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Seasonal visits to two very different gardens

Instead of a monthly visit to the same garden for a whole 12 months I decided to look at two gardens, one small and one large. We have already visited the large one, Bodnant Gardens in North Wales already. So here is our first visit to our chosen small garden Wildegoose Nursery and Garden here in Shropshire.

We visited on May 5th, the day that Wildegoose opens with Millichope Hall Gardens for the NGS, just as we do. Wildegoose is the restoration project of the hall’s walled garden. Here a young couple, Jack and Laura Willgoss, have set up a nursery and are developing a modern perennial style garden as well as specialising in hardy perennial violas. It is an exciting project which we love to visit often.

Our first visit for this series of posts was on May 5th, a bright day with a chilly wind but a day with great light for taking photos and enhancing the brightness of colours.

We arrived via a tall gate in the the brick walls and were immediately struck by a patch of Forget-me-nots and tulips. We soon realised that Jack and Laura had a great taste in tulip colours. These tulips complimented so effectively the strength of colours of euphorbias and wallflowers.

Throughout the garden, as we wandered and explored, little gems of plants caught our eyes like this unusual Cammassia and the strong stemmed Thalictrum “Black Stocking”.

 

Memories of the walled garden’s Georgian origins and its history until its demise after the two world wars appear occasionally throughout the garden, and exciting artifacts integrate into the plantings.

  

The teashop is wonderfully old-fashioned and is so welcoming with beautiful bone china crockery in which tasty tea is served along with home-made cakes. We found a beautifully coloured table and chairs within the garden. We are tempted to paint some of our metal furniture in that colour as it sits so comfortably in the garden.

 

Next here is a selection of photos taken throughout the walled garden for you to enjoy.

We finished our wanderings at the nursery. Always a good idea! Here we bought a selection of their hardy perennial violas – beautiful!

Laura and Jack’s twins always leave a surprise somewhere in the garden and today this was in the nursery beds. A nice friendly way to finish an inspirational, relaxing afternoon.

We will be back in the summer and report that exploration too.

 

 

 

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A family holiday in Scotland – Part 4 – Dawyck Botanic Gardens

Jude and I had the opportunity to spend a day at Dawyck Botanic Garden, a garden which is part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. What made our visit extra special was that we took our little granddaughter Arabella with us. At just 20 months old she is a great lover of gardens and especially trees.

Dawyck is a woodland garden rich with trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials to back them up. We have visited so many woodland gardens and arboreta over the years but we were amazed by how large Dawyck’s specimen trees were, the largest in girth and height we have ever seen.

 

Arabella was fascinated by the disinfectant pads which visitors had to walk through to help prevent the spread of tree desease to help protect our trees. Good to see the garden setting a good example. Too many of our trees seem to be under threat. Once Arabella realised we were off exploring the woodland she wanted her explorers back pack on. Then she was off!

 

We wandered off trying but failing to follow the yellow way-marked trail, stopping regularly to look up at the tallest trees and touch their bark and study their leaves.

A new word appeared for Arabella when she saw these trees – ENORMOUS! This was always followed a big “WOW”.

     

Arabella did however wear herself out so succumbed to a sleep time so Jude and I enjoyed a good rest too.

We were so fortunate to visit Dawyck on a day with brilliant light quality that emphasised texture and patterens in foliage and bark.

        

But trees cannot take all the praise as herbaceous perennials and ferns were of equal interest and beautifuly displayed and cared for.

      

I have saved this tree until last as it took our breath away and sent our granddaughter speechless for a while until she blurted out excitedly, “More enormous!”

 

It is rare that you can say that the seats in the cafe were worth a mention but these at Dawyck were beautifully carved from wood and each was original. They were comfortable too! A good end to an exceptional day with trees and a young tree appreciator.

 

 

 

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The Picton Garden in October

The Picton Garden is situated below the Malvern Hills in Herefordshire. The garden is famous for its aster collections and its beautiful small garden. In fact it holds the National Plant Collection of Michaelmas Daisies, so a visit in September and October is a real treat.

We have already visited the garden twice before, once in autmn and once in spring and it is wonderful every time we visit. This visit was in mid-October but the seasons this year had been so strange that everything in the garden is way ahead of time for a normal season, at least three weeks out of sinc. So this visit would prove to be very different to our previous autumn wander.

