Saturday, 30 March 2013
My Easter gnome in the shape of himself has picked a winner at random with his eyes closed tight, so winging its way soon to Janet at 'Plantaliscious' will be a copy of Val Bourne's ''The Natural Gardener'. As it's Easter I would like to send two little consolation prizes, to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' and to Annie over at 'Annie's Little Plot' - not choccies I'm afraid but something suitably seasonal.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can do the doings. Many thanks to everybody else who entered. In the meantime wishing anybody who calls by a most happy and joyous Easter.
The above illustration is by Margaret Tarrant, 1888 -1959.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Spotted dotted throughout the grass in the Winter Garden at Dunham Massey earlier this month. I know that I am being lazy and should consult the books but I hope that somebody can enlighten me as to the identity of this attractive specimen.
Monday, 25 March 2013
On what must surely now be the warmest day this March we headed for the nearby National Trust property of Dunham Massey. I was stir crazy for some fresh air and a clear head, after being cooped in the house for nearly a fortnight looking after a poorly mum, so I leapt at the suggestion of a day out. It seemed that the world and his wife had the same idea, as the place was absolutely heaving but I think I've managed to edit them both out of my photos.
On arrival we noted that a major building project is taking place, what will be a state of the art visitor's centre. I felt some apprehension about a new construction, as I'm not sure how it will fit in with the character of the estate but only time will tell. Strolling on we passed the welcome board which illustrates some of the pleasures in store for visitors ~
On past the lake which is usually teeming with a variety of birds including mallards, moorhens, coots, Canada geese, swans and Aylesbury ducks which delight both little and not so little people. Last time we visited the lake was frozen so the birds were dancing on ice. Not so this time - in fact it looked as if spring had arrived and that love was very much in the air ~
Onwards to the side of this glorious old building ~
Then through the arch to the current reception point before heading for our final destination of the gardens and especially the Winter Garden. I blogged here about our very first visit back in March 2010, so it was interesting to reflect on what I had written then and to see how the garden has developed since. The plans were for the garden to eventually contain 700 different plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs chosen specifically for winter interest. The plant list that I obtained on our initial visit explains the logic behind plant choice ie "The plants have at least two of the following characteristics of interest ; form, colour, texture, scent, berry, bark and sound". The design of the garden and its planting schemes were planned with guidance from eminent plantsman Roy Lancaster working together with Dunham's own staff. Some 200,000 bulbs alone were planted - a task made possible with the involvement of local school children as well as National Trust volunteers, members and visitors.
The seven acre Winter Garden has been a work in progress since 2007, opening to the public late in 2009. Unfortunately the garden was hit by a bitterly cold winter in its infancy which resulted in some initial plant losses and subsequent replanting. Now some four winters on the garden seems to be slowly weaving together - there are some heart stopping shrubs and trees. This grove of silver birches is spectacular ~
On the negative side I was disappointed to see bare patches as below ~
I'm not sure whether this is because there are perennials waiting to come through, or whether there is not enough in the planting budget to fill in some of the gaps, or perhaps not enough staff or volunteers to carry out more planting. Another gripe was the plant sales area which as often with National Trust gardens can be disappointing in terms of variety and also expensive. I know that they can't afford to sell plants at giveaway prices but the pricing for snowdrops seemed rather over the odds to me ~
Before leaving we drifted out of the Winter Garden into the grounds where we noticed another new construction is underway ~
Roses seem a distant dream at the moment but we have made a note to return to Dunham Massey come summer if we can. A final photo of some of the staff who were involved in the groundwork and who have an idyllic des res on the estate ~
You can watch a short video clip featuring the garden recorded in early winter here. If you ever find yourself in the area do call in whatever the season.
NB - If you did not see my last post and would like the chance of winning a copy of Val Bourne's book 'The Natural Gardener' please leave a comment here by the end of Friday 29th March. Sorry but open to UK residents only.
PS - I am indulging in some gentle spring cleaning and slight changes here but unfortunately got carried away mislaying the usual text font. I'm launching a search party for it so hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly. Apologies if you need to use a magnifying glass or zoom out.
Friday, 22 March 2013
Part of the introduction on this book's dust jacket reads as follows: "The key to natural gardening is to build creatively on the natural environment. The natural gardener does nothing to harm the animals or plants in the world around us. but instead, gardens to attract an abundance of wildlife. Val Bourne's flower filled Cotswold garden is a natural garden. It is full of healthy plants that provide interest throughout the year, from the snowdrops and hellebores that start the flowering year in February, to the autumn border that lights up the garden in October. Following a year in her garden Val Bourne explains the strategies that she uses to attract the bumblebees, beetles and other creatures that interact with plants in a complex web of life to become her 'living jigsaw' of helpers. She shows how it is possible, to wherever you garden,to work within natural principles and overcome difficulties creatively to make a garden that is not only wildlife friendly but also beautiful."
