Last Group Visit to our Avocet Garden

As this is our final year opening our garden under the auspices of the NGS, we are reaching important milestones. We have already held our final Open Day and now we have entertained our last group visit to our garden. A wonderfully cheerful WI group of 21 spent a very warm, sunny evening discovering the delights of our garden and the delights of Jude’s cakes.

There was so much laughter and several members of the group commented on how happy the garden made them feel.

One visitor wrote in the Visitors’ Book, “A very interesting fascinating garden” and another “A very enjoyable evening, so much to see and admire, a credit to you both.”

So that really was the end of an era, ten years of opening our garden for NGS Open Days and visits from groups, mostly gardening clubs but also wildlife societies, U3A groups, WIs and many individuals and couples. We did this partly to share our patch but also to raise money for the NGS nursing and health charities.

All of our fundraising events will finish by the end of this year, as we still have six garden talks to present to garden clubs around the Marches and and North Wales during the autumn and early winter.


Checking out Trentham Gardens

The last time we visited the gardens at Trentham on the outskirts of the city of Stoke-on-Trent was just after the Covid 19 lockdown period and we were so disappointed. The lack of volunteers to help the employed gardeners seemed to be at the root of it but during that time the whole complex came up for sale.

We recently thought we would return in the hope of seeing enough of an improvement to make the journey worthwhile.

Things had improved but invasive weed problems still persisted with mare’s tail, annual weed grasses and rosebay still spoiling borders.

The best part now is the lakeside walk where meadow planting by Nigel Dunnett is once again providing colour and attracting pollinators.

The area designed by Piet Oudolf is showing signs of its previous glory but you need to look past the weeds which is so disheartening! Here are a few photos.

Similarly the original Italian Garden redesigned and planted by Tom Stuart-Smith is spoilt by so many weeds, but again it is possible to find some joy there.

So we did see some hopeful signs of revival on this visit to Trentham Gardens but sadly still plenty of disappointment. We will return in the future and hope for better things to come.


My Garden Journal 2022 July

Here we are back looking at my garden journal, this time we are considering the month of July. The garden has been struggling with lack of rain for weeks now and there is no sign on the horizon. Grass is yellow and brown but we know it will recover with the slightest period of rain.

I began my July report by looking at another selection of our many clematis still performing well, adding colour and height and in some cases scent to the borders as they clamber up and over trees, shrubs, archways and obelisks. I wrote, “Clematis continue to flower profusely throughout the garden as we enter the second half of the year and welcome in July.”

On the opposite page is my pencil crayon sketch of two allium seed heads just after their flowers have dropped, but prior to turning into its late summer colours. I wrote, “Once the shades of purple disappear the allium heads go through a green phase prior to turning biscuit colours, digestive, rich tea and gingers.”

Moving on I considered the flowers that were adding lots of colour, where I wrote, “In July every border seems to have a few star plants giving bright splashes of colour.”

I then shared a gallery of photos of such star plants.

From these bright lush looking plants I changed tack completely and took a look at a bit of up-cycling we achieved. Our metal birdbath had started to leak as it rusted more all the time, so we decided to plant it up with succulents using some of our many cuttings in the greenhouse awaiting homes. I wrote, “We had a variety of jobs to get done in July such as up-cycling our old metal birdbath and finding new homes for our irises which were getting crowded out in our Beth Chatto garden.”

Below are photos of the process of up-cycling the birdbath.

Before looking at he second job mentioned above I used the next page for another sketch, this time of Ribwort Plantain. I noted that, “One of my favourite wild flowers, is ‘Ribwort Plantain’ or ‘Narrow Leaf Plantain’ ” My drawing was created using watercolour pencil crayons and fine fibre pens.

The opposite page shows us sorting out our irises on the Beth Chatto Garden, where we lifted those that had become overcrowded as other plants grew around them and lifted those that needed splitting. We replanted them on an edge of the same garden where the tubers could get the sun and interplanted them with alpine sedum.

I wrote, “Many of our bearded iris failed to flower much this spring thus telling us to divide them and move some to a sunnier spot. Once replanted we added some low-growing sedum between them.”

Over the page I featured another of my sketches this time created in fibre tip pens, and the subject was another native wild flower which we grow in our garden to attract insects, Centaurea nigra. This is a member of the asteraceae family and has several common names such as Lesser Knapweed, Common Knapweed, Hardhead and Black Knapweed.

On the opposite page I looked at our recently acquired house plants and I noted that, “For a long time now we have been tempted by the new wave of houseplants now available. Our track record with houseplants has not been good but recently we were tempted to try out a few.”

I then shared photos of our new plants.

On my last page for July I wrote,”

My journal will return in August!


Pontesbury Open Gardens Day 2022 – part 2

As mentioned in my last post we managed to explore just 6 of the 16 gardens open on this day. I have already featured our favourite garden of the day and promised to share some photos of the others.

I hope you enjoy my gallery of Pontesbury gardens. Firstly a modern roof garden with amazing views.

A tall villa with a steeply sloping garden.

The next garden we looked at had some interesting idea including a group of white-stemmed birches, possibly Betula utilis ‘Doorenbos’.

The final two gardens we visited were on a newly built housing estate. One had the obvious hallmarks of a space professionally designed and created, so included some interesting elements. On the opposite side of the road a neighbour had created an imaginative garden herself.

And so over the road to the last of my featured gardens.


An Inspiring Cottage Garden

For the first time since moving to Plealey nineteen years ago we managed to follow the Pontesbury Garden Trail for the first time. Pontesbury is the nearest village to us a few miles away.

The problem was that there were far too many gardens open for the short time available. We had an afternoon to try to visit 16 gardens some a half mile uphill walk away. We managed just six!

We shall look at some of these in my next post but first we want to share our favourite garden by far with you. It was created around what we discovered after talking with the owners/gardeners to be a row of 0ne-up one-down cottages which was now just one dwelling. The garden was a cottage garden full of delights and magical moments.

The husband of the two gardener team was the ideas man and also created sculpture from anything that took his fancy that he could manipulate or carve.

The beauty of sculpture in the garden is that the garden enhances the sculpture and the sculpture in turn enhances the garden. In this garden the planting was thoughtfully put together and long views and vistas helped visitors to enjoy the colourful borders.

This was by far our favourite garden we discovered on the Pontesbury Gardens Open Day so I have given it a post all to itself. In my next post I shall feature a couple of photos of each of the other gardens we managed to visit.


Final Open Day at Avocet

On 24th June we opened our garden for the final time under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, after ten years of opening. This year also marks the end of the decade of presenting garden talks to garden clubs, Women’s Institutes, Wildlife Groups, U3A’s etc.

During the rest of 2022 we still have half a dozen visits to groups to present my talks and a few visits by garden groups still to visit our garden.

So we held our final NGS Open Day on a bright but not sunny day and all sessions were fully booked plus quite a few extras who turned up on the off-chance we let them in. As we were raising money for health charities we did indeed let them in.

We had spent several days ensuring our quarter acre looked the best it could, dead-heading, pruning, putting in plant supports and planting new plants in the odd blank space etc.

Jude raided her micro-nursery to set up a plant sales table and we put up signs to ensure visitors could find us. An added attraction is our pop-up tea shop where visitors could relish the huge selection of Jude’s wonderful cakes as well as a beverage.

Jude also picked flowers from the garden and created floral displays for all to enjoy as they sat taking taking a break and absorbing the garden atmosphere.

We had a sell out but many other visitors arrived asking to be admitted because it as our last opening and of course we let them in as the day was all about raising money for health charities. We sold lots of plants and a ridiculous amount of cake and beverages! What a success for our final opening!


My Garden Journal 2022 June

Back once again with my monthly look at my garden journal, this time for the month of June, a colourful busy month in our garden. I had to begin a new fresh art book having finished off my last with my entries for the month of May.

I decided to feature aquilegias on the cover and the ‘Warm Welcome’ rose for the inside introductory page.

I started my look at our garden in June with a favourite provider of colour and scent this month, roses. I shared photos of just ten. I wrote, “In June roses give us so much colour in every part of the garden, with bonus scent.”

“We love plants that self-seed around our patch and one of the most successful of these ‘volunteers’ is ‘Linaria purpurea’. It has so many variations but also a few cultivars such as ‘Canon Went’, ‘Peachy’ and ‘Dial Park’. Here are just a few.”

Below are photos of twelve of our linarias.

Following on from our self-seeding favourite I featured a more subtle page, a drawing I created using Japanese brush pens, of a small flowering shrub, Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’.

Over the page I looked at our preparations for our NGS open garden day and the day itself. I noted that, “This month we opened our garden under the auspices of the NGS for the last time, having opened now for ten years. We busied ourselves in preparation and the day itself was a sellout.”

On the opposite page I shared two photos of our “Iris ensata” which has come into its own this year, flowering profusely. In close up the detail is stunningly beautiful. The top photo is a straight print and the bottom one a poster print to show more details especially the lines on each petal.

I finished this June report by sharing eight broad views of colourful patches in the garden, when I noted that, “As June came to an end and with it the first half of the year I wandered around the garden paths taking images of colourful patches.” The next look at my garden journal will be in July, the month that launches the second half of the year.

I will finish off this visit to my garden journal with eight shots of colourful patches of the garden which our recent visitors enjoyed.


Return to the Montgomery Canal – Lower Frankton

We have enjoyed so many canal side walks over the years in both Shropshire and neighbouring Powys the next door county just into Wales.

Today we decided to wander along a section in north Shropshire starting at the village of Lower Frankton where the canal joins the much larger and busier Llangollen Canal. The carpark was not easy to find with no sign posts anywhere! It was over the other side of an ultra steep humpback bridge over the canal where at the half way point we could see nothing but sky!

As we began our wanderings we were amazed by just how bright and green the area looked.

After enjoying the first of many patches of wildflowers we soon reached Frankton Locks an impressive series of five very deep serious -looking locks. They looked a real challenge to the narrow boat owners slowly enjoying this peaceful stretch of Shropshire by canal. We did wonder how some solo bargemen managed on their own.

A real delight of all canal towpath wanderings is the collection of wildflowers always present and this path certainly did not disappoint!

It wasn’t just us enjoying the wildflowers, members of the insect world were attracted to them for nutrition. We were particularly pleased to spot this unusually coloured Damsel Fly, but equally enjoyed seeing so many Orange-tipped Butterflies both male and female.

The trees aligning the canal-sides were in full fresh leaf and several in flower. Most noticeable of all were the Hawthorns with boughs heavy with blossom, startlingly white in the sunshine and heavily scented strong and sweet. Willows were constantly releasing their pollen with each puff of wind.

As we reached the place where we were intending to turn back we noticed in the distance that clumps of alders had been blown over. As we approached closer we could see what had actually happened – gusts of wind during recent storms had ripped the trees from the canal bank exposing the structure holding the refurbished bank side open.

There is always so much to discover when walking a canal towpath so I thought we would finish this post with a small gallery of a handful or so of photos.

We are determined to return to this place where we have a choice of canal walks to explore.


Two Gardens in One Day – Part Two – “The Leasowes”

We are back with part two of “Two Gardens in One Day” which will be all about our visit to “The Leasowes”, which is much larger than our morning garden, and opens for the “Historic Churches Association”.

We parked up beneath an avenue of wonderful mature Horse Chestnut trees all flowering beautifully. Walking beneath them we arrived at the gates to the impressive “Leasowes”.

Just inside the gateway a rich yellow climbing rose, usually the first to come into flower, called “Canary Bird” caught our eyes.

Just inside the gateway we discovered this wildlife pond and nearby a narrow stream between boulders and bankside planting.

We moved through the lower more formal garden which was worth looking at in its own right but little did we realise what delights awaited us inn the higher parts of the garden.

We climberd gently until we came into a valley planted up with beautiful, unusual and sometimes rare specimen trees and shrubs.

Most of the colour up in the dingle area came from rhododendrons and a mass of bluebells planted as carpeting beneath the trees.

Below are photos of some of the vast collection of brightly coloured rhododendrons both evergreen and deciduous.

I will finish off with a gallery of some of the beautiful young trees and shrubs, plus a few general shots of the dingle and garden. We left feeling so pleased to have discovered this garden, close to us but never before visited.


Two Gardens in One Day- Part One – ‘The Bramleys’

We found an NGS open garden open one Sunday close to us, so left home to drive down narrow country lanes with hedges close on each side and too many sharp bends, humped bridges and steep gradients. We intended to arrive as the garden opened mid-morning.

We parked up the the school carpark in the village of Condover and wandered through the village to find the garden following the NGS yellow signs. Following the drive we met the owner who gave a warm welcome and directed us to the start of the garden.

Here we were mighty impressed with the colourful combinations of tulips, so cheerful!

After revelling in the bright colours of the tulips we made our way into the attached woodland area where mature trees could be enjoyed from woodchip paths and these paths were so soft to walk on as the woodchip was very deep. Alongside the woodland ran a crystal clear brook.

From the woodland we re-entered the main garden via a small grassed area. The main garden consisted of circular lawn with mixed borders all around. This had all been created fairly recently.

Around the perimeter of the house itself we found little cameos of interest, those little extras that help make a garden that little bit better.

Because this garden opened all day and we arrived as it opened in the morning, we found we had time to visit another open garden not many miles away so off we went for another plant exploration, this time aiming for a place called “The Leasowes” near a village called Cound.

“The Leasowes” will be the subject of part two of this post, following soon.