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The Citadel – a May garden full of colour.

We started our monthly garden visits with our friends from the Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group with a visit to a garden called The Citadel, which although it is close, within 20 miles of where we live, we had never visited before.

We enjoyed our morning greatly as we found a garden of colour and surprises set around a beautiful red sandstone building. The colour was mostly from Rhododendrons and Azaleas, many of which were also richly scented. The entrance to the garden took us past a wonderful perfectly shaped Copper Beech in its reddish copper colouring. It made a wonderful picture with its neighbouring trees and shrubs.

Around the corner of the house we met the owner who did most of the gardening and his rather grumpy dog, Freddie. We immediately noticed a circle of colourful tulips and nearby a lovely seating area and a wisteria draped pergola.

After an introduction we took off along a series of pathways up a raised section covered in Rhododendrons. We found surprises along the way which adds an extra dimension to any good garden.

As we left the rhododendrons behind with their bright colours and large blooms, the views opened up in front of us. We discovered an old rustic and very highly decorated summerhouse, an open view over the countryside and much softer plantings.

 

 

We were surprised to find a beautifully maintained and productive looking productive garden. From here we made our way to the castle for refreshments and a chat with the owner, and that is how our lovely morning ended.

 

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A Week in Cornwall – Part 4 – Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of the top garden attractions in the country as figures have shown. The gardens were discovered and unearthed by Tim Smitt when he explored the gardens which had been derelict since the end of World War I, when so many of the gardeners did not return. The gardens were totally overgrown, buildings derelict and glasshouses tumbling down, glass broken and wood rotting.

Smitt decided to resurrect them and opened the gardens to the public as a team of gardeners and archaeologists began work. They were called, romantically, The Lost Gardens of Heligan. We visited soon after it opened and really enjoyed its romantic atmosphere.

The restoration is now just about complete, so we looked forward to our return visit to see it in its new guise. We soon realised that we were in for a treat as soon as we entered the coffee shop for our usual boost of coffee and cakes before our wanderings. Old garden tools were beautifully framed and displayed on the walls and the building had a lovely old rustic feel about them.

 

As we left the cafe a fingerpost presented us with plenty of options. We were most interested in the productive walled garden with its glasshouses, coldframes, bothy and potting shed. So we made our way there passing interesting plantings along the way.

   

We entered the walled garden through a gateway and made our way towards apple arches forming a covered walkway, rich with fruit. Around all border edges fruit is trained to create living productive fences. Across the length of each garden patch vegetables, roots, beans and salads march in long strong rows as straight as can be.

    

The gardeners were busily strengthening the traditions laid down by their gardener predecessors. One gardener was spreading seaweed collected just hours before from the beach and driven back to the walled garden by tractor and trailer. Nearby potatoes were being harvested and boxed up in wooden trays in readiness for storage in dark sheds or cellars.

 

Flowers for cutting were blossoming in lines parallel to the veggies, zinnias, dahlias and antirrhinums.

 

Leaving the walled garden we moved into a smaller attached walled yard, where coldframes sat wide open for aeration.These sat happily alongside a collection of glasshouses. These glasshouses were the very ones we had seen years ago in a state of total dereliction. Now they stand proud and productive thanks to the skills of craftsmen utilising traditional craftsmanship and skills.

The walls were furnished with ancient trained fruit trees, apples, pears, peaches and plums.

    

Beyond the glasshouses the potting shed stood holding the memories of those gardeners lost in the first world war, terracotta pots filled each row of every rack where close by garden tools hung on whitewashed walls. We could feel a special atmosphere in this shed, full of the skills of gardeners past and present.

     

Leaving the potting shed we still had lots to see and plenty to explore. See my next post for Heligan Part 2, Beyond the Potting Shed.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – November

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

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

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

 

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

   

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

Sorbus Joseph Rock                 Sorbus Autumn Spire

Sorbus Autumn Spire                                          Sorbus aucuparia

Sorbus Apricot Queen                                       Sorbus Apricot Queen

Sorbus vilmorinii                                                 Sorbus vilmorinii

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

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

     

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

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

      

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

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

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

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

   

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

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A little village garden – Von’s garden.

We have lots of gardening friends with gardens of all types and sizes and in all sorts of locations. One of our most enjoyable garden related activities is to visit a garden belonging to a friend. On a wet dull day in mid-June we visited the village garden of friend Yvonne, more often called Von. It is a garden with a beautiful view across the Shropshire countryside and a garden that happily sits in its environment.

I hope you enjoy my photographs taken in poor light and drizzling rain but the plants shone through. A gravel path leads us alongside a delicately planted border with softly curved shapes. The spires of tall-growing foxgloves and delphiniums shine through the gloom matching the colours of geraniums that soften the path edges.

