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Aiming for a year round garden – our garden in June – how our visitors saw us.

This year, 2014 will be the year we open our garden under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, so we saw our garden details published in the famous Yellow Book. This is a landmark for any gardener in England and Wales, albeit a pleasing one and a worrying one. So many questions pour into your mind when you see the description of your garden in print.

I had to provide 9 photographs of our garden taken in previous years at the same time of year we are due to open. It was hard to choose shots that gave the right “feel”. We wanted to give a taste of what our plot is all about and these pictures give further ideas for the visitor after they have read the paragraph we presented to the NGS. Luckily I could look back into the archives of my blog. To check out the photos I selected go to the NGS website,, click on “find a garden” and type in Avocet where you are asked for a garden name.

We have also been asked by a couple of garden groups if they could visit. So the first of these we set for mid-June and we felt it would provide a practice run for the big day in August. The group were the Shrewsbury Mini-group of the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society, so we knew them already which made the day a bit less daunting. I took a series of photos in the morning of the day they were coming to give an idea of how they would see our little quarter acre of garden.

This post also serves as part of my series on “Aiming for a Year Round Garden” where I look around our garden to see if our aim to have interest throughout he year is working.

The first photos show how we welcome visitors as they find our gateway and look up the drive.

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Next we take a quick wander around the front garden to view the gravel garden (The Beth Chatto Garden), the stump circle and the driftwood circle, as well as the mixed borders around the lawn.

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We have worked hard this year to make the drive and the side of the house more welcoming using antique galvanised containers planted up with Dahlias and Calendulas and brightly coloured Pelargoniums are planted in the hanging baskets and other containers.

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The next “port of call” is the Shade Garden followed by the “Fern Garden” and then into the “Seaside Garden”. I always seem to follow a set pathway around the garden when taking photos but I have to admit that I designed the garden to give visitors choices and so have created a situation where no two people wandering around need to follow the same route. I want each section of the garden to be viewed and approached from several directions. So although I am trying in this post to show our garden from our visitors’ viewpoint it is in reality just my own personal route.

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And so to the back garden which has a different feel to it altogether as the individual garden compartments are all hidden in some way. It is a garden where you have to go looking – you cannot sit and look and take it all in in one go. Unlike the front, where from the seat under the arbor you can view most of the garden borders in one go, there are parts you can’t see so you are enticed to go to them for a close look.

In the back garden we find the water feature among Hostas and Toad Lilies on the end of the Shed Bed and from there you can look down the central path with arches draped with trained apple trees, roses and clematis. Another arch to the side of the main path affords glimpses of more borders.

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From the central path we can peer over the cloud pruned box hedge into these borders, which hopefully will entice the visitors to explore further.

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By turning right off the central path visitors find themselves between the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden and after a mere half dozen steps must choose which one to look at first.

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Within the Secret Garden alongside a comfortable cream coloured seat visitors can enjoy our latest creation, the Alpine Throne.

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If however our visitors chose to go left at the central path they would find further choices, the Japanese Garden, the Wildlife Pond and Bog Garden to the right or the Long Border and Crescent Border to the left.

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Back closer to the house we can find the “Pollinators’ Border” complete with insect hotel, the Shed Scree Bed and the new Tropical Border.

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So there we have a quick tour of our garden in mid-June just as our first group of garden visitors saw us. We enjoyed the kind comments they left and felt it had been worthwhile, particularly when several said they would be back when we opened for the NGS in August.

The only downer was that the Bearded Iris had given us their best show ever, a true extravaganza for the three weeks or so prior to the visit. On the day just one bloom remained to show everyone what they had missed. Gardeners always say “You should have come last week.” and for us this may well have been true, at least where the Iris were concerned.

Our next big day is our NGS Open Day on the 3rd August so we are hoping we can maintain interest in the borders until then. A second mini-group of Shropshire Hardy Planters will be visitors a month after that so we will have to be “on our toes” for a while yet!

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Anne’s Garden

It is always special to visit a friend’s garden for the first time. Today with fellow Shropshire Hardy Plant Society members we visited the garden of our group chairman, Anne. She lives just over the Welsh border so we had but a forty minute journey.

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The pathway to the front door set the scene with plants jostling for position to make sure they were seen. I always believe this sort of way into a garden heightens the anticipation. You just know you are going to enjoy the garden and discover some real gems. This was just what happened.

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Anne greeted us at her door and from then on we had a very enjoyable afternoon exploring her little garden, drinking tea and relishing cakes. The garden had pathways wriggling beneath trees and shrubs giving the atmosphere of a small copse.

Anne’s garden illustrated the importance of growing trees in small gardens. So many small gardens are full of small plants which just makes you look down. Anne’s patch had your eyes rushing around, upwards, downwards and seeking out the next corner to peer around.

In the front garden Cercis “Forest Pansy”, Pyrus salifolius pendula and a splendid specimen of Cornus “Midwinter Fire” held the garden together.

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The weeping pear’s leaves were fully out and its pure white blossom showed off its black stamens. The Forest Pansy was way behind ,its bare black stems just starting to show bursting purple buds.

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I enjoyed the way so many different leaf shapes, colours and textures juxtaposed so happily.


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Being mid-April spring flowering bulbs added cheer to combat the grey skies of the day.

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Whenever I visit a garden I spot one of my favourite families of plants, the euphorbias. Anne had some fine euphorbias including E. mellifera a variety that we grow but have to take in during the winter as it just couldn’t survive our winter weather. Anne’s happily lived outside all year.

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Acers feature here too and mid-April is a good time to enjoy their fresh subtly coloured new foliage bursting from their buds.

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We have been looking for small Hostas recently to plant around a water feature situated close to a corner where two path meet. We were really taken with those we found growing in pots in a little shaded courtyard. Luckily they had labels on giving us ideas for our own planting.

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Anne’s garden is small in size but it has a mighty big heart! As the last set of photographs below show it is a garden full of interesting individual plants, original plant combinations and many appealing features. We had a great afternoon – thanks Anne.

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A garden to make you smile.

On a blustery, heavily overcast day last weekend we visited two gardens on a day out with our friends from the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society. Bumping down a narrow south Cheshire lane that twisted and turned a little too much for comfort, found us at “The Rowans”, a one acre garden loosely based on an Italianate theme. The elements reminiscent of the Italian styled gardens appeared in the structured garden rooms and the use of ornament especially sculpture, but I felt the theme of happiness was much more in evidence.

There were signs scattered throughout the garden to inform and delight.

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Humour was potently presented in ornament and statuary. Animals dominated!

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But not all the entertaining was performed by animals – there were lots of varied bits and pieces to find amongst the plantings and hanging from the branches of trees.

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The planting was not of rare or desirable plants but quite ordinary plants well grown and well put together.

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We particularly liked the dense planting in an old wheelbarrow and a miniature pool in a blue glazed pot. Oh, and of course we enjoyed seeing how someone else grows their veggies!

We enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea or two before leaving and left with a promise of some seeds of two plants we liked. The kindness of gardeners shows no bounds.

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We then took off back down the bumpy lanes to find our afternoon treat, a woodland garden that is the province of two of our Hardy Plant Society friends. So in my next posting you should find us there enjoying a tasty Hardy Plant Society lunch.

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A mini-group day out – part one Jill’s garden

“What is a mini-group?” I hear you asking. Well they are area groups within the Shropshire branch of the Hardy Plant Society. We live just south of Shrewsbury so fit into the Shrewsbury Mini-Group but we could equally belong to the South Shropshire group. Perhaps we ought to select the most interesting sounding visits planned by both groups and have extra gardens to visit.

Last month our little group visited two of our member’s gardens plus a garden of a neighbouring house. They were all in the little village of Ruyton-XI-Towns. It is a village we have driven through but never stopped in and once parked up we wandered down looking for Jill’s garden, our first stop for the day. In fact we were parked only a few metres from there. We passed through the front garden which was small but packed with plants with lots of colour and texture and then around the side of the house where again every possible place for a plant had plants in it. Pots and interesting containers were everywhere we looked.

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As we reached the end of the house the view that met us stopped us in our tracks. This was going to be a real treat! The garden was full of colour and had strong design elements, with paths that invited exploration, arches and frames to encourage you to go through them and pieces of sculpture and interesting natural objects to stop the eye.

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Jill is a gardener who can put plants together beautifully taking leaf texture and shape into consideration alongside flower colour. When we looked in more detail at the planting we discovered a few special plants, ones we couldn’t recognise and a few of those that you have to dig deep into the recesses of your memory to recall their names.

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From Jill’s garden we all wandered down the village street to a neighbour who had a garden that was best described as long, thin and wriggling, never more than a couple of metres wide and often only wide enough for a plant fringed path. Despite of this the gardener had packed in dozens of fragrant roses and clematis clambering up any surface or tall plant. This will be the subject of my next post where we will also enjoy the third garden we visited that day, where we ended the day with tea on the lawn. How civilised is that?!

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The Hardy Planters at Lower Hall


Our first visit  to a local garden with the Shropshire branch of the Hardy Plant Society this year took us to Lower Hall in the picturesque village of Worfield.

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The River Worfe which gives the village its name meanders aimlessly through the garden and as we wandered along its paths we kept coming across bridges to take us over its flooded waters. The header picture shows the flower head of Dalmera peltata which grows in the boggy patches along the Worfe. The globe of flowers sits atop a tall thin stem rising straight from the soil before there is any sign of any leaves.

The garden has many different elements to it, a walled garden, a stream, a woodland area and various borders so there is a richness of plants to enjoy.

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As always the Hardy Planters of Shropshire stand and admire!

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“Sheila’s Cafe” – The Garden of Two Hardy Planters’

We spend many days visiting gardens all over the country, several of them large gardens run by the RHS or the NT, which we enjoy greatly. But we enjoy even more small gardens in our own county of Shropshire or in the neighbouring counties of ~Hereford, Staffordshire and Cheshire, many of them opening under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. But most of all we enjoy our visits with the Shropshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society, and in particular gardens tended by fellow members.

On a wet, dull, chilly mid-June day we visited just such a garden a few miles from our home in the Shropshire Hills.

Fairview is the garden of Geoff and Sheila Aston and although not a large garden it has a large heart. It welcomed us with such warmth.

It invited us to follow its paths and discover its secrets hidden behind hedges and around corners.




When we think back to this garden we think of Sheila’s Café and the tidiest garden shed in the world. I will admit to experiencing a bout of “shed envy” – just how does Geoff keep his work spaces so tidy and well organised? This shed envy was closely followed by “compost heap envy”!

Sheila had turned the garage into a café where we met for a coffee and cakes and a chat about the garden before we had a slow wander. Now that is what I call a welcome!



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Before finishing our tour we were to be impressed by the veggie patch.




Off to Holly Cottage now – just a short journey down a maze of Shropshire lanes. (see next post)