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garden buildings garden design garden photography gardening gardens hardy perennials National Garden Scheme NGS ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture Shropshire town gardens Yellow Book Gardens

Westgate Villa, a Japanese garden in Shropshire

Jude and I have a soft spot for gardens with a Japanese feel to them, and we are lucky to have an excellent example in our home county of Shropshire and just a short drive away. We had heard of the garden at Westgate in Bridgnorth and always intended to pay a visit but circumstances had not allowed us to. But eventually we managed to make their National Garden Scheme open day in April.

It was well worth the wait! We loved it, the planting, the structure and its special atmosphere. The front garden however was of a very different feel altogether being a formal garden designed to match the age and style of the house. Foliage was the star there!

On the flight of steps nearby foliage again featured but this time succulents were the stars.

   

Moving around the house looking in small borders and corners we found interesting plants and objects that gave clues to the beauty of the Japanese section we were making our way towards. This area prepared us so well for the treat that lay ahead of us.

      

We stepped through an archway into a different world with an atmosphere of such peace that it made us feel so calm. The Japanese garden at Westgate was one of the best examples we have ever seen in an English garden. Come with us on a journey through such a special place. To view the gallery click on the first photo and navigate using the arrows.

 

 

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flowering bulbs garden design garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public ornamental trees and shrubs spring bulbs trees Winter Gardening winter gardens woodland woodlands

A Garden in Winter – RHS Rosemoor – Part 2

We continued our tour of the RHS Rosemoor Garden as we passed under the underpass which led us to the original gardens now called Lady Anne’s Garden. As we left the tunnel and regained daylight, albeit rather dull, we heard the sound of water falling. A narrow ribbon of white water was falling down a huge rock face created from large stones. A white stemmed birch close to it matched it perfectly. Bamboos enjoyed the damp atmosphere here and appeared very much at home.

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The damp atmosphere also meant that any trees growing here were home to algae and mosses giving their trunks and stems unusual textures and colours.

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As we followed gravel paths towards Lady Anne’s house we were interested to see many areas of new planting, with young plants growing in much improved soil.

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Within these new areas of planting we were attracted to a small shrub with tiny delicate flowers. We didn’t recognise it but we were lucky as it had a label to help us. It was a Correa “Ivory Bells”. We grow a Correa at our garden in Shropshire but we never get them to flower. After seeing these little beauties we certainly wished we could!

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The path we were following took us slowly uphill where we followed a path half way up the slope on the edge of a the garden within the woodland. The damp atmosphere here with its dappled shade gave a home to some special plants. This rich blue flowered Primula was so delicate that its stems looked too fragile to hold up the flowers. We didn’t recognise it but once again there was a label to come to our rescue – it informed us that its name was Primula “John Fielding”.

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The habitat here encouraged mosses and ferns to grow profusely. Some plants even manage to get a foothold on a flight of stone steps.

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Perewinkles or Vincas are very common plants and often too invasive for smaller gardens, but this one attracted us and encouraged us to take a closer look at its delicate white flowers.

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Small flowering bulbs brughtened up the dull semi-shade along the woodland edge.

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We found another plant that presented another mystery. We recognised the beautiful mahogany coloured buds of this Salix so looked close up and studied its label when we discovered it to be Salix fargessii. A few steps further another young shrub looked very similar but close up we noticed subtle differences. This we discovered, once again by reading the label, was Salix moupinensis, a willow we had never heard of. We must now do some research to see which is most worthwhile to add to our garden. A good gardener never stops learning!

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I shall finish with a lovely winter shrub, Sarcoccoca which displays its black berries and its white flowers at the same time and in addition it has a rich deep scent.

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So RHS Rosemoor Garden in winter proved itself to be as good as at any other season, the sign of a very good garden. We discovered new plants and enjoyed the scents and sights of so many good plantings. The Winter Garden and the Foliage Garden were the stars of the show just as we expected. As I often say after visiting a garden, we will be back!

 

 

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conservation fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Odd Harvests

In the last few weeks of last year we harvested two plants that we have rarely harvested before but for very different reasons.

The first crop came from the greenhouse where the plants had been growing away all summer in growing bags after being sown in the propagator early in the spring. We were given the seeds and having never tried them before we decided to give them a go. Tomatillos – the name sounding somewhat like tomatoes and the plants and fruit ending up looking somewhat like cape gooseberries.

Here is the crop, now we had to decide what to do with them. Chutney seemed to be the only answer, but I decided to turn to Google for ideas and perhaps if we were lucky, recipes.

And here they are closer up, thin pale green papery sheaths around fruit like green tomatoes. They didn’t look ready to harvest but we had heard somewhere that this is the stage to pick them and as the plants were suffering as temperatures cooled down, we went ahead and plucked them from the stems.

O.K. Back from a Googling session and I now knew that the botanic name for tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica, which makes it a relative of the Cape Gooseberry and a member of the Nightshade family. It originates from South America. In Mexico it is a staple food of the diet and is often used to make green sauces. Here they are called “Tomate Verde” and are most appreciated for their green colouring and sharp taste.

I found recipes for soups, stews, salsas and yes, chutney.

The second “odd” crop is bamboo, odd because it doesn’t often seem to be grown in the uk for anything but decorative reasons and because it is the first time we have seriously harvested our bamboo to use as garden canes. We grow three different bamboos for their different stem colours and originally planted them for their ornamental value, tall and graceful, moving gently adding sound to quiet days.

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Growing your own garden canes is a good way of helping the environment. Importing them from China seems a terrible waste of resources.

It was mostly the black stemmed variety that was ready this year. Their stems are tough so I struggled with secateurs before turning to a pair of nicely sharpened loppers and getting the job done. The range of colours is very wide as the photos below shows.

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Similarly we harvest our prunings, utilising the large shrubby ones for beanpoles and the scrubbier smaller ones for beansticks. We started to harvest these last week and will continue as we sort out the garden in readiness for the coming growing season.

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Peas and beans seem to like to twine themselves around these rougher sticks and poles in preference to the bamboos available in garden centres. And of course we must remember they are self-sustaining, so there is no cost to the environment.