  

Centrally placed in the garden is a softly shaped pool surrounded by beautiful planting.

 

There are well-placed seats throughout the garden each with special views including some that look out of the garden across the surrounding countryside.

 

These seats are situated on a gravel patch which boasts a large boulder with a smaller partner, a terracotta pot housing a saxifrage alongside an alpine sink.

 

Von loves plants so much that every vertical surface is covered with plants, ceanothus, honeysuckle and ivy.

 

Reaching the bottom of the garden there is a native hedge decorated with soft pink dog roses. Looking back up towards the house we get a different view of the garden and notice a very productive veg patch with neat raised beds.

  

As with any garden the stars are the plants and here there are many of interesting specimen deserving of more than a glance.

  

  

Wildlife enjoys this garden too. While taking a shot of this white and purple-spotted foxglove a bee arrived and set about exploring each little glove. A great finish to our visit, which will definitely not be the last.

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My Garden Journal 2018 – May

Here we are with the fifth visit to my garden journal for 2018, where I report on what is happening in our Avocet garden in Shropshire. Does it show that spring may eventually have arrived?

On my first page for May I wrote, “May began wet with continued patches of cold winds from the East. We continued to garden whenever the rain was not torrential but through it all the garden burgeoned. Fresh greens of every shade brightened our patch and contrasted beautifully with the colours of flowers.”

“The brightest leaves of all are those of ferns, hostas, Jacob’s Ladder and Euphorbia.”

  

Turning over the page I looked at a job that Ian our gardener completed in May, plus a look at our wildlife in the garden.

“We decided as the first week ended, to clear the greenhouse out and change two soil borders for gravel. Ian, our gardener did the hard work and enjoyed working under cover. The day he did there were intermittent heavy showers and periods of humid sunshine. His waterproof coat was constantly on and off, one minute hanging on his back, the next hanging on a hook in the greenhouse. The soil from the borders became a useful mulch material for nearby borders.”

 

“Ian cleared the soil away and put membrane down. We covered this in grit.”

“By the end of the first week of May temperatures soared and the rain faded away. Daytime temperatures doubled. The garden has filled with life and as flowers abound, bees, hoverflies and our first butterflies, Orange Tips and Brimstones take to the wing. We garden every day with the constant knocking sound as a Great Spotted Woodpecker bangs away at the finial on top of the wooden telegraph pole opposite our front garden. He hits his own notes!

A woodpecker family nests every year in the old Oak tree in the paddock behind our garden. During the winter several of them visit the feeding stations but once the female is laying and incubating the male makes more frequent visits to our garden feeding himself as well as his partner and the youngsters. 

There seem so few Swallows and House Martins wheeling around overhead this year, further signs of a terrible downward trend in population figures. Our Swifts have only just arrived back from their migration so we can look forward to a few months of their squeals overhead.”

Over the page I moved on to look at Dan Pearson’s thoughts on the sudden growth seen in May.

 

I wrote, “Reading Dan Pearson’s “Natural Selections”, I enjoyed his reference to the noticeably rapid growth in gardens in May.

“The growth is a remarkable thing during these weeks between spring and summer. If you could hear it there would be a tangible hum, made from a million buds breaking and stems flexing. The tide of green sweeps up and over bare earth, cloaking it as fast as the leaves fill out above us.”

For us May is also the month when the first of our visiting garden groups come to share our patch with us. They enjoy wandering around our many paths, taking photographs, asking questions and finishing with tea, coffee and Jude’s home baked cakes.”

I then move on to look at some of our flowering trees and shrubs that are features of our May garden, about which I wrote, “Flowering trees and shrubs add colour and often scent at a higher level than the spring bulbs and early perennials.”

Viburnum farreri

Weigela middendorfiana

  Cercis siliquastrum 

Eriostemon Flower Girl White

  Calycanthus floridus        Buddleia salvifolia

Over the page we look at our Japanese Garden and alpine plants. “We spent more time in mid-May working in the Japanese Garden, where a month ago we added a new step into the lower slope. We planted a miniature Rhododendron at each end of the step. These are now in full flower. Beneath our Prunus subhirtella autumnalis which we have pruned in a Japanese style, we have planted a group of “moss plants”. 

 

On the page opposite are photos of some of our alpines and I wrote, “May is the month when alpine Saxifrages peak.”

   

“Miniature alpine shrubs, Pinus mugo “Mumpitz” and an alpine Daphne.”

 “Alpine Silene”

Turning over the page we find the final double page spread, which featured the first Hemerocallis and the first of our roses to flower. On the opposite page blossom was the star.

