We never expected to find a beautiful garden at the end of a long narrow farm track with grass down its centre, but we did! We were going to visit an NGS garden in the neighbouring county of Powys. The garden in question was ‘Moel-y-Gwelltyn-Ucha, a steeply terraced cottage garden situated at 900 feet above sea level, a truly challenging spot to create a garden.
When we finally arrived at the property we parked close to the five bar gate to the garden and were warmly greeted by the owners/gardeners. Walking alongside the cottage walls the planting against them gave us an idea of what was to come so we couldn’t wait to get started.
This was a garden with a superior borrowed landscape, gently rolling farmland and the sounds of birdsong, lost lambs and old tractors.
The garden itself also had a peaceful atmosphere which made us feel very relaxed. Gravel paths followed the contours of the slope and the terraces and by following each one and exploring around every corner the garden revealed more and more of its secrets.
A large wildlife pond took up a position centre stage. We came across it several times during our exploration and it sat beautifully within the overall design of the garden.
Surprises always add so much to a garden’s character.
Some interesting plants stopped us in our tracks as we moved around the garden, all beautifully healthy and in many cases very well matched to partners.
I shall continue with a few views of the garden from each level.
Jude and I enjoy our monthly summer visits to gardens with fellow members of the Hardy Plant Society Shropshire Group but in addition we visit other gardens with our mini-group colleagues. The mini-groups are sub-groups of the main county group of the HPS. This year we are visiting each others’ gardens in turn, one a month from Spring to Autumn.
At the end of March we journeyed out to the village of Fitz to visit the garden of mini-group member Julie. An open area of lawn invited us to wander and soon our eyes were drawn towards a old shrub pruned into a piece of sculpture.
The wood was close to a beautiful pond beneath a Silver Birch, with softly coloured perennials beneath, including some beautiful Epimediums.
Throughout th egarden we kept discovering interesting trees and shrubs.
But Julie’s garden had more to enjoy than plants and plant combinations, with sculptural pieces and touches of humour and signs of inventive minds at work.
This beautiful piece of sculpture features four simply constructed seats which look exactly right where they are. It was created by their son as a set piece for exams – beautiful!
Many of us were fascinated by this crescent trellis built to support climbers so we spent time working out how it was made.
The pool edge held a mixture of pieces, some there just to amuse.
So there we have it – a visit to an interesting village garden in spring.
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.
We are so lucky to live where we do in so many ways, not least of which is the number of excellent gardens we can visit within a day. Recently on a Sunday we found a garden open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, the same scheme that our garden is a part of, and this one at Hurdley Hall was just over a half hour drive away.
We parked up in a rough pasture field alongside a farm and trudged uphill to the garden itself entrance. We obtained our tickets and walked down the drive which fell steeply to the garden itself, but this did afford us excellent glimpses of what we could expect so our expectations were heightened. Apart from the garden encompassing the house there were meadows, a new orchard and woodland to explore so we were in for a busy afternoon.
The house itself was first built in 1630 with additions made in 1718, 1820 and 2010. The garden was just 15 years old. The view from the house and garden was of a wooded valley and a steep hill which is a nature reserve.
Where we sat to enjoy the views with tea and cake we were close to a very colourful herbaceous border, displaying interesting colour combinations. The garden also boasted a small kitchen garden with raised beds and a shaded area with pond.
To one side of the house a more formal area contrasted well with the softer plantings we had seen so far. Lots of pale stonework and blue flowers gave this area its own character, almost Mediterranean.
After enjoying a slow wander around the garden under a baking sun we followed a sign for the meadows. We passed through a gateway and followed close cut grass paths through the meadow which gave us views of a newly planted orchard and woodlands. Come with us through the six-bar wooden field gate and explore the meadows and woods by following my gallery, which finishes off this visit to this wonderfully atmospheric garden and the land beyond.
To follow the gallery click on the first photo then navigate with the arrows.
We love to visit our fellow Yellow Book gardens and then sharing them with you. In this post we will share our visit to Hill House Farm, another Herefordshire garden gem. We visited back in July. We liked the description presented in the NGS book, which enticed us to wander slowly down a long gentle slope through shrub and tree plantings in grass with closer cut paths marking the way down to a wildlife pool 200 feet below. Knowing that the garden had been developing for 40 years already gave added interest, as these gardeners were obviously thinking about and doing things in their garden. All good gardeners will never stop learning!
