Easter Delights

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There has been much debate about my white bluebells on social media this week. Are they Spanish or English? White English bluebells do exist although they are rare in the wild. In domestic gardens like mine they are much more likely to be a hybrid form and the sheer quantity of flowers per stem lead me to believe this even more. However, they make a nice change from the blue and take visitors by surprise.IMG_20170416_114354

I was surprised to find quite a few Cosmos seedlings in the front border this week and I am guessing they must be from ‘Xanthos’ which were nearby last year. This is a first for me, I have never had self sown Cosmos before. IMG_20170415_115644

We went to see some friends in their ‘new’ cottage this weekend, The Old Smithy in Harrold, near Bedford. They don’t claim any credit for their beautiful garden and are doing the sensible thing by letting everything happen for a year before making any changes. The bones are definitely there and few changes will be required, The previous owners did a great job of planting a selection of tried and tested shrubs and perennials.IMG_20170415_115427

The different levels and material changes add to the interest and the stone retaining wall helps to maintain the raised border without bending down. Early spring blossom is everywhere making it a garden for several seasons.IMG_20170415_115519

The arch covered with ivy and Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ is a joy and provides a colourful focal point where the driveway meets the garden,IMG_20170415_115716

And the separate garden alongside the drive is dominated by a wonderful and productive Bramley apple tree underplanted with Bergenias and tulips.

What a lovely start to the Easter weekend!

 

What’s Not To Like?

033A garden designer giving a talk at our Plant Heritage meeting on Saturday told us that some of her clients simply refuse to have anything yellow in their gardens. I have mentioned this before and I am still puzzled as to why some garden owners dislike the colour yellow. Is it because it is brash or simply too strong a colour? It would certainly not work in a garden filled with pastels and muted tones.

This Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ makes me smile every time I pass it and Bidens aurea ‘Hannay’s Lemon Drop’ does the same.'Orange Allouise'

This Chrysanthemum, ‘Orange Allouise’ is rather more yellow than orange and for some reason always reminds me of dripping melted butter!022

Surely, no garden would be complete without at least one Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’?

Looking at my garden today and looking back over the year, I realise that it is full of yellow, red and orange. Strong, bright colours which bring my garden to life, even on a dull day. Perhaps it’s all about the gardener and not the garden!

Brockworth Court

143Today we took some visiting relatives to Brockworth Court, a Grade 2* Listed Building on the outskirts of Gloucester and close to Cheltenham which opens for the National Gardens Scheme. Dating back to 1540 and originally built for Richard Hart, the last Prior of Llanthony Secunda Priory. 115

The buildings are truly magnificent and of great national importance. The Tithe Barn pre-dates the house by almost 100 hundred years and was completely rebuilt in 2000 after it was nearly destroyed by fire.104

With the adjacent St. George’s Parish Church, formal gardens on three sides and a kitchen garden over the lane, the current owners must be working very hard to restore and maintain this ancient pile. The ‘Monet’ bridge over the pond to a thatched round house we found rather twee and served no real purpose other than as a visitor attraction. 078

However, the borders and planting combinations were colourful and inspiring.123                      I was particularly impressed to find the Rose Campion, Lychnis coronaria, planted with the bright yellow Potentilla recta ‘Sulphurea’  which worked for me. The strong magenta  coloured Lychnis is lovely on its own but awkward to place unless it is with white. I might try it with Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’ which is long flowering, equally tall and bright yellow.098

The strong yellows and purples were a big feature of this garden and made excellent photographic subjects.124

Equally attractive were the reds and purples of these Monarda, Knautia and Salvias flanked by Solomon Seal and Acer palmatum.129

But sometimes a simple pot or urn is enough.114

I think I would have steered away from rusty peacocks and stone ladies playing the flute in a cupola topped gazebo but everyone to their own! I think this is where garden design and ‘marketing’ often bump awkwardly together in places open to the public.

Overall, a ‘good’ garden to visit, lots of good ideas and some not so good. A place of heritage and history and somewhere we will visit regularly to note the seasonal changes.

Just because…….

005I am looking at colour combinations which, until recently, I was hopeless at. My wonderful wife would say I am still hopeless but I am striving to improve. I would plant anything with anything without a thought for how it would look. I tend to look at plants individually rather than in groups. However, all that has to change in my ongoing search for enlightenment.

I downloaded  a colour wheel and taught myself what should go together so that I could plant borders and pots with some co-ordination. I wouldn’t ordinarily put orange and wine red together but the Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Cotinus  coggygria seem to blend together well. Perhaps this colour combining thing really works! Normally I would have kept orange with yellow and green but because it is next to red on the wheel it is ok.

Perhaps it’s the blues, purples and whites of the geraniums and the yellow/green of the Tellima which soften the whole thing and bring it together in a cohesive combination.

Any thoughts???

Kiftsgate

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The unique Water Garden at Kiftsgate Court Gardens

We met some friends for lunch on Saturday at the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton near Chipping Camden, home of the famous ‘Pudding Club’, where we had a catch-up and a delicious lunch. The reason we chose Mickleton is so that we could enjoy our first visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens in the afternoon. For anyone reading this from another planet, Kiftsgate is the famous house and gardens created in the twenties by Heather Muir, carried on in the fifties by her daughter Diany Binny and now in the care of her Granddaughter, Anne Chambers.

Latina: Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate'

Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world famous Kiftsgate rose, Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’, claimed to be the largest rose in England, is now grown by those select few with the vast space needed for it’s rampant but beautiful climbing and sprawling habit. The original rose planted in the 1930s is still going strong at 20 metres high and 25 metres long and now covering three trees in the Rose border.

 

On arriving at Kiftsgate you are greeted by several tables of plants for sale including, of course, the Kiftsgate rose whetting the appetite for later! 099                                                 The house and gardens stand high in the Cotswold Hills overlooking Malvern and the Vale of Evesham to the south west. Built in 1887 by Sydney Graves Hamilton, the design is a strange mixture of Victorian and Georgian with a grand Italian inspired high portico moved piece by piece from nearby Mickleton Manor.

086The house was bought by Heather Muir and her husband after the first world war in 1918 and she set about  terracing the hillside and installing stone paths and steps winding their way down the banks to begin what was to become one of the most famous and important gardens in England.003

As everybody knows, Spring has been a month late this year so the gardens were not quite into their stride but nevertheless there was still lots of colour thanks to bulbs, magnolias and rhododendrons which were a surprise given the almost certainly alkaline conditions. It was the carefully planned colour combinations that impressed me most and reminded me that gardening is, after all, an art form. Colour, light and shade, shape, form and texture create pictures and images which, for me, are just as valid as anything painted by an artist.031

I found myself making mental notes of plants which worked well and noted the accents and punctuations which made the whole thing hang together.035

These orange ‘Ballerina’ tulips were used extensively with darker colours and muted tones like the Ligularia and the Rodgersia to make stunning combinations.089

The red tulips in this border will be followed shortly by red roses ensuring a seamless transition and maintaining continuity of the theme. Clever.095

It was subtle touches like this simple pot of lilac tulips against the green box hedging and grey paths that inspired me. Kiftsgate is literally next door to Hidcote Manor Garden which we will visit several times this year with our National Trust membership. It is always good to go back to a garden in different seasons and we will certainly be back to Kiftsgate for the roses in a month or so and again later in the year.

A truly elegant and thoughtfully created garden.

Happy Accidents & Pleasing Combinations

The weather is cold and wet and so I’ve been indoors looking back over this year’s photos and deciding what needs to change in the coming year. One thing that struck me was the number of good plant combinations, some planned and some ‘happy accidents’.

Lychnis coronaria alba with Knapweed

Lychnis coronaria alba with Knapweed

I was pleased with the Lychnis amongst the birches and the staddlestone but had nothing to do with the Knapweed which chose just the right spot to add a touch of colour.

Purple Beech and Clematis

Purple Beech and Clematis

I have no idea of it’s name but this clematis was £1.99 from Morrisons and I decided to let it mingle with the young Beech hedge and the colours worked beautifully together. Being a viticella variety I should prune it right back to a pair of buds in February but I’m just going to let it do it’s own thing and see how it performs.

Echinacea with Ricinus communis

Echinacea with Ricinus communis

I wasn’t sure about this combination but the daisy flowerhead of the Echinacea mimics the large palmate leaves of the Ricinus and the colours compliment each other well.

Cosmos bipinnatus with Hesperis matronalis

Cosmos bipinnatus with Hesperis matronalis

The Hesperis matronalis was supposed to be the usual lilac colour but this one turned out to be pure white which acted as the perfect foil for the dark pink Cosmos.

Lychnis coronaria alba with Borage

Lychnis coronaria alba with Borage

Another accidental blue and white combination, the pure white Lychnis with the unique purple and blue of Borage.

Cosmos 'Seashells' with Bupleurum

Cosmos ‘Seashells’ with Bupleurum

These two were planted a metre apart but, as often happens, as the summer wore on they fell into each other creating an unusual but pleasing combination.

Bells of Ireland with Echium 'Blue Bedder'

Bells of Ireland with Echium ‘Blue Bedder’

The Echium grew exceptionally well and was covered in bees all summer. I wasn’t sure about the Bells of Ireland (Molluccella laevis) but the yellow/green bracts work with the blue and the touch of bright white from the Echium.

Echium 'Blue Bedder' with Zinnia 'Lime Green' and Bells of Ireland

Echium ‘Blue Bedder’ with Zinnia ‘Lime Green’ and Bells of Ireland

The addition of Zinnia ‘Lime Green’ and Nicotiana langsdorfii brought a ‘zing’ to the same combination.

Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis'

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’

This is one of those unplanned but pleasing combinations where two colours of the same variety appear side by side and look good together.

I am sure all these could be planned but I am just as pleased when it happens by accident!