Yellow Rattle – a little super plant.

As part of the community gardens at our allotments, Bowbrook Allotment Community, we have been developing several meadows trying different methods and different styles of planting. Some we have just left to grow to see what wild flowers appear, in some we have stripped the soil bare and seeded wildflower mixes and others we have left to develop and then added further plug plants. In different parts of the site we have found completely different varieties of grasses dominating. A few meadows have a noticeable percentage of strong growing grasses which tend to dominate meaning that wild flowers struggle to flourish.

This is where the wonderful plant called Yellow Rattle comes in. We scarified areas of meadow and sowed the seeds of Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. It has a lot of common or local names such as Hay Rattle, Cockscomb and Rattle Basket. The “rattle” in its names refers to the noise the seeds make in their pods when ripe. They really do sound like a baby’s rattle.

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The reason we grow it is because it is “hemi-parasitic”, meaning that it survives by stealing its nutrients from the roots of the tougher grass species, but it can also feed in the more normal way getting nutrients through the soil, rain and air. We can take advantage of this by sowing it where tough grass species dominate. It took a few attempts before we managed successful germination. After researching germination details we found that it need a period of cool winter weather. Once we got it right the germination rate was most impressive.

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By stealing the nutrients of the tough grasses they lose vigour and the reduction in competition lets the less dominant wild flowers thrive. We are already seeing this happening. When we visited a “Yellow Book” garden recently we saw how effective it had been in acres of meadow.

This little flower doesn’t just do its job quietly beavering away unnoticed, it is actually a very beautiful plant so deserves being grown just for that. It also attracts bees and beneficial insects with its main pollinator being the Bumblebee. This clever little plant though will pollinate itself if there are not enough bees around to get the job done.

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Now we have it established it should spread well working away lessening the power of the strong grasses and letting the desirable wildflowers get established.

 

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Our Allotment Yellow Book Open Day

This was our 4th annual NGS Open Day at our allotments, Bowbrook Allotment Community. In the past we had been dogged by bad weather, heavy rain, high winds and once even excessively high temperatures. But today was to be different – the weather was perfect so we were set for a successful day. We open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme and thus we are proud to appear in their famous Yellow Book.

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Members of the public are invited to look around the individual plots and all our communal spaces. They can follow our Interest Trail, look at the wildlife areas and the communal gardens and the children have quiz sheets to enjoy and can use the features we have made for our members’ children such as the Willow Dome, Turf Spiral and Willow Tunnel. We turn our Communal Hut and the area around it into a Tea Shop for the day so that our visitors can indulge in tea, coffee and home made cakes and biscuits.

All the money raised goes to the NGS’s charities including Macmillan Nurses, Marie Curie and Help for Hospices.

Here are a few of the scarecrow creations members came up with. Little Miss Muffit, Peter Rabbit, Little Red Ridinghood, Dr Foster et al.

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On one plot visitors were asked to help Little BoPeep find her lost sheep. I will admit it took me ages to find him for a photo shhoot

 

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The Wildlife Trust brought all this equipment for bug hunting and the volunteer from the Shropshire Mammal Group stayed on all afternoon entertaining and informing.

 

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Visitors took every chance to sit and enjoy our tea shop, where refreshments were on tap all afternoon.

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A few of the younger members just relaxed in the sunshine!

 

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Jude the Undergardener found a good spot to set her stall selling our herbaceous perennials she had grown from seed.

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Members were on hand to talk to our visitors, give advice and answer questions. Some visitors found comfy seats all round the site.

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A good day was had by all and we felt proud to have raised over £1000  for such good charities.

Posted in community gardening, fruit and veg, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, grow your own, hardy perennials, National Garden Scheme, NGS, Shropshire, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, wildlife, Wildlife Trusts, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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