The last time I went to the Courts Garden it was my birthday, high summer and sunny. This time, six months later, the weather was grey and freezing, and we could only manage a few minutes in the garden before taking refuge in the tea room.
There was still plenty to enjoy, though – this little known National Trust garden deserves to be better known. The display of hellebores and snowdrops along the approach to the house at this time of year is a real sight for sore eyes. And I loved the little square of cyclamen in gravel.
I spotted these winter aconites in the grounds of Cheltenham College yesterday, and made a mental note to plant some soon, so that I have something to look at next January. I planted loads of bulbs last year, many of them early flowerers as I can’t stand winter. But nothing has really appeared yet. My forced indoor paperwhites peaked way too early and the early Iris reticulata and crocuses are only just peeping through. The garden is looking a bit… brown (as opposed to white in much of the country).
To avoid the problem of nothing to look at in January next year, I’m going to order some aconites (Eranthis cilicica as opposed to Eranthis hyemalis, as it is said to do better in clay soil), Cyclamen coum and snowdrops, to plant in the green. I shall plant them at the back of the border and under shrubs, as they do at Great Dixter.
January is the worst month for this blog. It’s too early for most early bulbs like aconites and iris reticulata (and you don’t tend to see them in the average garden anyway) so if I’m lucky I see a few cyclamen or pansies in a windowbox. So thank heavens for evergreens.
The planting in the grounds of Cheltenham College is mostly evergreen – euonymus, lavender, santolina, box, choisya, viburnum. Coupled with the well tended lawns and giant cedar, it must look immaculate all year round – if pretty much the same in every season. I enjoy walking past it, as it’s such a hit of green. I’ll be interested to see if any spring bulbs appear, or whether they embellish it with summer bedding.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Garrya elliptica, but this one caught my eye. The long, silvery catkins really caught the low winter sunlight, and the whole plant seemed to sparkle.
Seeing it reminded me of studying for my RHS Level 2 examination in an evening class, many moons ago. One of the women on the course was pregnant, and we said she should give the child a botanical name. Of course that would have been easy if the child was a girl, but impossible for a boy. The only name we could come up with was… Gary Eliptica.
You probably had to be there.
The last few days in the West Country have been cold but beautifully sunny and yesterday it felt almost spring-like. To blow some cobwebs away, we walked up Glastonbury Tor and on the way back, popped into the Chalice Well Garden.
What a lovely place. It’s very tranquil, largely due to the water from the Chalice Well that flows throughout – into pools, rills and the main Vesica Pool (above). The iron-rich waters stain the stone red. Birds were tweeting furiously, and the garden was awash with strong scents from sarcococca, mahonia and viburnum. I’ve never seen so many seats in a garden, for quiet contemplation – one has a lovely view of the Tor (below).
As we sat and stared at the Vesica Pool, I was reminded of a story that a hippy friend told me recently. He took his new girlfriend to the garden last year, at a point when they hadn’t really talked about how their relationship was going. As they sat side by side at the edge of the pool, he thought he’d ask her: ‘Would you like to be my girlfriend?’. To which she replied: ‘I thought I already was.’ They’re now living together.
In the depths of January, when there’s little around in the way of colour, thank heavens for big, fat, juicy green box balls.
I like the way these two rows continue beyond the gate, linking the garden of the museum to the park beyond.
Now here’s a plant that I hadn’t seen before – Anisodontea ‘El Royo’, or Cape Mallow. Its hibiscus-like flowers persist throughout winter on this west-facing wall in Olive Mason’s garden, Dial Park – apparently they shrivel up when there’s a frost, but bounce right back again. A quick Google has revealed that you can buy it at Cotswold Garden Flowers.
It looks so fresh and summery in the winter gloom. If I had a sheltered, west facing wall, I would definitely plant one. As it is, I have an exposed, west facing wall, so I don’t think I’ll risk it.