Jardins Agapanthe alliumsI was completely wowed by Les Jardins Agapanthe at the beginning of June this year. Above are glorious groupings of Allium Globemaster and as the bulb planting season is (just about) still with us, I’m borrowing this idea and have ‘Globemaster’ bulbs waiting to be planted as I type.

Jardins Agapanthe alliums 2

The first thing that really hits you is that all of the gardens are mulched with an light-coloured river sand which gives you the impression that you’re not far from the beach in the South of France, (when you’re actually in Normandy, a little north of Rouen). Très Mediterranean.

Allium cemtary 3 at Jardins Agapanthe

This area looked great from every angle, and seemed like an homage to the first world war cemeteries. Magnificent!

Paving 2 at Jardins Agapanthe

As you follow the twists and turns of the pathways, through gigantic exotic plantings to more intimate shady settings, it felt like taking a masterclass in garden design. It’s ‘Jardins’ in the plural by the way, as there are 2 different gardens, created by garden designer Alexandre Thomas, surrounding two houses, with a small road dividing them. Each garden is artfully divided into a number of smaller gardens, almost like different stage sets and I absolutely loved the drama and theatricality of it all. If you’re ever in Normandy, make sure you visit!

Miscanthus+Persicaria orientalis+Asters+Calmagrostis brachytricha at Jardin Plume september 2011

P.s. And you could also visit Le Jardin Plume (above).





Peach Hollyhock, BlakeneyI can feel it coming on. This slight obsession with Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).

Deep pink Hollyhocks Ambler Road

Not only are they wonderful for greening-up our streets, but now they’re creeping into my front and back gardens (and a few clients’ gardens too). I want a field of them. I want to plant every seed that I’ve lovingly collected to see how they develop after cross-pollination, but alas, I’m short of an acre or two.

Cream Hollyhock with deep peach centre and blushings BlakeneyOn a recent trip to Blakekney on the north Norfolk coast, these joyful blousey creatures were everywhere. In little alleys, surrounded by flinty gorgeousness, in front of cottages on the street,

Cream Hollyhock with gentle peach blushings Blakeney

and even on their last knockings, I found them irresistible (and collected a few seed heads from each).

Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve only ever sown Hollyhock seeds in spring, from seeds gathered from neighbours’ front gardens, but I’ve collected seeds from surrounding streets and friends’ houses and started off a selection of these in the beginning of September. I’m not sure if, given a head start, these biennials/short-lived perennials will flower next summer, but I thought it was worth a try and will overwinter these in my greenhouse.

October Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve even started off a few last week to see how these do too.

And there’s plenty more to sow in spring for further experimentation. The delicious ‘Halo’ series (bold blooms with contrasting colours at their centre), are said to flower in their first year, so definitely worth a try,

Creme de Cassis Hollyhockand I spotted this rich ‘Crème de Cassis’ variety a few years ago at the Hampton Court Flower Show which I’m now itching to get growing.

We’re hoping to go large with our tree pit planting for our community project next year, so many of these little seedlings are destined to brighten up our streets (and a few front gardens if people want them). Just can’t wait to see how they all flower in the years to come.

Raspberries in back garden

Utopian dreams of a back garden potager have been rather crushed this season by the vigour of my ‘Polka’ raspberries.  I’m not saying that I don’ t love the fact that I can pop out in my pyjamas to pluck a few tasty berries for breakfast, but when space is tight in my petite urban patch, these autumn raspberries have been pushing their boundaries somewhat, crowding out roses, sedums and tulbaghias in their wake. Also, as they make their way further into the bed, I end up trampling other plants as I venture in to pick these irresistible fruits.

Tasting raspberries

On a recent trip to East Malling Research Station (courtesy of Lubera), we spent a blissful sunny afternoon tasting row upon row of raspberries in their test fields. And one of the topics we did discuss (as well as the fantastic breeding programme at EMR) was the need to protect other plants form raspberries by placing barriers (about a foot deep) around them if you want to keep them contained. Even in my front garden, which is more allotment style planting, these enthusiastic growers have romped through what once was the asparagus bed and I’ll need to cut them off at the pass before they continue their journey into the herb patch. Not quite sure what I’m going to use to do this. Sheets of slate perhaps or length or two of steel? (Lizzie from Puggs Meadow Flowers, below, suggests bamboo root barrier, so I’m going to give this a try).

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World' 2However, I’m not going to corral the brutes in my back garden and have decided it’s time for a few more flowers, moving the raspberries to the front garden (once they’ve finished fruiting), where they’ll get a little more room to spread.

Great Dixter Plant Fair, with its top notch nurseries from the UK and Europe, has been very timely and this weekend I’ve found a few treasures to fulfil my re-design. Above is the gorgeously delicate orange Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’ from Edulis  which shines out like a glowing torch on a dull autumnal day and will contrast beautifully with this just about hardy (in London) Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ from Dysons Nurseries.  Seduced by its rich hues and very long flowering period (June to November, yes indeed), I shall overwinter it for its first year in the greenhouse, then it will have to fend for itself. Fingers crossed.

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World'

Both seem to sit well in colour and texture with the softer and brighter pinks already flowering at this time of year in the garden and I’ll just have to get dressed before I gather in my raspberries next year (oh, for an extra half an acre!).

Red and Yellow Pistils Great Dixter Oct 2015On a slight tangent, there were some great talks at the plant fair and Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials was very informative about which plants attract bees and other pollinators into the garden. She also demonstrated, with these Asters, that pistils (the pollen area on a flower) will turn from yellow to red once pollinated, so that bees won’t have to waste their time visiting flowers already depleted of their food source. Amazing.


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