Are you sitting comfortably? – part ten of a very occasional series

Here we are – with the tenth post in my very occasional series looking at my collection of photographs of garden seats we discover as we explore the gardens we enjoy visiting so much. We have many seats in our own garden to allow us to sit and enjoy it. Equally we look for seats in every garden we visit to help us sit and fully appreciate what we see.

Here is a selection from a Shropshire Yellow Book garden, Windy Ridge. They show how important it is to place seats in suitable places so that they are in harmony with the plants themselves.

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Windy Ridge is a small family garden visited by hundreds of gardeners every year. We will now look at how a much larger garden uses different seats in different ways to suit its own particular circumstances. Hestercombe is a large garden designed partly by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll which is open to the public attracting thousands of visitors each year. The famous Lutyens benches obviously feature strongly as expected. This seat design must be the most famous and recognised of all garden furniture. As well as these benches there is a wide range of unusual ones to be explored, including several in buildings of many styles plus a few in a huge tent shaped like a shuttlecock.

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Where will our next selection of unusual, wonderful and strange garden seats come from? We are already searching them out!

Posted in garden buildings, garden designers, garden furniture, garden seating, gardens, gardens open to the public, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Mynd Hardy Plants – return to a favourite nursery.

Jude the Undergardener, aka Mrs Greenbench, and I are not fans of garden centres where things horticultural are disappearing under an avalanche of gifts, fancy foods, pet foods etc etc but we do love our independently run plant nurseries and have a handful of local favourites we visit when we need plants to complete new plantings or just fancy a bit of compulsive plant buying. Mynd Hardy Plants situated in Shropshire’s Corvedale ranks as a top favourite, so we thought you may enjoy coming on a visit with us. The fact that it opens for the National Garden Scheme like we do is an extra bonus.

As soon as we pull up to park the car alongside the outer wall of the walled garden we feel warmly welcome and this warmth increases as we enter through the old doorway. When we take our first steps inside smiles appear.

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Mynd Hardy Plants is not simply a nursery it is also a garden, and both aspects are worthy of a visit in their own right. But of course a simple tea shop selling home made cakes and beverages with seats overlooking the nursery and gardens is a real bonus.

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Comfy rustic seats invite us to sit and appreciate the atmosphere of the walled garden.

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It wasn’t just us enjoying our visit, there was plenty of wildlife around. We could see movement throughout the areas of rich and colourful flowering. Bees, Hoverflies and Butterflies were busily feeding on the most simple flowers, the daisies and spires in particular.

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There are so many exciting plants and complementary plant combinations at every turn and around every corner at Long Mynd Hardy Plants that the only way to share so much with you is by creating a gallery for your enjoyment. As usual click on the first photo and then navigate using the arrows.

On our last visit we spent time talking with nursery-woman Jill over coffee and cake overlooking the nursery she outlined their ambitious plans and explained what her and her husband had achieved since we last saw them.We expect these plans will be achieved and we look forward to seeing more changes as we visit in the future.

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Jill explained that when they cleared the derelict half of the old walled garden they discovered a range of ancient glasshouses and a long run of cold frames. Eventually these will be restored and will be an amazing addition to the nursery and garden. An old orchard is under restoration too and there will soon be stock beds for visitors to study as well.

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We hope you enjoyed this snapshot of a great little independent nursery and display garden as much as we enjoyed sharing it with you.



Posted in buildings, garden buildings, garden furniture, garden photography, garden seating, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, nurseries, Shropshire, village gardens, walled gardens, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dorothy Clive Garden in September

Back again ready to enjoy another visit to the Dorothy Clive Gardens and see what has been happening since our August visit. We expected early signs of Autumn and hoped for some colourful displays of Dahlias and Salvias. We decided to take a walk around the young mini-arboretum area this month instead of following the winding paths of the Dingle which has less interest at this time of the year.

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As we wandered over to the coffee shop we admired the views over the lower garden and the light which lit up the Pampus Grass behind the Viburnum caught my eye. This was a sign that we could be looking forward to interesting light for garden photography. fingers crossed!

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The border alongside the entrance to the coffee shop was at its most colourful so far this year, with Dahlias, Salvias, Nerine and Hesperantha sharing their colours.

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These brightly coloured plants set the scene for much of our September visit.

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I thought that a gallery of brightly cheerful flowering plants would be a good way of sharing the warm feeling prevailing over the Dorothy Clive Garden this September visit.

Please click on first pic and then navigate using arrows and of course enjoy!

I promised to share our enjoyment of wandering around the soft grass paths that led us around the little arboretum and closely studying the young trees. One surprise was the total lack of autumnal tints to the foliage.

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We were particularly taken by this unusual, in fact unknown to us, Hawthorn, Crataegus laciniata. We are now considering adding one to our garden.

The foliage presented a metallic appearance, almost pewter and the haws ranged from yellows through orange and to a dull brown – a most subtle but attractive combination.

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I feel that another gallery is the best way to share our amble through the arboretum.


Our next visit to these lovely gardens will be for our October report so we should be getting into signs if autumn by then.

Posted in arboreta, autumn, autumn colours, colours, flowering bulbs, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, half-hardy perennials, hardy perennials, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental trees and shrubs, Shropshire, shrubs, trees, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Snapshot: Greenbenchramblings

Digging for Dirt

Malcolm Mollart is the author of a long-running garden blog Greenbenchramblings which is inspired by the garden he created with his wife, Jude, in the South Shropshire Hills. In June of this year, Malcom paid us a visit and took plenty of photographs whilst he was at it. We asked him to select some of his favourites, tell us about his own passion for horticulture and pick out those bits of Winterbourne which made the greatest impression.

Agapanthus and Eucomis, photograph by Malcolm Mollart, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt Agapanthus and Eucomis, photograph by Malcolm Mollart

“I am a 65-year-old retired head teacher, who had to retire early due to disability. I have now spent more years in retirement than working, so have had the luxury of time to develop my gardening skills and ideas. My love of gardening comes from my Father who loved his cottage style garden and was well-known locally for his roses.”

Edgbaston Pool, photograph by Malcolm Mollart, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt Edgbaston Pool, photograph by Malcolm Mollart

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My Garden Journal in September

Back to my garden journal and we will look at my entries for September and see what our patch here at Avocet is up to.  According to the weather reporters and meteorologists we should now be in Autumn but the garden is showing few signs of the expected seasonal changes.


I started by finding patches of colourful plantings and wrote, “September is a month when gardens can begin to look a little worn and frayed at the edges. We have made a huge effort over the last 4 or 5 years to ensure we have an interesting garden all year. Let us look and see if we have succeeded in making a good September garden. Here are a few shots of colourful patches throughout the borders.”

Jude, Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, and I have created a talk entitled “The Year Round Garden” which we give to garden societies and other clubs such as WI groups and U3A groups. It is all about how we ensured our garden was good for every month of the year. Some of these groups also visit our garden at various times of year to have a look around. Giving these talks helps us focus on ensuring we continue to develop this ever evolving element of gardening and helps us appreciate every day and what our garden gives us on every individual day.

The three photos on these first September pages show very different patches of our garden.


Turning over the page we find a couple of my watercolour paintings of two very differently coloured and differently structured flowers blooming in our September garden, a Crocosmia and a Salvia.


I wrote “I mentioned Crocosmia “Okavango” in my August journal entries as one of our newly acquired plants. It is now between 3 and 4 feet tall and flowering beautifully.”


The most unusual coloured flower in our September garden has to be Salvia uliginosa. Its ugly name is made up for by its beauty with strongly symmetrical flower clumps and a shade of china blue petals with darker brighter blues too.”

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My next double page spread features those wonderful South African summer flowering bulbs, the Agapanthus. We have a large collection of these big blue or white spherical beauties.


“From late summer onwards through autumn and into winter,  Agapanthus continue to give colour, shape, texture and architectural elegance to our “Beth Chatto Garden”. In September many are still flowering strongly but a few begin to produce their beautiful seedpods.”

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Turning over to the next double page I feature two very differently coloured Mahonias and a beautiful delicate Clematis.


I wrote, “Twin Mahonias, one yellow, one red both bright and brilliant plants for later in the year.”

“Take two Mahonias” 

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Concerning the Clematis I wrote “I love flowers that hide some of their beauty like this Clematis. Turn it over and discover its speckles and spots of purple.”

“Turn me over!”

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The next double page spread features one of my favourite hardy plant families, the Sedums. I included photos of some flowering in our garden now and a watercolour impression of our plants in flower.


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“There are so many variations in foliage colour and flower size and colour We have several. Here are a few from our patch.”

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Over the page we discover the first signs of the changing foliage colours – the early signs of Autumn.


“A really good garden plant has more than one period where it is a star in the borders. One shrub we grow, Ribes oderatum certainly fits this bill. We grow ours in the “Freda Garden”. In late winter it is covered in deliciously scented yellow flowers which later in the year turn into black berries. Now though it is the foliage which turns the eye as it turns from bright green to rich shades of red, from ruby to almost brown-mahogany.

Not many shrubs could boast this much foliage colour and variation before Autumn has even got going.”

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“Dazzling Dahlias! The September show offs!”

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“Spot the bee!”


Opposite the Dahlias I look at a much more delicate flower, that of Kirengeshoma palmata, otherwise known as Yellow Wax Bells.

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“This is one of the most unusual looking flowers to adorn the garden this month. As the flowers drop their petals, beauty of a different sort appears.”

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And that sees the end of my journal entries for September. Next visit to my garden journal will see us moving into Autumn and the changes in weather and light it brings with it. Will I be reporting on the special light and colours, the colours of fire and Autumn?

Posted in autumn, autumn colours, climbing plants, colours, garden photography, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, light, light quality, ornamental trees and shrubs, Shropshire, shrubs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A return visit to the Prees Branch Line – a canal nature reserve.

My brother Graham and his wife Vicky came to stay with us in early September and we went for some good days out, one of which was to the Prees Branch Line, a disused canal branch that never actually opened but now is a rich nature reserve, the longest wildlife pond in Shropshire. We have visited several times in the past at different seasons and enjoyed every walk along the old abandoned canal, as there is always so much wildlife to observe, encounter and surprise.


The site sign hints strongly at its main wildlife star, the Water Vole with a lovely illustration, but this is a star who is a real secretive creature and visitors have to be very lucky to spot one. It is more likely to find stems of reeds nibbled down in the vole’s distinctive style, or hear the plop as it enters the water again a very distinctive sound. We have heard them plop and seen signs of their nibblings at this reserve but never as yet spotted one.


We began our walk enjoying a coffee as we put on our walking boots and luckily spotted some fruit trees close by, the native Shropshire Damson otherwise known as the Shropshire Prune. This tree is a feature of Shropshire’s hedgerows and we have enjoyed many while on walks. These however were the sweetest we have ever tasted, the nectar of the gods.

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On this latest visit we were lucky to spot and watch for a long while a rare bee, the Moss Carder Bee which was a first for us. It appeared right in front of me as I was taking a photograph of a plant so I had the rare chance of taking photographs so effortlessly. The bee really just posed for me. Graham and I watched it for a while and got very close, close enough to appreciate the beauty of its delicate colouring and the subtlety of its markings.

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Not so long after this a similar thing happened. Again I was taking a close up photograph of a plant when a hoverfly firstly came into view above the flower, then landed on it closely followed by a second identical one allowing me to get these shots. Twins! Identical twins!

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Berries were at various stages of ripeness from hard green to the darkest of ruby red.

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And wild flowers added spots of colour to the impressionist painting that is the bank of the canal.

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There was so much to see as we ambled along the narrow track along the towpath of the canal branch line that never opened to barges just to wildlife. Rather than narrow-boats plying the waters it is Swans, Mallards and Water Voles instead! We barely moved forward a few steps before something caught our eyes and stopped us in our tracks. I took so many photos that I thought I could invite you to join us as we followed our canal side path “there and back again”. Enjoy!

As usual just click on the first photo and then navigate with the arrows.









Posted in bird watching, birds, canals, climbing plants, colours, conservation, countryside, hedgerows, landscapes, nature reserves, photography, Shropshire, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, wildlife, Wildlife Trusts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Windy Ridge – another Yellow Book Garden

Windy Ridge is a fellow “Yellow Book Garden” in Shropshire and thus like us opens for charity under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. The gardener owners have been opening their garden for many years more than we have and we have visited several times before. We decided the time was right for a return visit to discover how it has developed over the years. The owners/gardeners are real plantspersons with plenty of knowledge to share and impart related to both plants, garden management and design.

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Windy Ridge is a garden of wandering paths, secret places, surprises around every corner but above all a garden full of plants to stop you in your tracks either because they are so well grown or very unusual.

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There are quality sculptural pieces among the plants for visitors to enjoy beginning with a huge carved tree trunk at the garden entrance.

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Secret pathways which lead the visitor onward and present choices are an important element of a quality garden.

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In our own “Avocet” garden we enjoy raising the canopy of our trees and shrubs to expose interesting bark and trunk shapes and to let in light to allow planting beneath. At Windy Ridge this is performed to perfection and helps give the garden its character. The first photo below shows how this technique even helps Laurel, my most disliked plant! To make it work the gardener must look closely at and listen to the plant before attempting the first cut. If the gardener does this he is more likely to react to the character of each tree and shrub and give it the shaping it deserves and wants.

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We enjoyed and admired the way that the formality of clipped box integrates so well into the softness of the planting.

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Berries enhance the September garden and add even more colour to that provided by flowers. Windy Ridge had colour aplenty!

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If I had to pick out one plant as my favourite at Windy Ridge it would have to be beautiful coloured and scented Clematis, C. odorata, a plant left to ramble unpruned to great effect. It is a Clematis we have been seeking for our own patch for many years so seeing and smelling it here has renewed our determination to add it to our huge clematis collection already climbing and clambering in our Avocet garden.


Hydrangeas were well in bloom when we visited and the sheer variety of colours was to be admired.

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The highlight for many visitors is the large garden pond with wonderful marginal planting, a decked area with white ironwork seats and a narrow pathway behind it for the visitor to explore. We had a great afternoon returning to the garden at Windy Ridge and found it as inspiring as always. We were pleased to note that it had received an award in a national garden competition.

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Posted in awards, climbing plants, colours, garden design, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden seating, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, sculpture, Shropshire, shrubs, trees, Uncategorized, village gardens, water in the garden, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments