A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park April – Part 1

We managed to find a day close to the end of April to make our monthly visit to Attingham Park. It was a bright warm day so we knew we would have much to look forward to. As we made our way beneath tall mature trees full of noisy nesting Jackdaws and Rooks we were joined by grandparents carrying out their grandchildren caring duties so the sounds at our level were of laughing youngsters enjoying being outdoors.

There was so much to enjoy, wildflowers in full vibrant colour, fresh green leaf burst in the trees and busy productive growing in the walled garden.

The old Head Gardener’s cottage garden provided a colourful welcome to the park’s visitors.

 

Enjoy a wander through the walled garden by exploring the gallery below. (Click on the first pic and navigate through clicking on the right arrow.)

We left the walled garden to follow the One Mile Walk, which would take us close to the river and afford us views of the woodland and pastureland beyond. It is a quiet but popular walk. Most visitors here enjoy the peace and the chance to be part of nature.

 

Bluebells gave clouds of deep blue, a haze of calm and beauty.

    

The pale colours of fresh willow foliage gave a ghostly feeling to this section of the walk.

 

Rhododendrons provided surprise splashes of colour in the shadows of the tallest of trees.

 

Towards the end of our wanderings for our April visit to Attingham Park, the deciduous trees with their bright fresh new foliage and bursting buds gave way to dark needled coniferous evergreens. Their large cones looked like a family of young Little Owls.

 

In part two of our report on our April visit to Attingham Park I will share with the the pleasure of finding flowers, wild and cultivated, on our wanderings and some pics of fresh foliage growth.

 

 

 

 

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The Avocet Collection

It feels so magical when you discover a chance seedling that is a natural hybrid that has happened under your nose with no help from the gardener. It is equally special when a surprise seedling is so special and different that you want to give it its own name. We have a few of our own Avocet plants that occurred in this way, two Hellebores, two Hollies, a Cotoneaster, a Willow and a Cornus.

I thought it would be interesting to share them with you and let you see some photos of them to see what you think.

Firstly I will share our two Hellebores, the first pictured below we called Hellebore “Jo’s Jewel”after our daughter Jo who creates beautiful jewelry. It has flowers of a delicate pink with tiny purple dots inside and faint hints of green at the base of each petal turning deep green at the base. The reverse of the petals are of a deeper pink colour. The petals are rounded in shape.

   

Our second selected Hellebore has purple-pink outer petals with fine lines of a deeper purple and spots adorn the inner petals. Each petal, although rounded comes to a point. We have named this seedling after our daughter-in-law, Sam so we call it Hellebore “Sammi’s Smile”. So these sister seedlings are named after two sisters!

    

Our Ilex was selected from dozens of seedlings grown from berries from our garden at our last garden prior to our Avocet patch. We grew them on our allotment nearby and watched and waited to see if anything special developed. After a few years they began to show their potential and naturally most were pretty ordinary apart from half a dozen with very dark stems and foliage. We kept these and composted the rest. We carefully watched these finalists develop until we could identify their growth habit, leaf and stem colour and their flowering and berrying. Eventually we ended up with a select three with very dark and shiny stems and leaves, two we thought would make good standards that we could topiarise, and a third which seemed more delicate.

  

Our third selection we have called Ilex “Avocet Flat Black” and after ten years it has grown to just 3ft tall and 5ft across. It has delicate dark shiny foliage and black stems, it flowers well and its flowers attract bees and hoverflies. The deep red berries are enjoyed by our resident Blackbirds and the shrub is enjoyed by our garden visitors.

Here is our Ilex “Avocet Flat black” in flower and attracting bees.

Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange” is a plant we grew by taking cuttings of a few branches of a friend’s Salix alba britzensis which showed very rich orange coloured stems. These stems glowed so brightly when caught by the sun. The friend was called Wendy hence the name we christened our plants, Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange”. We grew our cuttings on until large enough to take cuttings from them and so on. We grew a few on as standards that we could pollard and three of these now grace our Rill Garden. They look wonderful and so brightly coloured! See how the sun brings out the orange and makes the branches glow brightly. The first photo is taken under cloud, the second and third in sunlight.

We pollard these willow trees to thicken their trunks and force them to grow fresh, colourful stem growth each spring.

Our selected seedling Cotoneaster was again planted out on our old allotment near our previous home and garden. We selected out one very strong growing plant which looked far superior to the rest, its stems darker than usual, its leaves also darker coloured and heavily textured. When it matured enough to flower it did so profusely, attracting bees and hoverflies. These were followed by deep red berries, ruby red in fact, and highly glossy. Each berry is like a red gem, a ruby, and so we named it Cotoneaster “Jude’s Ruby”. It is much admired by visitors on our garden open days and group visits, who often ask if we have cuttings for sale. We are now trying to build up stock. Cuttings seem slow and not very reliable so we will also try growing from collected seeds.

Our other shrub seedling also features the colour ruby red but not berries, coloured stems instead are its main feature. We named it Cornus “Avocet Ruby”. We selected it from seedlings which appeared on the bank bordering the wildlife pond, and were hybrids between Cornus Midwinter Fire” and other dogwoods grown for their coloured stems. We are now taking cuttings to help build up some stock from which we will be able to sell specimens to our garden visitors. The picture below shows its autumn colouring. Once these yellow leaves fall the brightly coloured stems of yellow, orange and ruby red are revealed in readiness for glowing so brightly in late winter sun.

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The Weir – a riverside spring garden.

We took friends and fellow garden lovers, Pete and Sherlie, to visit a garden just a few miles south of Hereford which we have previously visited in spring, the time when it peaks. We knew our friends would love it too! It is a National Trust garden and is a long and narrow garden because of its riverside position.

As we got out of the car the spring bulbs greeted us and set the scene for the discoveries to come.

 

We followed a path half way up the valley side overlooking the river, and here early flowering bulbs covered the slopes.

    

All visitors including us were amazed by the delicate pale blue flowers of Scilla italica.

A variety of trees and shrubs cast gentle shade over the valley side.

  

Please enjoy the rest of our wanderings along the pathways of this valleyside garden, by looking at my gallery. Just click on the first photo and navigate by using the arrows.

 

It is always a bonus when visiting a garden to find rare and unusual plants. Here at the Weir we enjoyed discovering  Lathraea squamaria, Tooth Wort, (photo on left), a parasite living on the roots of woody plants and spending most of its time underground and Trachystemon orientalis with the unusual common name “Abraham-Isaac-Jacob” (on the right)

 

The finale to our visit was to explore the walled garden which was in the process of being renovated. We looked forward to seeing what progress had been made. As it turned out we soon noticed the restored glasshouse, long herbaceous borders planted up and productive borders were being prepared for sowing by volunteers. The walled garden has a great future ahead of it and visitors to the valleyside will enjoy discovering the walled garden as much as the main valleyside gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

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A New Summerhouse for Avocet

There comes a time when every wooden garden building reaches the point when it can no longer be repaired – beyond the point of no return! This recently happened to our summerhouse which looked out over our wildlife pond. It had been up for 12 years or so and I have lost track of the times I had to repair weather damage from sun, wind and rain. So the time arrived when we had to bite the bullet and order a new one.

We ordered a replacement which would sit on the footprint of the original, not an easy task as it is an unusual shape.Normally we would have erected and painted it ourselves, but with serious hand surgery in the offing we had our new summerhouse delivered, painted and erected as part of the deal. But we did demolish the old one – we were not going to miss out on the fun!

We wandered down to the bottom of the garden and set about the destruction heartily, with lump and sledge hammers and monkey and gorilla wrenches to hand. We had week of bashing fun!

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We made some new spidery friends who were hibernating behind panels so we had to re-house them. They are an essential part of our wildlife pest control unit so we had to look after them.

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And so with our spider friends rehoused we raised the old summerhouse to the ground. For a while we had a see-through summerhouse and then none at all!

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We then had to break up the old wood to use as firewood for the woodburner.

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Before the new summerhouse arrived we had to prepare a level solid base for it.

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We were delighted  with the new summerhouse and were soon looking forward to painting the inside and putting the furniture and artifacts back.

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First though we had to paint the interior as we want it to be as light as possible. Once the paint dried some of our artefacts soon decorated the walls.

 

We can’t wait to take advantage of our new summer house and sit inside admiring our garden while we drink coffee and enjoy some of Jude’s delicious home-made cake!

A few weeks after completing our summer house build we added a deck which would sit in front of it and go out over the end of the pond. Our son and son-in-law, Jamie and Rob came with their families to build the deck for us as following surgery on my thumb I can only use one hand. We sent for the cavalry! While the boys constructed the deck daughter Jo worked away in the new Arabella Garden adding edging to the borders  and stopped frequently to give advice.

The final jobs were to put down carpet, varnish the deck and get the furniture and pictures back in.

     

We are so pleased with our new summerhouse now it is finished and are regularly enjoying spending time relaxing in it.

 

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A Snowdrop Walk – Millichope Hall

Every year we look forward to one walk early each year dedicated to snowdrops en masse. We are not seriously interested in the huge variety of different Snowdrop cultivars but enjoy the simple single Snowdrops seen in huge “flocks” particularly in woodland where they look at their best. This year we decided to follow a Snowdrop walk at Shropshire’s Millichope Hall because we also wanted to explore the walled garden being revamped by a young couple who have established a nursery, within the protection of the walls, and display gardens too. The nursery specialises in old fashioned scented Violas.

We arrived in the temporary car park in one of the estate’s fields after less than an hour drive. The weather looked and felt fine for a good day out. We took a wandering pathway through the parkland to get to the walled garden nursery and the all important tea with cake. En route we passed patches of Snowdrops beneath the park’s mature trees, looking like wispy clouds or puddles of frost on the short grass. We found a striking patch looking happily established on the ice-house entrance wall.

 

Once in the walled garden we were immediately drawn to these glasshouses with areas of elegantly curved glass. They had been beautifully restored!

 

The gardens themselves inside the weathered old red brick walls were being recreated as flowing herbaceous borders. Definitely a sign reminding us to visit in the summer to see progress.

     

Leaving the walled garden we crossed a beautiful and very sturdy wooden footbridge over the hall’s driveway and we began to experience the joy and atmosphere of seeing masses of naturalised Snowdrops, tumbling down slopes and covering the shadows beneath trees.

               

The walk back took us alongside a beautiful stream which has been straightened and turned into a feature with different heights of steps for the water to fall over creating gently rippling sounds. We had enjoyed our annual snowdrop walk, which put us in the right frame of mind to enjoy spring which was waiting in the wings.

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2017 – April

We are well into Spring now as I share my April journal with you and there has been lots going on. This April has been the most colourful ever in our Avocet Patch.

The last week in March or the first in April is the best time to cut down willows (Salix)  and dogwoods (Cornus). It is a careful balance between enjoying these shrubs’ beautifully coloured stems for as long as possible and cutting them down in time for fresh coloured stems to grow in time to enjoy next winter. I wrote, “Before taking the Dogwood and Willow stems to be made into community compost, I decided to attempt to draw them in fibre tip pens.” Collecting them together and then selecting a bunch to draw emphasises the wide variety in colours these shrubs produce.

In complete contrast we look at brightly coloured flowering bulbs over the next two pages.

I wrote, “Bulbs continue to give brightness and colour at ground level in the garden this month but above them trees and shrubs perform equally well.”

Below I shared photographs of small flowering bulbs all coloured blue, what I labelled “The “lbj’s” of the bulb world – the little blue jobs.”

    

“One of the most beautiful and brightest of all Spring bulbs is a native in the UK after becoming naturalised. It grows in the South, Central and Eastern parts of England and scattered thinly around Scotland. It must give flowers that are as bright as yellow can become and it is scented too. Tulipa sylvestris.”

   

Returning to the shrubs and trees I wrote on the next double page spread, So, what sort of performances are our trees and shrubs putting on above the bright flowering bulb?”

“Amelanchier lamarckii”

 

“Spiraea arguta”

 

“Viburnum in variety”

 

“Ribes odoratum”

 

“Mahonia aquifolium”

 

“Ribes sanguineum King Edward VII”

“Fruit blossom”

  

On the next turn of the page we notice two pages about my favourite tree, Betulas (Birches)

I began by writing, “As our Birch trees grow we have to occasionally prune off some lower branches to create a specimen clean-trunked tree. When I recently took off two branches of our Betula albosinensis septentronalis, I kept a few lengths for me to paint or draw.” I created a picture using fibre pens and watercolours.

I continued, “By mid-April our Betula are all at different stages of realisation that spring has arrived. Some are almost in full leaf while others still have tight buds, some have long catkins, others none at all.”

    

I then moved on to reveal my plant of the month for April and on the opposite page looked at some of our April flowering Clematis.

“Plant of the month, April, is Corylopsis spicata, a flowering shrub with a beautiful habit of growth and beautiful pale yellow flowers, almost lemon shades, which hang in racemes as light as a feather so shimmer and dance in the gentlest of Spring breezes. The flowers are gently, sweetly scented. Our shrub at 2 metres tall is probably fully grown. It grows with an open “airy” habit.”

  

“April sees our early flowering Clematis putting on their show, with delicate hanging bells of calmness.”

   

Tulips feature on the next double page spread, with photographs of a small selection of the many tulips we grow.

“Tulips are the powerhouse of the April borders here at our Avocet patch, giving bright, shining patches of colour from white, to pink and purple and from yellow through orange to the deepest reds. Some are plain, others striped, splashed or streaked for added interest. In Spring clashing colours seem not to matter. Tulips add colour to every border! Enjoy the show!”

         

The final two pages of my April entries in my journal feature Acers and a few very special plants.

“Acers spring to life during this month giving wild splashes of colour from their freshly opened buds. Every shade of green with the colours of fire!”

    

I shall finish my April entries with a look at a selection of a few of our special plants, those plants that are not often seen and in our garden demand a closer look.

“Akebia quinata”

“Muckdenia Crimson Fans”

“Erythronium Pagoda”

“Jeffersonia Dubia”

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Simply Beautiful – 11 – Orange Leaves

Spring is the time for brightly coloured unfurling leaves on trees and shrubs. Most are green – sparkling fresh green – but occasionally the colours of new leaves makes the gardener stop in his tracks and take a second look to see if the leaves really are the colour he thinks h has just seen.

Take these leaves unfurling from little sticky buds of an unusual Aesculus. Simply beautiful!

This little tree is called Aesculus x neglecta “Erythroblastos”, a big ugly name for a little attractive tree.

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