The eastern inspiration for today’s vase was the ‘Chinese asters’, Callistephus chinensis ‘Gala Mixed’, which for some reason despite having been sown at the beginning of April has only just begun to flower. Bearing in mind how imminent the first frosts might be I picked the lot of them and searched for appropriate companions.
I didn’t have far to look, as the huge ‘Dazzler’ cosmos that has been dominating the cutting beds was just next door and I stretched up to reach the tallest blooms. The seeds for this were free (with Gardeners’ World magazine?) and it is not a variety I will grow again – just too tall! They were joined by a couple of the far more amenable Cosmos ‘Click Cranberries’, very similar looking Zinnia ‘Lilliput Mixed’, Persicaria ‘Inverleith’ and Alonsoa ‘Salmon Beauty’. P ‘Inverleith’ is shorter than some but larger than the fairly common P ‘Donald Lowndes’, and looking really pretty next to the stream. I have grown a red variety of alonsoa for a few years, but this year I was tempted by this soft pink version which drew lots of comments on garden opening days in June. After a couple of months break from flowering it has just started blooming again.
The pink posy was popped into the ‘handpicked with love’ vase that dear blogging friend Anna gave me – in which it looks perfect – and was accompanied by a vintage compass to
confirm an easterly direction. The compass was given to me by my Grannie and was presented to her brother when he retired, or at least that’s the story I remember. It doesn’t have a personal inscription but is dated 1918 and has the manufacturer’s name, so a quick Google search showed it to be made of nickel chromium and the same as those issued to officers in WW1 but without a ‘military arrow’ – so it seems an unlikely retirement gift.
On the cusp of autumn northern hemisphere gardens are hovering uncertainly, flaunting late season colour while they can but afraid of inevitable change in the weather. Temperatures are dropping, the hours of daylight are getting shorter and sunshine has been patchy, so blooms are slower to mature or are giving up the ghost. Most of the colour in my own garden is in the cutting beds, where joy is still to be had in just standing and gazing, as long as I ignore the spent rudbeckia, sweet peas and marigolds. Elsewhere, as part of my rehashing of the borders, some larger plants have already been cut back for ease of movement as I rearrange the borders and plant up the new acquisitions. Out of the eight borders (three main, three bold, two blue & white) five and a half have now been ‘done’, with the inevitable large collection of redundant plant labels.
I hope some of you will be motivated to find something in your own garden for IAVOM today – and find the time amidst your seasonal tasks to cut them and pop them in a vase or other receptacle. If you would like to share them with us too then just leave the usual links to and from this post – we would love to see them.
Over the summer we have managed to visit a number of gardens when we have not been preoccupied with preparations and opening of our own. If we are travelling to another part of the country we will always try to find a garden to visit on our way (when I say ‘we’, that really means ‘I’, as the Golfer is happy to go wherever I go, as long as we can also call in at any nearby golf courses so he can collect their scorecards. OK, I know collecting plants is far more interesting than collecting golf scorecards, but each to their own…).
The UK has a wealth of gardens open to the public and as well as the more well known gardens numerous villages host open garden weekends and our wonderful National Garden Scheme has hundreds of private gardens opening on one or more occasions to raise money for charity. Village openings showcase a wide range of gardens, with those that you politely walk round as slowly as possible to avoid feeling rude for being in and out of in 5 minutes to tiny or not-so-tiny gems. The NGS gardens are described in the iconic ‘Yellow Book’ so you know in advance whether it is something that is likely to appeal, and having been vetted should therefore provide at least 45 minutes interest.
Whatever the size of garden, or the reasons for opening, or the number of minutes of interest, there is always the chance of finding an idea you would like to take onboard yourself or an appealing plant you have never come across before. It was certainly gratifying to have visitors to our own garden seeking to implement some of our ideas; sometimes they were mentioned to us, sometimes written down in the comments book, and no doubt some were still just a seed in someone’s head. The woodland, the stream, and the general informality are just three of the features taken home as potential projects for our visitors.
Early in June, we visited Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire, a favourite of Karen of Bramble Garden, where I admired the colour of these bearded iris (even though I still didn’t like them!) and the sturdiness of the sweet peas for which they are well known. My sweet peas are always relatively weak and feeble looking and I resolved to be a bit tougher with them and put them outside much earlier than I do.
Later in June, a chance conversation whilst visiting open gardens in one of the many nearby villages resulted in a reciprocal and enthusiastic visit to ours and a reluctance to leave at the end of the afternoon. The nearest village to us, however, had their annual open garden event the same weekend as our Sunday opening but any conflict was irrelevant in the face of England’s World Cup match. I have visited these gardens more than once already but went again on the Saturday especially to see the garden of a friend’s sister and her ‘sculptures’. I had seen photos of her work before and if I had come across it earlier there would have been similar items in my own garden by now! They are created from ‘draped cement’ and are far easier to make than you might imagine although may appear daunting to those who are not ‘have-a go-at-anything’ types. You can find examples on YouTube and I have already sorted out some old towels to get creating myself – when the weather is less conducive to all my other garden tasks, that is!
The first photo shows the various stages of creating a draped pot, and an unpainted ‘bird bath’ made from the imprint of a rhubarb leaf impressed into moist cement, whilst the second shows a painted bird bath and an astonishingly clever ‘statue’ made using the draped cement technique which has been applied to a shop mannequin. I am not sure I am artistic enough to achieve the latter, but my creativity would certainly extend to the pots and the bird bath idea – anybody else fancy having a go?
The weather in June and July was almost too hot to do village garden open gardens justice, and each time we were selective in the gardens we visited as sometimes there is a lot of walking in between gardens. Early July saw us at another village, or small town really, but we only visited 3 or 4 here – one the garden of a friend, two we had visited before and enjoyed, and another which was opening for the first time. One of the ones we had visited before was full of the sort of quirky things that I like, in this case a mosaic of broken pottery with half cups and saucers for an added dimension, a section of wall built as a ‘folly’ with the open frogs planted up with succulents, pottery mosaics incorporated into paths, and a fence using the principal of pallets to create planting spaces, like a living wall.
The same weekend I visited garden about half an hour’s drive away which was opening this year for the first time for the National Garden Scheme. It was open on the same weekend as ours had been but a second opening gave me another chance to pay my respects. It was only a small garden but dense planting and the creative use of pots made it sensational – it was featured on Gardeners’ World a few weeks later so some of you may remember seeing it. The owner put his success down to irrigation and the generous use of blood, fish and bone (or was it just bonemeal?) – and no doubt many hours of work too. Inspired planting made for a wonderfully colourful border at a time when many other gardens are fading and there may be a lot we can learn from studying his choices. The GW programme did not mention the serried ranks of pots at the front of the house, bringing additional colour to a large expanse of brick paviors.
In August we had the pleasure of going down to Hertfordshire to support blogging friend Dorris, also opening her garden for the first time for the NGS. Dorris is very modest about what she has achieved in her garden in such a short space of time and if you remember the first photographs she showed of the disused goat pen that it started life as you certainly wouldn’t recognise it now. After only seeing edited snippets it was a real pleasure to see it in its entirety, as those of you who have visited other bloggers’ gardens will appreciate. I especially liked the use of grasses and Verbena bonariensis amongst the other planting, and would willingly tolerate the gay abandon of self-seeding of the latter if only it would be happier in my own garden! I also loved the garden shelter and how it was created but sadly don’t seem to have a photograph of it.
The following weekend saw us at another local NGS garden, also opening for the first time. We were intrigued by a notice in one section of the garden, indicating that there were plans to construct a stream here for 2019 – having visited our garden two months previously they confirmed that they were indeed inspired by our stream and had been mulling over how to make it work in their own garden. A return visit next year to see the outcome is a must! Current highlights of their garden were a standard hydrangea and half a dozen cloud pruned Japanese hollies – having hinted that the latter were not cheap, we teased an approximate price out of the owner…can you believe, around £1000 each…?!
Finally, there was our visit to Ireland early this month. I have already shown photos from the beautiful Bodnant Gardens in North Wales that we visited on the way, and some of the Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud, but there were a number of others too. A big disappointment, however, was missing out on Helen Dillon’s garden in Dublin and Jimmy Blake’s a little to the south of this, both well known gardens, the result of a change to our scheduled ferry time. We still enjoyed other gardens, especially the friendliness of the owner of the past-its-summer-best Woodville Walled Garden at Kilchreest and Brigit’s Garden at Roscahill with its symbolic gardens representing the four Celtic fire festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa, and its Sun Trail with unique sun features and interactive energy installations. And it is undoubtedly a distinctly green country – they certainly don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing!
It’s good to be back home again after nearly a week away in Ireland with the campervan, and although a neighbour had been watering the greenhouse and pots in our absence it seemed as if the garden was just as pleased to see me again as I was to see it – we have missed each other and have a lot of catching up to do! Not only are there routine and seasonal tasks like deadheading, taking cuttings and autumn sowing to get on with, but also rather a large amount of planting to do as part of a rationalisation of the borders. A (very) large order of plants from Claire Austin arrived just prior to our return and the whole process of moving existing plants around and planting the new ones currently feels quite daunting and it will be a matter of just getting stuck in, one border at a time. No doubt my bulb order from Peter Nyssen will arrive any day now too, to add to the workload!
Picking dahlias for today’s vase, however, was an easy task as I could cut generously – once I had pushed past the giant cosmos to get to them! Almost all were flowering profusely and at their peak, with at least another month of blooms still to come. My favourite at the moment is the large pink one which I have managed to consign to a position at the back of the jug where you can’t see it in profile – but the overhead view below shows the two blooms well. This was new to me this year, bought as a sturdy rooted cutting from specialist grower Halls of Heddon and is named Dorothy Rose; I like it all the more when, having chosen it for the colour and shape of the blooms, I realised it shared its name with a dear elderly friend of ours, a friend who justifiably received the first pickings.
Joining Dorothy Rose are a selection of other beauties: Jowey Winnie, Glow, Happy Halloween, an unnamed single yellow, a single red grown from seed, Karma Serena and Nuit d’Été. Cutting them meant sacrificing many side shoots but in the long term I accept
that this will produce choicer blooms. Nevertheless, some blooms were in possession of fairly short stems so this small and simple white jug was used and placed against a black felt backdrop for photographing. Despite a childish delight in kaleidoscopes, even as an adult, it is not something I have in my possession so today’s props are instead a pair of iridescent crystals, titanium quartz and carborundum.
Having missed all your vases last week I look forward to a ‘normal’ day of Monday vases; thank you for your forbearance last week and for not letting it put you off the pleasure of creating your vases. For those who have not joined in before, the principle of IAVOM is for you to find material from your garden or foraged locally and pop it into a vase to bring pleasure during the week. It’s not about the arranging, but the simple pleasures to be had from bringing blooms from our gardens into our homes. Do consider joining us if you have not already done so and revitalise your Mondays, leaving links to and from this post so we can share in your pleasure.
The Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud