Simply Beautiful – No 18 in an occasional series

For my eighteenth post in this occasional series concerning thing that are “simply beautiful” I want to share some photographs of a small vase of flowers cut from our November garden and displayed in our bathroom window.

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Two RHS Gardens – Part 2 Harlow Carr

To visit the second of the RHS gardens we visited during 2017 we had to travel north up to Yorkshire and we stayed near Harrogate, a beautiful spa town. This is the RHS garden we probably visit the most as it is our favourite and we love the area it is situated in. We chose to go up in late summer. We particularly enjoy the Winter Garden and the new perennial gardens and as we had already visited to see the Winter Garden so we needed to see the perennials borders too.

The RHS are excellent at giving a warm welcome to its visitors and we certainly felt that at their most northerly garden, beautiful planters, great breakfast at the famous “Betty’s Tearooms” and cheerful plants as we entered the main gardens, including bright, cheerful meadow planting.

A recent children’s competition involving creating miniature gardens in old boots provided some entertainment at the bottom of the main steps into the garden.

Next we will share moments we enjoyed as we made our way towards the educational centre with its new buildings, glasshouse and plantings.

The gardens around the education centre provide a fine example of contemporary plant choice and plant combinations, starring grasses and tall airy perennials, growing beautifully among gravel, a wildlife pond and a contemporary styled vegetable garden alongside. Even the seating has been carefully chosen to look just right. Nothing has been left to chance!

       

As mentioned at the beginning of this post we were looking forward in particular to wandering around the borders of “new perennial planting” especially as we were visiting when it should be its prime time. So please enjoy this wander with us by following the gallery. Click on the first picture then navigate with the arrows.

 

When we were finishing our visit to this wonderful RHS garden we made our way back for a final coffee before finding our car and returning to our hotel, and noticed a large and very beautiful insect hotel alongside the path. It was an heartening end to our exploration.

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Hyde Hall and its Dry Garden

As promised we now return once again to share our experience and enjoyment of our visit to RHS garden Hyde Hall and in particular to celebrate the famous Dry Garden. This was a small patch when we first saw it but a recent revamp has seen it develop greatly in scale but more importantly the addition of new plants has enhanced the original scheme. This patch of planting is on a gentle knoll of land and the plants in it have never been fed or watered since they were first planted. We were interested in this as we treat areas of our Avocet patch in exactly the same way. To us it seems a very natural way to garden, being much as Mother Nature intended for some wild areas.

Gravel is the mulch surface through which plants are planted and clear gravel patches become paths and ways to explore the plantings. Right on the very top is a stunning wooden seat, which is a splendid place to sit and look all around every degree of the full 360 view!

  

I shall now share a selection of photos I took of the dry garden to give you an impression of the style and character of the planting.

There is another phase of development underway at Hyde Hall so we need to visit again soon to see what is going on – can’t wait!

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My Garden Journal 2018 – January

Welcome to another year of my garden journal. This first post is all about a very cold January, but we decided to defy the weather and garden anyway. So let’s see what is going on at Avocet and share with you our jobs successfully achieved.

On my first double page spread I share the new materials I will be using this year and mention that my journal this year will be created in a larger, landscape format a Daler-Rowney art book.

I will keep my notes in a beautiful blue notebook, a gift from a friend and will write my monthly musings with another fine gift, this time from daughter, Jo and son-in-law, Rob, an Art Pen by Rotring. My notes will be written using a bamboo mechanical pencil and pen a gift from Jude’ sister, Pauline and brother-in-law Steve.

  

During 2018 I aim to try out different art media and techniques to help illustrate my written words, tubed watercolours, soft pastels and acrylics. I may also use two of these media together, and perhaps try some collage pieces. Over the page I shall get this 2018 journal started by looking at our many cultivars of Ivies.

“We always consider Ivy to be a stalwart of the Winter Garden, they cheer us up with their silver and gold variegations. They keep our wildlife happy too providing shelter, berries and their late flowers which appear when few plants are providing pollen.”

       

On the right hand page I painted foliage of some of the varieties we grow around our garden, using tubed watercolours.

Over the page I take a look at some of our wildlife and the habitats and shelters we provide for them. I wrote, “We hope that the different shelters we provide for our garden wildlife helps them through the Winter months. We look at each shelter hoping all is well but really we can’t tell at all.”

        

“Enjoying winter chores in January improves our mood, as it feels so good to be outside in touch with Mother Nature in her stripped-down bare glory. Enjoyment is enhanced by the sound, sight and movement of birds feeding on both the food we grow for them, as well as sunflower hearts and “no-mess” bird seed mix we put out in feeders. Birds arrive in flocks, flocks that give some security from predators, that give a chance to share intelligence concerning availability of food and to give extra heat and insulation during bleak winter weather.”

Turning over the page to the next double-page spread, on the left I looked at some fruits we grow and opposite a look at some scented plants.

“Rose hips and Ivy berries are two very different fruits of our Winter garden, the fruit of the rose is flagon shaped changing from green through to red whereas the Ivy transforms from green to black and brown. The rose hips are created from the death of blousy, double or single colourful flowers, the Ivy berries transform from the tiny, insignificant dull yellow flowers.”

