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Attadale Gardens, Lochcarron, Scotland

14 Sep

I hesitate to recommend this garden – not because it wasn’t lovely or worth a visit but because I very much doubt many of you will be passing within 100 miles of it soon !

Attadale Gardens has to be the most northerly garden I have ever visited, although it was only 20 mins away from where we spent our summer holidays every year.

It’s over 629 miles from London and still 225 miles or 4 hours drive from Glasgow.

It is on a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland !

This all makes for an interesting climate! The garden is at sea level , on the banks of Loch Carron and enjoys a relatively warm and temperate climate. The Gulf Stream keeps the frost and snow at bay most winters. The summers are not quite as warm as further south, and the rainfall is approximately 70% higher than the UK average

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Unsurprisingly the first impression you get on entering this garden, is just how lush everything is. Plants that I was familiar with were almost twice the size as they’d grow down south and there was no sign of the parched slow down that gardens often have in August.

The clean, damp climate has led to some amazing lichen growing on trees.

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Attadale Gardens was first established in the elate 19th century by a Baron Schroeder ( of the banking family ) and still consists of 20 acres of conifers and rhododendrons. It was substantially replanted after 1980 storms and now includes pools, bridges, sculpture and beautiful views of Skye and the Applecross hills.

Obviously the best time to visit this garden must be late May for the rhododendrons but even in August there was plenty to see.

The woodland areas were lush with ferns, and the martagon lilies were fabulous, nodding above the undergrowth.

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Some of the  rhododendrons were still attracting attention even without flowers – the bark of this Rhododendron rex  arizelum were fabulous with the sunlight glancing off them.

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The vegetable garden was really quite demoralising ! The size of the cabbages !

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And a hedge of broad beans !

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The house is tucked in away from strong winter winds and because of that probably doesn’t have much of a view sadly but you only have to explore a few paths to admire the views across the loch.

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There are plenty of craggy rocks covered in mosses and fabulous roots twisting themselves to find a little thin soil.

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Overall, this garden has plenty of interest throughout the year and after the endless, wild splendour of heather covered mountains that we’d been exploring locally, it was a pleasant adventure into a more cultivated landscape.

ps. Apologies for the silence over the last month but I’ve been having issues uploading posts from my ipad, where I always store my photos and write my posts, on to WordPress. I’ve contacted WordPress without much joy but have heard other people have similar problems. If anybody knows how to overcome this bug please let me know !

Warwickshire Open Studios – a sneak peak into the county’s makers spaces.

13 Jul

A wonderful thing happens in Warwickshire every summer – all over the county painters, sculptors, potters, stitchers and photographers open up their homes and studios to the general public, as part of the Warwickshire Open Studios programme.  We are encouraged to visit, meet the artists and enjoy their spaces. There are over 120 venues exhibiting work by 239 artists and makers. In fact you’d have to visit 4 a day to see them all !

I sadly only had one day to squeeze a few in. Having studied the catalogue, I highlighted 3 or 4 venues that were all quite close together – all a short drive from the centre of Leamington.

One of the added bonuses of visiting Open Studios is that you get to have a sneak peak of other peoples houses and gardens and being of an artistic bent, they are very often quite special !

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This secluded spot is home to Nicky Richards – talented ceramicist. After many years working in the garage,  she has relocated to a beautiful studio in the garden where she has space and light and access to all her tools and inspiration to produce many beautiful ceramic pieces.

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Her studio is located at the end of the garden alongside a sheltered terrace with dining table and chiminea. The ‘off the shelf’ wood cabin has been customised with a coat of dark grey paint and tucked in amongst the planting. It is hardly visible from the house and blends in perfectly.

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Nicky specialises in coiled or slabbed pots ( for those of us who know little about pots – this means she doesn’t throw them on a wheel) and after an initial kiln firing she smoke fires them in a garden incinerator before plunging them into a bucket of sawdust – plenty of heat and flame involved ! This gives her pots their trademark smoke colours. much polishing and buffing follows, resulting in smooth perfect curves.

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This year Nicky has branched out into garden pots and they are fabulous ! They still have her distinctive curves and polish but are stoneware suitable for outdoor use in earthy and verdant tones.

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They are like smooth beach pebbles and with small openings lend them selves to small succulents.

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There are also hanging versions which look fabulous on this piece of driftwood.

Nicky has a real artists eye for detail and her garden and studio are full of amazing little touches

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A shelf of inspirational pieces!

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A thriving sedum.

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A shelf of glazes.

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Its the same in the garden, where Nicky has placed the perfect plant in the perfect pot against the grey of the studio.

Pieces of drift wood and rusted, twisted metal add interest to every corner.

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On a hot afternoon, this little spot is a real haven and has clearly inspired Nicky to branch out into garden friendly pots.

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 ??

A well hidden gem of a garden – The Master’s Garden

2 Jun

If you’ve ever driven through the streets of Warwick you will have spotted this cluster of medieval buildings that overhang the High Street.

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These buildings form The Lord Leycester Hospital – a collection of 14th century buildings that originally housed the towns Guilds – the trade groups that represented the towns tradesmen – cobblers/coopers/weavers etc

During the reign of Elizabeth I it became a retirement home for old soldiers and is still to this day a home for ex- servicemen .

And hiding behind these buildings, right in the centre of the bustling town, is a tiny but perfect garden.

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I discovered this garden by accident many years ago and try to pop in whenever I’m passing. It’s so tiny you really only need ten minutes to appreciate it ( and it does only cost £2 to get in ) and on occasion I’ve taken my lunch in there and found a sheltered sunny spot to while away my lunch hour.

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Once inside there’s no view of the outside world as it’s surrounded by high hedges and pleached limes and apart from the slightly intrusive traffic noise you could be in the middle of nowhere.

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In such a small space they have managed to squeeze a productive vegetable patch, two lawned areas, two beautiful garden buildings and a practical work area. It’s all held together with clipped box and beautifully trained climbing roses.

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Wouldn’t you just love to settle in here with a good book and a pot of tea !

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There’s a lot of things to take away from this garden – structure provided from clipped box , roses trained along high chains, pleached limes tied in tightly, a limited range of perennials – geraniums/ alchemilla mollis / iris / roses, Good small garden trees such as Cornus alternifolia.

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Coton Manor – Beautiful Bluebells

8 May

I had a lovely trip yesterday to Coton Manor, Northamptonshire.

It’s a garden I’ve visited many times over the years as a good friend volunteers there and I have attended many good sessions at the Garden School with people such as Sarah Raven, Fergus Garrett and Bunny Guinness

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But this trip was a bit different – I was taking my neighbour Glenys to celebrate her 90th birthday in order to see the bluebells.

Coton is rightly famous for its bluebells – there are over an acre of them, spread under an enormous canopy of beech trees. They are of course English Bluebells, not the larger and some would say more vulgar Spanish bluebells. To tell them apart- the English ones hang their bells down in a delicate droop whilst the Spanish variety stand very upright.

And they looked simply amazing ….

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The sight of the bluebells stretching as far as the eye can see, the delicate scent, the cathedral like presence of the beech trunks and the ethereal light filtering through the beech leaves, is enough to render anyone speechless and Glenys was suitably gobsmacked !

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There are plenty of bluebell woods locally here in Warwickshire but the careful tending at Coton has enabled the bluebells to thrive without competition from cow parsley and brambles.

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In between the showers, we managed to wander round the whole garden.

Coton Manor is a private house and garden owned by the Pashley-Tyler family. Susie Pashley-Tyler is the driving force behind the garden and has worked tirelessly to produce a garden that feels very much at ease with its self. Nothing seems to be trying too hard, there’s nothing too trendy here – no exotics garden, no prairie planting, just excellent traditional herbaceous plantings full of roses, peonies, clematis etc.

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Above, a beautifully trained wisteria.

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Above, plenty of colour provided here by purple Honesty.

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Above, here a perennial wallflower provides the zing.

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Above, blue camassias stand proud in the wildflower meadow.

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Above, candelabra primulas alongside the steam.

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Above – what I wouldn’t give for a pot like this ! Filled with Spring Green tulips.

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Beautifully trained espalier apples line the vegetable garden.

An excellent lunch ( and tea !) rounded off a lovely day.

The Kitchen Garden at Packwood House

19 Feb

I made a lovely discovery recently – the beautiful walled kitchen garden. Apparently it’s been open to the public for about four years and I’m sure I’ve been to Packwood in that time, so I’m not sure how I’ve missed it !

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And I have to say, it’s really delightful. Whoever has been responsible for its redevelopment has a great eye for detail, and even visiting in mid February there was so much to see.

There is good basic structure in the form of compacted earth paths , box hedges and pergolas.

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They have retained a couple of ancient fruit trees and planted many new ones – step over and espaliered against the old walls.

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Children will be delighted with the beautiful wendy house and teddy bears picnic.

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Despite the lack of vegetables, there’s much to catch the eye.

Beautiful original cloches sheltering small lettuce.

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Terracotta rhubarb forcers keeping the rhubarb crowns in the dark to produce delicate pink stems.

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A jaunty scarecrow to keep off the pigeons.

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A dipping pond, currently covered, but in the summer apparently they encourage the kids to dip small watering cans in and to water the garden – child labour !!

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An auricula theatre awaiting its treasures in a few months time.

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Plenty of bug hotels to encourage the good insects – not sure how they keep out the less welcome ones !

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Mole deterrent ! Very Heath Robinson !

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I can’t wait to return in a few months time to see all the vegetables in place.

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The Bare Bones of Winter

11 Feb

We all know what we’re supposed to do to provide winter structure in our gardens –

1. Place evergreen topiary

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2. Use box hedging

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3. Add garden structures

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But for those of us without a stately home with room for ancient yews, miles of crisp box hedging or a thatched summer house what can we learn ?

I visited two National Trust gardens today – Baddsley Clinton and Packwood House. It was a very grey and overcast day. Not the kind of day most garden photographers venture out on – they prefer hard frosts and snow. But this is exactly the kind of day when we all think our gardens look pretty grim so it’s good to see that there’s plenty of ways you can make your garden look good at this time of year.

It really does pay to get the basics right.

A beautifully straight edge really draws the eye.

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Simple beds cut into the lawn looks striking even unplanted.

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Mulched and weeded, even beds that rely heavily on perennials can look good and full of promise for what’s to come.

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Evergreen doesn’t have to mean green – these grasses ( carex testacea ) are evergreen and contrast beautifully with the green evergreens.

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Carefully pruned wall shrubs provide a lovely contrast against old brick walls.

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The general emptiness of the garden at this time of year allows you to spot details that would be missed in the full exuberance of mid summer.

Very tentative signs of spring are peeping through.

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Other details come to the fore too.

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