Sunday, 25 July 2021

Silver Street Farm

 In the afternoon of our HPS tour of two gardens, we drove to Silver Street Farm, Uffculme in Devon. From the road the fine yellow lime washed house at first glance, could be any farmhouse, but step closer and you will soon become aware that this can only be a garden, belonging to a family, where design, plant choice, and maintenance is excellent


The inner garden beyond the front door, which has two fine Rosa Mutabilis each side, is bordered by  listed railings.  These encloses an area of very interesting planting. 

Eryngium agavifolium

Beyond the railings and spilling  into the drive, a dry grit garden has been achieved with  a range of plants such as this Crambe maritima: sea kale and further along a fine Ballota Pseudodicta.


The listed railings have been cleverly used as a feature through which Rosa Albertine has been woven,  with other roses and clematis. Large planted pots offer interesting planting up at eye level, and shaped shrubs would offer great winter structure.


Large pots of many types are used both in the front and the back gardens.

Here the broad-leaved glaucous Euphorbia myrsinites revels in the sun and good drainage.



The red rose climbing up the corner drew my eye, with its small deep red flowers, it was perfectly chosen to offer a colour contrast with the painted render. Red Rosa Chevy Chase and Climbing Lady Hillingdon, invite you to the far corner and beyond into the back garden.


Large areas of lawn close to the house offer open areas and views to the beds beyond.


The back of the house and barns offer excellent verticals against which to plant roses.


Bordered on one side by a shallow but fast running stream, the are various directions you could choose to walk it, we walked across the grass and took the path through the long border.  I've seen this way of giving in effect three long edges along which plants can be viewed rather than the one if just one very wide border was in place.


There was still much to come in full bloom, however meanwhile, tall pale yellow flowered Cephalaria gigantea and the scalet heads of Lychnis chalcedonica were repeated along the beds, with blue and purple colours from hardy geraniums and salvias.


Over to one side  a tranquil seat backed by a bed of grasses had a mound of chamomile so enticing, had it been my garden, I would want to lie out on it.


The veggie growing area is tucked behind the hedge beyond the long border and in a corner high up is the  tree house, from which I am sure the children will have a full view of the house and gardens.


I have not covered every border or crook or cranny, and there is much more to explore, and this is a garden for all seasons. In the large yard, close to the house, even the children's pony has a fine rose growing above its stable.


This is Alasdair Camron's family home where he has showcased how  paddocks and farm land can be laid out and planted to offer a wonderful environment.  Alasdair built up and heads a successful London Based Internationally acclaimed team that designs, builds and maintains high-end commercial garden spaces, as well as domestic and public settings.

Silver Street Farm is Open twice a year under the NGS



Saturday, 24 July 2021

Its been too hot - Six on Saturday - 24 July 2021

 Its been too hot to garden, well to garden all I would want to.  However as it was also too hot to mount any expeditions, it meant that I had more early morning time to potter, to water and to prune.  Shrubs in the front garden have been pruned, so much so that I had to go to the tip rather than wait for the green bin collection.

1. We have been taking all our meals in the garden this week. Its in the garden: so just sitting out in the garden counts, doesn't it?

Pasta with home made pesto, yellow and green courgettes, garden peas, goats cheese and bacon pieces.


2.  Yellow courgettes.  I grew two plants of Courgette Atena Polka F1 from seed.  Compared to the two green plants they are seriously underperforming. Although there are male flowers, the females are not swelling properly.  However if you catch them day two after flowering about the size of a large thumb, they are fine. What is going wrong with these?

3. Green Courgettes Patio Star is growing in the ground and as far as now are without fault.  

4. Grow your own Basil from the grow your own tomato and basil soup in a match box Christmas present is doing well, and was the basis for the green pesto.  



A few young nasturtium leaves, mint and basil leaves were whizzed up with cashew nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, etc..or and home grown garlic.

5. Home Grown Garlic is now nicely dried off.  It had to be brought into the utility when the temperatures rose far too high in the garden shed.  For now they are hanging in a nice airy place.



6. I have a few peas from the short row, nice and tasty, but the plants are suffering in the heat.  When podded the large handful went into the braising courgettes to make up our Friday evening Pasta Supper.

6b. Just in case Number one is out of order:

Cucumber Burpless

When he who is indoors has finished washing up and tidying, and I did go in and help as it was still so hot,  I might just have a rest with some cucumber slices over my eyes.  

After I had exposed my two Cucumber Poinsett plants to the cold and rain, and caused them to pop off its clogs and die, I quickly started up a couple of Cucumber Burpless seeds I had left over from a previous year. Even though it was just this tiny cucumber on Monday, yesterday I harvested it full size, as I thought it may damage the plant in the heavy winds we had forecast for last night. This morning I noticed that the next one is  swelling nicely, so from now on it will be a lovely cooling cucumber every few days.  The two plants are only growing in two old David Austen Roses green rectangular pots. 

I bet there will be some veggies being posted this week, but it will also be great to see what is looking good in not just The Prop's garden but in those of other blogging friends.  I'm joining them.


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Why We Sleep

I borrowed this from the library after my friend and recently retired GP recommended this one to me.  I am already sleeping far far better than I have done for a number of years, maybe I am just getting better and therefore sleeping well, or am I sleeping well and as a consequence feeling better?


 Having worked many years ago, with and been responsible for people who worked shifts and were obviously, to me, seriously sleep deprived, I would suggest this is a book that ought to be read by Personnel and Safety Managers everywhere. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Eating from the fridge

Yes it continues to be hot, very hot, and tonight I had cauliflower and broccoli cheese on the menu for supper, but the thought of making sauces, and grilling just wasn't on.

When we were ready for our weekly milk delivery on Tuesday from the wonderful Sarah at Wookey Goat's farm, we still were far from using up our week's ration.  Very little tea and coffee has been drunk...it has been TOO HOT! No baking, or custards, or sauces...what to do with two litres of milk?

I remembered how delicious the Goat's Cheese Ricotta and hence two litres became a cone shaped cheese, as I used some muslin in in stainless steel conical chinois. Usually the whey ends up in bread, but baking is definitely on hold for now.

The 'main course' was a plate lined with the last of current crop of home grown lettuce, topped with the very ends of the mangetout pea shoots with pretty pink purple flowers, an assortment of 'taspas' type bits from the fridge, some cold black puy lentils drizzled with olive oil, walnuts, pumpkin nuts etc, and some of the cheese.

As we nearly finished this I was still wondering what we would have for dessert.  We usually have plain yogurt topped with something..but I suddenly had an idea. I had read about , or seen pictures of cheese drizzled with honey. This cheese does not keep for a long time, and I had forgotten to put in any salt.

The flavours are fab, and now I have something I can make up so very easily when I have made some of the cheese:

Home Made Goat's Milk Ricotta with honey hazel nuts and Fruit

I used the dark honey bought at Porlock Weir. It is a Pure Exmoor Honey by S Little at Allerford.  I can't be sure that it is pure Sweet Chestnut Honey, but it is dark, and the hills rising from the coast are covered in pristine Sweet Chestnut woods. It smells of chestnut blossom.

Topped with toasted hazel nuts, and a 'side' of deliciously bottled nectarines, made only a few days ago, this was a very special dessert.  I shall try it with pistachios tomorrow, but I think a lighter flavoured honey will do better, with some cherries.

I bought a large project box of nectarines from Wells Fruit and Veg. We've had plenty fresh too. 

Version two, the flavours of the pistachios were lost, probably flaked toasted almonds would be better.


As it was Thursday treat day two pistachio baklava to go alongside...out of the freezer.


Monday, 19 July 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Too hot to remember....

 My brain has gone fuzzy, it must be the heat!  At least I hope so, it could be that I have so many plants in my head and I know where they all are in the garden, but I have to look up my list to come up with the names.

Mr S keeps telling me to come into the house, he is worried about my blood pressure, says he needs me for as long as possible.  So to put his mind at rest, I took my BP and for the first time it is reading normal: Proof that gardening is good for me!!!!

I even forgot to use the poppies I had cup down and kept for arranging.


Todays Vase is full of material from the front garden where many of heat tolerant plants are happy to bask in the sun, without any watering.



Wild Marjoram, it is quite prolific alone lanes in the Mendips, and this one just  came up in the front lawn, before that was removed, the majoram was saved!


Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca, those are the creamy white flowers, but their seed heads are exquisite as well.

Achillea Millefolium Lilac Beauty



Seed heads of Phlomis fruticosa Bourgaei

Lavender flowers variety unknown

Ballota Pseudodicta

The bundle of pale twigs are sea scoured and sun bleached roots and stems picked on the beach, and three stones from the same coastline.

I wonder how many others have posted on Cathy's blog?  I'm joining her there.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Visit to Holcombe Court, Holcombe Rogus

 As members of the Somerset Hardy Plant Society, we were given the opportunity of visiting the private gardens at Holcombe Court.  The group had visited the gardens a few years into the latest transformation, and were looking forward to seeing it again today.  It was Mr S's and my first visit.  

When Mr Nigel Wiggins acquired the property with 100acreas, some twenty years ago, he set out to restore the house and also develop the gardens to the highest standard.  


We were met at the arched entrance by one of the permanent members of the garden staff.  As we waited there for a few moments, it gave us time to admire the two Copper Beech Trees each side of the garden at the entrance, and to take in the fine house with Its Union Flag waving proudly above the castellated entrance tower at the end of the wide drive set in beautifully mowed lawns.

Our walk took us through trimmed yews and up along the drive to the front terrace where Head Gardener Kathy Worner was at hand to greet us. The large lawns were green and sloped off to the left down to a series of ponds, the lowest two I understand are fish ponds original to the Old Court, whilst the upper two were added in the nineteenth century.


Kathy explained the garden maintenance regime  explaining that the staff have their specialisms.  Given the large walled garden with its many espaliered trees, and the large cider apple orchard beyond, it is not surprising that one person is responsible for the care of that area, and with the many yew and other topiary hedges in the formal parterres, another member of staff spends the bulk of time looking after that aspect. Additional staff work during the summer, or when more help is required.

Kathy very much enjoys the challenge of expanding the planting and arranging year round interest, with the only proviso, from Mr Wiggins, that there should be no pink.  The odd pink poppy that should emerge amongst the deep purples, simply have their petals removed quickly. Kathy frequently confers with Mr Wiggins, asking him what has particularly appealed to him along a certain border, and so over the last twenty years together they have built up the most pleasing of Gentleman's Pleasure Gardens. Paths are generously sized as are the borders and are perfectly in balance with the proportions of house.

Although plants are brought in to add to the borders to refresh and update plantings,  many plants have been in the garden for years and are kept rejuvenated by being pruned, or divided and  increased,.  Repeats can be spotted along the long borders sometimes in combination with different plant types, giving a most harmonious feel to the long borders.  Particular favourites are reds and purples, and Kathy has placed these judiciously with other plants.



As we moved from the front terrace with its views down to the sloping lawns and lakes, we first had to pass through a set of  forget iron gates.


These were set within an low arched stone partition, through which tumbled the bluest of flowers from Hardy Geranium Johnson's Blue.



These opened on a stretch of garden where pillars of topiary grew up like green buttresses holding up  the house and where beds of purple lavender filled the air with scent, and the sound of buzzing bees



I was amazed as the long border came into view.  


All along the right hand side of the wide path, and backed by a stone wall, the border stretched in the distance, except that in the middle was the most amazing of garden structures.  


Described as a fan-vaulted gazebo in Country Life's article, which I read after my visit, the family and staff refer to it as 'The Bus Shelter', as there was a small structure which it replaced, very similar to the sloping roofed village type Bus shelters.  Indeed Mr Wiggin's shelter had Mr S with all his experience of renovating old buildings enthralled by the quality of workmanship, and attention to detail. 



On the top of the gazebo is a large viewing platform giving a great vantage from which to view the gardens. Within the wall gardens there is a good view of the formal parterre arrangement with block planting of vegetables in the middle portion surrounding the raised pond and fountain.


There is also a good view of the long border towards the woodland


or along the same border on the opposite side towards the House


or a cheeky look through the pierced quatrefoil stonework towards the lakes.


The structure of parterre within the old walled garden has been developed since 2001.  Further away from the house Apple arches have formed tunnels, which must be a delight to walk through during blossom time or later when the apples are ripening. The four tunnels radiate out from a finely trimmed centerpiece. 



Such is the attention to details, that even the fruit poles and wigwams were made specially for the garden. Such was the quality of the workmanship, I just had to ask about these:  It was local Artist Blacksmith Simon Ridley.






Close to the house the herbs form the basis of planting with the lavenders offering a sweet scent as you sit at the table on the bricked outdoor dinning area.   Column pear trees marked the centre of the lager sections, adding an elegant accent. All the brick paths were in excellent condition and very well maintained.


The Conservatory named 'The Glasshouse' with its beautiful timber roof and hand made dining furniture reminiscent of designs from the Arts-and Crafts period, has elegant planting of tree ferns and orchids.  Polished blue grey fossil encrushed Lias formed the windowsills, with the unpolished stone forming the steps up from the outdoor terrace up to the herb garden.




After all the details in the walled garden with its great variety, a change of gear as you walk the long grass walk bordered by the  'lollipopped' hornbeams so green and calming:  a lace walk to think and contemplate. 



To walk to towards the 'ornamented' woodland, 

with the top section of the garden lined by hornbeam with rectangular letter box openings offering views to the upper reaches of the valley, and the recently planted orchard of cider apple cultivars. 







or reach the tennis court.



The planting around the ponds deserves attention.






One leaves having the viewed the most handsome of gardens: designed, developed and maintained to a standard any Tudor Lord would be proud of.