Scented Pelargoniums

When we visited the wonderful Herefordshire garden, Hergest Croft, we entered the garden by taking a route that took us through an old conservatory to find it full of one of our favourite families of plants, the scented Pelargoniums.

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We have a small collection at home which we display on a set of old library steps at the side of the woodstore so that we can rub their leaves as we collect logs or as we pass to go to the back garden.

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The collection at Hergest Croft was much bigger and more varied. It took a long time to rub a leaf of each and savour the scents reminiscent of mints and fruits. But there was great variety in the texture of the leaves too, from the softest velvet, through soft and waxy to rough and coarse.

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These two were so heavily scented and their leaves so textured it hardly mattered that they had such insignificant blooms.

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There were a few Pelargoniums which were from a different family, I think they are Regals but I can’t be sure. The dark flowered one is “Lord Bute”. We were fascinated by the one pink petal on the one flower of the white bloom presumably caused by a virus. A great collection and a most welcoming start to a garden visit. We left the conservatory to discover the delights of Hergest Croft especially its rare and champion trees.

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Posted in garden buildings, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, indoor plants | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cliveden – the house and garden of Nancy Astor

While holidaying around Cambridge earlier in the year we stopped off on our travels to have a wander around the gardens at Cliveden, the one time home of Nancy Astor. She was an English MP even though American born. Her second marriage was to Waldorf Astor who inherited to a peerage and entered the House of Lords. Nancy was the first ever woman to be a member of the House of Commons, but also gained notoriety as a Nazi supporter.

Her garden turned out to be a garden planted in a style we do not actually like but definitely “of its time”. We are definitely not fans of formal gardens or bedding schemes and here we found both but viewed from an historic perspective they were interesting. Classical figures, topiary and “grand fountains” are also not my style but Jude the Undergardener, being more of a history buff doesn’t mind them.

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Interestingly close up the bedding proved to be of orange gazanias rather than the begonias or pelargoniums we expected.

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But bordering the bedding scheme central feature was a long mixed border, much more to my liking.

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Things were looking up soon however as we passed through an opening in the yew hedging and discovered a tree unknown to me in the woodland.

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Little areas of meadow lined the pathway down through the woodlands. Gnarled branches of old shrubs curled around on the grass near the paths.

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The old rose garden has been revamped recently with newer more disease resistant varieties, so inevitably most are from David Austin. The colours of the blooms have been chosen to represent sunrise and sunset.

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The buildings clustered in the centre of the grounds were rambling and sat beautifully within its setting. In particular it had interesting chimneys and towers which look good against the clear blue sky. Towers even featured in the walled garden.

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The walled garden, with its patterned brickwork, featured beautifully planted herbaceous borders around a highly manicured lawn. The plants were mainly recent cultivars and chosen for their richness of colour.

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From the courtyard as we leaned on its stone ballustrade we could see the Italianate parterre placed within more manicured lawns. They seemed to sit rather awkwardly there.

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We finished our Cliveden wanderings in the Water Gardens where formal fountains and oriental buildings sit among informal pools and soft planting.

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Posted in garden design, garden photography, garden pools, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, Italian style gardens, meadows, National Trust, ornamental trees and shrubs, roses, sculpture, The National Trust, trees, water garden, water in the garden, woodland, woodlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Portmeiron – the work of an eccentric.

We always enjoy spending the day at this crazy, quirky and totally exuberant “garden” on the Welsh coast near Portmadoc. Portmeiron is a village and gardens created by the eccentric Clough William-Ellis who bought the site in 1925 and then spent the following 50 years developing it into what we can visit and enjoy today.

The village is a collection of buildings  reminiscent of an Italianate style. Every wall is brightly painted in an array of extravagant colours. Some are hotels or holiday cottages, others restaurants and cafes while others are shops and galleries. It is a busy little place sitting on a strip of land below the Lleyn Penninsula and it fits snuggly between the beach and a wooded slope.

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In between the collection of crazy buildings a team  of gardeners work hard to maintain patches of colourful gardens. The soil is both shallow and full of stones and the land is on a steep slope so gardening here is a tough challenge. So come through the towering gateway and wander around with us.

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Although the Italianate style of the buildings that fascinates at first glance after a while the interesting juxtaposition of colours begins to catch the eye. Colours that you would not think of putting together when choosing paint for your home actually work beautifully.

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Although the bright colours dominate every scene once your eyes and mind adjust to them interesting details come to the fore, such as these bright blue ironwork, a relief sculpture alongside a ring, classical figures, the beauty of this stone archway and the vintage petrol pump.

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We took a break from the colourful conglomeration of buildings and ambled along through the wooded slopes above the village itself. Here we discovered ancient trees native and cultivated and an atmosphere of peace, with restful greens and relative silence, broken only by the calls and song of birds.

