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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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Parcevall Hall Gardens – Wharfedale

Situated in Wharfedale one of the most beautiful places in North Yorkshire, Parcevall Hall was really difficult to access via narrow roads, hairpin bends and narrow bridges, but it somehow suited the place that we enjoyed one day in September. The gardens were beautiful and typical of those created in the arts and crafts style, the house being redesigned and much developed at that time also.

The house and gardens sit beautifully on a steep slope which certainly added interest for there was much for the garden team and designer to overcome in the making of the garden, slopes and steps abound. Some of the garden was above the hall, a Rose Garden and the area known as Silver Wood, which hid an unusual rock garden. Below the house terraces were dug into the slope and many different garden rooms created. There was strong design to appreciate and beautiful plants to admire.


We walked up from the Garden Office and Tea Rooms after crossing over a tiny clear stream and wandering up through woodland. From a clearing in the woods we enjoyed a view over the rambling rooftops of the hall and all its outbuildings.


The woodland was dotted with berried and flowering shrubs many with signs that birds and rodents had been enjoying them.


Although the plan we were following meant we expected to find the Rock Garden hidden within Silver Wood it was still a wonderful surprising sight when we first came across it. It was a rock garden of huge proportions cut out from the natural slopes and featured a tiny meandering stream falling slowly down its slope. There were some interesting plants to be found among the rocks.


Please follow the gallery below to tour the rock garden with us. Click on first photo and navigate using the arrows.

After leaving the Rock Garden and Silver Wood we wandered around the hall to find the terraced gardens below it. Each terrace had an atmosphere of its own and different plantings. The best way to show you what we found is by using another gallery to help you enjoy these terraces with us.

To finish off this journey around Parcevall Hall I want to show you this little group of bronze hares looking up at the moon. Moonstruck hares! Great little cameo!

One rogue has no interest in the moon at all and had even turned his back on it to preen himself.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park – August Part 1

As summer moved on we made our August visit to Attingham Park for our monthly walk in the park. We decided to follow the Mile Walk in reverse for a change of view and as we were expecting rain later in the afternoon we kept to the shortest trail that we take. This turned out to be a wise decision because the rain started to fall when we had just a 5 minute walk back to the carpark. Our luck was in!

When we arrived we struggled to find a parking space as it was so busy being a mid-summer weekend afternoon but we found out later that it was also weekend when a special event was taking place, a Family Spectacular.

We decided to follow the One-Mile Walk in the opposite direction than the way we usually take and indeed against the signs. We are always amazed how following a path through a garden or the countryside in a reverse direction presents whole new experiences.

What struck us most as soon as we started the walk was the way the texture of tree bark was standing out. This mighty conifer was right at the start of our walk and showed it perfectly.


We also began to identify the shape of eyes on tree trunks where side boughs had fallen or been removed. This can be seen below in that same tree.

I will now share my texture photos with you in the form of a gallery and we can look at how much variety of texture and pattern we managed to find.

The almost circular scars left as a bough breaks away from the main trunk often form eye-like shapes, and on this walk we seemed to see so many. Enjoy a little selection below.


As we searched tree trunks for “eyes” we began to find other shapes and colours as well, some from Lichens and some created by the hands of woodsmen or gardeners. I will leave it up to you to work out how these creations happened.


An added and very unexpected element to our August visit was the discovery of painted stones. This stone decorated with a beautiful little flower we found in a scar of a tree and wondered what it was doing there. We soon discovered the answer by turning the stone over where we were advised to check out “Shropshire Stones” on Facebook. If you want to know more check it out.


Continuing on the creative front we made another interesting surprise discovery as we wandered through the children’s playing field on our way to the orchard and walled garden.

The Walled Garden was so colourful with the main feature being the flowers. We will look at the surprise in the playing field and the walled garden in Part 2.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park – The Woodland Walk

Back to our March visit to Attingham Park when we decided to take the Woodland Walk Trail.

As we left the walled garden clumps of the clearest yellow daffodils lit up shadows beneath shrubbery.

We were anticipating expanding buds on some shrubs and trees and maybe a few in early leaf. We both love the sticky, brittle toffee coloured buds which are early to burst. Other buds shone bright green!



We soon encountered signs of the work of Storm Doris, a huge mature tree had been ripped from the ground. We imagined  how  frightening the sounds of the tree being torn and wrenched from the ground must have been. The gardeners had been hard at work tidying up the mess of her destruction.

Places that usually look boggy looked much wetter on this visit with tiny ditches and streams full of water and flowing into larger areas of clear standing water with wetland plants looking full of life and thriving.


We passed beneath mature deciduous trees as we followed the woodland trail. On the ground beneath them the bright green freshness of this year’s herbaceous growth shone out. But an even brighter red patch caught our attention, a small group of fungi.


We came out into the open, which appeared much brighter as as we left the trees behind, and made our way back across the deer park back towards the house.

