Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tiger slug

“There is a form of hypocrisy common to nearly all gardeners. It does not affect only the gentle amateur, but has been known to affect even the most hardened professional, who is not, generally speaking, a sentimental or squeamish man. It is the human weakness which, accompanying our determination to rid ourselves of slugs and snails, makes us reluctant next morning to contemplate the result of our overnight efforts.
Having enjoyed our own good breakfast, we come out to behold the slimy greenish remains. Big black slugs, four inches long; little black slugs, one inch long; snails exuding their entrails from under their beautiful delicate shells… Meta and sawdust have done their work only too well. In what agony, during the dark hours, have these miserable members of God’s creation perished?...
It is all very painful, unpleasant and even nauseating. What is to be done about it? We must abolish our frail brother with his tender horns, or else sacrifice our seedlings: we have the choice. The seedlings, I think, will win. We must kill their enemies, but, if we are humane in our hearts, we will commit this slaughter with the least distressing offence to our hypocritical selves.”
Vita Sackville-West, 1951.

Spare a thought too for Mr Toad, nestled in the hole. And not a motor car in sight!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hypericum ‘Hidcote’

The chief beauty of this glorious plant is its cheery butter yellow blooms, which seem to be waving at you in the most jovial manner. The other notable feature of this blithe cove is its relentless flowering, which began this year in June and has continued until this same cold day in late-November! The particular bloom above is seen in action here in Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, but the plant can be seen and enjoyed in various corners of Hidcote. This is primarily due to the plant’s garden-worthiness, but also of course because the plant was discovered by that man Major Lawrence Johnston in 1929, when he was plant hunting around Mount Kilimanjaro!

The view out from Winthrop’s points due south, and beyond the delightful autumn colour of the Euonymus europaeus lies… the Wilderness!

Some other autumn interest to be had here, Euphorbia longifolia ‘Amjilassa’

Just beside the Stream in Lower Winthrop’s is this shrub, Staphylea colchica, with its wonderful lantern seed pods

Winthrop’s in warmer times! Mrs Winthrop was Lawrence’s mother, and the colour scheme here reflects her penchant for yellows and blues

Monday, 21 November 2011


This old chap is still lingering about the place, and is seen above posing for a Victorian silhouette on the wall of the Bathing Pool. Recently, he was seen looking somewhat less dignified, after managing to get himself stuck in some topiary holly. The ass!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Enchanted Garden

This weekend and next a truly splendid evening event is occurring here at Hidcote; ‘The Enchanted Garden’ (great name!). Two chaps have decked the garden out in the most dazzlingly beautiful concoction of coloured lights, highlighting some of the garden's best features and creating some fantastic effects with various intensities of light. This time last year when this event took place we had just entered that bitterly cold snap, and I’m thankful that this year however the unseasonably mild temperatures continue! Detailed information is to be found here.

Plant House in Blue

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Kiftsgate Court

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end! Our final stop on the autumn garden tour was Hidcote’s beautiful neighbour, Kiftsgate Court. It’s only a five minute walk away, so we ambled down the hill and had a leisurely afternoon drinking in the great beauty of this wonderful garden. If you ever visit Hidcote it is truly worth dropping by here on the way home!

The Terrace, with some late-action lingering on in the four square beds

Thoroughly enjoyed this Geranium frothing over the clipped Box edging

White Sunk Garden

Looking back the other way, with some Gaura still working hard

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Pamina'

The Water Garden is far too modern for my tastes, but you can’t help but admire the beautiful design. This view offered through a gap cut in the yew hedge is a masterstroke, giving you a jolt with a stark glimpse of the modern world before you turn back to the old cosy romance of a Cotswold country garden

View down to the Lower Garden and beyond looking on the Vale of Evesham toward Wales

Cotswold stone glory!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Garden House

On the way home from Beth Chatto’s Garden we stayed the night at Cambridge, a wonderful city which I had never visited before but hope to return to soon! After this refreshing evening we got on the road once again, heading this time for the familiar surrounds of the Cotswolds. Our destination though was not immediately Hidcote, instead we stopped for lunch at Garden House, the truly beautiful home of Sibylle Kreutzberger. Sibylle, like Mrs Chatto, is a much celebrated gardener, having run Sissinghurst for 31 years with her friend Pamela Schwerdt! “Pam and Sibylle” really established Sissinghurst into the garden we see today, and their exciting use of plants and colours has left a lasting mark on gardening generally, but in particular the way the National Trust gardens. In 1959, Vita Sackville-West employed Sibylle and Pam to be the head gardeners, and after her death in 1962 the Trust just let them get on with it! This they did in glorious style, facing the challenges of a rapidly increasing number of visitors whilst maintaining the horticultural excellence laid down by VSW. In Anne Scott-James’ excellent tome, 'Sissinghurst - The Making of a Garden' she writes, “In 1961, 13,200 people visited Sissinghurst. In 1967, the number had risen to 47, 100. In 1973, it was up to 91, 584.” Pam and Sibylle oversaw this transition for Sissinghurst into a huge visitor attraction! Writing in 1974, Mrs Scott-James hails their impact, “The philosophy at Sissinghurst has been to preserve Vita’s actual plants for as long as possible, to follow her style of planting faithfully, to keep the Sissinghurst colours, the Sissinghurst profusion, the Sissinghurst richness of inter-plating and ground cover, but to change the planting schemes when necessary. The gardeners have been outstandingly successful. One section of the garden has even been improved in their hands, the ever-troublesome Delos, which has been converted from a rock garden into a shrub garden.” Here’s to Sibylle, an outstanding cook and gardener!

The home of Pam and Sibylle

Erigeron karvinskianus making its presence felt in the seating area

The startling blue daisy heads of Felicia amelloides, as used at Hidcote in Mrs Winthrop’s garden

Another of the many grasses I was entrapped by on this trip, Miscanthus nepalensis. Behind on the wall is Vitis pulchra, which is preferred to V. coignetiae by Sibylle as it is ‘better behaved’

A pleasing mix of hard and soft features here, with a bit of clippery, some stones edging the lawn and the old Vitis scrambling over the arch

An unusual, late-flowering Geranium ‘Dilys’, with small flowers and leaves

The curious berries of Actaea pachypoda

Alstromeria ‘Apollo’, recommended by Sibylle as flowering all summer

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Beth Chatto’s Garden

After our last evening in Rye we decided not to make a dash for home, but instead set forth on a gruelling journey north to Colchester. Here lies the home of celebrated gardener and plantswoman, Beth Chatto, whose name I have found to be one that pops-up repeatedly in horticulture! Her glorious book ‘Plant Portraits’ has given me great pleasure recently and here at Hidcote we plant purchases from her famous nursery, so it was jolly exciting to finally get up to her garden and poke about the place! I found it to have a great feeling of space and expanse, lacking the hedges and walls I’ve become accustomed to at Hidcote. The structure is instead provided by an almost endless number of specimen trees and large shrubs, which bank the large paths that wind about the place. The planting is deep and generally in large clumps, which make for some great distance views if you remember to look back up the path you have just taken. Clearly this was not the golden moment to visit the garden, but nevertheless it is a truly beautiful place with some incredible plants!

Late-season interest straddling a pond in the Water Garden, and another Taxodium distichum

A truly stunning pond, but unfortunately no boat hire

This tree is Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila, or Snow Gum

The jewel-like berries of the evergreen Viburnum davidii

Tricyrtis formosana, the toad lily

The light was beginning to fade here in the Gravel Garden

The spectacular foliage plant, Melianthus major

Five cats reside here at Mrs Chatto’s expense!

Hawkwood College

Last week I attended a training course at Hawkwood College near Stroud, in Gloucestershire. The course was designed to give insight on nature and wildlife issues at National Trust properties, and it was dashed interesting stuff believe me! One of the highlights of the course was getting outside on a sunny afternoon to have an amble about the small but beautiful property.

Some interesting cows were grazing in this delightful field

Quick detour through the Beech wood, mind your step

Rolling hills of the Cotswolds!

A 350 year old Oak tree

Ivy commandeering an old stump. Great plant, ivy.

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