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A Favourite Winter Garden – Dunham Massey

This will be our third visit to the relatively new winter garden at Dunham Massey, a National Trust property in Cheshire, our neighbouring county to the north of our home county, Shropshire. The leaflets concerning the garden refer to it as a “Curiosity Garden”, while inside is written, “Forget hibernating until spring, Dunham Massey’s Winter Garden is wide awake with colour.”

 

The leaflet then invites us to “Take a refreshing walk in the Winter Garden along meandering paths with shocking red cornus and brilliant white birch trees trees glittering in the winter sun. Discover bright winter berries, late flowering scented shrubs and thousands of snowdrops and iris in the new year.”

We approached the winter garden by meandering along gravel paths across a shallow valley, when upon passing through the first red-bricked outbuildings we discovered some of the best pleaching we had ever seen. It stops us in our tracks on every visit.

The pleached limes look a few decades old and possess the ubiquitous knobbles from where the new wands of growth spurt in the spring after their annual pollarding.

Shrubs come into their own in the winter season with their coloured stems, their scent and beautiful hanging flower clusters.

     

Early flowering bulbs add much of the colour in the garden in February. Sunlight catches them and highlights their bright colours.

 

All winter gardens open to the public make strong features of trees with coloured, textured bark, Betulas, Acers and Prunus.

 

Shrubs with coloured stems provide effective partner planting for these trees, especially Cornus and Salix varieties. The gardeners at Dunham Massey are adept at transparency pruning, effectively lifting the akirts of shrubs and small trees to expose their trunks and lower branches.

  

The one plantingcategory that sorts out the best winter gardens from the average is the good creative use of ground cover. It is all too easy to use bark mulch but there are good interesting plants that can cover the ground and add new dimensions to planting schemes. Dunham Massey is on the way to sorting this well, using Carex, Bergenia, Ophiopogon, ferns and Pachysandra.

So there we have it, a thoroughly inspiring visit to one of our favourite winter gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anglesey Abbey in mid-Summer

Anglesey Abbey gardens are best known for their brilliant Winter Gardens, which were the first well-known gardens designed to be at their best and visited at this season. But there is far more to these premises than this seasonal garden, such as beautiful gentle herbaceous borders and lots of plants that attract wildlife.

 

The famous Winter Garden is still worth wandering through though!

 

We set off beyond the Winter Garden to see what we could discover of interest in the rest of the garden. We felt sure we were in for a few surprises! Turning a corner and rounding  a hedge of glossy leaved Laurel we found a mystery. A piece of sculpture? A clock? We explored it for a while before we realised its true identity.

The oak structures are designed to support visitors as they lean back to enjoy the wide Fenland skyscapes.

To return to the entrance we followed a tow path alongside a very overgrown canal, its surface carpeted with our native yellow waterlily.

Looking upwards we noticed an open structured sculptural piece hanging from a bough of a mature tree. It presented a strong contrast to the stone griffin close by.

  

In the end though what makes a good garden great is the quality of its plants and how they are put together. The photos below prove just how great the gardens at Anglesey Abbey truly are whatever time of year you visit.

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My 2017 Garden Journal – January

It feels good to be back sharing my Garden Journal with you once again. So here is the first for 2017, my report on what was going on in our Avocet garden in January.

For 2017 I will share the beauty, the happenings and the stars of our Avocet garden month by month. I will consider the wildlife that visits and shares our garden with us and see what it is up to. I aim to record the birds we spot, the creatures which live in our pond and the mini-beasts who appreciate our plants in our borders.

I hope to set up my moth live-trap and carry out a pond dip regularly. I will record using words, photographs, paintings and drawings.

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My 2017 Garden Journal opened with a comment about the weather, the favourite subject of the English and particularly English gardeners, “We were well into the third week of January when we were pleased to get typical January weather, frosty mornings followed by bright glue skies. Fog joined in on odd days. Until then every day was dull and wet, dull to the point of darkness at times. Not a good start to a new year of gardening and enjoying our garden.

Extra colour and movement, and of course sound, is added to the atmosphere of our garden by the birds who visit. This winter we moved our main bird feeding centre closer to the house so that we could observe the birds in close up. Surprisingly this had the extra bonus of increasing the birds visiting, in particular the finches.

Birds of our January garden: 

Blackbird                    Goldfinch                    Blue Tit

Robin                           Greenfinch                  Great Tit

Wren                            Chaffinch                    Coal Tit

Dunnock                      Blackcap                      Long-tailed Tit

Jackdaw                       Siskin                            Collared Dove

Mistle Thrush             Song Thrush                Nuthatch

Turning the page finds me discussing scented shrubs starring in our January garden.

Scented shrubs add an extra element to enjoy in our Avocet garden all  year round, but winter-flowering shrubs are probably the most important of all. Their rich scents, warm and sweet and spicy, spread far to attract the few insects flying in the colder months. In January we are enjoying the welcome aromas of Mahonia, Sarcococca, Witch Hazels and Daphne. The local honey bees are drawn to the Mahonia and we can hear their gentle humming whenever the sun gives some unexpected warmth and brightness.

I used my watercolours to create a painting of a Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, and it was a very difficult painting to do.

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On the page opposite my bee painting, I included photos of the “Scented flowering shrubs of our January garden at Avocet, our home in Shropshire, a very cold county in winter.”, Sarcococca confusa, Daphne bholua “Jacqueline Postill”, Hamamelis Jelena and Diane and Mahonia “Winter Sun”.

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Over the page we look at “new” gardening tools, one brand new and one new to me which is a vintage tool.

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“Acquiring new tools to use in the garden is always a pleasure. Recently I have treated the garden, and myself of course, to a few interesting implements”. 

Firstly a pair of Japanese secateurs, with the unusual problem of instructions written in Japanese. As I had ordered them from Japan I should not have been surprised really!

I painted a picture of my new Japanese secateurs, which was a lot harder that it looks.

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“Okatsune secateurs are the favourite of  professional gardeners in Japan. They are manufactured from Japanese high carbon steel so they sharpen easily and well.”

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“My second “new” gardening tool is actually a vintage piece, a 1930’s turfing spade made in Birmingham by a company called Vaughan’s. The long handle is crafted from solid forged iron and the handle is made from Ash wood. The long wooden shaft reduces the workload and the beautiful “D” handle makes the tool comfortable to use. The shape of the blade makes it efficient at even lifting an even 1 inch thick slices of turf. The unusual shaped metal shaft increases the efficiency of this wonderful old tool. So my turf lifting spade is vintage circa 1936 but “new” to me.

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I moved on to show how Ian, our gardener, used the vintage turfing spade to replace the grass on some of our paths.

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“We bought the Vaughan tool specifically to use in our garden, to lift the turf paths in our back garden. Our gardener, Ian, loved using it and found it easy to use, a real joy. Now it is part of my vintage garden tool collection, a great addition.”

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“The old turf from our worn paths is soon removed and new rolls are soon down.”

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I next looked at a beautiful totally dried seed head of an Allium, which, with its spherical shape, tends to get blown around the garden with several others. We meet them at random times and places all overthe garden. We are always surprised by their simple beauty. I drew the Allium seed head using just a pencil. Looking and studying the Allium took much longer than the time spent with pencil moving on paper.

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“The dried spherical seed heads of all our different sorts of ornamental Alliums remain in the garden through the winter months. They act as our own Avocet “tumbleweeds” as wind takes them on journeys.”

I hope you enjoy the close ups of my drawing below.

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By turning the page we see little white birds and colourful bulb flowers. I wrote: “We bought three new stoneware sculptural pieces for our garden, three cheeky and chirpy Sparrows. We loved taking them around the garden seeing where they looked their best. We decided to keep moving them around as the mood took us. They, however, decided that their favourite place was our garden bench in “Arabella’s Garden”. Cheeky chappies indeed!

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Opposite the photos of the sculpture birds are photos of early flowers, Irises and Hellebores.

“Iris reticula, the first bulb to flower in 2017.”

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“Meanwhile Hellebores are budding up strongly, so we will have flowers in Feb.”

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January frosts feature on the next double page spread.

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“On the early hours of the days following cold frosty nights, the flowers which give colour to our January garden, were topped off with cold, icy halos.”

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“Cold nights also gave our sculpture pieces a thin layer of icing sugar.”

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My next page was titled simply “January Frosts” and featured a series of photographs of foliage and seedheads covered in a thin covering of frost and icy crystals.

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Turn over to the next page and we leave the frost behind and take a look at one of our Birches, Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis”, one of the best Betulas around.

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“Plant of the month – Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis”. This Birch is an elegant tree with an open canopy so casts little shade. We grow it mostly for its colourful bark which peels to expose clean, more colourful bark beneath. This is best described as pale salmon coloured which peels back to show gingers beneath. This tree also produces beautiful long catkins.”

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I collected up some peeled bark from the tree and glued two pieces side by side to illustrate how different the layers of bark can be.

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Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis” is probably one of the best trees for the small garden and no garden should be without one. Larger gardens can host a trio of them!

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And that is it for my Garden Journal in January. Perhaps in February winter may be biting deeper or we may be experiencing one of our occasional February heatwaves when temperatures can reach 17 celsius.

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The one that nearly got away! – My Garden Journal in November

Imagine my surprise when checking back through my list of posts to find my Garden Journal for November still waiting to be posted. It nearly got away but here it is. Better late than never! Imagine we are back in the autumn!

This will be the penultimate visit to my 2016 Garden Journal as we look at what November has in store for our Avocet patch.

Colour launches my November pages with a double page spread of rich colours with the words, “Autumn has crept in further as November arrives and the garden is starting a new chapter where foliage colours dominate and individual plants become the focus of our attention rather than whole borders of blooms.”

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I move on to share our purchase of three new trees for our patch, an oak and two birches, all trees that we have been seeking out for several years. The oak is good for a small garden like ours because it has a columnar habit of growth growing tall but very slim. It is Quercus palustris “Green Pillar” which hides the fact that its main reason for growing it is for its bright red autumn leaves. I wrote, “Three new trees have been planted at Avocet. Tree planting is such a satisfying experience as is choosing and collecting your selection. So a journey down to the best tree nursery near us, The Dingle at Welshpool, saw us returning home with 3 specimen trees neatly tied up and fitted, threaded in fact, into our car. We sat with three of our favourite trees surrounding us, embracing us with the scents of Autumn. We chatted excitedly of the emotions of tree planting, the positive messages and the future joy these trees will give us. 

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Quercus palustris “Green Pillar”is an upright growing, narrow oak and is a relatively new introduction. The deepest red leaves imaginable hold on through the Autumn and odd batches of foliage remain on the columnar tree into the Winter. To add further magic, the foliage is highly glossed almost like Japanese lacquer.”

I chose three leaves to paint in watercolours and fibre tipped pens trying to capture the texture and colour variations.

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My next double page spread featured our other 2 new trees and I started by writing, “Anyone who knows us as gardeners will have guessed that the other two new trees are our favourite Betulas, B. nigra “Heritage” and B. “Hergest”. Both of these Birches should be the same dimensions reaching 16 feet tall by 6 feet wide after 10 years. We have planted them either side of a covered bench in the front garden. “Hergest” is a Birch we have been longing to plant in our patch because of its wonderful bark texture and colour. It is in the “albosinensis” family of Betulas described by tree

specialist Frank Matthews a rare and beautiful tree possibly a cross between B. albosinensis and B.ermanii. We look forward to the bark turning light copper-brown and glossy. Another reason we love it is because it orginates from a local, favourite garden, Hergest Croft. We chose B. nigra “Heritage”, a variety of River Birch, because of its peeling bark of cinnamon, pink, purple and gold. These Betulas will add so much to our garden.”

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“Betula albosinensis “Septentronalis” (first 3 pics top row) and Betula utilis jacquemontii “Snow Queen” (bottom row) with the odd photo of our immature B. albosinsensis “Chinese Ruby” awaiting a colourful future.”

Moments of delight come next in my journal for November, “Autumn in the garden is he time and place for special moments, seen once and never repeated. Cobwebs, droplets of dew and a beam of sunlight catching colours. November moments!” I would like to share seven photos of some of our special moments in our garden.

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“Often our moments of delight are light shows starring grasses, their movement, their filigree seed heads and their biscuit and ginger hues.”

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Turning over the page we encounter a page looking back at early tree planting and I checked out how one favourite is doing now 13 years on.

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I reported, “Looking back into the early November pages of my first Avocet Garden Journal, I notice that back then we were celebrating Autumn by planting trees. “Tree hunting at Harley Nursery, saw us ordering 16 trees. Should give us structure, a top plant storey and the colours of leaves, flowers and berries.” Later in the month I continued, “Three Betula utilis jacquemontii “Snow Queen” and a single Liquidamber styracifolia “Worplesdon” were planted along the road side border to begin the required woodland feel. In the Winter Garden we planted a snake barked maple, Acer rupestris.” We had intended to choose between the more usual snakebark maples, Acer greggii and A. davidii, but our friend Duncan who owned the nursery promised to find us a much better one, A. rupestris. This he did and it has proved to be the right choice. It is a true 12 month tree and a visitors’ favourite.”

My photos show some of its attributes including the bark which varies in colour and texture up the trunk.

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In my October journal I featured the tiny flowered Fuchsia minimiflora and promised to look at two other Fuchsias this month, so I began by stating, “Unlike F.minimiflora these two have long thin flowers and colourful foliage. They are so similar that we are not sure if they are identical but sold under different names. One we bought as F. thalia, the other was a thank you gift from friends and its label gives its name as Fuschia x hybrida “Koralle”.

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A strange creation makes an appearance next, a phenomena we have never seen before anywhere. A sculpture created in grass by the wind! “We grow the delicate grass, Stipa tenuissima , or Pony Tail Grass, on our green roof. The flowering stems grow to 15 to 18 inches long and move in the slightest breeze. Passing the roof and looking up I noticed this strange knot which the wind had created by spinning a few flowering stems together. It hung still attached to the plant presenting an amazing silhouette against the blue sky.” I captioned my photos of it “garden magic”.

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The colour red is the theme of the next section in my November journal. I noticed how powerful this colour looked in the garden at this time of year so took my trusty Nikon out for a walk.

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Red is such an important colour in the November garden. In life red relates to many different emotions from love and passion at the one pole to danger and anger at the other. Red in the garden simply draws me to it and makes me smile. David Bowie wrote, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”. The garden puts on its red shoes and chases away the winter blues. Red appears in flowers, berries, leaves, stems and bark, but also on the handles of Felco secateurs and the wattles of garden hens.”

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And there we have, the garden in November. My next look at my garden journal will be the final one of 2016. Where did the time go, simply flying as we enjoyed being in our special patch.

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My Garden Journal 2016 – February

Back with the second post sharing my 2016 Garden Journal, we will look at what it holds for February.

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On the first page for the month I mention the changing light values that occurs during February.

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“This is the month when light values really start to improve. We also get longer days when the weather allows. This change in light coupled with slowly rising temperatures encourages birds to change their songs and calls. The Great Tit is the master of calls with its huge repertoire. Luckily they are very frequent visitors to our garden. They are great entertainers! Their song in February is a “see-sawing ditty with mechanical overtones.” (Collins Bird Guide)

I added my gouache painting of a pair of Great Tits.

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On the opposite page I carried on talking about our continued development of our greenhouse.

Having completed the construction of our new heated propagation bench last month we then sorted out our pots, trays, pans and cells ready for the new sowing and growing season. We ensured we have plenty of labels as well as sowing compost and horticultural grit. Jude finished putting up insulation bubble wrap.”

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From greenhouse gardening to pond gardening, my next page features two photos of Jude the Undergardener in her waders playing in our wildlife pond.

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“Mid to late February is the time each year when our Common Frogs come to sing, mate and then leave balls of spawn in our wildlife pond. Thus early this month Jude donned her chest waders and cleaned up the pond. She removed Duckweed, Blanket Weed and fallen leaves, then thinned out the water plants.

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We tidied up the narrow border that edges the pond, pulling a few hardy weeds and taking up seedlings of our Cornus “Midwinter Fire”. It was heartening to discover how workable our soil was, this being the result of a decade of improving it with the addition of our own garden compost and the regular mulching deeply with organic matter.”

I continued onto the next page discussing the welcome appearance of sunshine in the February.

“Sunshine is not often in evidence this February but when it does make an appearance its effects are magical. It highlights the peeling bark of our trees and directs a spotlight on blossom and glossy foliage.”

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As I turn the page I see that I have written about cold temperatures and on the opposite page and on the following double page spread I share the amazing number of plants in flower on one day in February.

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“A sudden overnight plunge in temperature can have drastic looking effects on our early flowering plants. The flowering stem of this Bergenia can be standing to attention during the day but cold at night can make it droop, with the flowers almost touching the cold soil”.

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“The following day when the sun has driven away any frost and added a degree or two to the temperature, the Bergenia flower slowly rises again and returns to its former pink glory.”

February flowers are celebrated over the next three pages. I hope you enjoy sharing this selection of plants that keep us cheerful and the garden colourful.

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These pictures certainly illustrate how colourful and interesting the garden can still be in the depths of winter. From flowers I moved on to foliage, as on my next double page spread I celebrate Phormiums and how important they are to the winter garden.

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“Form, texture and foliage colours are so important in the garden in winter, so we are lucky to have discovered and planted Phormiums as they give us all three. They move beautifully too, swaying in the slightest breeze.”

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For some of our Phormium I took a shot of the whole plant and then one of the top surface of their leaves and finally the final surface. Their two surfaces are usually very different.

“I love plants that hide some facet of their beauty from us”.

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In the final pages of my February entries in my Garden Journal I wrote about coloured stems and look back at my first garden journal to see what I had put for my February entry.  I discovered that I was writing about grass and grasses.

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“It is in the dull times of February that we appreciate the brightly coloured stems of our Cornus, Salix and Acers. Once their leaves drop the colours, yellows, oranges and reds begin to intensify. I then shared a watercolour painting of a selection of these stems from our garden alongside a trio of photos.”

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Looking back at my original Garden Journal, I notice that I had commented “14th February and the grass gets its first cut. As the North wind died out the strength of the winter sun meant a good day could be had doing general maintenance work.” This year our grassed areas are wet and slimy and definitely too slippery to get a mower on. But the grass has continued to grow slowly so it is in need of its first cut. Meanwhile our ornamental grasses continue to delight.”

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So that is it for another month. Next time we make a visit to my Garden Journal we will be in March and maybe we shall be seeing signs of spring.

 

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A Garden in Winter – RHS Rosemoor – Part 1

We love to break up the winter months with mid-week breaks away around the UK. In February this year we took off down to Devon for a short holiday where we planned to visit a garden which holds two National Collections, Betulas (Birches) and Alnus (Alders) and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor Garden.

My previous couple of posts shared with you our wanderings around Stone Lane Garden and Nursery with its wonderful national collection of Betulas and Alnus. In this post we will share with you the two days we spent exploring the Royal Horticultural Society’ Rosemoor Garden.

We had visited many times before but never in winter before, so we were keen to see if the RHS’s claim that Rosemoor provides “Great days out for every season” and  “Rosemoor continues to enchant visitors when the Winter and Foliage Gardens are filled with a surprisingly intoxicating combination of colour, fragrance and texture.”

After a quick coffee in the restaurant we braved the rain and began our walk around.

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We made our way towards the Winter Garden which we knew had been redeveloped since we last visited so we longed to see what it looked and felt like now.

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As expected foliage took a leading role.

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Coloured stems and bark of shrubs and trees add strong structure to a good winter garden.

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After enjoying and being highly impressed with the renovated Winter Garden, we took a gravel path which led us to the Foliage Garden. We were looking forward to seeing the role that foliage could play in the February garden. We were not to be disappointed with what we saw. Perennials and grasses played key roles with the richness of texture and the delicacy of colour. Richly coloured foliage on many shrubs joined the party.

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Wherever we went we noticed evidence of the RHS gardeners and the volunteers who worked alongside them. In the Rose Garden these roses had been pruned so precisely just like illustrations in a gardening book . The soil between them had been neatly forked over to give a very professional look to the gardeners’ work.

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When we returned to the restaurant for a warming coffee we noticed in the terrace outside a little wooden framed alpine greenhouse. Here we found an impressive array of flowering bulbs.

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Leaving the alpine house we took meandering paths through the gardens where we noticed many early blooms that added cheer to a day of dull damp weather.

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These paths took us down a gentle slope towards the lake and along the way we passed through open grassed areas where Daffodils and Narcissi had been naturalised. In neighbouring borders swathes of Snowdrops looked like frozen rivers running through shrubs and trees.

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We reached the lake which looked very cold and uninviting but on its banks Cornus and Salix varieties known for their coloured stems added ribbons of very welcome brightness.

A stream fed the lake and we left the lakeside by following a path rising gently through the stream’s valley.

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This valley with its clear stream ran rapidly through areas of planting. We followed the stream along a gravel path which took us to an underpass through which we wandered to find the original garden at Rosemoor, Lady Anne’s Garden. The little valley dropped down towards the underpass and we saw King Cups flowering profusely providing splashes of golden yellow and clumps of Arum italicum marmoratum gave us splashes of silver in their variegated foliage.

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Seed heads and fruit from the autumn were still very much in evidence extending the season of interest.

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As the valley sides rose higher the atmosphere became damper and we felt the temperature drop slightly as we got closer to the underpass. Lichen grew on trees and on fences. The white bark of Birches and the snow white blooms of Snowdrops shone through in the duller light.

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We were drawn to a Betula with unusually coloured bark and were very pleased to find that it was called Betula albosinsensis “K Ashburner”, named after the owner of Stone Lane Gardens and Nursery.

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Scent was held in the valley so we were constantly experiencing the rich aromas of Lonicera, Sarcoccoca and Ribes. Sweetness in the air!

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We entered the underpass which would take us under the road we drove along hours before and gained access to the original garden here at Rosemoor, Lady Anne’s Garden. We will be in that part of the garden in Part 2.

 

 

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A Devon Garden with Betulas – Part 3

Welcome back to Stone Lane Garden in Devon for part three of the report of our visit.

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We continued our meanderings along the grass, wood chip and gravel paths through the woodlands that are home to the incredible National Collections of both Betulas and Alnus.

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Ken Ashburner owner and gardener at Stone Lane collects seeds and plants on his plant hunting travels, so when he plants a grove of a variety there are lots of interesting variations to enjoy.

Betula albosinsensis varies widely with its shades of white or silver with added tints of oranges and pinks.

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The selection of Betula albosinensis given the name “China Rose” is a particular beauty. The white sign in the photos tells visitors that this particular Betula is available in the nursery which is part of the garden. A great idea!

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A sudden and very short-lived patch of blue sky passed over the towering old native Birches emphasising their beautiful skeletal winter forms.

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Gardens are great places to site sculpture and it was good to see plenty as we followed the narrow path through the woodlands that led us back to the  garden’s gate.

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These tall thin pale stems of a herbaceous plant appeared as a delicate piece of sculpture and where they fell they created a drawing on the woodland floor.

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We crossed the narrow stream by a narrow wooden bridge made slippery by mosses and algae. From the bridge we looked down into the little stream’s bank side and noticed King Cups already in full flower, looking like golden coins shining against their deep glossy green foliage.

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The dampness and shade of the woodland makes it a place favoured by lichen, fungi and mosses.

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We came across an Alder that had been felled and were drawn to the brightly coloured surfaces exposed by the saw.

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As we spotted the gate which would end our exciting visit we were drawn to bright orange blooms on a shrub in the distance. Once we got closer we knew it had to be a Berberis and we were right. It looked luminous in the dull afternoon light. A delicate pale pink Geranium close by was much harder to find.

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We had spent a really interesting day at Stone Lane Garden that was full of the delights of our favourite trees the Betulas. We left determined to find space for a few more at home. The following two days we planned to spend at the amazing RHS Rosemoor Garden. See you there!

 

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A Devon Garden with Betulas – Part 2

Back at Stone Lane we continued wandering along the grass paths which were so soft underfoot. We enjoyed discovering more and more Birches with beautifully coloured and textured bark and fine winter silhouettes plus the odd Alder and pieces of sculpture.

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Alnus barbata diplayed bark as rough and fissured as the skin on the legs of an old elephant.

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At the furthest end of the woodland garden we found wildlife ponds and two interesting shelters. On the far bank of one of these ponds we spotted two geese and it was only as we approached closely did we realise they were in fact sculptures. Their wings were decorated with simple line drawings of flowers.

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The second shelter proved to be a total mystery. We couldn’t work out what it had been used for in the past or in present times. It looked as if it had wheels at one time. We thought it may have been a poultry house but today it seemed to be a bird hide.

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It sat beneath a stand of Alnus glutinosa, which were already showing young catkins bursting from buds.

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Alnus hirsuta was showing new fresh foliage rather than catkins.

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Back to a Betula – Betula maximowicziana, a real tongue twister of a name, had striated bark in delicate shades of pink and ginger. Fine strips of its bark peeled back in almost vertical lines.

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We found a beautiful place for a rest and coffee break, a wooden rustic shelter surrounded by Birches. A stone and mosaic birdbath stood close by and a pink flowered Azalea provided restful colour. Looking straight ahead from where we sipped our coffee we enjoyed a view of more Betulas, of which we cannot get too many.

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Now just enjoy coming with us as we wander along grass tracks and gravel pathways discovering the huge varieties of Birches in Ken Ashburner’s amazing collection.

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Naturally there were many other plants of interest as well as the Birches and Alders we came to see.

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We were delighted to find a stand of Betula utilis ssp. jacquemontii “Snowqueen”, as we have a beautiful trio of these pure silvery-white barked trees. They have an ethereal quality about them. We open our blinds each morning and our silver trio delight us every day whatever the weather and whatever the light is shining on them.

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To finish part two of our posts about Stone Lane please enjoy another set of pics to illustrate the vast variations in our favourite trees, the Betulas.

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A Devon Garden with Betulas – Part 1

While visiting Devon in mid-February we planned to spend a couple of days at the RHS’s Rosemoor Garden where an exhibition of sculpture was on show throughout the site.

Before leaving we discovered that Stone Lane Gardens was close by, a garden which holds the National Collections of Betulas (Birches) and Alnus (Alders). Our hotel was situated in between these two gardens, so we  decided we simply had to visit this garden too.

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We drove across the moors of Dartmoor covered in a cloak of mist and fine drizzle for an hour before dropping a little lower which took us beneath the dampness. We followed small inconspicuous signs towards the garden as the lanes got narrower and narrower until we turned into a cobbled farmyard which acted as the car park. The buildings were deserted but we found an honesty box in which Jude dropped our entry fees. We were pleased to find a map to borrow.

We crossed the narrowest of lanes and entered the garden through a beautiful wrought iron gate. Its beauty was a reflection of the treats that waited for us as we walked along a gravel path into the woodland garden. We stopped to admire a wildlife pond and ahead we spotted a beautiful metal sculpture. Further sculptures were to be found close by.

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It was a delight to find native Daffodils and Snowdrops growing alongside our trackway.

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We soon came across some of the alders in the garden’s National Collection. February is probably not the best month to see Alders so I only took a few photos. The texture of their bark did look good though as did the remains of last year’s flowers. We will certainly return later in the year and take a better look.

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After passing through a tunnel of coppiced Alders we got our first view of the Birches we had come to see.

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We were drawn to a group of dark barked Birches. Luckily the trees here are well labelled so we discovered them to be Betula ermanii “Mount Zao Purple”.

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The next group we were attracted to through this enchanting woodland was of Betula raddeana. This was a very varied group presumably grown from Ken’s seed collecting expeditions.

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Having explored each of this group touching their bark and having close up looks at their bark and branch structures we moved on soft grass paths through so many young Birches.

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Our native Downy Birch, Betula pubescens looked incredibly gnarled and deeply fissured.

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Devon is well known as being a good place for mosses and lichen and the trees here were well covered. As we reached the end of the garden we found pools and odd pieces of sculpture dotted between groves of alders and birches.

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We shall return to share with you our wander back through the woodland garden.

 

 

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in January – Part 2

So here we are back at our feature garden for 2016, the Dorothy Clive Gardens on the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire. I will start with some views from around the garden. It will be interesting to see how these views change through the year.

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Let us now look at the bright red colours of berries and the more subtle browns and biscuit colours of seedheads of Hydrangeas and Phlomis.

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The delicate beauty of these seed heads deserved a very close look to fully appreciate them.

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We walked down the gentle slope towards the pond and the scree garden around it. Throughout the other seasons the borders here will be glowing with colour and full of exuberant growth.

Different textures together add interest to the winter garden where the bare stems of deciduous shrubs and perennials sit alongside bright new growth which are the promises of spring and summer.

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The Rose Garden looks very bleak in the winter when its bones are revealed, the obelisks and arches of black metal and the bare unpruned stems of the roses.

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Near the bottom of the slope we came across a stand of three old Birches and a single tall specimen nearby. In the border here obelisks have been created from the trunks of felled Birches. It is good to see them given a second life.

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We spotted this architectural looking plant as we walked back up the slope and we were both unsure what it was but came to the conclusion it was a Tetrapanax.

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We are not really fans of conifers but admit that in the winter they can give strong structure to the garden.

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I will finish off with a selection of photos, a rustic seat,