The reception, with its rustic wooden hut and beautiful gate are matched by the friendly welcome we received from the garden owners and managers, members of the Picton family. Immediately you realise this is not gong to be a sterile collection of Asters, but a well-designed beautifuly planted garden with winding paths among mixed borders, each with its own character. There are even a few pots of succulents near the entrance.

The first views of the borders along the paths set the quality and sensitive style of planting that we were to enjoy throughout.

 

We enjoyed some interesting cntrasting shrub and tree foliage combinations.

 

But we had to admire the way asters were used mixed with other perbaceous plants and the clever use of all the many perennials, huddled together in the borders.

    

As we neared the end of our wanderings around these beautiful autumnal garden scenes, we discovered display beds showing how different asters fitted into the different families. The nursery was our last port of call before we returned to our car for the journey home. Of course we had quite a boot full of Asters with a couple of hardy Chrysanthemums for good measure.

 

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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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Two RHS Gardens – Part 2 Harlow Carr

To visit the second of the RHS gardens we visited during 2017 we had to travel north up to Yorkshire and we stayed near Harrogate, a beautiful spa town. This is the RHS garden we probably visit the most as it is our favourite and we love the area it is situated in. We chose to go up in late summer. We particularly enjoy the Winter Garden and the new perennial gardens and as we had already visited to see the Winter Garden so we needed to see the perennials borders too.

The RHS are excellent at giving a warm welcome to its visitors and we certainly felt that at their most northerly garden, beautiful planters, great breakfast at the famous “Betty’s Tearooms” and cheerful plants as we entered the main gardens, including bright, cheerful meadow planting.

A recent children’s competition involving creating miniature gardens in old boots provided some entertainment at the bottom of the main steps into the garden.

Next we will share moments we enjoyed as we made our way towards the educational centre with its new buildings, glasshouse and plantings.

The gardens around the education centre provide a fine example of contemporary plant choice and plant combinations, starring grasses and tall airy perennials, growing beautifully among gravel, a wildlife pond and a contemporary styled vegetable garden alongside. Even the seating has been carefully chosen to look just right. Nothing has been left to chance!

       

As mentioned at the beginning of this post we were looking forward in particular to wandering around the borders of “new perennial planting” especially as we were visiting when it should be its prime time. So please enjoy this wander with us by following the gallery. Click on the first picture then navigate with the arrows.

 

When we were finishing our visit to this wonderful RHS garden we made our way back for a final coffee before finding our car and returning to our hotel, and noticed a large and very beautiful insect hotel alongside the path. It was an heartening end to our exploration.

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Two RHS Gardens – Part 1 – Hyde Hall

As members of the RHS we often visit their gardens and their partner gardens. Sadly it is a long journey to get to any of their main gardens so we do not visit as often as we would like. We make an effort to visit at least two each year.

In 2017 the two we selected were Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, two very different gardens, one in the south and one in the north. The first we visited was Hyde Hall which is the furthest away of all their gardens so we have only ever explored it once before. We made this journey in the middle of the summer and were looking forward in particular to seeing how the Dry Garden had developed as this was a new venture when we originally visited this garden. When we journey down to Essex we usually pay a visit to the garden of the great lady of British gardening, Beth Chatto, but this time we did not have time. But we will go to her garden soon when I will post about her incredible garden when we do. For now though we will concentrate on the gardens of Hyde Hall.

It is rarely possible to admire the planting within a car park, but at Hyde Hall the planting was worth looking at and photographing. It was based on new style perennial planting which had such a gentle calming effect on us as we walked from the car to the garden. Grasses and airy perennials were the mainstay of the plantings.

  

Once inside the gardens themselves, the quality of planting and the brilliant way in which plant partners were grouped were of the highest quality.

              

Grasses feature strongly at Hyde Hall adding texture to the landscape where grass is cut selectively, but different ornamental cultivars are used for structure and their architectural presence, and in mixed plantings for contrast, movement and for visitors to touch and stroke.

   

In places we could identify where plants had been chosen to take advantage of the light from the sun, using its brightness to encourage us to see reflection, shimmering light, glossy textures and contrasting patterns. Essex is dry and sunny particularly compared to our Shropshire climate. Using the brightness of the sun and the dryness of the climate to enhance gardens is so clever and not often done well. Hyde Hall is the star in this department.

In my second post about this wonderful RHS garden I shall focus on their famous Dry Garden, but for now I want to explore the way light is used so effectively in some areas. Light can emphasise glossiness of foliage, it can emphasise the interplay of light and shade and it can emphasise texture.

   

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Cogshall Grange – a Cheshire garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

Sometimes when you find a garden in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, you just know it is going to be a special place. Such was the case with the gardens at Cogshall Grange in Cheshire. The description in the book was so inviting and the reality matched it perfectly. It had been designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, one of our favourite garden designers and featured both formal and informal elements, woodland borders, a walled garden, modern herbaceous planting, wildflower meadows and an orchard, all set in the grounds of a Georgian country house.

Jude and I traveled up to Cheshire with friends Pete and Sherlie who also love the work of Tom S-S, so we all arrived full of anticipation.

As we moved from room to room in the garden discovering each feature the atmosphere and mood changed and we were constantly presented with fresh perspectives. This garden was a true garden experience.

We were really looking forward to seeing inside the walled garden which was where the influence of Tom Stuart-Smith was clearly to be seen, but of course we started with coffee and cake to get us in the mood. We discovered and enjoyed interesting small areas of planting as we made our way towards the walled garden, a delicately planted container, some beautifully pruned box and some varied, well chosen plant combinations.

Just as the garden was a careful amalgam of traditional parkland and modern perennial planting so the country house was a combination of old and modern architecture.

      

The walled garden was where the influence of Tom S-S could be seen and felt most strongly, with his very personal planting style and choice of plants mostly hardy perennials. The atmosphere was so gentle and calming. There was so much to photograph within its walls that the only way to do it any justice at all is through a gallery for you to peruse at your own pace. Please as usual click on the first shot and navigate using the arrows. I hope you can identify the very special feeling of this space.

We left the walled garden via a gateway which led us into gentle meadows of wildflower planting.

Walking back to the car to begin our homeward journey, we continued to make discoveries, some grassland had been cut to contrast with the longer uncut areas which were dotted with sculpture such as this beautiful stone seat.

   This beautiful garden excelled!

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Bressingham Gardens – 2 – Using Grasses.



In this second report of our visit to the gardens at Bressingham I am going to look at the use of grasses throughout the gardens. As the batch of shots below illustrate, grasses here are beautifully integrated into the mixed borders and enhance their partners’ attributes. The grasses add movement, sound and an element of delicacy to the whole garden.

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The Bloms family created the gardens here at Bressingham not only to show the use of perennials and grasses but also coniferous evergreens. It is here they display all the many new cultivars of grasses and perennial herbaceous plants that they have bred over the decades. They also pioneered the use of island beds in garden design where for the first time herbaceous borders were designed to be seen from all around and the island beds of plantings were designed to be islands within seas of lawn.

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Grasses especially varieties and cultivars of Miscanthus are an integral part of the gardens here including the island beds. There is a large collection of Miscanthus which impressed and delighted me as it is a grass family that I love to see and love to use in our garden. It is a great multi-season group of plants.

Here are a few shots of the Miscanthus collection, but it was hard to do justice with the camera to illustrate the subtle variations in colour, height texture and growth habits of these grasses, the colours in all the different flowers and the leaf stripes and variegations.

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Using grasses in clumps, blocks, rivers and ribbons adds drama to the garden, but equally a single specimen partnered with a shrub, tree or herbaceous plant can increase the aesthetic value of both the grass and its partner.

Here are a couple of ideas seen at Bressingham using grasses in ribbons and rivers.

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We enjoyed finding effective planting partnerships involving grasses with other classes of plant.

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We came away full of new ideas and a list of Miscanthus we look forward to adding to our Avocet patch.

 

 

 

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Croft Castle Month by Month – September

So here we are with the ninth post in my series about Croft Castle gardens throughout the year, where I shall report on our September visit to this Herefordshire National Trust property.

The long border was sparkling with colour in the sunlight. The sun was beginning to sit lower in the sky so whites looked as wonderful as bright colours. Cyclamen shone jewel-like in the shadow of the ancient trees. Grasses glistened!

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Once inside the walled garden we immediately noticed how large areas of colour were absent but plant partnerships in twos and threes gave brightness throughout.

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Sweetpeas are always a delight but to see these beauties this late in the season really pleased the eye. And of course the nose!

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This rich blue colour surprised us when we had a close and realised these gems were not flowers at all but berries. This grass like plant with the blue berries is a Dianella, a plant we have been trying to get established on our gravel garden for a few seasons now. Seeing how special they can be made us more determined to get it right.

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Fuschias are not a favourite of our’s but within these walls we enjoyed the simple small flowers of the more natural varieties.

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The diminuitive flowers of this Fuschia had blooms less than a centimetre long but its beauty was in the detail.

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I love rich deep colours in the garden but they seem especially intense in the early autumn months, so I was attracted by these Dahlias and our favourite Verbena bonariensis.

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In the entrance to the glasshouses the climbing Cobaea was in full bloom and the plant covered a huge area. Close-up we could appreciate its complexity and incredible beauty. The tomatoes growing in the glasshouse were looking as late to develop as our own, but their Chrysanths were already in flower whereas ours are just budding up.

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The Secret Garden sparkled in the sunshine with every leaf and petal catching the light.

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For bright cheerfulness in the autumn garden you can’t beat the Rudbeckias.

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As we made our way back to the car after our most enjoyable garden wanderings two signs of autumn caught our eye, the deep pink of the Sedum flower heads and the colour appearing on the clump of mature trees close to the main gate out of the garden. Next visit will be sometime in October when we expect to see autumn taking over the borders and clumps of trees.

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A Garden in December – Trentham – Part Two

Back at the Trentham Gardens we moved into the borders designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. But first we passed through the formality of the Italianate borders with their strong structure of low box hedges. The view of these borders, which we get from the top of a flight of semi-circular stone steps is guaranteed to take our breath away. We looked forward to this moment every time we visited.

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Seed heads were the stars here too with a mix of tall grasses and structural perennials. New growth was appearing promising colour to come in the spring.

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Phlomis, having given bright sunshine coloured flowers in summer, were now starring again with their dark brown almost black spheres of seed heads spaced up the length of their straight stems.

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The tallest stems were of a plant we did not recognise. Tiny seed heads hung like Tibetan prayer flags from gently bowing stems.

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As we left the T S-S borders we looked back over them from the raised pathway. Dampness from earlier showers made the path surface glisten and reflect the blue of the sky.

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On the lawned slopes by the glass fronted cafe giant snowdrops powered over our heads. We  always love willow structures! These were made from willow, some stripped of their brownish green bark and were beautifully woven and shaped. They stood a good 10 feet tall.

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After our compulsory coffee stop which, was much appreciated on this cold December morning, we wandered back through the borders towards the Rose Walk. Again my camera snapped away at the wonderful structures of the perennials and grasses.

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Although most winter structure showsoff the many shades of biscuits and browns, silver seemed to dominate one area. Giant leaves of Verbascum hugged the cold ground in huge, soft, silver rosettes. The silver giants were the Onorpordum or Scotch Thistles which in winter take on strong sculptural shapes.

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The roses still persisted, producing occasional buds in gentler colours than in the summer. There was an added subtlety about them which gave them extra charm.

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The sculptures at either end of the Rose Walk were wrapped up snuggly against the ravages of the winter. The Japanese Acers along side the walk displayed their seeds like the rotors of helicopters. The Wisteria which had clothed the metalwork with blue racemes of flowers in the Summer was now showing buds and old seed pods.

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As usual I took a few photos looking through the arches across to the River of Grasses.

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We were amazed to see a clump of Delphiniums with fresh growth of foliage and strong flower stems with fattening buds. No doubt the weather will have the last say and bring them to a premature ending.

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The team of Trentham gardeners were, as always, beavering away in the borders. We have enjoyed seeing what they are up to on each of our visits. They have always greeted us with a smile and a few words of welcome.

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So there we have it – a year in the life of one of Britain’s best gardens! Even though we have made the effort to visit every month throughout 2014 it never seemed a chore. We loved every minute of the many hours spent here. And we shall keep coming back. It has to be our most popular garden destination.