We love a garden with a warm welcome, inviting paths and steps especially when one flight of steps surrounded by aromatic herbs leads us to a good cup of tea and homemade cakes! Beautifully designed and thoughtfully placed seats help too!
As soon as we arrived we knew we would enjoy the plants as they seemed to be placed in the best possible places to catch the light to absorb it and increase the intensity of their colours, whether bright or pastel.
This garden definitely did not disappoint and delivered extras we were not expecting but always enjoy, outdoor sculptural pieces. I have shown a few pieces from different directions and distances to show how well they sit in their garden environment.
Stone walls, some tall, tough and imposing others tiny, simply visually supporting and complimenting the plants, created a partnership with wide green swathes of grass pathways led our eyes down the garden invitingly – we just had to follow.
A stream appeared alongside the path we followed downhill and it accompanied us right down to the pool as the planting changed to reflect the damper air and ground. Rambling wild roses and native shrubs added plenty of colour and texture to the hedges.
The pool edges and margins were still being developed but there were already interesting plant groupings going on.
This amazing ever-moving glass and metal sculpture hung over the water surface reflecting every moment that a breeze moved the air. I have put 3 pics in so that you can select the one you like best.
Jude the Undergardener always likes a swing in the garden so this poolside play piece delighted her, hanging as it did below a huge ancient oak.
Wandering back up the slope slowly afforded us views of the garden slope and the farm bulding in the distance high up.
And to top it all off this unusual informal garden had a lovely productive garden and the finest views. a great day out indeed!
While visiting Devon in mid-February we planned to spend a couple of days at the RHS’s Rosemoor Garden where an exhibition of sculpture was on show throughout the site.
Before leaving we discovered that Stone Lane Gardens was close by, a garden which holds the National Collections of Betulas (Birches) and Alnus (Alders). Our hotel was situated in between these two gardens, so we decided we simply had to visit this garden too.
We drove across the moors of Dartmoor covered in a cloak of mist and fine drizzle for an hour before dropping a little lower which took us beneath the dampness. We followed small inconspicuous signs towards the garden as the lanes got narrower and narrower until we turned into a cobbled farmyard which acted as the car park. The buildings were deserted but we found an honesty box in which Jude dropped our entry fees. We were pleased to find a map to borrow.
We crossed the narrowest of lanes and entered the garden through a beautiful wrought iron gate. Its beauty was a reflection of the treats that waited for us as we walked along a gravel path into the woodland garden. We stopped to admire a wildlife pond and ahead we spotted a beautiful metal sculpture. Further sculptures were to be found close by.
It was a delight to find native Daffodils and Snowdrops growing alongside our trackway.
We soon came across some of the alders in the garden’s National Collection. February is probably not the best month to see Alders so I only took a few photos. The texture of their bark did look good though as did the remains of last year’s flowers. We will certainly return later in the year and take a better look.
After passing through a tunnel of coppiced Alders we got our first view of the Birches we had come to see.
We were drawn to a group of dark barked Birches. Luckily the trees here are well labelled so we discovered them to be Betula ermanii “Mount Zao Purple”.
The next group we were attracted to through this enchanting woodland was of Betula raddeana. This was a very varied group presumably grown from Ken’s seed collecting expeditions.
Having explored each of this group touching their bark and having close up looks at their bark and branch structures we moved on soft grass paths through so many young Birches.
Devon is well known as being a good place for mosses and lichen and the trees here were well covered. As we reached the end of the garden we found pools and odd pieces of sculpture dotted between groves of alders and birches.
We shall return to share with you our wander back through the woodland garden.
Here we are with part 8 of my monthly series looking at what I have put into my garden journal. August has been a disappointing month weatherwise, with winds, rain and dull skies, and the plants have responded with short flowering periods and even our roses have failed to repeat flower.
I began my August entries, “The month of school holidays when families make their way to the seaside, is not a holiday in the garden. We have to keep dead-heading and tidying to make sure it looks its best.” and continued with my monthly quote from Jenny Joseph, “August is a time of vegetables and smells of leaves and roots as we clear: dusty, musty smell of old growth. What flowers we have in August depends on how diligent you’ve been at dead-heading earlier.”
