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The Gardens at Newport House

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As promised we return to Newport House to concentrate more on the gardens. The pictures above show the enclosed courtyard gardens behind the cafe building. From there we moved on towards the gardens in front of the house.

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The view across open expanses of lawn was broken by the sight of this magnificent Sweet Chestnut which was made all the more magnificent by tree house lovingly crafted to embrace the trunks and main boughs.

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Formal Italian styled gardens with frameworks of low box hedging were cut into the lawns but inside these box structures was soft herbaceous plantings.

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Further pieces of sculpture were positioned within these plantings and on the lawn itself.

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A particular favourite piece of all four of us was positioned to frame the lake and woodlands beyond.

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From the lower branches of trees hung other pieces such as these steel spheres.

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Mother Nature herself was not to be outdone, so she cut these gently curving lines into an old stump of a felled tree. Around the other side of the stump we found that it had been carved into a giant story telling chair with other small wooden seats scattered in front of it.

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We were delighted to stumble across these pieces of Land Art created using pieces of natural materials found within the garden as part of a recent workshop.

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A small arboretum featured some interesting young trees which looked particularly good in their early autumn foliage colours. The tree below on the right was a stunning Crataegus and one that none of us recognised and the following two pics show the leaves and haws closer up. I have since found out it is Crataegus orientalis.

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This tree in the following two pictures was another Crataegus  – prunifolia I think. After that the two photos following are of a tree with a neat habit, but again it was one we did not recognise. I thought it could possibly have been a Nyssa sylvatica but I shall have to check it out.

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This lovely curved bed of coloured stemmed dogwoods acted as a boundary to the arboretum. The Cornus were displaying their rich red colours of autumn.

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The next tree featured in the photos below is probably the best variety of Ash you can get, Fraxinus angustifolia “Raywood”, the Claret Ash.

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Leaving the arboretum, after enjoying studying the selection of interesting trees, we wandered off towards the walled garden, passing a ditch crossed by a bridge formed from the roots of the native Ash alongside.

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The walled garden itself was fascinating with unusual features to enjoy. The first photo below shows a peach canopy. The gardener’s cottage had been beautifully restored as had the greenhouses.

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The pergolas which bridged the central paths was made of iron and were beautifully decorated.

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So, although we came to Newport House to see the outdoor sculpture we found much to interest us in the gardens themselves.

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Trench Composting

Trench composting is an underused way to improve your soil texture and add fertility to your soil. And it has the added bonus of getting rid of those tough old stems of spent sunflowers, sweetcorn and brassicas. We spent a day trench composting the quarter of our allotment in which we shall be growing our roots next year. Many books tell us not to add manure or humus to the patch where you are planning to grow your root crops but we have found by experience that if the trenching is carried out in early autumn it works just fine. As the depth of soil on our plot is less than a border fork deep we need to keep adding to it in an attempt to build up some depth.

The job gets started as Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, takes out a 2 foot wide trench down to the hard layer of boulder clay. I then follow on with the rotovator breaking up this hard packed layer of clay and large pebbles. It makes the rotovator work hard and it jumps and lurches around at the bottom of the trench. By doing this we hope to gain depth and let worms and other creatures of the soil work in the humus we will be adding. While the rotovator turns up the stones and pebbles we collect them up to use as a stonepile, a beetle shelter. The beetles are useful predators who will help in our pest control.

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Green waste from the spent crops on the plot are then placed all along the bottom of the trench, with the tougher material needing chopping with a sharp stainless steel spade. Even the toughest of green waste such as brassica stalks, sunflower stems and sweetcorn stalks will break down in the depths of the trench. We also add shredded paper (only non-glossy), torn card board and lawn mowings.

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To further improve soil texture and add more nutrient value we  mix in a barrow load of quality farmyard manure.We find this encourages the soil critters to get going.

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To finish Jude replaces the soil over the top of the material in the trench and as a final touch we add a thick mulch of farmyard manure.

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We then hand the trench with its added ingredients over to the creatures of the soil. When we trench again in a few years time all that material will have totally broken down.

We carry on by digging out another trench alongside the first and keep moving over the area until it has all been trenched. We have our plot divided into four sections to allow for crop rotation so we trench one or two sections each year. This method of composting is a very efficient way of recycling green waste including the tough materials often thrown in refuse bins. Plants grown in the richly textured and nutrient rich soil will grow strongly and therefore be healthier so will be better able to cope with attacks from pests and diseases.

Cheshire climbing plants fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening grow your own hardy perennials Hardy Plant Society HPS kitchen gardens Land Art ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture roses village gardens

A garden to make you smile.

On a blustery, heavily overcast day last weekend we visited two gardens on a day out with our friends from the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society. Bumping down a narrow south Cheshire lane that twisted and turned a little too much for comfort, found us at “The Rowans”, a one acre garden loosely based on an Italianate theme. The elements reminiscent of the Italian styled gardens appeared in the structured garden rooms and the use of ornament especially sculpture, but I felt the theme of happiness was much more in evidence.

There were signs scattered throughout the garden to inform and delight.

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Humour was potently presented in ornament and statuary. Animals dominated!

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But not all the entertaining was performed by animals – there were lots of varied bits and pieces to find amongst the plantings and hanging from the branches of trees.

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The planting was not of rare or desirable plants but quite ordinary plants well grown and well put together.

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We particularly liked the dense planting in an old wheelbarrow and a miniature pool in a blue glazed pot. Oh, and of course we enjoyed seeing how someone else grows their veggies!

We enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea or two before leaving and left with a promise of some seeds of two plants we liked. The kindness of gardeners shows no bounds.

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We then took off back down the bumpy lanes to find our afternoon treat, a woodland garden that is the province of two of our Hardy Plant Society friends. So in my next posting you should find us there enjoying a tasty Hardy Plant Society lunch.

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Goldstone Hall – a hotel garden

Not many hotels open their gardens to the public but Goldstone Hall near Market Drayton north of Shrewsbury is an exception to the rule. When we visited the garden on one of its National Garden Scheme open days we were surprised by the sheer volume of the productive garden which sat neatly alongside the beautiful herbaceous borders and rose gardens.

We were here with our Hardy Planters hats on again considering the garden for a possible HPS Shropshire branch day out.

The double herbaceous borders are tiered and this gives them greater depth, gaining a dimension of height. The soil was so well looked after with masses of organic matter in evidence that every plant glowed with health. The wildlife liked it too!

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The richness of the soil has made the white epilobium grow huge and collapse under its own weight.

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The rose garden was unusual in that the planting was restricted to just three roses Rhapsody in Blue, Iceberg, Tickled Pink and Silver Wedding. This gave it a very romantic look and I imagine the look was chosen to reflect one of the hotel’s specialities, as a wedding venue.

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There were some wonderful trees in the grounds and many had enticing seats in their shadow.

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Long herb walks surrounded two sides of the huge veg and fruit garden. The scents emanating from these herbs was intense in the humidity, especially the helicrysum and thymes. We enjoyed rubbing the leaves of the many varieties of mints.

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The productive garden was divided up into several well-protected sections.

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So, we came away thinking we may have found another suitable venue for a HPS garden visit.

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Village gardeners open their gardens for their church

Recently some of the parishioners in the village of Chirbury in south Shropshire opened their gardens in support of the Historic Churches Trust.

A few of the gardens were on the outskirts of the village so we enjoyed views of the beautiful countryside as we went searching for them with our little map.

These were not like the usual gardens we visit as they were not gardens tended by plantsmen. They were interesting because of their little quirky details as well as some good plant combinations. Come for a wander around Chirbury with us on a warm but blustery day.

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Jessamine Cottage – a country garden

Jessamine is a garden with atmosphere. Peaceful. Gentle. Enticing.

The beautiful sign with the name carved into a stunning block of slate sets the scene and it fits beautifully into the Shropshire countryside. It is another wonderful place to visit within a half hour drive of our home.

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The owners greeted us upon arrival and we had tea and Bakewell tart sat on the balcony of the cabin that serves as teashop and ticket office. This is a “his and hers garden” nurtured by just the owners. The husband half of the team took a break alongside us on the balcony and relished a huge mug of coffee. He looked as if he deserves it and he told us that he was in the middle of sorting an overgrown bed alongside the pool. It was a hot day and he needed his break.

The view from the tea balcony is of wildflower meadows carpeting the ground beneath an avenue of lime. Beyond these limes colourful borders glow with rich yellows. The meadows were alive with bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which is a delight and a relief at the same time as this year so far has been so difficult for these beautiful and essential creatures. They are our greatest garden allies and we just could not garden without their help as pollinators, pest controllers and the providers of joy for us.

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Suitably refreshed and genned up on the history of the garden we headed for the hot coloured border which again was full of blooms which support insect life. It seems we home in on the warmth of these flowers just as our gardening allies do.

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The meadow moved gently in the breeze and the subtle rustling drew us closer to see what was in flower. Some colour was provided by the grasses themselves especially the delicate yellow seedheads  seen in the photo below.

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We were particularly taken by this simple white rose with its simplicity of flower and pure rose scent. Just the scent a rose should have!

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A hedgerow bordered the meadow and avenue garden and hid the rest of the garden from our view but carefully cut gaps in the hedge enticed us through where we were to discover a rose garden and a small arboretum. Mrs Greenbench was particularly taken with the roses climbing up poles, so we are considering the idea as a useful addition to our garden at “Avocet”.

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There were a lot of well positioned seats dotted around the garden in shade and in the open – a seat for every occasion!

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Beyond the arboretum and at the furthest and lowest part of the garden was a shady garden and close by a pool, both providing respite on this warmest of days.

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But there was still more to come as back beyond the teashop was a very productive fruit and veg garden and to get to it we passed a bed of marjorams in all shades of purple from almost white to deep purple. But they were magnets for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Sweet Peas added a further dimension, scent and they graced the cross over point of the  grass paths that divided the productive garden into sections.

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We ended our warm afternoon visit to this exquisite garden nestled at the bottom of Wenlock Edge back in the tea shop where we considered if Jessamine Cottage would make a suitable visit for the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society. Jude and I have been given the task of organising the visits and speakers for this organisation for the next three years so we are beginning to look at gardens we visit with a more critical eye.

Was Jessamine Cottage a possibility? Yes, most definitely. It is on the list!

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Allotment Open Day 2013

Sunday July 14th was the day we opened our allotment community gardens for everyone to come and have a look at what we get up to, and to help raise money for charities under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. We are proud to be part of this great scheme and we love seeing our lotties featured in their famous Yellow Book.

Visitors were greeted by committee members Di and Jill, who took the entry fees and gave out tickets, trail sheets, children’s quiz sheets and competition voting forms (more about that later).

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The allotmenteers had been busy the week prior to our opening mowing the grass, edging and weeding the communal borders and ensuring their own plots were looking at their best. And it did look good! As chairman I felt proud of what was achieved that week.

Bunting was hung from sheds and a pair of galvanised watering cans planted up with diascias and blue fescue grasses  decorated the entrance to the central grass pathway. We made sure all information signs were clear and visible.

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Some members even provided extra little sitting areas alongside their plots with shade over comfy seats. Phil and Doreen created an outdoor lounge. It looked brilliant and drew many admirers and many visitors stopped off for a rest and a chat.

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A popular part of our day is the tea shop which we create around our communal huts enhanced with gazebos and an assortment of tables and chairs all brought in for the day by lottie members. Sherlie, an allotmenteer and florist, added beautiful floral decorations to the centre of each table. Members bake all week prior to the event and the array of cakes is stunning and oh so tempting.

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A feature of our open days is the involvement of our visitors in selecting the winners of our annual site competitions. Each year we hold a scarecrow competition and the theme this year was occupations and as always our members’ imaginations ran wild. We were treated to the sight of a scarecrow undertaker, a pilot, a school crossing lady, a farm labourer, a lumberjack, a nurse, a doctor a tractor driver

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I had the rather over-ambitious idea that I could make a “Biggles the Pilot” scarecrow, which was quite a task and needed the help of gardening mate Pete to put it up on top of our central arbor. Pete is a good foot taller than me!

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We persuaded one of our newer members to open her shed for all to see as it has such a beautiful interior. We call it the “Chic Shed”. It is painted all white inside with a storage bench with padded seat on top, a lovely dresser and even colouring books, pencils and crayons etc for her granddaughter.

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Another competition this year was a new one and again we asked our visitors to choose the winners. It was for land art/sculpture and it proved to be very popular with lots of pieces for our guests to consider.

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Jude the Undergardener won this competition with her woven twisted willow.

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For the children on our site we held a competition where we asked them to plant up an item of footwear, and we saw colourful flowers grown in slippers, boots and wellies. In the pictures below they are shown lined up in front of the two mini-allotments grown for display in the town square later.

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As well as the tea shop we had a plants sale table where Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, sold plants she had raised from seeds and cuttings, both herbaceous perennials, herbs and vegetables. We had a display from Linton, one of Shropshire’s Master Composters who answered visitors’ queries concerning their composting.

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So just how successful was the day? We had lots of visitors many of whom stayed all day and obviously enjoyed their walk around, helping us choose our competition winners and indulging in the offerings of the tea shop and the plant stall. We raised £1065 to send in to the National Garden Scheme, a figure of which we are most proud.

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A lottie visit.

It seems a long while since I featured our allotment plot in Greenbenchramblings and it was from the old green bench on the lottie that my blog was launched, so when I was nominated for a pair of blogging awards I thought it would be a good time to say thank you by taking  you for a quick look around our plot.

Firstly thanks to aristonorganic for the 2Awards in 1! I am not a competitive person but I do feel privileged to know that someone appreciates my blog. It brings a smile to my face.

The awards are “Shine On” and “Very Inspiring Blogger Award”.

By accepting them I promise to tell you 7 things about myself and pass on the nomination to other bloggers I enjoy reading.

7 Things About Me

1 I am registered “Bionic”.

2 I want to know what is going on in our garden at night so have just got a live moth trap.

3 I keep a flock of hens at the bottom of my garden and talk to them regularly. I think they talk back!

4 I enjoy our monthly trip to jazz club.

5 I garden with wildlife in mind.

6 I am chairman of our allotment community.

7 I enjoy watching 20/20 cricket.

Bloggers who I wish to nominate are


The Scottish Country Garden


Penny’s Garden


Catherine Howard’s Garden


So let us go for a wander around our lottie plot. We welcome you through an archway where a “meeter-greeter” awaits your arrival.

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Fruit grown as cordons line our paths and here red currants, almost ready to pick, are netted against the attentions of the local blackbird population. We grow flowers with our fruit to bring in beneficial insects which act as pest controllers and pollinators.

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Our Runner Beans are in flower providing bright splashes of red whilst below them French Beans give us purples and mauves to enjoy.

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We grow Sweetcorn and Courgette together as they are good companions. The large leaves of the Courgettes provide ground cover holding moisture in the soil and creating a cool root run for the corn. Of course it saves space too!

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We welcome wildlife onto our plot to benefit us as gardeners and for us to enjoy watching and listening to. Our little pool is alongside our seats. We have little insect hotels dotted around to help us keep our crops healthy and free of pests.

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We have a couple of wildflower strips to help our Brassica crops and Blackcurrants.

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A barrier of fleece keeps Carrot rows free from the attentions of Carrot Rootfly and the flowers of Heartsease bring in beneficial insects. Growing members of the Allium family close by also helps fool them by emitting strong scents to mask the sweet aroma of Carrots.

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You may remember me telling you about making our green roof atop our shed in a post a few months ago and as you can see it is slowly getting established. On the communal spaces near our plot we have at last got the willow dome complete. It has grown enough to train growth over to form a full roof. It is lovely and quiet, cool and shaded in there and it is a popular place for children to sit and read or to look through the woven window and watch the birds on the feeders. We hold our open day at the allotments this weekend, when we open for charity, under the auspices of the NGS, so we can proudly call ourselves a “Yellow Book Garden”.

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Find Peace and Tranquility in a Walled Garden

Geoff, a friend and gardener, recommended Sugnall Walled Garden as a special place to visit. We love walled gardens and always have done for their special unique atmosphere. Peaceful. Tranquil. Enclosed. Calm. Secret.

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Sugnall is not pristine, and it is better off not being so. We liked its “shabby chic” effect. It is a mix of productive and decorative borders with lots of paths to follow inviting exploration. But first we had to check out the tea shop! A little plant as a table centre set the scene for our walled garden visit.

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Follow us around the gravel paths of this wonderful walled garden.

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There were some very efficient pest controllers working within these walls. Two pairs of ducks were champion slug and  snail eaters. Nesting swallows, which appeared and disappeared through a convenient hole in the gable end of the potting shed were seen to be catching insects while in flight to feed to their hungry youngsters.

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Now Geoff also mentioned a nature reserve just a stroll up the lane which hosts bluebells! That just had to be our next port of call.