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My Garden Journal 2019 – December

My Garden Journal 2019 comes to an end this month, so here are the entries for December.

On the first page I wrote, “December sees most of the berries stripped from our shrubs and trees by dozens of  thrushes including migrants who like our winter weather. A few berries remain to enhance he odd flowers, the grasses, seed-heads and evergreen shrubs.”

Over onto the next page I feature some of the more unusual and very subtle coloured foliage in our December patch.

I wrote, “Unusual coloured foliage of our evergreen shrubs come to the fore even on the dullest of days. Bronzes, browns, blushes, purples, blues, greys and greens with flecks of yellow.”

 

Over onto the third page for December and I talk of how much there is to see in our garden if you look down at your feet! “In our garden in winter it pays to look down. Silver glows and glistens at our feet. Silver leaf markings take on so many shapes and patterns.”

     

So just one final page for my December entries for 2019! Maybe my next year’s garden journal will be completely different?

 

For the last page of my 2019 Garden Journal I wrote, “I love sunny winter days when the low sun catches the colour and texture of twig and bark.” Then I featured a collection of ten photos of the light doing just that to a few of our trees and shrubs.

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Seasonal Visits to two very Different Gardens – Bodnant Gardens

Following on from our seasonal autumn visit to our smaller garden for 2019 we took a drive up to north Wales to wander around our larger garden, Bodnant Gardens. Join us as we enjoy the signs of the new season on its trees and shrubs.

Within the first ten minutes wandering we had discovered so many interesting plants and plant combinations. We were slowly making for the Winter Garden, one of our favourite parts of the garden. A first for us was a wall trained Gingko biloba which was really striking, as were the glossy indigo berries on this Dianella.

 

Of course The Winter Garden excels in its season but puts on a pretty good show in the autumn too.

 

From The Winter Garden we wandered through the open woodland towards the Acer Glade. All along the way trees were warming up the day with their hot coloured foliage and with some the added splash of colour provided by berries. I hope you enjoy my short gallery of photos below.

 

The woodland paths of gravel and sometimes grass led us to the predominately orange and red Acer Grove, which was busy with photographers and grandparents escorting their grandchildren picking up selections of their favourite leaves, natural jewels of the glade floor.

   

We left the Acer Grove and made towards the stream which we crossed by a wooden bridge and went upwards into the wooded slope of the dingle, so that we could wander along the many paths and look down into the dingle itself. We found more acers and other colourful deciduous shrubs below the giant conifers. Follow our journal be enjoying this gallery.

And so our day of wandering around the wonderful gardens at Bodnant came to an end, but as usual as we walked towards the gate we had a look at the Hot Garden alongside the stone wall. There is always something worth a second glance here whatever month we visit.

Perhaps one more visit to our other garden Wildegoose to go and if tempted another to Bodnant before the year is out!

 

 

 

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Gregynog Part 2 – the woodland walks

Here we are back at the NGS garden, Gregynog where you left us just starting out on our exploration of the park’s woodland. We wandered past the rose hedge along the gravel drive before turning off to the left along a gravel track which took us past mature trees, both conifers and deciduous, with an understorey of shrubs. Autumn colours were beginning to show in their foliage.

  

Acers beneath the tree canopy provided bright splashes of colour.

   

We soon found ourselves having to cross over the driveway to enter the woodands and almost immediately came across the lake. We began to meet several other couples and families taking advantage of the weather and the woodland trails, as well as a few more serious runners using the “Green Gym”. We took the path that took us almost all around the lake and then took a side track, grassed underfoot, into the woodland itself. We walked beneath mature wrinkled Birches which let plenty of light through to allow an understory to grow away happily.

        

After walking half a mile into the woodland the pathsides were a mass of tall growing golden leaved brackens. The tallest were the same height as Jude, the Undergardener.

On the wood floor beneath the trees a carpet of colourful fallen leaves gave a soft surface for us to walk on.

A final surprise were the dens built around and against the tree trunks by young visitors enjoying the special woodland atmosphere.

Leaving the woodland we could see the hall through the trees, and then we discovered the “Green Gym”, where wooden gym structures awaited the fit and healthy visitors.

So that was our day out at Gregynog, a completely new garden to us and one we would enjoy visiting again.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – December

Here we are with the final visit to my Garden Journal 2018, as we discover what has been going on at out Avocet patch in December. It has been a year of difficult weather for us gardeners with freezing winds, a wet spring followed by a drought in the summer. It has been a bit of a trial really encouraging things to grow and struggling to get new plants established. But of course none of this spoilt our enjoyment of our garden and gardening itself.

I began my entries for December by writing, “December arrived on the scene feeling milder but certainly not brighter than November. Thankfully the winds were gentle and had turned from the cold air carrying Easterlies to the warmer, wetter Westerlies. The winter sun sends low rays of light that capture the colours and textures of our trees especially Betulas and Prunus serrula.” I then featured photographs of our Prunus serrula and some of our Betulas.

