Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Pretty as a Picture 28/07

Don't usually have words on Pretty as a Picture, but today is my birthday (number undisclosed) and Susan in Hebrew means Lily, so here you are...2 for 1!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Great Lawn

The Handyman made a general comment on this blog the other day when he said that it was tricky sometimes to understand where in the garden I might be in any particular post; he also commented on the lack of attention the top lawn receives on the blog.

I'm planning on addressing his first comment by creating a walk through the garden in a post to come...currently a work in progress. To remedy his second point, I dedicate this post to the Great Lawn.

You should understand that this area is primarily the domain of the Handyman, he created the shape and the levels and selected, sowed and tends the grass.  He also, at least once a year, enlarges the circles in which the shrubs and trees which edge the lawn sit.

The work began in 2008, with all the ground works; setting the levels, flattening the top, and all the preparation for sowing the grass seed.
Not the Somme, but the start of the Great Lawn
Hmm, interesting (yet effective) riddling of the ground

Over the past 5 years the Handyman has nurtured the grass, cutting it at least once a week through the growing season, accompanied by some colourful language as the lawn mower (not a ride on version) misbehaves.  We have planted a number of trees and shrubs which are now becoming established and the transformation is incredible every time we remind ourselves of where we started.
inherited and re-sited Christmas trees

sambucus nigra - glorious in flower
So now as you enter the main drive at Holly Grove, through Stars Gate, the Great Lawn is on your left, all along the edge there are shrubs and trees to shelter and provide a screen for the garden from the drive.
One half of the Great Lawn
All of the Great Lawn
It has been interesting for me to focus on a view of the garden that I rarely consider and reminded me of all the work that has gone into Holly Grove over the past 8 years - helpful to reflect on what has been achieved so far rather than on what is yet to be done - thank you Handyman for the prompt!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Good Companions!

Some planned, some good fortune, some a total surprise...not much more to say!

hosta Satisfaction with self seeded sedum

spirea with inherited climbing rose

hosta with geranium Blushing Turtle

heuchera Palace Purple with geranium Elke

hosta aureomarginata with self seeded valerian officinalis

sambucus nigra with rosa Erfurt

hardy geranium with valerian officinalis - both self seeders

rosa Blush Noisette with clematis The President

geranium sanguineum striatum with golden marjoram

Sunday, 21 June 2015


My Dad died in April last year, before which I had a few precious weeks with him when we talked lots about his youth, his National Service ('some of the best days of my life'), his football team ('come on the Jags'), his love for my Mum ('my Bet') and their early days together as a young couple and then my appearance ('the apple of our eye') just 11 short months after their wedding day.  We reminisced about family holidays; Mum, Dad, my brother B, sister JA and me together in caravans and self catering flats - Blackpool, Scarborough, Girvan, Isle of Wight - happy times, Dad loved a holiday.

Mum and Dad on holiday
Although Dad was very ill indeed, I'll always hold memories of those days and conversations close in my heart and reach for them at moments when the loss of him overwhelms me.

My Dad came late to gardening, when he moved to a wee house with a small garden after my Mum's death.  This was his first garden, as he had lived all of his life in tenement flats in Glasgow, so at 62 years old he began gardening.  

Dad predominately grew roses, and he nourished them with much care and attention.  His small front garden was a joy to behold through the Summer months  with a variety of roses including Trumpeter and Margaret Merril, whilst the side of his house was festooned in climbing roses, New Dawn and Handel.  He fed, sprayed, pruned, mulched, deadheaded and generally cossetted them and was rewarded with many lovely compliments from neighbours on the beauty of his small space.

Dad's roses

So when I came back to Holly Grove after his send off I thought about a rose for remembrance, but I'm not sure my roses reach the high standard set by Dad.  Then I considered planting something in bloom on his birthday, but that's at the end of January and could prove quite a challenge (and I don't spend time in the garden in Winter).  

So what about something to cheer up the end of April, something heralding in the Spring and new life, something joyous, something ostentatious, something welcoming...

Dad's cherry tree
Prunus Shirofugen, described by the RHS as: 'a small deciduous tree with a flattened spreading crown.  Young leaves deep coppery-brown, turning orange in autumn.  Double flowers 5cm in width, dull pink in bud, opening white and fading to pink.'

image from Chew Valley Trees
Not sure I agree with the assessment of 'dull pink in bud', I prefer to describe them as soft pink, is that the romantic in me?  It's a later flowering cherry, coming into blossom in May. Planted in May 2014, young as it is, it's given us our first few blossoms this year and managed to hang on to them through very windy weather.  It stands just inside the entrance to Holly Grove, greeting our visitors and reminding us of Dad in all his glory!  

Happy Fathers' Day Dad - with me always x

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Through the Kitchen Window

Over recent times the views of the garden I've seen most often have been the walk to and from the car and from the kitchen window.  

On route to the car I don't really appreciate the whole view but rather find myself looking down at the detail of work that needs to be done or particular plants in bloom.  I've noticed that my posts mostly reflect these detailed views of individual plants and borders, seldom views across parts of the garden.  However, standing by the kitchen sink, I find I'm forced to see the bigger picture.

the bigger picture
The kitchen is at the back of the house and has a view of the Goat House (the cream coloured building), the Washhouse and original Privy buildings with the amazing roofs constructed by the Handyman.  From a planting perspective, the pot garden extends all along the back wall of the house facing east (and around the north side too since last year) and glimpses can be seen in the forefront of the view.  To the left of the window is one of the woodland borders and steps up to the main lawn.

hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' in the pot garden
Then there is the back lawn and shrubs; in flower at this time of the year I can see our inherited rhododendron and climbing rose and the spirea and the single spire of a lupin (more to follow hopefully).

shrubs and lupin
 As you can imagine, the view of the plants changes with the seasons, and the impact on the buildings of the different colours and seasonal light is notable.  It's a view I never tire of, which is just as well as I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and at the sink!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Path Much Travelled

The Handyman almost always has a hard landscaping project on the go at Holly Grove and the early Spring of this year was no different.  I made, what I thought, was a subtle comment on the grass path between the main drive, where we park our cars, and the house.  Through the Winter months this can become quite muddy and slippy, and in the Summer the grass becomes worn with the continual traffic.

June 2014
Not so subtle it seems, I came home from work one day in March to find the grass being lifted and, concrete blocks laid for the edging setts and stone being laid as foundations for a lovely gravel path.  Then edging setts placed on the boundaries, black (dark grey) dust on top of the stone and then the final pea gravel in shades of grey and pink. All topped off with solar lights to light our way from the driveway at night (you can just see them at the bottom of the pergola posts).  Beauty and function!

June 2015

PS We were so taken with the colours and quality of the gravel path that it now continues along the back of the house and up into the swing seat garden, adding it to the north side of the house is a work in progress.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Passing Time

So three years without a post on this, my garden blog.  Does that mean that I haven't been gardening for all that time?  Not so, however I can admit that my interest and time in the garden has been diminished by life events.

The Handyman has done a sterling job over this period to keep the garden in good shape; hedges, grass, shrubs and border management, but this garden is challenging enough for two, so I think I was missed.

April flowers
The time has come to refocus on some of things that make me content; our garden is a major player in that respect.  My reintroduction to the garden began in April with some tentative steps; mostly spending time looking and photographing to understand where I should begin. 

Taking time to stop and really look at the garden has proven to be physically and emotionally refreshing - a real respite!  It's also made me keenly aware of how hard the Handyman has been working, mostly alone, to keep this garden in some kind of shape.

dwarf rhododendron
Dora Amateis
Very slowly through April I began to work in the garden; a bit of detail weeding, tying in the climbing roses on their various posts and trellises, clearing out last year's remnants from the greenhouse...and generally enjoying the April sunshine and fresh air.

cherry blossom

exochorda x macrantha
The Bride
Then I started painting, not the paint on canvas sort, but rather of the garden furniture variety - I think I wanted a fresh start in more ways than one.


perch a while
I've used some time to review this blog and previous posts served as reminders of all the joy (and exercise) that Holly Grove garden has given over the years.  Now in our eighth year here it's time to get re-acquainted, both with the joy of gardening and the reflective nature of adding a post to the blog.