Saturday, 28 February 2009

Pretty lady

Would you rather have this pink and white hellebore or the luscious dark one? I love the first but find mystery in the second. The double one is so pretty and perfect with snow white snowdrops and silver birch in the background; the second is deeply exciting draped against dark ophiopogon. Thats what I love about gardening...we don't have to choose; we can have both! The ophiopogon and pink cyclamen are not shown in the picture, perhaps they might be tomorrow! They are certainly there in the garden!

Time to sit and chat

I am often asked do I ever sit out and enjoy the garden. Well, today we have both been working hard cutting back the ornamental grasses and pampas in the white stemmed birch avenue and beyond. But at lunch time we sat amongst the aconites beneath the lime trees and dined on delicious bread and cheese with home made chutney. Coffee was enjoyed in another spot and tea in yet another. Yes we do take pleasure in the garden, especially at 'tea breaks'. Then its time to just sit and chat, and savour all the sights around us!

The winter garden has been super this weekend...pity it was not like it on our open should have been, but the insistent snowy blasts meant that flowering was delayed...all the early daffodils are out now, coinciding with aconites and snowdrops, early primroses and fragrant sarcocccoca....such a joyous collection of bright golds, creamy yellows, whites, greens etc etc. Patches of dark hellebores, cyclamen and black ophiopogon add a more dangerous, darker touch.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Positive Voids in the Garden

Forms, colours, heights, densities are all part of a garden make-up but how often do we ever study the voids? I often think the spaces around a plant, or leaf or seedhead are as important as the plant material itself. The void may be black and intensify the form of the plant. Or the void may be light and allow the eye to travel beyond the plant and through towards the middle of the bed, adding depth, mystery and a sensuousness. The void may be disected by small parts which act like a veil, creating detailed patterns which allow light to penetrate. This can create restlessness, fragmentation, looking for detail, minutiae of plant material. The use of ornamental grasses and seedheads often accentuate these responses, so too bare branches and twigs and catkins. The dessicated Chinese Lanterns are a simple example. Exquisite in form, mysterious with a barely hidden secret in the centre (see photo on Feb 19th).

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Oscars in the Garden

Who deserves an Oscar in the garden?
Well, what could be prettier, be more productive, or be so versatile, than an apple tree? Glorious blossom in spring, fruit in autumn, pies and juice all year! Even better when there are eight of them including four different varieties. Simon has been busy pruning them for the last few weekends and has now brilliantly completed the task! Meanwhile I have been mulching the clematis, well I have made a start; twenty five down, probably another hundred to go. Thats a lot of compost!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Chinese lanterns

As the winter months lengthen some amazing shapes become apparent. Chinese lanterns slowly dissolve as orange tissue melts away leaving delicate veining; in some lanterns an orange ball is revealed.

Monday, 16 February 2009

My Valentine Walk

One of the great things about opening the garden is that there always lots of lovely surprises. Three friends who came yesterday were known to me through my garden design course in Oxford and it was super to see them again and just catch up! Meanwhile Ness, my second cousin came with large camera firmly attached and proceded to take hundreds of photos pure delight radiating from her face! She is relatively new to photography but seems to have a wonderful eye. This is one of her images showing my 'heart' trail which led round the major 'winter display' areas in the garden showing the white stemmed birches, coloured cornus, shiny willows etc etc. To see more of her photos go to Flickr link:

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Valentine Baskets

Its been quite a day so far. At 7.15am I was climbing up a very long and lonely icy hill, praying that no one was coming in the opposite direction; only to reach a main road and then be caught in three miles of traffic.

Off to the wholesale florist to buy Valentine items to decorate my baskets for sale on Sunday's open day only to find myself in a five mile queue on my return, and then nearing home every time I tried to head for Stevington I hit a Police Road Closed sign....four different locations to be exact. Floods or sheets of ice were the reasons. Arrived home safely at last and had the best cup of coffee ever. Broke up lots of ice on the drive, cleared some snow in the Winter Walk and then thought I'd decorate my lovely baskets.

Hope you enjoy them. Notice the primroses have all hearts too! Even my hedgehogs are joining the fun!

Horse shoes

I thought I'd share two garden designs I am working on at the moment. They both have two unusual elements which have little to do with 'normal gardening'!

The first involves a wonderfully large oval arbour to be draped in claret grapes and made of green oak. The trees will be felled in a wood near Ampthill next week.

The floor of the oval arbour is to be created using reclaimed Brazilian slate; with a pattern of Brazilian slate setts running through the outer paving.

Now my client adores riding and has horses of her own, so we thought it would be fun to use the shapes of horseshoes in a special central design. Horseshoes are made up pricipally of two ovals so the patterns should work out beautifully. I have drawn up several options and we will decide on Friday. The whole project promises to be very exciting.

Giant clocks

The other unusual design element involves a courtyard garden for a Care Home where new paving has been laid and raised beds have been built ready for planting next everyone's shock I have had the walls painted a Suffolk pink.....where it once was dominated by cracked concrete and dirty pebble dash, it now looks so inviting.

When the Olive tree goes in surrounded by lots of fragrant and old fashioned plants I think it will be a real haven for the elderly residents. I can't wait to see the roses and thymes and lavenders in flower, the echinaeas in bloom with lots of butterflies fluttering around, and seedheads for birds in the autumn.

There is a flying corridor across the centre of the courtyard where I would like to introduce a large awning to provide welcome shade and a friendly almost holiday feel. And right above on both sides of this flying coridor I want to fix a clock; well a giant clock to be exact. Outdoor clocks can be 90cm across which is all good news if your eyesight is fading!

It should be all done by the time the weather warms up and sitting and snoozing outside can be a way of life again.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A Posy for Valentine's Day

I thought I would cheer myself up and think of fantastically fragrant flowers which can be picked and made into a posie for a friend and maybe placed in a little vase on a bedside table.

Or they could be lightly brushed with egg white and sugar and then used to make a sumptuously soft sweet roulade...rolled up with violet liqueur cream, some violet jelly maybe, and topped with lightly coated sugared violets...the real deal, no air miles, straight from the garden.

Actually I made a violet roulade ten days ago for Annie who came to visit, yes before the snow arrived. We devoured part of it and the remainder has been squirrelled away in the freezer.

Very soon, it will be time for a mass flowering of violets, blue and white...hoorah! Primroses as well; they're delicious too and gorgeous as a little bunch in a little milk jug....I can just smell them. Roll on spring!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Cruel Irony.

18cm of snow fell on Monday; more on Tuesday, more on Thursday and now another 18cm on Friday. Church Road is an ice rink this morning; you have to wade through snow to get round the garden; enough is enough! I should have another winter open day tomorrow but have decided to add another Sunday next week on the 15th instead. By then we'll probably be in a heat wave!

Swan lake

Our red and yellow lightcatchers are beautifully designed by Rachel and hand created by the amazingly talented Ali (see Three weeks ago I moved them to the winter garden where their fiery colours complement the shiny orange and red cornus stems. Imagine my delight to see this snowy transformation.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The jury with white wigs

This morning the jury woke up in white wigs with sunlight just touching the tops; as the day went on the sleeping caps turned into thinking caps; what was the verdict?


The garden was thick with snow as the daylight ebbed away last night; so many scenes were fantastic. Now this morning I have been outside again and about to load the photos.....the sun is just clipping the jurors snowy wigs! Mushroom soup is cooking on the AGA; hopefully a few visitors will come today to enjoy the magic of a winter garden!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow shoes

You need your snow shoes on to look round our garden at the moment; its absolutely glorious with a blanket of the softest snow hugging every branch and every twig; the echinacea seedheads are standing like torches with brilliant white flames; the mahonia with its broad leaves are acting like plates, filled with ice cream! Not good for health and safety though; fist there is the icy track down Church Road in Srevington which doesnot get gritted; then there is our slopy drive and then there are our paths which were all duly power washed for our winter openings but they can be slippy with three inches of snow and ice! Hopefully all will be clear again soon and so we will open Feb 8th, 10th, 11th and 15th all from 12-4pm.