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A canal-side garden in winter – John’s Garden Part 2

I found this unpublished post originally written back in mid-February of 2018. I hope you enjoy it!

Back at John’s Garden for our February visit in the cold we can carry on with our exploration as we wander further along the canal-side borders to the canal bridge. In part two 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.

Conifers, grasses and trees and shrubs with coloured stems and bark give a common theme throughout. The first two photos below show the matching gold coloured foliage of a group of conifers and a swathe of grasses.

          

The Rhodendron above has a surprise for you if you turn over its leaves! Who would expect orange on the reverse side of a touch dark green leaf? And it feels like the softest felt.

Skimmia “Kew Green” has unusual green flowers instead of the usual reddish shades, while the Witch Hazels sport many shades of yellow.

 

Snowdrops in drifts light up the ground beneath the tree. Ilex “Ferox” sparkles with variegated leaves curled and heavily spined, probably one of the best hollies available for the small garden.

 

Metal panels with cut-out shapes of fern leaves reflect the planting beneath them in the border. John features many different versions of the low growing evergreen shrub, Leucothe. This one was a real beauty!

 

White can be a powerful colour when the winter sun catches it, as in the bleached stems of Teasels, the trunks of white-bark Birch and the ground covering Carex.

  

Along the way a beautiful pool gave a space to slow down and take a deep breath to take in all we had so far seen.

 

Every garden however small needs seats and they must be chosen to fit the design and atmosphere.

  

Sculpture is scattered around the garden providing us with pleasant surprises among our delight at its plants.

        

Turning at the far end of the garden we had a quick look at the new garden which has just begun being created, Adam’s Garden, designed in memory of John’s gardener who died very young late last year. This will be a great addition to the garden and we look forward to seeing it develop. We then returned on the opposite side of the long garden making interesting discoveries all the way.

The terrace is a place where you need to stop and study the small details, the pots full of original planting ideas, trimmed shrubs, interesting foliage and some floating blossoms.

    

Exploring an interesting little terrace garden finished our visit and we returned to the cafe via John’s lawned area with Betula, Snowdrops, Crocus and sheep.

We have a list of the other few open days the rest of the year so aim to return. All of John’s open days are to raise money for charity including some for the National Garden Scheme, the NGS. We will be back!

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Flintshire fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public National Trust ornamental trees and shrubs The National Trust Wales Winter Gardening winter gardens

A Wonderful Welsh Winter Walk – Erddig Hall

We took a short one hour drive out into Wales today to visit a National Trust property, Erddig which we hoped would afford us the opportunity of exploring a garden with winter interest, interest found in its formal structure, its topiary and imaginative pruning as well as planting. We knew that it holds the National Collection of Hedera (Ivies), so we had something specific and extra to look for too.

After too many wet weeks the day dawned bright and we were to be treated to a day of bright winter sunshine, which would play with shadows and light throughout our walk. We were surprised to discover that the whole place, buildings and gardens were in a state of disrepair bordering on dereliction in the 1960’s when a new owner decided to rescue it and awaken a real jewel of a property.

Two welcome signs greeted us as we entered, a rustic overhead design and another with a beautiful quote which read, “Where fragrance, peace and beauty reign ….”. We would soon see if this were true.

 

The garden is Grade 1 listed and is based around the 18th Century design. Amazingly it works well today! Even the car park and courtyards on the way in had points of interest to us gardeners, some of the Ivy cultivars, ancient wall-trained fruit, a beautifully carved wooden seat featuring carved horse heads and a vintage garden watering cart. We soon met our first Hederas (Ivy) in the collection, an unlabelled specimen which grew to frame a window, and one with beautiful foliage, Hedera hiburnicum variegata.

   

A feature we were looking forward to at Erddig was the huge variety of creatively pruned trees, both fruit trees and conifers. Some of these fruit trees must be decades old but are still skillfully pruned. Really well pruned and trained fruit trees are really beautiful. It felt good to see these age old gardening skills carrying on so professionally.

    

We discovered this double row of pleached limes after spotting an orange glow as the winter sun caught the new twigs and buds.

 

Beautifully topiarised conifers were presented in neat rows and as hedges throughout the formal garden area.

       

Not all the conifers were trimmed and controlled though, some were left to mature and become tall proud specimens.

 

We loved this tall double row of pollarded Poplar trees towering above our path, their network of silhouettes highlighted against the blue sky. This added to the strong structure of the garden.

 

We love to see a touch of humour in gardens and points of interest for children and we enjoyed a few here as we wandered around Erddig.

 

Erddig holds the National collection of Ivies, growing a huge selection of Hedera, but it took us along time to find the organised and well-labelled display of them growing along an old brick-built wall. We were amazed by the sheer variety, from plants with plain green typical leaves to those with the most beautiful and subtle variegation.

 

Don’t you just love to see what gardeners are up to when you visit a garden? Here hedge cutting and mulching borders with rich well-matured farmyard manure were keeping the gardeners on their toes. We were very impressed with the quality of their work and the evidence of a sense of pride in everything they did.

From the front of the house itself we found some wide views over the surrounding countryside.

 

I have only briefly mentioned the Ivy collection at Erddig so far but I will change all that by sharing a collection of my pics of the Ivies as a gallery. Please enjoy by clicking on the first photo and using the arrows to navigate.

Hollies feature too with a lovely varied collection sadly with no labels but here are some to enjoy anyway.

Each photo of an Ilex tree is matched with a close up of its foliage.

So you can appreciate just how impressed we were with the gardens at Erddig on our return visit after many years. We will be returning more often in the future!

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gardening hardy perennials ornamental trees and shrubs shrubs

The Avocet Collection

It feels so magical when you discover a chance seedling that is a natural hybrid that has happened under your nose with no help from the gardener. It is equally special when a surprise seedling is so special and different that you want to give it its own name. We have a few of our own Avocet plants that occurred in this way, two Hellebores, two Hollies, a Cotoneaster, a Willow and a Cornus.

I thought it would be interesting to share them with you and let you see some photos of them to see what you think.

Firstly I will share our two Hellebores, the first pictured below we called Hellebore “Jo’s Jewel”after our daughter Jo who creates beautiful jewelry. It has flowers of a delicate pink with tiny purple dots inside and faint hints of green at the base of each petal turning deep green at the base. The reverse of the petals are of a deeper pink colour. The petals are rounded in shape.

   

Our second selected Hellebore has purple-pink outer petals with fine lines of a deeper purple and spots adorn the inner petals. Each petal, although rounded comes to a point. We have named this seedling after our daughter-in-law, Sam so we call it Hellebore “Sammi’s Smile”. So these sister seedlings are named after two sisters!

    

Our Ilex was selected from dozens of seedlings grown from berries from our garden at our last garden prior to our Avocet patch. We grew them on our allotment nearby and watched and waited to see if anything special developed. After a few years they began to show their potential and naturally most were pretty ordinary apart from half a dozen with very dark stems and foliage. We kept these and composted the rest. We carefully watched these finalists develop until we could identify their growth habit, leaf and stem colour and their flowering and berrying. Eventually we ended up with a select three with very dark and shiny stems and leaves, two we thought would make good standards that we could topiarise, and a third which seemed more delicate.

  

Our third selection we have called Ilex “Avocet Flat Black” and after ten years it has grown to just 3ft tall and 5ft across. It has delicate dark shiny foliage and black stems, it flowers well and its flowers attract bees and hoverflies. The deep red berries are enjoyed by our resident Blackbirds and the shrub is enjoyed by our garden visitors.

Here is our Ilex “Avocet Flat black” in flower and attracting bees.

Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange” is a plant we grew by taking cuttings of a few branches of a friend’s Salix alba britzensis which showed very rich orange coloured stems. These stems glowed so brightly when caught by the sun. The friend was called Wendy hence the name we christened our plants, Salix alba britzensis “Wendy’s Orange”. We grew our cuttings on until large enough to take cuttings from them and so on. We grew a few on as standards that we could pollard and three of these now grace our Rill Garden. They look wonderful and so brightly coloured! See how the sun brings out the orange and makes the branches glow brightly. The first photo is taken under cloud, the second and third in sunlight.

We pollard these willow trees to thicken their trunks and force them to grow fresh, colourful stem growth each spring.

Our selected seedling Cotoneaster was again planted out on our old allotment near our previous home and garden. We selected out one very strong growing plant which looked far superior to the rest, its stems darker than usual, its leaves also darker coloured and heavily textured. When it matured enough to flower it did so profusely, attracting bees and hoverflies. These were followed by deep red berries, ruby red in fact, and highly glossy. Each berry is like a red gem, a ruby, and so we named it Cotoneaster “Jude’s Ruby”. It is much admired by visitors on our garden open days and group visits, who often ask if we have cuttings for sale. We are now trying to build up stock. Cuttings seem slow and not very reliable so we will also try growing from collected seeds.

Our other shrub seedling also features the colour ruby red but not berries, coloured stems instead are its main feature. We named it Cornus “Avocet Ruby”. We selected it from seedlings which appeared on the bank bordering the wildlife pond, and were hybrids between Cornus Midwinter Fire” and other dogwoods grown for their coloured stems. We are now taking cuttings to help build up some stock from which we will be able to sell specimens to our garden visitors. The picture below shows its autumn colouring. Once these yellow leaves fall the brightly coloured stems of yellow, orange and ruby red are revealed in readiness for glowing so brightly in late winter sun.