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.
Most of my possessions are in storage at the moment and I must admit, I’m beginning to miss them. My plants and pots, though, are divided between my mum and my sister’s gardens, so I see them quite frequently. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, ‘Oh, that’s a nice pot’, only to realise that it actually belongs to me.
The pot in the foreground is mine, and Mum has filled it with some hyacinths that look perfect now, just before they come out fully. The metal ball to the right was a birthday present a few years ago. It’s one of my favourite things – it somehow looks at home in any setting. It came from the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery.
The pot behind belongs to my mum. It contains a hellebore and some kind of bright pink heather – they look pretty good together. In fact the whole patio was looking pretty good, despite my mum’s dire warnings, as ever, that the garden was looking ‘terrible’.
I wonder if, when the time comes, I’ll actually get my containers back. They look quite at home in their new abodes and I’ll feel a bit mean reclaiming them. I can’t see my sister giving up my nice wooden wine boxes without a fight, and Mum is pretty attached to the metal ball… On the other hand there are some piddly pots I don’t want back, because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about gardening in containers is that it’s best to go big. I’ve got a feeling, though, that only taking back the pots that I still like and leaving the rest is NOT going to be an option as far as the Peerless gardeners are concerned…
I’ve seen silver birches underplanted with all kinds of things – snowdrops, anemones, cyclamen, bluebells etc – but never hellebores for some reason. The combination works so well – the pristine white of the petals complements the dazzling trunks of the small grove of Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’ trees perfectly.
This is a clever bit of planting. The hellebores will flower for a while yet, and will then give way to foxgloves. And that’s it. Simple, but very effective.
I took a trip out of London last week to the much-loved and respected Ashwood Nurseries in Staffordshire. I was there to meet the owner, John Massey, who has a beautiful three-acre private garden in the nursery grounds.
John’s garden looked so good it was almost enough to make me love January. Everything was about three weeks ahead, so my timing turned out to be perfect – the carpets of snowdrops, magenta cyclamen coum, yellow aconites and hellebores of every hue looked impossibly pretty among the yellow and red witch hazels (hamamelis) and red-stemmed dogwoods.
Sadly my camera couldn’t really do them justice (it’s got a rubbish zoom and I didn’t want to trample over John’s borders), but you can see some pics here. I did however manage to capture this border, in which most of the grasses and perennials have been left standing over the winter.
A big part of planting up a border is getting the right combination of contrasting forms and textures. The upright grasses contrast with the button-like heads of Aster ‘Little Carlow’, the coneshaped coneflowers (echinaceas) and the cotton-wool like seedheads of Clematis tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’.
John’s garden also makes use of evergreens, many of them clipped into distinctive shapes. His cloud-pruned holly hedge is Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’ – its small leaves lend themselves to being pruned in this way.
John’s garden is open to the public several times in January and February. Do go for some winter cheer, inspiration and the amazingly popular tearoom.
While the biomes are undoubtedly the star attraction of the Eden Project, I liked the plane tree steps best. The trees are underplanted with bulbs and hellebores in spring – but I’m told that the area looks just as good throughout the year. It’s a lovely place to linger – I had to wait ages for people to get out of the way so I could take this pic.
I went to the RHS Halls in Victoria today for a preview of the London Orchid Show and to hear about what the RHS shows have in store this year. I chatted to Colin Crosbie, Curator at RHS Garden Wisley. He said that plants are an addiction, and he often has to fib to his wife when she spots a new plant in their garden, claiming that it’s been there for ages. My mum does a similar thing with my dad. I guess it’s the horticultural equivalent of someone with a shopping addiction claiming to have had a new pair of shoes for years.
Anyway, after the show I went shopping. I tried on some clothes, hated all of them and found myself in a bit of a bad mood (I hate shopping). And then I spied a street full of cherry trees in bloom, and found myself drawn to it.
The trees led to Ashley Gardens, a Victorian block of flats. Its garden is a cornucopia of shade-loving plants – hellebores, fatsias, camellias, Arum italicum, tree ferns, hardy geraniums and so on – with paths and mystery doorways and different levels. I spent a happy few minutes taking pics – along with someone else (I hope she doesn’t have a rival blog to this one!Q).
When I walked off I realised my spirits had lifted considerably. So I guess I’m with Colin on the addiction front. Oh well – plants are (usually) cheaper than shoes…