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Archive for the ‘Gardens to visit’ Category

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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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).

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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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