Sunday, 31 July 2011

In Anticipation

As I write I'm awaiting the arrival of lilies in bloom.  The white ones (name long forgotten) I've had in pots for about four years have just come into bloom and look and smell luscious; though I understand that not everyone is a fan of lilies and/or their scent, I'm smitten.

old favourites - name long forgotten
The anticipation is for the new lilies purchased at Malvern Spring Show earlier this year and as advised immediately planted with the hope of flowering this year.  As you can see it looks as though that flowering will happen any day now and I'm so excited!

lilium Dimension
lilium White Heaven
I'll publish more photos if and when the blooms open to reveal the beautiful colours and delicious scent that I recall - watch this space!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Little Jewel

Three years ago we planted several fruit trees with the aim of creating a couple of shady woodland type borders; amongst the chosen trees had to be a plum tree.  At the time we had an old Victoria plum in the garden which was cropping heavily although the tree was in very poor condition.  We realised that it would probably only be with us for a couple more years and, as I am a plum addict when they are in season, we needed a replacement.

We decided to plant Opal, copping earlier than Victoria and with slightly smaller fruit, though still the same deep purple colour.  We have had a few dramas with this young tree and thought that we might lose it a couple of times as even though well staked it has been severely rocked by high winds; and in February this year we added a second stake.

weighed down with delicious plums
However despite all of this several weeks ago we noticed that the tree was covered in immature fruits, so much fruit in fact that the branches were beginning to weep.  We thinned the fruit out removing about one third.  However even after this we have so much fruit that we are unable to eat it all - despite standing eating the plums directly from the tree!  The fruits are sweet, but not too sweet, juicy and soft textured and are delicious in all guises including baked in puddings, pureed for the Handyman's breakfast and made into jam.
golden fruit
Yesterday I had a couple of friends over for lunch (to celebrate my birthday) and we had plum clafoutis and they each took home a Holly Grove goodie bag containing HG potatoes (freshly dug), HG courgettes, HG cucumber and, of course, a large punnet of HG plums.

punnet of Opal plums Manchester bound
We're paying a visit to my sister, J, in Manchester shortly and more plums and other HG produce will make their way up the M6.  That's one of the nicest things about a glut of fruit and vegetables, being able to share; and the little jewel that is our Opal is a great contributor.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Pretty Perennials

I recently spent some time appreciating the pretty perennials around Holly Grove.  This being the third or fourth season for many of them, they are getting well established and some will need splitting and/or relocating next year.  For now let's just enjoy the display...

knautia macedonica Burgundy Buttons?

campanula and potentilla fruticosa

lythrum Fire Candle, linaria purpurea Canon Went, lavender Hidcote, allium sphaeroceplalon
campanula, potentilla, oregano, prunella vulgaris (self heal)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Lace Caps

The woodland borders settle to shades of green at this time of the year following  colourful spring and early summer plantings.  Flower-wise the key is subtlety; spikes of white and pale lavender hosta flowers and the creamy lace caps of the hydrangea arborescence 'Annabelle'.

Planted three years ago as a very small specimen this hydrangea has survived two very tough winters with temperatures down as low as -18C and this year it is providing a glorious display.  The colour is a soft cream which appears greenish as the border becomes shaded in the afternoon.

In my experience this type of hydrangea is very easy to care for; the plant can be cut hard back in the winter or early spring before any new growth emerges.  The blooms appear on the current year's growth and this plant has spread year on year.  I have it planted at the edge of the woodland border where it gets the morning sun but is in dappled shade for the remainder of the day and this seems to suit it perfectly.

I'm tempted to try and propogate from this plant; the common methods used are by layering or soft wood cuttings.  It would be lovely to have a few more of these elegant shrubs in the shadier parts of the garden.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Serendipity on a Sunny Saturday

noun: the occurence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way:
a fortunate stroke of serendipity
a series of small serendipities

In gardening terms: self-seeding amongst established planting

Friday, 22 July 2011

A Welsh Garden (VFTA No 5)

It's easy to become isolated and insular as a gardener, the pull of gardening in your own plot is very strong and any free time is so precious that I just want to spend it at Holly Grove.  However, after my recent trip to Devon I was reminded of how good it is to get out of your own garden occasionally and take inspiration from others. 

view into the Dingle
Consequently yesterday I had a day out with my friend A (another keen gardener) to The Dingle Nurseries and Garden.  The garden as the name suggests is in a deep hollow and set amongst some beautiful Welsh countryside.  The predominent theme that I picked up on yesterday was trees; lots of them from acers and birches to conifers and eucalyptus.  This is a shady garden and the underplanting in some areas is thin, they have also suffered some losses of shrubs and acers from the harsh winter weather in 2010/11.  However the overall effect is quiet, calming and serenely green. 

Amongst the trees there are many with beautiful, tactile bark.  Unfortunately not all of the trees are labelled so I'll have to do some work to add names to the photos below which don't really do justice to the glory of these trees.

eucalyptus bark
peeling bark

prunus serrula tibetica
At the bottom of the Dingle is a large pond which has, at one end, an enormous gunnera. Standing under the canopy of this beast with the sunlight filtering through was magical and the emerging flowers were a sight to behold.

As A and I made our way back up the hillside we had the prospect of a browse around the nurseries attached to the garden and that quickened our steps.  We were like a couple of children in a sweetshop - so many lovely and unusual plants, it was difficult to select, though somehow we did manage.  The nurseries are very well laid out with plants grouped together by preferred conditions and types.  Inspired by the trees in the garden in amongst my purchases were two evergreens: a Korean Fir (Abies Koreana) and a Scot's Pine (Pinus Sylvestris 'Chantry Blue'). 

The Korean Fir has the most lovely bright green needles the underside of which are silvery blue.  It's a young plant probably about three years old and will grow relatively slowly reaching about six to eight feet by its tenth birthday; it has been placed where we'll be able to see it from the kitchen window. 


The pine has large blue needles and will manage six to seven feet by the time it is ten years old; it has replaced one of the pampas grasses that we lost to the winter frosts. 

The garden at Holly Grove will benefit from some more winter colour as being predominently a cottage garden (lots of perennial plants) the winter scene is somewhat bare.  It will take a while for these evergreens to make any real impact but part of gardening is learning patience and assuming that these trees enjoy the soil and aspect we'll be well rewarded.

I would recommend a trip to the Dingle Nurseries if you live close enough or are in the area on holiday; I would imagine that it is a glorious sight in the autumn.  Although they only have a small tearoom serving coffee and tea there is another affiliated garden centre, the Derwen Garden Centre, just down the road with a licensed cafe and restaurant and more lovely plants!

Also in the locality is Powys Castle with its aclaimed gardens, but we'll save that for another day.  (Almost forgot to mention that I managed to get a potentilla thurberi 'Monarch's Velvet' as seen in C's garden - lovely!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Friendship and Flowers (VFTA No 4)

The next in my sometime series of reviews has been prompted by a visit made a few days ago to my dear friend, C in Devon.  It's about a 200 mile trip from Holly Grove most of it on motorway, so not very picturesque and always with the possibility of traffic problems and delays, but also the prospect of spending time with a close friend.  C and I have been friends for just over 29 years (we met when I was very pregnant with my youngest son, but that's another story).

The fun began shortly after I arrived chez C; just time to freshen up and change out of travelling clothes before we headed off for a salsa lesson.  Neither C nor I had tried salsa before and we had such a laugh, though we did manage to master a few of the steps as well.  So great fun as all this was, what's it got to do with gardening, well...

C has a small courtyard garden and when I saw it the next morning in the light of day I was bowled over.  The garden consists of one border the length of the garden on one side and a small summer house and lots of plants in pots on the other with a gravel path between.  The flower border is densely planted giving a beautiful cottage garden effect - just my kind of planting. 

C has made good use of the vertical too, with clematis and even a sambucus niger (black elder in photo next to climbing rose) kept close against the fence line.  The number and array of plants is amazing and the density of the planting means that weeds don't get a look in.  The colour palette is mostly pinks and blues but with accents of red.  The soft colours create a peaceful ambiance with the reds providing's very tempting to copy this whole planting scheme in a border at Holly Grove!

I was particularly charmed by a couple of plants that I would like to add to our Holly Grove borders - potentilla thurberi 'Monarch's Velvet' and salvia greggii 'Icing Sugar'.  The salvia is hardy to -8 but if we have a winter like last year it may struggle here in Shropshire where the freezing cold winds come across from Wales and down over the Cheshire Plain pushing the temperature frequently downwards well below freezing; quite a different climate to the milder winters of the south west, but worth a try and if I can't overwinter it in the borders I could try growing it in a pot.  The potentilla is fully hardy, so that's definitely one for the borders.

all photos courtesy of C
I was astonished at how much interest C has been able to create in a small space; truly inspirational!

Note: Be careful if you are buying the salvia as there seems to be a purple/lilac Icing Sugar that is described as both salvia microphylla and salvia greggii - the pink one in C's garden is definitely salvia greggii according to the RHS; I have also seen the pink one listed as salvia jamensis, microphylla and jamesii - help!!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Lavender and Roses

Nothing defines an English summer like a beautifully scented rose and the combination of roses and lavender is a marriage made in heaven.  The roses started into flower early this year but just seem to keep on going and they are getting better and better. 

blush noisette - so pretty and prolific

creme brulee - delicate

grandma - pretty in pink

etoile de holland? - amazing scent and deepest red
As for the lavender well, what can I say, a picture paints a thousand words, so judge for yourself...

lavender Hidcote?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Party Patio Progress

The previous post made me think about how far the hard lansdscaping and planting around the party patio has come over the past four years and all the Handyman's hard work.  So as well as adding some photos of our finished result I thought it might be good to show the different stages we've been through...

virgin site summer 2007

trying out the proposed site for evening sun June 2008

construction begins June 2009

patio foundations and oak post for the roof July 2009

down goes the paving August 2009

on goes the Goat House roof July 2010

dressed and ready to party July 2011