Voluntary Work


I had not come across the American use of the word ‘volunteers’ for self-seeders until recently – but hey! how apt is that, as they do volunteer themselves in all sorts of unlikely places without being cajoled or press-ganged or cossetted in any way. It never ceases to amaze me what turns up, and where – not to mention HOW!

The healthy little fuchsia seedling in a crack between slabs paved area is a case in point, quite probably a child of one of the ‘Deep Purple’ fuchsias that have been in three nearby pots for the last couple of years. Similarly, the tiny clematis in an adjacent pot alongside the resident young acer is probably a fledgling of Clematis alpina ‘Frances Rivis’, the clematis that clambers of the pergola with the ‘Danse de Feu’ roses near here. The pulmonaria next to the stream, all of a sudden developing from a leaf or two into a small but healthy clump, must be 20 or 30 feet away from the nearest potential parent – P. Sissinghurst White’ in the species snowdrop border. I shall be fascinated to see what flowers do appear, perhaps next year, before the orphan is adopted into a new home.

The bottom right picture shows a pretty little antirrhinum outside the front door – the distant relative of a presumably similar plant which was in a big pot near her many summers ago. I would love to try and rescue her and bring her up in a more amenable environment, but alas! I fear a delicate attempt at extrication from her inhospitable home between two bricks might prove too much for her.

IMG_3120However, a more easily arranged rehousing will follow the exciting discovery I made in a pot of spent tulips, currently sitting patiently with others in the fruit cage, awaiting a decision on whether to  replant them or if it is not worth the bother. To me, this leaf is instantly recognisable, but have a guess and I will include the name as a ‘tag’ under the post so you can check it out. It is a plant I bought in full flowering glory last year but which failed to reappear  this year – how there came to be a seedling in this pot will remain yet another of life’s big mysteries…..

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Where Do I Begin…?

IMG_2997Well, our couple of days jaunt started at Wightwick Manor, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, so that’s where I’ll begin. Belying its exterior, the Manor was only 50 years old when it was given to the National Trust in 1937 by the local Mander family (of paint fame). I have been there a couple of times previously and will always happily go there again because of its beautiful William Morris and Arts and Crafts interior, including Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Built as a family home, it retains that character despite this simple richness. The garden is known for its yew hedges and roses, but by September colour was mainly from dahlias and pumpkins…..

wheretobeginwheretobegin.2and especially those pumpkins…..!

IMG_2994On to Much Wenlock (and an amazingly silk-like but real pink in a pretty café):

wheretobegin.3The next day to Church Stretton and a walk through part of Carding Mill Valley and an instant reminder that Shropshire borders Wales and that the Shropshire Hills  are really more akin to mountains  than hills. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this is an important place for wildlife, geology and archaeology and justifiably popular – I was oddly thrilled to see those parts nearest the National trust Car parks teeming with people of every description, from families with small children, groups of young people, dog walkers, and serious walkers decked out in full walking gear. Relatively close to the West Midland conurbation it is clear that this is well-used and much-loved area, and justifiably so of course. These pictures are all taken within 2 or 3 miles of Church Stretton:

wheretobegin.4A short visit to Wilderhope Manor, another National Trust property doubling as a Youth Hostel, an Elizabethan manor house with lovely chimneys and amazing wooden stairs, and (nearby) the horseshoe sculpture from Wordless Wednesday (hovering the mouse over the picture would have shown its location, but I suspect this feature does not work on a tablet):

wheretobegin.5Then on to the main visit of the day, the gardens of the Dower House at Morville Hall, home of ‘The Morville Hours’ author, Katherine Swift:


IMG_3032You would be forgiven for thinking I might have been disappointed by the relative lack of colour in the garden, but in fact it was a reminder that most of us do indeed seem to plant for prolonged colour, whereas  Katherine has a different agenda. Starting from scratch and the Benedictine origins of the locality, she created a sequence of separate gardens designed in the style of different historical periods, each linked to a particular individual or family in the history of the house. Having gorged on every detail of the book it was a delight to see the contents come alive by visiting it in person, to see the Victorian Rose Garden, the Nuttery and Wild Orchard, the Plum Walk, the Cloister Garden and the Canal Garden, not forgetting the Turf Maze and the other sections, all with their own appropriate names. If you have read the book you will appreciate the thought and planning that went into the garden – if not, then it’s a must!

wheretobegin.6Although the Dower House Garden was a definite on my ‘bucket list’, I am so pleased that we also planned to visit Powis Castle too, over the border into Wales, on  Monday morning before we came home.

IMG_3088We have been here once before, but on a cold and out-of-season day when there was little to tarry for in the garden – unlike on this visit when we tarried at length. Wow and double wow! What do they have in their borders earlier in the year we wondered? For those who don’t know the property, the castle was built in a commanding position in around 1200, but remodelled in the intervening years, the world famous gardens now being one of the few baroque gardens to have survived almost intact since the 1680s. It has grand Italianate terraces taking advantage of the hillside position, lavish herbaceous borders, lead statues and the most amazing clipped yews, and the following collage can only give you a brief taste of our visit, a very pleasurable few hours.

wheretobegin.7So, where to next in the campervan….?

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Wordless Wednesday: Horseplay


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Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Cor!!

IMG_3119I nearly forgot to photograph Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ for Garden Bloggers Blooms Day (for which I am a day late) which would have been a shame, as she is a real stunner – in the absence of a brolly, though, she won’t look quite as delectable once we get some rain. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting this meme, which is a brilliant way of reminding us what is flowering in our gardens from month to month and year to year.

IMG_3100The roses in the vase that I posted yesterday were a heap of petals when we got back from our jaunt, so the surviving cosmos foliage and buds were replaced with a bundle of sweet peas which are one of this year’s success stories.

Elsewhere in the garden there are a few other successes and one or two surprises, but the dry summer has taken its toll on much of the garden.

Outside the front door, climbing rose ‘Pink Perpetué is flowering well for the second time, whilst outside the back door Annabelle continues apace:

Cor.1Also outside the front door are three baskets of petunias, also flowering well despite not receiving the regular watering they deserve, as is the big zinc container full of bargain fuchsia and petunias at the back:

Cor.2Looking down, there are lots of clumps of Cyclamen hederifolium.….

IMG_3107….. and looking up you can see climbing rose ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’, the subject of yesterday’s vase, and Clematis jouiniana ‘Praecox':

IMG_3113IMG_3105A big surprise today, though, was to see random flowers on two of my newish Clematis   alpinas, ‘Pamela Jackman’ and ‘White Columbine’ – what a pair of sillies they are flowering in September!

Cor.3Successes in the cutting beds are Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’ and, very belatedly, Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’ and Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’ which are both forming lovely branched plants but perhaps too late in the season to produce much in the way of flower –  I hope I am wrong…

Cor.4And that’s about it for September, apart from a few isolated spots of colour – whereas increasingly colour is beginning to creep into the garden in the guise of foliage, but that’s another story……



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In a Vase on Monday: Here’s One I Made Earlier

IMG_2979Knowing I wouldn’t be at home to produce a vase, I prepared a draft post towards the end of last week and can now confidently press ‘Publish’ on the WordPress app on my phone without having to find a wi-fi hotspot to publish it from my laptop!

The main occupants of the vase were shouting at me from their elevated position next to the ‘bus shelter’, a profuse second flush of Madame Alfred Carrière roses – only a few days before there were only one or two in bloom then all of a sudden the stems were full of the blousy beauties. This is exactly what happened with the first flush, from nothing to everything in just a few days – easily the most floriferous of my roses. She is a fragrant noisette variety with medium sized creamy white blooms and perhaps an occasional flush of baby pink, and the quantity of flowers meant I could be generous with my pickings – but I needed a ladder to do so!

‘Mollie Rilestone’ sweet pea has a similar colourway with creamy white frilly flowers edged in pink and a delightful perfume, making her an ideal companion for Madame AC. All the flowers were cut to a similar length and most of the leaves removed, then the rose stems were conditioned in boiling water for 20 seconds or so before being loosely placed in an amethyst purple Caithness Glass rose bowl. At this point I decided some feathery foliage was required so popped out and cut some ‘Candy Stripe’ cosmos stems, each with just a hint of bud, and built up a posy by hand. Once complete, the posy was tied with string and popped in the vase, the first time I have tried this – it was certainly a good way of balancing the contents and keeping them from shifting while the vase was being moved.

Hears.oneIn the circumstances another title wasn’t required but if it had it would have to have been something romantic, so in recognition of this the vase was photographed with ‘The Nation’s Favourite Love Poems’, one of a series of collections of poetry published in conjunction with the BBC (the favourite being ‘Sonnet from the Portuguese XLIII How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning).

Whilst we are gallivanting in Shropshire in our campervan hopefully you will be picking things from your own gardens and putting them in a vase to enjoy over the next few days. Thank you to everyone who already joins in with this meme – you know just how much fun there is to be had in doing so. Anyone is welcome to join in, whether regularly or occasionally – but if you would like us to share in the pleasure of your vase please leave a comment on this post with a link to yours, and also a link to this post from yours. See you next week!



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An Hour or Two at The Dower House, Morville: a Taster

IMG_3022One of our planned visits on this Shropshire ramble was to the garden of the Dower House, Morville Hall, a garden now more widely known since the publication of ‘The Morville Hours’ by garden historian and writer Katherine Swift. She took on the lease of  a 1.5 acre field in the grounds of the hall in 1988, as well as of the Dower House, and her book very movingly describes the making of the garden interspersed with her own history and that of the Morville area of Shropshire. The garden was past its peak today, but I shall be able to go home and re-read the book with a greater knowledge now that I have seen it in person. If you have not read the book I can thoroughly recommend it, as I can the cream teas made and served by Katherine herself, with a choice of jam from virtually every fruit growing in her garden. As I said, just a taster today – more about the garden when we get home.

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Gallivanting Again


Taking advantage of the delayed arrival this summer of our long awaited campervan, we are hoping to use it regularly for one or two nights away. This time we are gallivanting in deepest Shropshire, distanced from wi-fi hotspots and internet access generally, so I won’t be sharing any gems till our return – but hopefully this minimal post can be sent from my phone, a technological first for me!

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