I continued, “We dead-head our Roses most days in an attempt to keep them in bloom, and cut back dying perennials to encourage both fresh blooms and fresh growth from below.”
I next referred to our fun activity which takes us back to our childhoods, pond dipping, “An early dip in the pond with our net revealed that young Newts are still very much in evidence. We discovered the shell of a Dragonfly larva and a strangely bodied surface dwelling insect, its shape like an elongated diamond.” I wonder what a pond dipping session will reveal in September as autumn will then be creeping in.
Our Cercis siliquastrum tree featured again as we turn the page of my journal just as it has done in my May entries.
“Discovering new points of interest in the garden is always refreshing. We have always loved our Cercis siliquastrum for its mass of pink flowers in May, but this year we have rows of seed pods hanging from branches like celebratory bunting or prayer flags from Tibet.”
I attempted to paint a watercolour of a selection of pods and this proved to be a real challenge with the subtle variations of green and pink from pod to pod.
Further notes about the wildlife in our August garden followed on at the turn of the next page, where I noted, “Gardening in August is done with the sounds of Swallows and House Martins wheeling over our heads. Two very contrasting wildlife sounds add to the soundtrack, the deepest croaking grunt of our Toads and the highest pitched song of all our garden birds, the diminutive Goldcrest.” In my painting I tried to capture the character of the Goldcrest, cheerful, jittery and sparkling with life.
More sounds featured on the facing page, “Gentle, almost inaudible sounds emit from every border, the sounds of Hoverflies. Gentle humming from above flowers, rapid beats make wings almost invisible, the Hoverfly moves in sudden sharp changes of direction. They can be wasp-like, bee-like or fly-like, masters of mimicry and disguise”. I love taking photos of the wildlife that shares our garden and insects and have hundreds in my Photoshop storage space. I have found a few featuring a few of the many different species of Hoverfly to share with you.
It is one of my favourite families of plants that I featured on the next double page spread, the Crocosmias. “Hot colours throughout our garden are provided by many different Crocosmias. Yellows, Oranges and Reds.” I enjoyed the challenge of creating watercolour paintings of three of our cultivars.
From one bulbous rooted plant to another, from Crocosmias to Agapanthus. “Remember those Aganpanthus buds of July? Well, just look at them now!”
I hope you enjoy this little gallery of photos of our Agapanthus. Just click on the first photo and use the arrows to move on through.
My final page for August featured another garden favourite, this time a climber, the Honeysuckle. I wrote “Scent is an important player in our garden and one scented plant that waits until the evening to share its sweet aromas is the Honeysuckle or Lonicera. We have used a particularly beautifully coloured one to climb up the trellis that hides our composters. And our moths love it!” I turned once again to my beautiful wooden box of watercolour paints to create a little series of pictures of the buds, blooms and berries of the Honeysuckle.
The next look at my garden journal will be in September when we may be seeing the early signs of Autumn.
I can’t believe we are in the second half of the year but as this is the post about my garden journal in July then we most certainly are!
I began my July journal entry with a reference to the weather, the obsession of the British especially gardeners. “The month of July burst in with a heatwave. Some plants objected by wilting but flower colours were enriched in the sunlight. Lilies and Clematis joined the colour pallette provided by June’s Roses and Geraniums.”
Our Oriental Lilies were the best we have ever had this July and we have been growing them for many years. We grow them in big pots so that we can simply drop them in where and when they are needed to add splashes of dramatic colour. Enjoy my little gallery of Lily photos. Just click on the first photo and then use the arrows.
I then wrote about our July pond dipping adventure, “A pond dip early in the month showed young newts still present in abundance alongside nymphs of Dragons and Damsels. This little creature (painting below) caught my eye. At just over a centimetre in length the Water Lice, or Isopoda, is the wet equivalent of the more common Wood Lice. They cannot swim but simply scramble around devouring detritus and decaying plant material. They are common prey of the larvae of Damsels and Dragons.”
I moved on then from pondlife to birdlife and looked at two of the most beautiful birds that visit our garden. “We have been visited by two of our most colourful birds over the last few weeks, Bullfinches and Redstarts.” The Redstart made a fleeting visit on our last open day at our garden when it was full of visitors, which seemed a bit brazen for a normally shy woodland bird.
Agapanthus featured next in my July garden journal as our collection in our Beth Chatto garden were budding up nicely promising a beautiful display before too long. We have been building up our collection of favourite Agapanthus for a few years now and it is now coming along well. “Our collection of Agapanthus in our Beth Chatto Garden is slowly getting more colourful as flower buds burst. Surely these are the slowest of buds to become flowers!”
To see some of our Agapanthus up close, some still in tight buds some opening up, please enjoy the little Agapanthus gallery below. As usual click on the first picture and use the arrows to move through. Next month promises to be a month of Agapanthus flowers rather then buds. Can’t wait!
My next double page is about the weather and our min-meadows.
My journal continues, “This year the heat of the early part of July was not set to continue for us in Shropshire. Dark grey masses of clouds took over from clear blue skies.”
Mighty Mini-Meadow is the title of the next page of my journal which features photos of the little but very floriferous meadow we sowed in early May in vegetable bags. The seeds germinated so well that we have been treated to a mass of blooms reminiscent of a summer meadow from the days before intensive agriculture changed our countryside into huge barren fields of monoculture. It sits beneath my collection of antique garden tools. These native wildlflowers attract insects as if drawn in by distant memories, bees, hoverflies and butterflies.
What an honour Mother Nature bestowed on us this month! This is how the next page of my journal begins. It is all about a special time in our garden, a moment we will never forget.
“Early one morning we noticed that a Dragon Fly larva had crawled from our pond, across the decking and up the door of our summerhouse. The green colour of the door must have fooled it into thinking it was tall rushes. Once in place the back of the larva opened up and a Dragonfly very slowly emerged. At first it was wingless but as warmth increased they popped out looking as if they were made of plastic. The creature shivered itself into life and the sun helped pump life and rigidity into its wings. An hour later we watched an adult Dragonfly off.”
I illustrated this amazing spectacle with a simple i-pad drawing and a photo of the head of the Dragonfly gripping the empty shell of its former self.
So with this amazing experience my journal closed up for July and will soon re-open for August.
Half way through the year and here we are again to have a look at my garden journal for the month of June. My special Moleskine embossed with the word “greenbenchramblings” is now on its way to being half full.
In my first page for June I wrote “Garden writers talk of the “June gap”, a time when fewer flowers bloom than in other summer months. Luckily for us we have spotted no gaps in our garden.
For us June is a month of Roses, of Day Lilies, of Geraniums, of Snap Dragons and so much more. It is the month of scents too. Whenever humidity rises scents become richer and invade every part of our garden, so much so that we find it hard to identify individual scents and from where they arise”
I filled the second page with a gallery of rose photos. Enjoy navigating through my set of Rose pics.
On page 3 we find this month’s quote from Jenny Joseph. “My quote from Jenny Joseph’s little delight of a book looks at how scent changes with the weather”
“Though the over-riding smell of sunlit June is a mixture of Philadelphus and Strawberries, if it gets too hot there is an arid, dusty smell, the smell of rank stinging nettles. If we get rain after dry heat at this time, an almost delirious richness comes from all the wet foliage.”
We have a highly scented Philadelphus shrub arching over the path to our Shade Border, but it is in reality growing in our neighbours’ garden. We train the long flowering stems over the path so that we pass through a tunnel of rich sweet scent.
On the opposite page I wrote about the creatures seen by the wildlife pond in mid-June, Dragonflies, Damselflies and Pond Skaters.
“Dragonfly and Damselfly larvae creep slowly up stems of pond plants and metamorphose from the ugly to the beautiful. Pond Skaters skim in twitching movements across the surface of the water without breaking through.”
I enjoyed painting our most beautiful Damselfly which we see often on summer days flitting around our garden and often coming into the house to see us!
Page 5 features one of our favourite families of herbaceous perennials, the Geraniums. We have many different varieties and cultivars flowering in many of our borders.
“Geraniums are any lover of perennial plants favourites. So many shades of pink and blue on flowers of varying size and detail of petal”.
On my next page I looked at the bird life in our June garden,
“Our garden in June is subject to regular invasions of fledgling birds, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits along with Finches Green and Gold. They beg for food noisily and even ask us for food as we get on with our gardening chores.”
I then picked myself up on the use of the term “gardening chores”,
“It strikes me as odd that we speak of gardening chores or jobs and tasks. Gardening is a delight.
To accompany these words I painted a water colour of a fledgling Blue Tit, looking a little like a faded version of its parents.
