The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A tour of .......Arlington Court

A belated post about a visit to the National Trust property Arlington Court on our recent holiday in Devon in September. Two areas stood out for me on this visit, one was the hot border in the Victorian garden and the other was the walled kitchen garden. I always seem to find a walled garden on my holidays and this year I found two, more of the other one in a separate post.
There are two main gardens on this estate, a Victorian garden which leads then into the walled garden. The Victorian garden is as your might expect very formal with bedding and ornate climbing structures. There were lots of Senecio cineraria the silver leaved bedding plant and begonia's galore. Not really my thing, certainly of its time, but there was a fabulous border running along the right edge of the Victorian garden.

It was a fabulous example of a hot border, and certainly at its peak when we visited. But there was one glaring anomaly can you spot it on the view looking back across at it.
Yes a great big blowsy pale insipid Hydrangea right in the middle of this stunning border.
It was definitely the odd one out on this border that was otherwise zinging with colour and vibrancy. So lets ignore that and look a bit closer at the planting which was largely half-hardy annuals, Dahlias, Cannas and bedding. There were sunflowers, Tithonia, Salvias, Rudbeckias all jostling and mingling with vibrant, colour clashing joy.

This is a lovely combination, the true blue of Salvia patens with the big almost green-black leaves of the Ricinus communis (the castor oil plant) and at the bottom the cherry-pie scented Heliotrope with its dark purple flowers.
Then moving into a yellow medley.
There were some lovely Dahlia's

The butterflies were enjoying the single-flowered varieties.
There was one annual which I didn't recognise which looked like a nice flower for cutting with also interesting buds.
I've actually recently spotted this in the Chiltern seeds preview catalogue which popped through my door this week. Its called Hibiscus trionum 'Simply Love', what a lovely name. So that will be going in my order for next year's cutting patch I think.
You move into the walled garden from the Victorian garden and its a perfect site for growing vegetables.
Covering one acre, it is south-facing and has good free-draining soil which they improve using seaweed from nearby Ilfracombe. They look to be pretty organic in their methods, using barrier methods to protect crops from pests, they rotate their crops to prevent any specific pest build-up and also to prevent exhaustion of nutrients from the soil. Where they do have pest problems they use organic methods of control such as insecticidal soaps and pheromone traps. They also encourage beneficial insects using companion planting and the placement of various bug hotels such as this fabulous one.

You could see the difference down in the south compared to my plot in Huddersfield with the squash, sprouts and other crops all at at an earlier stage than mine.

They had a few beds of flowers for cutting.
They had big areas for growing squashes and pumpkins.

 Beautiful archways for apples and a lot of espaliers on the walls themselves,.
I was talking in my previous post about a bird 'pest' which was eating some of my crops. Here is the bird pest at Arlington, a little bit bigger, but I think it does cause a few problems eating the crops and grubbing up the soil. Beautiful though. Look at that blue, looking good against the glaucous blue of the leeks!
From here we went on a walk through the woods and came across so woolly creatures.
 Some more bizarre than others.
There were owls, birds, bats, hedgehogs, mice, all shapes and sizes!
Some flowers too.
A lovely robin
 These were the Woollen woods, which is a regular event I gather in the autumn. Where local knitters, crocheters and felters make some pieces for display on the trail much loved by kids.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

A new lettuce pest

Thats odd, I don't know how that happened but it seems that an email went out yesterday notifying people of a post that I wrote in July last year. Very odd! So apologies if there was some confusion.

I've been sorting my photos out that I've been taking this year and reflecting on some of the quirky things that have been going on in my garden this year. I decided early on in the year this year that I was going to grow my salad crops in my garden rather than at the allotment where I have a constant battle with slugs and snails. I don't go up frequently enough to keep on top of the problem. I'd bought a couple of new tin containers from Southport flower show last year and also had aquired some very handy mushroom trays and some wooden crates which I though would be the ideal container, once lined, to grow salad crops in. So I sowed some seeds in the greenhouse in modules, potted on a bit and then planted then out into the containers in May. Hardened off and then moved outside and had visions of picking salad crops over the next few weeks. Here they are looking splendid on first planting.

The varieties that I grew were some tried and tested ones which I knew were pretty reliable and a couple of new ones. So there was a variety called 'Bijou' which is a frilly dark red leaves, almost black and I've found in the past less likely to be eaten by slugs. 'Rosedale' a Cos type lettuce with dark-red tinged leaves and green centre, plus 'Little Gem' the classic short cos-type, which I've grown often before. Plus some mixed salad leaves seeds.
Now where to put them to keep them away from the slugs and I had the idea of placing them on my wheelie bins which are inevitable these days in most gardens. Slugs won't get up there I thought. So all well and good and they got going and grew on and I did get some leaves off, but then I noticed that something was nibbling the edges of the leaves. Slugs, I thought, managing to climb up there or had there been some in the compost. I kept an eye on them in the evenings when usually I go round picking off slugs and snails from my plants but no signs.
Now I like to think of myself as quite a natural gardener, I love trying to encourage bees and butterflies onto my plot by planting their favourite flowers. I have a number of bird feeders in my old apple tree to encourage the birds, one of the most common birds in my garden is the house sparrow and I'm pleased with that. Once a common bird but, if you look at the link above according to the RSPB, they are a bird in severe decline and they actually have a red status meaning that they have the highest conservation priority, with the species needing urgent action. They are a noisy lot, flitting around the gardens round here in quite big flocks and when the babies are there sat on the fence quivering away waiting for the parents to feed them I love to watch them. Anyway they congregate in my laurel bushes down the side of the house next to where I put my wheelie bins and often flit away as I walk down to get to the back door. I started to suspect them as my lettuce nibbler but struggled to catch them at it. Until one morning I caught them from the window of my utility room.

Caught in the act and as you can see the lettuce plants (this is the 'Little Gem') have been  almost demolished. They must love the tender green leaves. They definitely seem discerning about this as they didn't touch the red/black leaved lettuces. So I did get a good harvest off them. So here is a hint to gardeners, they are less often eaten by slugs and birds, do they know something we don't. Less sweet more bitter. I don't know.

In the end I was very relaxed about it and as you can see I just left them to it. I have noticed the house sparrows quite a few times since flitting amongst by flowers and plants nibbling I think. Could they be picking off bugs, drops of water or pecking the flowers? Probably all three. I'm sure they like the primrose flowers as they are often nibbled. But I'm just pleased to see the house sparrows thriving here and long may it continue.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A tour of ......Trentham gardens

One of my gardening heroes is Nigel Dunnett, he specialises in research of 'modern' meadows and planting schemes using diverse plants with wildlife in mind but also plants to give a long flowering season. He was involved in developing the Pictorial meadows seed mixes, colourful flower meadow seed mix which are less reliant on nutrient poor soil. Originally I guess he had more of a lean towards landscape design in an urban setting and he was one of the designers for the Olympic park planting, he's transformed parts of Sheffield with his innovative planting plans and designs and he's also done the planting round the Barbican in London. He's a big advocate of green roofs and water management within garden design and has designed a number of gardens with these sorts of themes for the Chelsea Flower Show. I heard that he was developing some new perennial meadows and planting schemes at Trentham Gardens near Stoke and so this was on my summer list of gardens to visit.
Trentham was obviously a very big and impressive estate at one time but there are only a few remains of the house left. The demise of the estate was partly blamed on pollution in this once very industrial area and the house was abandoned in 1905, eventually sold and demolished in 1911. It seems there have been a few semi-revivals of the estate in the 1930s and again in the 1980s. My sisters have very fond memories of visits there as children, remembering the outdoor swimming pool there. But there appeared to be no big redevelopment until it was bought by a property company, who went on to build a shopping village with restaurants and a large garden centre at one side of the estate. This might make you cringe a bit but maybe it was necesary to revive the garden. They certainly seem to been innovative regarding the garden, bringing in experienced designers and plantsman such as Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart-Smith and Nigel Dunnett.
After my visit there I feel excited for its development, it feels like a garden continually evolving and on the move embracing new concepts and ideas. It has a rich garden history, including the man of the moment Capability Brown who did a lot of work on the estate enlarging the lake and designing the main landscaped park. This is where we bring in Nigel Dunnett as he has been asked to develop the planting around this Brownian landscape to mark the tercentenary of the the man himself. There is more evidence within the garden of this concept of retaining the old but invigorating it with modern planting in the 19th century Italian garden, designed by Charles Barry. These have seen a makeover by Tom Stuart-Smith with perennial planting.

Piet Oudolf created the long borders flanking the Italian Garden.

Piet Oudolf was involved in the initial redevelopment where some new areas were created including the Rivers of Grass area.
Plus the Floral labyrinth where you can get up close and walk amongst fabulously tall perennial planting.

At the far end of the garden are some of the remains from the original big house.
However to see the new meadow planting schemes you need to walk round the lake through the estate. You can go on boat trips on the lake and also you may see rowers and other boat users as at the far end is the Trentham boat and canoe club who train here.
This summer there has been a scheme to engage children on the walk round the lake and through the estate where you can seek out the Trentham fairies which can be found dotted around the lake. These were delightful little wire creations which certainly engaged the child in me!

Around the estate there were also some stunning wood sculptures by Andy Burgess who is based in Cheshire and creates them from old tree stumps using a chain saw!
This top one was my favourite, a group of otters.

But there were a couple more...

But on to the meadow planting that I wanted to see, there were some perennial meadows close to the entrance at the side of the lake. Looking very purple with Verbena bonariensis, Leucanthemum, Achillea, Scabious, Lychnis coronaria Alba, Sanguisorba amongst the grasses.

Then there are a couple of areas of annual meadow planting, one a frothy mix of pinks and blues, mostly Cosmos when we went but there were cornflowers, Ammi, poppies and corncockles in the mix.

There was some tantalising shady meadow planting in the woodland areas of the lakeside, there was some mass planting of Michaelmas daisies. Unfortunately I couldn't get any very good photos of these. But they lit up this shady area.

Further along was some newer planting of spring flowering shade lovers a mix of Brunnera, Lamium, Ferns, Epimediums, Geraniums which will be interesting to follow its development.
But then as you walk back to the far end of the lake the woodland opens out into a meadow full of sunshine, looking glorious under the tall giants of the Redwoods.
Hope this wasn't too long a post but there was just so much to see in this beautiful estate, great for a good walk, lots of fabulous planting to see, there are big play areas for kids, a couple of cafes, you could spend the whole day there and I definitely recommend that you do just that.