In a Vase on Monday: Slow Boat

‘I’d like to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone…’

Inspired by the use of a gravy boat as a vase and the presence of the three Chinese sampans made out of shells, this fragment of a once well-known song popped into my head. Personally, I wouldn’t want to spend time with anyone on a slow boat to China, or even a fast one come to that, and would indeed think carefully about any boat trip… 🙄 Coincidentally, a recent conversation with my mother threw up the interesting snippet of how much she enjoyed a slow boat from China back to the UK as a child in the 1930s….

Leaving boats aside, I really enjoyed cutting and arranging blooms for today’s vase. The selection began with stems of hugely dependable Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’, encountered in an open garden only a few years back and one I would now highly recommend. Having the gravy boat already in mind, I continued to focus on blue or blueish blooms and was surprised at my eventual haul: side stems of delphinium, annual clary sage ‘Oxford Blue’, cornflower from ‘Polka Dot Mixed’ and stems of what is labelled as Veronica ‘Schneeriesin’ but is sporting these light blue blooms as well as white, with the addition of obliging semi-herbaceous Clematis ‘Arabella’ which is proving to work really well as a cut bloom.

The end result is most satisfying, especially being the most ambitious of my vases so far this year, and makes a change from simply picking and plonking. If you have blooms or other material from your gardens or garnered nearby that you would like to share with us on IAVOM, then please join in by leaving the usual links to and from this post. Simple or elaborate, arranged or plonked, all are welcome and all will undoubtedly bring pleasure.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 19 Comments

Six on Saturday: Clematis, the Rector and Other Stuff

Most visitors this year seemed to comment not just on the roses but on the clematis too, although in fact there are a number which were not yet flowering, like ‘John Huxtable’, above. I have to agree that all those that are now in bloom do seem to be more floriferous this year, which I am guessing may be down to the fact that I actively fed them earlier in the year, following the feeding regime recommended by Thorncroft, my favourite supplier. If this was the reason, then the effort and cost involved was certainly worth it.

The ‘Étoile Violette’ either side of the bus shelter is putting on a show even greater than usual, and another of this variety outside the front door, climbing through Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’ and usually blooming only sporadically, is looking stunning:

I could show several more examples, but this would be stretching the Six on Saturday rules too much, so will just share the exuberant ‘Little Bas’ on the clematis colonnade, with a bloom of ‘Princess Kate’ hiding in the middle of the picture, and one of the herbaceous scrambling varieties (alongside the striking scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica), its label hidden amongst some very damp foliage:

I was thrilled recently to discover a big fat bud on an agapanthus grown from a seedling from blogging friend Chloris’ garden; I had no idea what colour it would be but now that it is opening I can be fairly sure that it will be blue. I have grown agapanthus from seed myself, but my oldest seedlings haven’t yet flowered, despite one sold to a friend at one of our openings having flowered every year since 2020! I did, however, have a bloom last year on white agapanthus grown from RHS seed whilst still in its 9cm pot: now potted on, it is clearly not planning on flowering again yet…

I am also well-pleased with the phoenix-like rising from the ashes of  Hardenbergia violacea in the Coop. Having grown from the original small plant into one clambering 3 or 4 feet up its support and flowering in each of its first three winters, I decided it would probably like to be repotted – sadly, repotting rewarded me not with a newly-invigorated plant but with one that looked distinctly unhappy and dropping its leaves… Not expecting anything positive, I contacted the supplier Fibrex to establish what might have gone wrong; they suggested replanting it in a specific brand of peat free compost, one they used throughout their nursery, and decreed that it should recover fairly quickly, albeit losing the remainder of its leaves before it did so. Astonishingly, this is exactly what happened and barely three months later not only has it a wealth of fresh new shoots at the base but along the seemingly dead stems there are tiny specks of green, growing into new leaves! Without the advice of Fibrex I would have cut these stems right back…

I have managed to restrict my gardening activities this week to gentle deadheading and a little repotting, but today decided to face up to the Rector, the rambling rose above the arbour. For some years we have cut back all the flowering stems soon after flowering and this has certainly helped keep him in a shape suitable for his profession. Not a difficult task, other than facing the numerous sharp thorns, it just involves wholesale lopping followed by tackling the mountain of prunings and in due course tying the new shoots to the wooden framework, although only the first of these was achieved today.

