled nuts so it looks as if it may produce an impressive harvest in the autumn. Our next visit to Croft Castle will be our August one so we will be able to see if the nuts are still developing.

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Posted in colours, fruit and veg, garden photography, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, kitchen gardens, National Trust, ornamental trees and shrubs, poppies, roses, The National Trust, walled gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A garden reborn – Glansevern Hall

In this post we will be looking back to a garden visit we made in mid-May when we visited a garden near Welshpool just over the border into Wales but still only a half hour drive away. The last time we had visited the gardens at Glansevern Hall was about ten years ago when the current owners had just started to rejuvenate the run down gardens.

We arrived to find everything improved so much so that some areas were hard to recognise. It is now a garden of real atmosphere, a truly romantic garden. After parking up in a car park which was a clearing among beautiful mature trees, we entered the garden through a courtyard which would have originally have been the stable block of the hall. Planting in narrow borders at the base of the wall included some interesting plants and some great ironwork.

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Once outside the courtyard several garden rooms contained exciting plant combinations and swathes of colour and texture.

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We discovered more wonderful ironwork too!

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In contrast to the irregularly shaped beds we came across circular beds planted in very different styles.

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A pergola covered in Laburnum with its bright yellow racemes was a real surprise to find as we began finding our way to the informal meadow areas and their collection of interesting trees and shrubs.

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This weeping specimen tree took some identifying. We had never seen one before but eventually came to the conclusion that it was a Weeping Mulberry, Morus alba pendula. A real beauty. The sculpture and the Viburnums were much easier to identify.

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The gardens close to the hall itself were much more formal and had an “arts and crafts” feel to them. The colours of the planting were most unusual in different pale shades of  blue around the front and shades of yellow along the side borders.

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Moving away from the hall we walked beneath a wonderfully colourful and highly scented pergola swathed in Wisteria with its long white and blue racemes of flowers. Beneath the narrow borders were full of purple headed Alliums.

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After a quick break for coffee and cakes we traced the path around the lake which was surrounded by specimen trees many rare or unusual, some we had never seen before and a couple we had never even heard of!

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We had a great day at Glansevern and came away amazed at how much work had been done developing the gardens into such a romantic place.

Posted in climbing plants, colours, flowering bulbs, garden design, garden photography, garden pools, gardens, gardens open to the public, lakes, meadows, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, Powis, Powys, trees, water garden, water in the garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sharing our allotments with all generations.

On our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community, we try to be as inclusive as possible and encourage everyone to become members, take part in our activities or simply visit us to enjoy our special community garden.

So far this summer we have hosted youngsters from our local Beavers and Rainbows groups and more elderly groups from the Fitz Friendship Group and the National Women’s Register.

The Cubs came on a wet evening to help us with garden jobs in our borders, weeding and mulching. A week later we were joined by our local Rainbows group who came for a wander around our Interest Trail using one of our quiz sheets. They enjoyed the excitement of our wildlife areas and community gardens. The pics below show the Cubs weeding the edge of one of our Butterfly Borders and the Rainb0ws exploring our Fruit Avenue.

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This week we entertained a group called the Fitz Friendship Group who were mostly elderly but equally excited at visiting our site.

We serve our visitors with tea/coffee with cakes and we have our own tea committee who call themselves the Tea Bags. The first two photos below show our beautiful antique cups and saucers lined up ready to be filled and our selection of tables and chairs ready to be used.

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Anne can be seen working away in the kitchen area of our communal hut, slicing the home-made cakes ready for serving.

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When our visitors arrived we assembled for a quick background talk about our site explaining how we have developed over the six years of our existence, before setting off on a gentle stroll around.

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As we walked the trail Jude, Sherlie, Pete and I pointed out areas of interest. We were amazed how many memories our wildflower meadows evoked. It was a slow but very successful wander. Several of the group found walking difficult but showed such determination to get as far as they could.

We call these sessions “Walks and Talks”, and the fees our visitors pay go towards the charities of the National Garden Scheme. The refreshment money helps to run the sessions and enables us to purchase equipment to make such days easier.

After the “Walk and Talk” refreshments were relished by all. The “Tea Bags” waited on and the four of us who led the tour wandered between tables answering questions.

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Here I am with tea cup in hand trying to share words of wisdom!

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Our collection of camping stoves were kept busy boiling water to make drinks and the cakes disappeared rapidly.

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A great day was had by all and our visitors left tired out but well-refreshed talking about what they had seen.

Within a half hour we had cleared away and all that was left to see of the day was the collection of flower arrangements Sherlie had created for table centres, using flowers picked from the cutting border on our plot. We have another seven groups already booked for the rest of the summer.

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Posted in allotments, community gardening, National Garden Scheme, NGS, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Birthday Excursion to The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway

We usually go out somewhere on both of our birthdays so today being my birthday, Jude, The Undergardener, decided to take me on a nostalgic trip on an old steam railway line. We often pass the stations and see the track. At times while journeying down the River Banwy valley the track runs quite close to the road out into mid-Wales and towards some of our favourite stretches of coastline.

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We drove in to the car park of the Welshpool Raven Square Station, parked up and bought our tickets, which were just like the ones we could remember as children, little card ones which the Guardsman clipped while we sat on the train waiting to leave.

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The station building looked so small as we wandered up the path once inside we discovered that a booking office and waiting room were squeezed into it. When we went through the station and onto the platform the building showed its true dimensions.

