Drought Tolerant Gardens 3

The Old Vicarage East Ruston.

During our tour of East Anglia, this garden was high on my Wish list to visit.

When Alan Gray and Graham Robeson first came to the old vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas. Every garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings, their sole aim has been to try and enhance the setting of their home. Alan occasionally writes for the RHS magazine and has his own YouTube channel. Throughout the garden there are many rare and unusual plants growing. They propagate from these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. There is a converted barn for a tea room with a wonderful display of vintage garden tools on the walls. The garden lies 1½ miles from the North sea.

The pedestrian entrance court.

The pedestrian entrance court with its free draining gravely soil is planted each spring with a variety of succulents, with Aeonium ‘zwartkop’ and the slaty blue Cotyledon orbiculata taking centre stage.

The garden spans 32 acres, containing many garden rooms to discover and explore. Herbaceous borders, gravel gardens, sub-tropical gardens, a box parterre, sunken rose garden, Mediterranean garden, Walled garden, large woodland garden and a Desert Wash garden.

The Desert Wash. 

This area of the garden is designed to resemble parts of Arizona where, it probably only rains, once or twice a year, but when it does rain it floods and great rushes of water channel through the landscape tossing rocks and stones around and leaving behind dry channels and islands where succulent plants flourish.

The real work in making this garden started one metre below the surface where they broke up the sub-soil and incorporated lots of gravel. Then they built layer upon layer of gravel and gravel mixed with soil, the aim being to keep this area very free draining especially during the winter.

Many of the plants grown here are able to tolerate some cold provided they remain dry at the root. Some four hundred tonnes of flint of various sizes have been used in the construction of this area.

They are always experimenting and pushing the boundaries with the planting. Besides the usual drought tolerant plants you will find Puyas, Bromeliads, Agaves and Aloes. Nothing is wrapped for winter protection, the excellent drainage prevents water lying around their roots.

Slide Show The Desert Wash.

Viewed through a porthole cut in the shelter belt is this much photographed borrowed view of Happisburgh lighthouse.

St Mary’s church at the end of the garden.

This is one area of the garden, there is so much more to see not least its magnificent Walled Garden which was built to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Drought Tolerant Gardens 2

RHS Hyde Hall.

In 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to Hyde Hall in 1955 there were only six trees on the top of a windswept hill and no garden. They donated the 42-acre garden, Hyde Hall, to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. We visited there in August 2012 during our garden tour of Essex and East Anglia.

A dry garden was created in 2001 by Mathew Wilson, curator at the time, it aimed to show visitors how they can work with the environment and use drought-tolerant plants.

This path leads into the dry garden, described as one of the crowning achievements of Hyde Hall.

Work began in the winter of 2000, which ironically was one of their wettest winters. It is home to more than 400 different species of plant.

The garden has been built on a south-facing slope covering 0.4 acres, using Gabbro boulders and subsoil mounded over the rubble.

The topsoil was mixed with grit and sand to offer a free-draining environment for the plants.

On summer days, with the rolling hills in the backdrop, the garden looks rather like a Mediterranean outcrop, and it’s easy to forget that you are in the heart of Essex.

In spring, the garden shines with golden Euphorbia, conifers are included for winter interest and drought tolerance, while in summer it turns purple as Verbena bonariensis attracts hosts of butterflies and ornamental grasses towers high above the garden.

Such as the wonderful Stipa gigantea below. Alliums are planted for spring colour with Agapanthus, which you just see on the left for later in the year. Also on the left is Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which provides colour over a long season.

Echinops ‘platinum blue’ and Verbascum olympicum enjoy these conditions.

Also, the beautiful Crinum Powelli is here with Eryngium planum.

From here you could look down onto the gravel or scree garden which had more recently been developed.

Some of the stars up close.

Hyde Hall is well worth a visit if you are in the area, this is only one of the many inspirational gardens within its boundary. Do you have any drought tolerant stars shining in your garden?

Drought Tolerant Gardens.

With the heat wave currently restricting me to the shade of my office and cooling fan, I thought it provided an ideal opportunity to write about drought-tolerant gardens.

We spent a week in August 2012 visiting gardens in Essex and East Anglia, one of the driest areas of the UK.

The first one we visited was Beth Chatto’s, famous for its gravel garden.

Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden.

Beth Chatto was born in 1923 to enthusiastic gardening parents. After working as a teacher she married the late Andrew Chatto, his lifelong interest in the origins of plants influenced the development of the gardens and their use of plants to this day.
Following Andrew’s retirement, they built their new home on wasteland that had been part of the Chatto fruit farm. The site presented many difficulties for starting a garden including low annual rainfall. It was to Andrew’s plant research that they turned.

Informed by his knowledge Beth selected plants for a series of gardens that could thrive under different conditions. Beth Chatto’s first book, “The Dry Garden”, was published in 1978.

The gardens began in 1960 and from an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches it has been transformed, using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions. Thus an inspirational, informal garden has developed.

A light and airy tearoom allows visitors to relax and take in their surroundings over homemade cake.

The world-famous gravel garden inspired by the low local rainfall, is full of drought-resistant plants from the Mediterranean. The site was originally the nursery car park.

It was first subsoiled to break up the pan. The soil is largely gravel and sand, mushroom compost was added to help plants become established.

This picture shows Agapanthus Evening Star & Verbena bonariensis with large-leaved Berginias, in the bed across the path. The Berginias are a favourite for edging borders, providing all-year-round interest with many developing a rich red tone in winter.

Self-seeders such as Fennel and Verbena thrive in these conditions……….

along with Stipa tennuissima and Verbascum.

A few conifers were included as accent plants, Beth wrote in her book, “they, surprisingly, survived due, I think, to mulching in the early days” here also Stipa gigantea and Euphobias.

Perovskia blue spire and Alliums are some of the plants that make up the planting palette of this garden.

The Mount Etna Broom in the centre, has grown to become a 15ft tree.
Clean gravel is added to the paths from time to time to help conserve moisture and suppress germinating weeds.

Trees, such as Eucalyptus and shrubs were also chosen for their drought-tolerant qualities.

The Scree Garden.

Planted in 1999 in part of the old mediterranean garden, the Judas tree in the centre of the island was planted over 45 years ago and forms a focal point.

On the day we visited succulents and alpines were on display along with the washing

The accompanying plant nursery stocks over 2000 plants, all displayed by growing conditions. They do provide a mail order service.

If you are in the area I would recommend a visit, there is also a water garden, woodland and reservoir gardens. You can visit the restaurant, plant centre & gravel garden free of charge.

In The beginning, Seed Sowing.

I guess, if you asked any gardener how to sow seeds, you would receive a different answer from each one.

 I recently gave a zoom presentation to the Worcestershire Careers Association gardening group on seed sowing.

These are my thoughts.

Containers.

There is a wide range of pots and containers for seed sowing, generally, I prefer to use small pots rather than seed trays because they provide a deeper root run until you get round to pricking out the seedlings.

Large seed trays also encourage the sowing of too much at a time.

 I also use root trainers. The large ones are useful for growing sweetpeas, beans and sweet corn, and they save pricking out. You can then plant them directly into the garden. You can buy smaller ones, ideal for starting vegetables such as lettuce or annual flowers.

 A free alternative is used toilet rolls centres which fit nicely into the plastic containers grapes are sold in.

Compost.

The choice of compost can be a controversial area. Legislation regarding the use of peat is driving the move to peat-free compost.

 I think you only need one type of compost, multipurpose. I use Melcourt ‘sylva grow’, a peat-free one recommended by the RHS. This year I am experimenting with using Fertile Fibre, a Coir product. This is dehydrated making it light to carry and is easily rehydrated for use.

This Coir brick is rehydrated with 3 litres of water.

There is no doubt peat-free compost requires more feed, which may explain why some comparisons show poor results.

I also use fine grade vermiculite for seed sowing, it is light to carry, helps prevent seedlings from damping off and benefits root development. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is heat-treated. Traditionally horticultural sand or grit would have been used and as a gardener with recurring back problems, reducing the weight of materials is an important consideration.

Sowing.

For small seeds, I sieve multipurpose compost, to remove the larger pieces, mixing it 50/50 with vermiculite. When planting small seeds, I water from above before sowing or from below afterwards.

After sowing I lightly cover with vermiculite and label. You can cover it with a polythene bag and place it on a well-lit window sill. I use a heated propagator which negates the need to cover individual pots. You will need to remove the individual cover when the seeds have germinated, keep warm with good light to prevent them from becoming leggy.    

Coir Jiffy pellets are useful for propagating seeds and cuttings, they require soaking before use.

Once germinated they can be planted out into pots to grow on, this also saves pricking out.

I use a mixture of compost with around 25% vermiculite for growing on. 

I grow larger seeds such as sweet peas, broad or runner beans in the same 50/50 mix without sieving, planting into root trainers or toilet roll centres.

I use grit when sowing alpine seeds.

What is your secret to successful seed sowing?

Rocket germinated.

Our Garden@19 in September.

September is one of my favourite months in the garden, it could be nostalgia because we always had a wonderful show of Michaelmas Daises (Asters/Symphyotrichum) in our cottage garden at home. Many other plants also provide interest at this time of year, the annuals such as dahlias, late flowering perennials, trees and shrubs with changing leaf colour.

The Asters.

Symphyotrichum n.a ’ Harringtons Pink’ with Bee.
Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow, Solidago ‘Fireworks’ & Calamagrostis Brachytricha
Symphyotrichum na ‘ Barrs Violet ‘ 

Some of the others.

Sedum Herbstfreud 
Canna.
Vitis ‘ Spetchley red ‘ over the arch.
Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and honey bee.
Verbena Bonariensis and friend.
Miscanthus sinensis 
Calamagrostis x a. ‘ Karl Foerster’ . These white Asters flower in October.
Cyclamen hederifolium.
Malus Blenheim Orange

The Movie.

Please turn on your sound, watch on YouTube and select full screen.

Do you have a favourite September plant?

Double value.

Three plants in the garden offering attractive foliage as well as flowers.

Galtonia candicans has white bell flowers with lance like blue green striped leaves.

The Pholx are just starting to flower here, this is Phlox paniculate ‘Harlequin’, variegated leaves with a touch of pink.

This is the first time Colocasia ‘Black Dragon’ has flowered in the four or five years we have had it. We have always being pleased with just its stunning foliage.

Do you have any double value plants in your garden?

Some July Specials.

Thalictrum flavum subsp.glaucum and Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’
Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur and Dianthus carthusianorum
Geranium Johnson’s Blue and Lychnis chalcedonica

Who would have thought a runner bean flower could be so beautiful?

In the raised beds edging the patio Runner Bean White Emergo
With Sweet pea Air Warden.
And Self-seeded Poppy.
On the Patio.

Do you have some July Specials in your garden?

Wisteria, Iris, Cornus kousa, Clematis, Alliums and Alliums in early June.

A video tour of Our Garden@19 in early June. Please select Watch on YouTube and select full screen.

We are opening our garden for the National Garden Scheme on the 28th June, whilst some of these will be over the climbing roses among others should be in full swing.

Under The Veranda in May.

The plants in the new planter I built in April have settled in well and are starting to grow.

As this is on the North side of the house I selected shade loving plants. These are plants I already had in pots except for a new Trachelospermum jasminoides which I hope will eventually provide an evergreen scented screen.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spiders Web’
Podophyllum versipelle ‘Spotty Dotty’, this will soon have bright red flowers.
Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Striatum’ a variegated Solomons seal.
Skimmia Hermaphrodite does not need a pollinator, the white flowers are just going over and being replaced by red berries.
In a pot on the table is Trillium chloropetalum, some of the leaf markings have now faded. 

The rear of the house is not the most attractive however the plants make an attractive diversion.

