Hide’n’squeak in the allotments!

We are developing ever closer links with our county’s wildlife trust, the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and our allotment community gardens at Bowbrook. (see website http://www.bowbrookallotments.co.uk and shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk) This year on the day of our NGS Yellow Book Gardens Open Day we planned a mini-bioblitz in the morning before the public arrived to share the community gardens in the afternoon. The Shropshire Mammal Group came along to lead the first session where we opened live mammal traps which had been set in baited areas around the wildlife areas of the site. The mammals were identified, weighed and recorded. The local children and their families enjoyed the chance of seeing these experts at work and were afforded the rare chance of close up views of some of our small mammals.

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We had been spotting a weasel close to our Herb Garden recently and we had good, extremely close-up views of him as he was so confident. Some members watched the spectacle of him catching a vole – a bit gory but very exciting – the reality of life in the wild! The SWT and Mammal Group members gathered and set up their gazebo, before we all trouped off to find the first of the 30 live mammal traps set in our green spaces. The areas around the traps were baited with peanuts and peanut butter. Every mammal finds it hard to resist peanut butter!

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The critters were held up for all to see – a rare opportunity for the youngsters of our allotment site to see these creatures close up. They were help by the scruff of he neck just as a mother mammal would carry its young, which is totally harmless. This handsome fellow is a Wood Mouse. We were to catch several more of these.

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The second trap was a repeat of the first. We were delighted to see that it had been tripped as the normal success rate is about 3 captures out of 30 traps. We looked set for a successful day!

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We encouraged the children to get involved. We hope these will not only be the gardeners of the future but also the naturalists and almost certainly wildlife gardeners. We moved emptying successfully tripped traps and recorded many more Wood Mice as well as Voles.

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The picnic site under the oak tree became an activity centre for the day giving youngsters the opportunity to get involved in nature related craft activities.

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As we moved on from the oak tree we discovered several traps tripped by the tiniest mammals of all, the shrews.

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But as we neared the end of our expedition we found the stars of the show, The Yellow Necked Mice. These are much more of a rarity than any other creatures we caught and for many a completely unknown one. Not many people seem to know of their existence so were delighted to find we had a colony living alongside us here on the allotments. It certainly justified all the hard work we have put in creating our wildlife areas.

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In the end we were amazed by how successful the trapping had been with 27 of the 30 traps fired. We now know our green spaces are working for wildlife.   Back at the Communal Hut we opened up the tunnels put down to record the tracks of mammals passing through. These were covered in little foot prints.

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The Mammal Society stayed on through the afternoon into our NGS Open Day and provided entertainment and information. They were kept very busy.

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What a great day! It is amazing how fascinating such little creatures can be.

Posted in Britain in Bloom, buildings, community gardening, garden furniture, light quality, RSPB, sculpture, water in the garden, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aiming for a year round garden – our garden in June – how our visitors saw us.

This year, 2014 will be the year we open our garden under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, so we saw our garden details published in the famous Yellow Book. This is a landmark for any gardener in England and Wales, albeit a pleasing one and a worrying one. So many questions pour into your mind when you see the description of your garden in print.

I had to provide 9 photographs of our garden taken in previous years at the same time of year we are due to open. It was hard to choose shots that gave the right “feel”. We wanted to give a taste of what our plot is all about and these pictures give further ideas for the visitor after they have read the paragraph we presented to the NGS. Luckily I could look back into the archives of my blog. To check out the photos I selected go to the NGS website, http://www.ngs.org.uk, click on “find a garden” and type in Avocet where you are asked for a garden name.

We have also been asked by a couple of garden groups if they could visit. So the first of these we set for mid-June and we felt it would provide a practice run for the big day in August. The group were the Shrewsbury Mini-group of the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society, so we knew them already which made the day a bit less daunting. I took a series of photos in the morning of the day they were coming to give an idea of how they would see our little quarter acre of garden.

This post also serves as part of my series on “Aiming for a Year Round Garden” where I look around our garden to see if our aim to have interest throughout he year is working.

The first photos show how we welcome visitors as they find our gateway and look up the drive.

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Next we take a quick wander around the front garden to view the gravel garden (The Beth Chatto Garden), the stump circle and the driftwood circle, as well as the mixed borders around the lawn.