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Interesting old signs caught our attention wherever we went. In the waiting room artifacts from the railway’s previous life added authentication.

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We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the hoot of the little steam engine approaching the platform.

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The little engine proudly displayed its name, Countess, on the side of its boilers.

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Once steam was up and the Guard waved his green flag the little train moved very slowly away from the station and we travelled along the beautiful valley of the River Banwy.

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After enjoying so much beautiful countryside we arrived at the end of the little narrow guage line at the station at Llanfair Caereinion. Here we refreshed ourselves with coffee and cake while the engine topped up with water and coal in readiness for the return to Welshpool.

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We found more authentic old items from the days of steam at this station too mixed up with little patches of colourful gardens.

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Before climbing back on board and sitting on the hard wooden benches that were our seats, we took a few moments enjoying looking close up at our engine “Countess”. She positively sparkled as every surface had been rigorously polished, buffed, oiled or greased.


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The journey back along the valley gave us the chance to enjoy different views of the surrounding landscape.

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As soon as all the passengers had disembarked the little old locomotive squeaked its way a little further down the rail track to the water tower and drank thirstily.

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After this delightful day of memories and nostalgia we promised ourselves a day on the old barges on the canal at Llangollen and of course there are all those other narrow guage railways scattered throughout Wales to indulge ourselves with!


Posted in architecture, countryside, landscapes, photography, steam power, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Succulents in Pots

It is always good to have little projects to get on with in the garden. My latest little project was to create a pair of succulent pots. We already have pots of succulents dotted or hopefully arranged around our Rill Garden. Here we feature several different Aeoniums, Echeverias and Sempervivum. They grow happily here because it is south facing and gets extra light reflected off the glass of our garden room.

We thought it about time we introduced some more succulents for added interest for our garden visitors on our open days, so bought a pair of beautifully shaped terracotta bowl-shaped pots and went off to our local nursery, Love Plants, to get an interesting selection of  different succulents. We looked for different leaf colours, textures and shapes. A few had the bonus of brightly coloured flowers too. They have such wonderful names too – much too difficult to remember, Oscularia deltoides, Sempervivum jovibarba alionii, Echeveria elegans, Pachyphytum “Dark Red”, Pachyphytum bracteosum and Sedum x rubrotinctum.

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So we gathered together everything we needed on the table in the Rill Garden and got to work.

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We mixed up a suitable growing medium by combining equal quantities of a soil based compost and horticultural grit. We hoped this would be free draining while just holding enough moisture to keep the plants happy.

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We then covered the drainage hole with crocks and added a shallow layer of my compost mix, ready to arrange the plants to their best advantage.

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Some of the plants we put in the pots were our own cuttings. The picture on the left shows how new plants have grown from leaf cuttings. The plant on the right was grown from an offset.

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Once satisfied with the arrangement we filled in between the plants with the compost mixture and topped it off with a mulch of horticultural grit.

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Whenever you deal with succulents bits fall off and each bit can become a cutting. Other pieces we deliberately took as cutting material.

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The photo below shows a leaf cutting taken from an Echeveria which is now forming tiny plants at its base. This is an easy way to make new plants albeit rather slow. It is a process requiring a lot of patience but not much skill.

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And here they are in situ, alongside our rill, our new succulent planters.

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Wonder Walls

We always enjoy discovering what plants manage to grow in walls and marvel at how they get a foothold and seek out enough food. You can imagine how delighted we were when we came across this 50 metre long wall which was a garden in itself.

This garden on a wall was at Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property in the southern end of the Lake District in Cumbria. there were other interesting “wall gardens” here too.

The wall runs the length of the Dutch Garden and is constructed of limestone. It is now home to many very happy looking plants. They are a sort of hanging garden!

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Along its top edge a narrow border adds an extra dimension to this wall. Forget-me-Nots in pink, white and the more usual blue provide splashes of colour. After enjoying the vast range of plants growing in the gaps, crevices and cracks of the wall a shelter with a comfortable seat provides a convenient resting place.

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Within the gardens at Sizergh we found other examples of “hanging gardens”, one hanging from a flight of stone steps covered in alpine plants, presenting a colourful display. These decorative steps had been roped off to stop anyone using them and damaging the plants growing there. Many visitors stopped to take photographs of this mini-garden which I presume came about by accident. The plants probably self-seeded into the gaps between the stonework. Similarly plants have taken up residence on the side walls of the steps.

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In the kitchen garden at Sizergh the stone walls that make up the sides of the old cold frames also became a habitat for self-seeded little plants.

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The walls around the kitchen garden gave the impression of more hanging gardens for us to enjoy. Many of the plants in these walls were wild flowers of hillsides and cliff faces or ones normally grown on rockeries. It was interesting seeing thes plants growing vertically instead of as mats on the ground.

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Ferns were particularly happy growing in the shade of the walls where they could establish themselves in cooler damper conditions found there.

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These walls also had extra habitats added to them to encourage even more wildlife to shelter or set up home.

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For my final wall I include this stretch of the castle walls themselves where little creeping daisies, Erigeron karvinskianus had settled in happily showing off its flowers in white and many shades of pink.

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We were amazed to find so many plants growing in these walls at Sizergh and wondered how many thousands of tiny critters we could not see as well as small mammals and birds were also sheltering or living there in their own secret miniature world.

Posted in garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, National Trust, The National Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment