Monthly Archives: July 2014

End of month view – July 2014


Another post thrown together in haste before our departure to the States.

You may remember I avoided sharing photos of the garden in this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, instead showing the exuberant blooms in my cutting garden down the road.  Well I feel I should (wo)man up, and share for the end of month view.

The picture above captures the rare sight of raindrops (on the scaffolding that’s been erected for the house painting).  I have to say I’ve really struggled to cope with the almost complete lack of rain until the thunderstorms just after the middle of the month.  And as my watering has concentrated on the vegetables and the greenhouse, the flower beds have been suffering.

The left hand Swing Bed still has the St Swithun rose flowering, but the the other roses are long over.  The sweet peas are climbing enthusiastically up the pea netting at the back of the pergola, scenting the area around the swing wonderfully, and the phlox, penstemons and verbena from prior years are all fine.  However, the annuals I planted in both Swing Beds have really struggled to get established, despite my watering efforts.  Interestingly, many of the same plants (Cosmos and Cleomes) are now doing well in the cutting garden, which I think it’s more a reflection of their being planted out earlier, rather than any superior watering regime.


The right hand Swing Bed shows the apple tree’s potential two apple harvest as well as a salvia, the new growth of the Euphorbia and the mirror sweet peas at the back of the bed.


Meanwhile, in the Grass Bed, the Verbascum Chaixii Album I grew from seed last year have all come into flower at the back of the bed, adding a certain amount of cohesion, but the planting in front is still a terrible mess.  There are still the remains of the Allium Hair (which really should come out), as well as some Salvia viridis blue used for cutting, the Fox and Cubs (yes, they should come out too) and the Nasturtium Black Velvet.


In the shady Oak Bed, whilst I’m still not happy with the overall effect, the foliage is calming on hot days and shows the planned pattern of green and purple foliage.  I particularly like the Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (in the foreground) which is one of the only things I’ve planted in this border, having admired it in Beth Chatto‘s garden years ago.


More positiviely, the raised cutting beds have been doing well (although they had to be lifted and moved as part of the painting works and are now in a rather strange place)


the Verbena bonariensis are unstoppable


and the vegetables are all becoming productive (just as we go away!)


French Bean ‘Cobra’IMG_3877

Runner Bean ‘Painted Lady’IMG_3875





and Pumpkin ‘Munchkin’IMG_3872

In the greenhouse the tomatoes are romping away


and the Plumbagos by the greenhouse door are flowering beautifully,

IMG_3863And whilst there are still some good looking pots




there is still too much chaos and still far too many plants in pots, (a legacy of over ambitious seed planting and obsessive division and cutting taking).

And as I write this I wonder how they’ll cope with a two week absence.  Fingers crossed.

IMG_3866 (2)With many thanks, as ever, to Helen at the Patient Gardener,  for hosting everyone’s End of Month views.

Return to the Duver, Wildflower Wednesday – late July 2014


As we’ll be away over the end of the month, this is a quick post put together just before our departure.  

The island has been so dry recently that the Duver is really parched in areas, and yet certain plants are still performing spectacularly.  The chamomile in the foreground is, I think, more floriferous than I’ve ever seen it.  Is it the dry it likes or is this a delayed appreciation of the very wet spring?


Another plant doing well I haven’t noticed before is deadly nightshade, Atropa belladonna – extremely toxic and yet used to make the drug Atropine.

IMG_3829Whilst some plants are still coming into flower, plants previously featured are turning to seed – tree lupin (Lupinus Arboreus),IMG_3825Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris)IMG_3826

and wild carrot (Daucus carota)IMG_3807

Meanwhile the grasses are still stunning,IMG_3831and full of wildlife, some small,IMG_3816IMG_3821and some really quite big!IMG_3820

With many thanks to Gail, who hosts Wildflower Wednesday from Clay and Limestone in Tennessee.

(New) England summer

IMG_3896Years ago I holidayed in New England, pregnant with the son who turned eighteen last New Year’s Eve, an event which in part triggered the creation of this blog.  

And this summer we returned, with son and daughter in tow, conscious that this may well be our last family holiday.  

The first week was spent in Boston where I felt quite seriously devoid of floral life.  There were however, some incredible ‘faux’ flora to entertain me.  Firstly those at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.  The museum has an extraordinary collection of glass flowers (including the Penstemon above) made by German father and son Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who were commissioned to produce the incredibly detailed and accurate flowers for use in teaching botany at the university.  

The blooms were made by softening the glass – initially painted and later the glass itself was coloured – and then blowing or shaping it, often relying on wire supports for structure.  As well as creating the blooms they often created magnified models of plant parts:


There are over 3,000 models representing 830 plant species, and whilst some were a little dusty and uninspiring, the vast majority were perfectly astonishing.  I find it hard to fathom the expertise required to create accurate botanical drawings, but the idea of creating these models in 3D is just extraordinary – particularly bearing in mind the commission began in 1886. 



Keeping with the glass theme, the Museum of Fine Art had a magnificent sculpture by American artist Dale Chihuly.  I remember when he exhibited in both the V&A and also Kew Gardens and think he is an amazing innovator.  

See ‘Lime Green Icicle Tower’ below, admittedly not very flowery, but you’ve got to admire the scale!



And to finish the faux theme, a gorgeous little crocheted fig.  IMG_3967

With regard to real blooms, the only garden I managed to visit in Boston itself was the Boston Public Garden, where the planting was, whilst not really to my taste, certainly striking.





I’m still in New England as I post this (Rockport MA actually), so if any of of my US readers have any suggestions for gardens to visit in the area I’d be delighted to hear from you.



The Feast

IMG_0144 (3)Having managed to exclude my (very wonderful, very busy, headteacher) sister from my birthday celebrations last month by carelessly allowing my birthday to fall on a Wednesday, I needed to atone.

And to the rescue came Sarah Raven with her first ever ‘Perch Hill Summer Feast’.  The event was to be held over the 12th/13th July  at Perch Hill Farm, Sarah Raven’s base in East Sussex, and the programme was a mix of flowers and food – what  more could one want?  I signed us up.

I picked my sister up from the local station and so we arrived together at the farm.  Having had our bags wheelbarrowed to our accommodation by the charming Adam Nicholson (Sarah Raven’s husband, 5th Baron Carnock and grandson of the writers Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson) we arrived at our……tent.  


Now whilst we were aware we were ‘glamping’ and the bunting and flowers were very pretty, I think the lack of power in our tent and the hike to the toilet and shower block, did come as a bit of a shock.  However, all was forgiven as we downed our welcome drink and listened to one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, speak about the evening’s dinner.  The meal was fabulous – tasty, colourful mezze starters followed by gorgeous lamb and zingy salads – tomato with pomegranate was a revelation.  And for pudding a walnut, blackcurrant and rhubarb crumble. Yum.

After a slightly fitful night (!) but a restorative breakfast, we headed to the marquee to listen to Sarah talking about the Perch Hill garden and also demonstrating a hand tied bunch.  

I have actually been to Perch Hill before, at least fifteen years ago (maybe twenty) in the very early days, when I attended a one day course with my mum about growing flowers for cutting and making a hand tied bunch, so Sarah’s three elements of foliage and three flowers (the bride, bridesmaid and gatecrasher) were familiar to me. It was still interesting seeing her creating a magnificent bunch from the arrayed buckets of flowers – not least because I’m growing almost everything she used!


IMG_0131 (3)The flowers were followed by a demo from the lovely Yotam, and then lunch.  After lunch Sarah demonstrated her ‘perfect’ salad (with five separate ingredients of lettuce, salad leaves, salad herbs, salad veg and edible flowers).  We also tried a number of tisanes (herbal infusions) including Lemon verbena with basil, Black peppermint and a number of scented leaf pelargoniums – ‘Mabel Grey’ and ‘Attar of roses’.  

By this stage the sun had come out and my sister, ever the Girl Guide, headed back to the tent to to air it.  On the way we wandered through Sarah’s Cutting Garden, which was lovely and very abundant, but actually smaller than I remembered.



We also admired some good looking veg


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On the Saturday evening we had another cookery demo, this time by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Gill Meller from the River Cottage, and after the demo we ate a menu they had put together.

The starter of lambs liver with Merguez spices, was gorgeous, but the main, a tasty mackerel fillet with gooseberry and mint salsa, I felt was rather confused by three different salads including strawberries, raspberries and beetroot.  But the gooseberry posset and compote with lemon verbena shortbread was a lovely finale – although to repeat a fruit already used in the main, seemed strange.

Sunday saw me in the greenhouse with the girls from the Flower Appreciation Society making a floral headress,IMG_0191 (2)and my sister back in the marquee attending a talk about breadmaking by Elizabeth Weisberg from the Lighthouse Bakery.  

We were both then entertained by the last cookery demo, this time by Valentine Warner.  Whilst maybe not the slickest of the demonstrators, he has a lovely, approachable manner, and certainly generated quite a lot of laughs (possibly not all intentional).

Prior to this was a Q&A session with all the main speakers.

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I wasn’t sure how interesting this would be, but there were some fabulous questions from the floor, with topics including GM crops, teaching cookery in schools (“we should call it fire and knives” Valentine Warner) the nutritional content of flowers and what is your fallback meal (“I’m more of a ready meal man myself” Adam Nicholson).  

However my favourite was the first, regarding how each of the individuals had retained their authenticity in the face of celebrity, and how they continued to ‘follow their bliss’.  This phrase, introduced by the questioner, was enthusiastically adopted by the speakers, who all genuinely seemed to be managing to ‘follow their bliss’ despite competing demands and busy lifestyles.  

It’s an interesting concept and one we should all bear in mind.  After all, you’re the only one who knows what your ‘bliss’ is, so it’s definitely up to you to follow it.

But before I get too deep and philosophical, I think I’ll cut to a picture of jelly, as that was the finale, before we headed home.

IMG_0194Oh and apologies for the quality of the photos – in my excitement I forgot to bring my camera!



Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2014

IMG_3780 - Copy

So today, as time is short, the garden is parched and I haven’t reported on it since inception (conception?), I thought I’d conduct Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from my Cutting Garden down the road.

Don’t you just love annuals?  From May 13thIMG_2226to July 15th

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As divulged in my original post, the blooms are Helianthus ‘Claret’,

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Helianthus ‘Valentine’ (just one, the slugs got the rest), IMG_3769 - CopyCleome ‘Violet Queen’,IMG_3774 - Copy - Copy

Amaranthus Viridis,IMG_3775

Cosmos ‘Dazzler’,IMG_3776 - Copy - Copy

Cosmos ‘Psyche White’,IMG_3778 - Copy

Ammi visnaga (top picture) Antirrhinum ‘White Giant’,

IMG_3781 - CopyAntirrhinum ‘Liberty Classic Crimson’,

IMG_3782Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ IMG_3784and Malope.IMG_3783

I’ve been delighted with my ‘cutting’ blooms which, together with other flowers in the garden (particularly sweet peas) are providing buckets of lovely arrangements.

With many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme.

Blown away on the (Sussex) Prairie


It’s not often I’m blown away by a garden.  Not that there aren’t many favourites out there, but often they’re ‘interesting’, ‘well maintained’ and ‘attractive’, which is good, but just not stop-you-in-your-tracks different and fabulous.  And then came the Sussex Prairie Garden.

The six acre garden was created by Paul and Pauline McBride, who had both worked previously on a garden in Luxembourg designed by Piet Oudolf,  and only returned to the UK in 2007. They created the garden, to their own spiralling nautilus shell design, having propagated 30,000 plants from plants they’d brought back from Europe.  

Although a keen Oudolf fan, I have been disappointed on occasion with the borders at Wisley (the only Oudolf planting I’ve seen in person) and so was keen to see prairie planting on a larger scale.  Well I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  Not only is the planting fabulous, but the garden is also home to various sculptures, which further enhance the views.

The down side is that I was so busy squeaking about the astonishing vistas and ‘layers’ of colour repeated across significant distances, that I did a very bad job of noting plant varieties. Never mind.  Just sit back and enjoy the pictures.











IMG_3547And do you know what I’m excited about?  Returning in September when we deliver our daughter back to school.  I bet the rest of these Echinacea will be out then.



My over-the-road-oak July

IMG_3765I’m sorry, but I’m two day’s late following my tree with Lucy at Loose and Leafy.  However, looking on the bright side, I was a week late with Wildflower Wednesday, so you could say I’m making progress!

So today, bearing in mind how incredibly dry it’s been here recently, I’ve been thinking about how much water a tree of this size needs.  According to ‘Ask Jeeves’ it needs 227 litres of water a day and “if it doesn’t get enough water and nutrients the tree will stop growing and the leaves will turn to yellow”.  Clearly from this shot of the beautiful foliage it would appear to be getting that amount, which I find quite incredible.  This got me thinking about how deep the roots extended, and I found this diagram on  Although not brilliant quality, you can see clearly that the Quercus roots are the deepest, although interestingly they are not so long horizontally.

Aside from simply surviving the relative drought, the latest development is that the oak has also gained some company.



IMG_3243The Hebridean Sheep come and go during the year (as managed by the National Trust who own the land), but as soon as they arrived (on 13th June) they just disappeared into the far reaches of the field – lost amongst the Cow Parsley, Alexanders and tall grasses.  However now, they have chewed their way through their habitat and are more visible.


So now, thanks to the sheep, there is far less foliage in the field immediately below the oak.  Does it make a difference to the competition for water?  I doubt it.  But I do love to see the sheep and hear their contented bleating.