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We have worked hard this year to make the drive and the side of the house more welcoming using antique galvanised containers planted up with Dahlias and Calendulas and brightly coloured Pelargoniums are planted in the hanging baskets and other containers.

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The next “port of call” is the Shade Garden followed by the “Fern Garden” and then into the “Seaside Garden”. I always seem to follow a set pathway around the garden when taking photos but I have to admit that I designed the garden to give visitors choices and so have created a situation where no two people wandering around need to follow the same route. I want each section of the garden to be viewed and approached from several directions. So although I am trying in this post to show our garden from our visitors’ viewpoint it is in reality just my own personal route.

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And so to the back garden which has a different feel to it altogether as the individual garden compartments are all hidden in some way. It is a garden where you have to go looking – you cannot sit and look and take it all in in one go. Unlike the front, where from the seat under the arbor you can view most of the garden borders in one go, there are parts you can’t see so you are enticed to go to them for a close look.

In the back garden we find the water feature among Hostas and Toad Lilies on the end of the Shed Bed and from there you can look down the central path with arches draped with trained apple trees, roses and clematis. Another arch to the side of the main path affords glimpses of more borders.

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From the central path we can peer over the cloud pruned box hedge into these borders, which hopefully will entice the visitors to explore further.

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By turning right off the central path visitors find themselves between the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden and after a mere half dozen steps must choose which one to look at first.

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Within the Secret Garden alongside a comfortable cream coloured seat visitors can enjoy our latest creation, the Alpine Throne.

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If however our visitors chose to go left at the central path they would find further choices, the Japanese Garden, the Wildlife Pond and Bog Garden to the right or the Long Border and Crescent Border to the left.

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Back closer to the house we can find the “Pollinators’ Border” complete with insect hotel, the Shed Scree Bed and the new Tropical Border.

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So there we have a quick tour of our garden in mid-June just as our first group of garden visitors saw us. We enjoyed the kind comments they left and felt it had been worthwhile, particularly when several said they would be back when we opened for the NGS in August.

The only downer was that the Bearded Iris had given us their best show ever, a true extravaganza for the three weeks or so prior to the visit. On the day just one bloom remained to show everyone what they had missed. Gardeners always say “You should have come last week.” and for us this may well have been true, at least where the Iris were concerned.

Our next big day is our NGS Open Day on the 3rd August so we are hoping we can maintain interest in the borders until then. A second mini-group of Shropshire Hardy Planters will be visitors a month after that so we will have to be “on our toes” for a while yet!

Posted in climbing plants, colours, garden design, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden seating, gardening, gardens, grasses, half-hardy perennials, hardy perennials, Hardy Plant Society, HPS, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, roses, Shropshire, The National Gardening Scheme", water in the garden, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day Lilies in a Walled Garden – Mynd Hardy Plants

After opening our allotment community gardens at the weekend we felt in need of a restful day out. So Jude and I with friends Pete and Sherlie decided to visit a little nursery and garden close by. We chose what we thought would be a peaceful place and we were right.

As soon as you enter Mynd Hardy Plants in the Corvedale in South Shropshire you feel yourself relax, as the sight of so many colourful perennials reaches your eyes and an intermingling of scents seduces your nose. The new owners give such a warm welcome and it was good to hear of their plans, while the aroma of coffee and freshly baked scones took over the assault on our noses. The soppy Labrador joined in the welcome nuzzling our legs and seeking attention.

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Displays of plants in flower now and for sale in the nursery beds struck us with their rich colours. Achilleas always attract me and the display here was exceptional.

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As you can imagine we didn’t get far before the aromas coming from the tea shop area drew us away from the plants. We sat wondering how we were going to resist buying enough plants to fill the car. The rains came as we started our wanderings but it did little to dampen our emthusiasm.

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There were signs of how much work was to be done if the garden was to be restored.

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An extra treat was to come after our second tea break. We met the wonderful Day Lily specialist Mark Zennick.

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What a character! He convinced us within minutes that we loved all Hemerocallis even the bicolours and doubles that we thought we disliked strongly. I had known about his work and now I can put the face to the name. Check out the photos of just a tiny selection of his plants below and you will just begin to appreciate the vastness of his collection.

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It is always good to find a plant previously unknown to you. This little beauty struck the four of us equally and we enjoyed racking our brains to work out what it was. We were all totally wrong. When we turned to Mark for the answer we were amazed to learn it was a Lysimachia.

