Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Tale Of Two Gardens - Part 1


Earlier this month we spent a most pleasant weekend garden visiting and cake hunting. I have been meaning to post more about the garden visits so will do so before June slips away. Both gardens are in Shropshire and are within a couple of miles of each other. Depending on your energy levels they could be visited in one day or you may prefer to spread the visits out and linger longer at both.

Our first port of call was Hodnet Hall Gardens in the village of Hodnet, some twelve miles away from the town of Market Drayton. We had visited once before but memories of it were a blur. Images of a lot of space, lakes and a rather unique tea room were at the back of my mind but I could not recall any specific planting details. The main reason for this recent visit in fact was to attend a Plant Hunters' Fair which was being held in the grounds that weekend. These specialist plant fairs are held mainly in Cheshire, North Wales, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire and take place in some fine garden venues. They are well worth looking out for.

So our first port of call was the plant fair which offered plenty to peruse and plenty to tempt. Himself headed back to the vehicle with my purchases before we set off to meander through some of the sixty three acres of gardens. There have been gardens at Hodnet since the eleventh century but most of the current gardens were developed during the twentieth century. In the 1920s the owner Brigader Heber-Percy made a decision to flood the valley which lies below the house. During the next forty years the pool margins and slopes were planted with various shrubs including spring flowering magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. He was helped in this project by the renowned plantsman EA Bowles. The present owner has added to the structure with herbaceous plantingI think that we were most fortunate with the timing of our visit which coincided with the gardens being at their peak in terms of seasonal colour and interest. The late spring played its part too as some of the flowers we encountered would normally not still be out at the beginning of June. Everywhere we looked there was an absolute riot of colour whilst our noses were assailed by powerful scents. A magical moment occurred when gazing up at the handkerchief tree, which you can see in the bottom left hand photo, when the sound of church bells started to drift through the air.  A celebratory peal we supposed for a bride and groom on a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon.

We would like to return there later in the year as I'm sure that the gardens would be splendid in the autumn. However sadly there does not seem to be an opportunity to do this, as there appear to be no open days between the middle of September and late November. Maybe this might change in the future. The gardens are not open each week but have specific open days throughout the year, which you can check on the Hodnet Hall Gardens website. They are also open by appointment to groups of over 25 people.

Final image of the day is of this monster that himself spotted lurking in the foliage of yellow tree peony ~


Neither of us had seen such a creature before so out came the wildlife books as soon as we got home. We are fairly sure that it is a cockchaffer beetle, otherwise known as a May bug, which too was another late arrival  on the scene this year. On to the second garden later this week.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - June 2013


Just one bloom from me today - one that is new to my garden this June - astrantia 'Gill Richardson'. Gill fell into my hands last year but languished in the cold frame for some months until I had the right spot for her. She is now resident in the new gabion border. Apart from a rather alarming wilt during the warm start we had to the month she seems to be settling in well.  A couple of other red astrantias grow in the garden, namely 'Ruby Wedding' and 'Hadspen Blood'. They have always seemed less sturdy than their more pastel relatives but no so 'Gill Richardson'. In terms of sheer vigour and flower power it looks on first acquaintance that 'Gill' is going to be a star. I don't know much about Gill other than that she is a fairly recent introduction and was named after a Lincolnshire plantswoman so I'm interested in finding out more about her. I have a feeling that in a more 'normal' year weatherwise that she would have come into her stride sooner but will have to wait and see.

Have you got any new to you flowers blooming for the first time in your garden this June? Do go and visit 'May Dreams Gardens' to discover other entrancing June flowers.


Monday, 3 June 2013

The Icing On The Cake


Himself's decision that we must take our ageing camper van on a road test this weekend, prior to a longer holiday later in this year caused me considerable angst. It was a huge dilemma deciding what to do with all the plants in the greenhouse that are still in the process of hardening off let alone the ones that have not even started that process. So a warm Friday morning saw me risking spontaneous combustion as I emptied half the the greenhouse contents outside, whilst the other half got transported to the other more shadier side of the greenhouse. I was hot and bothered and more than a bit apprehensive as to how plants/seedlings would cope with wind, too high temperatures or too low temperatures and lack of liquid refreshment for a couple of days.

However some hours later in a site conveniently situated close to a pub and the Shropshire Union Canal I began to mellow. There was sunshine, good food, good ale (himself can vouch for 'Slumbering Monk' whilst the sights on the canal were a most pleasant diversion ~



There was also the prospect of two garden visits including a plant fair over the weekend. This of course soon bought a smile to my face. I also realised that such activities might provide an ideal opportunity to take part in 'The Bloggers' Cut', which is a most imaginative idea from Michelle over at Veg Plotting. It gives us bloggers the chance to participate under the umbrella of 'The Chelsea Fringe' by posting about gardening and cake. Now domestic godess I'm not! When it comes to cakes eating rather than baking them is my speciality so alas you will not find recipes for any mouth watering delicacies here. However I'm more than happy to combine plant hunting/garden visiting with the civilised pastime of cake eating so decided than sometime during the weekend that we must partake of cake.

Our first point of call was Hodnet Hall Gardens,where apart from the mishap of camper van sinking into the only wet patch on the field aside for parking, a most pleasant time was had. Once we had been towed out of the mud, we headed for the plant sale before going on to the gardens where our eyes and noises were assaulted by an absolute riot of colour and scent ~




We have visited Hodnet before but not when all the azaleas and rhododendrons are at their peak and oh what a treat it was. I will post more about this visit soon as well as on our second garden visit of the weekend.

After recovering from our earlier trauma and a good stretch of the legs we were more than ready for something to eat. However we both felt in need of something more substantial than cake, although there was a good selection of baked goodness on offer as you can see from the photo below ~


We both remember our previous visit to the tea rooms at Hodnet quite vividly and both of us felt a bit uncomfortable in such surroundings . It seems that there are so many pairs of eyes looking at you as you eat, as the room is absolutely covered with big game 'trophies' including a lion and tiger. Having said that our lunch was quite delicious although sadly there was no room for cake.

On then to Wollerton Old Hall yesterday afternoon. It's but a short distance away from Hodnet but could not be more different ~





Now we have had a cake at Wollerton in the past and throughly enjoyed the experience but it does not feature on the menu until later in the afternoon. As himself did not want to hang about until then it looked as if there could be a possibility that not a single crumb of crumb would pass our lips as we headed back to the van. I would have failed in my mission.

However about fifteen minutes away from home we stumbled across pure cake gold in the form of Davenports Farm Shop Tearooms. You know how it is with places on your doorstep - you often pass them by on your way to somewhere else time and time again. It must be a good few years since we have stopped off there and we were absolutely amazed by the choice of teas/coffees and cakes on the menu as well as the quality/quantity when our cakes arrived. All served in most pleasant and comfortable surroundings. You can see my choice of carrot cake at the top of this post. I did not realise that it would arrive so ornately and beautifully decorated - almost too good to eat. Himself had an equally delectable and moist slice of apple and pear cake. What a discovery - the icing on the cake to top off a great weekend. It was only later at home after some 'googling' that I discovered that this establishment won the Tea Guild's Top Tea Place Award in 2013. This is apparently the equivalent of an Oscar in the world of afternoon tea! A return visit is definitely on the cards before the summer is out, although I think I will have to make sure that it does not become too much of a regular habit for my waistline's sake.

Finally I'm pleased to report that all was well with the seedlings and plants on our return. The sun is shining this morning and I'm off out to do some serious allotment and gardening work. I will make time however to sit down in the shade later to enjoy some liquid refreshment and tasty cakes with fellow garden bloggers here. Do join me - there will be a cup and a slice of cake with your name on.