Archive for April, 2012

It’s such a treat to have the opportunity to buy from specialist nurseries, all under one roof at the Garden Museum in the centre of London. As the heavens opened, even traders outside in the gardens still seemed to be doing a brisk trade.

Seen on Friday night on Gardeners World, this Euphorbia amygdaloides Purpurea, on the Swallowfields Nursery stand, just stopped me in my tracks. Gorgeous large airy lime green bracts atop delicious dark foliage was more than I could resist. A bit taller than its close cousin Euphorbia robbiae, and without its creeping habit, this plant will perfectly replace a larger Euphorbia wulfenii, which has outgrown its space and is crowding other plants in a client’s garden. Plus it can take some shade too. Perfect! Swallowfields nursery had bought plenty of choice perennials up from Ashford in Kent to tempt and I while I mulled over where I could squeeze in a couple of Euphorbia polychroma, they were quickly snapped up by another plant hungry gardener!

On the hunt for a purple Heuchera for another client, Rotherview Nursery from Hastings had plenty of choice specimens to choose from, plus some gorgeous looking Tiarellas and much more.

‘Rustic Garden Things’ from Rye in Sussex offered many enticing vintage tools. By chance I’d already bought a border fork when on my travels out of London in Rye, which I love and use every day. Couldn’t stop myself buying another of these perfectly formed objects as I find their size and weight (and good looks) ideal for everyday use.

Resisting the cosy cafe, with piles of pastries for a Sunday morning, I ventured back out into the rain to stock up on herbs. ‘Herbal Haven’ from Saffron Walden in Essex had a wonderful selection to choose from and as well as stocking up on regulars such as Parsley and Basil, I also bought an African Blue Basil and a Black Peppermint.

The African Blue Basil, aka Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum ‘Dark Opal‘, is a perennial Basil and although not hardy, I shall endeavour to nurture through the winter so I can savour its gorgeous purple leaves, year after year. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed buying plants at this wonderfully eclectic plant fair. Hats off to the Garden Museum and all the exhibitors who braved the downfalls. Much appreciated by this London gardener. 

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This is the second time that I’ve visited Lucy Mackenzie’s Lip na Cloiche garden and nursery on Mull. I was originally wowed by this hillside haven and its phenomenal planting about a year ago, but since then, the island has been battered by the worst storms in 30 years, with salt-laden winds hitting the land at over 120 miles an hour.

Salt and wind burn are easily in evidence on some of the plants. However, ceaseless rain since last August, unlike our drought in the South, has also done for a fair amount of perennials too.

After a brief sunny spell, the rain was back in force on the day we visited, but had its compensations as it looked rather gorgeous captured on the hairy leaves of this Meconopsis.

Despite, or maybe because of some gaps left in the planting, there are some great sculptural developments in the garden. I love the fork heads climbing their way up the slope amongst the ‘London Pride’ (Saxifraga x urbium),

and the teapots filled with various bulbs are a fabulous quirky delight. Along with the stunning planting, Lucy Mackenzie’s outsider art credentials seem even stronger than before.

Found objects have been artfully recycled throughout the garden,

and beachcombed treasures displayed with panache.

Spade heads echo the fork head pilgrimage ,

and teapots are reprised as planters at other points in the garden.

Bedsteads define the border at the top of the garden at Lip na Cloiche,

whilst willow has been woven to mask off the compost area half way down.

There’s so much artistry to feast your eyes on, from Fritillarias in colanders,

to trees in trunks and much, much more,

that I know I’ll be drawn back to visit this spectacular garden again and again.


Prompted by a comment by Jono at Real Men Sow (a fantastic veg growing blog), adding a couple of pics of Lucy’s gorgeously chunky raised vegetable beds. They’re tucked in, in front of the greenhouse area,

and nice and deep, allowing for plenty of veg planting choices. There are also some trained fruit trees and raspberry canes on the other side of the hedge, heading towards the shoreline. Heaven!

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Just got back from a holiday on the beautiful Isle of Mull (post to follow) to be greeted by a gorgeous heap of colour in the front garden. Finally, after many dry weeks, we’ve had some rain while we’ve been away and the Tulips have really started to perform.

I was hoping to get an overall orangey look, broken up by the purple of the Burgundy Tulip, but like all good experiments, it’s not quite come to fruition as I’d imagined!

The in-your-face red and yellow Helmars are a triumph. I love their rounded cup shape and their surreal colouring is truly spectacular.

However my much-lusted-after Irene Parrot Tulips are a real disappointment. Literally, they’ve come up short, prompting a friend to ask if I’d invested in some dwarf varieties this year! I’ve never grown Parrots before, and I’m wondering if the lack of rain has affected this variety more than the others in the bed.

Yes, they have all the crinkly gorgeousness that I’d dreamed off, but they’re now none too visible owing to their unforeseen lack of stature. At three times the price of many other Tulip bulbs, sadly, they’ll not be on my must-have list again next year.

Luckily, previously planted orange Ballerina tulips have returned in enough number to fill in for the Parrots, and this reliable Lily flowered Tulip will be a variety that I’ll be using again and again.

The hoped-for sobering force of the Burgundy Tulip hasn’t quite come off either, as these are a little behind the other buds in flowering, and dare I say, a little on the short side too. However, things may change in the next few days. Here’s hoping!

Further experimentation is ongoing too, around the corner, on a busy stretch of road. Our community project planted a few hundred bulbs in this overgrown front garden, hoping to inject some colour into this temptingly empty forgotten corner.

Only having the opportunity for a quick weed at the time of planting has allowed plenty of dandelions to return, but at the moment, these wildflowers look fantastic amongst the emerging orange Ballerina and deep pink Curly Sue Tulips. Looking forward to returning in a few days to see how this front garden progresses too.

26th April

12 days later, tons of rain and the odd bit of sun have really brought these Tulips on.

The resident loves his garden and hopefully the sumptuous colours will brighten the day for those who pass by on this busy main road.

p.s. All Tulip bulbs ordered from Peter Nyssen last October and planted in November.

Update on 19th April

OK, I know I said never again, but since a few days ago, I’ve caught up with a few more Tulips, and I may have changed my mind! I had to agree with a client that this Tulipa Rai is gorgeous and looks great as a cut flower too. I also read a very timely article by Jane Perrone in The Guardian today which confirmed that I am not alone in suffering from stumpy Tulips. Many others have been complaining of such a fate and this is due to lack of water during the dry spell we had about a month or so ago.

I also think my clients have been a litle more vigilant with watering than I have, and their blooms are subsequently a tad taller.

Along with the white Super Parrot, I think you’d agree that this Bastogne Parrot (above) is rather scrumptuous, dare I say, almost edible. And so now I’m asking myself, how could I not grow these chewy delights next year?

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