The Place for Plants – East Bergholt Place Gardens

As we move towards the end of February it seems a good time to share with you a visit we made to a beautiful garden in the summer.

The gardens at East Bergholt Place, otherwise known as “The Place for Plants” was one of our chosen gardens to visit when we spent a few days down in Suffolk. It is situated in the Stour valley on the border between the counties of Suffolk and Essex. We had high expectations of the gardens as they are affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society, usually a guarantee of a garden well worth a visit. The garden includes an arboretum and the National Collection of deciduous Euonymus, my favourite family of shrubs.

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East Bergholt is a garden with a calm atmosphere full of peacefulness and contentment. Just to walk its grass paths seeking out specimen trees and shrubs makes the visitor feel calm.

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Varieties of Cornus kousa with their showy bracts add patches of colour beneath the collection of unusual mature trees.

Cornus kousa “White Dusted”

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Cornus kousa “Satomi” with its pink bracts.

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Down in the valley bottom a string of  small lakes provided good habitats for a collection of Hydrangeas which grew beneath a large specimen of the Wing Nut Tree, Pterocarya fraxinifolia, a member of the Walnut family, with its long green “catkins” growing up to 60cm long.

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Wandering back towards the nursery and cafe we came across a lush valley with a stream winding its way through, its richly planted banks.

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We always enjoy finding quality pieces of sculpture placed carefully and shown to their best advantage and this figure was situated close to the stream in the short-mown grass.

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The brightest plant of all was this orange Tiger Lily, looking so fresh amongst the lush rich greens of the trees and shrubs.

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I would like to finish off with a selection of photos illustrating the variety of plants beginning with a couple of interesting trees followed by other flowering plants found throughout the Place for Plants at East Bergholt.

An Aesculus in full flower,

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Staphylea pinnata,

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and Nyssa sylvatica “Wildfire”.

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Definitely a place for plants!

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Developing 3 spaces in our Avocet garden – part 2

The second new area we were able to develop this winter was a very small border created when we rationalised our sheds. The bed was originally used for a selection of mints which we used for cooking so the soil had to be removed and very bit of mint root removed. Some is bound to come back though as it seems impossible to rid yourself of mint in one go. We will have to keep our eyes peeled. As yet we have not named this little patch but I guess it may end up being something akin to “The Old Mint Patch”.

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We began by erecting a screen wrapping around behind the bed and one end and we chose willow hurdle panels for this as it lets some wind through but gives some protection. We also love the natural rural look of it, and have used it effectively elsewhere in our garden. To match the natural look of the fencing we added a border edge of log-roll.

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We planned our planting in three layers. First plantings were climbers, followed by shrubs and finally herbaceous perennials including grasses. The first climber we planted was Trachelospermum asiaticum, chosen for its flowers which are creamy coloured and scented in strong contrast to its dark green glossy foliage. We partnered this climber with a Honeysuckle and a Clematis. Clematis Fragrant Auberon has creamy-white, heavily scented flowers in spring contrasting strongly with its evergreen foliage. The Honeysuckle was Lonicera Spring Purple, where the purple refers to its foliage.

The shrubs we selected were favourites of ours which had graced our wishlist for a few years now so this new, unexpected planting opportunity meant they could now leave their place in the wish list and grace the new border instead. Firstly we planted a Hydrangea aspera, a summer flowering shrub called H. a. “Hot Chocolate”, so we look forward to its lacecap flowers consisting of pink florets surrounding violet florets in the summer, and of course its foliage which is a chocolate colour above and wine-red velvety textured below.

We are always pleased to find space for another deciduous, so we planted a specimen of Euonymus planipes in this new border. We put it in when it was leafless and we spotted its beautiful mahogany long thin leaf buds. Later it will boast bright pink fruits with vivid orange seeds hanging from within, an incredible colour combination.

Our third shrub was an Abeliophyllum distichum, which was showing its gently scented pale pink almost white flowers. We look forward to its foliage turning rich purple in autumn.

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The final planting later to put in place was the herbaceous layer where we selected plants mostly for their unusual foliage but a few will flower. Thus we planted three Saxifrages – S. stolonifera called “Hime”, S. fortunei “Blackberry and Apple Pie” and S. stolonifera “Maroon Beauty”, strongly textured, coloured foliage and unusual shaped flowers. We planted a fern too to link across to the one in the container which I write about later. We chose Dryopteris erythrosora “Prolifica” which features copper foliage each spring. Three Libertias join in to give spikes of foliage some with coloured stripes and white flowers in the summer and autumn. These Libertia are L. ixioides “Taupo Sunset”, L. peregrinans “Gold Leaf” and a third is an unknown species we grew from seed. We finished with our usual grasses, essential in every border, so we placed between the other perennials three Uncinia rubra,

We also had space adjacent to the new bed for a large stoneware pot which matched the  one at the far end of the path close by. We planted this up with a Gaultheria mucronata “Sneeuwwiyje” which I think translates as “Snowdrop”. It sports red stems and shiny dark green foliage and in summer white flowers with hints of soft pink followed by white berries later. Beneath this shrub we planted a fern and a couple of trailing ivies for year long foliage colour and texture. The ivies Hedera “Golden Kolibri” and Hedera “White Wonder”, the names reflecting the colour of the leaf variegation. The fern was Polystichum setiferum “Plumosum”, with soft textured foliage.

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The final flourish was installing a wildlife “village” of varied insect homes, some coming from the old garden shed others newly made.

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We then had to sit back, let Mother Nature and all her soil workers and the weather do their best and watch the new patch develop. Maybe it will develop well enough to appear in my garden journal later in the year.

Posted in climbing plants, garden design, garden wildlife, gardening, grasses, hardy perennials, natural pest control, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, Shropshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Simply Beautiful – 7 – Fallow Deer

While walking around our local National Trust parklands, Attingham Park, we usually finish our regular wanderings by walking along the wide paths mown and nibbled short and neat by the teeth of the parkland sheep. This is the deer park and we do indeed regularly enjoy watching the large herd of Fallow Deer who wander confidently close to the many visitors walking their territory.

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The low December sunbeams give them coats of gold. Their mottled, spotted and dashed patterning is beautiful but developed to be functional, as camouflage against their habitat background.

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Simply Beautiful – 6 – Beech Shadows

When out walking in woodlands sometimes the light surprises and plays around on the trunks of the trees. Light plays with the shadows it creates and paints onto the bark of smooth skinned Beech trees. It deepens fissures with shadows too.

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My 2017 Garden Journal – January

It feels good to be back sharing my Garden Journal with you once again. So here is the first for 2017, my report on what was going on in our Avocet garden in January.

For 2017 I will share the beauty, the happenings and the stars of our Avocet garden month by month. I will consider the wildlife that visits and shares our garden with us and see what it is up to. I aim to record the birds we spot, the creatures which live in our pond and the mini-beasts who appreciate our plants in our borders.

I hope to set up my moth live-trap and carry out a pond dip regularly. I will record using words, photographs, paintings and drawings.

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My 2017 Garden Journal opened with a comment about the weather, the favourite subject of the English and particularly English gardeners, “We were well into the third week of January when we were pleased to get typical January weather, frosty mornings followed by bright glue skies. Fog joined in on odd days. Until then every day was dull and wet, dull to the point of darkness at times. Not a good start to a new year of gardening and enjoying our garden.

Extra colour and movement, and of course sound, is added to the atmosphere of our garden by the birds who visit. This winter we moved our main bird feeding centre closer to the house so that we could observe the birds in close up. Surprisingly this had the extra bonus of increasing the birds visiting, in particular the finches.

Birds of our January garden: 

Blackbird                    Goldfinch                    Blue Tit

Robin                           Greenfinch                  Great Tit

Wren                            Chaffinch                    Coal Tit

Dunnock                      Blackcap                      Long-tailed Tit

Jackdaw                       Siskin                            Collared Dove

Mistle Thrush             Song Thrush                Nuthatch

Turning the page finds me discussing scented shrubs starring in our January garden.

Scented shrubs add an extra element to enjoy in our Avocet garden all  year round, but winter-flowering shrubs are probably the most important of all. Their rich scents, warm and sweet and spicy, spread far to attract the few insects flying in the colder months. In January we are enjoying the welcome aromas of Mahonia, Sarcococca, Witch Hazels and Daphne. The local honey bees are drawn to the Mahonia and we can hear their gentle humming whenever the sun gives some unexpected warmth and brightness.

I used my watercolours to create a painting of a Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, and it was a very difficult painting to do.

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On the page opposite my bee painting, I included photos of the “Scented flowering shrubs of our January garden at Avocet, our home in Shropshire, a very cold county in winter.”, Sarcococca confusa, Daphne bholua “Jacqueline Postill”, Hamamelis Jelena and Diane and Mahonia “Winter Sun”.

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Over the page we look at “new” gardening tools, one brand new and one new to me which is a vintage tool.

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“Acquiring new tools to use in the garden is always a pleasure. Recently I have treated the garden, and myself of course, to a few interesting implements”. 

Firstly a pair of Japanese secateurs, with the unusual problem of instructions written in Japanese. As I had ordered them from Japan I should not have been surprised really!

I painted a picture of my new Japanese secateurs, which was a lot harder that it looks.

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“Okatsune secateurs are the favourite of  professional gardeners in Japan. They are manufactured from Japanese high carbon steel so they sharpen easily and well.”

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“My second “new” gardening tool is actually a vintage piece, a 1930’s turfing spade made in Birmingham by a company called Vaughan’s. The long handle is crafted from solid forged iron and the handle is made from Ash wood. The long wooden shaft reduces the workload and the beautiful “D” handle makes the tool comfortable to use. The shape of the blade makes it efficient at even lifting an even 1 inch thick slices of turf. The unusual shaped metal shaft increases the efficiency of this wonderful old tool. So my turf lifting spade is vintage circa 1936 but “new” to me.

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I moved on to show how Ian, our gardener, used the vintage turfing spade to replace the grass on some of our paths.

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“We bought the Vaughan tool specifically to use in our garden, to lift the turf paths in our back garden. Our gardener, Ian, loved using it and found it easy to use, a real joy. Now it is part of my vintage garden tool collection, a great addition.”

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“The old turf from our worn paths is soon removed and new rolls are soon down.”

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I next looked at a beautiful totally dried seed head of an Allium, which, with its spherical shape, tends to get blown around the garden with several others. We meet them at random times and places all overthe garden. We are always surprised by their simple beauty. I drew the Allium seed head using just a pencil. Looking and studying the Allium took much longer than the time spent with pencil moving on paper.

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“The dried spherical seed heads of all our different sorts of ornamental Alliums remain in the garden through the winter months. They act as our own Avocet “tumbleweeds” as wind takes them on journeys.”

I hope you enjoy the close ups of my drawing below.

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By turning the page we see little white birds and colourful bulb flowers. I wrote: “We bought three new stoneware sculptural pieces for our garden, three cheeky and chirpy Sparrows. We loved taking them around the garden seeing where they looked their best. We decided to keep moving them around as the mood took us. They, however, decided that their favourite place was our garden bench in “Arabella’s Garden”. Cheeky chappies indeed!

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Opposite the photos of the sculpture birds are photos of early flowers, Irises and Hellebores.

“Iris reticula, the first bulb to flower in 2017.”

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“Meanwhile Hellebores are budding up strongly, so we will have flowers in Feb.”

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January frosts feature on the next double page spread.

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“On the early hours of the days following cold frosty nights, the flowers which give colour to our January garden, were topped off with cold, icy halos.”

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“Cold nights also gave our sculpture pieces a thin layer of icing sugar.”

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My next page was titled simply “January Frosts” and featured a series of photographs of foliage and seedheads covered in a thin covering of frost and icy crystals.

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Turn over to the next page and we leave the frost behind and take a look at one of our Birches, Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis”, one of the best Betulas around.

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“Plant of the month – Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis”. This Birch is an elegant tree with an open canopy so casts little shade. We grow it mostly for its colourful bark which peels to expose clean, more colourful bark beneath. This is best described as pale salmon coloured which peels back to show gingers beneath. This tree also produces beautiful long catkins.”

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I collected up some peeled bark from the tree and glued two pieces side by side to illustrate how different the layers of bark can be.

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Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis” is probably one of the best trees for the small garden and no garden should be without one. Larger gardens can host a trio of them!

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And that is it for my Garden Journal in January. Perhaps in February winter may be biting deeper or we may be experiencing one of our occasional February heatwaves when temperatures can reach 17 celsius.

Posted in birds, colours, flowering bulbs, garden photography, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, Shropshire, shrubs, spring bulbs, trees, Winter Gardening, winter gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lichfield Cathedral – a three-spired cathedral

We haven’t shared a visit to a cathedral for quite a while now so a trip to Lichfield recently allowed us just that. A religious place of worship has existed on the site for more than 1300 years and the current cathedral now draws not just worshippers but also tourists who come to admire its architecture and artifacts.

We visited on a return journey after a weekend in Leicestershire visiting our son, daughter-in-law and our new granddaughter. We have driven past signs for the city so many times and have been determined to visit one day. This is the story of that day.

As we approached the cathedral green we found this “speakers’ corner” on the approach to the bridge. The cathedral was visible in the mist with its spire disappearing. There is sadly no place from which we could see its three spires.

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The cathedral’s stonework was dark and well-eroded giving it an untidy finish, and pollution had darkened it in places to black. We were confused to find a carved tomb and a statue on the outside wall which we presumed were perhaps at one time inside the building in a part since demolished.

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The main entrance was up several stone steps and the doorways arches were beautifully carved with complex patterning. Equally impressive were the carvings on the doors themselves.

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Once inside we were surprised at how dark it seemed and how tall. There was colouful stained glass, beautiful columns and amazingly shaped ceiling structures.

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The chancel was impressive because of its high vaulted ceiling and medieval painted walls. We were lucky to visit at a time when there was a display of artifacts from the famous “Staffordshire Hoard”. We were amazed by the beauty of the objects and how tiny but detailed they were.

 

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There were so many interesting things to see and take photographs of that I have far too many to put in this post so I have created a gallery for you to enjoy. Please click on the first photo and then navigate with the right arrow. We hope you have enjoyed sharing our visit to Lichfield Cathedral.

 

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham in January – Part Two – Woodland Walk

Back with the second part of our report of our January visit to Attingham Park we find ourselves taking the path into the woodland at this Shropshire National Trust property.

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When leaving the walled garden the visitor has the choice of two walks and we decided to follow the 3 mile “Woodland Walk” as the weather seemed set dry for the day. Next month when we make our February visit we will follow the “Mile Walk”.

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Just a short way into our walk we came across the “Burning Site” marked by a wooden deer complete with impressive antlers. We like gardens with a touch of humour so we were delighted to discover this family of owls created from wood offcuts left after trees surgery work. They were created by the gardeners as a competition. We loved them all!

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Walking in woodlands in the winter helps highlight textures and patterns not easily spotted when the trees and shrubs are in full leaf. The gentle colours of lichens and mosses are more easily appreciated too as they carpet tree trunks. Please follow the gallery below featuring bark textures and the colours of lichen and mosses. The texture of fallen trees is changed over the years by the huge array of hard-working fungi present in the woodlands. Without these fungi the fallen wood would pile up so the fungi’s function of breaking down the dead trees is essential to the well-being of the woodland ecosystem. Click on the first photo and navigate using the right hand arrow.

Woodland walks are made more interesting by the manner in which rays of light penetrate the canopy, creating patterns and patches of strong contrasting light.

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After enjoying exploring the woodland following the Woodland Walk way-marked path we cut back across the parkland to the house itself. First glimpse of the house is through a framework of Cupressus trees. To find this view we crossed over two stone bridges which took the path over water and the stonework attracted as much lichen as the tree trunks did.

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Our return to Attingham Park will be in February when we will look at the Walled Garden again and then follow the much shorter walk, the Mile Walk.

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Posted in fruit and veg, garden buildings, garden design, garden photography, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, kitchen gardens, National Trust, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, The National Trust, walled gardens, walled kitchen gardens, Winter Gardening, winter gardens, woodland, woodlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments