Friday, July 8, 2016

Poppies

One of the features of the Garden House is the use of naturalistic planting in a number of different areas in the garden,  Drifts and mixtures of plants - annuals, perennials, shrubs - planted and allowed to seed around to produce tapestries of colour and interest.  It requires a lot of maintenance to avoid thugs taking over but, done well, it can produce some magical effects.  Different combinations and plants dominate at different times of the year.   Late June and early July is highlighted by the annual poppies.

Papaver rhoeas is the Flanders poppy, a common European and British annual that thrives in cultivated land.  The seeds can lie dormant for decades, only to sprout when exposed to light.  Open pollinated variations on the basic red, pink or white theme are all over the Summer garden, Cottage garden, and Bulb meadow, producing bright colour for the start of the long summer season.

Papaver rhoeas provides bright colour in the Summer Garden....

....and in the cottage garden....

..and in the bulb meadow
Most of these are the descendants of an initial planting of Shirley poppies.  Bred from a single seedling found by the Reverend William Wilks in late Victorian times they are characterised by a white centre rather than the black of the wild type.  Two examples are shown below.
Pink flowered Shirley poppy

Red flowered Shirley poppy
Unless rigorously rogued they can revert to type - but enough survive to produce very interesting contrasts with their attractive colouring and crumpled petals.  Tough and hardy, once you have them they will always be there, even if as dormant seeds waiting for the kiss of sunlight as you turn over a bit of the garden.

Much the same can be said of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum.  Dozens of different seed strains are available, singles and doubles, in a bright variety of different colours and colour combinations, but all having the waxy, glaucous foliage that tells of their arid land origins. Personally, I find them a bit overblown - except when the buds are unfurling.  Then, their beauty is at its most evident.

Unfurling bud of a double flowered opium poppy, Papaver somniferum

Thursday, June 9, 2016

More from the Garden House

Even though it means getting up at stupid o' clock to shower, eat breakfast, walk Polar bear the frog hunting terrier (we lost Pippa earlier this year at nearly 15 years old, advanced old age for a greyhound), and driving for 20 minutes or so it's worth it to get into the Garden House early on a summer's morning.  The air can be still, the light good - especially if there is some cloud cover - and the plants at their freshest.  It produces some inspiring images.

The Ovals Garden at the Garden House
This section of the garden links two levels with a set of steps and oval pathways constructed of drystone walling and high quality paving to produce a delightful meandering walk down a fairly steep slope.  Replanted this year, it will look better and better as it matures.  With shapes and curves to lead the eye to the summer house at the top it's a photographers dream - and, with the restoration of some of the old planting including a river of blue Corydalis flexuosa running down the centre of the Ovals, also a gardener's dream.

One of the areas it leads to is the Tennis Court Terrace and some idea of the drop can be gauged from the height of the backing wall.

Part of the tennis court terrace border and backing wall looking back to the house
This area comes into its own later in the summer, although lupins and Primula pulverulenta provide contrast with the Wisteria and Rhododendrons on the upper terrace.

Halfway along the tennis court terrace is a set of steps leading up the upper terraces below the house. Framed correctly, these, and the pathway leading down to the the lower part of the walled garden, present a very pleasing picture, inviting you to step in and up.

Tennis court terrace pathway and steps
The whole garden is designed to reveal itself slowly with different views and vistas opening up during a walk around.  The design is complimented with the planting.  Only the best is grown here, in keeping with the philosophy of the garden's founders.

For example, Morea huttonii, a slightly tender South African iris relative, thrives in the summer garden, starting the season with elegant yellow grace.

Morea huttonii produces yellow flowers on long stems in the Summer garden
Here it's given the space it needs to produce a dominant feature in its season, while still complementing the other, later flowering inhabitants of this area.  I admire the planting.  No wonder horticulture students go on from here to top positions in prestigious gardens.  I can see my hardest job will not be finding things to photograph but having the time to photograph everything that demands attention.  I look forward to the challenge.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I have a new garden....

....10 acres of garden, in fact.  No I haven't won the lottery, inherited from a rich relative, or embarked on a career involving bribery and corruption.