“The end of May sees the first Hemerocallis coming into flower, and the first of our roses which is a very late start.”

  

On the final page of my journal for May I featured photos of the fruit blossom which was looking so good and promising a healthy harvest later in the year.

“Fruit blossom this May was the best we can ever remember with apples, pears and quince flowering heavily. We await a great fruit crop!

“Bunches of apples will need thinning out more than ever before!”

So that is the end of my May journal, finishing off on a positive note as the garden feels so full of life.

 

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Simply beautiful blossom

We grow many fruit trees here at our Avocet patch, mostly trained as cordons, ballerinas or stepovers, plus one freely grown tree a Quince “Vranga”. In mid-May these apples and  pears are in full blousy blossom.

I went out into the garden on a bright sunny day with deep shadows with camera in hand to record their beauty. I hope you enjoy my pictures.

Fruit will follow in the late summer and into the autumn. We will start harvesting in August and continue until the end of October, some apples we will eat fresh others we will store and enjoy through to the end of March. The pears we will pick off the tree and relish them while they are still warm, dripping with juices and full of flavour.

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park in September 1

We returned for our monthly visit for a wander around the park at Attingham Park, the gardens, woodlands and walled garden. Here is my report on our visit in September. We made the visit early in the month as I was due to go into hospital for some pretty major surgery, a rebuild of my right leg to be precise, so we don’t know when the October visit may happen. You may get a series of photos taken from a new angle, from a wheelchair.

We arrived expecting to see early signs of autumn, such as some colouring up of leaves and looked forward to spotting some early fungi. As we followed the path surfaced with bark chip beneath the mature trees towards the destination, we noticed how autumn’s harvest of nuts had been blown down onto the path in front of us, acorns, Sweet Chestnuts, and Horse Chestnuts. Shrubs were putting on displays of rich shiny berries for us to enjoy looking at and for wildlife to cache away until winter digs in deeply or to enjoy a few now.

   

    

Autumn fruits were in abundance in the Walled Garden, fruit trees and bushes, some trained against the walls for extra warmth, were dripping with fruits awaiting harvest time.

We left the walled garden and followed the woodland walk trail, hoping to find some fungi and signs of foliage changing their colours. In part two I will share with you what we found.

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park May

Spring is slowly turning into summer as we enjoy our monthly visit to our local National Trust property, Attingham Park. The walks are getting busier, the volunteers in the walled garden even busier.

    

Continuing our through the woodland we were attracted to a bright patch of colour beneath the tall mature trees, which turned out to be a clutch of Rhododendrons.

This bright yellow variety, Rhododendron luteum was beautiful with the hints of salmon orange, had the added interest of a rich sweet scent, which could be appreciated from metres away.

Throughout the woodland we discovered signs of wildlife living there.

         

Wildflowers decorated the grassy patches beneath the trees and alongside the tracks.

   

I shall finish my report of our May visit to Attingham Park with a gallery for you to enjoy. Click on the first photo and navigate with the arrows.

 

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park April – Part 1

We managed to find a day close to the end of April to make our monthly visit to Attingham Park. It was a bright warm day so we knew we would have much to look forward to. As we made our way beneath tall mature trees full of noisy nesting Jackdaws and Rooks we were joined by grandparents carrying out their grandchildren caring duties so the sounds at our level were of laughing youngsters enjoying being outdoors.

There was so much to enjoy, wildflowers in full vibrant colour, fresh green leaf burst in the trees and busy productive growing in the walled garden.

The old Head Gardener’s cottage garden provided a colourful welcome to the park’s visitors.

 

Enjoy a wander through the walled garden by exploring the gallery below. (Click on the first pic and navigate through clicking on the right arrow.)

We left the walled garden to follow the One Mile Walk, which would take us close to the river and afford us views of the woodland and pastureland beyond. It is a quiet but popular walk. Most visitors here enjoy the peace and the chance to be part of nature.

 

Bluebells gave clouds of deep blue, a haze of calm and beauty.

    

The pale colours of fresh willow foliage gave a ghostly feeling to this section of the walk.

 

Rhododendrons provided surprise splashes of colour in the shadows of the tallest of trees.

 

Towards the end of our wanderings for our April visit to Attingham Park, the deciduous trees with their bright fresh new foliage and bursting buds gave way to dark needled coniferous evergreens. Their large cones looked like a family of young Little Owls.

 

In part two of our report on our April visit to Attingham Park I will share with the the pleasure of finding flowers, wild and cultivated, on our wanderings and some pics of fresh foliage growth.

 

 

 

 

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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.