Finally, for the sixth of my stretched Six on Saturday for Jon the Propagator’s weekly meme, and not as pretty or exciting or impactful as the others, we have the tomatoes finally making it into the greenhouse border after the removal of the Winter Sunshine sweet peas. It’s hard to believe I usually leave it till the last of our group visits, which are often well into July, as they were in desperate need of escaping the confines of their pots! Do now visit Jon’s blog to catch up on other sixes.


Posted in Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 14 Comments

End of Month View: Indulgence…

It was only yesterday that I realised how close it was to the end of the month – my mind clearly hasn’t been thinking beyond the dates of our garden openings, so we are fortunate to still have timely photographs of the garden at the end of June, plus the usual video! Under The Garden tab above you will find a map of the garden and an annotated version which shows the route of the video tour and the usual location of the photographs; these may help you orientate yourself in a garden that allows several routes around it.

Above is the main view from the house, looking towards the sitooterie, and framed by roses and clematis; the pots in the foreground contain a deep purple ‘bedding osteospermum’, which sadly have proved a disappointment, requiring constant deadheading. Below is the adjacent streamside border, seen from both directions.

In the woodland, under the canopy of the trees, the foliage of bluebells and wild garlic is quickly withering along with that of lamium and red campion, although foxgloves seem fine with the dryness; at the end of the woodland, climbing up in the bothy we can look out over the main borders before clambering down and viewing them from ground level:

Turning, we see the bronze heuchera bed, with the clematis (some late to bloom) colonnade beyond, underplanted with roses, before heading through the woodland edge border, seen from both directions. I am pleased to have added more roses to this very mixed border, now gradually filling out to add more colour, although perhaps not yet as floriferous as they could be.

The new grasses border is beginning to make an impact, although the shorter grasses will take longer to fill out and make their presence felt:

Although still overstuffed, the two remaining ‘bold borders’ are beginning to come together although probably need judicious editing – and certainly more staking, as veronicastrum continues to head skywards. The presence of non-climbing clematis in the borders and others on trellis on the walls behind adds further colour:

Through the gate in the wall to the cutting beds and the working greenhouse we can note that dahlias and most annuals are much later than last year, but every day something else is beginning to bloom and their relative tardiness will soon be forgotten.

The blue & white borders are probably the least successful borders of the garden, but there are now at least some success stories amongst the planting, so with editing here too we might finally achieve something the gardener deems acceptable!

The rose garden is also beginning to fill out as the newer bushes get established, enjoying increased light after removal of nearby trees in recent years, but still shadier than is ideal:

Recent rambling, now with the garden to ourselves, has felt especially indulgent, knowing  there is no pressure on me and no critic other than myself, and I was particularly aware of this as I stepped up to the clematis colonnade from the rose garden today, taking in the delights of the clematis above my head and the roses at my feet, with the billowing main borders beyond. When the latter were revamped two years ago, splitting them up, the intention was to give the sensation of walking through rather than past them – and this is how it seemed as I brushed past blowsy geranium and other delights:

Reluctantly turning towards the house, we can pass the ex-snowdrop border, currently hosting the easily grown and accommodating annual limonium, just coming into bloom, and avert our eyes from the early morning sun to look across the paved area and take in the foliage and blooms of yet more roses and clematis:

Finally, a quick look in the Coop shows streptocarpus and pelargonium in bloom, with assorted foliage in the Coop corner behind, crying out for some summer colour:

For real-life visitors to the garden there are other corners to explore and views to take in; the video tour may show some of these but will certainly give a better impression than still photographs (at a reduced resolution) will ever do, so do take a few minutes to watch it.


Posted in End of Month View, Gardening, Gardens, Summer | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Blue Angels

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In a Vase on Monday: Tea, Anyone? Cake?

With our second open garden afternoon yesterday, I knew I would not be able to squeeze in the creation of a vase for today’s IAVOM, but had the presence of mind to take a few photographs of one of the vases gracing the various tables in our ‘pop-up café’, the sitooterie and elsewhere in the garden. Each stoneware ink bottle contained sprigs of sweet peas, astrantia and Euphorbia oblongata, the former two picked prior to our Wednesday opening with the sweet peas replenished yesterday morning.

The fabric for the tablecloths, also used for the cushions on all our benches, came from a serendipitous purchase of a pile of huge tablecloths at a car boot sale, originally used, we guess, to furnish large tables at some self-hosted function. Last year, inspired by tables at a garden we visited, I made a number of tablecloth weights, little bags of glass pebbles suspended from plastic clothes pegs, to prevent the cloths from being lead astray by the wind. It was a bright but breezy day yesterday and they served their purpose well.

Those of you enjoying a more leisurely day yesterday, or today if that’s when you like to create your Monday vase, may have been able to come up with a more elaborate vase than my pick and plonk table accessory, but vases or containers of any sort are equally welcome if you would like to share them by leaving the usual links to and from this post. In the meantime, what cake* would you like with your tea?

* apologies for the price increase, largely due to the increased price of ingredients – and vociferous visitors in February who insisted the cakes were too cheap!

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday, open gardens, Summer | Tagged | 34 Comments

Six on Saturday: In-between

We are in-between garden openings at the moment, with a group visit a week ago, the first general opening on Wednesday, and our second and last general opening tomorrow. Unless there are later group visits booked, that will be it for this year and I may take my foot off the proverbial pedal for a little while. This last week seems to have been a continual process of top-up baking, deadheading roses and tying in wayward clematis, but the effort will be worth it and I have every confidence it will be another successful day tomorrow.

The three clematis on the pergola that borders the paved area haven’t needed much supplementary tying-in and all are in full flower, in various shades of pinky-red. From left to right are Clematis viticella ‘Margot Kostner’, ‘Madame Julia Correvan’ and ‘Walenberg:

Most of the roses have peaked but are still looking good, although rambler ‘Rosemarie Viaud’, clambering over the back of the shed, is only just coming into bloom, turning up late as she always does:

The cutting beds are beginning to look more colourful, the outdoor sweet peas are in full bloom and two more dahlias are now producing their first blooms, ‘David Howard’ and Geoffrey Kent’ below:

Visitors always comment on the hostas, whatever the state of their leaves, and I am pleased to say that those by the sunken area have remained fairly mollusc free this year; those down the side of the house where visitors will enter the garden suffered a little early in the season, but have remained unscathed since, the result of continued dry weather or application of a garlic wash:

Blooming at a perfect time for showing themselves off are several pots of Asiatic lilies, perhaps making up for their lack of fragrance with vibrant colours, the one below being ‘Forever Susan’. I am sure the garden could benefit with more, so must remember to add them to my next bulb order.

That’s my six for today, a little taste of what our visitors have seen or will be seeing tomorrow. Visitors to Jon the Propagator’s blog will be able to see six things from his garden and if you follow the other links you will be able to view many more sixes.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 28 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Mist on a Cloudless Day

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In a Vase on Monday: Strong Deliverer

I really tussled with the title of today’s vase, but in the end have gone with my gut, the fiery contents eliciting snatches of the classic hymn ‘Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer’ and the fiery cloudy pillars it refers to, supposedly guiding us through life. Instead of the plain and simple ‘Fiery’, ‘Strong Deliverer’ recognises the instant impact the contents made even when they were first cut, the fiery shades of Dahlia ‘Art Deco’ complementing the burning embers of Antirrrhinum ‘Classic Liberty Scarlet’. Glowing colours of Bupleurum longifolium ‘Bronze Beauty’, Calendula ‘Sunset Buff’ and Nandina domestica ‘Obsessed’ add to the strong delivery. Would additional material have added more impact? I am not sure…

When it came to assembling the vase itself, I had to cut an alternative dahlia stem as, bizarrely, in the three or four hours between cutting and assembling, the first stem had completely collapsed and was lying limp in the jug it was being conditioned in. I thought for a moment I must have forgotten to add water, but no, it was filled nearly to the brim, so what had caused this is a real puzzle. It will be interesting to see if it revives later – or if the second stem suffers the same fate!

The vase itself is a frosted glass vintage specimen, which came with its own impractical glass frog, replaced with a metal one for the purpose of this arrangement. Perhaps a lighted candle, a fiery pillar of sorts, would have made an appropriate prop, had I not already chosen to include one of my most tactile crystals, a hand-carved piece of carnelian, with its fiery highlights.

In a Vase on Monday has proved to bring pleasure to both vase creators and vase observers over the years, and if you like to join us by creating a vase today we can guarantee it will bring pleasure to many – just leave links to and from this post to share it with the wider blogging community.

Posted in cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 36 Comments

Six on Saturday: Phew!

Phew…what a scorcher it was yesterday! Phew! What a hectic afternoon it was on Thursday! Whew! What a relief it is to have some rain today! Take your pick…

On Thursday afternoon we had our only (so far) booked group visit to the garden, the first time we have had such a visit before our general openings. The organiser made a provisional booking when she visited in February, confirming it a few weeks later with an expected group size of around 20; this was followed up on Tuesday of this week with a  revised estimate of 33, necessitating roping in extra support, calling in some of my ‘special’ chicken mugs to ensure there were sufficient, and modifying plans for plant sales. It meant a very hectic couple of hours on Thursday, but a good source of income for the National Garden Scheme as the group had pre-booked refreshments and spent a moderate amount on plants too. The roses were certainly on form and their fragrance hung in the air on the pleasantly sunny and warm afternoon:

Thankfully it wasn’t as hot as yesterday, when temperatures reached nearly 35°C by late afternoon, although you can see from ur weather monitor that it was pretty warm inside too, reaching 29° by the end of the day in our kitchen with the always-on Aga. The upside was that we were due rain all day today, although it has mostly been persistent showers rather than anything heavier. Temperatures have dropped to 12 or 13°, more than 20° less than yesterday, although it is still exceedingly warm in the house where the heat seems to have been retained.

Deadheading and staking roses were on the schedule for today, although I took a busman’s hYliday to visit (wet) open gardens in a nearby small town this morning, and progress was limited because of the weather. They will still need deadheading and staking tomorrow…

Yesterday’s heat was probably the last straw for the Winter Sunshine sweet peas in the greenhouse which, although still covered in blooms, are producing them on increasingly short stems, making them difficult to use in a vase. Now that my outdoor sweet peas are getting going, this may now be the time to remove the former, enabling me to get my tomatoes into the greenhouse border instead. I usually wait till after our main garden openings, this year on 22nd and 26th June, but I may take the plunge and pull them out before then.

Next to the greenhouse, in the cutting beds, one or two more annuals are beginning to show colour now, particularly the clary sage, like ‘Oxford Blue’, below. Incidentally, I have made a second sowing of zinnias which are growing at the rate of knots and will hopefully still produce many weeks of flowers in due course. It seems as if the demise of my others may have been damping off, perhaps due to a relatively cool April.

Finally, despite the dampness of my rambles around the garden today, I managed to notice the often overlooked ‘stinking iris’, Iris foetidissima, flowering in the woodland edge border – more often than not it is the autumnal berries that catch my attention rather than the flowers.

I wonder what our host, Jon the Propagator, and his guests will be featuring on their blogs today? Do pop over to Jon’s blog and find out.


Posted in annuals, cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, open gardens, roses, seed sowing, Six on Saturday | 17 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: a Most Unexpected Pleasure!

Posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 11 Comments