The book is illustrated throughout with photos taken by Val and by the award winning photographer Clive Nichols. Taking the reader through the seasons it the book focuses on plant choices and their impact on the creatures that may live in or pass through your garden. You can read a thoughtful review of the book over at Veg Plotting. If you would like to have a chance of winning this book all you have to do is comment on this post by the end of next Friday (29th March). Unfortunately I will have to restrict entries to UK gardeners only because of the cost of postage.
In the meantime I have to confess to taking a perverse pleasure in the colder than normal temperatures, as it means that I have not missed the boat with any sowing activities. The sweet peppers that I sowed sometime in the middle of February seem to have gone into suspended animation but are sturdy seedlings. Some of the tomato seedlings that himself has been caring for are on the leggy side. No worries though I have time to sow more. He has more than adequately coped with the arrival in the post of one or two special snowdrops and some strawberry plants, which have been potted up and neatly labelled. I was most impressed. This weekend I will be sowing sweet peas and peas trusting that the weather must warm up soon.
Thanks to all of you who have sent your good wishes for my mother's recovery - your thoughts were much appreciated. I am glad to report that she is is much improved although still not a hundred per cent. Hopefully some warmer weather will see her further down the road to good health.
I will announce the winner of the book in a post over the Easter weekend. Have a good weekend.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Monday, 11 March 2013
"For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins ;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgottem,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins."
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837 - 1909.
Friday, 8 March 2013
"Indispensable" - Marina Christopher.
"I could not live without it"- Margery Fish.
"A pearl beyond price" - Graham Stuart Thomas.
"A treasure"- Beth Chatto.
"The most wonderful cranesbill weaver" - Christopher Lloyd
The above are all accolades given to my plant of the centenary which is geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Variety'.Whilst the dignitaries of the Royal Horticultural Society are engaged in earnest and prolonged debate, choosing a 'Plant Of The Centenary' to celebrate the forthcoming Chelsea Flower Show's big birthday bash, Michelle over at Veg Plotting has invited bloggers to join in the party spirit. She has challenged bloggers to come up with their own choice. So a little bit more about my candidate. It was raised by E.C Buxton in North Wales (so fairly local to me) in 1920. This was one of the plants that hovered on the edge of my consciousness, when choosing my top three for Shirl's 'Desert Island Plant Challenge' back in January 2009. Since then it has become one of my favourite plants. It is tough, hardy and not prone to disease or to attack from any beasties as far as I can ascertain. I've never had to divide it, restrain it, prune it or curse it. It is a gentle unassuming plant coming into leaf late on in the season and into flower from late summer to the first frosts. The flowers are a vivid sky - blue with a white centre. It can be shy to set seed but when it does you can save the seed, which then if sown in April will flower the same year.What more could you ask for of a plant? I was going to say a lot more but the fan of my beloved Apple Mac blew a gasket last night. It was quite dramatic with smoke effects! So my comfortable computer station is presently out of action hence a brief post to sing the praises of my plant of the centenary.
You can read about other fine candidates for the honour of 'My Plant Of The Centenary' over at Veg Plotting.
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Returning at almost midnight on a high from the RHS London Plant And Design Show a fortnight ago, I really came back to earth with a rapid bump the next morning. A phone call from my Mum's neighbour informed me that my Mum was quite poorly. To cut a long story short I've been away until last night looking after her. Mum has had bronchitis, possibly pneumonia. She is now almost 89, disabled, frail and has been through some tough times over the last few years. She seems to be improving albeit very slowly but apart from the medication is in need of some tlc. Unfortunately none of my siblings live near to her, so we are busy trying to juggle out a rota to ensure that she has somebody with her for the immediate future. Hence my sudden lack of blogging and severely reduced blog visiting. I'm back home for a few days now though so hope to do some catching up and also to make some inroads into my completely stalled gardening/allotment tasks. I have a feeling that I may sowing fewer seeds this year! In my absence my sweet peppers have grown into triffids and himself managed to lose a box of seed potatoes that had been delivered. I located them almost within ten minutes of walking through the door. Today has been a beautiful day so my dear thoughtful man took me out for a good walk to blow away the cobwebs. We visited the Winter Garden at Dunham Massey - more soon on that I hope and then went on to a garden centre for a reccie and lunch. That man knows how to make me happier!
PS I've lost ten pounds in weight since I've been away - every cloud has a silver lining and all that!