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Showing posts from February, 2014

Wisley revisited

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There are very few things I miss about living in London. One of them, however, is the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley, in Surrey. I used to live about 30 minutes' drive from Wisley, and could nip down there whenever I fancied, either to wander round the gardens looking for inspiration, or to buy stuff at the plant centre or the bookshop, both of which are superb.
In the 20 years that I've been visiting, the gardens - and the facilities - have got better and better. There is much more emphasis today on landscape design - Tom Stuart Smith, Robert Myers, Piet Oudolf and Penelope Hobhouse are just a few of the names who have contributed - which means that although Wisley is still very much a show garden designed to cope with thousands of visitors,  it has much more of a sense of place and less of the feeling of being a public park full of plant "exhibits".
So when my friend Helen said she wanted to go garden visiting and did I fancy Wisley, I said yes,…

Stop Press! Launch of Evolution Plants

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A while ago, I bumped into an old Fleet Street colleague. John Fitzpatrick and I used to work together on the Evening Standard in London before going our different ways - John joined the Financial Mail on Sunday while I went to The Independent, where I worked for 13 years.
Between us we have probably covered more than our fair share of Royal weddings, political scandals and economic chaos. These days, however, our interests are more down to earth - we both write about gardening. John edits the Alpine Garden Society Journal, while I'm now a freelance gardening writer. Royal weddings? You can keep them. Political scandals? Yeah, yeah, whatever. Economic chaos? Same old, same old. What really gets our newshound noses twitching now is something like the launch of Evolution Plants, an exciting new nursery founded by plant hunter Tom Mitchell. I admit to being a bit ambivalent about the whole rare plant thing. The idea of growing something that no one else grows isn't a hugely impor…

Forces of Nature

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We're not under water for miles and miles here in the Cotswolds (well, not quite, anyway), but river levels are very high and the meadows and gardens on its banks are flooded. The high winds seemed to claim a new tree every day, so it's a huge relief that the really stormy weather seems to have receded a bit. These two below are in the woods adjoining the cricket field.



The Rack Isle, above, is usually marshy, but not completely under water! It's now a nature reserve, but in the olden days, it was used by the weavers who lived in the cottages of Arlington Row as a place to hang their cloth, hence the name. The wall on the right between the river and the main road through the village is quite high, thank goodness.


Rows of sandbags protect the cottages themselves. The biggest problem here, however, is not the river overflowing, but groundwater coming up through the floor.


The water is so clear, even with the river in full flood. At least we don't have sewage or any other…

Snowdrops and marmalade

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I've registered to attend the US Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, this summer, so I suppose I'd better start doing some blogging again or I'll be unmasked as a fraud. I haven't posted for ages, but I have an excuse (sort of), which is that I've been writing a book. It's on Cotswolds gardens, and it's being published by Frances Lincoln in February 2015. I'll tell you more about it nearer the time.
In the course of writing the book, I almost got to the point where I never wanted to see another Cotswolds garden. I didn't want to write the words "box topiary" or "yew hedges" or "old roses" or "pleached hornbeam" ever again.
That makes me sound terribly ungrateful. It's been a fantastic opportunity to see some really interesting gardens, and hear the stories of how they were made. Here in the Cotswolds, we are able to grow all the ingredients of the classic English garden - lavender, roses, clematis, …