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Showing posts from 2015

In praise of mahonia

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Mahonia x media 'Charity', which grows in a neighbour's garden here in the Cotswolds
November can often look like the fag-end of the flowering year in the garden, but in a funny kind of way, it’s the beginning of the following spring. Just to make the point, a stalwart winter performer is already providing a warm-up act for next year’s crocuses and daffodils.  Mahonia is native to Asia and America, and closely related to berberis. Its bright yellow flowers start appearing in late October, and continue to provide nectar and pollen for honeybees and other pollinators until March. It is named after the Irish-American horticulturalist Bernard McMahon, who was one of the two nurserymen appointed by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, to care for the collection of plants brought back by Lewis and Clark from their exploration of western America. I have to confess I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with mahonia. I inherited a massive clump of Mahonia ja…

Michaelmas time

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When it comes to regular blogging, I am a complete failure. I'm way behind on all sorts of things that I meant to record. However, I've been asked to write a monthly column for Cirencester and District Beekeepers, to which I belong, so I thought I'd recycle it and post it on my blog as well. Cheating, yes, but hey... October's plant of the month is Michaelmas daisies, or asters, which are not only a spectacular addition to the late-summer garden, but also a great source of late-summer pollen. Bees of all kinds love them andwe’re lucky in having two gardens open to the public that showcase asterswithin an hour’s drive of Cirencester. Waterperry, near Wheatley (just off the A40 the other side of Oxford) has a magnificent herbaceous border that features every kind of aster you can think of, from stately cultivars nearly six feet high, down to compact versions that form a neat dome at the front of a border. Colours range from vibrant purple, through magenta, red, pink and wh…

Miriam Goldberger's Wildflower Farm

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After attending the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Toronto last weekend, a few of us stayed on for a trip to Miriam Goldberger's Wildflower Farm. Miriam and her husband Paul Jenkins produce not only wildflower seeds for gardeners, but also "eco-lawn" seeds and other grasses which can be used for bio-fuel.
They do all this themselves, in a delightfully low-tech way, under the supervision of Penny, their gorgeous dog.


We'd had a lot of rain in Toronto, but our farm visit was blessed with fine weather; so hot, in fact, that a few of us joined Penny in seeking shade under the trees. The wildflower meadows won't peak until August, but there were still enough flowers to keep us happy - mainly false indigo (Baptisia australis), beardtongue, or wild penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus), golden alexander (Zizia aurea) and wild lupin (Lupinus perennis), the Texas bluebonnet's tall cousin.


This is blue false indigo, but Miriam and Paul also have yellow and cream-flowered v…

How the garden looked on village open day

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There's nothing like being stuck in an airport to make you get on with some blogging. I've been meaning to post these for days, but I've been whizzing around Toronto with a bunch of Canadian and American garden bloggers, having a wonderful time.
Now, however, I am stuck at Toronto Pearson, where the rain is lashing down and my British Airways flight has been delayed by the storm. Never mind...


I should first say a big thank-you to Pianolearner, who took most of these pictures. In my experience,  one never gets around to taking pictures on open day, you're too busy doing other things. Pianolearner (aka known as the husband of Louise Curley, author of The Cut Flower Patch) has commented regularly over the years both on my blog and my daughter's blog, so it was great to meet him and Louise at last. I loved Louise's book, and would recommend it to anyone thinking of starting a cutting garden.


The picture above shows the alliums in flower, and the picture below (whi…

Garden open today (with a bit of help from my friends)

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It's been a busy week. Monday was press day at Chelsea, Tuesday morning I had to file for The Independent, so that left Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to get ready for the Bibury Open Gardens day today.


All went swimmingly until I tripped over the kitchen step while running into the house to answer the phone. I was taking off my gardening gloves as I ran, and I fell on my left hand, which was clutching my gloves. At first I thought I'd bruised a rib, but when I asked the local pharmacist for advice about painkillers,  she said it sounded like an intercostal strain, or even a torn muscle.
Great! And I'd just started getting a cold. Sneezing or coughing was going to be a whole heap of fun.
The Open Gardens event raises money for the village hall, so to be asked to take part is not only a huge compliment but also a practical way of helping to sustain community life. I was determined to go ahead with the garden opening, but the way I was feeling (and I was feeling ve…

Chelsea Flower Show 2015

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It's a good Chelsea this year. There is a wider variety of gardens than last year, there are some new(er) faces, and while some of the big designer names are taking a year out (Andy Sturgeon, for example, plus Cleve West and Tom Stuart-Smith), others have returned to the show - notably Dan Pearson, with his Chatsworth garden, inspired by the trout stream at the famous Derbyshire estate.


The garden (above) is an example of what Pearson does best - a deceptively simple design that looks as if a piece of the English countryside has been uprooted and transported to the centre of London. The lush waterside planting includes ferns, rheums and candelabra primulas.
Three of the most striking gardens on Main Avenue (where most of the big show gardens are housed) are inspired by very un-English landscapes, however. The Hidden Beauty of Kranji recreates the tropical atmosphere of a suburb of Singapore, the Sentebale garden is inspired by the southern African country of Lesotho, and The Beaut…