Musings about gardening, the natural world and things creative.
A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.
I have already published a post considering our visit to an NGS garden in our neighbouring county of Herefordshire.
I want to return now to just look at the garden sculpture we enjoyed discovering there, which ranged from simple sculpture which can be found at garden centres right up to beautiful exclusive bronze pieces.
These two modern bronze and stone pieces worked well together round a short set of stone steps.
After looking at this selection of all sorts of sculptures featured so far, I will now move onto the collection of beautiful bronze sculptures. Each is elegant and so full of character.
I want to finish with a set of smaller bronzes that we found around a set of stepping stones crossing a shallow stream.
We really enjoyed the way these sculptures add such richness to this garden that was wonderful in its own right.
It is always exciting to find gardens to visit which we do not know anything about, especially if they are National Garden Scheme gardens which allow us to support such worthwhile charities at the same time as having a satisfying day out. The gardens on the Lower Hope Estate were described as 5 acres which included rose gardens, herbaceous borders, and Italian, Mediterranean and Japanese influenced areas.
We parked the car up in the field abutting Lower Hope Gardens and we were both delighted to spot some interesting perennials for sale, gown at a local nursery. Temptation got the better of us and we bought a dozen or so healthy looking plants before we took a step into the garden itself.
We entered the gardens through a wooden gate and followed a path through a small woodland area, and it soon became clear that this garden had a lot to offer. There were clues as to what we might expect to find.
The Italian influenced garden had a gentle feel to it with stone pillars, several seats and water features.
We left the Italian Garden behind and soon found some impressive mixed borders. The selection of dahlias was most impressive!
After admiring the borders with their impressive selection of dahlias, we wandered off around a small lake to find the Japanese area.
We finished off our tour of the garden by making our way to the lake with its native planting around its edges. We found plenty to catch our eyes along the way.
I thought it would be fun to finish off with this photo of Jude sat on an oversized garden chair. She found it extremely difficult to get back out of it! We love gardens that show a touch of humour!
I shall begin a look at my Garden Journal 2021 for December by reflecting on the week in which November ended and December got started. Storm Arwen had left us with work to do!
On the first page I noted, “December began as we cleared up Storm Arwen’s mess and destruction.”
This first page features photos of some of the tasks we undertook in the early part of the month.
A group of six photos showed some of the damage caused by Storm Arwen. Beneath them I noted that, “Grasses, fences and half of our Liquidamber tree have been broken by Storm Arwen.”
I also included two photos showing a couple of usual seasonal work, planting a new climbing rose to replace Rosa ‘Falstaff’ and Ian our gardener pruning the blackberry plant. I wrote, “Normal garden tasks happen alongside the necessary repair work after sorting Arwen’s damage.”
On the opposite page I featured some of our clematis in their winter coats and I wrote, “On clear mornings the low winter light highlights seed heads of some of our large selection of clematis growing throughout our garden.’
I also noted that, “Evergreen winter flowering clematis still show leaves and buds ready for flowering in January and February.”
I followed on with two pages about grasses, firstly deciduous and secondly evergreens. I wrote, “The most effective light-catching plants in our garden are the many grasses we grow particularly the deciduous ones, which all add new layers of soft colours to the borders.”
And so onto the next page where we change to evergreen grasses especially the carex family.
Ten of my photos of such grasses featured on the page.
Three photos followed on illustrating that not all evergreen grasses are members of the carex family.
Stipa tenuissima, Uncinia rubra and Nasella.
From grasses I looked back at roses, one particular rose called Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’, a beautifully simple, single flowered shrub. I wrote, “We have Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’ growing alongside our drive so we can appreciate the softness of its winter petal colours and the beauty of its long pink stamens.” Below I added a water colour painting of the buds at different stages.
On the opposite page I featured more gentle colours of our winter garden, this time the dried flowering stems of a couple of herbaceous perennials. I wrote, “In that same border I found the gentle, soft tones of biscuit, ginger, brown with hints of green, forming equally beautiful dried flower stems of perennials.”
Below I featured a couple of sketches using Japanese Brush Pens, featuring a Libertia and Japanese anemone.
For the final page of my December report for 2021 I featured another Japanese Brush Pen drawing, this time a more colourful sketch of the winter foliage and berries of one of our many Hypericum inodorum shrubs.
So that is it for my 2021 Garden Journal. We shall re-visit in 2022!
I decided that the best way to wish everyone a Happy Christmas is to share some photos of our Avocet garden, and I chose to photograph a selection of grasses, flowers and berries three of the most important features of our garden.
The town of Farnham is known as a Craft Town and is very active in the creative arts. The town is also very active in relation to conservation and climate change. There is so much going on! My brother Graham is involved in many ways in both these spheres.
When staying for a short break with him and his wife, Vicky, we had the honour of attending the unveiling of a special piece of community based craftwork.
Any resident of the town could collect an unfired brick to personalise by carving, adding texture or patterns or anything that takes their fancy.
These were then returned and fired ready to be added to a beautifully curvaceous wall as a piece of public art.
Nearby were other signs of the creativity of Farnham people, a beautiful garden bench in the park area where the wall is situated and even the council trucks looked smart.
For our second day of our days away in Farnham, Graham and Vicky took us for a wander through the town itself making our way to “Space 2 Grow” a mental health and well-being charity all in one acre of garden.
This space had a wonderful calm atmosphere where so many different community groups could work involving groups for all ages. Their work was recognised by RHS Britain in Bloom who gave them a Level 5 Outstanding Award. We walked slowly around discovering interesting craft pieces and productive spaces.
One community group had been busy getting creative and thoughtful with bicycle wheels of all sizes. Many were to be found hanging from trees catching the light.
We found some communal sheds all with their own set purpose with one called “Men in Sheds”.
The “Bodger’s Shelter” …………..
We particularly enjoyed a pair of island beds designed with pollinators and predators in mind.
A wildlife pond was to be found at the entrance to the productive area and the forest school. The pond had sadly been damaged by a severe flash flood within the last week or so.
As we left the community garden we found even more decorated bicycle wheels.
We really enjoyed our visit which was sadly on a day when no groups were using the site and rain was in the air. As we left the garden we passed this fascinating old vicarage.
I recently published my post about our break in Farnham and then my brother pointed out that it was part four but he hadn’t seen the first three. I had missed publishing them in fact so I am going to do so this week so here retrospectively is part one.
England has seen a growth in the production of cut flowers, after a reliance for decades on imports from South Africa and Holland. Forward thinking individuals and often couples have taken the plunge and tried to change this bad habit of imported flowers being sold above home grown. Some buy up or rent old walled gardens or plant nurseries. We now have some superb examples in several counties.
When enjoying a few days away staying with Graham and Vicky, my brother and sister-in-law in the beautiful town of Farnham in Surrey, we were treated to a visit to West End Flower Farm. It was not the best time to visit any such establishment but there was plenty to discover, including of course the obligatory coffee shop!
We first had to collect coffees which we drank in a lovely teepee in one of the flower fields, where Graham was to meet up with group of like-minded residents of Farnham. Here we met ‘Ben’ the plastic dog that Graham had created as part of a campaign concerned with plastic waste, which all fits within Farnham being a ‘Craft Town’.
Around the cafe area were so many little places of interest, cameos that drew the eye ………..
The yurt and ‘Ben the Plastic Dog’!
Now we will look at the flower farm productive areas where signs of summer grown cut flowers survive especially late flowerers like dahlias.
As we made to leave the flower garden one of the gardeners informed us that they were currently preparing the ground ready for autumn sowing of hardy annuals in the open ground. what an interesting place West End flower Farm turned out to be!
This is the forth part of my “Short Break in Farnham” series of posts and I thought it would be good to take you on a tour of Graham and Vicky’s (our brother and his wife) garden. It is a garden full of quality plants, original ideas and cameos to catch the eye. It is a long narrow garden with fences and hedges that create the feeling of enclosure making it into a sort of walled garden.
Interesting plants grow happily among objects of interest, both found and created. It’s the combination of juxtaposition and serendipity that intrigues.
I hope you enjoy my gallery!
So now we have visited half of this very quirky cottage garden which I hope you have found both interesting and enjoyable. A second part will follow soon.
So here we are with a visit to my garden journal, this time to look at the pages for November.
I began by writing, “November saw autumn coming in slowly giving us no colourful days but just patches of colour where odd trees and shrubs brighten up. The best shrub for autumn colour must be the hamamelis family, the Witch Hazels. The leaves below are from H. ‘Jelena’ and H. ‘Diane’.
Overleaf we moved on to explore the colourful autumn foliage of our miniature Gingko biloba called ‘Troll’. I dried and pressed a selection that had fallen onto the compost surface of their pot. I wrote, “Gingko bilobas are wonderful trees with a long history, having been around for 290 million years. It is a unique conifer which is broad-leaved and deciduous, and the only member of the Gingkoales family. These leaves are from our miniature Gingko biloba ‘Troll’ fully grown at 2ft tall.”
On the opposite page I showed two tissue paper collages of leaves of Witch Hazels. I wrote, “In a very odd, almost colourless autumn, the foliage that really shows up in our garden is that of the Witch Hazels, the hamamelis both ‘Jelena’ and ‘Diane’. I played around with tissue paper, torn and shredded to create collages. Some leaves remain predominantly orange with deep red blotches and lines, their veins a deep chocolate brown. Others retain areas of green.”
The next double page spread showed us sorting tender plants to go in the greenhouses and opposite I looked at hesperanthas. On the first page I wrote, “November flowers all seem so special, everyone of them either the remnants of late summer blooms or more seasonal ones. Frosts suddenly arrived on the second day of the month, so we were pleased to have given our delicate plants some protection. They are all safe. We had to re-pot some.We made our temporary greenhouse too.”
Opposite I continued, “Hesperanthus flowers provide flowers of shades of pink ranging from pure white to the deepest pink almost red”
Over onto the next pair of pages I shared photos of fatsia and late flowering roses. On the left hand page I wrote, “The palmate leaves of our two different fatsias look good all year round being a deep glossy green with new leaves unfurling beautifully, but come Nvember their unusually structured flower clusters begin to burst into life. They attract late-flying pollinators.”
When writing about our unusual variety called ‘Greenfingers’ I wrote, “The more palmate leaved fatsia called ‘Greenfingers’ has not flowered for us yet.”
On the right hand side I shared photos of our colourful late-flowering roses, and wrote, “Our rose bushes, climbers and ramblings never fail to delight us with bouts of late flowering right through this month. Hips join in to give added interest and colour, as well as feasts for our birds of the thrush family.”
On the final page for November I wrote, “Lots of garden tasks needed to be undertaken towards the end of November. We continued to pick apples and Jude planted up pots for winter interest to replace my aeoniums now snug in the greenhouse.”