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My Garden Journal 2019 – November

I started my entries for November by commenting. “November takes us deep into autumn, the red hot colours of foliage dominate but little gems of flower colour provide spots of colour that attracts us. This November the dominant colour has changed to yellow by the end of the first week.”

     

On the second page I continued, “We continue to be busy revamping areas of the garden and began the month reworking the Rill Garden. We cleared the borders and rill and pond of all herbaceous plants. After clearing out the rill it was replanted. In the Winter Garden to the right of the rill we added a new selection of shade-loving plants.”

 

The two Brunnera are B. ‘Alexander’s Great’ and B. ‘Little Jack’ and between them is the unusual shade lover, Azara splendens.

Two epimedium have been planted in the renewed border in the dappled shade, Epimedium ‘Spine Tingler’ and Epimedium ‘Mandarin star’

“We had a new  stable door fitted which we needed to protect with coats of yacht varnish.”

 

“Half pots we planted with dwarf bulbs and top-dressed with horticultural grit.”

“General views around the garden show just how much colour there still is to enhance the look of our patch.”

“Wildlife is full of surprises as we still see and hear so many bees feeding on our mahonias,  fatsias, and ivies. Whenever we garden buzzards and kites entertain us with their acrobatic displays in the sky overhead. Migrating starlings, and thrushes fill the sky with gossip.

“There are usually a dozen or more blackbirds in our patch who gorge themselves on the berries we grow for them, especially our cotoneasters, of which we grow several species and cultivars.”

“We continue to be busy whenever the weather allows, re-developing the two gravel circles in the front garden.”

So that is my garden journal for November 2019, and now we are waiting to see what December brings by way of ending the year.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – November

This is the penultimate post in this 12 part series about my 2018 Garden Journal so here is what was happening in our patch in November.

The first couple of pages dealt with the continued redevelopment of our old hot garden. We intended to give it a completely new look including bark access paths through it.

I wrote, “The re-development of the old hot garden continued to the end of the month and into the first days of November.” The first picture shows Jude the Undergardener holding up a huge root which Ian managed to dig out of the bed. He had to cut it off at both ends as it was extending beneath the lawn in one direction and out of our garden in another. It sat horizontally in the soil just above the boulder clay layer. We have no idea what plant it belonged to originally. One of our gardening mysteries! The second photo shows Ian our garden helper raking over the soil which he had meticulously double dug after adding lots of organic compost. This first addition of compost was dug in before a second batch was added as a thick mulch.

 

We then laid a path of bark over membrane before  getting ready to enjoy planting both our new and saved plants.

   

On the right hand page I looked at how Jude spent time early in the month cleaning pots, cleaning the glass in the greenhouse and putting up bubblewrap insulation. Once done this allowed us to move my succulent collection into the winter safety to be found under glass. “Jude washed and cleaned all our plastic pots so that we can reuse them. Our hot bench was cleaned up and bubblewrap put up in place as insulation. My succulent collection is now snug and secure in the sparkling clean greenhouse.”

  

Turning over to my next double page spread I looked at our fruit and the continuation of planting up the new border.

I wrote, “This is the latest in any year that we have harvested our crop of apples from our main trees and heritage cordons. We have used the beautiful book “The Apple Book” by Rosie Sanders to check the indentification of those apples whose labels have been lost. The apples are now ready for storage and we will hopefully enjoy them through to the end of March.”

Sometimes fruit can surprise us. “This year saw us grow the biggest pear we have ever seen. Jude has now put our apples in store and I have printed new labels for every apple tree. The next stage will be to enjoy eating our apples from storage and then next spring the blossom will return.”

My diary moved on to look at us planting up the newly created border which used to be our Hot Border, “After a few days away in London we returned refreshed and ready to continue with our new border. Planting grasses and herbaceous perennials topped off by bulb planting gave us several days work. Work we love doing!”

“We planted hundreds of  bulbs and dozens of grasses and perennials, all in the dry week given to us in mid-November.”

    

Next I moved on to consider one of our favourite tree families the Sorbus and on the opposite page I sought out flowers choosing to brighten us up in gloomy November.

“We love Sorbus in their many guises but particularly delight in the cut leaf berrying varieties. When we lost our mature tree of Quince vranja we decided to replace it with another Sorbus to add to our small collection. November is the key month for Sorbus as the fire like colours of foliage adds another layer of interest on top of their delicately cut foliage and their colourful berries. Below are some of our Sorbus trees.

