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Spring bulbs at Avocet

This time of year is made extra special as the bulbs we planted in the autumn start to burst into flower. Daffodils give splashes of every shade of yellow often with orange trumpets. We have a few whites left from the hundreds we inherited. We are not keen on white daffs as they seem so wishy-washy so we dug out hundreds leaving just odd clumps. Crocus are far more delicate and come in a wider range of colours from white to yellow, orange and purple. Anemone blandas are joining these now and appear as delicate blue daisies among the fresh growth of perennial plants. We don’t have many hyacinths but the few we have are most welcome and remind us to order more next autumn. You may spot the interloper – the flowers of a bergenia – walking past I could not resist taking its picture!

The best way to savour the effects that our bulbs have on our March garden is to come with me with my camera and see what we spot. So follow the gallery by clicking on the first photo and then use the arrows to navigate. Enjoy!

 

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Another NGS Garden : Gorsty Bank – a wildlife friendly garden

This a wonderful wildlife friendly garden which opens for the NGS and is owned and gardened by fellow Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group members Annie and Gary Frost. The garden is a short distance from home so we soon arrived after a short journey and enjoyed the walk through the village of Hyssington and up the drive to the garden. We found some lovely primulas along the lane and the driveway itself was atmospheric with old stone walls on one side and native hedging alongside.

We were warmly greeted by Gary and as usual made our way to the refreshments and enjoyed talking with Annie as we enjoyed tea and tasty homemade cakes. The views from our seats afforded an idea of the richness of the experience we could look forward to.

We then enjoyed a slow wander around this gentle garden with its paths and gateways to guide our way. We loved the two meadows and the mini-arboretum.

 

Another enjoyable return visit to a favourite NGS garden afforded us a great day out. We will be back!

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My Garden Journal 2019 – April

April is one of our busiest months in our Avocet patch, a month when we are busy, our wildlife colleagues are busy and the plants are growing apace. We have tasks to complete as well as usual garden routines.

As I often do in my journals I began with the weather and wrote, “April burst onto the scene with a crazy few days of weather. The first day, April Fools’ Day, was bright and mild after a frosty start which gave us hope for a few good days for gardening. Sadly this was far from the reality as during the following few days the weather treated us to rain, sleet, snow, hail and freezing winds! Not good for gardening!” I added a few photos of frozen rain after it had settled on the garden.

Frozen rain on the garden was an unexpected event.

 

“Succulents love hot dry areas but look good with hats of snow and ice.”

 

“Pitcher with snow and black lichen.”

“Frozen rain on fresh herbaceous foliage.”

On the page opposite my weather report I considered some of our flowering shrubs that add a fresh dimension to the spring garden.

“April seems to be the month when our collection of flowering shrubs come into their own, many of them will continue to give colour for weeks on end and then delight us with their foliage in summer and autumn and also the addition of berries.” I then shared a set of photos of a few of our spring flowering shrubs.

     

Next I shared a few of our spring tasks around the garden

I wrote, “Our list of “non-plant” jobs continued well into the spring, when we made a new shed, in a bright blue painted sentry-box style, specially to fit in our seaside garden.”

“The flat-packed shed arrived in a box and we soon opened it up and lined up all the pieces in readiness.”

“It took longer to make than expected and the finished shed was a bit flimsier than we would have liked so I will add more structural wooden struts to it.”

On the opposite page I looked at other jobs we undertook in April.

“More jobs to launch a new month ….. Jude created a new insect hotel.”

“We planted potatoes in bags.” “We sowed wildflowers in Arabella’s Garden.”

“Roses on arches needed a trim and some shrubs needed pollarding.”

 

When we turn over the page we see that the next two pages are all about those special flowers of spring, flowering bulbs.

I wrote, “We seem to have more daffodils to enjoy in our garden than ever before, and they soon get the company of tulips joining the Muscari, Leucojum and the little blue flowered bulbs.”

I shared a collection of photos of our tulips on one page and of our daffodils on the opposite page.

“This is just a small selection of our dozens of varieties of tulips spread around our garden.”

   

“Daffodils appear in almost every bed and border, like brightly coloured children’s sweets. The garden becomes a sweet shop of delights.”

Over to the next double page spread we return to the garden tasks we performed during April.

I wrote, “When we host visitors to our garden we sell plants and Jude has established what we call her ‘micro nursery’. We also take plants with us when we give garden talks around counties close to us and in neighbouring Welsh counties. We needed to increase our nursery space as we go out to give talks more and more. I doubled the size of Jude’s herbaceous plant sales shelves. We mostly used re-cycled wood.”

I carried on to the next page saying, “I also created a shrub nursery at the bottom of the garden in the space where our compost was made. We needed space for cuttings in ‘long tom pots’ and the individually potted shrubs.”

“The first job was to get Ian, our garden helper, to bag up our compost ready to be used as a mulch around the many borders.”

“We put up tables to show our shrubs on and put membrane down underfoot.”

“All that is left to do now is to put slate down on the membrane to give a comfortable and attractive surface.” That is a job to be done when we revitalize our central path, replacing slate that has been down for several years so now has a bit too mush soil mixed in, with fresh clean slate mulch. Watch this space!

So once again turning the page the next double page spread features bluebells and Primula auriculas. I wrote of bluebells, “Towards the end of the month the first of our native Bluebells come into flower. They give us a shot of bright blue and enrich the air with their sweet aroma.”

I then shared a couple of i-Pad drawings I attempted to show the vitality of these amazing flowers of spring.

On the page opposite the bluebells I looked at some of our Auriculas, with their unique colour range and combinations. I wrote, The wide range of unique colour combinations, sometimes enriched with a fine ‘meal’, seen in the flowers of Primula auricula are what made these flowers appeal to the enthusiasts and show men in their hayday. Today they are grown more as alpines. Jude bought a tray of mixed seedlings a few years ago and she has selected out some special ones.”

The final page for my journal in April features another popular collectors’ plant, the Hostas, “We love Hostas and grow many with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colours, sizes and variegation patterns in different areas of the garden.”

 “These are some of our miniature and small varieties, surrounded by sharp grit to deter slugs and snails.”

And that is where my April entries into my garden journal came to a conclusion. The next visit to its pages will be in May when the garden should be looking even better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2019 – March

It is already time for sharing my third month’s entries in my garden journal. So here are the March pages for you to enjoy and for you to see what the garden has been up to and what we have been up to in the garden.

I began by writing, “March came on the scene dull, grey and lifeless looking. After the mild temperatures of the last few weeks with virtually no rain, the last day of February was very wet. Thank goodness for Daffodils, the spring bulbs that can cheer up the dullest of days.”

I then showed 9 photos of our wonderful early daffodils, mostly miniature narcissi.

 

On the next page I looked at our selection of Carex.

“We grow dozens of grasses and sedges in our garden with some in virtually every border and container. In the winter the evergreens dominate and their deciduous cousins add gentle colours – ginger, biscuit, coffee, clotted cream, latte, cappuccino and many more subtle shades. The largest family of evergreens are the Carex family. Here are just a few that we grow!”

Here is a selection of the many Carex we grow.

On the opposite page I consider how well the Carex family of grasses fit in with other plants and plant combinations. I wrote, “They fit in almost anywhere, sun or shade!”

 

“Meanwhile we have cut down deciduous grasses to stimulate new growth.”

Turning over to the next double page spread I have a look at a couple of under-appreciated plants.

I wrote, “An unknown plant and an under appreciated plant, both stalwarts of the March garden, Bergenias and Drimys. I love them both!”

“Drimys lanceolata ‘Winter Spice’.

On the opposite page I looked at two places of warmth, a warm welcome and the warm greenhouse. Firstly I wrote, “A warm welcome to your garden is essential throughout the year. We welcome visitors to our Avocet patch using three fruit boxes planted up with interesting seasonal plants. Here they are in March.”

“When winter weather gets too much we retreat to the greenhouse where Jude has been pricking out seedlings and I have been nurturing my delicate succulents and Fuschia thalia which is in flower in the first week of March.”

  

On the next couple of pages I consider March pruning and some flowers we enjoyed in our March garden.

Of pruning I wrote, “March is a busy month in our garden. As well as cutting deciduous grasses rather drastically almost down to the ground we have to coppice or pollard Salix and Cornus to ensure we will enjoy their coloured stems next winter.”

“Flowers are appearing, some expected but others well out of their season.”

 

Over the page I moved on to consider the fresh growth appearing throughout the garden during March.

I wrote, “Fresh growth in March always seems urgent and gives us confidence for the seasons to come. The excitement and vibrancy of new growth on Clematis, perennials and our cloud-pruned box edging.”

On the opposite page I considered a favourite shrub growing in our “Shrub Border”, Rhamnus aureomarginatus, and looked at the importance of all the greens in our March garden. About Rhamnus I wrote, A true all year round shrub which graces our shrub border, lighting up the dullest winter days with its silver margined variegation. Early in the year the golden-orange flower buds light up the plant and these will open in summer to give yellow flowers followed later in the year by tiny black shining berries.”

 

Opposite I wrote, “Green is the colour. Lots of shades of green.”

 

So that is it for my March gardening report so in a few days it will be time to start on April’s entries.

 

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My Garden Journal 2018 – April

I began my April entries in my Garden Journal 2018 with the words, “April this year is a month to play “catch up” as the poor weather in the first quarter of the year has held us up so!” But as will be revealed during my entries this month things didn’t play into our hands as far as the weather was concerns. It rather dashed our hopes!

I continued, We had two weeks at home to garden before we went away for a Spring holiday. There was very little sign of the new season, a few daffodils and other Spring bulbs flowered but little fresh growth on perennials. Strangely, our Witch Hazels had a quick second flush of flowers.

 

Coppicing and pollarding feature strongly when we turn over to the next page, two of my favourite garden activities.

We usually aim to coppice and pollard our shrubs grown for their colourful stems, Cornus and Salix, before the end of March. The weather prevented us doing so this year so we tackled the job in early April. It is a job I love because I like to picture the results of my actions.

Some pruned stems are selected as cuttings to produce new plants to sell or as replacements.

 

Hazel rods become bean poles and the brash become pea sticks to be used on our allotment. We tidied up around the hazel stools and gave the footpath a mow over.

    

On the page opposite to the notes about coppicing and pollarding, I moved on to look at re-instating some of our grass paths, writing, A major job for this April was to repair and re-seed our grass paths. This is a result of having so many visitors when we open our garden for the National Garden Scheme.

 

We used my big vintage Bulldog fork to spike deeply into the lawn surface and top dressed the lawn with compost. We brushed this in and added fresh grass seed into bare patches. To stop our garden birds eating too many seeds we spread prunings over the surface. 

     

Over onto the next page we can see that I shared a quote from Dan Pearson’s Natural Selection, then looked at more of this month’s jobs.

Dan Pearson in his book Natural Selection wrote early in April, April is spring at its best, with the intensity of green being notched up daily until it is as vibrant as it ever will be. It is the time of some of my favourite plants and an opportunity to get to know better those that flourish in this brief window.

He moves on to speak of three of his favourite spring flowers namely Magnolias, Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips. We do not grow Magnolias here at our Avocet garden as we feel it difficult to justify growing a plant that performs for such a small period and sits static and dull for the rest of the year. We enjoy those growing in our neighbours’ gardens instead. Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips however we grow in profusion.

For the first few weeks of April this year there was no sign of the “intensity of green” mentioned above. We left to go away for the third of April, leaving our patch still firmly in the grip of Winter.