I've become a volunteer at The Garden House, a world renowned garden trust which is about 8 miles from my home in Plymouth.  I'll be doing the photography to help with marketing the garden, providing my Word DTP skills to help with newsletters and any other work that needs doing.  And it's certainly worth while because it gives me access outside the times the garden is normally open to the public.  Early in the morning, for example, when the air is still and the softer light ideal for photography.  I hope to take a good many shots suitable for their use in attracting visitors to this glorious garden.

May view down the long walk at the Garden House, Devon
It's been a difficult last couple of years.  Maria has been treated for diffuse B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  She was at stage 4 when treatment started.  It was in the bone marrow and, untreated, she'd have had 3 months to live.  6 rounds of grueling chemotherapy and she's now in remission with a good prognosis.  It has affected her arthritis, very severely at times, but not enough to stop her starting a BA Contemporary Craft degree at Plymouth College of Art and Design.  She'll finish just in time to retire!  My health has also suffered with the amount of care she's needed - hence the lack of blogging. But now, with a new garden to document and Maria in remission I've all the incentive I need to start again.

The Garden House is a beautiful garden at any time of the year.  I feel privileged to be given access. It's a garden I've known for over thirty years since I started visiting back in the 1980's.  It's changed and evolved over that time but always in sympathy with the setting and vision of the successive head gardeners and trustees.  I'll only be able to record it for a relatively brief period compared with its total lifespan but, hopefully, the images will provide a record.
The pathway on the top terrace of the walled garden with Azalea 'Sunbeam' and Quercus robur 'Concordia'
Rhododendrons line the pathway on the bowling green terrace

Texture contrasts at the bottom of the Acer glade at the Garden House, Devon

I'm obviously biased but the garden is well worth a visit at anytime between March and October. There is always something to see and, with a collection of 6000 different plants, get ideas for plantings and combinations.  You can even buy some of the plants in the small sales centre.

It's easy to find.  Head out of Plymouth on the Tavistock Road and you'll find it signposted just before you reach Yelverton.  Go through Crapstone and it's a hundred yards on the left after the final bend.

For the beginning of June the Wisterias are out.  On the house, in the walled garden, on a rustic bridge and free standing on the bowling green terrace.  They are starting to look magnificent.




My own garden?  Well, that's another story.  Suffice it to say I'll add a few pictures once I get it back into shape.  As with the blogging I've had little time and less energy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A late spring combination

Photographed this afternoon in the front garden.  The peony - Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena' - and the Korean lilac, Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' have been getting ever closer.  This year they overlapped.

Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena' with Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'
The peony is one of the few survivors from the garden when we first moved here 19 years ago.  There wasn't a lot here - but the peony was certainly worth it's place.  It's a cottage garden favourite; long lived, hardy, tough as old boots - I once planted one upside down and it still flowered the next year - and tends to get passed around by chopping off a chunk of the woody rootstock.  Which explains why it's in so many local gardens.

The little Korean lilac, Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' has been a later addition but earns its spot with a lovely May scent and pretty little leaves for the rest of the season.  And the scent is fantastic.  I don't have room for the larger lilacs but this smaller one makes up for any disappointment I might feel.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring is sprung

I can't believe my last post on this blog was back in October last year.  It's been a long and, at times, difficult Winter.  Maria's been ill, and with that and work pressures I've not felt up to blogging.  But that's hopefully behind us now and it's time to start again - even if it's just a short post.

With the lighter evenings I've been able to get into the garden to begin the process of a very necessary clean up.  It's mostly cosmetic but I've had to start the process of removing my large - and spreading - Chilean bamboo, Chusquea culeou.  By spreading I don't mean invasive.  It is a tight clumper.  But it's still capable of expanding it's girth by 30cm / 1ft or more a year.  In my small garden that's become too much - so it's going.  The space will open up the west side of the rear garden and allow me to grow a wider range of plants.

Which means I'll be buying - always one of the enjoyable bits.  Not that I ever really stop.  Even in a small garden there is always room for plants that fit into the bare earth available at this time of year.

I always pot up a few bulbs in Autumn so that they can be planted out when I can see a space.  Here's a couple that have flowered recently.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Dorothy'

Tulipa humilis 'Persian Pearl'
Little things - but pretty at a time of year when things are a bit bare and bleak.

