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Is it just me…..? 

3 Jul

Is it just me…? .. Or do you , too , head out into the garden for a potter and a bit of light deadheading, in your summer dress and sandals……..
….. And before you know it , you’re knee deep in itchy,  scratchy, stingy things and you’ve cleared a whole corner of the garden !!!  


Rosebay Willowherb – the key to our future survival ?

3 Aug

One flower appears in practically all my holiday photos this year – Rosebay Willowherb – epilobium angustifolium, growing beside the beach, along every road and on every hillside.

We’ve been in Scotland for two weeks and had some simply gorgeous weather ! I’d hate to admit it was almost too hot to leave the beach most days but wherever I went Rosebay Willowherb was a constant presence.


It’s an imposing plant – growing to over 6′ in places and it’s such a shame that it doesn’t make a great garden plant – it seeds everywhere and spreads with fine white underground roots.

Another of its common names is Fireweed, as it is often the first plant to colonise burnt ground. And was known as Bombweed in wartime Britain for the same reason.

Apparently according to my Instagram friend @oldnewvintageandblue Audrey, it’s got great survival qualities – you can boil it up for tea, eat the young shoots ( taste like asparagus) and eat the sappy pith of the stems. And what’s more you can get the fire lit with the dried seed heads !
We might just all need it to survive the apocalypse !


Sissinghurst – The jewel in the crown ?

6 Jul

The last stop on my Tour de Kent was the creme de la creme of gardens – Sissinghurst..

As one of the most visited gardens in Britain, we shouldn’t have been surprised, at 10am on a Monday morning, to find the car park busy with coaches just off the ferry from Germany and Holland. When there are people queuing round the block to get in, it’s perhaps strange that they don’t open till 11am, leaving us to wander aimlessly round the gift shop – standard, not overly inspiring, NT products.



To avoid the crowds, we headed off piste to the new kitchen garden. This is a new development, masterminded by Sarah Raven, who recently spent a couple of years living here at Sissinghurst ( her husband Adam Nicholson’s family own the castle ). She and Adam spent several years trying to bring Sissinghurst into the 20th century so to speak. They wanted to farm the land, grow food for the cafés, and generally update the whole NT concept. They’ve now moved back to their house, Perch Hill, but I’m not sure if they all parted on good terms !


The vegetable garden is huge, laid out on a gentle scope, and buzzing with volunteers. There’s certainly plenty of produce being grown here to supply the cafe and restaurant. But whether they using it in a modern innovative way, I wonder.
We did stop for tea and a scone after our trip round the garden, and they were ok but the little pots of non-local strawberry jam were disappointing – is it too much to ask for homemade jam ?

The garden itself was hitting its June peak. The roses looked fabulous as you would expect. The white garden was impressive. But it really was hard to enjoy the space as it was simply so busy – and this was Monday morning remember ! I struggled to take any photos without people in them !


The only respite we found was in the herb garden , at the furthest point from the house and during a brief shower so fewer people had ventured that far.

Sissinghurst is a garden divided into distinct rooms and altho this can give a good sense of enclosure, when there are so many people it just makes you slightly claustrophobic. The high yew hedges also remove any sense of what is beyond the garden – beautiful, rolling, quintessentially English countryside. Which is a great shame, you could really be anywhere.

The high horticultural standards of the NT are very much in evidence, but though I tried to imagine Vita Sackville West wandering through the White Garden, it was hard to do.
Add to the experience the lacklustre catering and uninspirational gift shop, and you’re left with a pastiche of Englisg Country Garden within a theme park.

The other two garden I visited that weekend – Great Dixter & Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage – made a far greater impression on me.


Hardy Geraniums- you can just never have too many ….

28 May

Hardy geraniums have to be one of the hardest working plants in any garden. There are over 422 species, commonly known as Cranesbills. This name comes from the beak-like seed capsule. And they are definitely not to be confused with the red Mediterranean geraniums which are actually pelargoniums.

In my garden alone, I have 8 different varieties. The majority of geraniums are hardy herbaceous perennials, dying back over winter and then re-emerging in spring, with flowers ranging from April through to September.

Above : Geranium sanguineum

None of them are truly evergreen but Geranium macrorrhizum does a good impression and the foliage has lovely autumnal tinges as well. It’s a bit of a thug but is easily controlled by simply pulling off the leggy is also very happy in dry shade once established so a very useful plant.

Above : Geranium macrorrhizum

Another invaluable variety is Geranium phaeum – or mourning widow – beautiful dainty dark purple blooms are held high above leaves mottled with purple. Again it can be a bit invasive but easily controlled and it is pretty happy in dry shade too. Also comes in white.


Above : Geranium phaeum

Another reliable flowerer is Geranium ‘Kashmir pink’ and ‘Kashmir White’. Gently mound forming and flowering for a month in May . As with many perennials that only flower the once, if you cut them back hard after flowering, water and feed well, and you will get a fresh mound of foliage and sometimes more flowers.

Above:Geranium ‘Kashmir Pink’

Two of my favourites, that are only just coming into flower are Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ and Geranium ‘Patricia’. ‘Ann Folkard’ has bright green foliage topped with contrasting magenta flowers, it has an endearing habit of scrambling its way through all our other plants and can spread a couple of metres, popping up its bright flowers all over. ‘Patricia’ has similar flowers but over a mound of cut foliage. Both flower all summer, and pair well with blowsy oriental poppies, salvias, foxgloves and English roses. geranium psilostemon ( no I can’t pronounce it either !) is another good one, but it does get big and can take over a border while you’re not looking.


Above: Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ and ‘Patricia’

Breeders have also come up with dark leaved varieties which can be a nice contrast to all the other green leaved perennials.

Above : Geranium pratense ‘Victor Reider’

One I don’t have is Geranium viscosissimum, which according to Wikipedia ( therefore definitely true!) is practically carnivorous !! Must look out for that one !
There are simply too many geranium to talk about them all, but if you haven’t got at least five in your garden, you need to try harder !



Happy Easter !!

20 Apr


Inside Out

17 Dec

December may not lend itself to spending much time in the garden, but I still want the view of my garden to look nice from inside. With the short day and long nights, outdoor lighting can really extend the interest of your garden and highlight beautiful winter structure.

And just as I’m decorating the inside of my house, I never forget the garden – well the bits of it I can see from inside anyway !




Most  years I string up some fairy lights inside the greenhouse ! They twinkle away madly and put on the tasteless show I would never allow anywhere inside  the house !




I also like to hang a wreath on the door ! The photo is from last year when the windows were crazed with frost and the wreath was heavy with snow – luckily everything inside was wrapped up under horticultural fleece and nice and warm and cosy !

Tidy Greenhouse – Tidy Mind ??!!!

2 Dec

Just because the weather is cold, damp and gloomy, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a satisfying job in the garden.

Yesterday was a perfect day for tidying out the greenhouse and potting shed – several degrees warmer and out of the chilling wind !




By the end of summer my greenhouse has become a real dumping ground for empty pots, dead plants,and  half full bags of charcoal. And as for the spiders webs !! I don’t know where they all come from but the windows are practically opaque with them !

With nights getting colder I need to make space for all my tender scented geraniums. To keep the frost off I use a small electric blow heater on a frost thermostat that keeps it just above freezing and if there is a prolonged period of cold I throw a duvet of horticultural fleece over everything. 

So on a nice dry day I drag everything out and sort through the rubbish, wash the empty pots, clean the windows and hoover the spiderswebs – yes I think I spend more time hoovering the greenhouse than my own house !



The potting shed also has had a bit of a makeover , with new hanging for all the tools and new wine boxes hung on their sides to provide mini shelves. Its so satisfying to use your tools when they’re all neatly arranged !





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