Before we left however we had jobs to do such as featured in the previous pages and several others which I feature next.

Our key job of this month was to add a single step to the slope into our Japanese Garden. The gravel tended to move beneath our feet as we stepped down the slope. A half-sized “railway sleeper” did the job nicely.

   

We topped up the log edging to the wildlife pool, topped up the bark paths and spent a day cleaning and sharpening all our secateurs and loppers.

    

Turning over to the next double page spread I wrote about the birds in our garden and then mentioned a sudden sign of spring.

I wrote, When we work in the garden we do so to a soundtrack of bird song as birds mark their new season’s territories. The loudest songbirds of all are members of the Thrush family, the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and the more diminutive Robins. All the Titmice and Finches join in calling busily from songposts.

We enjoy watching all of our garden birds collecting nest materials and taking it off to well-hidden places. Throughout the UK people have nicknames for our most common birds. I did some research and came up with these.

Robin  –  Redbreast, Bob Robin

Song Thrush  –  Mavis, Throstle

Blackbird  –  Merle, Woofell, Colley, or Black Uzzle

House Sparrow  –  Spadger, Spuggie, Spaggie

Wren  –  Stumpy, Toddy, Sumpit, Old Lady’s Hen

Dunnock  –  Creepie, Shufflewing, Scrubber

Greenfinch  –  Green Olf, Greeney, Green Lennart

Great Tit  –  Black Capped Lolly, Black Headed Bob

Blue Tit  –  Tom Tit, Blue Cap, Pickcheese, Blue Bonnett

The most exciting bird spotted this month was an early Cuckoo who sat on top of a bush. This is a bird often heard but rarely seen, so it was a memorable sighting. 

 

The third week of the month saw Spring arrive very late and very quickly and dramatically after a few days of record setting high temperatures. Suddenly our spring flowering bulbs burst into life and leaf buds opened to reveal the brightest of greens, bronzes and pinks.

     

Tulips take over every part of our garden splashing their brightness among fresh greens of perennials growth.

          

A cold easterly wind blew back into our patch as the month came to an end. It has been a destructive force in our garden this Spring, burning leaves of even the toughest of shrubs. Every variety of Mahonia has been hit hard but do seem to be fighting back, dropping the dead browned leaves as new buds thrust from the branches.

So here I finish my report on my April pages in my garden journal. I will return in May when the weather may be more kind to us.

 

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The Weir – a riverside spring garden.

We took friends and fellow garden lovers, Pete and Sherlie, to visit a garden just a few miles south of Hereford which we have previously visited in spring, the time when it peaks. We knew our friends would love it too! It is a National Trust garden and is a long and narrow garden because of its riverside position.

As we got out of the car the spring bulbs greeted us and set the scene for the discoveries to come.

 

We followed a path half way up the valley side overlooking the river, and here early flowering bulbs covered the slopes.

    

All visitors including us were amazed by the delicate pale blue flowers of Scilla italica.

A variety of trees and shrubs cast gentle shade over the valley side.

  

Please enjoy the rest of our wanderings along the pathways of this valleyside garden, by looking at my gallery. Just click on the first photo and navigate by using the arrows.

 

It is always a bonus when visiting a garden to find rare and unusual plants. Here at the Weir we enjoyed discovering  Lathraea squamaria, Tooth Wort, (photo on left), a parasite living on the roots of woody plants and spending most of its time underground and Trachystemon orientalis with the unusual common name “Abraham-Isaac-Jacob” (on the right)

 

The finale to our visit was to explore the walled garden which was in the process of being renovated. We looked forward to seeing what progress had been made. As it turned out we soon noticed the restored glasshouse, long herbaceous borders planted up and productive borders were being prepared for sowing by volunteers. The walled garden has a great future ahead of it and visitors to the valleyside will enjoy discovering the walled garden as much as the main valleyside gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park March – The Walled Garden

I shall post two reports for our March visit to Attingham Park, the first about the Walled Garden followed by one about the walk we followed, the Woodland Walk.

We walked our usual track beneath tall mature deciduous trees to take us to the walled garden. We had a detour to look at the nut walk, lined with coppiced Hazel trees and to have a look at Attingham Park’s famous old bee “building”, the Georgian Bee House. It is a very decorative wooden construction painted white and featuring fancy trellis-work.

    

On route we discovered naturalised Daffodils and native Celandines glowing bright golden-yellow beneath magnificent mature trees. The lawns and borders of the gardener’s cottage looked neatly prepared to celebrate Spring. A Clematis alpina displayed deep purple buds fit to burst. Species Tulips were already in flower among emerging growth of herbaceous perennials.

    

Approaching the gateway into the walled garden we noticed colour on the trained fruit trees, the white and pinks of blossom.

  

Once we were within the walls we could appreciate the extra warmth and protection afforded by the tall red-bricked walls. Leaf buds were opening on fruit bushes and canes and perennial plants were emerging strongly now the soil had some warmth to it. Bulbs were already flowering and sharing perfume.

   

We were sure that the gardeners, who like to garden organically, were delighted at the sight of emerging Ladybirds.

We were so pleased to find the glasshouse doors open to allow us to wander inside to study their structure and mechanisms as well as allowing us to check what the gardeners were up to.

             

The informal decorative and cut flower borders surrounding the glasshouses were most colourful, with Primulas and bulbs taking full advantage of the extra degree or two of warmth afforded by the walls.

 

A quick look into the gardeners’ bothy showed us that lots of seed potatoes were chitting nicely and we noticed that the volunteer gardeners had plenty of jobs to challenge them.

When we return next month we look forward to seeing big changes in the productive borders.

When we left the bothy we continued to walk beneath tall trees along the way marked track taking us towards the start of the Woodland Walk. This walk will be the subject of the next March Attingham Park post.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2016 – April

Here we are with my April look at my garden journal. I began as I often do with a look at the weather that was affecting our garden.

“April is known for its showery weather and we hope it is the first frost-free weeks of the year. This will allow us to begin hardening off our delicate plants that have hidden away in our greenhouse and summerhouse. Looking back at my first garden journal I notice that in early April birds were then showing signs of nest building. I wrote …Spring is here! Sometimes at least. Birds are collecting nesting materials, blackbirds, greenfinches and all the Titmice family.” This year birds are singing and calling well but we have seen no signs of nest building activities. The Titmice have given up their earlier explorations of our many birdboxes. We hope Spring will catch up and get wildlife stirring again.”

Over the page I continue by looking at one member of the Titmice family, the Coal Tit, and I included one of my gouache paintings of these active little birds.

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“One of our members of the Titmice family that we enjoy sharing our garden  with is the tiny Coal Tit, growing to only 10cm or so in length. They are very lively little birds and most entertaining in the garden. They are frequent visitors to feeders where they enjoy peanuts and mixed seeds. They never stay long on a feeder but remove a morsel of food by rapid beak banging and take it off to eat in a nearby tree or shrub. They hold a nut or seed between their claws and chip away at it, eating tiny pieces.”

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On the page opposite I take a look at the bright Tulips in our garden and what they add to it.

“Early April right through to late on in the month the greens of fresh growth are so bright but our multitude of Tulips add contrasting colours. They add their special charm to every part of the garden. Hundreds were planted throughout the Autumn so now we reap the rewards.”

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Tulips and other bulbs continue to be featured on my next couple of pages.

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“The delicacy of these little white species Tulips with their egg yolk yellow centres are so different to the big bright cultivars.”

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“But it isn’t just Tulips! Many other bulbs look equally beautiful scattered throughout the borders.”

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Turning the page we find a much wordier look with an odd photo to illustrate the words, followed by a look at some of our Acers.

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“April is the month  when we discover the joy of working in the garden into the evening hours. We are no longer forced indoors at teatime by the poor light. Some days also allow us to shed jackets and even jumpers as the temperatures feel more comfortable. But April can bring surprises such as overnight frosts and this year a very late snow shower. Hail storms chased us indoors on many occasions. But Spring still marches on and gives freshness of growth, new bright foliage on trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.”

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“The freshest foliage of all must be from our Acer shrubs. They unfurl their buds and give a multitude of shades of yellow, orange, ruby and green. Even though this happens every year and we look forward to it, the new life of our Acers delights us.”

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I then look at yellow in our garden.

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“Throughout the Spring months yellow is the colour that picks up the bright light of the sun best of all the bright colours. This may be why we love Daffodils so much, but many more flowers show off in the brightness of April.”    

 

  

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“There are also a few pinks that look special in the Spring garden and these are at their best with interestingly coloured and textured foliage as partners.”

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Blossom and the plants of cool shade appear on the final couple of my journal’s pages for April.

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“Shrewsbury, our nearest town, is famous for its Spring blossom which lines many of its streets and lanes. In our garden we can equally enjoy the blossom of both ornamental and productive trees and shrubs.”

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“We love the sunshine in the April garden when all around us the garden sparkles and shines. But dip into the cool of the shade and there are gems awaiting us. Foliage is the key where sunlight fails to infiltrate.”

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But any flowers that accompany this amazing foliage are tiny little star-like flowers.

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So that is April in our garden. We now look forward to what May will bring!

 

 

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Yellow Book Gardens 1 – Bury Court Farmhouse

Our first National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book garden of 2015 was to Bury Court Farmhouse in the Herefordshire village of Wigmore. We always look forward to our visits to other gardens which open to the public under the auspices of the NGS because of course we open for the Yellow Book too. We were particularly keen to see what other gardens looked like in April as our first opening this year is on 16th April.

To celebrate our first NGS garden of the year the sun came out and the temperature shot up to 17 degrees way above anything we have so far experienced in 2015. We drove down through the beautiful Shropshire Hills and into Herefordshire a county with such beautiful villages among beautiful countryside. We were directed into a rough grassed car park riddled with muddy puddles. We had to seek out a space for our car among dead farm machinery slowly decaying and being taken over by Mother Nature. A cheerful welcome awaited us at the garden gate. Spot the horse shoe hanging from the NGS sign.

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We passed through a five barred gate into a courtyard with narrow borders around its perimeter and a rectangular bed in the centre all planted with cheerful spring bulbs and early flowering perennials and shrubs. Hyacinths, Vincas, Celandines, Doffodils and Tulips.

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We were amused by the owl family and the bird bath.

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The garden boasted a small productive patch with leeks and broad beans already growing well and cloches warming up soil for future crops. A lawned area alongside was bordered by a tall hedge which allowed woodland plants to grow in its shade.

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At the front of the house was a large sunny lawn with island beds full of brightly coloured spring flowering plants. Primroses, Primulas and bulbs especially Hyacinths and Narcissi.

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This beautiful bronze statue of a hare was basking in the sunshine among blue Anemones.

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The borders around this sunny lawn were truly mixed borders with herbaceous planting, shrubs and trees giving interest at every level.

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Right in the centre of this lawned area was a clue to the original use of the imposing stone built building in the centre of the garden. It had originally been a farm growing apples to make cider. The photos below show the mill stone that would have been used to crush the cider apples. Ponies were used to pull the stones around a groove.

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So our first Yellow Book garden of 2015 was certainly worth a visit with its cheerful planting and it served very nice tea and cakes!

 

 

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A Bouquet for March

Here is this month’s “Bouquet” post. The first photo says it all!

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There are in fact two flowers visible – both yellow. Our Cornus mas is still in bloom and the flower buds of daffodils are spearing their way through their white duvet.

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Let’s hope our April Bouquet is a bit more impressive!