Over the page I moved on to look at our ferns and then small shrubs with many coloured foliage.

I wrote, “Ferns are so useful in the garden mostly in places of shade or partial shade. In December they still look fresh and vibrant. A few though show browning of leaf edges and some die right down turning a rich gingery-brown.” Then I shared a selection of photos of some of our ferns.

On the opposite page it was our small shrubs that sport interesting foliage that featured. We have only recently started using low growing shrubs for their foliage as we are discovering how much interest they can add to a border when flowers are lacking. I wrote, “Winter is the season when evergreen broadleaved shrubs come to the fore, leaf surfaces get glossier, colours darken and extra colour appears especially pinks, creams and rubies. Here is a selection of shrubs we have just bought especially for their foliage, although some will also flower and fruit.”

 

Turning over the page we can see glaucous foliage being featured. I wrote, “As the last leaves fall from our deciduous trees and shrubs, we can appreciate their skeletal shapes. At the same time evergreens come to the centre stage. But I am going to show our evergreys in my December journal entries.”

Here is a selection of photos of some of our many glaucous foliaged plants, a climber, some shrubs and some herbaceous perennials.

One of our recent plant discoveries that we have been absolutely deilghted with is Coronilla glauca Citrina, a wonderful shrub that we grow as a climber on the trellis around our oil tank. In my journal I wrote, “Coronilla glauca Citrina is an underated winter flowering shrub with glaucous foliage and citrous coloured pea-like scented flowers. Grey and lemon together is a beautiful partnership. Equally underated are all the members of the Cotoneaster family.”

 

And here are a few of our many Cotoneasters, a family of shrubs we have grown in every garden we have ever had.

    

Turning over once more we discover two pages concerning our ongoing garden projects whch we started in the autumn.

We were forced by circumstances to rebuild our Seaside Garden when gale force winter winds broke the fence behind it. With our next door neighbours we soon got new ones back up. Seeing every negative happening as an opportunity we saw this new longer fence as a great place for interesting climbers and we decided to start the Seaside Border all over again. So at the end of the month we got started, but there is lots more to keep us occupied through part of January. I wrote, “Strong December winds destroyed a section of fence, the one backing the Seaside Garden. To repair it we had to strip out the area, plants and artefacts, but this did afford us the opportunity of refurbishing it.”

 

Here are some of the new plants waiting to go into the “new” Seaside Garden to join those we saved.

On the opposite page I talk about carrying on with our other editing jobs that we started in the autumn. I wrote, “As December draws to a close and the holiday times approach we take advantage of any dry days to catch up with our projects, new steps for the Chicken Garden, planting hundreds of bulbs and replanting the Hot Garden in its new position.”

      

And so to the last page of my 2018 Garden Journal, when I wrote, “December ended frost free. Sunshine caught special features of plants while raindrops hung on leaves, twigs and sculptures.”

Here is the final selection of photos for 2018, showing winter sunshine working its magic on foliage and droplets of rain caught after a shower.

  

“The end of my 2018 Garden Journal.”

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Autumn in an Arboretum and Afternoon Tea

We were lucky to receive a voucher for an afternoon tea from our son Jamie and daughter-in-law Sam, and of course little Arabella and decided to redeem it at a hotel down in the Cotswolds, near the village of Moreton-in-the-Marsh.

We drove down early and spent time wandering Batsford Arboretum, enjoying the colours of autumn leaves before the winds blew them from the branches. It was a dull day but the foliage glowed through the gloom. Most colour came from Acers and Liquidamber of many varieties of each. The wind had already whipped many leaves from their branches.

  

Of course autumn isn’t complete without the red, pinks, oranges and reds of berries, provided by Sorbus, Malus and here at Batsford by the unusual tree called Zanthoxylum planispinum (photo below left).

  

One area of the arboretum was strongly influenced by Japanese garden styles, complete with red painted wooden bridges.

  

While looking at this statue of Buddha we had to suddenly take refuge  in the Japanese tea house nearby from a quick but heavy shower in.

 

We only just allowed ourselves enough time to reach Charingworth Manor for our afternnon tea booked for three in the afternoon. On the journey there it began to rain slightly and the temperature dropped so we were glad to get inside this beautiful Cotswold manor house to the warm and dry. We sat to enjoy our tea close to a huge log fireplace of golden Cotswold stone.

What a great day we had with autumn foliage, an amble around an arboretum finished off in style with afternoon tea.

 

 

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A canal-side garden in winter – John’s Garden Part 1

We have visited “John’s Garden” before in the height of summer and really enjoyed it, so much so that we were determined to re-visit at different times of the year. We imagined it would be an effective all-year garden. Mid-February and John opened his garden on a cold and wet winters day, so we went along with garden-loving friends Pete and Sherlie.

We started with a hot mug of coffee in the nursery coffee shop to warm us up, so with added warmth and lots of excitement and anticipation we wandered down the drive from Ashwood Nurseries to his own 3 acre-garden.

