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Archive for the ‘Dahlias’ Category

Great Dixter 4 I often feel that I’m a tad gushing when I write about Great Dixter, but I just can’t help myself. If you’re ever feeling a bit jaded about gardening (or despair about Brexit), then a day spent soaking up the gorgeous borders will lift your spirits and help you to think anew about the planting in your own garden.

Lolloping plumes of Cortadeira richardii On this visit, the towering but delicately airy Thalictrum ‘Elin’ was one of the plants that really moved me (rubbing shoulders here with nodding plumes of Ampelodesmos mauritanica and Cortaderia richardii, giant fennels and teasels). (Should you be heading towards Normandy for your holidays, then Jardin Plume also has some very inspiring planting with Thalictrums).

Rachael Dodd is one of Fergus Garrett’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic team at Great Dixter, and illustrated on part of our garden tour how Thalictrum are carefully staked to (seemingly invisibly) support the plant in this windier part of the garden. Good to know how much careful planning and work is carried out to achieve such glorious planting schemes.

It also struck me that there are no half measures at Great Dixter. This is high-octane gardening (with lovely soft, dreamy edges), and the transformation of different areas from season to season is always experimental and innovative, packed with ever-changing colours and textures, and this is what makes the gardens so enticing and inspiring.

Long border with house as backdrop at Great Dixter June 2016The ‘all singing all dancing’ long border was glowing, as ever, with wonderful plant combinations,

Long border at Great Dixter June 2016looking lush from any angle. I think the pink flowers at the bottom of the frame are Viscaria oculata and to their left, parsnip flowers have been given the ‘Chelsea chop’ to avoid the need for staking. The purple above is Salvia nemerosa.

Great Dixter 2

Poppies were at the height of their flowering in many areas,

Papaver glaucum 2dotting their jewel like qualities throughout different borders. This variety (above) is Papaver glaucum (seeds available from Chiltern Seeds). A beautiful annual poppy, with further buds on side shoots that will supply continuous flowering for around 5 weeks.

Wildflower meadows at Great Dixter 2

And then the gardens flow into wildflower meadows,

Wildflower meadows surrounding the house Great Dixter 2

tying in the estate to the countryside,

Wildflower meadows at Great Dixter with orchids and Hay rattle and knapweed

with orchids and hay rattle and many other natives that will encourage and protect wildlife diversity.

Woodpile at Great Dixter

Further additions, such as these Andy Goldsworthy-esque woodpiles are being constructed around the estate to further increase wildlife habitats to invite in other insects and fauna.

Clerodendron bungeiAnd the nursery was as intriguing as ever, packed full of desirable plants so you can go home (as I always do) with another little bit of Great Dixter for your own garden. (Above are Clerodendron bungei cuttings growing for future sales).

Parsnip flower at Great DixterAt the end of the day, I dragged myself away from the voluptuous planting, but I can’t wait for my next visit to see how the gardens progress throughout the year.

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Tomatoes at Chateau de la Bourdaisiere

I love visiting gardens, but it’s not often that a garden completely exceeds all your expectations. However, the field of tomatoes at Château de la Bourdaisière in the Loire really took my breath away and I’m now yearning for a larger, sunnier garden (preferably walled) to try out a fair few of the 630 varieties that were on offer. Yes, six hundred and thirty!

Toamto Beams Yellow Pear

I can’t say that I counted them all, but there were row upon row of beautifully trained (and labelled) fruits in all shapes, sizes and colours and although I try to avoid dumping loads of gratuitous photos, I’m going to have to share a fair few pics of cultivars that caught my eye. Above is the mini light bulb shaped Beam’s Yellow Pear. Not quite as tasty as its natty looks suggest, but I’d be very happy for it to grace my salad bowl any summery day for its form alone.

Toamto Banana LegsYellow tomatoes kept on catching my eye as we gently wandered around the garden. Banana Legs was firm and delicious and available from Nicky’s Seeds, (who stock around 150 varieties of tomatoes). Definitely a good UK seed supplier to start with if you’re looking to try out a few different tomato varieties.

Toamto Black Zebra

Striped Black Zebra was good and tasty, as were many of the larger ‘black’ varieties. Without a greenhouse, it can be a bit of a gamble as to whether the larger black varieties will ripen in the UK, but one of the cooks recommended Ananas Noir, a big meaty brute of a fruit, and of the varieties we tasted, this was the most delicious. Also on next year’s list.

Tomato Veronique

Loved the look of Veronique,

Tomato Grinta at Chateau de la Bourdaisiereand Grinta.

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I know I found roast dahlia tubers less than convincing, but James Wong was kind enough to supply me with a dahlia rosti recipe, so I thought it was worth giving it another go. And this time round, the Dahlias proved their worth, the rostis were delicious and so now I have to take it all back!

I used 1kg of tubers, which I thought was a lot, but once grated and as much liquid squeezed out of them as possible, made a perfect lunch for me and 3 others. We invited foodie friends Simon and Julia to sample the rostis with us, and all of us gave them the thumbs up. The rostis don’t have a very strong flavour, but what they do have is a lovely juicy, bouncy texture which works really well with the smoked salmon, dill, sour cream and onions. I don’t often dig up a kilo of dahlia roots, but I’ll know what to do with them next time if I do!

p.s. Very good point made by Deborah in comments below (and James Wong in his book), that you shouldn’t cook bought tubers as they will have been treated with pesticides and fungicides.

P.P.S Oct 2015 Lubera have now developed their own range of ‘DeliDahlias’-six Dahlia varieties that have been honed form their collection to give the best flavours, as well as gorgeous blooms. I’ve yet to taste these, but definitely worth investigating…….

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