 

“Scent becomes a powerful feature of the winter garden season in our garden. Small shrubs can fill the garden with their aroma and early bulbs add gentle scent at ground level. There are few pollinators around at this time of year so the flowers need strong scent to attract them.

The sweetest scent of all belongs to Daphne bhuloa “Jacqueline Postill”, but Sarcococca gives a good performance too. The Witch Hazels are far gentler and need you to put your nose close to appreciate their contribution.”

Hamamelis is the star of my next page and in particular Hamamelia intermedis “Jelena”

“Hamamelis, a winter flowering shrub we would never be without, with its brightly coloured and scented flowers in yellows, oranges and reds. Each flower is a burst of delicate ribbons bursting from a purple centre. We grow the deep orange flowered “Jelena” and the deep red flowered “Diane”, with Jelena  flowering early at the beginning of January and Diane coming into bloom weeks later.”

    

” There are still plenty of jobs to enjoy in the garden here in January. Nothing is more satisfying than wrapping up warm and defying the weather, going outside with a mug of warming coffee in gloved hands. It makes us true gardeners! We are helped by a Robin who accompanies us enjoying any grubs we unearth and his watery winter song is constantly in the background.

We prune climbing and rambling roses this month and tidy up Acers and Betulas. Perennials are left until early March but now we remove any that collapse or go slimy. As we do this we mulch the borders with a few inches of compost to slowly feed the soil and improve its texture. Wood ash from our wood-burning stove is scattered around all of our trees and shrubs. Group 3 clematis are pruned down to a foot just above strong, healthy buds which are already showing green colouring. The rich aromas from the winter-flowering shrubs lift our spirits and put smiles on our faces.”

I will be back soon reporting on my February ramblings from our garden.

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Two RHS Gardens – Part 1 – Hyde Hall

As members of the RHS we often visit their gardens and their partner gardens. Sadly it is a long journey to get to any of their main gardens so we do not visit as often as we would like. We make an effort to visit at least two each year.

In 2017 the two we selected were Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, two very different gardens, one in the south and one in the north. The first we visited was Hyde Hall which is the furthest away of all their gardens so we have only ever explored it once before. We made this journey in the middle of the summer and were looking forward in particular to seeing how the Dry Garden had developed as this was a new venture when we originally visited this garden. When we journey down to Essex we usually pay a visit to the garden of the great lady of British gardening, Beth Chatto, but this time we did not have time. But we will go to her garden soon when I will post about her incredible garden when we do. For now though we will concentrate on the gardens of Hyde Hall.

It is rarely possible to admire the planting within a car park, but at Hyde Hall the planting was worth looking at and photographing. It was based on new style perennial planting which had such a gentle calming effect on us as we walked from the car to the garden. Grasses and airy perennials were the mainstay of the plantings.

  

Once inside the gardens themselves, the quality of planting and the brilliant way in which plant partners were grouped were of the highest quality.

              

Grasses feature strongly at Hyde Hall adding texture to the landscape where grass is cut selectively, but different ornamental cultivars are used for structure and their architectural presence, and in mixed plantings for contrast, movement and for visitors to touch and stroke.

   

In places we could identify where plants had been chosen to take advantage of the light from the sun, using its brightness to encourage us to see reflection, shimmering light, glossy textures and contrasting patterns. Essex is dry and sunny particularly compared to our Shropshire climate. Using the brightness of the sun and the dryness of the climate to enhance gardens is so clever and not often done well. Hyde Hall is the star in this department.

In my second post about this wonderful RHS garden I shall focus on their famous Dry Garden, but for now I want to explore the way light is used so effectively in some areas. Light can emphasise glossiness of foliage, it can emphasise the interplay of light and shade and it can emphasise texture.

   

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Anglesey Abbey in mid-Summer

Anglesey Abbey gardens are best known for their brilliant Winter Gardens, which were the first well-known gardens designed to be at their best and visited at this season. But there is far more to these premises than this seasonal garden, such as beautiful gentle herbaceous borders and lots of plants that attract wildlife.

 

The famous Winter Garden is still worth wandering through though!

 

We set off beyond the Winter Garden to see what we could discover of interest in the rest of the garden. We felt sure we were in for a few surprises! Turning a corner and rounding  a hedge of glossy leaved Laurel we found a mystery. A piece of sculpture? A clock? We explored it for a while before we realised its true identity.

The oak structures are designed to support visitors as they lean back to enjoy the wide Fenland skyscapes.

To return to the entrance we followed a tow path alongside a very overgrown canal, its surface carpeted with our native yellow waterlily.

Looking upwards we noticed an open structured sculptural piece hanging from a bough of a mature tree. It presented a strong contrast to the stone griffin close by.

  

In the end though what makes a good garden great is the quality of its plants and how they are put together. The photos below prove just how great the gardens at Anglesey Abbey truly are whatever time of year you visit.

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Simply Beautiful – 16

The 16th post in this occasional series featuring photos of simply beautiful natural things. In this post I will share with you some photos of a plant we found at Attingham which was growing on another plant producing beautiful patterns and textures. This old ivy had been climbing up a tree for so many years that they have become inseparable.

    

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