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Gardening in Lockdown – Aeoniums

Aeonium have been one of my plantaholic obsessions now for several years and I am still slowly adding to my collection. Recently I have managed to acquire a few cuttings of varieties previously unknown to me such as Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ and Aeonium lancerottense.

Kiwi is a variegated cultivar with pale greens highlighted with creams and oranges. I now have it well rooted but it is still very small. It will be a really special feature of my collection before too long! The A. lancerottense is similar but just a little more subtle in colour.


Aeonium ‘Kiwi’                                                   Aeonium lancerottense.

Most aeonium tend towards varied combinations of purple and green.


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Gardening in lockdown – Succulents in Containers

Once it is warm enough day and especially night time for plants to be hardened off out of the greenhouse I always enjoy smartening up my succulent containers and perhaps create a few new ones.

Even within lock down I still enjoyed this activity, especially as I had a few new aeonium and echeveria cuttings to include.

What is special about succulents is the way we can appreciate foliage close up, its textures, colours, patterns ans variations with temperature, season and dryness.


We do also get wonderful surprises from our succulents in the form of flowers.


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A Visit to the Wonderful Gardens of Powys Castle – 1

We are so lucky to be able to get to Welshpool within half an hour or so because here we find our favourite plant nurseries. Very close by is the National Trust property, Powys Castle with a most wonderful garden. We like to wander around late summer and early autumn when the flowering plants area at their best and trees and shrubs are colouring up adding an extra layer of interest.

The gateway into the castle courtyard, where the coffee shop is to be found, was most impressive with its stone archway towering above our heads. Passing through the gateway we noticed this little mysterious door, but the answer to its purpose was written on the wall.


The gardens are well-known for the colourful imaginatively planted containers and pots.


Recesses built into the massive sandstone walls were probably designed to hold statuary but now display most impressively planted containers.

The upper garden is based on three parallel terraces, each accessed by wide stone walls whose pillars supported more planted containers. From the terraces we were delighted with the views presented to us.


Even at the lowest part of the gardens we were delighted by the quality of planting in containers.

From the lower garden we enjoyed expansive views of the castle sat on its sandstone outcrop, giving it a look of power and dominance. The photo illustrates the need for terracing well and although functional the terracing gives the garden strong design.


In part 2 of this report on our visit to the gardens of Powys Castle I share share with you the different planting combinations and highlight some of the more unusual plants growing on the warm slopes.


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Another NGS Yellow Book Garden – visiting a friend’s garden.

Our friend Mary and her husband Bob open their garden for the National Garden Scheme just as we do, so we were determined to go and see her garden this year. A few weeks before her open garden she told us she hoped her tulips would still look good. She had no reason to worry – they were a treat for the eye and lifted the spirits!


It was a perfect day for garden visiting, bright, warm and so sunny.


We began our visit with big hugs from Mary followed by our usual tea and cake and found a seat where we could enjoy views over Mary and Bob’s garden. From there we could see interesting plants that deserved a closer look and inviting winding paths and archways. We watched with interest the reactions of other visitors and which plants they made a beeline for. Once suitably refreshed we explored!

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We found tulips throughout the borders some in exciting unusual colours. We enjoyed them all.

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These purest of white tulips were beautifully displayed in their containers which raised them up and gave the afternoon sun the chance to light them up.

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There was a lot more of interest here though than these beautiful tulips. Neither Jude the Undergardener or I are particular fans of evergreen coniferous plants and indeed have just a single alpine Pinus mugo “Mumpitz” in our patch, but the cones on Mary and Bob’s trees caught our attention.

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I think the best way to see the rest of this lovely garden will be to enjoy the following gallery. As usual click on the first picture then navigate using the right hand arrow.




fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening gardens hardy perennials kitchen gardens National Garden Scheme NGS ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture South Shropshire succulents village gardens Yellow Book Gardens

Another Yellow Book Garden – Tea on the Way

We enjoyed a visit to another garden which appears in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, the scheme which our own Avocet garden is a part of. We spend many an afternoon visiting our fellow gardeners who open their gardens for charity.


In mid-May we set off through the Hope Valley near our home and on through South Shropshire through the village of Clun up a narrow lane that got more and more narrow and rougher and rougher until we reached a field designated as a car park for the day. The garden of Guilden Down Cottage awaited a short walk away. We soon realised that we knew of this garden already in its other guise as “Tea on the Way”. The cottage owners serve refreshments to walkers passing by. But on the day of our visit they were open to raise funds for the charities of the National Garden Scheme.


At the entrance to the garden we spotted produce for sale in a lane side stall.

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We waited to pay our entry fee and order our usual tea and cakes to prime us for our garden exploration! I noticed a beautiful woodstore and beside it a sleepy old sheep dog.

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We soon began to realise that this was gong to be an interesting visit, perhaps not so much for the plants but more for its quirkiness and cheerful atmosphere. As we wandered towards a seat on which to enjoy our refreshments we spotted the first quirky artifacts. Even the seat we sat upon was home made and full of character.

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Once refreshed we took off on our exploration and first off found this well planted container. The planting around the front lawn looked lush and was set off by the bird bath.

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A flight of stone steps with rustic trellis either side welcomed us into the main garden. Being an organic garden we were on the look out for unusual ideas and gardening methods. As always though we were searching out the plants!

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Some plants were planted in interesting containers or within collections of artifacts.

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The kitchen garden was beautiful with a network of paths made from woodchip entered via handmade gates created using wood harvested from the garden.

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Close to the kitchen garden we found a polytunnel and a fruit cage and some signs of organic principles in action, an insect home, comfrey liquid fertiliser and worm pee fertiliser.

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A few more artifacts and craft pieces spotted at Guilden Down Cottage will end this post nicely.

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New Look for our Gateway Planters

We change the plants in the wooden box planters we have at the bottom of our driveway to give the warmest welcome possible to visitors and to cheer up the entrance to the garden. We recently took out the summer display and changed it into a display more suited for the late autumn and to last through the winter. We often buy young plants to go in these boxes and this gives us a chance to grow them on before moving them into final planting places in the garden proper and it also gives us an opportunity to see how unknown plants perform.

We began by collecting together all the new plants, bags of bulbs, chicken manure pellets, multi-purpose compost and trowels. The summer plantings definitely looked in need of refreshing!

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We had collected together some young evergreen shrubs, some deep red cyclamen and variegated ivies together with some richly coloured Uncinia rubra grasses.

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First job was to plant up the terra-cotta pots in the wrought iron plant stand with purple and yellow violas and some of our seedlings of our bronze evergreen grasses.

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I cleared out the summer plants, removed the top 3 inches of compost and refreshed it with chicken manure pellets as fertiliser and fresh compost. While I did this Jude the Undergardener trimmed back the flowering stems on our hedge of Munstead Lavenders along the road edge and planted a mixture of bulbs in the narrow drive-side border.

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Once refreshed and ready for planting we got going on the best part of the job, the planting up of the boxes.

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The plants were soon snuggled up to their new partners and the planters looked the part again. The plants removed earlier were loaded into the wheelbarrow ready to be planted out in the garden borders.

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Ah! Now that looks better! That should cheer the garden entrance up for the winter very nicely.

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Our New Planting Boxes

We must all have parts of our garden which disappoint us every time we pass by. Our disappointing bit is a part of the garden we not only walk past but also drive past as we enter our property and it is the first thing visitors see. We have a gateway at the end of our drive with a walk creating a funnel effect. Sadly this wall is not made from beautiful stone or old brick but dingy old 1960’s reconstituted stone or perhaps even concrete. It is an eyesore and at last we have got around to doing something about it – it has only taken 11 years to get started!

We decided to paint the wall a pale cream to match the house and then place some planters in front of it. We hope this will create a feeling of a warm welcome as you enter the driveway.

We bought three personalised planting boxes and a trug and went off to our favourite nursery, where after our usual coffee and carrot cake we bought a selection of perennials for the boxes and alpines for the trug. We bought 3 each of five different perennials and planted them out with our own seedlings of grasses which Jude had nurtured and brought on to suitable size. The perennial hardy herbaceous plants we bought were Catananche caerulea “Alba” with white flowers similar to cornflowers with the added interest of contrasting dark purple centres and yellow stamens, Salvia superba  with its bright purple-blue spikes of flowers, Knautia macedonica with deep red “pin cushion” flowers, Veronica longifolia “Blue” the tallest of all with its elegant spikes held 3 feet high and the lovely white daisy Leucanthemum superbum “Alaska”. Fingers crossed now that they thrive in our boxes and give a warm welcome to our summer visitors.

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As well as the boxes we had a wooden trug stenciled with the words “born to garden”. This was a saying I first saw when visiting a Yellow Book open garden a few years ago. There the phrase was on a sign cut from wood and displayed on the inside wall of a summer house. I sought out the gardener to ask where he had found the sign but he was unable to help as it was a gift. And I have been looking out for it ever since. when we ordered our personalised boxes it seemed a good opportunity to make our own version.

We planted a selection of alpines and succulents in it after adding a mixture of grit and multi-purpose compost – Frankenia thymifolia with its small pink flowers, Sedum glaucophyllum “Lizard a succulent which forms a low mound of rosettes with tiny white flowers in the summer, Delosperma nubigenum with its vivid yellow daisy like flowers, Sempervivum x fauconetti a house leek with a  spider web covering, a yellow flowered alpine Potentilla and the tiny daisy Erigeron karvinskianus “Profusion”.

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We left all the new plants to settle into their new homes in the shelter of our wood-store before putting them in their final homes by the newly painted new gateway wall.

Just a month later they look like this – can’t wait to see them in flower!

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