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.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is one of our favourite places to visit in Wales.
“It is a charity dedicated to the research and conservation of biodiversity, to sustainability, lifelong learning and the enjoyment of the visitor.”

The Gate House.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales was opened to the public on the 24th May 2000.     We first visited in 2005.

The double walled vegetable garden was not open then, you could however view it from a platform. It has now been rebuilt from a ruin.

The double walled vegetable garden in 2005.

Our next visit was in 2013.

The Broad Walk

The Broad-Walk.

The 220m long avenue which divides the Garden is known as the Broad-walk.
One of the longest herbaceous borders in Britain, from spring to winter, this Garden provides a colourful welcome.
It begins at the Gatehouse, passing this water sculpture called Scaladaqua Tonda.

Scaladaqua Tonda 

The Rill.

I particularly love this rill, it runs the full length of the Broad Walk, vanishing into pools along the way, starting at this dragon topped mirror pool.

This feeds water down into The Rill,


a meandering stream that flows down the Broadwalk with a shape and course that is inspired by Carmarthenshire’s Towy Valley river.

It then disappears into the Circle of Decision, a fountain shaped like the cross section of an ammonite,


The great glasshouse.

Designed by Foster and Partners, is the largest structure of its kind in the world. The structure is (312 ft) long and (180 ft) wide, with a roof containing 785 panes of glass.

The great glasshouse.

The plants are divided into sections from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean.

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The Japanese Garden.

Designed by professor Fukuhara for the 2001 Chelsea flower show, it won a gold medal and best in show, after which it was recreated here.
“It is named Sui Ou Tei, a reflection of the national flowers of Japan and Wales – the cherry tree and daffodil. It consists of three traditional Japanese gardens – the Stream and Lake Garden, the Gravel Garden and the Tea Garden. Filled with symbolism and guided by Zen philosophy, this is a lovely place to sit and contemplate.”


The Japanese Garden.


The Aqualab.

This is a place of learning, perched upon stilts this wooden building is full of microscopes and study aids, here schoolchildren can get the opportunity to explore the wonders of nature.

The Aqualab,


The Tropical House.

Situated in the Walled garden.

The Tropical House.

It was designed by the world-renowned Welsh architect John Belle, celebrated for his restoration of some of the most famous landmarks in the USA. It is home to tropical plants and a butterfly house.

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The Double Walled Garden.

When it was built 200 years ago, the Double Walled Garden, at over three acres, could provide enough fresh fruit and vegetables for a household of 30 people, and employed 12 full- time gardeners.

The double walled vegetable garden in 2013.

The two walls, one brick, one stone, provided shelter from animals and the harsher elements, and created important microclimates where tender plants could grow. It is divided into four quadrants, each with its own distinctive pathway. Part of the vegetable garden is given over to local School Allotments, where the schools have built a plastic bottle greenhouse.

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The Bee Garden.


You can end your exploration at the Stable Block, this houses the Seasons Restaurant, Gift Shop and Oriel Yr Ardd Gallery.

The Stable Block Restaurant.

If you are planning to visit Wales during the year, we would recommend a visit to the Botanic Garden of Wales, there is much more to see than I have shown.

It also ties in well with a visit to Aberglasney Gardens, another favourite with us.


Hats, Gloves, Scarves & Muddy Boots.

On Wednesday we replaced our Hats, Gloves, Scarves and Muddy Boots with our ‘Wednesday Best’ to attend the Worcestershire County National Garden Scheme AGM and lunch. ( This being a charity, garden owners have to pay for their lunch).

With the Chief Executive, George Plumptre, of the NGS in attendance, Our County Chairman, David Morgan  presented an impressive report for the year.

Worcestershire NGS raised a total of £74,261.34 direct from garden owners opening during 2017, with a net total of £79,823.28, including advertising and donations.   Nationally, the NGS donated over £3million to beneficiaries in 2017.  You can see which charities benefit from this by visiting the NGS website Here

Before lunch we were entertained and informed by Darren Rudge, BBC local radio gardening expert on ‘Tea bags, bra’s and tights, – household items that can make gardening more cost effective!”

Following the AGM and lunch, we all collected our advertising material for the year, posters, direction arrows and signs to put around the garden.


County booklets are distributed around various garden centres, shops, tourist offices and any venue where the public can accesses them.


The Garden Visitor’s Handbook 2018, which covers all N.G.S. open gardens in England and Wales, is available from the NGS website. It makes an ideal companion for the holidaying gardener.

The Hats, Gloves, Scarves and Muddy Boots were back on the next day, we have a deadline to meet!

Do you visit gardens when you are on holiday?

Moyclare Gardens.

In May we had an enjoyable holiday in Cornwall, which I wrote about: here.

One of the gardens we visited, that left a lasting impression on us was the Moyclare Garden, near Liskard.

This is the introduction to the garden from their website.

“The garden at Moyclare was established in 1927, and hosts a fine variety of plants, shrubs and trees in one acre of sheltered flat ground around the house. Many are unusual and some are quite rare.
The garden was first planted by Moira Reid, and is now in the care of Elizabeth and Philip Henslowe.
It is open to visitors from the end of March or early April until near the end of August.”

The great cottage garden writer Margery Fish was a close friend with the exchange of many letters and plants. Many other notable garden visitors were to follow, again to quote from their website:

“Amongst the keen garden visitors was Beverly Nichols, another gardening writer, who gave a present of a Eucalyptus gunnii. John Betjeman wrote: ‘A perfect piece of England’ in the visitors book – much to the annoyance of Moira who considered it then to be an Irish garden! Charles Nelson from Dublin’s Botanical Gardens was another visitor, as was Topline Broadhurst who televised it often in the 1970s, and many others. The most recent was Helen Yemm, who writes for the “Daily Telegraph”.”

On entering the garden the first plant to catch my eye was Azalea Amoena, in full flower.

The garden is a series of mainly woodland walks between beautiful flowering shrubs…

…predominantly camellia, rhododendron and azaleas.

camellia latifolia.

Growing along the edge of this path was this delightful Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

We gardeners know that our gardens are constantly changing, although not always planned.


Another unusual ground cover plant brightening up the garden understory was Stylophorum lasiocarpum.


Several arches have more recently been built around the garden providing support for many different climbers, clematis, roses, wisteria and in the case of this one…

…the Actinidia Kolomikta…

…commonly known as the variegated leafed hardy kiwi.

The pond is home to goldfish and much aquatic life despite the efforts of the local heron.

The young crozier shaped fronds in a huge clump of Osmunda regalis were asking to be photographed.

When we visited the South Lawn was dominated, both with its flowers and scent, by a huge Myrtle ‘Amomyrtus apiculata’,

The red flower to the right of it is the Rhododendron ‘Winsone’.

To the left in the border was a Enkianthus campanulatus, living up to its name with beautiful little bell shaped flowers.

The terrace facing the south lawn is home to many tender plants such as the Abutilon megapotanicum, which blooms freely, it has also produced a seedling or sport of a new taller Abutilon.

In pots on the terrace and planted around the garden was the late flowering tulip Angeliue, which Irene was very taken with. One for next years bulb order.

The current owners Elizabeth and Philip Henslowe made us very welcome, Elizabeth is justifiably very proud of the garden and the unusual plants it contains and she has an enviable depth of plant knowledge. Several new plants have been discovered within the garden over the years some of which have been propagated and sold by The Duchy of Cornwall Nursery.

Moyclare is a wonderful garden to explore, you literally find gems around every corner.  The garden does have the ‘Wild garden’ look, a style of garden I much admire, very William Robinson, I thought, perhaps that is due to the Irish connection. If you should be visiting the area please check the website  here  for opening times. Tea and cake is available along with a chance to purchase some of the rarities (and not so rare) plants growing in the garden.

Did I?

Hosta ‘Whirlwinds’ Gladiolus ‘Papilio’ Vinca ‘Jenny Pym’ Stylophorum lasiocarpum.

Holiday Time.

We have just returned from an enjoyable holiday in Cornwall.

Seaton Cornwall.

Staying at Tregrill Farm Cottages, owned by Peter and Diane Bellamy, who previously  lived near to us in Worcestershire.

My holiday reading (along with my blog list), I was attracted by the title, it perfectly describes my gardening philosophy.

We visited gardens (More of these in a later post), which of course led to some retail therapy.

On Gardener’s World on Friday night ‘Monty’ in his list of jobs for the weekend mentioned dead heading tulips.

Oh well back to it….although it will be a day off tomorrow visiting the Malvern Spring Show, which is right on our doorstep (More RT?)

Trentham Gardens.

Some summer flowers and a little sunshine to bring cheer to a winter’s day.

In August 2016 we visited Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire with the Black Pear Gardening Club.

Trentham is an award winning garden which has won numerous awards including BBC Countryfile’s Garden of the Year 2015.

There is a large Garden Centre and Shopping Village, restaurants and a 119 bedroom Premier Inn Hotel.

There is a separate entrance to the Monkey Forest, which our coach first took us to, here you can walk amongst 140 free roaming Barbary macaques, in a natural woodland setting for this endangered species.
For added excitement there is ‘Aerial Extreme’, a treetop high rope adventure course.


In 1786 the 2nd Earl Gower, owner of Trentham was created Marquess of Stafford.

He commissioned, Lancelot ’Capability’ Brown, between 1759 – 1780 to enlarge the lake, create parkland, a Ha-Ha and build two lodges at the end of the lake.

The flying Geese came later!

In 1803 the 2nd marquess of Stafford married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, one of the wealthiest heiresses in the country. Their son George Granville, 2nd Duke of Sutherland along with his architect Charles Barry were responsible for much of what you see today at Trentham. His statue sits on the top of high land at the southern end of the lake.
Barry created the famous Italian Gardens, dividing it into three terraces.


By the late 1800’s the pollution of the River Trent from the pottery industries was so severe the lake and the fountains were ruined.

In 1905 The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland abandoned the house. It was eventually sold and demolished for building materials.

The property has passed through several different owners with The Department of Environment listing several of the remaining buildings. Eventually, in1996, it came into the ownership of St Modwen Properties PLC.
Their plan was to create a tourist and leisure destination and to restore the estate and gardens. They were finally granted permission in 2003 to start on their £100m development of Trentham.

You enter the gardens through the shopping village via this bridge over the river Trent.


Titania points the way to her 14 fairy friends from the shopping village. Each fairy is different, they are placed all around the garden for children (and adults ) to find. They were created by Robin Wight.


At the centre of Trentham Gardens is the mile long, Capability Brown designed, Trentham Lake.  Along some of the walks around the lake are new meadows by Nigel Dunnett and the team who were responsible for the wildflower plantings at the Olympic Park. These were planted to celebrate the centenary of Capability Brown.

The contemporary revival of the famous Italian Gardens was led by renowned designer and multi-Chelsea gold-medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith.



Some of the plants in the Italian Garden.
Some of the plants in the Italian Garden.

Along one side of the Italian garden is a 90 metre Rose Garden, planted with David Austin roses and a trellis walk.

To the east of the Italian Gardens are the Rivers of Grass and the adjacent Floral Labyrinth.


Both these schemes were designed by the Dutch plantsman, and Chelsea gold-medal winner, Piet Oudolf.

The fairy “Anahi” was living on the Giant Dandelions.


The Giant Dandelions were created by Robin Wight’s daughter Amy, and are situated alongside the lake.

“They look wonderful with the Wildflower Meadow as a backdrop.
‘Spring’ the naughty nymph, appears as though she’s pole-vaulting from a delicate dandelion into the landscape beyond.

There were even snowdrops in August!


If you are looking for a garden to visit in 2017, this is one I would highly recommend.

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Canon EOS 1100D. Canon,18-200mm lens. Canon wide-angle lens, 10-18mm.

A Special Place. (Laugharne)

Laugharne castle overlooking…


…the estuary of the River Taf.


The Boat House, the family home of Laugherne’s famous resident, Dylan Thomas, from 1949 until his death in 1953.


His writing shed, looking out across the estuary.


At high tide the sea comes in over the car park…


…causing panic for those who haven’t read the warning signs in the car park..


…and across the road.


“The only sea I saw was the seesaw sea”    Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood.