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Daffodils restored

Helmi Daffs uprightLast year, all but a few of these ‘Rijnvelds Early Sensation’ daffodils came up blind. It was only their second year, but they’d been cruelly cut down (well, mowed actually) straight after flowering the previous year and they hadn’t had the time to build up strength for future blooms.

On seeing this dismal display last February, they were liberally sprinkled with Growmore, and requests given not to mow the lawn again until all of their foliage had completely died back.

Delighted to see how well they’re flowering again (if a tad early, even for these early bloomers).

Just need to keep that mower at bay……

Death of an Elephant

Tim and samll elephantHere’s Tim. Topiary Tim. He’s looking a bit sad.

One of our elephants has had to go.

Baby and big elephant2Up until the end of last year, all was looking well in the herd. But then, fairly swiftly, telltale signs of honey fungus were spotted. There was dieback on the trunk and ears of the baby elephant.

At first we were in a state of denial. Maybe somebody had poured some nasty chemicals on the ground or perhaps wandered past with a flame thrower? But who were we kidding. We dug up roots of the wilting/dead trunk and ears, and our worst suspicions were confirmed. White fungus was clearly visible between the bark and wood.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Honey Fungus. On the RHS website it says, ‘the only effective remedy is to excavate and destroy, by burning or landfill, all of the infected root and stump material. This will destroy the food base on which the rhizomorphs (brown root-like cords) feed and they are unable to grow in the soil when detached from infected material.’

Cutting back baby elephantSo all of the baby elephant has had to be destroyed. Sad, but pragmatic. We’ve dug out as much stump and roots as we could get to, not just the obviously infected wood, but also the rest of the plants which made up the baby elephant (which luckily looked untouched by the fungus).

Pond liner

As a belt and braces approach, we’ve also added a couple of pond liner barriers to roughly 18inches deep as this should block any remaining rhizomorphs, which look like bootlaces apparently. We haven’t noticed any of these, but they could easily be confused with roots. I’ve also checked with the RHS about removing the soil around the affected area and they say that the soil doesn’t have to be removed. Hugely relieved as this could be a mammoth (ha, ha) task, but we’ve added plenty of rich garden compost for the new plants.

Griselinia littoralis

It would be unwise to plant privet again, as it is so susceptible to Honey Fungus, so we checked with the RHS list on which evergreens are less likely to be affected. Tim’s plumped for some (fast growing) Griselenia littoralis. This has much bigger and brighter green leaves than the privet, but should be an interesting addition to our topiary hedge.
Elephant herd

We also plan on giving the rest of the herd a good old feed and mulch come spring, so that the elephants are fighting fit for the years ahead. Here’s hoping we’ve caught the fungus in time….

P.s. Here’s how our elephants were created by Tim Bushe (aka Topiary Tim and @hedgecutterman) in one of our neighbour’s front gardens back in 2012.

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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