Pages 7 and 8 of my June journal featured a bit of pond dipping and a look at a special Rose.
“A warm evening in late June was a perfect time to get out my pond-dipping net and sample tray. A few scoops and the tray was full of life.”
I painted a Water Measurer and the larva of a Common Newt. Both these creatures appeared in numbers in every scoop I made with the net. Even if just a few of these young Newts reach adulthood it will help manage the slug population and perhaps reduce the number of holes in our Hosta leaves.
My final entry in my garden journal for the month of June was a look at a special Rose which we discovered just last year. We were initially attracted to its beautiful buds and rich chocolate brownish red blooms. We discovered it was called Dark Chocolate and it has the added benefit of a rich scent.
“We have an unusually coloured rose growing in our “Secret Garden” called Rosa “Hot Chocolate”. The colour is a deep brick-red with hints of the darkest brown. Its scent is rich, fruity but with a hint of dark chocolate. The buds of Hot Chocolate are one of the most beautiful of all roses.”
Back to my garden journal where we can see what was interesting me in our garden at Avocet during the month of April. My journal for April begins “As March gave way to April the weather responded with the sun making regular appearances and for the first time this year daytime temperatures made double figures. The garden celebrates!”
It celebrated with bright colours of spring flowers such as Celendines, Pulmonarias and early chartreuse flower s and bracts of Euphorbias.
My quote from Jenny Joseph’s book “Led by the Nose – A Garden of Smells” speaks of the delicate scents of the garden and in the countryside that are so important in spring.
“The flowers that had come out in the sheltered places on banks and in woods – violets and primroses kept fresh by the rain at the beginning of the month – had been too shy and careful to part with much of their scent. Now they opened to the sun, and woods and walks began to have a lighter sweeter air. The air began to be a mingling of fragrances.”
As the water in the wildlife pond warmed up we thought we would have our first dip with our net to see what wildlife was in evidence beneath the surface. In the journal I wrote “What fun as we reverted to childhood!”We were surprised by just how many different creatures had already stirred into life. I chose to paint the nymphs of Dragonflies and Dameslflies and a Backswimmer. The Damselfly Nymph will hatch out into an Azure Damsel and the two Dragonfly Nymphs into a Hawker Dragonfly and a Darter Dragonfly. They were quite a challenge to paint in their subtle earthy hues.
Continuing on the watery theme on the next page of my garden journal I wrote “Jude gets excited each time she catches a newt when she is on her regular pond maintenance forays. The first this year appeared in early April. Such excitement at Avocet!” We were so pleased to find so many newts out and about and so active this early in the year. As well as enjoying seeing them using our pond we are even more pleased to know that they are helping us with out pest control out in the borders. They spend much of their time out of water and are partial to slugs. Welcome visitors indeed!
Now these little critters were even more of a challenge to paint than the other pond creatures! Anyway here are the results.
On my next page I wrote, “During Easter Weekend, usually associated with cold and rain, the sky turned the deepest, clearest blue. Temperatures suddenly doubled and the garden buzzed and hummed with the arrival of bees and hoverflies. The most popular of all plants is the flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.”
April is the busiest month of the year in the greenhouse. We raise vegetable plants for our allotment plot and annual plants for our garden, but a lot of space is taken up with Jude growing hardy perennials to sell on our open days.
Towards the middle of the month the ponds were getting livelier with Water Boatmen, Pond Skaters and Water Beetles in evidence whenever the sun shone on the water. We set up our live moth trap for the first time this year to see what was about when darkness fell on the garden. Moths have such wonderful names, mostly given to them by English country clerics with far too much time on their hands. We found Small Brindled Beauties, Muslin Moths, Common Quakers and Early Greys.
I next wrote “Goldfinches are searching the uppermost branches of our trees for the best nest site. We have at least one pair nest every year”. I then got out my watercolour paints and pens and attempted a painting of a Goldfinch.
My final page in my journal entries for April featured two colourful beetles which we found in our garden in that month. “A tiny and very welcome visitor, a 14-Spot Ladybird came to our garden on our first Open Day of the year. A tiny but very unwelcome visitor to our garden also appeared on our first Open Day, a Lily Beetle. We welcome the 14-Spot as he eats aphids but we hate the Lily Beetle as it devours our lily leaves.”