The garden has the advantage of boasting a canal, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, running along its length – not many gardeners could say that about their patch!

An unusual hedge greeted us as we entered the garden, a long cloud pruned hedge, beautifully sculpted. A slate pathway at its end took us into a colourful area full of winter interest. Hamamelis and small deciduous trees were the stars, supported ably by ferns, bergenias, snowdrops and a variety of small-leaved shrubs trained as spheres.

   

We left this little garden behind and crossed an open lawned area dotted with topiary specimens and trees with interesting bark, coloured, textured or peeling. We joined up with the gardens bordering the canal, the sort of background gardeners can only dream of.

 

After a close up look at these trees and touching their bark, we followed the canal-side borders into the main gardens. Here grasses mingled with dogwoods and Willows, both pollarded and coppiced to enhanced their stem colours. Conifers of all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes began to appear here becoming strong features of this garden during the winter months. John is a master at transparency pruning which brings out the trees attributes. Interestingly he prunes both deciduous trees and shrubs and coniferous specimens too, which makes them look so much more interesting and they add so much to borders.

John is also a master of topiarising shrubs to emphasise their beauty and give structural elements throughout the garden. All sorts of conifers and evergreen shrubs have been given this treatment.

    

In part two of my post all about our winter visit to John’s Garden, we will move along the canal borders before returning along the opposite side of the patch, while along the way discovering a pool, sculpture and a terrace and lots more exciting plants and plant pairings.

 

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The Dingle Garden in Welshpool – February

Back to Welshpool to explore The Dingle Gardens for February, we expected little change since our January visit as the weather had remained very similar.

We were greeted by a stunning wooden owl sculpture! Soon we noticed there were lots of signs of new growth, buds forming on trees and shrubs and a few beginning to burst into leaf.

  

Rhodendrons and Azaleas have strong looking buds both leaves and flowers showing well.

 

Some of the many small evergreen shrubs are showing off new fresh growth with Hebes sporting new coloured foliage along with some conifers who show off new coloured needles.

We spotted one Buddleja which was holding onto seed heads from last autumn alongside fairly advanced fresh silver foliage. We wondered what would happen to this growth if a frost suddenly covered it.

A few plants had splashes of green showing where leaf buds were beginning to burst, especially Hydrangeas

   

We didn’t expect to come across many flowers but there were a few to delight the eye and sometimes the nose too.

 

 

 

The bracts and tiny flowers of Euphorbias were brightening up showing glaucous and lime green colours.

 

So February proved to be more interesting than we had predicted. We hope to see the first signs of spring on our next visit in March.

 

 

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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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Simply Beautiful – 11 – Orange Leaves

Spring is the time for brightly coloured unfurling leaves on trees and shrubs. Most are green – sparkling fresh green – but occasionally the colours of new leaves makes the gardener stop in his tracks and take a second look to see if the leaves really are the colour he thinks h has just seen.

Take these leaves unfurling from little sticky buds of an unusual Aesculus. Simply beautiful!

This little tree is called Aesculus x neglecta “Erythroblastos”, a big ugly name for a little attractive tree.

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The Line – a simple tribute to Richard Long

Jude and I are great fans of land artists and are proud of our British contingency of these sculptors with big ideas. We have sought out pieces around the UK and loved the work of Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and Richard Long in particular.

Leaving a wooded shaded area and entering a open grassland mown short by the munching mouths of deer and sheep, the sunlight caught the purity of the white fibres of the sheep wool. A simple white line, a reminder of the work of Richard Long.

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Richard Long and his landscape art would soon come back to our thoughts and eyes, as we continued our wandering in the woodlands at our local National Trust property with its wonderful parkland, woodland and walled garden, we had to take a detour veering away from our usual routeway. We took a poorly marked diversion beneath open woodland of long stretched trees with narrow trunks and branches way up creating a high canopy.

Some of these trees, although relatively young tend to weaken due to competition from their neighbours simply growing too closely, and then either die off or get blown over by strong winds. On this day in late November the bright sunshine shone so low down that it lit up the felled trunks. Below I share my photograph of a thin silver line lying beneath the narrow black verticals, a broken birch bough beneath living conifers stretching to reach the light.

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It put in my mind the work of Richard Long, the part played in his creativity of lines and paths. I took a few shots to put together as a short appreciation of his work.

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sb1-18 The end of the line ………………..

……………………… for now. Soon more broken bright green moss covered fallen boughs cut across our pathway. the richest green cutting through the deeply carpeted dried browns of fallen autumn leaves.

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More lines appear before your eyes when you have Richard Long’s work in your mind, the wash left as a white line across the dark surface of the river, the bright line of light vertically drawn down the trunk of an ancient proud tree.

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So our visit to Attingham Park was made even more special and the experience raised even higher by linking it to Richard Long’s creativity. What a surprise!