Go with the flow – let colour take control !

19 Jun

Don’t be afraid of colour !!


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.


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.


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 !


My assistant gardener had a particularly hectic day today !



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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 !





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.


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

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


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.



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.


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



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 !!


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




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‘ .



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.




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


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.





The humble garden shed

28 May

I popped down to the allotment this evening to water my newly planted courgettes and decided to have a bit of a wander.

It was a beautiful evening with low sun casting long shadows across the onions, and catching the windows of the eclectic village of sheds.

I don’t actually have a shed on my plot so I am always very envious of those plots that do have one. My father built me a beautiful cold frame many years ago but that eventually turned into a tool store and then finally bit the dust. I have replaced it with an eminently practical but very ugly plastic storage box that hopefully will last for ever !

So I wander around regularly choosing my favourite shed…


This one,above , is of the traditional variety but given a lovely make over with black paint and bunting.



There are plenty like this one, above , that have evolved over the years, depending on what materials were available – old doors, windows, etc. Many seem on the point of collapse, only held up by the piles of ‘useful’ stuff collected around them.



Some seem very practical , above , with carefully stored bins, and ladders – note the flue pipe , presumably serving a little stove to warm the seedlings or keep the occupants warm on a winters day.


Others, above, seem more random !



Even the greenhouses look lovely with a beautiful peony growing alongside.


Some sheds, above, have gone all modernist.



And some , above, look architect designed ! Isn’t this one amazing ! So much thought has gone into the detail – I must find out who’s built it and persuade them to give me a guided tour !


This one , above, is extraordinary too ! Not sure whether it’s by design or just accidentally !





There are so many little details everywhere – people try so hard to make their little plots special and it’s lovely to enjoy them. And all these photos were taken no more than a minutes walk from my plot – so next week I must explore further afield !


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 !!! 


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