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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.




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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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Succulents in Pots

It is always good to have little projects to get on with in the garden. My latest little project was to create a pair of succulent pots. We already have pots of succulents dotted or hopefully arranged around our Rill Garden. Here we feature several different Aeoniums, Echeverias and Sempervivum. They grow happily here because it is south facing and gets extra light reflected off the glass of our garden room.

We thought it about time we introduced some more succulents for added interest for our garden visitors on our open days, so bought a pair of beautifully shaped terracotta bowl-shaped pots and went off to our local nursery, Love Plants, to get an interesting selection of  different succulents. We looked for different leaf colours, textures and shapes. A few had the bonus of brightly coloured flowers too. They have such wonderful names too – much too difficult to remember, Oscularia deltoides, Sempervivum jovibarba alionii, Echeveria elegans, Pachyphytum “Dark Red”, Pachyphytum bracteosum and Sedum x rubrotinctum.

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So we gathered together everything we needed on the table in the Rill Garden and got to work.

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We mixed up a suitable growing medium by combining equal quantities of a soil based compost and horticultural grit. We hoped this would be free draining while just holding enough moisture to keep the plants happy.

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We then covered the drainage hole with crocks and added a shallow layer of my compost mix, ready to arrange the plants to their best advantage.

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Some of the plants we put in the pots were our own cuttings. The picture on the left shows how new plants have grown from leaf cuttings. The plant on the right was grown from an offset.

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Once satisfied with the arrangement we filled in between the plants with the compost mixture and topped it off with a mulch of horticultural grit.

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Whenever you deal with succulents bits fall off and each bit can become a cutting. Other pieces we deliberately took as cutting material.

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The photo below shows a leaf cutting taken from an Echeveria which is now forming tiny plants at its base. This is an easy way to make new plants albeit rather slow. It is a process requiring a lot of patience but not much skill.

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And here they are in situ, alongside our rill, our new succulent planters.

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