Sunday, 30 June 2019

Holiday in Devon

Not too far in terms of miles, but the Devon Roads off the main arteries are  a little more challenging than the Somerset ones!!  High banks, with few passing places, twisty roads, and unfamiliar journeys made us thankful for the Satnav on getting us from place to place!

On our way down, we chose for our lunch break to stop at Knightshayes.  In true Gothic Revival style the entrance is heavily panelled.



We often choose a National Trust Property to visit and this one not only had an interesting mansion, but some lovely borders, and the very biggest walled garden I have visited for some time.  Usually I pack up a lunch for a picnic, but this time decided to start the holiday mode early, and had our lunch at Knightshayes, sitting outside in the courtyard of their cafe.

The upstairs of the house was being used for a function, and since this was a quick visit, after viewing some of the rooms, and part of the garden, it is on our list for a second visit.  The grounds had some magnificent trees and great views towards Tiverton.

With interesting borders, and tranquil areas:

 Cherub of the Day at Knightshayes



We arrived at our holiday rental in Huntshaw,  just at the given time and was met by Jenny, who lives next door.  We were in a 'wing' to her home, where her mother lived.  The accommodation was absolutely 'topnotch'.  We had free rein to use the garden which had the most wonderful uninterrupted views.  The bird life ranging from nesting swallows, to a tame pheasant were literally on our doorstep.  We took a few walks along lanes in the evening.


And each evening looked out to see whether there would be a sunset......only a couple of evenings had any cloud cover!


Our first day long garden visit was to Rosemoor, which is an RHS garden.

Firstly we walked along the long seasonal borders by the entrance and my first photograph was this one of Pelargonium Pink Capricorn...love at first sight...but 'none for sale' in the shop! A Pelargonium, pink scented, with lovely leaves and a name that could be my 'middle' name!



It was their Rose Festival weekend: what a coincidence!  The garden was rather packed, and Mr S being the darling that he is, insisted that he was fine and even joined me on a talk and a tour of the rose garden, by their specialist.  I looked out for 'roses I have grown', like this 'Shropshire Lad', but I still think for late blooming Crown Princess Margareta, is a finer shrub rose..


We had our lunch etc outside but thankfully in the shade of their canopy, close by the small alpine house.  As we rested, I made several trips to view the small treasures, where one of my favourites was Silene pusilla.



My favourite part of the garden was Lady Anne's Historic Garden, particularly The Stone Garden where we rested in the shade.  After a minute I was up, exploring and looking at plants in depth!  Mr S rested in the heat after his lunch,  adjacent to their large troughs of Sarracenias: insect eating plants.  I was surprised that they appeared to be growing in gravel, rather than any trough of water.  Maybe there was an underlying tank which was replenished each day...there was no one around to ask!

Sarracenias at RHS Rosemoor, Lady Anne's Historic Garden




As we went around I noted some good forms such as this Thymus camphoratus used here as an edging in the Herb Garden.



A superb form: Iris Ensata 'Rowden Satrap'

I enjoyed seeing mature stands of plants which I am just starting on, and noting clever planting combinations.  My biggest disappointment was not finding plants like this ensata, or the thyme or the geranium for sale in the plant centre.  On the plus side it gives me time to work out if I do have the right conditions...well the Iris ensata wouldn't like it!

The following day Mr S and I visited two gardens.....

Mr S could remember our first visit to Marwell Hill Gardens around 25 years ago...he said it had been one of his favourite gardens, and after our morning there, it still is.  Getting there along the narrow lanes is another thing....but well worth it.  We had morning coffee and later lunch, sat on the settee in the little shop area, in front of a large picture window...eating, watching the scene and the little garden warbler checking all the flowering stems for insects.  The tree, lakes and relaxed planting a delight....and spotting little plants seeded along a little out of the place they were first planted gave a more realistic feel compared to the very manicured RHS Rosemoor.



Poppies growing in the quarry close by the Upper Lake


 Part of the Astilbe collection starting to flower



 Cornus Kousa Marwood Dawn

Listening to the bird song

Azara Microphylla Variegata

Then on to our next garden....on the same day.

Earlier this year I acquired a  Phlomis fruticosa Bourgaei, and had guidance and help from Beth Smith.  Before I heard that they were difficult to propagate I went ahead in my own sweet way, and started five cuttings straight away, with no heat or special propagators.  I used a cutting compost with added grit, and placed the cuttings on a mirror on the shelf against the shed window.  On sunny days right from the start, I would give them a few hours in a sheltered place, before putting back in the shed...we did have a warm February, and I think this helped.

As soon as the roots showed through the bottom, they were potted up in John Innes No 3 with added grit and vermiculite, and I had three plants growing on nicely.  

We visited Beth and her son Tim and had a wonderful tour of their garden: Foamlea,  which fills the space between the road and the coast.  These two are the most knowledgeable of plants people I have personally met, and charming and hospitable as well.  As we sat chatting I could not imagine a more idyllic spot...but in the winter with gales and sea spray, perhaps this is when Tim remains inside, if he is not out on his 'day job'.

 Beth Smith in her garden on the Devon Coast



 Garden view at the meeting of the paths


Downhill towards the sea

 Phlomis samia 'Green Glory'

Geranium Silver Cloak

When I asked Beth and Tim about Capricorn...it was generously added to the Phlomis Green Glory, as well as the Geranium Silver cloak, of which Tim quickly potted up  a couple of seedlings for me. 

What did we do with the rest of our week?  Visits to Oakhampton, where we visited the little Museum, had the most delicious of sandwiches in the cafe in their courtyard, walked back up to the Station through Simmons Park.  Sadly the trains only run at weekends...

Visits to Bideford, where we had a very good Sunday Lunch at the Royal Hotel, visited again during the week, with a visit to the Museum and the Pannier Market.

Visit to the Appledore which is a great place to walk around, and where I had excellent cod and chips  at The Royal Plaice, plus enjoyed looking over the railings at gardens, and finding quirky names for cottages...serendipity really





As for the ride down the Tarka Trail on a tandem....it felt far too precarious on the back, so instead of a bicycle made for two, we had to make do with riding side by side some of the time.  We saw so much, and just being off the road for half a day was excellent.  



We hired our bikes at Great Torrington and cycled to Instow and back.  Had we done this early in the week, we would then have hired bikes at Bideford and explored further, on another day.  

One day our walk took us from the car park in Great Torrington, down to the River, almost to Rosemoor passing the stone obelisk commemorating the Battle of Waterloo.  We walked along the old canal that is now filled in, alongside the river.  In the heat, walking through the woods was a lovely cool thing to do...



What a week that was....and now back to decorating!!!!!

Many thanks again to Jenny for the wonderful week's hire....won't forget the great wet room, the lovely views, birds, garden, etc......







Saturday, 29 June 2019

Six on Saturday - 29 June 2019

I'm going The Propagator again this week....It is very hot here, too hot to go outside, it is 31 C in the shade at 4 p.m.!  When the sun is setting,  I may go and sit out with my feet in a tub of cold water, but then I may retire inside away from the sound of the G Festival.  We are several miles away, I wonder what festival goer's hearing will be like after this weekend? 

Even if you are away for just one week...I bet one of the first things you do is to have a little look at what has happened in the garden.  The short carpeting thyme is out, and producing lots of nectar for the bees.  It is fitting therefore that I offer this picture as my first item for SOS this week.



Round by the circle





Anaphalis margaritacea

For each of us plant lovers there are things that attract us to particular plants or groups of plants.  I love plants with interesting foliage, and shape.  I had grown this in previous gardens, and this year I felt it was time I planted it again.  

Bought this year from Totworth Plants at the Spring Bishop's Palace Rare Plant Fair: Anaphalis margaritacea  caught my eye on our return.  Of course it is yet to flower, however, its lance shaped leaves with silver stems  contrasts well with the various shapes around.  

Back in May, I shared this tub on SOS which held the Clematis Viennetta. And on our return this is what greeted me.....


Clematis Viennetta

The stems are soft and pliable so as the lengthen I bend them back down and round.  At the base to give shade I have some ferns and a white bedding fibrous begonia that is in its third season, which just keeps on going.  



Blocking my path, a few fallen annuals.  I usually love Love in the Mist, but these thugs were poorly placed, and far too tall for their position by the edge of the path.  They were a long time in bud, and only opened in the last week.  They were autumn sown so I think much stronger that the plant from which I had saved seed last year. I think they are Nigella Hispanica African Bride origin.




On the other side of the Circle towards Acer Corner, I am far happier with the shorter plants by the edge. Achillea × lewisii 'King Edward' again planted this year is one that I have grown many times before.  In my opinion this is a really good plant for the front of the border, isn't it looking just right against the tiny Sedum hispanicum glacum and sedum spathulifolium purpureum?



For my sixth SOS I am posting a picture of a little plant I saw growing at Marwood Hill Gardens, in the hope that someone may know its name.  I asked in the nursery, but they were unable to help.  Its leaves are wide and soft and almost like a grass.  There were some paler creamy flowered types further along, as   well.  Mr S was a little gardened out by the end of the holiday....however this garden was more to our taste compared to RHS Rosemoor....



Here is the 'creamy' coloured one...I think maybe more white with a hint of pink.  I've put this up after Jim suggested it was Freesia Laxa,



Monday, 17 June 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Full of Grace

Today is an Auspicious Date in our family calendar......

So I have held back this year, until now, to post a vase of roses the colour of which is beguiling.  

It is Rose Grace, which I had in my previous garden and have written about many times, 
and then missed so much I ordered a couple for my conservatory border, less than a year ago.  They are in full bloom, and are looking wonderful with their bright green foliage.  The blooms have stood the downpours without damage, which is a great attribute.

To balance out the roses, which are around 10cm across I have added some Persicaria Red Dragon, the big leaf being 17cm long, the original plant coming from Cathy, and a few stems of Phalaris arundinacea with its barcoded leaves, a recent gift from a gardening friend.  I love this plant despite a reputation of being rampant.  It adds a slender vertical element in the garden, and I recall growing it in several previous gardens, except the last one.

The vase is a lovely cloisonne vase collected by my mother's on her travels around China nearly forty years ago....


I shall go over to Cathy's blog, link into hers, and see what other friends have posted today...Cathy has posted roses too, with a great story under the theme of forgiving....

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Six on Saturday- 15 June 2019

At last some rain...almost too much.  In between squalls but not on the days when we had non stop rain, the gravel paths have been a asset, meaning I can get out into the garden.  The watebutt is completely full, and dust washed off plants.

As I write this post and am yet to see what others have entered, I wonder if there have been light bulb moments, or other mid season challenges from The Propagator who hosts this meme, and other gardeners....we shall see.  Interesting viewpoints and musings will be there to pour over during the coming week for sure.

Choices have had to be made regarding which plants please and perform, and if not, I have tried to weigh up their merit and gone ahead in some instances and removed them entirely.  It is not that they are unhealthy, or not good plants, its is rather a question of their relationship with other plants in garden or their position.  The garden is too small for the number of plants I have, a few have been binned this week!


1.   The first plant to be removed was the double chamomile.  It had grown too lush and tall, over 30cm high, and was yet to flower.  I was envisaging a low growing green swath with some nice double flowers, but that was not to be.  So out they came.  I do have a lovely lower growing single flowered camomile which came to the garden last year, gathered as little plant whilst visiting a friend.  Just the sort of sharing that I love....a simple small division the sort that is gathered with a trowel from the edge of a larger patch which one had admired. No plant pot or potting compost, or time spend looking after it, just a little bit of damp newspaper is all that it needed, then it is straight home to be cosseted, until it is nicely established.  As soon as I was home, the piece smaller than my palm, was teased apart, and every little joint grown in a well draining medium under shelter, to provide a dozen or so plants to plant out early this spring.

2.   The second plant to go, was to be the golden feverfew: Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'.  Just coming up to flower, its stems were encrusted with black fly.  There were far too many blackfly to spend time squashing the bugs away even with a gloved hand, and really they had just been fillers during the winter.

As I pulled out the first plant, I remembered that in spring I did admire the lovely yellow green growth on the golden feverfew.


I stopped just in time, also remembering how I was enthralled and beguiled by its looks on a stand at the Malvern Show, only a few weeks ago.  I clipped the other plant, removing the blackfly infested top growth.  Isn't it ironic that a plant that was almost a 'weed', well staged, with a fancy name plate can say: "Look at me am I not just the sort of green that can draw the eye on a gloomy grey day?"

It seems that at least half of my SOS this week are woes....

3.   My third SOS and woe is the sad condition of my a couple of my hydrangeas.  Being almost hooked on propagation, it was with glee I brought back some clipping in the middle of winter 2017, from the Bishop's Palace Gardens, with permission of course, salvaged from what would have ended up on the compost heap!  I had about seven plants root well, even when the gardener there thought they were not likely at all to take at that time of the year....several plants went to Alison...whose garden the camomile came from.  I have three shrubs in the garden. One plant which is not in the shade border, is very handsome indeed, but in the shade border I have two plants, both looking quite stressed.


Medicine for now is Seaweed plus sequestered iron, and close observation to judge whether some alternative action would be more appropriate. Again suggestions as to what has caused this and any remedies would be much appreciated.

4.  Looking very handsome in the shady border is Chiastophyllum oppositifolium, sometimes called Umbilicus oppositifolius.  I first admired this in my friend's garden in Kenilworth.  She brought me a little piece as a parting gift, and having been moved a year ago from the sunny side of the garden, it is finally thriving in its semi shaded position.  It is a lovely well behaved plant, with its light reflecting shiny evergreen, fleshy leaves, it is well behaved little gem.  The flowers a pale sulphur colour work very well in a vase too over a long period.  It is quite hardy here in the UK.


5. Sometimes finding a solution to something just comes around when one is least pondering them:

A light bulb moment!  Whilst tidying the shed during a heavy squall, I came across my roll of copper tape which usually goes round just below the rim of plant pots supposedly to deter slugs.

The thing that had been iruking me was the sight of my damaged pot.  I decided not to throw it away, but to use it to house my three little tumbler tomato and outdoor cucumber plants for the summer, thenditch it.  Unfortunately in my haste, I position the cracked rim towards the kitchen window.  Each time I looked out from the kitchen, the damaged white edge glared out at me.

The copper tape which has a sticky side, is now a 'decorative' rim, hiding the damaged edge....


6.  Not just bumblebee watch....but a game similar to the one years ago of how many people can you get into a mini....when minis were still very small cars.  I think this was a game invented in my youth, so that chaps could stand around and watch girls squeeze into their small cars....maybe its because girls have got bigger that minis have got larger...but I don't think that at their current pricetag, many youths would be able to afford them...other small cars do exist!

Anyway around six bumblebees on the white Centaurea Montana Alba is a much finer sight!  One clump was cut to the ground ready for new growth in a couple of weeks, but I had to leave this clump.  Different species of bees seem to congregate on different plants.



Perhaps if you comment, you would mention if you have been light bulb moments in your garden.  Comments are enjoyed, appreciated, and where appropriate a great help.  So many thanks for them all.

Monday, 10 June 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Choices

Potentially there are so many choices to be made.  The real nub is deciding....

In the end a simple vase of Rosa Open Arms.  The shrub needed a little prune to allow good strong shoots to grow up unhindered by the first shoots following the successful planting from the cutting stage.  This is Mr S's favourtie rose, which I managed to take cuttings of before moving.  





Rain and more rain is forecast for this week, therefore most of today has been spent catching up with garden cutting back.  As it is with me and newly planted areas, some plants were planted too close together, too many volunteers left to outgrow their space, and growing much taller than anticipated was a very vigorous plant of honesty: Lunaria Annua Chedglow.  

Lunaria and Briza Maxima join the graceful flowers of Chiastophyllum oppositifolium. The newly planted shrub Phlomis fruticosa Bourgaei had all its flowering stems removed and I felt the handsome structure of the seed heads deserved to feature as well so a second vase was quickly put together this afternoon.





As the wind and rain is likely to topple the large Lunaria over for the second or third time despite obviously inadequate staking, the whole plant has been prepared..hope I've done it right....


Over now to link in with Cathy who hosts this meme, and see what beauties are being showcased this week. Cathy's is the Very Pink of  Perfection.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Gooseberry Invicta

There is something about gooseberries that I love.  I have several large bushes that I was growing in tubs in Kenilworth, but fearing that the furniture or removal men would be damaged, decided to leave them with friends.

I was missing them, and up at Rocky Mountain at the end of March, when I was walking through the nursery, I came across some well branched gooseberry plants.  I wasn't even looking for a plant at the time, I seem to remember a very low price, something like £3.50 each, so decided to get one.  It is an early season variety, and so far it looks really healthy, no mildew or gooseberry sawfly thankfully!



It went into the far corner of the garden...now known as Gooseberry Corner.  The first harvest is always a bit of an event, and 350g is pretty good.  By harvesting fairly early, I hope this allows the plant to put its energy into growing great roots and flowering spurs ready for a serious crop next year.

Making apple and gooseberry crumble for supper tonight....

Six on Saturday - 8 June 2019

Some reasonable rain showers this week meant that herbaceous plants were not floundering, and it felt very pleasant being able to walk out on the gravel paths to work on the borders, crush greenfly and rose sawflies as they land on stems ready to saw into stems and lay their eggs....


The first of my SOS is a view from the embryonic gravel garden area towards our central seating area.  Star plant for the month for me has been the red Dianthus chinensis.  Not only does its red add a point of attraction for me, looking out from the kitchen window or conservatory, each of its very numerous flowers is supporting bees and other insects.  I would have liked to get a picture of a visiting Hummingbird Hawkmoth yesterday, but by the time I found my camera...it had moved on. 



For my second SOS a view towards Acer Corner, along the curving path,  showing the growth achieved in area planted up less than a year ago.  There have been mistakes...such as too many Lychnis coronaria.  To give them their due, grown from seed they are wonderful specimens, but are crowding out choice plants.  This coming week, they will be thinned!



I love Phlomis and for my third SOS show Phlomis purpurea Matagallo. Its the plant with the pink flower spike.  I grew this starting March 2018, with seed from Chiltern Seeds.  I am amazed to have grown a small Phlomis shrub from seed that is flowering like this in just one year.  Something is nibbling its leaves!



This is on my driest sunniest most open bed.

The fourth item is a large clump of soft grey Stachys byzantina aka Lamb's ears.  I love it for its silver accent lighting up the border in winter,  and being evergreen here gives a good ground cover all the year round.  However at the moment it is rather floppy as the flowers grow up, and weighed down after heavy rain.  As it one beloved by bees I am waiting a little while before cutting it back, reducing it, etc!



The fifth item this week is a peep at Saxifraga stolonifera, which is going through its flowering stage.


It is growing on the edge of my shady border which does catch the early morning summer sun, and where the breeze makes the petals shimmer like so many small butterflies. It is close to the conservatory and I have a lovely view of this as I have my breakfast in the early morning.

Saxifraga stolonifera before flowering

 I grow Saxifraga stolonifera primarily for its year round attractive rosettes, but the flowers give an added bonus.  After flowering, the rosettes die off, but new plants from the strawberry like runners soon take over.




Number six is the clump of Sweet cicelyMyrrhis odoratathis week in the green seed stage.  




I am rather apt to cut back plants to encourage new growth, and tend to miss out on the seeds.  The fern like leaves grow on a drier part of the garden, partly under the shade of the evergreen oak tree. It flowers very early in the year offering nectar to early fliers.  Just above it on the wall, I've positioned some pieces of wood with holes and several of these are now sealed off by  This coming week, when the plant is cut back,  I shall cut the green seeds, freeze some for later use, and use some in walnut sourdough bread.  They have a wonderful sweet aniseedy flavour.  The sweet cicely came to me as a small plant several years ago from my friend Kay in Kenilworth, and a piece was brought with me, so I am pleased to say that after a couple of years sulking after the move, it is in fine fettle! 

Sweet Cicely is not native to Britain but is in fact a relatively recent introduction (neophyte) and was first recorded from the wild in 1777. Although recent it has become well naturalized and is often common around woodland edges and clearing, grassy banks and road verges particularly in the northern half of England and southern Scotland.
I shall be sure to use the leaves too next year,  when my new rhubarb will have grown strong enough to pick.

I'll be sure to see what other gardeners have contributed...if not now, later in the week.