Friday, 27 April 2012


 A double post today, as I wanted to wrap up the Hidcote spring end of things. Tomorrow morning I head off to France to complete a placement at Monet’s garden in Giverny, just north of Paris. A full colour report and ramblings upon my return, cheerio!

Man the lifeboats!

Miserable precipitation has taken hold, drowning our humour and dampening our sprits! Reminiscent of some shamanic chant we find ourselves muttering repeatedly, “We need it, we need it”, which of course we do what with all of this drought and hose-pipe ban business. But the situation would be more enjoyable, or at least more bearable, if the thing was spread across a 12-month payment plan, rather than lumped into one month-long dose! In spite of all this the plants are growing at in an incredible rate, seemingly triffid-like, and I fear this may be the last of the old spring updates…

No yellow tulips were ordered for the Old Garden display, but of course one does not discover the wrong bulbs have been sent until the spring when they commence flowering!

Tulipa ‘Virichic’, as anticipated, in the Old Garden

In the Plant House border. Tulipa ‘Prinses Irene’, an old variety from 1845 I first encountered in the Cottage Garden at Sissinghurst. Accompanied here by the cheering spikes of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii

Inside the Plant House the blooms of the Jasminum polyanthum emit an incredible scent that fills the air

The honeybees are particularly fond of the honey-scented Pittosporum tobira, and stick their little faces as far as possible into the flowers! This plant is half-hardy, so also resides here in the Plant House

Morning in the Wilderness, with the bark of a Birch and a stand of an old Narcissus cultivar

Epimedium pinnatum subsp. colchicum

Lemon-yellow harmony in the Pine Circle with the buds of Paeonia mlokosewitschii and the blooms of Tulipa ‘Strong Gold’

The Rose Walk provides one of the first real peaks in the garden, with its early-summer display, and I personally cannot wait for the return of the lupins

There are heritage varieties of countless species about the garden, but I have found the Narcissi amongst the hardest to identify. This gem up the Rose Walk is currently unknown to us

In the Lily Pond, a Great Pond Snail drinking in the glory of spring. These chaps have incredible rhino-like heads that unfurl gracefully from their shells

There have been a huge number of Orange-tip butterflies about the place this year, joyful days! The undersides have this complex blotched mottling, with only the males bearing the orange tipped wings

The Brimstones are still around I am glad to say, here enjoying Symphytum ‘Hidcote Pink’ down by the bee hives

Monday, 23 April 2012

Arley Hall

Recently I ambled off up north for a spot of garden visiting, battling through the rain and elements to visit the likes of Bodnant, Holker Hall and Wollerton Old Hall. One of the highlights of the trip was a poke around Arley Hall, a private estate and garden set amongst the beautiful Cheshire countryside. This garden has an impressive and ancient history, and has been entirely designed and improved over the centuries by each successive heir. In 1846 the ‘Alcove Walk’ was laid out for the display of perennial plants, with large double borders divided by a gravel path. This garden area is now known as the Herbaceous Border, and is widely accepted to be one of, if not the, first of its kind in the country, designed 50 years prior to the likes of old Gertrude Jekyll getting in on the act!  At over 160 years old, it remains to this day an utterly magnificent example of herbaceous planting and border design, and along with the rest of the garden is quite frankly enchanting. Arley is a little over an hour away from wonderful Wollerton, and I would strongly encourage visiting both!

Arley Hall, the same family have resided in a property on this site since 1469

Rain still visible in the Flag Garden, you find yourself stumbling upon these delightful little garden spaces as you meander about the place

The curious crimson blooms of Ribes speciosum

Topiary entrance to the Herbaceous Border, and the thick clouds that passed overhead all day

Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

Detail of these charming flowers

Playful and fascinating, those huge yew buttresses are a joy!

Grand proportions and incredible structure, all that is lacking are the flowers! (please see below)

Two Magnolia trees form an arch leading to the Ilex Avenue. Oh dear, somebody’s left the mower out!

Clipped columns of Quercus ilex create this imposing scene

Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland  Gold', we were so desperate to discover the name of this great beauty we hounded some poor chap passing by in a boiler suit! Alas, he did not know, or was perhaps too startled to tell us

Staphylea pinnata, the exciting seed pods of S. colchica posted recently here

A full glimpse of the Staphylea!

In the Kitchen Garden, tulip displays provide some early colour

An August view of the Herbaceous Border I took several summers ago

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

During a recent jaunt to London I was able to spend some time poking around Kew Gardens, the marvellous botanical garden that houses a breathtaking collection of plants from across the globe! I completed a placement here in my first year of the Careership (pre-blog), and consider it to be a truly wonderful place; something of a haven amongst the smog and litter of our bustling capital. Unfortunately, due to terrible planning and foresight, my camera battery bid me adieu rather early on during the visit! This led to selective photography, firing the blasted thing up with fingers crossed when I stumbled upon something interesting. What larks!

Tulipa kaufmanniana in the Rock Garden

Splashes of Erythronium grandiflorum in the Woodland Garden

The Palm House! A magnificent relic from the Victorian era

Palm House sunset!

I became somewhat preoccupied with the low sun seen through the glass

Fortunately I will have an extended period to capture more images of this glorious garden, as I will be starting there in September as a student of the Kew Diploma in Horticulture! This is another three year training course, joining practical experience with academic endeavours. More information can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Damp, coldness and strong winds have replaced the mild, summery conditions we were recently experiencing. Misery! If you’d care to join me I’m pouring a glass of the stuff that warms and inebriates, and delving into some images from those happier times just a matter of days ago!

View to the manor through the Old Garden gate, with the white Hellebores posted recently

The dramatic and staggeringly beautiful combination of foliage and flower from Geranium maderense. This is unfortunately the last-hoorah, as this plant dies after flowering

The Rose Walk is clearly visible from the Plant House at this time of year, but later on the view will be masked by an abundance of flowers and foliage

One of my favourites; Fritillaria imperialis!

Down on the Acid Border, the delicate Heloniopsis yakushimense, a recent purchase from Edrom Nursery

James cutting a Yew hedge amongst the Narcissus on the Theatre Lawn bandstand. This was the penultimate day of hedge cutting, of a season that started in August! There are around four and a half miles of hedging to trim each year, all of which is done by hand and eye. Electric hedge trimmers are used and the occasional long-handled ‘petrols’ for those awkward to reach corners, with orange boxes, scaffolding and the cherry pickers taking us up to those taller hedges

Fritillaria meleagris var. unicolor subvar. alba, the white Snakeshead Fritillary!

I was charged with piecing together a spring scheme for the containers in the Gardener’s Yard, this is Tulipa ‘Sweetheart’ that starts the display

In East Court, the formal parterres of Euonymus combine well with the Hyacinth ‘City of Harlem’

Up on the Rock Bank the legume blooms of Caragana brevispina

The Euphorbia longifolia ‘Amjilassa’ flowering in Mrs Winthrop’s Garden seems to attract a strange cast of misfits. Here now a wasp tucking in! Yet to see a honeybee or Bombus harvesting these blooms

Down by the stream the Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, and seen behind the yellow hands of the Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus. Two damp loving plants that will be grateful for the rain!

The hurly burly of the Bathing Pool!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Spring in my step

I say spring, but it has been more like summer in the Cotswolds this past fortnight! There is a golden time at the beginning of the season at Hidcote, when the whole place suddenly comes to life. In the glory days of yore Major Johnston traipsed across to the south of France with his dogs and staff, seeing out the chilly English winter from the comfort and mild sea breezes of his other garden at Menton. With this in mind Hidcote has grown up being rather restrained during the winter months, and it’s only once spring begins to edge in from the shadows that things really get going again! This new beginning heralds the onset of a glorious moment in time, with the absolute pleasure of all the blooms and buds right now, and the promise of the floriferous months ahead!
The Red Borders are a late-season garden, but early on in the year purple-leaved cherries brighten the place up. The lawn is currently closed due to a series of turf repairs that have been taking place here and all over the garden

Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’ lighting up the gazebo

Recently I have become fixated by the clean lines of the cut hedges, here the Hornbeams in the Stilt Garden and the Beech / Holly tapestry blocks seen in the distance

The Cowslip, Primula veris, making a welcome appearance in the Orchard

This is quite probably my favourite tulip, T. sylvestris, flowering now in Mrs Winthrop’s Garden!

A quick stop in the Glasshouse for some seed sowing, here we have Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil plant. One of the other gardeners recently discovered that this plant was used in ye olden times to treat pretty much every ailment going. An interesting turn up for the books, as it has infamously been used as a poison to kill spies!

Two gems that like to have their feet wet, a white version of the common but beautiful Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris var. alba, surrounded by the frilly heads of Soldanella ‘Spring Symphony’

The incredible bell-blooms of the yellow Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’, seen here in the Stilt Garden. What a plant!

In Camellia Corner, a carpet of Anemone blanda

In the Maple Garden the sweetly-scented Hyacinths are well underway, here two varieties H. ‘Amethyst’ and H. ‘Woodstock’. In the foreground is Leucojum aestivum, and these white blooms are reflected opposite by the small Magnolia stellata

This is the Hummingbird Hawk-moth I was prattling about last year (please see here). Incredible joy to see this migrant in September, flabbergasting to see it on March 27th up the Rose Walk and feeding on Pulmonaria! What the blazes are you doing here now old bean?
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