In a Vase on Monday: Bejewelled

I promised I would take advantage of the wonderful Giant Dahlia Mix zinnias sometime soon and feature them in vase on Monday, so here they are today. Uploading the photographs in readiness for the post I realised I had barely got all the blooms in the initial photograph – but you can see them in their entirety in the overhead shot below.  Not only this, but looking at the vase from across the room as I began to write the post I could see that the ‘arrangement’ might have looked more effective if the stems had been splayed out more, at a more obtuse angle…but hey ho, it is as it is, and perhaps I will learn from this.

Most of the stems are zinnias from this Giant Dahlia Mix, but there are a couple of Purple Prince and Orange King in there too, along with scabious buds and seadheads to add further interest. I don’t usually go with mixed colours in my seed sowing, but couldn’t decide on other varieties to grow alongside the latter two stalwarts so chose these mixed ones instead which have proved exceedingly attractive; I wouldn’t choose to pick a mixed bunch like this very often, but individual colours have also made their way into other posies, providing long-lasting colour, and in the cutting beds the blooms will just keep on coming.

The stems were pushed into biodegradable foam in the central recess of this vintage vase, disguised by glass pebbles, and the jewelled colours of the zinnias are represented in a selection of semi-precious palm stones: amethyst, rose quartz, carnelian and ruby in zoisite.

To share blooms or other material from your garden with us today, please leave the usual links to and from this post.


Posted in cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 46 Comments

Surprising and Not So Surprising

I was astonished this week to find a bloom on agapanthus grown from HPS seed sown in January 2019, especially as I am still awaiting blooms on agapanthus from seed collected some years prior to this. I have no idea of the variety, nor how tall it will grow, but at the moment I am too thrilled to be at all concerned about this uncertainty.

I spotted the bloom when cutting down my sweet peas and dismantling their support, which in itself was a bit of a surprise in itself as it was not premeditated; I had cut them back about a month ago and was pleased that they had started to rebloom, but I found I was unable to keep up with picking them and increasingly they were going to seed, so almost on a whim I took them out.

Removing them opened up the beds behind and it was good to get a clear and unimpeded view of the dahlias, which have done really well – as they usually do.

One of my tasks for this week was summer pruning the wisteria, and earlier in the week I pruned the lower stems – those I could reach from the stepladder – which removed all those wispy tendrils that made passage down the back of the house awkward and got trapped whenever I closed the kitchen windows.

Fortunately I had time to finish the job today , with the Golfer footing the ladder for the highest sections. When I winter pruned last year I removed the highest horizontal stem to discourage tendrils from clambering under and over the solar panels, and this meant pruning only required one section of extendable ladder and the maximum stretch of my arms, making it an easier task than previous years.

My sixth photo for today’s Six on Saturday, the meme hosted by friendly blogger Jonathan the Propagator, could have shown an empty space outside the back door where until today  there were a number of plants waiting to be planted out – that would have been a surprise! – but I have to confess that only some have been planted, the others having been moved down to the Blue & White border to continue to await planting, hopefully sometime over this long weekend. Instead, having failed to capture a busy bee on this self-seeded sunflower, I marvelled instead at the rogue petals growing out of the central boss.

Posted in cutting beds, dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 28 Comments

Out and About Again

The second of our brief forays in the campervan took us into Shropshire, the adjacent county. Unfortunately, the timing of the overnight stop we were able to squeeze in this week precluded visits to two very worthwhile Shropshire gardens, although admittedly I had already visited Wollerton Old Hall three times already. This gave us time, however, to revisit Hawkestone Park Follies,  a range of dramatic and rugged natural sandstone hills that were developed to include gullies, caves, towers and bridges, becoming one of the most visited landscapes in Britain during the 19th Century. I visited in the 1990s with my Girls and in 2007 with the Golfer but the place is just as magical as ever and unlike anything I have ever visited before, and the following photos  really are just snapshots of a very unique place:

It was an energetic slog around the park, so we were more than ready for a gentler amble around the gardens surrounding a Georgian country house, Goldstone Hall Hotel. The five acre garden was deceptive in size, and although unfortunately not at its best there was still an air of ‘shabby chicness’ about it, notably in the varied borders, a herb walk and a productive fruit and vegetable garden. Talking to the head gardener, we learned that his team had gone from four to just himself over the Covid period, inevitably making maintenance of a garden this size an uphill struggle

Following our overnight stop near the Shropshire Union Canal we visited the 12 acre hillside Dorothy Clive Garden, set up by Colonel Harry Clive as a place of rest and continued horticultural education for the general public. The garden was originally created by Colonel Clive in 1940 to provide his ailing wife Dorothy with a ‘series of interesting walks’ as she battled with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, Dorothy died in 1942 but Colonel Clive continued work on the garden throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and in 1958 management of the garden was then entrusted to a newly established, small-scale, independent charity.

Like Goldstone, the garden was not at its best, with summer borders waning and seasonal winter and spring interest absent, but it still succeeded in providing a ‘series of interesting walks’, and its educational work with schools, homeschooled children, and adults is commendable. Teeming with volunteers, the garden is clearly valued in the local area and is a popular venue on the Plant Hunters’ Fair circuit.

Posted in Gardens, Visiting gardens & days out | 12 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Starry Starry Night

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In a Vase on Monday: Burnished

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun…

I don’t suppose the young lady depicted on this tankard is called J. Hunter Dunn, but whenever I hear the word burnished these lines from John Betjeman’s poem ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’ pop into my head. The blooms, Dahlia ‘Art Deco’, are most definitely burnished but not by Aldershot sun, and not by our local sun either as it has been cloudy here for some weeks, although still mostly bright. A subtle combination of apricot and pink creates this burnished effect, not unlike the UK’s ‘copper’ coins when freshly minted like these 2 pence pieces, and the effect is accentuated further by seedheads of Clematis ‘Margot Koster’, which were glowing in the brief sunny interlude when the dahlias were cut.

Is your garden furnishing any blooms or other material you would like to share with us today, whether burnished by sun or lashed by rain? If so, please leave the usual links to and from this post.

Posted in dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 32 Comments

Out and About

We have a teeny tiny campervan that we bought with the intention of using it mostly for short stops of one or two nights, but Covid put paid to that last year and even when campsites began to re-open it was without communal washing and toilet facilities. We were in danger of not using it this year either, so about a month ago I sat down and worked out when we could string a couple of days together when the Golfer was not golfing (which as Captain of his club’s Seniors this year was not very often!) and put some dates on the calendar. Last week, therefore, we had an overnight stop and a couple of days in Cheshire or thereabouts, mostly visiting gardens, and starting with Tatton Park.

Above is the Italian Garden and below are the Fernery, striking topiary and a world-renowned Japanese Garden:

Moving on to Arley Hall I was delighted to see the famed double herbaceous borders, full of late summer colour, but even more so to meet up again with blogging friend Anna of Green Tapestry, and Himself:

We had timed tickets to visit the new RHS garden at Bridgewater near Salford the following afternoon, which restricted our options for morning visiting elsewhere, but I was well-pleased with my choice of Abbeywood Gardens. Presumably popular as a wedding venue, the relatively small gardens were intensely planted and immaculately maintained, creating endless photo opportunities for happy couples:

Our final visit, to RHS Bridgewater, was the main reason for our trip and, being a member of the RHS, I have been following its progress from inception to its delayed opening in May, so it was fascinating to observe the progress for myself. Originally due to open last year, the Covid-related delay meant that early planting had more time to mature, but the garden will be a work in progress for a number of years. Not surprisingly it was very busy, despite the restrictions arising from timed tickets, although the continued drizzle may have reduced the length of people’s visits.

The most obvious progress has been within the walled garden, but there are already a number of trials taking place, as there are in other RHS gardens, and a considerable amount of groundwork had been done towards creating a Chinese Streamside Garden, in conjunction with the Chinese community in Greater Manchester. A grant of £1.8m was received from the Lee Kai Hung Foundation, to be spent on the horticultural and landscape development of the garden, as well as promoting the art, heritage and culture of Chinese gardening within the local community and beyond.

Overall, an enjoyable two days for a garden lover and a garden liking Golfer, despite the weather – so where to next?

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Six on Saturday: Outside the Back Door

Outside the back door are a number of newly acquired plants, awaiting an opportunity to be planted out in the garden: sadly, this task is probably at the bottom of my list, if I was working to a list, which I am not! With days away at my Mum’s, a night in the campervan between two days of garden visiting, weekly Grannie Days plus my other regular doings there seems to have been little time to do any gardening, quite apart from writing any lists. My priority has been keeping up with deadheading and cutting back, and it is a pleasure to see many of the roses providing another welcome flush of blooms. I did, however, make a start today on taking cuttings of salvia, penstemon and the like, until rain made forays between greenhouse and parent plants increasingly damp; the rain also ensured my Six on Saturday contribution was limited to the back door vista above.

The end of month views I share with you have shown that there is still work to be done on the blue and white borders in particular, with parts of the bold and main borders still having gaps to fill too, so recent purchases will go a little way towards improving any deficiencies. The first purchase, Veronica ‘First Love’, is not technically a purchase at all, but a replacement for a purchase made nearly 12 months ago which turned out to be an imposter; I was well-chuffed at the size of the replacement, as the original came in a 9m pot:

Another veronica, this time V ‘White Lady’:

A white agastache, A foeniculum ‘Alabaster’ still looks striking as the flowers fade to green seedheads, although I noted from the label (after purchase) that it needs to be protected from frost. I have overwintered agastache before, but rarely have they survived, and I would welcome suggestions from anyone who regularly keeps them going from year to year. I find all this type of agastache really attractive, and the fragrance provided by their leaves is an added bonus, so I would dearly love to grow them successfully.

I was lucky with this Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna Pink’ as all the other specimens of it had been cut right back – it may look a bit wayward, but what pretty blooms it has and what a shame it would be to cut them all off:

Another contender for the blue & white border is Nepeta ‘Blue Dragon’

And finally, three car boot purchases, two phlox and a tradescantia, between them costing less than one of most of the above plants:

Also outside the back door is the wisteria, now desperately needing its summer prune, the kitchen windows all now framed by trailing tendrils, a task which will of necessity take priority over planting any of these new treasures.

If you have time between your own seasonal garden tasks, please head over to our SoS host, Jon the Propagator, to view his six and those of many other contributors across the globe.

Posted in Gardening, Gardens, herbaceous perennials, Six on Saturday, Visiting gardens & days out | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Expansive

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In a Vase on Monday: It’s the Eyes…

As has been the case in recent weeks, choosing the contents of today’s vase was not an easy one, although with two additional posies required for people or places at the same time I could at least share more of the bounty which, I am pleased to say, included rejuvenated sweet peas for the very first time. For IAVOM, however, it is The Eyes: a vaseful of rudbeckia, known by some as black-eyed Susan.

I have never had any success with perennial rudbeckia, but do grow a number of annual varieties and picked freely amongst them for this vase: Marmalade, Irish Eyes, Rustic Dwarf, Sahara and Cherry Brandy. The first three germinate and thrive well, but germination of Cherry Brandy is always an unknown quantity, and this proved to be the case with Sahara too, my first year of growing it. Anna of Green Tapestry kindly helped out with more seed of the latter after 2 sowings had failed, but I still only managed a couple of plants, about the same as Cherry Brandy. I noticed that the Sarah Raven packet of Sahara recommended sowing seed on the surface and not covering it, which I will definitely try again next year with these 2 recalcitrant but attractive varieties. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Joining the rudbeckia are spent stems of honeysuckle and annual Leonorus sibiricus, the latter adding vertical structure and the former foliage and a hint of red from the berries to pick out the russets amongst the blooms. A yellow spotty jug, my first choice of receptacle, was then rejected in favour of this drip-glazed jug-like mug which proved more in keeping with the chrome yellows and earthier tones of the rudbeckias – some with black eyes, others with green and brown, but none of them as startling as the piercing blue eyes of the prop, positioned so you are not forced to look into them directly which I suspect is not to be recommended….

Some blooms are more hard-won than others, but if you have blooms you can bear to cut to bring inside and pop in a vase then please do consider sharing them with us on IAVOM, leaving the usual links so we can share the pleasure they bring you.

Posted in annuals, cutting beds, Gardening, Gardens, In a Vase on Monday | Tagged | 34 Comments

Six on Saturday: Doing Good

Clematis viticella and their ilk are real stars of the summer garden here, many flowering from June throughout July and into August, with little sign of stopping. Larger flowered C ‘Kingfisher’ (above) starts flowering a little later than some, but is making up for it now with its intensity of colour, albeit nothing like the colour of kingfishers.

C viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’ is possibly a ‘Marmite’ variety, something you either love or hate; personally, I love it, with its scrunched up white handkerchieves splashed with green:

C texensis ‘Gravetye Beauty’, one of the later bloomers, always puts on masses of leafy growth but sadly not a similar quantity of blooms:

Cheery C viticella ‘I am Happy’ is a little less happy now that the supporting rambling rose ‘Rosemarie Viaud’ has been cut back, but she will thank me for it next year:

A welcome shower of rain this afternoon has weighed down the blooms of several clematis, including C viticella ‘Walenburg’:

One of the more reliable residents of the Blue &  white borders is C ‘John Huxtable’, the last of good-doing clematis featured on today’s Six on Saturday, the meme hosted by our SoS host Jon the Propagator. Visiting his blog will take you down a rabbit hole of Saturday Sixes, a journey well worth making!

Posted in climbers, Gardening, Gardens, Six on Saturday | Tagged | 23 Comments