I've got quite a few primula and polyanthus scattered around the plot but I couldn't resist adding a couple of Primula elatior hybrids, a gold and silver laced variety respectively.  They're pretty little toys - but I prefer them to their blowsier cousins.


Primula elatior 'Victoriana Gold Lace'
Primula elatior 'Little Queen'
More recently - OK, yesterday - I chanced on a pot of Ipheion uniflorum 'Jessie' in a local nursery. I'm not a great fan of the species but this variety is gorgeous.  A true blue, long flowering and far less invasive than the type, I'll find a suitable corner and cherish it.

Ipheion uniflorum 'Jessie'
Meanwhile the garden is looking quite reasonable.  The winter has been fairly mild and 5 of my 6 camellias are in full flower (C.sasanqua flowers in Autumn), rosemary, Hebe macrocarpa var. latisepala and Chasmanthe bicolor are all flowering well, and a window box of pansies is providing bright colour in front of the kitchen window.  Best of all, my Beschorneria yuccoides is flowering. This produces a monumental flower spike - 3 ft / 90cm tall at the moment but it should reach 6-8ft / 180-240cm.  And all clad in shocking pink.  I'll record the progress of the spike for a future post.

There are a lot of plants enjoying the warmth indoors at the moment.  Among my favourites is Aeonium 'Kiwi', a pretty little branching succulent with variegated red, yellow and green leaves. Obtained as a tiny rooted cutting last year, it's come on well over the winter and now looks like this.

Aeonium 'Kiwi'
I'll try and blog more regularly from now on - but no promises.  Life is rather full of competing demands on my time.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day October 2014

October 15th 2014 has rolled around damp and disgusting in my small Plymouth garden.  Not conducive to getting out and certainly not suitable for photography.  So it's a quick in and out session to see what's flowering and then relying on older photos to give you a flavour.

We're running against the back end of the year so only one or two new plants.  Most are hangovers from previous months.  Having said that it's still mild enough to leave a good few in flower.

Fuchsias - at least the species fuchsias - seem made for autumn.  I have a problem with thrips in the summer and my Fuchsia do seem to prefer the cooler weather to flower well.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae (previously alba) is a case in point.  It's a fairly hardy small tree when allowed to grow but, as I don't have the room, I have to keep it cut back to a twiggy shrub.  Small flowers but very pretty, with a delicacy that isn't always present in the larger cousins.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae
Fuchsia splendens 'Karl Hartweg' is, as I've said before, supposed to be tender.  Down here it acts as a woody perennial and reaches its peak in the autumn.  The rootstock must be pretty large by now to sustain 6-8ft / 189 - 240cm of annual growth before frost cuts it back.
Fuchsia splendens 'Karl Hartweg'
Also in good flower are the yellow foliaged Fuchsia 'Genii' and the old favourite 'Mrs Popple'.  Fuchsia boliviensis alba is putting out buds but isn't yet in flower.  Thrips again.

On the shed wall Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles' is once again putting out an autumn display.  I still can't detect the alleged scent!

Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'
I've been lucky enough to keep the definitely tender Tibouchina organensis going for the last three winters by tucking it hard against my south facing house wall and, when needed, covering it in fleece.  It's now paying back with the lovely purple flowers erupting from red buds.  Great in a cold conservatory where it would flower all winter - but mine will keep going till the frosts.

Tibouchina organensis
My two Abutilons, 'Waltz' and 'Patrick Synge' are still in flower, as are my passion flower and 'Graham Thomas' rose.  Ceratostigma willmottianum is still producing it's powder blue flowers, while in the little shade house both Streptocarpus 'Blue Harlequin' and my Christmas cactus are currently flowering.  They'll have to come in soon - but it's still warm enough to keep them outside, albeit undercover.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera buckleyi
Finally I have a patch of bright orange in the rear garden.  Purple leaved Canna 'Wyoming' has flowered.  I won't show the foliage - it's impressive more for the slug holes in the leaves than their size and grandeur - but I will show the flower.  Exotic October colour indeed.

Canna 'Wyoming'

As ever, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.