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Archive for the ‘Evergreen’ Category

Everyone loves a box parterre (don’t they?). Back in June 2012, fellow blogger Veronica, from Through the garden gate, and I went to see the open gardens in Amsterdam. We had a super (if a tad exhausting) weekend looking at many hidden gems in the city.

A recurrent theme was definitely box parterres.

Not present in every garden we visited, but quite a few.

There was also the gorgeously curvaceous box sculptures at Kerkstraat 67,

and the box dividers at the ever-so-delicious De Kas restaurant (just outside the city centre).

However, there’s a problem. I’m not sure if they exist in Amsterdam, but here in London, box-tree caterpillars have arrived in force over the last few years. Not only does box hedging have to contend with box blight, but these blighters can wreck a lovely bit of hedging in no time and many gardeners are looking out for alternatives.

By the way, the moth that lays its eggs measures about an inch (2.5cm) and is white with dark brown edges, and pheromone traps will be able to let you know if they are in your area. As it’s so mild of late, much to my dismay, new moths are still arriving in the traps I have.

If spotted in time, you can spray your box with chemicals, but this is a lengthy process if you have a lot of hedging  and impossible if you’re an organic gardener or if the hedging is surrounding edibles.

Another gardener I know says he sprays the box with strong jets of water, but the box doesn’t like this much either.

So what could you use instead? Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) and Lonicera nitida  are now being promoted by hedging companies and on a recent trip to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire I was really inspired by their parterres.

The outer edging is grown from Teucrium x lucidrys (hedge Germander, with pink flower spikes in late summer)

and the inner divides are grown from rosemary and lavender.

The look isn’t as tight and clipped as box, but I like this softer look (especially with the backdrop of an amazing Tudor manor house) and the fact that the whole parterre is grown from herbs. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to fend off the caterpillars, so its good to know that there are other plants out there that will be able to do the trick.

And following Diana’s comments (below) also quite fancy using Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) (above) as hedging. Would be evergreen, but edible.

Also, here’s a link to Wisley’s Facebook page showing their trial garden for box alternatives and Michelle’s great post about this trial and listing most of the plants they are testing. Thanks Veg plotting!

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Jardins des Sericourt

Although my blogging has been rather minimal this year, I have quietly visited a few corking gardens and nurseries that I couldn’t resist writing about. My previous post noted the merits of Les Jardins Agapanthe just north of Rouen, and above are Les Jardins de Sericourt, roughly halfway between Calais and Amiens, also in northern France.

Topiary 3 at Jardins de SericourtI must say that I didn’t find the gardens as a whole as satisfying as the exceptional Jardins Agapanthe, but this magical topiary walk really took my breath away and justified the trip.

Topiary walk at Jardins des Sericourt

I do seem to be developing a penchant for evergreens. Does this come with age? I think so. I’m not going to be throwing out my lush perennials, but I find that a fine bit of topiary increasingly gives pleasure and I’m (finally) starting to really understand the merits of year round structure, even in smaller gardens, where space is always fiercely fought over. And some evergreens, such as Myrtle, Sarcococcas, Pittosporums and Skimmias will also give you scent and berries.

Chilean Guava wholeThis Chilean Guava is such an evergreen shrub (part of the Myrtle family I think) and was covered in the most moreish deep red berries at Edulis Nursery in Pangbourne (near Reading). Wouldn’t this be great for an edible hedge?

Chilean Guava berries

It needs neutral to acid soil, and a sunny sheltered spot, although it should tolerate temperatures to about -10. There’s also a rather attractive variegated variety and one of these might be featuring in a client’s garden (or two) as well as my own next year.

Szechuan Peppers square

Edulis is a wonderfully exciting nursery to visit, with so many unusual edible plants to tempt you. I also came away with a few fantastic varieties of chives (edible flowers, stems, and roots), some which will grow in shady areas and others that have gorgeous flowers in September and October and all the way through to December.  The Szechuan Pepper tree (above) is also on my list for when I get that extra half an acre.

Niwaki Ladder by elephants

Next on my favourite things list is this great Niwaki ladder which I’ve been lusting after for years. I’m absolutely delighted with it. I’m not great with heights, but I feel safe and secure working from it and it’s light and easy to carry around. What more could you want? Different heights? It comes in quite a few. Alas, more temptation!

Gravetye ManorAnd I finally got to visit Gravetye Manor in July for a spot of lunch and a good wander around the gardens, which are now under the very capable hands of Tom Coward, formerly Fergus Garrett’s deputy at Great Dixter. One needs to be a resident or lunching to visit the gardens, but there are some talks and tours in the gardens this year (see below in comments). Not a cheap option, but worth the visit.

Garvetye flower border

The deep borders were soft and romantic,

Romantic borders at Gravetye Manor

packed full of summer colour and very uplifting.

Walled veg garden at Gravetye ManorHowever, the main draw for me was the enormous 2 acre oval-shaped walled veg garden (walled garden envy alert!).

Trained fruit trees at Gravetye Manor

All the beds were immaculately maintained, with trained fruit trees dotted along the walls,

Stepover apples at Gravetye Manor

as well as step-overs edging some of the beds.

Garvetye walled garden flowers

And there was a great hum of insects from the flowers that were generously planted along the margins of the beds.

Picking gooseberries at Gravetye Manor

It’s great to see varied growing techniques in different gardens and I found these Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries, trained as cordons, very inspiring. A lot easier to harvest than from a bush, these upright fruits would be wonderful to grow in tight urban spaces and I’ve already ordered a few to experiment with in my own garden.

Siew Lee's front garen July 2015So onwards for 2016. I’m looking forward to visiting lots more exciting gardens. Above and below are the delightful airily planted gardens of Siew Lee Vorley, another Great Dixter gardener with an abundance of vision.Siew Lee's back garden 2 July 2015

Her gardens are packed full of artful plant combinations, (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ above from Marchants Hardy Plants, flanked by the annual, Larkspur ‘Sublime Lilac’)

Siew Lee's back garen July 2015 with truly gorgeous colours and textures. This delicate Kniphofia ‘Rufa’ (above), is a non edible plant from Edulis. They do flowers too!

Siew Lee in her garden 2Siew Lee’s garden is in Brightling, East Sussex, a hop skip and a jump from Sarah Raven’s flower picking patch, and if you’d like to visit her gardens this year, you can contact her at slvorley@googlemail.com.

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Eriobotya in bloom_Winter fragrance has to be the icing on the cake for this gorgeous shrub. I wrote a post some while back about all year round scent and I was scratching my head for plants that would perfume the air in early winter. Clusters of these creamy white blooms have appeared all over what is now a small-ish tree in my back garden, supplying an intoxicating, very sweet, honey-ish, mellow fragrance that I imagine could perfume a high quality soap! I can’t remember if there was such an abundance of blossom last November, and maybe this year’s wealth of flowers is due to our hot summer. Fruit develops over winter, ripening in early summer, but again, I can’t recall seeing a really ripe fruit to try one, or did the squirrels manage (as ever) to get there before me? I must be more vigilant next year.

Erriobotya,  in bloom 3Also known as a Loquat or Japanese Medlar,  Eriobotyra japonica can easily be pruned to keep it as a large shrub and it’s a plant I see in many gardens (front and back) where I live in North London. Universally described as architectural, its multi stemmed form creates a generous, wide canopy, with its large glossy leaves hanging candelabra-esque at the end of the branches, giving a fantastic evergreen structure.

Erriobotya, underside of leavesOn late summer evenings, the velvety, paler underside of the leaves magically seem to catch the last rays of the day, providing another reason (should I need one) why this shrub/tree is greatly cherished in my N.London back garden.

P.S.

A few people have asked how hardy this plant is in the UK. Good question!

Architectural Plants say on their website that this plant is hardy in the home counties. I spoke to the lovely people at Big Plant Nursery, who said that it was a really hardy plant, but avoid planting in exposed sites and possibly wrap up smaller plants in cold weather until the plant is well established. It’s also supplied by Victoriana Nusery in Kent and the Palm centre in Richmond in London. If you do grow Eriobotrya japonica outside the home counties in the UK, do let me know!

P. P.S

Loquat and almond cakeNow in June, and my loquat tree has produced a good crop of fruits. This is a most tasty loquat and almond cake (from a Diana Henry recipe)!

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