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We followed the woodland path until we found ourselves close to the cliff tops and followed it down towards the shore, where the buildings began again. This time they had a maritime twist to their architecture with white and blue colours dominating.

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As the road way climbed upwards we returned to the brightly coloured buildings of the village.

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We were fascinated by the interest of some visitors in particular buildings which it appears were featured in a TV series from the 1960’s, The Prisoner, which still has a strong cult following. It adds yet another layer of interest to this utterly fascinating “one-off” place.

Posted in architecture, buildings, colours, garden buildings, gardens, gardens open to the public, Italian style gardens, Wales, woodland, woodlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Part 3 – the bigger picture

So far we have looked at the main show gardens and the work of young designers and school children but in this post I just want to share a miscellany of photos of the things that caught my eye at this year’s show. The RHS had chosen “Carnival” as the theme for this years’s show so bright colours shone everywhere. Even the sky was the brightest blue possible which after getting caught in thunder storms every other time we have visited the show was a real surprise. The colours were crisp and the shadows sharp.

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The sky was blue and the sun was bright and hot so we donned our sun hats, which co-ordinated well with our coffee cups.

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The show was full of colourful characters some real some some imaginary.

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This was probably the most colourful show garden of all designed by Janet Leigh for a school with children with specific needs. When it is rebuilt in the school it will be inviting to the children and so stimulating to all their senses. Even the pathways which looked like coloured tarmac was of a special “bounce back safety surface”. The way Janet had used coloured plastic sheet to cast moving coloured “reflections” on every surface was amazing.

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As a total contrast but also full of colour was the little garden created by members of the Cottage Garden Society for their promotional display.

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There was colour in the sales areas too, the flowers in pots for sale and these crazy garden slipper clogs – I just had to have pair so bought myself  some covered in red peppers just like those on the far right of the top row.

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Show gardens themselves and the nursery trade stands in the Floral Marquee had bright splashes of colour to catch the eye and the camera lens.

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This must be one of the strangest and most colourful things we have ever come across at an RHS show, a ferris wheel where every other seat was occupied by a giant excessively brightly coloured flower arrangement. Probably not the best fairground ride for those with hay fever!

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So that is the end of my three posts about the RHS Flower show at Tatton Park, but I thought I would finish with one final photo of a wonderful insect hotel. Being keen wildlife gardeners Jude and I always look out for interesting ideas. This one was a true beauty.

 

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Posted in Cheshire, colours, flower show, garden design, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, light, light quality, RHS, RHS shows | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Part 2 – children as gardeners

One of the most enjoyable features of Tatton and perhaps also one of its most important elements is the encouragement of young talent be it young garden designers creating their first RHS show gardens or local schools trying their hand out at making gardens.

We always enjoy the work of the young designers at Tatton Flower Show and it is here that the RHS deliberately showcase young designers’ talent but sadly there seem so few. This year there were three young designers who had been given the opportunity to create their first RHS show gardens. I wish this chance was given to more! The standard of the work of these three though was astounding with a freshness in their planting and originality in the way they considered their brief. The first two shots are of the garden designed by the winner of the title “Young Garden Designer of the Year” and show his use of soft planting schemes of perennials scattered among grasses. This was a beautiful atmospheric garden which made us imagine what it would be like to lounge on that seat listening to the insect life busy in the grasses all around. It would be like lying in an old fashioned wildflower meadow.

The third shot shows another young designer’s garden which was in fact an outdoor gym. The idea was a good one but to me it was too much of a gym and too little garden.

The last three photos are of the third young designer’s garden which again has gentle planting featuring many grasses but it has the added interest of coloured glass screens which created interesting colour casts when the sun got to work. We enjoyed this garden too and could see a great future for the designer.

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The local schools always put on a show with the Wow factor. This year they were challenged to create gardens based on book characters and others took the chance of planting up recycled items. One thing that shows through is the young minds’ use of colour.

Share my pictures and revel in the ideas and the colours. Try to work out the stimulus for the gardens too.

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As you can imagine we came away feeling happier about the future of gardening and garden designers. Surely a few of the school children who exhibit at Tatton each year will go on to choose gardening in one form or another as a career. Let us hope so!

Posted in Cheshire, colours, flower show, garden design, garden designers, garden furniture, garden photography, garden seating, gardening, gardens, grasses, hardy perennials, light, meadows, ornamental grasses | Tagged , , , , , ,

The RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park – Part 1 – The Best of the RHS Shows?

Okay so Chelsea gets all the publicity, all the air time on the BBC and is the place to be seen if you class yourself a “celebrity”. Some even see it as another “Ascot”, a chance to be seen and to wear a designer outfit and a big hat! Hampton Court Show gets plenty of coverage too in the press and on TV but is not seen as “the place to be seen”.

I have been to Chelsea and won’t go again. There are simply too many people there who are not interested in plants or gardens and let’s be honest the show gardens are just “not real” are the? Sorry, but it is about time budgets for show gardens were controlled and designers were brought back down to earth and restricted to designing with plants in season.

However go to the RHS Tatton Show and you are in for a treat. It is a garden show for real gardeners and the show gardens are full of realistic ideas to stimulate the thinking gardener. However the BBC just give it two half-hour slots. Not enough celebrities in attendance and no visit by the Queen I suppose! Just look at the look of sheer delight on the faces of Monty Don and Carol Klein when they broadcast from Tatton and listen to their obvious and genuine enjoyment in their voices. This year the theme of the show was carnival time and it was promoted as “The Great Garden Carnival” with the elements of “inspire, escape, grow and feast”.

Just like the BBC coverage we shall start with the show gardens. These show gardens are far more realistic with most designers using plants flowering and performing that are in season.

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This means that gardeners can take away ideas to try in their own patches especially plant partnerships. Just look at the photo of the Echinacea and Achillea together, a combination we have used before but not in that colour combination, which looks so fresh and lively. And alongside that photo another showing the same Achillea with Helenium. This pale lemon Achillea appeared on many of the show gardens and looks a very worthwhile plant.

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We were pleased to see grasses being used in fresh ways too especially smaller ones with gentle whispy flowers which showed off  one of their attributes, moving in the wind, so well. They were used with Chocolate Cosmos on one garden and with Veronicas on another, both equally effective.

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Our favourite garden was this one by a young designer, his first ever RHS garden and he received a Gold. He was a very happy designer! We spoke to him for a long while and he explained his ideas and choice of plants to us. It was a fresh lively garden and as he pointed out to us not expensive to build. The strength of the design was in the use of triangles, which in itself is unusual.

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This garden illustrated how corton steel can be used really well as long as the planting co-ordinates with it too. The pics show how well the steel and the plants worked together.

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“Grow Your Own” was a feature in several gardens and appeared throughout all aspects of the show. Look at these smart raised beds and great ways to support climbing beans.

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And of course no show based on creativity is complete without a little quirkiness! How about purple and lime green cauliflowers or a water feature based on recycled exhaust pipes, multicoloured birdboxes and even a rainbow of ribbons.

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And of course there are always a few plants in the Floral Marquee or in the show gardens large and small that catch our eyes.

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After that little diversion we can return to the show gardens which appealed to us.

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I shall follow this post about the RHS Tatton Park Show with two more, one celebrating the gardeners of the future and one the colours that made the show so vibrant.

 

Posted in Cheshire, flower show, garden design, garden designers, gardening, gardens, RHS | Tagged , , , , ,

Two Cheshire Gardens in one day

Jude and I arranged a coach trip to visit some Cheshire gardens for the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society as part of our programme secretaries role. The main garden was Arley Hall but we added on two smaller gardens as a contrast, which I am going to concentrate in this blog ,The East Garden within the Arley Hall Gardens and Grafton Lodge near Malpas.

We were given the privilege of being given a tour of the East Garden inside the main garden at Arley Hall. The East Garden is owned and tended by the same person who runs the nursery there which specialises in unusual quality perennials so we were in for a treat. We were even given a short talk about how the garden was created before we looked around. It was an intimate garden with strong structure created by paths and trimmed hedges all softened by mixed borders of perennials and shrubs. It was raining all the time we were exploring but the colours glowed through especially the yellows. I shall leave you to enjoy the photos I took.

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We ended our day by visiting a 2 acre garden in a tiny Cheshire village half way home, where we enjoyed a wander and a break for tea and cakes. The garden is owned by Simon Carter and Derren Gilhooley, who also designed, created and now maintain it. It is a garden full of surprises, original touches and lots of enticing paths and junctions. We were enthralled by the unusual collection of small trees and herbaceous plants.

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Our members were soon milling around keen to take a look around what looked to be an interesting garden. They were right!

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Many members were surprised to see this little specimen of Catalpa bignoides, the Indian Bean Tree in flower. Being a small tree it meant that we could get a close up look at the flowers that were reminiscent of foxgloves or Horse Chestnut.

 

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This is a garden that as you wander around you are stopped in your tracks by original ideas that make you wonder “Why didn’t I think of that?” In the first shot below we see a plant pairing that works so well but both plants ,the Birch and the Lysimachia, are such ordinary plants. Together they look great. The second shot shows a low growing hedge that made all of us take a second look as we had never seen this plant, a shrubby Potentilla, used as a hedge before.

 

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This plant combination similarly impressed, once again a Birch but here partnered by an Acanthus.

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As we left after a great day out we were waved off by Simon and Derren who had been wonderful hosts and by this friendly garden glove.

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Posted in Cheshire, climbing plants, garden design, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, Hardy Plant Society, ornamental trees and shrubs, The National Gardening Scheme", trees, village gardens, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , ,