Sunday, 12 December 2010

My favourite pots: Mirror pots

One of my favourite plants this summer was a wonderful bronze grass called Pennisetum Rubrum which I fell in love with and planted in a shiny mirror pot. It looked wonderful front lit, back lit, sideways lit...anywhere where sun could shine through its foxy flowers. It isnot hardy so I am trying to over winter it in a frost free greenhouse. I hope it survives. Otherwise I shall have to start again next year. I don't know which I like most, the plant or the pot!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Winter in Narnia

The hoar frost on Tuesday brought an eerie beauty to the garden. Just over the hedge by the road, the trees in the Great Ouse Valley had all been painted white. John Bunyan the preacher stood with arms outstretched beneath the icy tentacles of the beech tree, while in the Hepworth Garden all the grasses and birch trees were exquisite. It was like a magical brush had swept over the whole area.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Helping Hands at Harvest Time

Apples have been made into delicious lemony apple curd. It was made by Jonathan home from Sweden see his blog www.
He also transformed red peppers and chilies into pepper jam; addictively jummy!

Suzie came home from London and used apples to make our Christmas mincemeat which we are looking forward to trying it out soon.

I made crab apple jelly flavoured with rosemary sprigs, and another batch with ginger, mini beetroots and hot chillis. Both preserves taste good with all sorts of foods including soft cheese and cold meats. These medlars are our first crop, really fragrant and soft and delicate. The recipe books are out!

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I have really enjoyed my kitchen containers this summer with mustard greens, watercress,corn on the cob, dwarf French beans, courgettes, herbs, tomatoes, chillies, beets, chard, spinach and last but hopefully not least several lots of celeriac.

All made possible by a lovely range of containers made by Harrod Horticultural. The Manger and the raised table bed were super to work with while the bookshelves and ladder systems offered lots of flexibilty.

Some of these veggies I grew from seed, others I purchsed as young growing plants. The watercress came from Sainsburys as growing punnets and happily moved outside for several weeks during late summer. The flowers were as tasty as the leaves!

Oh, forgot the carrots and chard. What a joy to wander outside the kitchen door and pick, and pluck and forage!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Growing Tastes Demonstrations at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

I have lots of groups visiting the garden at the moment both from the UK and abroad including Holland, Germany and Japan. They want to enjoy the garden, of course, the roses have been spectacular, but they also like my cakes.

The idea of sitting on a lovely green lawn, in the shade of a tall walnut tree laden with pretty Rosa 'Pauls Himalayan Musk', sipping tea and devouring moist sponge cakes is hard to beat on a glorious summer day. Rose petal cakes are a speciality of the house, but now the lavender is in flower I am busy making lavender and lemon drizzle cakes as well. The flavour of lavender is subtle but scrummy especially when I add an extra lemony lavender filling in the middle. If you want to try it for yourself visit the garden on any Tuesday afternoon in July and August, tour at 2pm, tea at 3.15-3.30pm.

I am demonstrating at The Growing Tastes Demonstrations at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show at 12.30 and 2.30pm next Thursday 8th July.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Our latest addition in the garden

We have great news...a new addition to the Manor House Garden with an adorable face and a very waggly tail. She loves to run around the garden, sniffing here and there, biting allium leaves that stray on to the lawn and has a fascintation for blue cornflowers which do the same.

Quite where it will all lead I have no idea but if I turf out a weed she pounces on it and gives it a good shaking. I think she will love the business of tending the garden and is deffinitely a fully appointed member of staff so when people ask how much help do we have the answer is now three. The Head gardener, ie Simon, then there's me and now there is Pandora or Panda for short!Here she is at 8 weeks old, lying in a special puppy nest which has been specially made for her by my friend Helen who has just started making them as a business. Panda certainly loves cosy!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A bleeding heart

Dicentra spectabilis lives up to its name; pure white, stark, beautiful, a trail of perfection. Its delicate white blooms pair beautifully with the soft subtle pink Narcissus called 'Roseworthy'. An exquisite match for all spring gardens whether in pots or borders.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A swarm of bees in April

Apparently our bees are close to swarming; is that because we have had a garden full of nectar since our winter garden open day in mid February or because it has been unseasonally dry and warm, perfect I guess for gathering stores?

My brother in law near Plymouth tells the same tale about his bees.

Is it weather or availability of nectar or both? Can you to distinguish the two....except to say we do have a rich store of flowering plants from late winter through to mid autumn.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Romance of Spring

I really cherish the bulbs of late April with tulips such as dusky Negrita, perfect with pale blue pansies or the emerging foliage of purple heuchera. Add double pink 'Angelique' to the mix and you have a marriage made in heaven. Another favourite is creamy green Tulip 'Spring Green' (seen here); not easy with white, its too subtle for that, but really beautiful set amidst the soft felty foliage of foxgloves.

