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A Tale of Two Gardens – One gardener two gardens!

Our gardening  friend Nancy has two gardens – the only gardener we know who has two gardens. They are quite different gardens in the way they are designed but the quality of planting, the use of colour and above all the original and most effective use of foliage are features in both.

We visited both of Nancy’s gardens with the HPS Shrewsbury and South Mini-Group and we all met up at Nancy’s home. Next year Nancy will be opening her two gardens for the NGS for the first time ever so lots more people will be have the pleasure of visiting it.

Later we drove for ten minutes to her other garden, which unusually is a garden with no house. The garden at Elmfield Road in Shrewsbury is small but full of interest and inspiration. The little front garden is based on a central circle surrounded with foliage and flowering plants. It is entered via an archway with a clematis climbing up it.

A little cameo against a blue fence invited us into the back garden where we were welcomed by the sight of a beautiful garden.

Nancy has a wonderful way of building borders to take advantage of the heights and colours of plants and effectively even within such narrow border.

Foliage plays such an important part in the design of Nancy’s plantings and throughout her garden beautiful pairings are evident.

Now you can see just how beautiful a garden Nancy’s home garden is you may want to enjoy my next post which will feature her second garden, Esme’s Garden.

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Our Short Break in Stratford-on-Avon – Part 2

Part two of this report on our short break in Stratford-on-Avon is all about the gardens of Shakespeare and his family. After spending time indoors studying the life and times of the Bard is was good to be outside discovering some outdoor history.

We will begin by looking at the grounds of the Shakespeare family home, where roses seem the most important plant. The planting today does not necessarily relate in any way to how it was in the Bard’s day. We loved this bronze of Shakespeare which seemed to capture his intelligence and depth of thinking and feeling, as well as the contemporary pencil sketch of the house.


In total contrast but just a short walk away, is “The New Place”, a celebration of Shakespeare’s life with exciting modern garden design and statuary. Each piece of statuary and each plant combination provides hints of the period as well as adding atmosphere. There were brilliant plant combinations combined sensitively with modern sculptural constructions. Softening of modern hard landscaping was carried out using soft, whispy grasses such as Stipa tennuissima Pony Tails.


The globe under the tree feature had a real surprise in store fr when you got close to the tree you realised it was cast in bronze. Goldfinches loved it and sang from its upper branches!


A more open space beyond he building and the modern garden area had a completely different feel to it contrasting strongly and providing a peaceful space to rest and have a quick coffee served by a barista on a bicycle. Long double borders with a central path ran along one side of the large green, with topiarised hedging and perennial planting.


Finally a parterre area felt much more in keeping with the garden style of the Shakespearian era, providing another contrasting area to explore. Lavenders gave off beautiful gentle scent.



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Another NGS Yellow Book Shropshire Garden – Sunningdale

I would like now to look back to the summer gone to share some visits and re-visits to other National Garden Scheme (NGS) gardens from a town garden to a huge old garden in North Wales.

The garden at Sunningdale is a half acre town garden in the north Shropshire market town of Wem. Friends had recommended the garden to us so as the garden opening season is coming to an end we decided to make the half hour journey northward up the A49.

We received a warm and very cheerful welcome as we took a path through an open gateway, which took us around the side of the house to reveal a garden that invites visitors to wander. We discovered some interesting bits and pieces on our way around the side of the villa. Plus of course some exciting colours from flowering plants.


This delicate tall elegant yellow flowered plant was unknown to us and luckily labelled, Dendromecon rigida, the Poppy Tree. What a treat it always is to discover new plants.


Interesting pruning techniques and styles by the owners had breathed new life into otherwise rather dull conifers. Conifers are carved into recesses for seats or entranceways to another part of the garden, or simply to frame a piece of sculpture.

These solid conifers have been carefully trimmed in a way that implies almost drawing with shears.  Beautiful!

To share the rest of this lovely garden I shall finish of with a gallery which follows our wanderings discovering so many different aspects of the garden. Enjoy by simply clicking on the first photo then navigating using the arrows.





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An Artist’s Back Garden

I often write and share my photos of gardens open to the public, often large and under the auspices of the National Trust or affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society or smaller and open under the Yellow Book (NGS) scheme. Recently I wrote about a small garden owned by our friend and fellow Hardy Plant Society member Anne, in a post simply called “Anne’s Garden”. I shall be writing more about such gardens in this occasional series of posts of which this is the second.

We spent a few days down in Surrey in April staying in the lovely town of Farnham where my brother, Graham and his wife Vicky live. We re-visited that great garden, Nymans and it was good to see it at a different at a different time of year. We enjoyed a walk on “The Downs” for the first time ever and a walk around the old town of Farnham for the first time in decades.

But breakfast outside on an unusually warm spring morning in Graham and Vicky’s garden made me collect my camera as the light was so good. The sun was low in the sky so lit up the tiniest detail and the gentlest textures. Come with me and look through the lens of my trusty Nikon as we look around this artist’s garden.

One step out of the side door and immediately we have a clue as to what to expect.

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The first view of the back garden shows how long and thin it is and how beautifully planted, and a look down the garden also finds Jude the Undergardener and my brother Graham enjoying breakfast in the sun.

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Sculptural pieces are found within the borders and look natural alongside the plants snuggling up to them.

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Effective plant combinations are a strength of this garden, where foliage plays a key role.

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But specimen plants stand out and make you stop for a second closer look.

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Containers of all shapes and sizes and made from all sorts of materials add more interest.

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Early morning is definitely the time for shadows.

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Close to the house the shady border is full of promise with new growth breaking through the soil with the ferns looking particularly dramatic.

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An artist’s garden has to be full of interesting objects and happenings.

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An artist must have a studio and what better place for it but at the bottom of the garden! Close by is a closely planted group of Mountain Ash, sown by birds – a great feature which I have never seen before. Well done the birds!

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But one thing that no gardener wants in the garden is snails and this garden is full of them! On the plants, climbing the fences, the house walls and even climbing up the window panes. They are everywhere!

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So we shall finish off this look at Graham and Vicky’s garden with a few shots of the front garden, the last shot showing Graham kindly digging up a plant for us to take home for our own garden.

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The next post in this occasional series about our friends’ gardens will feature a woodland garden of friends Pauline and Derek.

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Two Welshpool Town Gardens

June’s Hardy Plant Society garden visit took us to two little town gardens. The first garden was truly tiny and the second slightly less tiny. They were perfect if very different examples of what it is possible to achieve in such small spaces. The secret to them both was wriggly paths leading the eyes and feet around to discover hidden secrets.

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The tiniest of the two had planting at all levels from tiny specimens right by your toes to trees above your head and the borders were full of unusual plants. Little surprises.

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The gardeners here even found room for an alpine house, a fruit cage and a couple of little water features.

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Humour is essential in any garden however small.

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Humour reigned supreme in the second garden we visited that morning. There were interesting arches, grottoes, seating areas all surrounded in lush planting.

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Hidden throughout this little patch were containers planted up skilfully to give surprises wherever we turned.

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Deep in the heart of this little paradise we came across a cool enclosed garden where we found ourselves in for a real treat – a little glimpse of the Far East.

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This garden was tightly fitted within a group of houses close by the town’s main church and occasionally we caught glimpses of these other buildings through the foliage.

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Atop one of the many little outbuildings lived a very healthy and happy green roof.

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This was a very special garden – a place to relax and become engulfed in plants. In the afternoon we met again as a group to enjoy a very different garden in a very different setting. We found ourselves out in the open high up on a hillside with big skies above a wide view. This garden features in my next post.

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A small town garden in December.

Earlier this week we spent a few days down in Gloucestershire at my Mother’s home. She has a small town house with a small town garden, about 30ft by 20ft in the back and a token patch in the front. The house is the last in a row on the edge of a small town and the garden boundary is a tall rich hedge of mixed native plants with fields beyond. For centuries this hedge has fed and sheltered wildlife in its hawthorns, ivies, wild roses and the sprawling shawl of brambles. It is home to a rogue buddleja germinated from a seed dropped by a bird and now attracting butterflies, bees  and hoverflies to its scented purple flowers each summer.

The ivy has spread from the hedge and along the garage wall which forms one side of a little secret garden, a shaded place for tea and cake. This ivy is now full of black berries, food for blackbirds who earlier in the year used its shelter in which to build their nest. It is a warm place for wrens to roost.

A look out from the front window into the garden shows the skeleton of silver branches of the Cercis Forest Pansy now having lost the last of its red and plum coloured leaves of autumn and a recently neatly pruned climbing rose on the porch wall. A glance at the back shows it to be dominated by a fine specimen of Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree. There are small dots of colour from remnant flowering of earlier seasons still to be seen, but go out with camera in hand and there is so much more interest. Here the lens sees more than the eye and conjures up a garden full of textures and colours. Old terra-cotta pots spiral beneath the trunk of a malus arranged to add interest when the crab apples have been eaten by blackbirds and migrant thrushes and the yellow, orange and red of October leaves have journeyed to the ground only to be blown away by strong November winds.

Just as the clay pots were given new life, so the trunk of the conifer, outgrown its space and lopped, has been reborn as the post for a bird table. It is now visited by the birds who ignored its barren foliage when it lived.

Foliage plays a central role in small gardens in winter, both for colour and texture. Some like the Senecio, now sadly re-christened brachyglotis by the botanists, has both with its leaves surfaced in silver-grey fur.

And in sharp contrast  to the delicate senecio, the bristly character of the berberis, purple in summer now turns to the red and orange tones of fire. In the shadow of the house wall a small nettle leaved plant clambers over the ground with its matt dry textured foliage shaded with silver, plum and purple. no artist could have designed these leaves.

Close by the variegated periwinkle, Vinca major, defies the season and manages two pure blue blooms.

Promises of scent and colour from late winter and early spring flowers are evidence of rapidly changing seasons, the few lonely pink-blushed blooms of Viburnum bodnantense “Dawn” remind us of the profusion there is in waiting, while the soft-furred pointed buds of magnolia hide all its promises of scent and waxy petalled blooms. Sarcococca is an amazing name for a shrub. In the summer it is quite a dull little waxy leaved evergreen but below its branches are hung with tiny buds that will open into little white gems absolutely loaded with a heavy honey scent at the most unlikely time, January and February. Such a treat, and this one is planted alongside the garden path, just where it can treat anyone passing by.

Whereas the buds of the viburnum and the magnolia are promises of future joy, other buds are remnants of the joys of summer. White buds of the annual pelargonium and the palest pink of the hardy geranium are hanging on into the cold weather. True wishful thinkers!

We access the front garden by passing under a rose arch, over which rambles a Canary Rose one of the earliest roses to come into bloom every year. Now its yellowness comes from its leaves glowing in the winter sun. Its foliage causes confusion as several visitors have thought it to be a rowan.

Beneath the arch the yellow of the Canary Rose is precisely reflected in the deep yellow of the richly variegated euonymus.

In the front the white, silver and cream variegated euphorbia is far more noticeable than at any other time of year even though it never changes.

Tubs at the front have been planted to give bursts of colour mostly from cyclamen. Why can I accept such bright colours and clashes in the winter when I would find them undesirable the rest of the year?

In the short stretch of low dry stone wall, between two levels of garden, I spied this snail-shell, providing just a hint at the many hibernating molluscs hidden in its warmth.