Apr 032015
 
Prunus-incisa-kojo-no-mai

Bath

I’ve been on the lookout for a shrub for my main border for a while – something multi-stemmed that would give a bit of structure, with spring blossom and autumn colour. I had set my heart on a Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’, but  I read said that it needed a sheltered, well-drained spot – and my garden is anything but sheltered, or well drained. Plus, I thought it might get too big. So in the end, I plumped for a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’.

I’m glad I did. Not only has it brought some welcome early spring colour (and contrasts nicely with the acid-green Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfennii close by, just seen in the background of the pic) but it is proving as tough as old boots. The garden has been battered non-stop by strong south-westerlies that have howled up the valley, but the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ has stood firm, hanging on to every bit of blossom. I guess it’s not surprising that it’s so robust, seeing as it can be found growing on the exposed slopes of Mount Fuji.

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ also has good autumn colour, and twisted stems in winter. I plan to underplant with early spring bulbs (it’s already looking good with some Cyclamen coum beneath it).

I’m still hankering after the Cercis, though. Apparently they can be grown in pots, so maybe I can squeeze one into the garden that way…

Sep 192014
 
Piet Oudolf's garden at the Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Somerset

Bruton, Somerset

Much excitement has been surrounding Piet Oudolf’s new garden at the new Hauser + Wirth Gallery in Somerset. I was one of the people who was excited about it, so I was very pleased to get the chance to visit.

The gallery and restaurant is extremely swanky – some challenging art, neon lights spelling ‘Everything Will Be OK’ on one of the building walls, throbbing music in the exceedingly cool bar area and lots of trendy people. It’s what you’d expect to find in a capital city, which isn’t surprising as the other Hauser + Wirth galleries are in New York, London and Zurich. To be honest, it made me feel a bit uneasy – it just didn’t seem to sit comfortably in deepest Somerset.

As for the garden, there are some beautiful planting combinations (my favourite is below), and quite a few plants that I didn’t recognise, which is always interesting. The place was positively buzzing with bees and butterflies.

Piet Oudolf field, Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Bruton, Somerset
Interestingly, the non-gardeners in our group didn’t ‘get’ the garden at all. I tried to explain the naturalistic style, the planting in drifts, the fact that it’s all very new and will take a while to establish. But they still didn’t get it, or even like it very much. And I must admit it didn’t quite do it for me, either. Maybe it was the simple fact that the garden isn’t established – the perennials are dominating at the moment, and the grasses need to mature to give more structure. Or maybe it was the clock sculpture, which dominates somewhat (and ticks annoyingly). Maybe it was the bright green grass paths which look a bit odd, the lack of structure, or the lack of a sense of enclosure. I’ve been wowed by Piet Oudolf’s planting in the past, especially at Pensthorpe a few years ago, but this time I was surprised to find myself thinking that I’ve seen it all before.

Piet Oudolf field, Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Bruton, Somerset

Nov 052013
 
Nerines_edited-1

Bath

Note to self: plant nerines next year. I’m not really keen on their granny pink, but I’ll forgive anything that flowers its socks off in the dark days of November, when everything else is giving up the ghost. These have flowered for weeks and are much more robust than they look – they’ve been unpeturbed by the St Jude storm and numerous heavy downpours.

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Oct 242013
 
Queen Square, Bath

Queen Square, Bath

I hereby declare it Virginia Creeper Week on this blog. Here’s another smasher, which I’ve had my eye on for a while, waiting for it to turn the most delicious shade of pinky-red.

Queen Square is a lovely, tranquil place to sit, by the way. Although I must admit I shattered the peace of it many years ago when I helped launch a giant rocket there on Bonfire Night. Crazy times, now long behind me.

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Oct 202013
 
Peto

Iford, Somerset

Much as I dislike the onset of autumn (although it’s not really autumn I’ve got a problem with – it’s the season that follows it), I love spotting Virginia creepers when they’ve reached the optimum shade of crimson. Here are a couple of corkers I’ve spotted recently, against brilliant blue skies.

Redvine

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Sep 272013
 
orangedahlias

‘Wigo Super’

Every year, the Inner Temple Garden’s head gardener Andrea experiments with different dahlias. Here are a few that I especially loved.

‘Wigo Super’ glows in the border, and looks great against the backdrop of purple cleomes. Andrea’s so impressed with it that she’s thinking of dumping ‘David Howard’ next year and replacing him with this charmer.

Dahlia 'Edwin's Sunset'

‘Edwin’s Sunset’ positively pulsates with colour and takes over from a red rose that has finished flowering.

Purpur Konigin

In the War of the Roses border, ‘Purpur Konigin’ is stealing the show. It’s small but perfectly formed and would make a fantastic cut flower.

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Oct 242012
 
Virginia creeper

Wimpole Street, W1

I first walked past this building a while back and was struck by the Virginia creeper, which almost entirely clothed the building in green. It was quite a sight then but it’s really come into its own now – its autumn foliage looks like party streamers.

The first time I walked past, the creeper hung halfway down the doorway, which must have meant people had to duck to get into the house. It’s now had a bit of a haircut around the door, but it’s well and truly grown its fringe out over the windows. It completely covers them, like living outdoor curtains.

I’d love to know who inhabits this building. Whoever it is can’t be too fussed about daylight, or really likes their privacy.

Virginia creeper

Oct 092012
 

If you’re feeling glum because the days are shortening, the temperatures are falling and everything is dying back, take yourself to the Inner Temple Garden without further ado. The High Border is still a riot of colour, and for a few glorious moments you can kid yourself that it’s still late summer.

The border contains many of the plants you’d expect in a late-season garden – grasses, dahlias, rudbeckias, asters, cosmos etc – but head gardener Andrea Brunsendorf puts them together in an original and adventurous way. She chooses varieties for their form, flower shape and colour, and thinks carefully about how they might complement other plants; the centre of one flower might complement the petals of another, for example. And she isn’t afraid to mix colours in combinations that more traditional gardeners would shy away from: orange, pink and red sit happily next to each other in the form of Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’, Dahlia coccinea ‘Mary Keen’ and a red rose (above), as do red roses, magenta dahlias, blue salvias, purple aconitums and yellow rudbeckias (below).

The border also looked pretty amazing when I visited the garden in May. At that time it was filled with alliums, aquilegias and oodles of tulips; oriental poppies then carried it through until June. Andrea admits that the border has a ‘June hole’ when she lifts the tulips and replaces some early flowerers with the tender late season plants such as dahlias. But for a border that powers on until the first frosts (which can be as late as December in central London), that’s a very small price to pay.

Nov 072011
 

St Albans

We had a disaster with our Florence fennel at the allotment this year. Bar a couple of plants, it all bolted, and once that happens the bulbs are too tough to eat. I think lack of watering at a crucial stage may have been to blame.

But every cloud has a silver lining and this weekend the bolted plants looked fantastic – about 6ft high and the kind of fresh, bright green that you only see in spring. They looked positively other-worldly amid a sea of decaying, brown plants.

Next year I’d like to actually eat some fennel so will make a bit more of an effort to look after the plants. But I’ll definitely neglect a row so I can enjoy the flowers too.

Oct 262011
 

Knoll Gardens, Dorset

Here’s a nice autumn combo: a grass and a sedum: Eragrostis curvula ‘Totnes Burgundy’ and Sedum telephium ‘Karfunklestein’. The sedum’s dead flowerheads should look good into winter and the grass can be cut down in spring – so a good alternative for a winter pot too.