BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour 19 April 2020

Notes for anyone listening to BBC Radio Leicester today. You can send e mails, texts and messages for free gardening advice. I’ve been a travelling head gardener and a garden designer for 25 years. I write for weekly Garden News Magazine. I grow my own fruit, veg and flowers at home on a one acre plot created from a ploughed field. Currently, I’m speaking each week from the potting shed during the corona virus epidemic. Here’s the view from the potting shed, for anyone who likes blossom. Turn up the sound to hear the birdsong.

We cater for everyone. So if you’ve never gardened before and want some essential tips to get started, get in touch. We can help experienced gardeners wanting to grow the latest varieties or try something new. Maybe you want to grow more salads and veg for the family. Or you might fancy the challenge of growing for a “virtual” flower show. We can help.

This week we talk about growing tomatoes. I’m growing classic beefsteak variety Marmande for cooking, and tasty cherry tomato, Tumbling Tom for salads. My plants are 12cm (5″) tall and the roots are coming out of the bottom of the pots, so I’m potting them on. They’ve been growing in 7.5cm (3″) pots and I’m moving them up to 12.5cm (5″) pots. They will eventually go into 25cm (10″) pots and window boxes, but they have to be moved up in stages as tomatoes don’t like lots of cold wet compost around their roots.

Tomatoes like plenty of warmth, so I’ll keep mine indoors until the end of May. Tomato leaves turning yellow could be an indication the plants are getting too cold overnight, especially if they are right next to the greenhouse glass. Move them to the middle of the greenhouse and create a fleece tent to keep temperatures more stable between night and day. Remove fleece promptly in the morning. Alternatively, yellow leaves could mean the plants are running out of feed. Composts usually contain feed for about six weeks. But yellow leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen, so feed with a very dilute tomato fertiliser. Move plants on promptly when the roots have filled the pots. Don’t over water as plants also hate cold wet feet. Use tepid water. Bring the watering can in to the greenhouse to warm up. Cold water causes shock. Tomatoes need warm steady growing conditions and don’t like swings in temperature. Try to water them in the morning so they are not left cold and wet at night. Aim the watering can at the roots and keep the foliage dry.

While I’m stuck at home, I’m looking about to see what I can do to keep connected with the outside world. One thing I’m doing is joining in with the Rainbows 5K challenge.

Rainbows is a hospice in Loughborough, supporting children and young people with life-limiting conditions. They receive only 15 percent of their funding from the government and everything else has to come from donations. The corona virus lockdown means they can’t run all the usual fund-raising events. But the 5K challenge is one way everyone can help out.

You can take part anytime between now and May 31st. I’ll be logging my walking while I’m mowing the grass, weeding, raking, hoeing and plodding about the plot between the greenhouse and potting shed. I am sure digging also counts!

You can also help by tagging rainbows on social media to keep them in the public’s eye by posting photos on Facebook @rainbowsfanpage and on twitter and Instagram @rainbowshospice.

Children and all ages can take part. You can walk, run, hop, skip, cycle. Think of me weeding and cutting the grass for hours on end. At least the garden will look lovely, and it’s all in a good cause!

The National Gardens Scheme is also a charity close to my heart. Mum and I usually spend every Sunday visiting an NGS garden, having a cup of tea and piece of cake and buying a few plants. The lockdown means no gardens are open this summer. But the charity has launched a ‘Support Our Nurses’ campaign with virtual tours and JustGiving pages.

There are three gardens so far featured in leicestershire: Brook End in Wymeswold, with spring blossom, tulips and daffodils and ponds. There’s also Donna’s Garden at Snowdrop Ridge in Market Harborough, which should have opened for the first time this summer. There’s a wonderfully calming goldfish pond video.

Also a ‘walk through’ at Oak House, South Kilworth.

Donations support nurses working for MacMillan and Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, The Queens Nursing Institute. The NGS also helps Parkinson’s UK, Perennial and Horatio’s Garden for spinal injuries.

During the programme I mention our concerns for growers, garden centres and nurseries which are not allowed to open during the lockdown. There are fears many might go out of business with plants having to be skipped. Livelihoods are on the line.

I mention the Garden Centre Association #SupportYourLocalGardencentre campaign at gca.org. There’s a list of garden centres providing local deliveries.

Val and Steve Bradley from BBC Radio Kent, the Sun newspaper, have created a list of growers and nurseries offering mail order and/ or deliveries.

I’ve provided a limited and ever-changing list for Leicestershire here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/05/contacts-and-information-to-help-you-through-corona-virus-lockdown/ If you want to be added, please get in touch.

Thank you for joining us at BBC Radio Leicester. These are strange and difficult times for all of us, but we can keep connected through social media and listening to the radio. It’s amazing how we can all help by taking little steps at a time. They all join up to a giant leap forward, don’t you agree. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking good in your garden and how you are getting on during this lockdown time. Are you managing to get on with your gardening? Is your garden providing a calm sanctuary. I know mine is right now.

Links:

Rainbows 5K Challenge : https://www.rainbows.co.uk/events/rainbows-virtual-5k-2020

National Gardens Scheme https://ngs.org.uk/virtual-garden-visits/

Garden Centre Association lists : https://gca.org.uk/

Val and Steve Bradley nurseries/growers list: https://47flt.r.ag.d.sendibm3.com/mk/cl/f/nsnLPDyBJajPGKKpPRt5x9TOx4tu9x1Dz-v5FiKvBC10LYC0JB45oC3rcwqKse2n5D7aQhdwFnOZEulP7NPET4tRxtfv-n5eUr7mNx6H7gjRIWSVXN-QVsXdmRICgr44KOhL_NeHecmmxD8URqGk4-jf5QBzcACiRe7I8jdByhWKnFH9LN4d2C-sA4qsiNVzl4nQDttx7wgdEKWIS89NuNt-XaZCrrIiTT3B

You can follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram @karengimson1

And Pinterest @karengimson

Some photos from my garden:

Seedlings in the greenhouse, tomatoes, cosmos, onions, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers.

Planting out calendula Snow Princess grown in plug trays.

We had some winter storms and dead elms in the hedgerow.

The whole garden is scented by this viburnum. Planted in front of white cherry tree, prunus avium, and pink cherry Prunus Kanzan.

Pheasants Eye narcissi, still looking good in the cut flower beds.

Not all things go according to plan.

Cherry blossom. Stella. Lots of fruit, hopefully. Have never seen blossom like it. A good year for fruit trees.

Pear blossom. I’m keeping an eye on the weather. Fleece will be thrown over at night if there’s a frost.

Thank you for reading!

Easton Walled Gardens -Open for Snowdrops Today- Sunday 23 February 2020

Last chance today to see the snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens. Opens 11am -4pm. I visited last week for a preview and if you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester you might have heard me talking about the history of the gardens.

Here’s a slide show of my photos from the event.

There’s a link to the website for more information: https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/snowdrops

Daffodils are just starting to flower at the same time as snowdrops. It’s been very mild and wet they year.

Yellow cornus mas (cornelian cherry) and white snowdrops. A perfect combination.

The summerhouse and spring flowers. You can hire the venue for an afternoon. Lovely spot for tea and cakes.

A favourite view of the walled garden. Sweet peas will be grown along the sunny walls this summer.

Looking across the terraces for a view of the steps and topiary yew.

Apple tree pruning in progress. I love the shaped apple trees and heritage varieties at Easton. I watched carefully how the pruning is managed. Might have a go at home. Lots of inspiration in this garden.

The finished topiary apple tree. Trained around a circle. Looks architectural and productive. Very pretty with apple blossom and bright red fruit to follow.

Spring bulbs in the woodland near to the gatehouse. The hellebores are looking fabulous at the moment.

I particularly liked this pretty hellebore with a ruffled centre.

Stone troughs look beautiful planted with spring bulbs. I might copy this idea. I have a small stone sink covered in moss with nothing growing in it at the moment. Was just waiting to decide what to do with it.

I can never go home without buying a pot or two of bulbs. The cyclamen coum are looking very cheerful. I fell in love with the dwarf iris. There’s a pale blue one called Painted Lady. I couldn’t resist.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of photos. Even if you can’t get there today, bookmark the gardens for a visit in spring, and make a note of the dates for the sweet pea festival, which is always a lovely day out.

I wrote about Easton Walled Gardens here : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/02/13/happy-valentines-day-with-a-tour-of-easton-walled-gardens/

And here : https://bramblegarden.com/2016/05/20/a-visit-to-easton-walled-gardens/

As you can see, it’s a favourite of mine. Enjoy!

Diary of a Modern Country Gardener

Secrets for Every Season Straight From the Potting Shed

By Tamsin Westhorpe

Orphans Publishing ISBN 9781903360422

Hardback. 248 pages. £20

Illustrations by Hannah Madden

Book review and prize draw. Please leave a comment to be included in the draw.

We are all standing at our house windows gazing on waterlogged, storm lashed gardens, aching to be outside gardening. It’s doesn’t matter what kind of gardening, anything, as long as we can run some compost through our fingers and see green shoots emerging. It’s been a long wet winter.

Luckily Tamsin Westhorpe has a beautiful new book which transports us immediately to gardening heaven- Stockton Bury in Herefordshire. It is a very welcome and timely escape.

Tamsin is the 5th generation to garden at her family’s farm. The four acre garden within the farm has fruit and vegetable plots, a stream and pond, ‘rooms’ with different planting themes and a dovecote dating back to the time of Henry 1. The land has been worked by the family for more than 100 years, and the much-acclaimed garden is open to the public.

In her new book, Diary of a Modern Country Gardener, Tamsin lets us into her world as we see her facing all kinds of gardening challenges, accompanied by lots of laughter.

There’s expert advice on growing cut flowers, staging summer garden parties, selecting and planting trees, planting bulbs, storing produce, keeping chickens, coppicing hazel and more. I particularly like the ‘tool kit’ panels detailing equipment and materials needed for the list of jobs suggested each month. A useful reminder before getting going on tasks. There’s nothing worse than starting something, and then having to stop to search for forgotten items to complete the project.

I also like the list of ‘must-have’ plants for each month. January suggests Cornus mas, crocus tommasinianus, cyclamen coum, eranthis hyemalis, hamamelis, hellebores, iris reticulata, mahonia, snowdrops, viburnum Dawn and narcissus Bowles Early Sulphur. You can almost smell these spring delights. There’s something cheerful on every page.

As we follow her daily life there’s lots of hints and tips on what to do and when. But this is much more than a ‘how to’ book. It’s a book about solving problems, dealing with gardening conundrums, interacting with people, and simply enjoying every single moment.

I love books where you can really hear the author’s voice. Tamsin’s voice is loud and clear and full of humour. Her stories are compelling. She makes you want to jump in a car and drive over to see what she’s getting up to today. You’d have a real good natter, and come away smiling and fired up with ideas to get going on your own plot. She’s that kind of person who makes anything feel possible.

Her diary does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a daily insight into the workings of a country garden. There are plenty of ‘secrets’ to be told. I won’t spoil them by retelling them here. But there’s a very interesting story about what she wears in the garden! Apparently her mother set the trend. You’ll have to read the book to find out more. It’s perfect escapism. And the one place you’ll all want to be is in Tamsin’s garden.

The book is beautifully produced and bound by well-respected Orphans Publishing, accompanied by truly gorgeous illustrations by artist Hannah Madden. A thing of beauty. Highly recommended. You’ll soon forget all about the weather! I promise.

Tamsin going through the proofs at Herefordshire Orphans Publishing.

Tamsin and Hannah Madden celebrating their first copy of the book.

Some pages from the book, taken with my i-phone camera. The quality of the photography is much better than I’ve managed to capture here.

About the author, taken with my i-phone camera.

Excerpts from the book for March

Excerpts for June

August

Tamsin Westhorpe’s diary was my book of the week on BBC Local Radio Gardening. It would make an excellent BBC Radio 4 read-aloud Book of the Week. A best seller, I think.

Thank you to Orphans Publishing for offering a free copy for our prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be entered in the draw. Please also comment if you do not wish to be entered in the competition, and let me know. Some of you may have already ordered a copy. The publishers will randomly select a winner. No cash prize alternative and usual rules apply.

Links: Tamsin Westhorpe https://www.tamsinwesthorpe.co.uk/

Orphans Publishing https://www.orphanspublishing.co.uk/

Stockton Bury http://www.stocktonbury.co.uk/

Garden Media Guild https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

Karen gimson on twitter @kgimson

On instagram karengimson1 and Pinterest.

Thank you for reading. I am very grateful for your 150,000 page views, all kind follows and shares. Please share this on any social media platform. It all helps me immensely.

Garden Visit : Little Ash Bungalow, Devon NGS

Plant Paradise

It takes a lot for me to leave my cosy potting shed. I’ve created a happy little haven, with all creature comforts; kettle, toaster, comfy chair, reading corner. Cat and new puppy for company. But, I was enticed out recently to visit a garden I’ve heard a lot about, Little Ash Bungalow at Fenny Bridges, Devon. And I’m happy to say, it was well worth the journey. The garden is a delight. Rare and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs. A plant paradise. Here’s a photo ‘slide show’ of my visit. The garden is open this Sunday, 18th August from 1-5 for the National Gardens Scheme.

Francoa sonchiflolia. Known as bridal wreath. An evergreen perennial with lance-shaped basal leaves and 80cm tall spires of rich pink flowers. Not totally hardy in more exposed gardens.

Astrantia Little Ash Seedling, blue echium vulgare and pink Salvia Penny’s Smile. A lovely contrast of flower forms. This combination has a long flowering season. Astrantias have a good ‘skeleton’ structure once the flowers have gone over.

Purple Veronicastrum Fascination partnered with red Persicaria amplexicaulis and white Persicaria alpina. I’ve just discovered ‘persicum’ is Latin for peach and refers to the long peach-like leaves.

Grey-leaved Melianthus major (honey flower) creates a background to blue agapanthus, bright pink Diascia personata and mauve Verbena officianalis grandiflora Bampton.

Agapanthus thrive in the well-drained gravel beds up by the house. The evergreen agapanthus is deep blue africanus variety.

From the top terrace, looking down the right hand side of the garden, to the glorious East Devon country views beyond.

Owner Helen Brown has made the most of the views. Here she’s framed them with a series of arches covered with climbers such as ornamental vine, Vitis Purpurea and scrambling viticella clematis.

In the gravel just in front of the steps, there’s Dierama, known as angel’s fishing rods. Grass-like leaves with tall graceful flowering spikes. The flowers dangle down, hence the common name. I’ve found this difficult to grow in my wet Leicestershire clay. It’s a plant that needs a perfect balance of good fertile soil with excellent drainage. Not easy to achieve.

The view through the second arch. There’s a white clematis Paul Farges, or summer snow, on the right.

At the end of the view, there’s a granite and metal sculpture. These were originally rollers in wooden frames, pulled by horses to flatten clods in the surrounding fields. The metal parts came from more modern Cambridge rolls, pulled by tractors. In the background you can see an area of moisture-loving planting alongside a stream, with a path leading to a pond.

A focal point metal seed head sculpture in the centre of the mini-meadow.

Umbellifers in the meadow. Very attractive to bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Looking over a low farm fence, there’s a paddock full of grasses and wild flowers such as yellow rattle and yellow Lotus corniculatus, bird’s foot trefoil.

The whole field is covered in tiny white flowers. We know this as stitchwort, a type of stellaria.

Helen leaves flowers to set seed for birds to enjoy. This is a Silybum marianum with thistle-like seeds just about to take flight. I’m glad I captured the moment, and I’m glad I made the effort to leave my potting shed to see Helen’s garden in all its glory.

Little Ash Bungalow is a 1.5 acre garden regularly open for the NGS, and also open by arrangement for groups of 10 or more on pre-arranged dates. Admission is £4 adults, children are admitted free. Cakes and refreshments usually available. Dogs on leads welcome.

Little Ash Bungalow, Fenny Bridges, Devon, EX14 3BL

https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/21320/

Notes:

Other plants I noted, if you are a keen plants person: Roscoea Royal Purple, Crinum powellii Album, umbellifera Conopodium majus, Hedychium spicatum, Buddleja weyeriana, Clethra alnifolia for perfume, Grevillea victoriae, Cuphea blepharophylla, Buddleja lindleyana, pitcher plants, rudbeckia, Catalpa erubescens Purpurea, Phlox Starfire, Crinodendron patagua, Lobelia urens, Gladiolus papilio Ruby, Miaianthemum racemosum, bamboos, pond plants, bog plants and clematis – many unusual varieties.

NGS Garden Visit- Oak Tree House

Pam Shave has a garden packed full of plant treasures. There’s wonderful scented roses, clematis, special perennials, and a whole border of foxgloves. And the good news is, you can visit the garden and see them too. Pam is county organiser for the NGS-Yellow Book – open gardens scheme, which raises money for cancer care and nursing charities.

I was lucky enough to visit today for a preview. Here’s a slide show of plants that caught my eye.

Foxgloves stand out in a border packed full of geraniums, campanulas, poppies and day lilies galore.

Thalictrum aquilegifolium or meadow rue. A pretty filler between the standard and bush roses.

David Austin Roses are beautifully healthy and deliciously scented. This one pictured above is Princess Alexandra of Kent. Blue herbaceous geranium provides a pretty weed-smothering ground cover beneath them.

This James Galway rose with very frilled petals is growing along the boundary fence. The scent is like a summer fruit salad, all pineapple, peaches and melon combined.

Pink sanguisorba is a lovely “fluffy filler” in amongst the roses and echoes the spires of the foxgloves.

Geranium Summer Skies is a perennial worth searching for. It makes a statement plant mid-June, and then blooms again if cut to the ground after flowering.

Oriental poppies are another high summer attraction, and this one is a particularly pretty pale pink, with ink-black stamens. It’s called Papaver Royal Wedding.

I grow blue and white love-in-a-mist. I wouldn’t be without its delicate starry flowers and pretty seed heads. Pam grows this variety, with a range of pinks and whites, called Nigella Mulberry Rose.

There are little collections of containers all around the garden. I’ve never seen so many in one garden. Even some of the vegetables are grown in pots. Here there’s annual cosmos with scented-leaved pelargoniums.

Roses also grow in huge 50cm terracotta pots. This is a David Austin rose. I’m just waiting for confirmation on the names of some of these plants. I was enjoying my visit so much, I forgot to look at the labels. (Pam has reported back- this one is Lady Emma Hamilton. A must-have for me.)

Clematis Versailles grow in 45cm pots, as a pair, each side of the back door. Such a beautiful purple colour, with a deeper stripe down the centre of each petal.

Underplanting for the clematis is this pretty scented nemesia, an annual which can be kept going from one year to the next by taking cuttings and overwintering in a frost -free greenhouse .

Masses of flowers and full of bees and hover flies .

Bees love the violas, also growing in a collection of plant pots. Viola Florence and Martin came from Jack and Laura at Bouts Nursery.

A raised brick-edged pond spills into another horseshoe-shaped pond on a lower level. We sat on the pond side, watched the fish and admired the miniature water lilies.

Exotic-looking gazanias grow well in free draining compost with added grit, in a sunny spot, or in containers.

Oak Tree House opens this Weekend, 22 and 23 June. North Road, South Kilworth, Leicestershire, LE17 6DU.

Links : NGS Oak Tree House https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/20265/

David Austin Roses: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/

Perennials : https://www.hardysplants.co.uk/

clematis : https://www.raymondevisonclematis.com/

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising today’s visit : https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

Please feel free to share this post and spread some good news. And follow me on twitter @kgimson, on Instagram karengimson1 . Thank you 😊

BBC Gardeners’ World Live- Photos of Show Gardens

I’ve written about the Watchmaker’s Garden, which has a family connection, here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/14/bbc-gardeners-world-live/

The Watchmaker’s Garden by Alexandra Froggatt.

Here are some of the other show gardens I saw on preview day this week.

Onward and Upward

Designer: Andy Tudbury

Andy’s 10th Show garden for BBC Gardeners’ World Live highlights the benefits of horticultural therapy, pioneered by the charity HighGround. A pathway takes you through the edge of a birch stand and wild flower meadow area, past a sculpture by Simon Probyn. The journey represents hope, re-birth and a new beginning. The path then leads you “Onward and Upward” to the recovery and leisure areas. HighGround focuses on horticultural therapy as rehabilitation for injured service personnel. They are based at a new DNRC centre at Stanford Hall near Loughborough, Leicestershire.

We watched the filming with Joe Swift on Andy’s garden.

Sculpture by Simon Probyn during the build for Onward and Upward.

Andy Tudbury http://www.halcyondays.biz/

HighGround https://highground-uk.org/

Canal & River Trust Garden- Making Life Better by Water

Designer: Chris Myers

Construction: Canal and River Trust volunteers

Inspired by ideas from trust volunteers David and Hilary Godbehere, lock keepers on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. The garden surrounds a central canal with a veg plot and flower garden alongside. The charity is dedicated to caring for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in England and Wales.

High Line

Designer: Lucy Bravington

Contractor Dan Ryan of Design It Landscapes

Based on the elevated public park in New York where Lucy visited last year. Features Corten steel, industrial elements and naturalistic planting with three focal point trees, grasses and ferns.

A Glimpse of South East Asia

Designer: Robyn Brookes

Contractor Timotay Landscapes

Inspired by South East Asian adventures, the garden combines a tropical planting palette with a simple selection of natural hard landscaping materials. Antique silver paving, yellow paddle stones and Caledonian boulders contrast with charred timber. Water cascades into a shallow pool, creating a feeling of calm.

Oasis of Peace

Designer: Anna Pawlowska

Contractor: Morgan Oates

A space inspired by Moroccan and Mediterranean style. You can slip your shoes off and cool your feet in the rill on a hot summer’s day. Water encloses an island to create the feeling of a relaxing hideaway.

Gadd Brothers Garden Getaway

Designers : Dr Catherine Macdonald and Rhiannon Williams

Contractor: Gadd Brothers

Garden for a young professional couple who have recently had an extension to their period style home. It’s designed to suit a small linear garden which is accessed by simple sliding doors. Height comes from the multi-stem trees and wood and metal pergola. There’s a water feature and two seating areas.

Revelation

Designer Mike Baldwin of Derby College

Mike designed the garden based on a combination of scripture and garden history. The four horses charging out of metal gates (Revelation and Versailles) flanked by an avenue of photinia Red Robin. The middle section of the garden was inspired by “In my father’s house are many rooms, ” (Hidcote and Sissinghurst-esqe).

The Macmillan Legacy Garden

Designer Martyn Wilson

Contractor: Big Fish Landscapes

Inspired by the gifts left in wills to Macmillan Cancer Support and celebrates the idea of leaving a legacy. These vital legacy donations make up over a third of its funding and help support people living with cancer. The “presents” in Martyn’s garden will each contain a different species of tree and symbolise gifts left in wills to Macmillan.

The Home Solutions by John Lewis Garden

Designer; Waitrose partner Shaun Beale

Contractor : Golden Gardens and the APL

Takes its inspiration from the beautiful gardens within the Leckford Estate and combines them with a contemporary functional, useable space. The John Lewis Home Solutions service aims to give customers access to a wide range of tradespeople, all of whom have the John Lewis seal of approval.

Harborne Botanics

Designer: Toby Pritchard

Contractor : Creative Roots

Marshalls Symphony paving takes you from the house to the patio. Matching paving takes you along the rill and on to the hardwood decking. The planting features a variety of leaf shapes and sizes, suggesting a more exotic location than the British climate can always offer. Walling and charred timber create surrounding screens.

The Dahlia Garden

Designer Jon Wheatley

Contractor Stonebarn Landscapes

Below is a fruit, vegetable and flower garden. It was fascinating watching the filming. Although I didn’t stand and stare, as it must be hard enough to remember what to say without an audience watching! Needless to say, the plants in this garden are total perfection. An amazing array and such an achievement after a very difficult growing season.

BBC Gardeners’ World Live runs until June 16.

https://www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com/whats-on

BBC Gardeners’ World Live

We did a little dance in celebration when The Watchmaker’s Garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live won platinum and best in show. Our family’s nursery grew some of the plants for the garden.

I was lucky enough to attend the preview and meet the designer, Alexandra Froggatt.

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a bustling, cosmopolitan area steeped in history. In the late Victorian era it was booming with trade as the jewellery and watchmaking industries expanded. Craftsmen set up workshops in their back gardens to meet demand. Alexandra’s design is inspired by these 19th century back garden horologists. Inside the workshop, the city’s iconic Chamberlain clockface is in mid-production with a workbench covered in original tools and artefacts. Antique specialists loaned jewellers’ equipment to add authenticity to the scene.

Outside the workshop, the garden is full of heirloom and heritage vegetables, including some varieties which would have been grown in the Victorian era; herbs growing alongside cottage garden plants.

I love the doorway planting. You really want to walk through that door to see what’s on the other side.

Wild flowers grow in the grass surrounding the garden, and nasturtiums, peas and beans scramble over fences and supporting hazel posts.

Sponsors for the garden include Odeon Antiques, St Paul’s Church, La Mons Jewellery, Stonebarn landscapes, Terry Porter- plants, Vande Moortel- landscaping materials, and RPG Herbs, run by my brother-in-law Paul Gimson and his wife Rozanne.

Gardeners’ World Live runs until 16 June at Birmingham NEC.

https://www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com/

RPG Herbs http://www.rpgherbs.co.uk/conta.html

Alexandra Froggatt http://www.alexandrafroggatt.com/

The Cotswold Wildlife Park – A Celebration of the Gardens

BOOK REVIEW

By Harriet Rycroft and Tim Miles

Produced by Reef Publishing for Cotswold Wildlife Park

£18 inc p&p.

Looking through the mansion window, I see a pretty stone terrace, balustrading covered in rambling roses, mighty English oak trees in the distance. And a rhinoceros. Or two. I’m at the Cotswold Wildlife Park and it’s not your traditional garden view!

I can hear blackbirds, robins -and yes, there’s a lion’s roar, and black siamang gibbons “whooping.” I’m having a special behind the scenes tour with head gardener Tim Miles and gardener and writer Harriet Rycroft.

Tim and Harriet have spent the past 18 months working on a new book The Cotswold Wildlife Park- A Celebration of the Gardens. And there’s plenty to celebrate. The gardens are a paradise of exotic plants, special trees and shrubs, and wild flowers.

Photo: Front cover.

There are more than 250 species of animals and birds living at the wildlife park where important conservation and breeding work is being undertaken. The star attraction is undoubtably the white rhinos – saved from poachers in Africa, and now producing offspring.

Photo: my i-phone pic of page 60 in the book. Original photo credit: Harriet Rycroft.

Rhinos appear to have free rein in the parkland setting, but in fact, their paddock is ringed by a ha ha. It means there are no fences. They can clearly be seen from all surrounding paths. When I say “clearly seen,” I might add that the paths meander around flower beds containing thousands of ornamental onions, Allium hollandicum Purple Sensation, and grasses such as Stipa gigantea (giant oat grass) and cultivars of Miscanthus and Cortaderia (pampas grass). It’s rather a wonderful combination. Rhinos and alliums. You’ll not see that anywhere else in the world.

Planting provides browse material for many species, but also, importantly, shelter for the animals. This might be shade from summer sunshine, or protection from wind and rain. Planting must, of course, let visitors see into enclosures, but it is so exhuberant that the the lines are blurred between visitors, animals and the wider landscape.

I did manage to get a good look at African Spoonbills and Madagascan Teal. But if they wanted to hide from me, they could.

It is interesting to see trained fruit trees along the walled garden enclosures. There’s a perfectly-pruned fig, and around the corner there are espalier cherry and pear trees, fruiting kiwi and grape vines. Bamboo, a favourite fodder for many animals, grows inside and outside of the enclosures, again blurring the boundaries between them.

In the Tropical House I spy a Linne’s Two-towed Sloth. It’s the first time I’ve seen one. He’s nestled in amongst the foliage, rubber plants (Ficus elastica) cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) and bromeliads and orchids. Branches of oak provide “perches” and there’s an illusion that house plants have “escaped” to take root in this mini-jungle. In a fascinating insight into the relationship between keepers and gardeners Tim explains that any plant plagued with pests such as greenfly, is given to the keepers to be placed in the Tropical House. Exotic birds clean up the plants by eating the pests. A win-win situation all round. Natural pest control at its best.

Continuing the tropical theme, in the protection of the Walled Garden, there’s palm trees, bananas and cannas interplanted with dahlias, Begonia luxurians and Begonia fuchsioides. Plants overspill onto the paving so you don’t notice the concrete kerbs. Creeping plants such as Tradescantia, Plectranthus and Verbena cascade and intermingle.

Phormiums, banana plants and bedding such as geraniums and coleus (solenostenum) provide a contrast in form, colour and texture.

Container planting features fuchsias, begonias, scented pelargoniums, trailing Scaevola Sapphire, twining Thunbergia African Sunset, nemesia- and even a Protea cynaroides (king protea). It’s rightly described as a “theatre with plants.”

There’s a conservatory- leading to the Bat House and Reptile House- where I spotted a pretty pink Cantua buxifolia.

Some sort of pink grevillea also thrives in the protection of the glass.

I’m still searching for the name of this pretty blue flowering plant. Let me know if you have a name for it. It’s rather lovely to visit a garden and find something you haven’t seen before.

No surface seems to be left without cover. This is the end wall of the rhino house, smothered in golden-flowering Fremontodendron California Glory.

We just throw our weeds in a compost bin, but certain weeds growing at the park provide food for the animals. Giant tortoises love stinging nettles, and goose grass or cleavers are relished by some of the herbivorous reptiles. Banana leaves are popular with stick insects and locusts, but are also given to squirrel monkeys. Honey treats are stuck to the leaves. The monkeys have fun picking off the treats, and then spend time cleaning themselves of the delicious sticky honey.

Gardeners don’t just get requests for plant material for food and nesting; prunings such as lavender and rosemary provide useful enrichment / active entertainment for the lions. Keepers fill bags with the clippings to make giant catnip toys.

With so many rare and glorious plants, the gardens at Cotswold Wildlife Park are a delight to visit all year round. Visiting transports you to another world. A world that’s been created with imagination and passion. There’s nowhere else quite like it.

All pics, apart from the front cover and the baby rhino, are i-phone photos from my head gardener tour.

Links:

Harriet and Tim’s book is available from Cotswold Wildlife Park https://shop.myonlinebooking.co.uk/cotswoldwildlifepark/shop/product-list.aspx?catid=8

Borde Hill Garden

Rhododendrons, azaleas, woodland, sculpture, rare and unusual trees and plants.

We stand still and listen. “There’s a great tit…a chaffinch…a goldfinch…a robin.” I’m writing the names in my notebook, but the list is recounted faster than I can record them.

We are on a tour of Borde Hill Garden. And, what luck, one of our party is an expert on birdsong. The chorus of sound drifts through the trees. Such a beautiful melody, and a wonderful place to be. An English woodland garden on a spring day. Just glorious.

I spot a tree creeper. To my shame, it’s the first time I’ve seen one. A tiny bird, the size of a wren. My first thoughts are that it’s a mouse. Its speckly brown feathers perfectly match the tree bark it’s clinging to. It scurries up a few metres, and then uses its long downward-curving bill to fish out an insect from a crevice. Suddenly it moves to the other side of the trunk. It knows it’s been spotted. Then, making a “see-see-see” call, it flies away. A magical moment- and we’ve only just arrived in this woodland paradise.

We start our tour in the Garden of Allah, a dell created in 1925 where the the owners nurtured many of the species brought back from the great plant hunters of the time. Head gardener Andy Stevens points to a towering Liriodendron chinense (Chinese tulip tree) which was raised from seed collected by Ernest Wilson in central China. Borde Hill bought the tree as a 16ft mature specimen from the famous Veitch’s nursery in 1913. There’s a huge Magnolia fraseri which arrived in the garden as a seedling from the south-eastern USA in 1933. And further into the garden there’s a Davidia involucrata (pocket handkerchief tree).

I can’t decide whether to look up, or down. Up, into the branches of so many rare and unusual trees. Or down, at the ribbons of pure white wild garlic flowing into drifts of bluebells. It’s easy to see why Borde Hill has been described as “unforgettable.”

Leaving the dell, walking past rhododendrons and camellias planted in the 1920s, and magnolias planted as seedlings in the 1930s, we reach Warren Wood and Stephanie’s Glade. It’s here that many of Borde Hill’s fabulous collection of champion trees can be found.

There are many trees I have never seen before. We stop and admire a rare Meliosma Beaniana which is smothered in delicate creamy coloured flowers. Like many of the trees and shrubs at Borde Hill, there’s a fascinating history and story behind them. This tree came via Ernest Wilson who was plant hunting in China in 1908. It was planted at Alderman (now a boarding school) and transplanted at Borde Hill in early 1930s. Records show it flowered for the first time in its new home in 1933.

I found a particularly lovely tree, possibly a type of photinia. It is smothered in white flowers. A magnet for bees and hoverflies.

Borde Hill is famous for rhododendrons and azaleas which are reaching their peak now. I’ve never seen such a striking and colourful display.

Some of the azaleas are scented which adds to their attraction.

Walking out of the woodlands, suddenly you come upon a more formal scene, an Italian garden with topiary flanking a rectangular pond. There’s a statue and waterfall at one end, and large terracotta plant pots each side of the water.

There’s always a surprise around every corner. At the top of the steps, near the sculpture, I found this Peony Mai Fleurie.

Further along the walk, I found more peonies, looking at their best right now.

Tree peonies and perennial forms seem to do very well at Borde Hill and I make a note to plant more in my own garden.

This week sees the start of Borde Hill’s 20th anniversary Sculpture Exhibition (10 May to 30 Sept). Visitors can walk through the 17 acre gardens and enjoy more than 80 pieces by well-known and up-and-coming artists.

I love this one, which I think is Little Owl by Paul Harvey. The labels were being put out on the day of our visit.

And this one, which I’m guessing is Icarus by Nicola Godden. Such a perfect setting in front of the house. Checking the website, I see this winged figure was commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Village. There’s also a wind sculpture by Will Carr to look out for.

There’s something for everyone at Borde Hill, and all-year-round interest too. But for me, the magic of the place will always be the peaceful walks through those magnificent trees. And the sound of birdsong. The very essence of spring.

Borde Hill: Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, opens from 25 March -3 Nov.

The garden, listed Grade II by English Heritage, is set within 200 acres of parkland.

Special events this year:

Roses. Talk and tour with Michael Marriott from David Austin Roses: 20 June 10.30-2pm

The Rabbit’s Eye View- long term plant performance, landscape masterclass by Noel Kingsbury, 11 Sept 10-4.30.

Practical Pruning – Juliet Sargeant 16 May 10.30-3pm

Designing a Romantic Rose Border – Juliet Sargeant, 11 July 10.30-3pm

Tasty Autumn Talk- Juliet Sargeant, 18 Oct 10.30-12noon.

Many thanks to Eleni and Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke for hosting our visit, and to Constance Craig Smith and the Garden Media Guild for organising the tour.

Links :

For more information about Borde Hill : https://www.bordehill.co.uk/

More on birdsong : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/04/identify-bird-song/

RSPB Let Nature Sing: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/

Fields of Gold- and White. Taylors Daffodil Day 2019

Today I’m trying to describe the scent from 341 acres of daffodils- that’s about 300 football pitches. I’m almost lost for words. It’s like a tidal wave of “spring.” That scent at dawn on an April morning. Dew on the flowers, and the sun just starting to shine. Bees buzzing all around. And then it hits you. Pure joy!

I am at Taylors’ bulb fields in Lincolnshire for their Daffodil Day to celebrate the company’s centenary. And what a celebration! Daffodils as far as the eye can see. Birds singing, blue skies and a line of trees in the distance. The trees are so far away they look like miniatures. I’ve never seen anything like it. Bands of gold and yellow daffodils ripple in the wind. And wow, is it windy here. I’m holding on to my hat.

Taylors grow around 500 daffodil varieties on their farm at Holbeach near Spalding. It’s a real treat to learn how they are grown, the machinery used, and the processes involved.

Daffodils are planted in August – 850 tonnes of them. Bulbs remain in the ground for two years and are harvested over a six week period in June and July. The daffodil lifting machine digs up about one tonne per minute. Around 2,000 tonnes are harvested annually.

It’s the same machine that’s used for lifting potatoes. Daffodils are taken by trailer to a sorting conveyor belt machine that separates the bulbs from soil and stones.

Bulbs then go to a grading machine that sorts them into sizes. 7-10cm bulbs are kept to replant. Sizes then are separated into 10-12, 12-14, 14-16. The largest will obviously be the premium bulbs that will cost the most, but provide the best flower display.

Here’s John Cubley explaining the grading process. The bulbs pass through a kind of riddle to separate the sizes. John has worked for Taylors for 25 years. In fact, I spoke to three other workers who’ve all been there for at least 25 years. It’s obviously a company that attracts dedicated and loyal staff.

Here’s the grading machine inside the warehouse. Bulbs travel along a conveyor belt to be stored or packed into individual sizes and varieties.

It’s a treat to see any behind-the-scenes production. I’ve now got a better understanding of just what goes into growing and selling the bulbs I buy and plant each year.

These are some of the varieties I picked out as favourites. I particularly love the scented white daffodils and narcissi.

Kimmeridge. Pure white broad petals with a bowl crown of deep orange red.

Tibet. Creamy white, frilled cup, with a green “eye.”

High Society. Pure white with pink-edged centre. Good strong stems.

Pastorale. Pale lime yellow flower. The corona becomes white.

Tranquil Morn. Very pretty rounded pure white perianth. White flat disk, almost geometrically perfect. My favourite.

Pueblo. A jonquil. Multi -headed lemon flowers that become white as they mature. Simply stunning.

I’m looking out for some of the new varieties for 2019: Worcester- a creamy white variety. Pacific Rim- yellow with an orange rim; Arctic Bells- a white hoop petticoat type; Sinopel- unusual white with a green cup.

I came home laden down with catalogues, packets of summer bulbs, Taylors also sell these, dahlias, lilies, gladioli- and bunches of beautiful cut flowers. I’ve no need to travel to Holland. Lincolnshire – and Taylors Bulbs -is the place to see spring flowers in all their glory. And I’ve found the word I was searching for to describe the scent. It’s heavenly!

Links: Taylors Bulbs also home of Walkers Daffodils : http://www.taylors-bulbs.com/

Walkers Bulbs : https://bulbs.co.uk/