Dec 212015
 
Greys-Court-plant-theatre

Greys Court, Oxfordshire

On a day out at Greys Court last year, my Mum admired a plant theatre, filled with pansies and violas. In the gift shop, she picked up a leaflet that contained instructions for making one, and then thought no more about it.

On Christmas Day last year, after all the presents had been opened, my Dad disappeared into the garage and came back in, carrying a large present for my Mum. It was a plant theatre, similar to the one above. Every time Mum had gone out, Dad had worked on it in secret. Dad’s not big on grand (or small) gestures, so we were all quite gobsmacked.

The theatre now has pride of place on the wall of the house, and is currently filled with pansies and violas, just like this one.

Season’s greetings!

Feb 112015
 
Hellebores at the Courts Garden, Wiltshire

Holt, Wiltshire

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.

Cyclamen-Courts

Jan 292015
 
Aconites

Cheltenham

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.

Jan 242015
 
Garrya elliptica

Glastonbury

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.

Jan 192015
 
Chalice Well Garden, Glastonbury

Glastonbury

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.

Glastonbury-Tor

Dec 122014
 
Dial-Park-wall

Worcestershire

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.

Oct 302014
 
Pelargoniums and paperwhite narcissisi in conservatory

Bath

There’s a clash of the seasons in my conservatory at the moment. Some paperwhite narcissi have flowered way earlier than I was expecting, and some pelargoniums (including the wonderfully named ‘Happy Thought’, in the front) have decided to flower again.

The tiny space is getting very congested – I’ve already brought in some tender plants, such as lemon verbenas, which was a bit premature given the ridiculously mild weather we’ve been having. Soon a couple of bananas and a fuchsia will be making their way in. Mind you, the effect I’m going for is Andie McDowell’s indoor greenhouse in the film Green Card, so a bit of congestion is fine by me.

Mar 162014
 
crocus

Bath

A few weeks back I posted a picture of my violas (Viola deltini ‘Rose Pink’), which had been blooming their socks off for weeks come rain or shine (mostly rain). I had put some crocus bulbs (Crocus tommasianus ‘Whitewell Purple’) underneath, and they’ve come up a treat. They’re exactly the same colour as the violas, which I kind of like, but next time I think I’ll plant yellow or orange ones as more of a contrast…

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