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Pale and interesting ?! 

20 Sep

I’ve noticed a bit of a floral shift over the last year – the well established trend for bold, dark florals seems to be facing a bit of competition from the pale end of the spectrum. 

For many years, the dahlias that you’d see everywhere were the dark, moody ‘Chat Noir’ and ‘Arabian Night’.

  
But this autumn, you’d have to have been going round with your eyes closed not to have spotted this years ‘must-have’ dahlia – ‘Cafe au Lait’ – a completely different kind of colour – pale, subtle, even maybe a little insipid ? 

Photo below courtesy of Cherfold Cottage Flowers – more beautiful homegrown flowers. 

  
I think some of this love for paler flowers has come from another trend I’ve spotted on Instagram – a very theatrical setting for floral arrangements, reminisant of Dutch Masters paintings. And with a dark background, the paler flowers really pop out ! 

  
   
 
The photos above are from the beautiful The Garden Gate Flower Company who specialise in homegrown British flowers – and who also take beautiful photographs ! 

Obviously these paler flowers also suit the bridal flowers market. 

So it is no surprise to see that this years bulb catalogues are also full of new paler varieties. 

I’ve always grown plenty of bright and bold tulips that look equally fabulous in the garden as they do in the house. 

  
But this autumn I’m keen to try a new palette of softer, subtler colours. 

The ones that have caught my eye include ‘La Belle Epoque‘, ‘Bruine Wimpel‘, and ‘Purple Tower’.

   
   
This last one , above, isn’t really pale and interesting but so unusual ! 

I’ll report back in May to see if pale is really interesting ! 

Go with the flow – let colour take control !

19 Jun

Don’t be afraid of colour !!

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This bed is a riot of colour and probably breaks all the rules in the book but doesn’t it look fabulous !

It started out, about 7 years ago, much more sedate with a gentle blend of yellow and white lupins and blue delphiniums, but then the pink peonies popped up unexpectedly , and over the years the balance has changed.

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The white lupins and blue delphiniums have diminished whilst the pink peonies have been joined by self seeded geraniums. We’ve planted some new white peonies and a range of foxgloves spring surprises every year.

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The poppies spread themselves around and range in colour from lilac to deep burgundy but somehow it all goes together !

It helps that there’s plenty of structure and harmonious shapes and that some of the more shocking colours – the bright red poppies – are shortlived.

But don’t be afraid to let colour get out of control, don’t be obsessed with monochrome gardens or a very restricted palette – you never know you might like the result !

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My assistant gardener had a particularly hectic day today !

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My Top10 Selection – Plants for shady conditions.

15 Jun

It’s a well worn theory that it’s better to use fewer varieties in larger groups, but it’s a theory that really does work. By choosing the few varieties that will cope with the exact growing conditions, they will thrive and multiply much faster than slightly fussier plants that will always struggle.

So here are my current top 10 plants for shady areas.

1. Helleborus orientalis – an evergreen perennial with large glossy leaves, and long lasting flowers in late winter in shades of lime green through to dark pink.

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2. Polystitchum setiferum – shield fern – an evergreen fern with glossy fronds emerging every spring.

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3. Tellima grandiflora – a semi evergreen small perennial with a mound of bright green leaves and spikes of tiny green bells in early summer

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4. Hellebores argutifolius – large evergreen perennial with large glossy leaves and bright lime large flowers in late winter

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5. Sarcococca confusa – small evergreen shrub with small glossy leaves and tiny but highly scented flowers mid winter

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6. Pulmonaria officinalis – semi evergreen small perennial with spotted leaves and blue AND pink flowers on the same plant !

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7. Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum‘ – herbaceous perennial with marbled foliage, elegant hooded flowers and orange berries.

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8.Geranium phaeum – herbaceous perennial with leaves splashed with purple and dark purple flowers early summer.

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9. Geranium macrorrhizum – semi evergreen herbaceous perennial with delicate pink flowers early summer.

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10. Hydrangea ‘Annabelle‘ – medium deciduous shrub with new lime green leaves followed by huge white flower heads.

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The important thing to remember with shady conditions is to improve the soil as much as you can – add garden compost, well rotted manure or mushroom compost. And then once planted, do remember to water regularly for the first year to get everything established.

Add further colour with spring bulbs and you’ll have colour and soft structure all year round. And you’ll wonder why that shady dry spot was ever a problem !

All photos courtesy of www.crocus.co.uk

Roses and more roses.

12 Jun

The roses are looking fabulous today !!

So had to share a few photos – no time for words, I’ll let the pictures do the talking !

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From the top : Rosa mutabilis ; Gertrude Jekyll ; Unknown ; Zephrine Drouhin .

Packwood revisited …

10 Jun

Back in February, I visited the kitchen garden at Packwood House. It was a great time of year to appreciate the structure and layout of the area and to spot all the lovely little details.

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Above is a picture taken in February when very little was growing.

Now in June, the garden is starting to fill out.

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Here the strawberries are flowering prolifically. Some plants were being grown in grow bags , on low tables – in order to avoid the slugs maybe ? But they would obviously need more watering. Others were grouped in hanging bags on short posts – easy to pick and decorative.

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The box hedges are growing fast and are a beautiful saturated green. They must be due a trim – box is traditionally trimmed on Derby Day in the uk – this is a prestigious horse race and this year it was 6th June. There’s nothing scientific about this particular day but early June does give the plants plenty of time to recover from the trim and for new growth to harden off before any chance of frost in the autumn.

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Peas are safe from pigeons under runs of chicken wire held above them by beautiful clay pots.

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The herb beds are almost full with parsley, marjoram, thyme, lovage, fennel, dill,sage and many more I couldn’t identify. What I’d give for a herb bed this big !!

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Vegetable planting becomes art here when even the potatoes are sown in neat patchwork patterns.

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And the auricula theatre was still putting on a good performance ! Can’t wait for my auriculas to grow as large of these ones !

And finally I still had time to pop over to the main garden quickly.

The relatively newly planted herbaceous borders were growing apace. The planting was dominated with Allium ‘Purple Sensation‘ .

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Normally I love Allium ‘purple sensation ‘, and I’d normally say you can never have too many ! But here I think they may have over done it ! They really do dominate the bed and as they’re all exactly the same height and same colour they rather smother the rest of the planting. In my view , half as many would have looked better. They will blend in better once they go to seed.
What do you think ??

Pretty as a picture – my allotment today 

24 May

I’ll never win prizes for a tidy or productive allotment but I think today I could take the ‘prettiest allotment’ prize !!! 

   
         

Forget-me-not look-a-likes !

21 May

My garden is overflowing with little blue flowers at the moment

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Some are good old fashioned forget-me-nots – Myosotis

I have , perhaps unwisely, let these seed freely round my garden. But I do love the way they fill in all the gaps. They spread into the gravel but I do keep them under control here by using weed killer to just allow a narrow edge in front of my beds. Then once they go over, it’s a quick job to pull them out and inevitably they will have seeded themselves all over again.

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Also self seeded liberally, is Anchusa officinalis, also known as common bugloss or alkanet.

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This one I don’t love ! I really need to take it in hand. It is a thug of a plant and once rooted is tricky to remove. It’s stems and leaves are covered in thousands of prickly hairs and it’s roots go so deep. The best way to get rid if it , I have found, is to crush all the leaves and stems and then to spray with glysophate. The sapphire bright flowers are beautiful but it’s not worth the risk !

The perennial flower I do love is Brunnera maccrophylla – common name Siberian Bugloss.

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This perennial has medium sized round leaves that emerge in spring, followed by delicate blue flowers on wiry stems that hover above the leaves. The flowers are long lasting and the leaves stay looking good all summer.

The variety in the photo is Jack Frost with beautiful white veined leaves. It’s very happy in fairly dry shade once established.

So back to the battle against the Anchusa – may the best man win !

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