Sorbus Joseph Rock                 Sorbus Autumn Spire

Sorbus Autumn Spire                                          Sorbus aucuparia

Sorbus Apricot Queen                                       Sorbus Apricot Queen

Sorbus vilmorinii                                                 Sorbus vilmorinii

On the page opposite the Sorbus I share the flowers that cheer up the November garden.

“The flowers of November are fewer than earlier in the year but this makes every one of them extra special.”

     

The colour orange features on the left hand side of my next double page spread, where I look at the variety of orange featuring in our November garden.

“Orange is the dominant foliage colour in our November garden, as shrubs, trees and grasses set fire to the borders.”

      

Opposite the oranges was a delicate watercolour pencil sketch of a hosta leaf, about which I wrote, “Take one leaf, a hosta leaf drying out and draining of colour.”

The final page for November considers colours once again. November was a very colourful month overall.

A set of eight photos display colours from our shrubs, and alongside I wrote, “Deep into the month there is still so much colour in the garden. Some foliage deepens to  rich ruby shades.”

The final photo is of the foliage of a special small tree, a viburnum with leaves which make you think it is a betula at first sight. “The leaves of Viburnum betulifolium change colour so slowly with subtle deepening from bronze to dark red.”

   

So there is just one monthly report left to write in my Garden Journal for 2018, December, which will be my next post in this series.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – January

Welcome to another year of my garden journal. This first post is all about a very cold January, but we decided to defy the weather and garden anyway. So let’s see what is going on at Avocet and share with you our jobs successfully achieved.

On my first double page spread I share the new materials I will be using this year and mention that my journal this year will be created in a larger, landscape format a Daler-Rowney art book.

I will keep my notes in a beautiful blue notebook, a gift from a friend and will write my monthly musings with another fine gift, this time from daughter, Jo and son-in-law, Rob, an Art Pen by Rotring. My notes will be written using a bamboo mechanical pencil and pen a gift from Jude’ sister, Pauline and brother-in-law Steve.

  

During 2018 I aim to try out different art media and techniques to help illustrate my written words, tubed watercolours, soft pastels and acrylics. I may also use two of these media together, and perhaps try some collage pieces. Over the page I shall get this 2018 journal started by looking at our many cultivars of Ivies.

“We always consider Ivy to be a stalwart of the Winter Garden, they cheer us up with their silver and gold variegations. They keep our wildlife happy too providing shelter, berries and their late flowers which appear when few plants are providing pollen.”

       

On the right hand page I painted foliage of some of the varieties we grow around our garden, using tubed watercolours.

Over the page I take a look at some of our wildlife and the habitats and shelters we provide for them. I wrote, “We hope that the different shelters we provide for our garden wildlife helps them through the Winter months. We look at each shelter hoping all is well but really we can’t tell at all.”

        

“Enjoying winter chores in January improves our mood, as it feels so good to be outside in touch with Mother Nature in her stripped-down bare glory. Enjoyment is enhanced by the sound, sight and movement of birds feeding on both the food we grow for them, as well as sunflower hearts and “no-mess” bird seed mix we put out in feeders. Birds arrive in flocks, flocks that give some security from predators, that give a chance to share intelligence concerning availability of food and to give extra heat and insulation during bleak winter weather.”

Turning over the page to the next double-page spread, on the left I looked at some fruits we grow and opposite a look at some scented plants.

“Rose hips and Ivy berries are two very different fruits of our Winter garden, the fruit of the rose is flagon shaped changing from green through to red whereas the Ivy transforms from green to black and brown. The rose hips are created from the death of blousy, double or single colourful flowers, the Ivy berries transform from the tiny, insignificant dull yellow flowers.”

 

“Scent becomes a powerful feature of the winter garden season in our garden. Small shrubs can fill the garden with their aroma and early bulbs add gentle scent at ground level. There are few pollinators around at this time of year so the flowers need strong scent to attract them.

The sweetest scent of all belongs to Daphne bhuloa “Jacqueline Postill”, but Sarcococca gives a good performance too. The Witch Hazels are far gentler and need you to put your nose close to appreciate their contribution.”

Hamamelis is the star of my next page and in particular Hamamelia intermedis “Jelena”

“Hamamelis, a winter flowering shrub we would never be without, with its brightly coloured and scented flowers in yellows, oranges and reds. Each flower is a burst of delicate ribbons bursting from a purple centre. We grow the deep orange flowered “Jelena” and the deep red flowered “Diane”, with Jelena  flowering early at the beginning of January and Diane coming into bloom weeks later.”

    

” There are still plenty of jobs to enjoy in the garden here in January. Nothing is more satisfying than wrapping up warm and defying the weather, going outside with a mug of warming coffee in gloved hands. It makes us true gardeners! We are helped by a Robin who accompanies us enjoying any grubs we unearth and his watery winter song is constantly in the background.

We prune climbing and rambling roses this month and tidy up Acers and Betulas. Perennials are left until early March but now we remove any that collapse or go slimy. As we do this we mulch the borders with a few inches of compost to slowly feed the soil and improve its texture. Wood ash from our wood-burning stove is scattered around all of our trees and shrubs. Group 3 clematis are pruned down to a foot just above strong, healthy buds which are already showing green colouring. The rich aromas from the winter-flowering shrubs lift our spirits and put smiles on our faces.”

I will be back soon reporting on my February ramblings from our garden.

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After the Storm – snow in December

Mid-December saw the sudden arrival of snow a rare occurrence in recent years. The last time we can remember having any appreciable snow fall in December was back in 2010 and 2011. Sadly I am still recovering from my surgery so really haven’t been able to get out there and enjoy the white stuff. However it did give me the chance to send Jude the Undergardener out with my trusty Nikon, so this post will feature all her photographs.

 

They are pretty good for someone who says she can’t use a camera! Methinks the lady objects too much! Jude the Undergardener has such a good eye for a picture!

Seedheads of perennials gain caps of snow and ice, and light finds places to make sparkle.

        

Twiggy skeletons of shrubs that had lost their leaves managed to catch balls of snow in their branches.

 

Evergreen trees and shrubs gather much more snow and ice around them like thick duvets.

 

Sculptures scattered around the garden change as they absorb the snow.

     

Surprise flowers add tiny patches of colour among the whiteness, roses throwing up surprises through to the end of the year. Similarly the colours of fruits and berries pop up from the snow like “jack-in-the-box”, but this will only last until our winter thrushes consume them.

       

Structures that blend into the background for the rest of the year come to the fore when winter arrives but even more so when snow covers the garden in white. These structures include trained fruit trees, trellises, evergreen climbers and pollarded trees.

    

Looking out of the garden into our borrowed landscape showed that the countryside too had put on a new coat. Looking into the garden there are very special moments in time to catch. This leaf may at any time fall to the ground in a gentle breeze.

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park October

So here we are back with number ten in this series featuring our wanderings and discoveries as we walk around the pathways of our local National Trust property, Attingham Park. As intimated in my September “Walk in the Park” posting, Jude the Undergardener pushed me around in a wheelchair following my leg surgery so the photographs will be from an unusual viewpoint. But we did manage the walk to the walled garden and returned via the One Mile Walk.

We were surprised that autumn had not advanced as much as we had anticipated, with many trees still carrying their full contingent of leaves. The walled garden was still very colourful.

Fungi was still in evidence and fallen leaves looked less brightly coloured.

 

There were frequent signs of the destructive forces of the wind and the more controlled hand of the gardeners working on tree surgery tasks.

 

The gateway into the walled garden welcomed us into a colourful magical place.

We were really surprised and delighted to find this beautifully presented hand painted poster celebrating the wonder of the apples in the Attingham Park orchard.

Humour is an essential of a good garden but so often missing. Just look at what a gardener here has created to make the visitor smile.

We can complete our journey now by looking at the photos I took as we returned along the riverside path back to the stable block.

Next visit here will be in November – I have no idea if I will still be wheelchair bound by then or not. Fingers crossed!

 

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in December

So here we are with the final installment in my series of posts where we report on our monthly visits to the wonderful gardens on the Staffordshire and Shropshire border, the Dorothy Clive Garden. We have really enjoyed our monthly visits and every time has been so different with different things to stimulate all the senses.

It has been a most enjoyable series of visits. Next year we will be looking at a very different place in our monthly visit series.

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As we have come to expect, the table decorations reflected the season, as we enjoyed a coffee and cake to launch our final visit for 2016. The borders up against the tea shop wall looked so bare now after them recently being full of the brightest colours possible provided by Nerines. But within a few yards of leaving the tea shop we discovered colour in flowers and buds giving promises of things to come.

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The new Winter Garden has now really come into its own and will continue to impress for a few months to come.

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This rolling bundle of box bushes tumble like acrobats along the hedgerow and by partnering up with two mature trees they frame the countryside beyond. Great fun! The next three group around the bottom of a tree like three young triplets cuddling up to their mother. In the third pic the box balls invite the visitor to pass between them to discover more garden beyond.

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Berries on trees and shrubs will hang on well into the winter depending how poor the weather becomes and how deeply winter sets in both here and on the continent. If weather as far away as Siberia becomes too inclement for the indigenous thrushes, starlings and blackcaps they migrate to our shores forming raiding parties upon arrival spreading countrywide consuming the fruits, seeds and berries in the countryside and increasingly our gardens. Some colours also last longer as birds are a selective lot when they have the choice, red first, oranges next then yellow and finally white and translucent.

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The colours, textures and patterns found on the bark of trees as well as the stems of shrubs take centre stage at this time of year and are lit up by any late year sunshine.

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We associate dried flowers with indoor arrangements in the winter but there are plenty of interesting versions to be found outside, especially if you can find some Hydrangeas like the many at the Dorothy Clive Gardens. The colours are those of faded tapestries.

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Although not great fans of coniferous trees we can appreciate them more in December when their heavy skeletal frameworks show well. Cones and the last of the flowers hang on their solid branches.

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We do however greatly appreciate the silhouettes of tall skeletal networks of deciduous trees.

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We were surprised by how many different fungi we spotted as we wandered as we would normally see them in the autumn. They provided bright tiny patches of colour on old logs placed as border edges.

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So there we have it, a year’s worth of visits to this lovely garden on the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire, one of our favourites and lucky for us within an hour’s drive so very easy to visit. I hope you have enjoyed the Dorothy Clive Gardens and my attempts at recording its seasonal beauty through the lens of my camera.

 

 

 

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in September

Back again ready to enjoy another visit to the Dorothy Clive Gardens and see what has been happening since our August visit. We expected early signs of Autumn and hoped for some colourful displays of Dahlias and Salvias. We decided to take a walk around the young mini-arboretum area this month instead of following the winding paths of the Dingle which has less interest at this time of the year.

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As we wandered over to the coffee shop we admired the views over the lower garden and the light which lit up the Pampus Grass behind the Viburnum caught my eye. This was a sign that we could be looking forward to interesting light for garden photography. fingers crossed!

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The border alongside the entrance to the coffee shop was at its most colourful so far this year, with Dahlias, Salvias, Nerine and Hesperantha sharing their colours.

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These brightly coloured plants set the scene for much of our September visit.

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I thought that a gallery of brightly cheerful flowering plants would be a good way of sharing the warm feeling prevailing over the Dorothy Clive Garden this September visit.

Please click on first pic and then navigate using arrows and of course enjoy!

I promised to share our enjoyment of wandering around the soft grass paths that led us around the little arboretum and closely studying the young trees. One surprise was the total lack of autumnal tints to the foliage.

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We were particularly taken by this unusual, in fact unknown to us, Hawthorn, Crataegus laciniata. We are now considering adding one to our garden.

The foliage presented a metallic appearance, almost pewter and the haws ranged from yellows through orange and to a dull brown – a most subtle but attractive combination.

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I feel that another gallery is the best way to share our amble through the arboretum.

 

Our next visit to these lovely gardens will be for our October report so we should be getting into signs if autumn by then.

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A return visit to the Prees Branch Line – a canal nature reserve.

My brother Graham and his wife Vicky came to stay with us in early September and we went for some good days out, one of which was to the Prees Branch Line, a disused canal branch that never actually opened but now is a rich nature reserve, the longest wildlife pond in Shropshire. We have visited several times in the past at different seasons and enjoyed every walk along the old abandoned canal, as there is always so much wildlife to observe, encounter and surprise.

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The site sign hints strongly at its main wildlife star, the Water Vole with a lovely illustration, but this is a star who is a real secretive creature and visitors have to be very lucky to spot one. It is more likely to find stems of reeds nibbled down in the vole’s distinctive style, or hear the plop as it enters the water again a very distinctive sound. We have heard them plop and seen signs of their nibblings at this reserve but never as yet spotted one.

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We began our walk enjoying a coffee as we put on our walking boots and luckily spotted some fruit trees close by, the native Shropshire Damson otherwise known as the Shropshire Prune. This tree is a feature of Shropshire’s hedgerows and we have enjoyed many while on walks. These however were the sweetest we have ever tasted, the nectar of the gods.

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On this latest visit we were lucky to spot and watch for a long while a rare bee, the Moss Carder Bee which was a first for us. It appeared right in front of me as I was taking a photograph of a plant so I had the rare chance of taking photographs so effortlessly. The bee really just posed for me. Graham and I watched it for a while and got very close, close enough to appreciate the beauty of its delicate colouring and the subtlety of its markings.

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Not so long after this a similar thing happened. Again I was taking a close up photograph of a plant when a hoverfly firstly came into view above the flower, then landed on it closely followed by a second identical one allowing me to get these shots. Twins! Identical twins!

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Berries were at various stages of ripeness from hard green to the darkest of ruby red.

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And wild flowers added spots of colour to the impressionist painting that is the bank of the canal.

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There was so much to see as we ambled along the narrow track along the towpath of the canal branch line that never opened to barges just to wildlife. Rather than narrow-boats plying the waters it is Swans, Mallards and Water Voles instead! We barely moved forward a few steps before something caught our eyes and stopped us in our tracks. I took so many photos that I thought I could invite you to join us as we followed our canal side path “there and back again”. Enjoy!

As usual just click on the first photo and then navigate with the arrows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Windy Ridge – another Yellow Book Garden

Windy Ridge is a fellow “Yellow Book Garden” in Shropshire and thus like us opens for charity under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. The gardener owners have been opening their garden for many years more than we have and we have visited several times before. We decided the time was right for a return visit to discover how it has developed over the years. The owners/gardeners are real plantspersons with plenty of knowledge to share and impart related to both plants, garden management and design.

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Windy Ridge is a garden of wandering paths, secret places, surprises around every corner but above all a garden full of plants to stop you in your tracks either because they are so well grown or very unusual.

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There are quality sculptural pieces among the plants for visitors to enjoy beginning with a huge carved tree trunk at the garden entrance.

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Secret pathways which lead the visitor onward and present choices are an important element of a quality garden.

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In our own “Avocet” garden we enjoy raising the canopy of our trees and shrubs to expose interesting bark and trunk shapes and to let in light to allow planting beneath. At Windy Ridge this is performed to perfection and helps give the garden its character. The first photo below shows how this technique even helps Laurel, my most disliked plant! To make it work the gardener must look closely at and listen to the plant before attempting the first cut. If the gardener does this he is more likely to react to the character of each tree and shrub and give it the shaping it deserves and wants.

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We enjoyed and admired the way that the formality of clipped box integrates so well into the softness of the planting.

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Berries enhance the September garden and add even more colour to that provided by flowers. Windy Ridge had colour aplenty!

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If I had to pick out one plant as my favourite at Windy Ridge it would have to be beautiful coloured and scented Clematis, C. odorata, a plant left to ramble unpruned to great effect. It is a Clematis we have been seeking for our own patch for many years so seeing and smelling it here has renewed our determination to add it to our huge clematis collection already climbing and clambering in our Avocet garden.

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Hydrangeas were well in bloom when we visited and the sheer variety of colours was to be admired.

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The highlight for many visitors is the large garden pond with wonderful marginal planting, a decked area with white ironwork seats and a narrow pathway behind it for the visitor to explore. We had a great afternoon returning to the garden at Windy Ridge and found it as inspiring as always. We were pleased to note that it had received an award in a national garden competition.

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in August

In late August we made one of our regular visits to the Dorothy Clive Gardens on the Shropshire and Staffordshire border to see how the garden was progressing. We chose a warm sunny day for our visit which gave strong contrasts and deep shadow for the trusty Nikon to deal with.

We expected to see lots of colour and much of it bright hot colours provided by flowering perennials as well as perhaps the first signs of late summer presenting a glimpse ahead to autumn, with seeds and berries beginning to show and some leaf colour on trees and shrubs.

There was most certainly no shortage of berries to discover shining brightly like jewels under a bright summer sun.

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A few very unusual berries in both colour and shape, were displayed by deciduous Euonymous and Magnolia.

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Seedheads were beginning to form on herbaceous perennial plants just as we thought we might find.

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We enjoyed the range of colours that flowers provided in the borders and these were highlighted by the August sun riding high in the afternoon sky.

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We were pleased to see that this garden’s Tetrapanax Rex was thriving having lost our specimen early in the year. One here was particularly beautiful with clean unmarked foliage.

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Ferns also provided brilliant green foliage throughout the Dingle Garden, looking fresh beneath the tall mature trees and evergreen shrubs.

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In the new Winter Woodland Garden we were fascinated by the way the gardeners were training the coloured stemmed willows. We will have to wait and see what the end result will look like.

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We enjoy watching the changes to be seen in the many unusual specimen trees at Dorothy Clive and have always liked the look of this yellow barked Prunus, P. maackii “Amber Beauty”. We are really wondering at the moment whether this would be the ideal tree for a space we have at home which awaits a tree for autumn planting. Apart from its unusual bark colouring it has a graceful growth habit and a wonderful winter silhouette. For a Prunus it also has large leaves.

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