Monthly Archives: September 2014

End of month view – September 2014

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The trouble with going somewhere as amazing as West Dean (see my last post) is that your own garden can’t help but suffer by comparison.  But, having said that, it’s always good to see fabulous gardens as they hopefully inspire us to do better.

Like West Dean, I do have some Asters, including this inherited one which is very tall and has flopped badly, but still makes a wonderful showIMG_5050

but this one, Aster Frikartii Monch, in the left hand Swing Bed, is much better.  It’s still a little floppy, but a better colour and a much bigger flower.  I love the way it goes with the Verbena bonariensis.  (I think the colour is a better match in real life than in the photo).IMG_5046

In the right hand Swing Bed, you can see the matching Aster as well as the out of control Rosa Snow Goose.  I think a ladder and a pair of gaunlets is called for.IMG_5048

On the posts either side of the swing the rose Rosa St Swithun is having a lovely second flush.  I really need to tie these branches in too, but think I’ll leave it until they’ve finished flowering now.

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The Grass Bed is looking a little better now that the Nasturtiums have recovered from the drought.  I like the colour combination of the orange of both the Nasturtium and the Fox and Cubs with the purple Salvia, but this bed still desperately needs a good sort out.

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In the veg patch, likewise, the runner and french beans have all recovered from the drought and are cropping well.  However the Pumpkin Munchkins have finished and need to be brought in.  Some of the courgettes are still going strong, but nearly all have succumbed to mildew.IMG_5045

By the conservatory the (inherited) Nerines are coming into flower.  They always strike me as a rather incongruous plant for this time of year, but at least they add some colour.IMG_5038

In the greenhouse, as well as lots of tomatoes (yum),IMG_5060

and Cucamelons (not so yum!)IMG_5056

I’ve finally got peppers, both the long pointy red ones (well they will be one day)

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as well as some rather sweet little orange onesIMG_5059

Many pots are still going strong, but most won’t survive the winter and so will have to be moved into the greenhouse – never a trivial task!IMG_5040

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And to finish, a quick catch up of my ‘borrowed’ garden.  The Tithonia and Sunflowers featured last month continue to bloom their golden socks offIMG_5071

but the real development is a bed I created underneath the hornbeams we pleached earlier in the year (see part 1 and Part 2).  The hornbeams need a bit of a hair cut now, but have taken really well and I’m looking forward to seeing the blossom in the spring.

Again, like the Tithonia and Sunflowers, all the flowers here are annuals, but this time on a pink theme including Cleomes and Cosmos as well as the greens of Molucella and Amaranthus.  It really is amazing what you can achieve in one season with a few hands full of annual seeds!IMG_5066

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

West Dean – autumnal dream

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Having described (at some length!) Keith Wiley’s inspiring talk in yesterday’s post, one thing I didn’t disclose was where the talk took place, and the answer is wonderful West Dean.

I’ve written about West Dean before, here, and it really is one of my favourite places.  The combination of a first class garden (with flowers, fruit and veg and amazing glasshouses) as well as a fabulous college, offering numerous inspiring talks and courses, makes it a place I could happily adopt as a home from home.

When I visited on Saturday for Keith’s talk, I wasn’t sure whether I would write about the gardens again.  However, I’d brought my camera just in case, and a quick whirl around the walled gardens during our lunch break made it very obvious there was plenty to share, so enjoy!

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I loved this Dahlia – D. FuschianaIMG_4942

and this Zinnia, Z. Raspberry CordialIMG_4933

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Perfect veg, as everIMG_4978

with more to comeIMG_5001

and a stunning array of pots to finish.IMG_4957

Wonderful, wild, Wiley

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Photo above from http://www.desertusa.com

On Saturday I attended a talk by garden creator Keith Wiley.  I’ve mentioned Keith once before as he was head gardener/manager at the Garden House, near Yelverton in Devon, when I took my mother there for a magical 80th birthday outing over ten years ago.  I was stunned by what he had created; it was just so fresh and new.  Since then, I was aware he had moved on to creating his own garden, with his artist wife Ros, on an apple orchard site just down the road from the Garden House, and was fascinated to hear more about it.

Let me start by saying the word ‘enthusiast’ struggles to convey Keith’s incredible passion for nature, plants, flowers and gardens – and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the amount of Latin he spoke in the space of one day before.  I could have done with a copy of all the slides and a recording of Keith’s talk so that I could have enjoyed all he had to offer more than just the once!

Clearly, I don’t have copies of his photos, so, very rarely for this blog, the photos are nearly all other peoples’.  I have included a few from a site he introduced us to (www.desertusa.com, all clearly marked) as well as one from Peter Korn (see below).  In addition, to see photos of Keith’s new garden, Wildside, there are some stunning photos taken by Andrew Lawson, to accompany an article by Stephen Lacey for the Telegraph,  here.

The day started with a number of views of plants growing in the wild.  Keith has travelled extensively, and we saw some gasp inducing wild flower vistas from South Africa, New England, Crete, the Swiss Alps, Lake District and Cornwall.  The unifying theme was one of a ‘community of flowers’.   What Keith has tried to move away from is ‘block’ type planting where plants are kept separate, and instead recreate what is seen in the wild, where plants interweave and encroach on each other, giving a completely different and far more naturalistic effect.

This made me think about the wild flowers on the Duver, and of course a recent shot I posted of the chamomile with the thrift demonstrates Keith’s point exactly:

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At the Garden House, Keith had adopted this approach and had planted plants to – his words – ‘drizzle and drift’.  To a large degree in the area he developed away from the main house, plants were allowed to self seed, but this did require very careful weeding to ensure the retained seedlings were the right ones.  He mentioned an incident when one of his ‘helpers’ had assiduously weeded out every plant of the Common Tormentil (Potentilla tormentilla) because she saw it as a weed.  Keith, conversely, saw it as a unifying plant ‘drizzled’ across an area, bringing cohesion and repetition.  He didn’t speak to her for two days.

He also introduced us to the idea of ‘Beauty when you look closely’ as well as ‘harmony at all levels’.  Not only should planting combinations look good very close to, but as you step back, that harmony should remain, right up to when you’re looking at a complete vista.  This is a bold ambition, but it certainly doesn’t make it a bad one.

And look how well it can happen in nature –  another photo from http://www.desertusa.com below:flower bloom

From here he discussed the approach of gardening in sand favoured by Peter Korn.  Peter gardens in Sweden and, looking at his website, has created an absolutely stunning garden, with an incredible diversity of flora. The photo below is from his website www.peterkornstradgard.se

At the Garden House Keith had established some areas with a sandy ‘top layer’ and is keen to do the same at Wildside when funds permit.

Moving onto Wildside,  the garden he moved to in 2004, Keith showed us first the south facing field, with views towards attractive Devon countryside in the distance, that was his starting point.  He recognised that the garden would need some protection but was loathe to plant hedges or larger trees as he didn’t want to lose the view.  Instead he took the approach to landscape the site significantly to achieve the protection he was looking for, without forsaking the borrowed landscape.  At the same time he also created areas of shade where his man made gradients created shadow.

Whilst this conveys what Keith was trying to achieve, what it doesn’t convey is the scale.  And the scale of these earthworks is massive – in some areas he has created “canyons” of over 45ft. Overall he believes that by contouring the land he has turned the surface planting area from four acres to six.  So much more room to play in!

The rest of the talk was spent showing the different  areas of planting and explaining how, by his landscaping works, he has been able to create very varied habitats, not only light and shade, but also different levels of top soil over the shillet (shale) base, depending on the size and preference of the plants he wants to use in the different areas.  He has, for example, created one particular bank with his favourite plant, Erythroniums, in mind, as well as another one for Amaryllis and Nerines.  He has also created what he thinks is a world first, a ‘Wisteria wood’ which was absolutely extraordinary.  He has planted a number (may be as many as a dozen) of different species of wisteria grown as trees (ie not as lollipops!) in a gentle valley area and then underplanted them with hundreds of different bulbs.

I could go on and on but think I’ll leave it there.  Without relevant photos I really can’t convey adequately everything Keith has achieved or indeed the emotional effect his planting has on people.  This is something I first felt at the Garden House all those years ago,  but I certainly felt it again looking at photos of Wildside.  Keith thinks it may be because of the closer link to nature than in many gardens,  but whatever it is, it certainly got to me!

Suffice to say I’ve come away with pages and pages of notes and plant names, as well as a definite idea of a spot in my garden where I’d really like to try this approach out.  I’ll be putting in my order for Keith’s book “On the Wild Side: Experiments in New Naturalism” as soon as I’ve posted this post.

To finish another stunning wild flower view from DesertUSA:

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Return to the Duver, Wildflower Wednesday – late September 2014

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Last month’s Wildflower Wednesday had me clinging on to summer, and this month’s, with the benefit of a glorious morning, has me attempting to do the same.IMG_4862

The chamomile discussed at some length last month is going from strength to strength, but unexpectedly (did I really miss it last year?) it has been joined by a second flowering of the beautiful thrift.  The thrift has also been discussed before, most comprehensively here, and whilst it’s lovely to see it again, the effect is quite different.  The colouring has been diluted by both the white of the chamomile flowers, but also by the many thrift seed heads that are now a silvery, papery beige.  The overall effect is less dramatic but somehow better suited to the season, which, however hard I try, can’t really still be called summer.IMG_4861

So this ‘between the seasons’ continues with this contrast of the wild carrot (Daucus carota) seed heads with the Sea Asters (Aster tripolium) still flowering well behind.IMG_4851

Elsewhere there is more evidence of ‘mellow fruitfulness’.  Umpteen blackberries, here with the fruit of Black Bryony, (Dioscorea [or Tamus] communis)IMG_4883

and here with the seed heads of Old Man’s Beard, Clematis vitalba,IMG_4882

as well as rose hipsIMG_4849

and Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).IMG_4879

According to James Wong in his ‘Homegrown Revolution’ book Sea Buckthorn is a rich source of vitamins A, C and E and a ‘much-loved part of the cuisine of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and China’.  He suggests using it for jams, juices and liqueurs, but acknowledges that the berries are very soft skinned and therefore extremely messy to harvest.  in  Scandanavia and Eastern Europe, where they are grown commercially, they harvest whole branches and freeze them, and then knock the berries off once hard.  Even if I thought it was appropriate to harvest whole branches,  I just don’t have that kind of space in my freezer!

With many thanks, as ever, to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.

 

In a vase on Monday – tangerine dream

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Another cheating ‘In a vase on Monday’ as this one was actually created on Friday to take to my sister’s new home for her birthday weekend.

Just three components, Helianthus ClaretIMG_4840

 Tithonia rotundiflora ‘Torch’IMG_4839

and Cotinus.  I’m not sure if it’s Cotinus coggygria Royal Purple’, as it’s an inherited shrub, but it seems most likely.IMG_4841

I made the arrangement as a hand tied bunch and then tied the whole arrangement in a square of cellophane which helped to give it a slightly more professional look.

There is no doubt that I find larger arrangements exponentially harder than small ones, but I was lucky to have so many of both the sunflowers and the Tithonia to play with, and basically just kept going until I couldn’t hold any more stems in my hand.  I’m not sure that’s a recognised hand tied approach, but it worked for me!

With thanks as ever to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting all our vases.  And many happy returns, lovely sis.

Classy Cliveden

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Friday saw us at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire on our way to a weekend away.  The current house was built in 1851, the third on the site set high above the River Thames at Taplow.

According to Wiki “The site has been home to an earl, three countesses, two dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor.  As home of Nancy Astor, the house was the meeting place of the Cliveden set of the 1920s and 1930s — a group of political intellectuals. Later, during the 1960s, it became the setting for key events of the notorious Profumo Affair. During the 1970s, it was occupied by Stanford University of California, which used it as an overseas campus.”

The house is now owned by the National Trust but it is leased as a five star hotel and so, unlike many NT properties, not open to the public.

I’ve been to Cliveden before, but not for years, and never with a dog, so our priority this time was a long walk in some of the 375 acres which extend down to the Thames.

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Having exhausted Nimbus (some hope) we settled him in the car in the shade and went for a quick canter through the garden areas not accessible to dogs.

Firstly the border to the left of the forecourt lawn.  This was a lovely planting of hot colours – no red, but dark browny purples offset with plenty of orange and yellow.  IMG_4806

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Moving round to the front of the house the view is of the immaculately kept parterre.  This isn’t my kind of garden, but it does look stunning on such a fabulous scale like this.IMG_4818

Close up, I don’t really like the ‘park planting’ but it does make an impressive statement. However I do love the ‘forgotten’ rake.  I’m glad I’m not the only one!IMG_4828

Round behind the house is a newly restored rose garden.  I found this rather disappointing, not that the roses weren’t in wonderful condition, they were, but the whole design of the planting seemed rather arbitrary.  IMG_4829

I’ve since read that the Jellicoe design is supposed to mirror the rising and setting of the sun. According to head gardener Andrew Mudge ‘The colour should sweep across the garden from the soft yellows of the early morning sun in the eastern beds to the bright oranges of the midday heat before finishing on the western side of the garden with the deep reds of the sunset.‘  I suppose it does make more sense now I’ve read that, but it didn’t really work for me in practice.

I did, however, fall in love with two fabulous roses – Rosa FellowshipIMG_4831

and Rosa Lady Emma Hamilton.  Just gorgeous. IMG_4833

To finish, a quick peak at the Long Garden.  Again not exactly my thing (and I was a little disappointed there was no planting in the beds), but some wonderful topiary to admire.IMG_4836