Then there are still lots of daffodils such as 'Pipit', 'Bell Song', and soft salmon 'Roseworthy' (seen here) giving such a glorious show, added and abetted by the lime green foliage of golden feverfew, or Bowles Golden Grass.

We have an open day this Sunday; just hope the weather is kind between now and then so that our visitors can enjoy the show.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Great Escape

I love growing bellis daisies (double) in baskets and pots at this time of year and enjoy planting the pinks, reds and whites but, most of all, the pinks. Well to my delight they have self seeded in the lawn nearby. Now my husband does not relish daisies in the lawn, single or double! So just before the lawns were cut last weekend, I picked these flowers and have been enjoying them on the kitchen table. Hope more flower before the next cut!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Spring's Sprung at Last

The week of warm sunny weather has brought great advances to the garden and to all my many pots with fritillarias and hyacinths now flowering wonderfully. Both are excellent longterm choices for containers, coming back year after year. Wild primroses and violets make an ideal combo with the snakeshead fritillarias; all native plants together making this a super idea.

We are spoilt for choice with hyacinth colours; but whether white, pink, blue or mulberry, variegated London Pride makes the perfect topping for a hyacinth hanging basket and will flower its heart out in May, and then retain a quiet dignity until its peak again the following spring.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Blooming Delicious

Edible flowers? Blooming delicious!From lemon-flavoured daisies to peppery pink dianthus, edible flowers are more than just decoration.

Emine Saner, Wednesday 31 March 2010 21.00 BST Article history
Kathy Brown's early spring salad with primroses and violets.

Quite an garden here at Stevington is bursting with white, pink and blue scented violets as well as beautiful wild primroses.....all so tasty and just right for easter salads, and cakes and roulades etc!
We next open on May 2nd.....see my website for details of all openings.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Two great friends

Have you ever coveted your neighbour's plants...well yes I have and I own up to it freely. My friend Paula had some gorgeous pink violets growing in her turf besides her drive in Milton Keynes and year after year I looked at them and wanted a root to plant in my own garden. Last autumn my wish came true and Paula gave me a generous root ball and I split it up and planted several groups. This year they have flowered wonderfully.

Another friend, Jennie, came to visit from Sydney bringing three other really good friends of hers as well. It was a sunny clear afternoon and we had an animated walk around the garden, talking publishing of one form or another, and then settled down to afternoon tea. This comprised a delicious violet liqueur Fizz, loads of smoked salmon and asparagus pinwheels, and a large slice of chocolate cake. The cake was soaked with the violet liqueur and topped with a frosting of cream cheese, icing sugar and crystalised violets; but not just any crystalised violets. These were white, purple and yes pink violets! What a treat and what a lovely way to catch up with a very dear friend.

A wholehearted thank you to Paula and Jennie.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

MG Car Rally

Last Sunday we enjoyed the arrival of an MG car rally from Wimpole Hall to Stevington; a 50 mile snowdrop run organised by Cambridge and District MGOC. There were 100 old and new cars, but not all were MGs!

One was a cream 1955 MGTF. One was a 1964 Austin Healey. Another was a 1942 Austin K2 RAF Ambulance complete with four made up beds.

It was a beautiful sunny day and there was lots of chatter in the car park and gardens, not to mention the tea rooms about all sorts and ages of cars.

Did I mention tea rooms! I had made double tier chocolate cakes, sumptuous ginger cakes, goey lemon and violet drizzle cakes and a few violet macaroons in case anyone couldnot eat flour. My last piece of cake disappeared about 4 o'clock. All in all a wonderful day.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Rotating Garden Summer House

Chris Nicholson brought his rotating sphere over to my garden for the NGS open day as well as our recent MG Snowdrop Rally. We thought it would go rather nicely in front of the white stemmed birches. Even in winter it was a triumph, so how much better in summer? The modern use of aluminium and steel was quite at home amongst the gleaming bark of the ghostly birches, while the softly coloured pine structure looked perfect besides the burnished grasses further to the left.

What are the advantages? Well it rotates to give you the best view on a certain day or season; it can turn to avoid any wind; and it can turn you into full sun or shade depending on your whim. Best of all it takes up very little ground space.

People thought it was a sculpture at first and then realised it had a function; and what a sit and muse, to have a dinner party or even to lounge in. For more information contact Chris tel. 07766 518940 E-mail:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Micro gardening

Hannah Miles of Masterchef fame (see wanted to borrow our gong and in return she gave me six gorgeous fresh eggs; they are unusual because they have a blue tinge. I thought it was time to replant my batch from last year as the shells were beginning to disintegrate. Its surprising how long they had lasted.

But in the meantime Hannah's lovely hens had grown and are now producing really big eggs which is much better for my micro gardening task! It so happens that I was given a super cup cake stand for Christmas and instead of cakes it now has lots of planted eggs on it!

Houseleeks and echeverias adorn the stand; funny really because in the USA echeverias are known as the hen and chicken plant cos of all the little babies around the mother plant.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Honey Bees in Winter Sunshine

Now I know this photo wasn't taken today, but the honey bees were very boistrious outside the two hives; the warm afternoon air was such a joy for them and me! They were enjoying a little visit to a group of clay pots with single snowdrops, now in flower at last and I also noticed them visiting the white hellebores in our winter walk. What a treat so see them around again.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Washing birches

Sunday was wash time for the birches as well. We have over twenty white stemmed birches Betula utilis 'Grayswood Ghost' which gather green algae over the year and when we get the power hose out to clean the paviours, (prior to our winter open day, this year on Feb 14th) we also take the hose to the birches and with a powerful jet of water they come up as good as new. It takes about ten minutes a tree, and I get soaked. Its a good job I have wet gear on, but the trouble is the taller they get the higher I have to go with the spray; and you can guess its not a warm job in January!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Wash Sunday! Bird boxes

Have you heard the birdsong recently? The air is warmer, the birds are singing away and we thought it was time to wash all the nesting boxes. Five out of six had been used last year so thats good news.

It will soon be Valentine's Day when its Open House for birds and all our NGS visitors! For dates and times see

Our Winter Walk is beginning to wake up at last with snowdrops and aconites and daffodils beginning to push through the dark earth while up above the cornus stems are a gorgeous fiery orange.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Bee News

Sunday was such a lovely day to garden after all the horrid winter weather we have had over the last three weeks. We were itching to get out and managed to cut down all the japanese anemones in the wisteria walk, plus the late clematis on the arches there and in general weed and tidy it all up...a full days work for the two of us.

And in the middle of it all, along came Chris Lewis with a jar of honey. He had come to inspect his two beehives which he left here in August after our swarm last May (see earlier honey bee post). The snowy weather had stopped him checking before Christmas but now he thought he would see how they were, and, give them some verroa mite treatment.

We were pleased to see that both colonies seemed alive and well and had obviously survived the cold weather. Now we have to wait til spring to see if the hives are then healthy. All very exciting; a whole new world for us to learn about.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chinese Snow Lanterns

With or without their snow hats, these Chinese lanterns bring a lovely warm glow to the garden. We could call them Chinese Snow Hats! They grow on a corner of the drive with winter jasmine behind them and the two make a great late autumn/winter combo.

Friday, 8 January 2010

My very own Igloo

We had thick snow for a whole week before Christmas and with this last blanket predicted to go on well into next week I think I will call the Winter of 2009/2010 the 'Winter of the Igloo'.

This 'Solardome' is over 30 years old, we inherited it when we bought the house. With a 16ft diameter, it is brilliant for housing all my summer tender beauties including cannas, fushsias, tall aeoniums, geraniums, dasylirions etc.etc.

Mind you the heating bill is going to be large. Should I ditch the lot and go back to having only hardy plants??? It might be better for global warming.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow Chop, flop or Leave

The previous set of photos showed a set of frosty sedums. Here are the same sedums with a covering of snow, although now they are in reverse order.

Look closely at the Hepworth garden sedums (with birch trees and grasses behind and sculpture wood) which are weak and weighed down with snow, those are the ones I chopped in May. Now if you enlarge the photo you will see some have flopped badly near the path yet others seem to be upright behind. This is because when I cut them the outer ones were bigger and the central area was smaller so I left those; so the ones I chopped have collapsed, the weaker ones I left have remained intact.

The ones that have split are old clumps which have just been left alone.

The ones with the grasses and house in the distance were planted in 2008 and are bolt upright. They could cope with the heavy snowfall.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Chop, Flop or Leave

My Sedum specatible in the garden is at various ages. This is a significant factor; so is our heavy clay soil which means everything seems to grow much bigger than any dimensions ever given in an RHS book.

In its first three years here at Stevington, it grows superbly and the winter picture is magnificent whether it bears frost or snow. Year 4+ it splits or flops and looks like the waves of a sea.

Last May I decided to give the Chelsea Chop to one main bed of it, actually part of my Hepworth Garden based on her painting called Green Caves. It quickly re established itself but the flowers were not as big as before nor the stems as strong. This meant that in the December snow they couldnot cope with the weight and twisted and collapsed...quite sad. Now in January with yet more snow they will be even weaker.

Not quite sure what the answer is; maybe the Hepworth weak growth which I chopped last May, will have weakened the plant and I can just leave it alone next year. I know at Coton Manor they weaken the roots by lifting them slightly with a fork. So far I havenot tried that heavy sticky clay soil is not easy to manage like that.

Truth be told I am enjoying the new planting of 2008 best, its not yet reached that flop stage!

Perhaps we have to replant every three years.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Festive table

This is a festive table decoration with a difference; the eggs are planted with house leeks and other succulents and then brought inside for the Festive Season along with Chinese lanterns and tangerines. It certainly made a colourful centrepiece for all our family breakfasts.
Happy New Year everyone!