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A May Visit to Arley Arboretum

We have visited the arboretum at Arley on the banks of the River Severn several times over the years as it is our local arboretum, but we had never explored it in May. Thus, when the easing of lockdown rules happened, we arranged to meet our sister Penny and brother-in-law Tony at coffee time in readiness for an enjoyable wander along the pathways between and beneath the trees.

Just a few minutes into our walk brightly coloured azaleas and rhododendrons gave us a lively patch of colour beneath tall mature trees.

These subtle two-toned yellow and white daffodils reminded us it was really still spring. We wandered along the path at the edge of the arboretum as it skirted the Severn Valley where we heard the sounds of the vintage railway and saw early diesel engines pulling their rows of vintage carriages following on along the valley side.

This darkly barked betula was a strong contrast to a nearby whitebeam. We saw the bright white bracts of Cornus kousa Eddies White wonder from a distance and wandered over for a close look – so beautiful.

The spring colour of the fresh foliage of Acer brilliantissima gave little brightness to the dull day.

We left the main arboretum plantings and entered the more formal areas consisting of colourful mixed borders.

Back near the cafe polytunnels were home to more delicate plants, aeoniums, pelargoniums and echeveria. This oriental bloom livened up an old brick wall and deserved a close up look. We had a very colourful end to our tree orientated day.

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My Garden Journal May 2021

This year seems to be going so quickly with the complications of changing Covid complications and such mixed up seasons.

Rapidly changing weather patterns have confused the garden with the plants and the wildlife being confused and impossible for us to predict.

I began my May entries into my garden journal by writing, “May arrived loaded with strange and widely varied weather. Within the first ten days we had experienced sunny warm days interspersed with storms of rain, snow, frozen rain, hail stones and thunder and lightning.”

However looking around our patch revealed many effective plant partnerships. Here is just a small selection.

On the following page I considered that old cottage garden favourite the aquilegia and I wrote, “The first perennials to burst into life after the flowering bulbs of spring are often the aquilegias, some of which we plant as named cultivars and others that self-seed wherever they wish. But they do choose good places!”

My painting of a striped tulip was the subject of the following page, which I created using Japanese Brush Pens.

The next double page spread features flowering shrubs and alliums. Concerning flowering shrubs I noted, “Every month different shrubs come into flower to add another layer of interest to our garden and to provide pollen and nectar for our insects.”

“Here is a small selection of our flowering shrubs in the garden in May”

My next page features alliums and I noted, “As the last of the spring flowering bulbs need dead heading, alliums take over, mainly flowering in shades of purple with a few white such as our Allium ‘Everest’ in the gallery below.”

The final double page spread features succulents, firstly a page of photos of a few of my collection and then a coloured pencil drawing of one in flower. Here I wrote, “We created a ‘xeroscape’ garden last year for our ever increasing collection of aeoniums. These special succulents glow in shades of reds, purples and greens.”

The photos below show just a small selection of my collection of aeoniums.

I finished off my entries for May with a coloured pencil drawing of one of our succulents in flower. Gasteria glomerata sends up a single fine stem which displays its delicate coral and green flowers.

And that is it for my May entries in my garden journal for 2021. I shall return to look into it in June.

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Our 2nd NGS Garden Visit 2021 – Pooh Corner

On a wet dull day in mid-May we made our way to the north of our county, Shropshire to visit the second NGS garden of the year, Pooh Corner owned and gardened by our friend and fellow Hardy Plants Society member, Sue. This is a garden that is well thought of by fellow Hardy Plant Society members and we had wanted to visit for a while. Sadly circumstances hadn’t allowed until now. It is situated on a modern estate in the town of St. Martins and is like an oasis among roads and other houses.

Straight away we found interesting plants often in great plant communities.

The garden with its amusing name showed off the gardener’s sense of humour along the many paths.

Hidden away among plants we were delighted to find some interesting and varied sculptural pieces.

Rain had been almost forgotten by the time we had explored much of the garden and we really enjoyed wandering its many narrow paths taking us amongst the plants.

What a lovely way to spend a disappointingly damp day out. We certainly felt much better for our time in this great little garden.

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A Brookside Walk in and around Shrewsbury

After living near Shrewsbury for close to a couple of decades, we finally today wandered along the Rea Brook Valley Circular Walk, a guided 3 mile amble.

We began in a large car park next to a supermarket, not the best launch pad for a walk but things could only get better! We couldn’t find any signage to help find the starting point, but did know that we needed to find the station platform of the historic railway, “The Old Potts Way”. We also knew this was to be found near the town’s abbey.

We noticed a footpath sign on the grass alongside the abbey and luckily it pointed us in the direction of the route we wanted to follow. But there was no sign of the kingfisher logo which the walk details led us to believe would guide all round the walk.

We walked in front of the old railway station where the line terminated and wandered along the platform where our start to the walk we discovered to be far from auspicious. We passed a supermarket carpark and the back wall of the building – most uninteresting except for some graffiti. Soon we wandered passed a multi-screen cinema and a few fast food outlets. At least to our left the Rea Brook itself looked a little more promising.

To our right as we wandered along the back of the supermarket the ground sloped upwards and was cover in deep green ivy dotted with clumps of Bluebells just coming into flower. We were surprised when Jude found a nest fallen from the branches of one of the tall sycamore trees. It was a nest constructed beautifully from dried grass stems and lined with a cup of dried mud so would have belonged to a pair of Song Thrushes who would have nested in the ivy covering the tree trunk.

Our first real glimpse of the Rea Brook was to our left as we passed the supermarket where it ran at the bottom of a steep nettle covered bank. These would have provided plenty of food for caterpillars of some of our common butterflies. A little further on we enjoyed the blossom of an ornamental cherry. Soon, after wandering through a pasture field with shiny black cattle in, we found ourselves walking on the site of the Old Potts Railway track and here we found more wildflowers and even the odd reminders of its past.

We also noticed the kingfisher sign for the first time which the walk leaflet said would guide us all the way – at least it did from there on!

The next set of photos is all about whites and greens.

We began to notice that traffic noise started increasing as we approached the first of several tunnels and bridges we were to encounter along the way. These underpasses are such miserable places! When we were met by green pastureland on exiting this dark tube it felt so cheering. We began to get better views of the brook itself too. We found a dried up side stream coming across the grassland and providing a habitat for marsh/bog plants.

Sadly we soon viewed another ugly underpass which our path took us through. It did have some interesting graffiti though.

We were nearing the point where we were to cross over the brook and return to our car on the opposite side. Enjoy my gallery of the return journey.

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Our First NGS Garden Visit of 2021 – Edge villa

On the 11th April we excitedly left home to make the short journey to our nearest NGS garden in the village of Edge. This was the first visit to a National Garden Scheme garden for many months due to lockdowns caused by Covid 19. We have visited Edge Villa many times before as owners/gardeners Chris and Bill are friends and they always have good plants for sale.

Come with us as we take a leisurely stroll on a bright spring afternoon. This first set of photos illustrates the essence of the garden, interesting plants, humour, views and ideas.

The second set of pictures shows a wide view across to the greenhouse from the pond area, plus a look at some interesting plant combinations.

We next move on to further plant images.

I feature some of the many beautiful trees enhancing the garden, including a double flowered prunus and a flaked bark acer. The pond sits at the lowest point of the garden and has a great viewing seat. The sculpture of two metal figures look as if they are deep in conversation about the pond.

This is the penultimate set of photos all concerning the area slightly up from the pond.

Little cameos and silver-grey foliaged plants feature below to finish our journey in pictures.

So there we have it, sharing our visit to Edge Villa. We plan to visit another NGS garden in a few weeks again owned and gardened by gardening friends, Ruthall Manor.

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My Garden Journal 2021 April

I began my April journal entries by stating, “April is a month when there is so much going on and so many garden tasks to perform. Luckily we like garden tasks! We are still enjoying early flowering bulbs, perennials and shrubs.”

I shared a gallery of low growing flowering plants.

The second page is about some of our birdlife in the garden at this time of year.

I wrote, “The month began with unseasonably warm temperatures, at times moving into the low 20 C. Bright sunshine emphasised the beauty and freshness of spring. Wildlife became dominant in the garden with ladybirds on almost every plant and bees, hoverflies and odd butterflies entertaining us. The trees, still bare of leaves, were visited daily by flocks of tits and finches, goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch and siskin.”

I featured a watercolour painting of a greenfinch painted by my father a few decades ago.

“Euphorbias are important features in our garden throughout the year and we grow so many different varieties and cultivars.”

I shared photos of some of our euphorbias looking good in April. They show the variations in colour and shapes of foliage, bracts and flowers.

Turning over to the next page we can see that we continued to be busy with garden tasks, where I noted, “April continued where March left off where numbers of garden tasks were concerned. We finished coppicing and pollarding our cornus and salix grown for stem colour. Because we now get so many garden visitors our grass paths get ruined every year so we have re-surfaced them with bark chip.”

I included a couple of photos of finished coppicing and pollarding and one of Jude bringing out garden furniture which had been over-wintered in the summerhouse, followed by five illustrating the re-surfacing of our old grass paths.

My next entry is my watercolour of a little bouquet of spring flowers all from bulbs, muscari, leucojum, scilla and fritillary.

General views of the garden featured on my next page. “I took a wander around the garden taking photographs of general views of the borders.”

Viburnum feature on the next page where I wrote, “One of our favourite garden shrub families are the Viburnums, so naturally we grow several varieties around our patch . At this time of the year a few are already in flower, while others have leaf buds bursting or flower buds fattening.”

Tulips have such a strong presence in our spring garden, giving such cheerfulness and colour on the dullest of days. When the sunshines so do the tulips! Despite being divas they seem to work so well with their plant companions.

I noted, “Flowering spring bulbs for April are the tulips of which we have hundreds. Here is a selection in bud.”

For the final couple of pages I shared two drawings created on my iPad, one of our Amelanchier glowing in early morning sunshine against a bright blue sky and the other a view from the summerhouse overlooking the wildlife pond.

“Amelanchier glows against the early morning blue sky.”

“Looking out from the summerhouse over the wildlife pond.”

So there we have my April entries into my Garden Journal 2021. We shall have a look at the journal in May.

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Tree Silhouettes on a Woodland Walk

On another woodland walk before spring had made her mark at Attingham Park we enjoyed a wander looking at the silhouettes of mature tree specimens. I shall include both coloured and black and white photos to see what different details they show up.

As we followed the gravel path to the stable yard these trees took our attention, silhouetted against a beautiful blue wintery sky. In the stable yard we collected our coffees and cookies and then admired the willow sculptures.

We walked out towards the patch of woodland where the woodland floor was alive with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds foraging among the autumnal leaves. In the tree tops their larger cousins the Mistle Thrushes sang their hearts out proclaiming their territory and hoping to attract mates. We admired the crisp outlines of the leafless trees against the rich blues of the winter sky.

Completely different forms of tree shapes could be seen in and around the walled garden where fruit trees had been skillfully trained against the red brick walls or along tightly strung wires.

Here are a few blocks of photos of tree silhouettes. The delicate skeletal forms of the mature deciduous trees were broken up by the occasional dark and much heavier forms of evergreen conifers.

I shall change some shots now to monochrome and check out the difference.

These monochrome versions of the coloured photos give a much more simplified view of the tree structures, giving an ethereal quality to them and a delicacy that the original coloured photos lacked. I hope you enjoyed seeing both versions.

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Fresh Spring Foliage

Around the middle of March the garden gained a freshness full of promise for the months ahead. I took a wander around the garden with Jude, aka the Undergardener and my trusty Nikon finding fresh new herbage perennial foliage as it bursts out with renewed life.

I hope you enjoy sharing the photos we took.

All these delicate fresh leaves will, within a few days, take off growing at an amazingly rapid rate and the plants will mature and get ready for flowering. Such an exciting time in the garden!

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My Garden Journal 2021 March

This is the month when spring will really come to life and we will begin to appreciate the freshness of new growth. We must also find time to sit and appreciate what is happening all around us, the garden we care for and the wildlife that joins us in our quarter acre patch.

On my first page for the new month I wrote, ‘March is the month when the garden should show signs of moving into spring, a month when we look forward to buds bursting on trees and shrubs and new fresh growth showing on perennials. We have noticed signs of wildlife returning to activity in the garden with bees, both honey and bumble, busy around flowering shrubs and bulb flowers. Birdsong is getting more tuneful as they begin to pair up and build nests. Blue Tits and Great Tits are exploring nest boxes and both Wrens and Robins busy themselves nest-building.’

Gardening tasks featured on the second page for March where I wrote, “For us early to mid-March is a busy time with plenty of tasks to be getting on with.

The captions for the photos read, “Jude has been busy sowing seeds of herbaceous perennials”, “We have tidied the plants on our nursery shelves”, “I have been planting snowdrops in the green – ‘Galanthus elwesii’ and “We have been refreshing our bark paths and using the old bark as a mulch below trees.”

Gardening tasks continued over leaf,The first block of photos showed us working away mulching with the compost. The second block shows me pollarding my willows and a Cornus Midwinter Fire. I wrote, “a lorry arrived to deliver a load of green waste compost for us to share with our next door neighbour, Vicky. We aim to compost the front garden with a 2 inch deep mulch of this black magic gold.”, and followed by, “Then we began the long but enjoyable task of pruning willows and dogwoods.”

Onto the next page and I concentrate on our Salix (willows) and their catkins. I noted, “Some of the most beautiful flowers in March are the catkins of Salix (willows) and Betulas (Birches), their colours, textures, form and their ability to catch the light.”

The two blocks of photos show on the left the catkins of two varities of Salix gracilistyla. The pink catkins are of Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ and the black ones from Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’ “ The second batch of photos shows the catkins of our pollarded willow, Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’ and one of our many Birches, Betula albosinensis ‘Septentronalis’.

On the opposite page is a drawing of one of the most unusual and beautiful seed heads in the garden, Lunaria annua (Honesty) for which I turned to oil pastels.