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Archive for the ‘Gardens to visit’ Category

Sweet cicely 2Ah, the first snow of the year (in London)! I’m deliciously warm and cosy inside, and this enforced idleness from gardening allows me a little time for reflection and planning for the year ahead.

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis oderata) has to be one of my favourite herbs. Its subtle aniseed flavour is always a great addition to salads and this perennial herb is also a natural sweetener, so can be added to Rhubarb and other tart fruits when cooking, instead of sugar.

Last summer I visited ‘Little Sparta’ just south of Edinburgh (another post to follow on this wonderful artist’s garden) and was enchanted by the use of Sweet Cicely as soft feathery underplanting around a small copse of trees, looking like the most delicate of fur collars. Now I think the soil at Little Sparta may be somewhat damper than my own garden, but certainly an idea to experiment with and proof that not all herbs need full sun to flourish.

Sweet CicelyIf you fancy experimenting yourself and don’t have a herb nursery on your doorstep, Herbal Haven is a great online herb nursery that always sends out quality plants at very reasonable prices.

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Narcissus cantabricusI tweeted this gorgeous Narcissus cantabricus (white hoop-petticoat daffodil) last week as it was such a joyous (and early) sight to behold.  The cone shaped, slightly crimped petals have diminutive sepals dancing around their base and their delicate, wispy leaves highlight these showy little blooms (about 6inches high) to perfection. I glimpsed this arresting clump amongst the alpine planting at RHS Wisley (luckily on one of the drier days last week), but a little research has revealed that they’re a tad difficult to get a hold of. Annoying. Yellow versions of these bulbocodium daffodils, such as ‘conspicuus’ and ‘Golden Bells’, happily, seem much easier to buy.

Wisley don’t sell any N. cantabricus in their plant shop and Avon Bulbs don’t have them in their catalogue, but if they take your fancy, the very friendly Kevock Garden in Scotland will be stocking bulbs later in the year (from their new listings in April), so do get in touch with them and they’ll email you when the bulbs are for sale online again. They also have many other delightful and intriguing bulbs for sale, so definitely worth visiting their site. Kevock Garden, just south of Edinburgh, is open for group visits (and now definitely on my garden visiting list).

Rhododendron dauricum MidwinterOther stunners in flower at Wisley were this delicate Rhododenron dauricum ‘Midwinter’,

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Harry'this rich yellow Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Harry’,

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Harry' uprightwith a very pleasing upright habit,

Daphne Spring Heraldand this white Daphne ‘Spring Herald’, pumping out a deliciously strong, all-pervading winter perfume.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digynaSarcococca hookeriana var. digyna has to be one of my all time favourite scents though, and I think the more pointed leaves and softer tone of green (and slightly messier shape) just wins out over a Sarcococca confusa.

Wisley car parkFinally, as the light was fading, even the car park had its own wow factor (Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ flaming away here). RHS Wisley-always worth a visit.

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Trained Ivy at Prieure D'OrsanSomehow after our summer holiday I just didn’t get to writing about Prieuré D’Orsan, but you may well have caught a glimpse of this gorgeous boutique hotel/garden (in Central France) on Monty’s visit for the BBC earlier this year.

This image just hasn’t left my head though, and I’ve been wondering if my wayward Solanum (scrambling up the back of the house) would take to being trained in a similar fashion. Probably not, probably a bit too loose and gangly (even if I could make it up the ladder to trim it). But I’d love to have a go at repeating the almost 2D simplicity of this heart-somewhere!Quince tree and chair at Prieure D'OrsanThere’s so much fantastic training and shaping going on at Prieuré D’Orsan. Nature has been constricted, controlled and cajoled, creating a myriad of desirable sculptural forms, whilst still providing an abundance of fruit. Quite remarkable, especially as this garden was a blank canvas only 20 years ago.

I thought I was getting a bit fancy with my attempt at training a quince tree into a fan shape, but this amazing specimen has been trained as a calming retreat over a woven chair. How bloomin’ delightful is that!

Quince chair at Prieure D'OrsanHere’s a side view, with more evidence of  fruit actually being produced, ready to be plucked after a nice shady sit-down.

Roses trained around small frame at Prieure D'OrsanVisiting later in the year meant that I didn’t get to see most of the roses in flower, but I did see plenty of ideas to take away with me.

Roses trained around large square frame at Prieure D'OrsanWhatever the structure, roses are twirled and twisted and this is certainly a way of training that I plan to experiment more with next year.

Ramblin rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'OrsanThis ‘Seagull’ rose is a fairly rampant rambler, reaching up to 20ft high if left to its own devices,

Rambling rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'Orsan

but curling and crossing stems should supply masses of flowers within this tightly contained framework. All very labour intensive, but what a labour of love (and devotion!). I was watching Carol Klein’s cottage garden episode on the Great British Garden Revival last night (you can catch up with it here), and I must admit to being a complete sucker for loose edges and flowing ebullient borders. Compared to such gentle cottagey planting,  there’s a severity to this garden (with more than a nod to its monastic past) that made me wander round in a respectful hush and a contemplative mood.

Playful supports for veg at Prieure D'Orsan

However, the supports and sculptural additions to the garden are bold and strangely playful and rather uplifting in their simple restraint.

Flower meadow at Priuere D'Orsan

Having said all that, there was a mini (well not that mini!) meadow tucked around the back behind the hotel, bringing in essential pollinators and a refreshing splash of colour.

Veg and flowers at Prieure D'OrsanThe veg patch was, not surprisingly, well-ordered and contained too,

Chunky veg beds at at Prieure D'Orsan

 and I couldn’t help admire the chunky beds and generous supports, packed full of glossy healthy veg.

Frames for roses at Prieure D'OrsanOn the way out, you can pick up your own beautifully crafted rose supports,

Trained apples and vines at Prieure D'Orsanand admire yet more trained fruit trees,vines

Bird box in trained vine at Prieure D'Orsanand even the odd invitation to nature. Prieuré D’Orsan-I’ll be back!

P.S. I couldn’t resist adding some of the gorgeous seats dotted around the garden too.

Chair woven arpound tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 2 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 4 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair unde apple tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 1 at Prieure D'Orsan

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