A bridge took us over the river which was flowing quickly in a light flood. Weeping willow branches were being swept along and the water was lapping at the feet of a row of elderly pollarded willows. The pollards looked so sculptural.

Next month’s visit to Attingham Park should feature more signs of spring becoming established.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham in January – Part Two – Woodland Walk

Back with the second part of our report of our January visit to Attingham Park we find ourselves taking the path into the woodland at this Shropshire National Trust property.

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When leaving the walled garden the visitor has the choice of two walks and we decided to follow the 3 mile “Woodland Walk” as the weather seemed set dry for the day. Next month when we make our February visit we will follow the “Mile Walk”.


Just a short way into our walk we came across the “Burning Site” marked by a wooden deer complete with impressive antlers. We like gardens with a touch of humour so we were delighted to discover this family of owls created from wood offcuts left after trees surgery work. They were created by the gardeners as a competition. We loved them all!

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Walking in woodlands in the winter helps highlight textures and patterns not easily spotted when the trees and shrubs are in full leaf. The gentle colours of lichens and mosses are more easily appreciated too as they carpet tree trunks. Please follow the gallery below featuring bark textures and the colours of lichen and mosses. The texture of fallen trees is changed over the years by the huge array of hard-working fungi present in the woodlands. Without these fungi the fallen wood would pile up so the fungi’s function of breaking down the dead trees is essential to the well-being of the woodland ecosystem. Click on the first photo and navigate using the right hand arrow.

Woodland walks are made more interesting by the manner in which rays of light penetrate the canopy, creating patterns and patches of strong contrasting light.

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After enjoying exploring the woodland following the Woodland Walk way-marked path we cut back across the parkland to the house itself. First glimpse of the house is through a framework of Cupressus trees. To find this view we crossed over two stone bridges which took the path over water and the stonework attracted as much lichen as the tree trunks did.

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Our return to Attingham Park will be in February when we will look at the Walled Garden again and then follow the much shorter walk, the Mile Walk.



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A Walk in the Park – Part Two – The One Mile Walk

Returning to a second post about Attingham Park, we would like to introduce you to another part of this Shropshire National Trust property. The One Mile Walk was our chosen walk on a November afternoon visit to Attingham Park. We only had a short amount of time available as the light disappears far too early for us outdoor types at this time of year. Attingham will be our featured monthly visit during 2017 when we will chose one walk from the several available, clearly marked throughout the parkland and woodlands.


We decided that our chosen walk would give us the chance to relish in the beauty of autumn, trees and autumnal sunlight all working together especially for us. Come with us and see!

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The Mile Long Walk begins close to the stableyards and is a circular walk which has distinctive characteristics for the clockwise or anti-clockwise directions. So far on our many ambles around this path we have always followed it in a clockwise direction, really simply because given a choice we always go clockwise. So for this visit we broke our habit and took off in the anti-clockwise direction, and we were amazed how different it not only looked but also felt.

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For a while we ambled riverside, getting glimpses of the shining blueness of the surface of the little river.

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Some trees look special in so many ways. Sweet Chestnuts grow as tall as giants reaching for the passing clouds so have a magnificent presence. They have deeply textured striated bark of delicate grey. On the floor below them they carpet the floor in golden long-fingers of leaves and the spiky cases of the nuts, mixed up like a tasty granola.

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Lime trees decorate the tips of their branches with delicate seeds partnered with seedleaf wings which have the translucence of clear local heather honey.


The surprise trees for us though were the Tulip Trees which dropped their leaves at all stages from the palest green to the darkest brown. Combined with the unique leaf shape it all added up to a great carpet.

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We had to look all about us as there was so much going on to catch our attention, lovely tree silhouettes against the blue sky right down to dried multi-coloured fallen leaves which became kaleidoscopic like pictures as the beams of the sun kissed them.

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We would love you to come with us and explore the wonderful “One Mile Walk” at our favourite parkland, Attingham Park. As usual start the gallery by clicking on the first photo then navigate by clicking on the arrows.


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A Devon Garden with Betulas – Part 1

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.

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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.

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It was a delight to find native Daffodils and Snowdrops growing alongside our trackway.

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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.

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After passing through a tunnel of coppiced Alders we got our first view of the Birches we had come to see.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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Our native Downy Birch, Betula pubescens looked incredibly gnarled and deeply fissured.

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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.

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We shall return to share with you our wander back through the woodland garden.



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Aulden Farm – another Yellow Book garden

We open our garden under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme and love to see our garden in its famous Yellow Book. But we also love to visit other gardens from the Yellow Book.

We recently visited Aulden Farm which is in Herefordshire, our neighbouring county and we were particularly keen to wander around this garden as it has a similar description to our own in their Yellow Book entry although it is much larger! “Informal country garden surrounding old farmhouse, three acres planted with wildlife in mind. Emphasis on structure and form, with a hint of quirkiness, a garden to explore with eclectic planting.”

We had a lovely drive through beautiful countryside before parking on the grass verge and wandering up the gravel drive leading to Aulden Farm’s garden. A gravel area surrounded by interesting planting was a great place to enjoy tea and homemade cakes.

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Alongside the tea courtyard was a gravel garden in front of a beautiful barn close to tumbling down. Verbena bonariensis was the star in this garden and the afternoon lit it up dramatically. Butterflies were attracted to it as much as me and my camera. This was an area full of texture and interest too good for any photographer to miss.

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We eventually left behind our tea, cakes, verbenas and butterflies and wandered, suitably refreshed, through the shade garden where the low rays of the sun created pools of light and shade. from here we could choose different routes through the garden described in its own leaflet as “very relaxed, tranquil and some even say romantic, but that is for you to decide”. So we couldn’t wait to find out for ourselves.

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Now come for a walk with us around this beautiful garden by enjoying my gallery. Please click on the first photo and navigate with the arrows.

I hope you enjoyed this photographic journey around this wonderful garden. Is it romantic? Yes, definitely so! This is a garden with atmosphere.

We left with an invitation to return whenever we wanted – bliss.

In my next couple of posts about Aulden Farm gardens I will share my images of two special families of plants that caught the beautiful light that day and my imagination, Persicarias and Rudbeckias and also a look at some of the wide ranging sculpture we enjoyed there.


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Pauline and Derek’s Woodland Garden

This is the third post in my series of post about gardens of friends. In this post I shall share with you a visit Jude “The Undergardener” and I made with a couple of other Hardy Plant Society friends to the woodland garden of fellow members, Pauline and Derek. It was a wet, dull day when we set out but as we approached the village of Loggerheads things were looking a little more optimistic. Just outside the village we found “Broomside” where Derek greeted us as we got out of the car. Quickly passing through the front garden to get out of the rain gave us clues as to what to expect. We couldn’t wait to see more!

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Pauline had prepared the coffee and tempting biscuits so that took priority. When we were ready for a guided wander the weather turned back to heavy rain so we donned rainwear and carried on regardless. We are after all “Hardy Planters” so mustn’t be put off by the weather, whatever it throws at us.

These general garden views show the richness of its planting and give a hint of the inviting atmosphere.

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Despite the rain the light was good for photographing foliage plants. With contrast reduced textures were highlighted. Woodlaand plants seem to possess a richness in texture and colour in their foliage.

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The late spring blossom on the trees and shrubs and the flowers on perennials were still a delight and somehow even more welcome on such a dull day.

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This garden is full of special plants but these three stood out even among such quality planting. Purple cones, purple Trillium flowers and a creamy Paeony.


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After enjoying the woodland section of the garden we stepped up a few steps, one of which was the root of a tree, to find the veggie patch.

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Derek had an impressive collection of mints. We enjoyed their varied scents. This one, with its long slightly glaucous leaves was I think was Mentha buddleifolia, one I had never seen before. Indeed I wasn’t aware of its existence.

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After exploring the paths winding through the vegetable garden we found a colourful mixed border along the side of the house. Here colourful Euphorbias added extra brightness to more rich planting.

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Pauline has discovered a novel, attractive and effective way of labeling her plants. She writes their names on pebbles which are then placed at their base. She also advised us on the best pen to use and gifted one to us. We shall certainly be trying it out!

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We had a most enjoyable day even better for having defied the elements. It is good to share the gardens of friends and even better when you do so with other friends. Hardy Plant Society members are often a knowledgeable breed  so we can always learn something from them and discover plants new to us. Pauline and Derek’s garden with its woodland atmosphere afforded us a refreshing change after working hard for a few days in our own South facing exposed garden.

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A little woodland garden and nursery

The idea of visiting a small woodland garden with nursery and tea shop seemed a good choice for a visit on a hot, humid day. So an hour up the A49 into south Cheshire, one of our neighbouring counties, saw us pulling into the shaded grassed car park belonging to Stonyford Cottage Gardens on the edge of the Delamere Forest.

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This is a garden created around a large pool surrounded by woodland through which winding paths find their way over wooden bridges and at times boardwalks. Areas of woodland plants and waterside or bog plants give places to rest and appreciate brighter colours amongst all the shades of green. Iris ensata were glowing in their waterside shaded spots, some the most intense purple possible.

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The purple-leaved Forest Pansy at times took on a bronze hue. We found an unusual flowering shrub, the blooms of which perfectly matched the leaves of this shrub. Sadly neither of us could remember the name of this flowering beauty. We found it once a few years in a specialist tree/shrub nursery and almost bought it, but we were unsure of the conditions it desired. We have regretted not being tempted by it ever since, especially when we come across it in flower like this!

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In the centre of the woodland a hide with seating affords us a longer stop and we took in the sounds of the stream and of birdsong.

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One of the beautiful aspects of a woodland setting for a garden is the richness of the light where dappled light plays on any rich colour it finds.

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And of course we finished our day relishing tea and Bakewell Tart sat out in the shade of the trees in the tea garden. Sheer luxury!! This is what we retired for!

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