I’ve just got back from a very foggy and wet week in Cornwall. It was disappointing because a) Cornwall looks stunning when it’s sunny b) We couldn’t see anything because the fog was so bad and c) I do not enjoy holidays that involve wearing a cagoule. In desperation one day, we went to the nearest National Trust property, Trengwainton, figuring that it would have a nice cafe at the very least. It’s filled with tender, exotic plants but we only managed to see the veg garden, where Christian enquired as to why my veg patch is not planted in straight lines like this one. A very good point – my veg planting has been very haphazard this year. By that time it was raining horizontally, so we retreated to the heaving cafe and agreed that we may as well call it a day and head back to our holiday cottage.
On the way back, we stopped off at an ancient monument looming eerily out of the fog, like a mini Stonehenge. We clambered over a dry stone wall to have a look at it, and sheltered under it for a while with a bemused-looking Swiss couple and their dog. We all looked sympathetically at each other before going our separate ways.
I spend a lot of time standing in front of this garden. It’s where I wait to be picked up whenever I’ve been travelling by train, and as Christian’s timekeeping isn’t the best, I often spend five, ten or even fifteen minutes looking at it. The jumble of perennials keeps me entertained, and there’s seemingly something new each time. I’ve grown very fond of it.
Last week, we went for fish and chips at the pub in the pretty village of Combe Hay, near Bath. On the edge of the village, there were poppies and foxgloves by the roadside, mixed with some purple irises. Further into the village, another verge was lined with poppies and foxgloves, plus irises, roses and sisirynchium. It made a gorgeous village look even more idyllic, and I’d love to know how this planting came about.
I’ve always found it amazing how, in London, you can find yourself in a sea of people on a busy thoroughfare like Oxford Street, then turn down a side street and find yourself alone, in almost spooky silence.
That’s what happened last week, when we went to a birthday party in Spitalfields on a Sunday afternoon. The house was just off Brick Lane, which was heaving with tourists. It reminded me that milling with crowds of people at markets was was never my idea of a good Sunday when I lived in London (my idea of a good Sunday back then was getting out of London altogether) and it looked even less appealing to my out-of-towner’s eyes.
Once we turned the corner, though, it was a completely different story. It was deathly quiet. And so it was, too, from the terrace and balcony at the top of the house, even though we could almost reach out and touch the nearby City skyline. I didn’t manage to get any good pictures because of the number of people, but both spaces were cleverly planted, with lots of herbs, tender plants that you can only get away with in London’s microclimate, and red geraniums mixed with rosemary in apple boxes. The balcony and terrace were also rigged up with thin copper pipes, which gave a pergola effect (see my previous post), something for climbers to trail along, and an added sense of safety (the balconies were only waist height, and a tad disconcerting for anyone who, like me, suffers from vertigo).
You can’t go wrong with red geraniums, can you? Especially on a balcony where they give impact from afar. It made me feel a little nostalgic for my old balcony, but not for the continuous feeling I had when I was living there that I’d rather be living somewhere else.
What I like about this patio (apart from the amazing view over Bath) is that it Alchemilla mollis all over it. The only self-seeders I get on my patio is weeds, so I’m intrigued as to how this got here – was it planted, or did it come naturally? It reminds me of the fab patio area at Gravetye.
You don’t see Judas trees much in this country, so I always like to stop and admire one when I see one – this one was in Bradford on Avon last week. Now I finally have one of my own, bought cheap at the plant sell-off at West Kington Nurseries a month or so ago. It’s a little multi-stemmed number and I’ve planted it in the widest area of my border, replacing a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, which has now been relegated to a large pot on the patio.
The Public Sale Days at this wholesale nursery are famed locally – a wide range of perennials, climbers, shrubs and trees are sold off at bargain prices. Perennials are a few quid, roses are £10. My neighbours have got the sale down to a fine art – get there when it opens at 9am (the all-important wheelbarrows run out pretty quickly), head straight for the expensive stuff (trees and shrubs), know exactly what you’re looking for, and don’t get sidetracked. It’s hard to not get carried away, stuffing everything you can get your hands on in your wheelbarrow. It’s odd what people walk out with – lots of people were buying big pots of daffodils in flower, which would have gone over in a few days.
As the morning wore on, the wheelbarrows ran out, and people were picking up each other’s by mistake. It was a thoroughly British affair – there was some loud tutting at wheelbarrows blocking routes to the plants, some pointed querying as to whether someone had jumped the queue to pay, and some light stalking of people heading back to their cars with their purchases in order to get their wheelbarrow. But it’s all good fun and well worth it – for about £70, I picked up the Judas tree, a decent-sized Hydrangea paniculata, one of my favourite roses, ‘Compassion’, and around ten perennials. The next sale is on 4 July, and while I’ve got little room left in my garden now for anything new, I’ll definitely go back.