‘Maggs’ the family cat approves of her new seat in the dry!

Do you have a shady area in your garden?

Greenhouses and Raised Beds in May.

A tour of the greenhouses in May, the cold winds and frosty nights dictate that tender plants have to remain inside. This time of year is always over crowded greenhouse time!

The tomato, Amateur, new to me this year, Amelia from https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com mentioned it as a favourite of her fathers. I was attracted to it because he grew it as a bush tomato.

Amateur tomato plants.

On the side shelf are trailing pelargoniums growing on for the hanging baskets. Pelargoniums are one of my favourite summer plants.

Pelargonium cuttings and three purchased P. Ardens on the heated propagation bench.

Alongside are Courgettes, Genovese Basil in pots. In the root trainers are Coleus, ‘Festive Dance’ seedlings. Thunbergia plata, ‘Susie Series’ White and at the back Hordeum Jubatum an ornamental barley that I first saw growing in Aberglassney garden

On the top shelf are climbing French and Runner Beans, Sweet Corn ‘Swift’ and Dwarf French Bean ‘Purple Teepee’.

Spinach and Rocket seedlings growing on ready to plant in the raised beds later on.

These are Dahlia Merckii seedlings pricked out into root trainers, a seed swap from Fiona Wormald at https://thegardenimpressionists.com two years ago. I did not manage to sow them until this spring, the germination has been fantastic.

The Dahlia tubers are proving to be a little slow to show this year, one of the Striped Vulcan, new this year, has started.

Rainbow Chard in root trainers along with Fennel. This is the first time I have grown bulb fennel.

These young Alstroemeria plants are from seeds collected by my brother last autumn from the ones in his garden.

In the raised beds are crimson flowering Broad Beans.

With Spinach, Sweet-peas on the obelisk and newly planted lettuce.

Now we need some sunshine.

Tulips and Blossom.

I have begun an experiment with tulips this year, following an article I read by Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter regarding which tulips they found to be perennial.

The most reliable ones being the Darwin Hybrids, I planted three varieties in November, two in pots and one in the borders.
The real test will be next year if they flower as well. One indication mentioned in the article was whether the bulbs had divided into several small ones or remained as one big bulb, these being the ones worth saving.


I planted Tulip ‘Apeldoorn’ in pots placed in several areas around the garden. Please Click on gallery pictures to enlarge.

These remind me of the traditional cottage garden tulips similar to the ones I brought home from my Great Aunt’s garden.

Tulip Hakuun aka ‘White Cloud’ in large white pots in the White and Green garden.

Tulip ‘Daydream’ was planted in bulb saucers in the borders along with
Forget- Me-Nots and Wall Flowers.

Tulip ‘Abu Hassan’ has already proved to be perennial here, these tulip bulbs were purchased three years ago.

Tulip ‘Ballede’ was planted in the borders ten years ago and while its numbers have reduced over time, I think for such a beautiful tulip, it will be worth topping up next autumn.

Providing some spring cheer in the welcome rain is Clematis ‘ Pamela Jackman ‘ with pots of Azaleas at her feet.

Along with Apples ‘Rosett’ and ‘Blenheim Orange’…..

….is the Crab Apple ‘Golden Hornet’.

Have you found any tulip varieties to be perennial in your garden?

Spring (ing) into action!

This winter in Our Garden@19 has been busy with ‘Estate Maintenance’. I previously posted about replacing the trellis and fence in the white and green garden, then as now my brother Derek has been my right hand man.

Replacing the entrance to the propagation area was the simplest of our recent efforts. We gave it an oriental look.

Continuing with the oriental theme, our neighbour’s fence at the back of the oriental garden started to fall over with the weight of the ivy and snow. I decided to cut back the ivy and erect a new fence on my side.

Note the badger path underneath the fence.

Then painted it black to tie in with the rest of this area.

A moon window was added to look into the room.

Next on the list was rebuilding the raised beds.

The old obelisks I built when we came here were dismantled and rebuilt, hopefully with more style, to a design by Geoff Hamilton.

Broad Bean Scarlet Flower and Sweet Peas started in pots now planted out.

These early spring bulbs and flowers have been cheering me up on sunny days. Please click on gallery pictures to enlarge.

Back to the oriental garden.

In the rest of the garden…

The pollinators have also been taking advantage of the sunshine.

What is springing you into action this spring?

A seasonal delight – in winter.

Guest Publisher Leonie Creighton.

Leonie is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener she is the minutes secretary to the Black Pear Gardening Club. I have invited her as guest publisher for this seasonally appropriate article she wrote for the club newsletter.

IRIS UNGUICULARIS.

One of my favourite plants at this time of year is IRIS UNGUICULARIS (I.stylosa) Algerian Iris.

This lovely flower is native to Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey , Greece and Syria where it grows in light scrub,open pine woods and rocky places.

It flowers from late autumn to early spring when so few plants are in flower. The flowers are beautifully scented, in shades of lavender to deep violet with a yellow throat.

This winter flowering Iris is easy to grow in well drained soil in full sun. Plant near a wall to help maintain the soils heat. I grow it in a raised bed that’s in full sunlight for most of the day, but that said I also grow it in a woodland area in partial sunlight and it is still happy but doesn’t flower quite so well. It is also useful to grow at the base of clematis as they like their heads in the sun and their roots in shade and it helps to hide the bare base of the clematis and keep its roots cool.

Plant it so that the rhizomes are just below the surface of the soil and 10cm (4in) apart.

It produces an evergreen mound of narrow, arching grass like foliage. This foliage does become brown and bit untidy but can easily be trimmed back to keep it looking good.

A top dressing of bone meal or potash in either autumn or spring is beneficial but look out for snails hiding among the leaves.

It dislikes being moved, but if you have to disturb it do it in spring after flowering. It may sulk for a while before it starts to flower again.

This is a long lived plant. I grow the species variety from divisions taken off my mother’s plant that has been growing in her garden for probably fifty years.

Two other very nice named varieties are ‘Mary Barnard’ which has a lovely velvety blue-purple flower, a much more intense colour than the species.

‘Mary Barnard’

Also, ‘Walter Butt’ a ghostly pale grey-blue , but with a heavenly scent.

‘Walter Butt’

Flowering: November-March

Hardiness: Fully hardy

Height: 30-45cm

Did you Know : Iris was a Greek goddess, the personification of the rainbow, which she used as her pathway though the sky.   

Leonie Creighton.

Happy New Year.

Winter visited Our Garden@19 towards the end of 2020.

Flowering in the house and keeping warm is the Christmas Cactus.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)

From the bathroom window we can see the snow-capped Malvern Hills.

Snow boot painted by the Grandchildren as a Christmas present.

A snowy video tour of the garden wishing you a Happy New Year please turn your sound on and select full screen.

Thaw.

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed

The speculating rooks at their nests cawed

And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,

What we below could not see, Winter pass.

EDWARD THOMAS (1878-1917)

Thank you for visiting Brimfields.com during 2020, hopefully, some of you may be able to visit the garden in person later this year if we are able to open for the village church funds in May.

Ivy and the Bees.

Why you should allow some ivy to grow in your garden.

Wild Ivy in flower.

I do grow some cultivated variegated forms, ivy does not produce any flowers until their adult growth stage when the leaf shape changes, usually at around 10years. They can be kept pruned to their juvenile stage and leaf shape when they will at least provide nesting sites for birds.

Ground cover under the Bug Hotel.
Hedra helix Gold Child on a shady fence.

Do you grow ivy in your garden?

August Video Garden Tour.

Historically August has been viewed as a low period for the garden, due in part, I think, to owners of large estates traditionally moving to Scotland for the grouse season, today it is the main holiday season for everyone with school children. (Except for this year). High temperatures such as the ones we experienced early in the month this year can spell the end of some plants, such as my Sweetpeas.

It does not have to be so. There are a wide choice of plants to fill the borders in August, Phlox, Japanese anemone, roses, if you have deadheaded, dahlias, late sown annuals, pot plants such as pelargoniums, asters are just beginning to flower complimenting ornamental grasses for the late summer look.

The video is of Our Garden@19 filmed towards the end of the month and following the heavy rain and winds. Please select full screen and turn on your sound.

What has survived the August weather in your garden?

St Wulstan’s Nature Reserve.

A favourite walk of ours even before lockdown was St. Wulstan’s Nature Reserve. Before it became a nature reserve, it had a fascinating history as a US army hospital, a TB hospital and a psychiatric hospital, it is managed by Worcestershire county council.

These pictures are from a visit in early July, the open areas around the shrubby were full of colour and insect life

With the Malvern Hills in the back ground.

Because of its sweet honey like scent ladies bedstraw was used for bedding

Wild Parsnip.

The sap from wild parsnip is toxic. Cultivated parsnip left in the garden for a second year has attractive flowers.

At the end of Matron’s Path, there was the Rowan covered in berries and the wild Clematis with its fluffy seed heads.

In a lane closer to home was this flower, it looks a little like an orchid. it is the Dyer’s Greenweed. historically used to create a yellow dye.

Do you have a favourite walk?

The Six NGS Gardens of Hanley Swan.

This weekend six gardens in the village of Hanley Swan should have been opening in aid of the NGS nursing charities.
Due to the Covid-19, this has been cancelled, so together with the other garden openers, we have created a video tour of the gardens.
Please make yourself a cup of tea or any beverage of your choice. Imagine you are in the gardens, sit back, turn on the sound, click on play, select full screen and enjoy.

Doddington Hall Garden Visit and Growing Bearded Iris.

In August 2019 Irene and I were invited to a family event near Lincoln, this provided the perfect opportunity to visit a garden that has long been on my wish list ever since reading about their technique for growing Bearded Iris. Sadly when we visited the iris were over, however, as with all good gardens, there was much else to admire. We have many bearded Iris in the garden, several inherited from my Mother and Great Aunts’ gardens. Bearded iris have beautiful delicate, often fleeting flowers, due to our weather, which can make them even more precious.

Bearded Iris has fallen out of favour due largely to the traditional way of caring for them, with the need to lift and thin them, in the autumn, every three to four years. The “Doddington system” is a trouble-free way to divide them, requiring minimum attention. Some of their older iris have been in the same beds for over 30 years.

Their system is based on the fact that bearded iris set their flower initials in August and require the rhizomes to be warmed by the summer sun.

The iris are split every year after flowering in June, just as the new leaves start to grow. The iris are not lifted but split with a spade, leaving the healthy young rhizome with shoots, whilst removing the old rhizome. the aim is to leave 9-12″ between plants. Then you remove the early summer leaves and flower stems leaving the new late summer leaves. They topdress the bed with bone meal, I use rose fertiliser because foxes are attracted to bone meal. Large rhizomes can be divide with the spade with one part lifted to transplant, either to fill a gap, expand the bed or pot up to sell on open garden days.

I have been using this system since 2014, I was initially attracted because it entailed much less bending, having had a back problem for some years.

Bearded iris in Our Garden@19

Another interesting fact with Doddington is they contain the Bryan Dodsworth iris collection. He was the most celebrated C20 British breeder of Tall Bearded Iris and was awarded the Dykes Medal for new varieties 12 times.

This garden description is from their website:Doddington Hall.com

“For many, the Gardens at Doddington are just as spectacular as the Hall itself. Remaining faithful to the original Elizabethan layout, mellow walls provide the framework for the formal East Front and West Gardens. Beyond the West Gardens begin the lovingly restored Wild Gardens. Over the generations, most recently by Antony and Victoria Jarvis and Claire and James Birch, the gardens at Doddington have been restored, cared for, nurtured and developed to their fullest potential.

THE EAST FRONT

The point at which the dramatic nature of the architecture of the Hall becomes apparent. A regular pattern of box edging and topiary follows the outer original Elizabethan walls, leaving the central view of the Hall from the Gate House uninterrupted. Standing guard in the forecourt are four topiary unicorns, representing the Jarvis family crest.

THE WEST GARDEN

Reorganised in 1900 with the help of experts from Kew, the West Garden is a riot of colour from April through to September. Wide borders filled with botanical surprises such as the naturalised Crown Imperials, elegant Edwardian Daffodils and a Handkerchief Tree frame a tapestry of box-edged parterres bursting with glorious Bearded Irises in late May/early June.

THE WILD GARDEN

A spectacular pageant of spring bulbs begins in early February with swathes of snowdrops and Crocus tommasinianus, continuing through March and early April with drifts of Lent Lilies and our unique collection of heritage daffodils, winter aconites and snake head fritillaries until May when our famous Irises steal the show in the West Garden. There are also winter-flowering and scented shrubs, Rhododendron, and an underlying structure is given by topiary and some wonderful trees – the ancient, contorted Sweet Chestnuts that overlook the croquet lawn are still productive.

Meandering paths lead you to our Temple of the Winds built by Antony Jarvis in memory of his parents, a turf maze that he made in the 1980s, and if you look hard you may find the ‘dinosaur’s egg’ (a large boulder that he put in the branches of a field maple tree to surprise the grandchildren).

A nature trail starting from just beyond the Temple at the end of the Garden follows a circular route back to the ‘ha ha’ at the end of the Yew avenue and provides a pleasant and interesting walk of about a mile. The route passes through woodlands, open parkland and a wetland meadow from where the clay was dug to make the bricks to build Doddington.

THE KITCHEN GARDEN

Thanks to a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the formerly neglected two-acre Walled Kitchen Garden was restored to its former glory in 2007. Just a stone’s throw from the Hall it now provides an abundance of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs which take centre stage on the Café and Restaurant menus and are regularly for sale in our Farm Shop.

By implementing organic techniques including crop rotation, minimum tillage, biological controls, the use of green manures as well as no-dig beds, we are able to naturally maximise productivity and minimise pests so we have no need for chemical fertilisers, weed killers or pesticides.”

A photo garden tour.

East Front

West Garden

Wild Garden

Kitchen Garden

Bryan Dodsworth

A great name for an Iris!

If you have an opportunity I would recommend a visit to Doddington Hall, besides the hall and gardens, they have a cafe, restaurant, farm shop and several other shopping outlets, you can even get married there.

Spring Video Tour.

With our gardening club’s meetings cancelled for at least the next three months and the majority of us self isolating for various health reasons, I decided to record a film, Spring Tour, ‘Our Garden@19’ to share with our members on what should have been our meeting day.
This is the first time I have done this using the video setting on my canon camera, therefore it is not very smooth and you will need the sound on your device on full to hear my dulcet tones!
You do not require a Youtube account to watch it, just click on the link below.
I now happily share it with my brimfields.com followers, enjoy and stay well.

The Alpine beds.

March Tour.

Despite the awful weather this winter, it has been a busy one here in our garden@19, see: (A Winter Project and a Wildlife-Friendly Experiment.) following on from several autumn projects.

With all the depressing news from around the world, just an hour working in the garden is welcome, ending with a quick photo tour accompanied by a chilly wind.

It is cheering to see that despite everything else, spring is coming in the garden.

On the patio.

The Alpine beds.

Looking colourful with some dogwood prunings inserted…

Arabis procurrens with Euphorbia myrsinites

…Also

Ipheion ‘ Alberto Castillo ‘

Crocus.

Corydalis cheilanthifolia

In the woodland walk.

Brunnera macrophylla

The Blue Border…

Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ in the blue border.

Under the arch…

Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii

In the Oriental garden…

Camellia × williamsii ‘Donation’

What is spring bringing to cheer you up in your garden?

Some Colourful Relief.

With all the terrible weather, gales and floods that the UK has recently experienced,     I hope some spring colour will help to bring some relief.

(Fortunately whilst we live close to Upton upon Severn, currently Upton in Severn, we are away from the floods).

Tulip ‘Johann Strauss’        The label said, flowers March to April.

Crocus ‘Gipsy Girl’.

Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ and Primula ‘Little Queen Red’

Crocus tommasinianus

 

Here’s wishing for a sunny, dry spring.

A Winter Project and a Wildlife Friendly Experiment.

When we purchased the house, I designed the garden and the rear of the main border, now named the blue border, was planted with climbing roses, trained to rope swags. Unfortunately, the rope soon rotted and was replaced with trellis. Now several years later the trellis along with some of the posts required replacing this winter.  With a coil of blue rope already in stock, I have gone back to plan A. The posts have been replaced, painted to match the colour scheme and furnished with new fittings. I also took the opportunity to remove two of the oldest roses. They came with us from our previous garden and there are still two identical ones elsewhere in the garden. Managing so many vigorous rambling/climbing rose was becoming quite hard work. (Old age, mine not the roses).  These will be replaced with clematis, joining some already there.

You may notice, in the picture above, lots of plant debris on the garden. I recently read an article about the Melinium Garden at Pentsthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk, which we had visited in 2012. This garden was designed by Piet Oudolf, the internationally famous dutch nurseryman and garden designer, known for his prairie style planting. Historically, the many perennials and grasses were not cut down in the garden until February, to provide winter shelter for insects, and then removed to giant compost heaps.  According to the article, they now cut it all down in small bites, or pieces, leaving it on the ground as a mulch, to continue providing homes for the wildlife.

While I do not claim this border to be ‘prairie planting’, it does contain perennials and grasses so I decided to experiment with cutting it down in small bites, leaving it as a mulch. I did this using garden shears if you had more to do you could use a hedge cutter (Mine has broken).

I will add my usual mulch on top of this in March, I do it then to smother the chickweed, which germinates here around that time. It will be interesting to see how it develops, I don’t think it will suit the tidy gardener. However, we are constantly being advised that as gardeners we should be a little more untidy to help the wildlife.

I will record progress with photos and publish them later in the year.

Have you tried this in your garden?

Fragrant Flowering Shrubs for Winter Interest.

This article was originally posted on the website of the Black Pear Gardening Club   by club member Julie Munn. With its seasonal interest, especially now we all have our Christmas garden gift vouchers to spend, I invited Julie as guest publisher for this post.

Fragrant Flowering Shrubs for Winter Interest.

Winter Flowering Shrubs can add that much-needed cheer & interest to our gardens when the days are so long & dark after Christmas. As Gardeners, we are always working ahead & planning for the Spring, Summer & Autumn but Winter often gets forgotten & inspiration can be slow to come to mind when the borders look bare & uninteresting. In this article I aim to introduce some plants that can bridge the gap before Spring takes a hold & the welcome Snowdrops, Narcissi & Hellebores make an appearance. The plants which follow are all fragrant which is a bonus to the often, delicate flowers, as well as providing an enticement into our gardens when it’s cold & frosty. Winter Flowering Shrubs also provide nectar for any early foraging insects & provide a refuge for birds during harsh weather. Here are a few of my favourites.

 

Hamamelis

Hamamelis or Witch Hazel are deciduous shrubs which have very fragrant, spidery, yellow, orange or red flowers in late Winter. They grow best in acid-neutral, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Their growth is slow, but they need space to achieve their natural, vase-like, spreading habit. Hamamelis can be planted in a mixed border or as specimens in a lawn or Woodland Garden. They also have excellent Autumn colour. Several varieties are available.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

Jan 2016

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ Feb 2016

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ Mar 2015

When planting Hamamelis, improve soil by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost especially if you have clay soil. Planting on a slight mound can aid drainage & ensure the grafting union is not buried.

Mahonia

Mahonia are large, evergreen shrubs &
are available in many varieties & sizes.
Their evergreen foliage provides excellent
contrast against other plants & leaves are
usually spiny. Fragrant, clusters of flowers
are a welcome sight from late Autumn
through Winter & early Spring, followed
by black or purple berries. Mahonia
provide good architectural structure in a
Mixed Border or Woodland Garden &
they tolerate part or full shade. Grow
Mahonia in any moist but well-drained
soil.

Mahonia x media ‘Lionel Fortescue’

Dec 2015

Sarcococca

Sarcococca are evergreen shrubs whose flowers have an intense, sweet fragrance in Winter & are an excellent addition to any garden. Sarcococca confusa is the most well-known variety with its small, creamy white flowers which are almost hidden by the foliage. They grow best in any humus rich, moist but well drained soil & prefer to be positioned in full or part shade. Their flowers are followed by shiny, black berries. Sarcococca can be positioned in Mixed Borders & Woodland Gardens but to enjoy the fragrance at its best, place near to an entrance door or pathway where its scent can be enjoyed. They make excellent additions to Winter Pots & Containers.

I grow S. hookeriana var. digyna which gives a pink tinge to its flowers.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

Feb 2019

Chimonanthus praecox

Chimonanthus praecox, often known as Wintersweet, is a deciduous shrub with a multi-branched, bushy habit & is best for the back of a border or against a wall or fence, where they can enjoy some protection. The highly fragrant, yellow-greenish flowers appear along the previous year’s stems in Winter & early Spring & often have a reddish-purple inner petal. Their flowers can be easily missed until you smell the fragrance & then the hunt for its source takes over. The flowers are followed by fruits, capsule shaped which contain the seeds.

Chimonanthus praecox Mar 2015

They grow best in any well-drained soil in a sheltered position & enjoy full sun.

Daphne

Daphne can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs & are available in a variety of growth habits. D. bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is one of my favourite Daphne’s & its perfume is a welcome fragrance in the Winter Garden. Position this Daphne near to a pathway, entrance or in an enclosed garden area, to fully appreciate the scent. The clustered flowers are purplish-pink & white & highly scented, followed by black berries. Plant in any moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade & it benefits from having a sheltered position.

Daphne can be placed in a Mixed or Shrub Border but choose the spot carefully as Daphne can resent transplanting.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Jan 2015

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

Grevillea rosmarinifolia is an evergreen shrub which grows to approximately 2 metres & has a loosely arching habit. Its branches of rosemary-like foliage with each rigid leaf having a prickly tip. The flowers appear in clusters at the end of branch tip & are a deep red in colour & unusual in form.

Although the flowers are not scented, I couldn’t resist bringing this plant to the fore for its long flowering period. Flowering starts from late Winter & lasts through to late Summer. Grows in acid-neutral, moist but well drained soil in full sun. I planted my Grevillea behind a wall for some shelter at its base, but it now enjoys full sun & has achieved 2 metres in height.

Somewhat prickly to work around but tolerant of pruning & shaping. Fits well into any Shrub or Mixed Border.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

These are only a few of the many Shrubs which add Winter Interest to our gardens. So, be inspired & once all your herbaceous borders have died back, look at your garden areas & fill in the gaps with some of these lovely plants.

Julie Munn – 14th November 2019 All photos my own

About Julie.

Gardening & Plants have always been my passion, my Grandad was a keen Gardener & I have a vivid memory of watching his large fingers pricking out tiny Antirrhinum seedlings into meticulously, straight rows in seed trays. This sparked my interest & I was hooked, as well as eating the warm, ripe tomatoes he offered when I turned up at his greenhouse door. My Parents are also keen Gardeners & Allotment holders & have always encouraged me in the garden & with Nature in general while growing up.

After working in the NHS & in my husbands’ engineering business, my son no longer required my attentions, so it was now my time to do something I enjoyed. I enrolled on an RHS Course at Pershore College & little did I know it was to be my home for the next 31/2 years. I passed the RHS Diploma in Horticulture, level 2 & also volunteered at Spetchley Park Gardens which gave me some hands-on experience. The staff at Pershore College encouraged me to continue my learning, so I stayed on for a further 2 years to obtain the Pershore Diploma in Garden Design, Level 4, which I passed with distinction. I have always enjoyed Art & the design element fed my creative juices.  While at College, I started my own Garden Maintenance business & have now been self-employed for nearly 6 years. Mainly working in large gardens in the counties of Hereford & Worcester, carrying out Plant & Border Maintenance, all types of Pruning, Soil improvement, Propagation, the Control of Pests & Diseases & of course Weeding. I worked for 3 years in a Garden which was open to the public during the Spring & Summer months, helping with charity open events like NGS days as well as giving guided garden tours to groups & clubs, which I really enjoyed. I have had several Planting Design commissions & Garden Designs including a design completed on the Island of Jersey which was a real pleasure. I have a real passion for unusual plants & enjoy designing planting plans that provide interest all year round. I am now growing my Garden Design business as I really enjoy working with clients to help them achieve not only a lovely garden but one which they can enjoy & confidently manage successfully for themselves, with perhaps a little help from me, from time to time.

Julie Munn

Julie Munn Garden Services

Flower of the Month. December 2019.

I caught sight of this Vinca flower in the spring border. Vinca difformis is similar to Vinca major, differing most significantly in its habit of flowering right from Autumn, through mild Winter spells to Spring.

 

Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

Such a welcome cheering sight to find in the garden at this time of year, especially after all the rain and dull days of this autumn and early winter months.

Autumn Project 3 Completed.

I have long held the view that autumn is the beginning of the gardening year, preparing the garden and the plants for their winter rest before the explosion of spring and summer glory.

The main autumn project, this year, has been to move plants into their correct positions!

I am sure many of you can relate to the gardener’s curse of initially positioning plants in the wrong place.

Two of the first candidates for moving were the Cytisus, ‘Golden Cascade’ and Albus. While they produced wonderful spring colours and scent, they had become far too tall, even with some pruning.

I did not want to completely lose them, following a hard prune, I have moved them to the rear of the borders and hope with generous watering they will successfully establish. This has freed an area, which has been planted with Lupins and Foxgloves to flower in June for the open gardens. The lupins will be treated as annuals, in the Great Dixter way. Colourful exotics such as Dahlias and Cannas will follow.

I have for some time had a yearning for a Cornus Kousa ‘Miss Satomi’. After ordering one two years ago, I planted it in the garden. Sadly it died during the winter. The nursery that supplied it kept promising to replace it. When visiting Pershore College plant centre, they had some very reasonably priced Cornus Kousa ‘China Girl’. One was purchased, then planted in ‘Miss Satomi’s allocated position. Soon afterwards the nursery rang to say they had a replacement for me, although they could only obtain ‘Milky Way’. I decided this would have to live in a large pot, on the patio by the entrance to the oriental garden, while I decided where it was going to live permanently.

This turned out to be an ideal position, we could see it from the dining room windows. Three slabs were consequently lifted from the edge of the patio to provide a permanent home. Ironically the flower colours are more like ‘Miss Satomi’ than ‘Milky Way’, The nursery has not returned my email asking if there could have been an identification error!

Several years ago I was given a Rhus hirta Staghorn sumac. Because of its reputation for suckering, it has been residing in a pot on the patio where we could enjoy its beautiful autumn colour.

Last year we inexplicably lost a five year old Snake-bark Acer from the middle of the blue border. This completely unbalanced the border, there is an Acer griseum on the opposite side. Not wishing to risk another reasonably sized, quite expensive tree, I decided to plant the Rhus there, after seeing one looking stunning with it’s autumn colours, in a Piet Oldoulf garden.

I may pot up any suckers to sell on our open days. I think it looks very colourful in its new home among the Asters and grasses.

Moving the plant theatre in project one, freed up an area. This provided a space to plant a Greengage tree that I had purchased as a young bare root tree two years ago. It had been growing on in a pot, now it is planted along with the rhubarb, emptying more large pots.

Having admired large pots packed full of colourful exotics and annuals in other gardens, all these freed up pots will provide an opportunity to do the same.

Now to plan filling these!

Plant of the month.

Asters, Michaelmas Daisies or Symphyotrichum, as some of them have now been renamed, are one of the autumn garden flowers I have always loved to see. This is probably because of the wonderful stand that grew in my parents and grandparents gardens.

There are many to choose from, for October’s plant of the month, in Our Garden@19.

I have selected Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’, it has RHS AGM status and is generally disease-free. With its masses of small blue flowers and yellow centres, I think, it is a good companion with Solidago Fireworks.

It will self seed around the garden, although it will not come true, it can however be propagated by division, preferably in the spring.

With it being a simple flower it is popular with the pollinators.

Do you have a favourite October flower?

Autumn Project 2 Completed.

I have to confess to watching many of the gardening programs on television along with reading gardening magazines, books and of course blogs, for inspiration in planting and design.

One programme featured, what I thought was a good structural design for supporting climbing plants.

When I had finished building my version, I thought it looked too much like railway signals. The original one had used wider timber.

My design consultant (Irene) convinced me it was okay and would soon be covered by the Rose.

I have either been brave or stupid (you will, I am sure, have your own opinion) planted a Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, which I have grown from a cutting, to help screen one side of a shed. This is the one I have built the support for.

This is the rose the cutting came from! It has never been pruned.

Will it be ideal to ‘train’ a Rose over?

It will certainly need to be pruned.

Plant of the month.

Choosing a plant of the month at this time of year is a little like choosing your favourite child. Daucus carota, the wild annual carrot, flowering in the blue border mainly from self sown plants is my choice. I grew it two years ago from seed, there was none in the garden last year, now this year…

Scarlet Tiger Moth, you see the red underneath when it opens its wings.

A simple drought tolerant plant, easy and cheap to grow, used by herbalists, loved by the pollinators and ideal for wildlife friendly gardening.

Do you currently have a favourite flower?

May Joy.

Our garden@19, in May, was cloaked in the joy of May flowers, starting with the Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’ …

Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
Allium ‘Beau Regard’
Allium Mount Everest with White Honesty.
The Blue Border with Allium ‘Purple Sensation ‘.
Iris ‘Alcazar’.
Hesperis matronalis ‘White’
Prunus ‘serrula’ our mug tree.

These pictures were taken just before our NGS May opening, when 77 visitors came on a Tuesday. We are now preparing for our next opening on Monday June 17th.

There’s a Buzz in the air!

Prunus serrula is an all year round favourite tree in Our Garden@19. However at this time of year it is also popular with the bees, especially the honey bees. The flowers are quite small and insignificant compared to the bark. Standing under the canopy when in flower it is a buzz with bees.

You will need full volume to capture some of the sound, because the majority of the bees working in the top of the tree. I guess the nectar flow is greater there early in the morning, before the sun penetrates the canopy.

A friend sent this to me, I thought it was so appropriate I have now added it.

“Where the bee sucks, there suck I: 
In a cowslip’s bell I lie; 
There I couch when owls do cry. 
On the bat’s back I do fly 
After summer merrily. 
Merrily, merrily shall I live now 
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.” 


― William Shakespeare.

Is anything creating a buzz in your garden?

April Top Ten.

A quick tour around Our Garden@19 to capture my Top Ten, joining Chloris at The Blooming Garden.

The White and Green garden, Lunaria annua ‘Alba’ and Tulip ‘Spring Green’.

Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’ and Cytisus ‘Golden Cascade’

Cytisus praecox Albus

Clematis alp. ‘ Broughton Bride ‘

Primulas

The Lego inspired Bug Hotel with Roof Garden.

Tulip ‘Angelique’ and violas.

You can see more April Top Ten by visiting The Blooming Garden

Do you have a favourite or a top ten of your own?

Vinca.

Vinca have a bad reputation with gardeners as being very invasive. This is more true of ‘major’, the smaller ‘minor’, known as the Lesser Periwinkle is, I think, an excellent plant for dry, shady areas. It is not often considered for planters, although it can look particularly good in urns or large pots, trailing over the sides like a green waterfall.

Available in colours other than blue, it can be a garden worthy plant.

The double blue, grows in ourgarden@19 in urns either side of the banana bench.

Vinca minor ‘Azurea Flore Pleno’

An attractive alternative is the purple form, here in a large terracotta pot.

Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’

A white one lives happily in a small Cotswold Stone pot in the White and Green garden.

Vinca minor ‘Alba’

The star of our Vinca family is ‘Jenny Pym’ with its delicate pink and white colours…

Vinca diffopmis ‘Jenny Pym’

…scrambling through our Spring Bed…

…does pink and yellow go together?

‘Brazen Hussy’.

The plant family, Ranunculus, includes buttercups and lesser celandine, plants that most gardeners would not welcome into their garden. However with these looks and the name of ‘Brazen Hussy’, I have made an exception.

Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’

It was discovered and named by Christopher Lloyd growing in the woods at Great Dixter.

Here, enjoying the sunshine, it has brazenly self seeded into some cracks in the path. What is being ‘Brazen’ in your garden?

Bulbs, Sunshine, Tea and Cake.

The churchyard at Birlingham, Nr Pershore in Worcestershire has long been a pilgrimage for snowdrop lovers in the area. Bulb Teas are held each Saturday and Sunday in February until Sunday 24th February in the Village Hall from 11.00am to 4.00 pm.

The Grade II listed church of St James with its 15C tower, which at one time contained a dovecote, sits in the middle of the village by a small green, with the old school, now a private house, and the village hall.

We visited on Sunday, in glorious sunshine, and with the snowdrops starting to go over, crocus and cyclamen were taking their place.

A Cherry tree just outside the church wall was in full flower with honey bees taking advantage of the  sunshine to gather nectar.

 A colony of bees have made their home in the tower…

In this hole under the old clock face.

The church was open and had been decorated with flower arrangements.

The teas and cakes were proving to be very popular on this beautiful afternoon in this charming Worcestershire village.

Snowdrop Temptation.

We visited the first National Garden Scheme, http://ngs.org.uk open garden in Worcestershire on Sunday. The garden, Brockamin, includes Plant Heritage National Collections of Asters and some hardy Geraniums. It opens for Snowdrops in February, Daffodils in March and Asters in September.

The 1.5 acre informal garden contains mixed borders planted with hardy perennials and shrubs, several of which were in flower or adding stem colour.

Lonicera fragrantissima & Iris reticulata

Hellebores, Crocus with an early Narcissi adding to the colour.



N. Bowles Early Sulphur.
Crocus protected from visitors feet.
and swathes of Eranthus Hyemalis

Then of course the snowdrops, all labeled for identification.

Tea and cakes along with plants for sale were there to tempt us. Was I tempted I hear you ask, lets just say I have always been attracted to gold!

December Rain.

In the Garden, December 2018

T’is the season to be merry, of turkey, tinsel and snow with visits to Santa’s Grotto.

I cannot promise you any of the above, we can though visit Our Garden@19 following a rain shower, looking for some winter cheer and colour. In the Oriental Garden the Witch Hazel is in flower, although it is not looking too cheerful due to its habit of retaining all the old leaves.

Hamamelis Moll Pallida (Witch Hazel)
Phyllostachys Spectablis

The golden bamboo always adds a cheerful glow in the corner.

Two of the Cornus are brightening up the back of this border, reminding me that the fence panels could do with re-staining!

Cornus Alba ‘Westonbirt’ syn C. alba ‘Sibirica’ Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire

In the White and Green garden the Viburnum f ‘candidissimum’ is in flower, this wonderful shrub flowers all through the winter…

…the Mohonia has grown through the trellis to add a splash of yellow to this ‘carefully’ colour co-ordinated garden…

Mahonia Bealii

…the standard holly is an attractive centre piece here.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Margenata’ Standard

In the Blue Border the ornamental grasses provide an interesting straw coloured contrast to the Thuja occ. ‘Smaragd’…

…where the Rose ‘Charlotte’ has a rain drop covered bud surviving.