Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
There is one thing that is the best thing in the whole world about growing vegetables. Much as I enjoy digging up carrots, picking beans, cutting lettuce, shelling broad beans out of their furry pods (and I like that rather a lot), they do not hold a candle to what I did for the first time of the year today.
Pirates may get excited about digging up golden dubloons using a map to find the spot marked ‘X’. I get more excited about digging up potatoes - the child-like excitement of unearthing the hidden prize. Sad, isn’t it?
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Whilst grass is an important foil to the flowers in our garden, it is also an enemy. I suffer from hayfever, and midsummer can be a bit of a trial when the grasses are flowering.
‘What could be better, then, than Tony Smith’s ‘Grass’ garden at Gardeners’ World Live’? The essence of flowering grass but without the itchy eyes.
I think it was my favourite show garden. This surprised me, as I do like my flowers. But the simplicity of the planting in the garden was beguiling. The towers of turf were topped with what looked like Cineraria. A grass stalk topped by a silvery flowerhead. I enjoyed looking at the different views through the grass ‘stalks’. It would have been nicer still to have been able to sit in the sunken area, an look up at the towering ‘grasses’. A well-deserved gold, and it seemed to provoke almost entirely positive comments from the crowds, which was quite a surprise.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
I went on a train trip yesterday. A day out at Gardeners’ World Live. I decided not to drive as every time I visit the NEC, on the way out I seem to become entangled in a vortex of roads which drag back me closer and closer to the showground. Eventually, I break free of the NEC’s gravitational pull (all those huge sheds there must contain black holes or something), and I fly off in a random direction. I spend the next 10 minutes driving along looking at road signs, trying to determine whether I’m on the right road or not. Usually I’m not.
Anyway, I went on the train, and thoroughly enjoyed the journey. It allows the blossoming of my inherent nosiness – I get to peer into a myriad of back gardens, and snigger when I see industrial units proudly displaying the fact that they manufacture pipe flanges. There is something intrinsically funny about the word flange, so I make no apology for saying it again.
It was an early start yesterday, as I wanted to be at the NEC at opening time, to avoid the heaving crowds later in the day. I had a delicious feeling of skiving off as I watched people peering bleary-eyed at laptops and all I had to do was watch the countryside slip past.
Whilst peering into gardens, you become struck by the gradual spread of the dark circles of trampolines, like bouncy acne spreading across the face of the suburban British garden.
As a counterfoil to the ugly elasticated playthings, it was a joy to see the swathes of ox-eye daisies in the rough grassland, and poppies around the edges of cereal fields.
It was also interesting to see the floral adornments of some of the stations. Of course, Birmingham New Street is an underground behemoth, devoid of foliage. However, at the edges of the tunnels a few gallant plants grow, and look all the better for putting themselves there. Ferns, ivy-leaved toadflax and the ubiquitous buddleia thrive in cracks and crevices. Rather nicer than the display at Chester station, which was rather twee (not to mention very dry). But at least they tried. If a few people were cheered by some petunias, then the world is a better place.
The NEC was its usual soulless self, (though with a good sprinkling of interesting gardens and plants) but that’s another post.
Saturday, June 04, 2011
On what felt like the hottest day of the year so far, I decided to visit the gardens at Wollerton Old Hall, near Market Drayton. The gardens are only open on Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, so a beautiful day pretty much guaranteed a busy garden.
The gardens open at noon, and there is an initial rush once the ticket office opens. However, I discovered that most of the early rush was to the tea rooms – apparently very good, but I didn’t go in. Although the house is old (16th century), the gardens have been developed since 1984.
The garden has a solid year-round structure of walls, hedges and clipped trees; this structure is supplemented by bounteous shrub and herbaceous colour. Most of the individual garden areas are planted in the ‘English garden tradition’ according to the website. So, plenty of herbaceous borders, roses and so on.
The garden is divided into rooms which are linked to form views within the garden. It did, to me, sometimes feel that these views were a little too many, but it does lead you on through the garden – though sometimes a little too quickly. I found myself wondering where the next path was going rather than admiring the current ‘room’, as each garden area was quite small. This led to me wandering round several times, to go back to see what I’d missed before.
My favourite parts of the garden had less of a ‘corridor’ feel. I particularly liked the Font Garden, which was mostly green when I visited, with box topiary and wildflower square. In a week or two, one side will be bordered with white lilies – they aren’t quite out yet.
The Lanhydrock garden, on the other hand, is a slap to the face to wake you up. Bright colours just beginning to get going – a real hot garden area – both literally and figuratively yesterday – some of the plants were finding the hot sun and continued dry weather a bit of a challenge.
A really ‘romantic’ border at the moment is in the Rose Garden – a tide of Nepeta to wade through, studded with peonies and roses.
Another quieter interlude was the garden area by the house. A lovely place to sit when the visitors have gone away at the end of the day, I’m sure. Like the font garden, I enjoyed this area as it was calmer and felt less of a corridor. I suspect the heat of the day and the overhead sun led me to preferring the ‘cooler’ areas yesterday. I liked this area, as it reminded me what a good ground cover plant ivy can be – trimmed to keep it under control, it gives a carpet of fresh green.
The rill garden was another ‘quiet’ area of green and stone – limited planting with limited materials. Having seen photos of the garden in several lectures, I’d expected the rill to run the length of the garden (i.e. at right angles to the house), rather than across the garden (parallel to the house). Not that it matters – it was a nice area, again allowing vistas through the garden.
Wollerton Old Hall also has some more naturalistic planting further from the house, leading down to a small pool where the damselflies were active.
I did enjoy the visit, but didn’t feel smitten with it as I have with some other gardens. I can’t quite figure out why – I suspect that the heat and strong sunlight may have affected my enjoyment, rather than anything lacking in the garden, although I did end up feeling a bit tired of cross-views at the end.
It’s a good time of year to visit the gardens, with the early summer English garden flowers out, such as irises, roses, peonies, and the wild flower areas looking fresh. And try the cake – it’s supposed to be very good. Let me know.