My Garden Journal 2022 August

We are back having a look at my Garden Journal 2022 to see what has been occurring in our garden in the month of August, a month of heatwaves and drought this year making gardening challenging.

I wrote,“August is the traditional month to take a holiday and schools have broken up for their summer breaks. The NGS Yellow Book of gardens open for charities also seems to be having a quiet month.

But for us there is plenty to enjoy in the garden and jobs to be done. Our work with the NGS runs down and this month sees the last group visit to our garden, a local WI Group.”

Below are a few photos of the visitors discovering what our garden has to offer.

Over onto the second page of the August entries I shared my sketches of our everlasting sweet pea after writing, “Annual sweet peas flower strongly in the summer giving all sorts of colours and sweet scent. The perennial relatives, Lathyrus latifolius, comes in far fewer colours, just pinks, and sadly no scent.”

I chose Japanese Brush Pens to sketch a spray of one of our plants.

I share more sketches over the following three pages, beginning with pencil and crayons for the dwarf chestnut. I noted that, “Now that tree flowers have finished they have started to form nuts or fruit. our dwarf horse chestnut tree has set its ‘conkers’. Its leaves look typical of chestnuts with large 5-fingered hands, just like the one we enjoy in the UK. Our UK horse chestnuts with either white or red/pink flowers are not English at all but arrived in the 1600s having been collected in the Balkan Peninsula. English or not they are one of my favourite trees.”

Our dwarf chestnut is called, Aesculus mutabilis induta.

Two further sketches of tree foliage and fruit follow on, the first being one of our birches. I noted that, “We have several forms of Betula albosinensis around the garden and these are showing signs of developing both male and female flowers. Male flowers will become catkins as the seasons move on.”

The sketch using pencil and Derwent Intense pencil crayons, illustrate the foliage and flowers of Betula albosinensis ‘Chinese Ruby’.

The next page featured a further small tree and its flowers and fruit where I wrote, “Our ‘borrowed landscape’ has tall densely grown hedges made up largely of Hawthorn, often called ‘May Blossom’ due to its frothy white blossom in May. Sadly, its flowers give off the aroma of cat urine!.

We grow a different hawthorn in our garden, Crataegus imperialis ‘Splendens’, which has the white flowers followed by red berries in common with our native but very different simple foliage. “

Turning the page once again I feature another of our trees but this time I look at its bark in particular. I wrote that, “Prunus serrula must be one of the best trees for gardens of all sizes. Our’s grows in the line of trees acting as a windbreak along one side of our back garden.

It is grown for its polished silky bark from which black-brown strands peel and eventually drop. It is then popular material for nesting birds.

The bark colour is a rich coppery-brown, rarely seen elsewhere.”

My next page for August features our wildlife about which I noted, “Wildlife continues to delight and entertain us as well as working for us as predators and pollinators.

When we work in the borders fledglings join us especially robins and blackbirds who see us as colleagues so have little fear.

Our garden is such a magnet for wildlife and it must seem so rich for them amidst such sterile farmland.

Overhead buzzards and red kites take advantage of thermals while nearer the ground swallows and hose martins gracefully hunt flying insects. Young birds join us as we garden confidently following us around. Too confident is the young robin who follows me so closely he nearly trips me over and he tries to land on my head or shoulders.

Our lovely daughter Jo bought me a wildlife camera and the robin managed to get in the picture. We now know that not just hedgehogs enjoy our feeding station – she is joined by wood mice with their big satellite dish ears.”

The final two pages for August are all about berries, one about sorbus and the other Hypericum inodorum, and I wrote of the sorbus, “Berries on trees, shrubs and some climbers are now fully formed and are turning from shades of green towards their richer autumn tints. Below is a gallery showing nine of our sorbus varieties. We shall visit them again later when that happens.”

I continued about the berries of hypericum where I wrote, “We grow lots of cultivars of Hypericum inodorum which give such a range of berry colours throughout the garden. Earlier in the year their golden yellow flowers with long yellow-orange stamens look so cheerful, each tipped in bright orange.”

That is it for my look into my Garden Journal for August, but we will look again in September.


A Short Break in the Derbyshire Dales

We never tire of visiting the Derbyshire Dales and in particular Dovedale so when we had the chance of a short break we booked a hotel close to Dovedale, the Izaak Walton Hotel. The views from the front of the hotel were stunning.

Luckily we were also close enough to Chatsworth to afford us the opportunity for a day visit. We wanted in particular to explore the areas that have recently been redeveloped. This post shows Paxton’s Rock Garden after its recent redevelopment by the great garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith.

The recent drought conditions were making some plants struggle but most of Tom’s newly planted areas were managing to survive. The first photo shows the strong light and shade near the entrance.

The rock structures were restructured and others added, giving dramatic effects.

In my next post I shall look at Tom’s other new planting at Chatsworth, called Arcadia.


The Tiniest NGS Garden we ever visited

A warm weekend in the middle of July saw us driving towards the Shropshire and Staffordshire border to visit an NGS open garden.

Little did we know how small the garden was. The driveway seemed quite long for an estate house but when we went into the back garden we were quite surprised. We could see the whole garden in one view, just mixed plant borders around a tiny lawn just big enough to accommodate a small bistro set at its centre.

Unperturbed I set about taking some photos to try to find points of interest. Here they are. Coffee and cake stretched our visit to half an hour!

We certainly appreciated the lilies and roses.

The lilies and roses are integrated into the mixed borders around the lawn. In amongst them are lots of perennials and occasional biennials.

A few interesting little touches gave the borders a lift.

So we did enjoy this little garden after all and it goes to show that give a patch a chance and there be more to it than expected.


The End of an Era

The last day of July this year was a strange day as our good friend Mark Zennick handed over the reins of his superb collection of Day Lilies to two ladies with a love of these wonderful plants.

The collection usually has between 250 and 300 different hemerocallis and we now have a fair collection at home probably about thirty or so, all bought from Mark at his New Hope Gardens nursery. They are so reliable and easy plants to look after.

To celebrate this last visit to see Mark with his collection I am sharing a gallery of some of our favourites there.

We hope that the new owners of this amazing collection give everyone a chance to visit New Hope and perhaps purchase a few more hemerocallis to grow in their gardens.


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!