Naturally we came away with a lovely specimen for our own garden. And we will be back within a week or so. As we get closer to our own NGS open day we are sure to need a few specimens to fill the odd gap. Mynd Hardy Plants is the place to satisfy these needs! And of course I may take enough shots of different Hemoraccalis to create another post. Mark agreed to come and talk to the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society in the future, on the subject of Day Lilies of course, and the new owners wished to make a reciprocal visit to our gardens.

We had chosen well. Our visit had relaxed us and we felt we had made new friends. If you love Day Lilies, or if you love walled gardens or if you like independent nurseries you must go and visit. The challenge is to leave without buying a plant!

Check out the website at http://www.myndhardyplants.co.uk.

 

Posted in colours, garden buildings, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, NGS, nurseries, photography, Shropshire, South Shropshire, walled gardens, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Clematis Photoshoot

I was seduced once again by the beauty of Clematis when we visited a couple of small village gardens in late late June. The visit was with the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society. Please enjoy my Clematis Gallery. Thanks to Amy for growing such wonderful clematis.

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Posted in climbing plants, colours, garden photography, gardening, Hardy Plant Society, photography, village gardens | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Three Welsh Gardens – Part Three – A Garden of Two Halves

We visited another garden in the countryside of Powis, our neighbouring county. It proved to be very much a garden of two halves. We approached “Cil y Wennol” on foot up a gently sloping curved driveway with trees on both sides dotted around in grass. Closer to the more formal front garden there were interesting land forms with a small meadow facing the sun on an embankment. Moon Daisies shone out almost glaring in the sunshine. As you have gathered from that statement we were experiencing bright sunshine.

This Betula with its beautifully coloured peeling bark had enticed us up the long drive where we were greeted by this bank of smiling daisies.

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The front garden was a typical cottage style with interesting plants such as Astrantias, Lilies and Irises dotted throughout.

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We had now realised that we had visited this garden years ago so we were not surprised by the sudden change in the garden design that greeted us as we entered the back garden. Here the design was much more modern. It was a garden to explore slowly taking advantage of the invitations presented through good design.

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One path invited us into woodland, a relief for a while from the brightness and warmth of the sun. We were impressed by how a beautiful woodland can be created with the commonest of tree species. It proved you don’t have to have rarities to impress. Here the gardeners grew just native Birches, Rowans, Cherries and a few non-natives to add a touch of spice. A lovely atmosphere pervaded this space.

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Leaving the woodland we were again presented with several options, different paths to take with different views and different plants.

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Closer to the house a gravel area gave a completely different feel. Here were neatly trimmed conifers and Cotinus with their skirts lifted to expose twisted limbs. Soft planting among these features reflected the planting in the nearby borders.

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Moving around the side of the property we found another path to take through gap in the hedge where we discovered a swimming pool overlooked by a summerhouse.

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We walked from here along a narrow path below a wall with soft planting above, beautifully backlit by the sun.

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This was most definitely a garden of many parts beautifully linked with winding paths found through enticing arches and gaps in hedging.

 

Leaving the garden along the central pathway of the front cottage garden we enjoyed the view behind this wonderful gate. A great garden – it was good to return.

 

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Posted in colours, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, grasses, half-hardy perennials, hardy perennials, irises, light, light quality, meadows, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, Powis, Powys, The National Gardening Scheme", trees, Wales, woodland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Three Welsh Gardens – Part Two – A Garden on Top of the World – Bryn Llidiart

Of course the garden we visited wasn’t really on top of the world, but it certainly felt that way as once more we made our way into the hills of Powys the other side of Welshpool, travelling along narrow single track lanes up steep hills and around sharp bend after sharp bend. It seemed to take ages to get nowhere and the journey did actually take twice as long as we had anticipated. We had to go in Jude’s little car as I had been in hospital the day before having a minor op on my hand so I couldn’t drive. We should have known better and Jude could have driven mine as its more powerful motor wouldn’t have minded the hills so much.

Once we got there however we knew we were in for a treat. Anyone brave enough to tackle the making of a garden in these harsh condition must be a very determined gardener indeed. As we neared our destination we turned up a very narrow lane where the hedges virtually touched the side of the car and we climbed steeply until the lane came to a halt. A gate in the stone wall was open on our right and a sign indicated that this was where we had to park up. On the left another track of rugged slate took us through fields grazed by sheep towards the garden.The gnarled old hedgerow Hawthorns were bowed over and twisted from years of being wind battered on this exposed hillside.

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After a steep knee-aching walk across fields we realised we were getting close as the close cropped sheep pastures were replaced by recently planted flower meadows with neatly cut gently winding paths.

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After walking the meadow edges we glimpsed the house ahead of us. From this distance it already looked tantalising.

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We found it to be a modernised and extended Welsh longhouse with its garden wrapped around it and just as well designed. Coffee and cake were enjoyed in an out building where plants from the garden were for sale. Only a few different plants but very well grown.

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As we started to explore the garden it immediately became obvious that an artist was at work here. The planting with carefully selected combinations of texture and colour and scattered artifacts had the feel and look of the artist’s hand and eye at work.

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Moving further from the house, closely mown paths enticed us through meadows of white daisies to a curving bench of slate encircling a fire pit and on further to a small but neat productive patch.

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Moving back around winding paths towards a pool in the lower part of the garden we found more borders and this metal sculptural bird feeding station. Beyond every border were distant views of hillsides.

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The pool and the stream garden running into it was a new venture and still in the early stages of development. We could see such possibility and vowed to return to see developments.

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Slate paths through raised beds let us discover further interesting plant combinations. We were impressed in particular by the different Astrantias.

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Gardens wrapped around the complex perimeter of the buildings and here more gentle plantings helped root the new building extensions into the land.

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As we left the garden behind and anticipated the beauty of the meadows we noticed a green roof under which we must have been seated while enjoying our coffee and cakes. Wandering the close cut grass paths through the meadows was a very gentle way to finish off our visit to this developing garden. We looked forward to returning in the future.

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Posted in countryside, garden design, garden furniture, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden seating, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, hedgerows, irises, landscapes, log piles, meadows, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, Powis, Powys, sculpture, Wales, water in the garden, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Welsh Gardens – Part One -Tan y Llyn – a little nursery in a woodland garden.

We ventured along narrow winding lanes into the countryside of Powys our neighbouring county across the border into Wales. We were not the only ones out travelling these lanes on a mission on this sunny afternoon. Several members of the Shrewsbury Mini-Group, part of the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society, were meeting up at a woodland garden and nursery called Tan y Llyn.

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The weather was bright. There is no better day to visit a woodland garden than a sunny one as it enhances the contrast between shade and light so well. Even the most ordinary plants such as this Cotoneaster and Yew look so good.

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Any flowers in a woodland garden shine out from the shadows.

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Dotted around Tan y Llyn are interesting objects and well-composed cameos.

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Callum Johnston the garden owner also ran a little nursery specialising in alpines and herbs and he featured many of the plants for sale within a garden around his front door where plants were grown in a selection of pots and containers. They invited close inspection as did the sales benches close by in the shade of deciduous trees.

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We were particularly drawn to this dry river bed of pebbles winding through the gravel of the driveway near the cottage’s front door. We immediately began to plan where we could try something similar out at home.

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Callum admitted to an obsession – training, twisting and pruning willow into interesting structures. He also obviously loved hedge trimming where on occasion he lets his imagination run riot.

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Callum had even trained willows to become bird feeding stations. The birds certainly liked them as did our Hardy Plant friends. Callum and his partner Brenda served us up with cream teas under the shade of trees alongside these feeders so as we reveled in our luxury teas we were entertained by the birds enjoying theirs.

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Nearby herbs grew in a terraced border and added their scent and spice to the conducive atmosphere. As with many garden owners who like to share their garden, Callum and Brenda knew how to make us feel comfortable and relaxed.

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A classic colour combination of yellow and blue attracted us. Closer to we realised that the yellow was provided by this stunning Lily.

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One effective design trick used here was the use of enticing paths and it was very well used.

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A final wander around these paths beneath and between the trees was called for after our tea and before we reluctantly left this special place in a wooded Welsh valley.

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Callum  accompanied us down the drive as he thanked us for visiting and for buying lots of plants. They were very good hosts. At the bottom of the drive we made one final discovery, another surprise conjured up by this truly unique garden. Another of Callum’s tricks with his pruners.

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Posted in climbing plants, garden buildings, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, Hardy Plant Society, Land Art, National Garden Scheme, NGS, nurseries, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, Powis, Powys, trees, Wales, woodland | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments