Tuesday 30 June 2015

30 June : Heat

It's changeover day when the garden furniture comes out of the summer house. If you look carefully in the middle distance you can see MissM relaxing on the sofa after work. So far, so idyllic. Please note that this photo has been carefully cropped to remove evidence of the holiday washing on the line (front left). Also the fact that the lawn is already crispy dry (centre) and the Magnolia stellata (front) needs pruning. But the sofa has been carefully placed to hide the worst bit of the shady border (back left). So there's that.

Monday 29 June 2015

29 June : La Maison Rouge

It is fascinating to visit a garden which has been created from nothing - there is so much to learn from the design decisions and the way that the garden works in practice.

This is a bird's eye view of the garden of La Maison Rouge in Uzès where we stayed for two nights. It was bought five years ago and completely renovated for a year before opening to guests. The patio is immediately in front of the house and is used for breakfasts.

The focal point of the garden is the olive tree which is 200 years old and was imported from Spain and lifted over the back wall by crane. It creates an effective divider between the patio and the swimming pool, breaking sight lines from the house to the pool and allowing some privacy for sunbathing.

The heated pool is small but deep and uses hydrogenated oxygen instead of chlorine to keep the water clean. The subdued colour of the pool tones well with the ochre on the surrounding wall and does not dominate the garden. If you look under the olive tree you will see a wooden crate, an ingenious way to disguise lighting.

There are only a few pots, partly because in summer they have to be watered at least once a day but also because this area can get very cold in winter and so the pots are vulnerable to frost. This means that the garden does not feel cluttered - something I could learn from.

I enjoyed the elements of surprise: the unexpected go-kart on the top of the wall, vintage metal chairs and tables and a hidden area of seating in a shady corner.

I realise now that I do not have a photograph of the beautiful tall red brick house taken from the garden and that is a basic mistake because a garden is always designed in relation to the house.

I enjoyed this garden - it is green and shady with interesting planting for a relatively small space, a pleasant place to drink coffee in the morning or sit and read in the afternoon.

Sunday 28 June 2015

28 June : Hydrangeas

I would be grateful if you would not comment on my new cushions which I bought in France. MrM has already indicated that he believes I have tipped into a serious cushion obsessive state. So I think it would be better if we just looked at the hydrangeas. Nice eh?

Tuesday 23 June 2015

23 June : Saint Médiers

We are staying in a B&B just north of Uzes in a tiny hamlet of honey coloured stone. Our hosts Jacques and Yannick used to own a chateau in the Loire with a hectare of garden but after a grim winter of rain they left behind their rose garden with 120 varieties of roses and moved south to Uzes to this beautiful manor house. Every morning we sit in the courtyard and drink tea out of antique Sevres china cups and in the evening we have an aperitif by the pool. The garden is secluded and peaceful and our hosts are courteous and helpful, the perfect place for a tranquil start to our holiday.

Sunday 21 June 2015

21 June : Midsummer

Dr W. van Fleet is in full bloom. It is an easy rose to love: petals of the clearest pink, light scent and carefree in its abundance. It is my midsummer rose.

Friday 19 June 2015

19 May : Lupins

When we moved into this house the next door garden had a huge, spectacular bed of blue and pink lupins that I could see from an upstairs window. I think now that they might have been old type lupins predating the Russell strain because the house had belonged to an elderly lady called Mrs Moth. The new owners built an extension over the bed of lupins and they have not been seen since. I have tried to grow lupins in my garden every year since and failed. This year I grew the lupins in large pots and they have been very happy. The first flower spikes were knocked about by the high winds but I cut them back and new spikes keep appearing which is very satisfying. I've made my peace with lupins and might grow them again next year. On the other hand I fancy some lovely tall white delphiniums. Watch this space.

Thursday 18 June 2015

18 June : Cuttings

The Canterbury Bells are looking stylish.

I sprayed the Queen of Sweden.
One cannot be regal covered in black fly.

The Box pyramids are looking sharp after their trimming.

I forced myself to cut some peonies for the house.
It felt criminal.

Mr Sparkles the window cleaner is coming tomorrow.
I'm feeling anxious for my little Box hedge.

The Agapanthus has decided to flower.
Which is a shame because I had plans for that pot.

I can't see out of the kitchen window due to excess Scabious.

Tess of the D', the new red climbing rose, needs to be planted
But where???

Lucille's plants were foxgloves not hollyhocks.
She has apologised for her senior moment.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

17 June : Blue

I have been reading 'Colour for Adventurous Gardeners' by Christopher Lloyd and delighting in the robust advice, challenging ideas and fabulous photos. My garden is small so I have always restricted strong colours to accents but I think I need to be braver. This photo was taken in a favourite garden on Sunday - it is a tiny, densely planted space with walls of clipped yew. The brightness of the yellow and blue takes your breath away as you enter through a gap in the hedge. I want those colours!

Tuesday 16 June 2015

16 June : Design

I have finished the front garden at last. Once I had decided to treat it as a large window box it became fun rather than intimidating and the shapes, colours and plants fell into place. As a dedicated follower of patterns and recipes it is a strange feeling when a design I have created becomes a reality. The sun catches the rose hedge at a low angle late in the day to magical effect - I hadn't anticipated that but I am totally claiming the credit when Monty Don asks me about it.

Monday 15 June 2015

15 June : Meadow

Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in the river meadows at Runnymede near Windsor. These photos were taken in the heart of Devon last weekend, meadows sleepy with the smell of hay and the flickering buzz of insects in the long grass. The breed of cows is a relatively recent import and the fields would have been smaller but perhaps these meadows are not so very different to the meadows of medieval England.

Friday 12 June 2015

12 June : Mottisfont

It is Peak Rose week at Mottisfont. You fall into a world of petal and perfume and wander around overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. Today it was busy but not overcrowded and there was plenty of room to stop and stare, to be amazed. It is a great English garden, a sensuous experience of colour and texture, a place to return to in your dreams. I wish with all my heart that I had not waited this long to see it for the first time.

Many thanks to my lovely friends Caroline and Helen for organising this day out.

Thursday 11 June 2015

11 June : Lobelia

I know that in the scale of things it should be a minor irritation, so insignificant that I could flick it away as I might a tiny breadcrumb and then carry on with my day, thinking of other more important subjects such as constitutional reform or deforestation. Alas, the sight of a dark blue lobelia flower where there should only be white never ceases to send me into a frenzy of recrimination. Look away now, I am going to indulge in some Lobelia rage and it could get ugly. 

Wednesday 10 June 2015

10 June : Box Hedge

I realise that this photo does not touch the soul in the way that apple blossom against blue sky does - sorry about that but I must record my afternoon planting a box hedge. It was hard work dammit. I prepared the ground to a fine tilth, measured every which way, used genuine bamboo canes for markers and then each little plant was puddled in with a cosy blanket of special compost and fed with bone meal. This was Real Gardening and I am sure that Monty Don himself would have been impressed with my endeavours. 

Tuesday 9 June 2015

9 June : Elizabeth von Arnim

"I want to have a border all yellow, every shade of yellow from fieriest orange to nearly white, and the amount of work and studying of gardening books it costs me will only be appreciated by beginners like myself...I want it to be a succession of glories from May till the frosts, and the chief feature is to be the number of "ardent marigolds"—flowers that I very tenderly love—and nasturtiums...Then there are to be eschscholtzias, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, scabiosa, portulaca, yellow violas, yellow stocks, yellow sweet-peas, yellow lupins—everything that is yellow or that has a yellow variety...You go through a little pine wood, and, turning a corner, are to come suddenly upon this bit of captured morning glory. I want it to be blinding in its brightness after the dark, cool path through the wood."

Extract from 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' by Elizabeth von Arnim 

This book was recommended to me by dovegreyreader and describes the creation of a garden in Pomerania at the end of the nineteenth century. The witty, self-deprecating style and lyrical description of the experience of gardening is so engaging that I started reading it again as soon as I had finished. You can find it in Project Gutenberg.

Monday 8 June 2015

8 June : Anarchy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a garden is only three days away from anarchy. You turn your back and the grass grows furiously, weeds wreak havoc, lupins sag, hydrangeas wilt and roses seize the opportunity to send out mad suckers that lurch in front of your face as you walk around on your return. Worst of all, the Evil Kingdom of Slugs dispatches a crack squad to blitz the most precious plants. If I promised you a delightful Isotoma plant, having sung the praises of its charming little blue flowers and serrated lance-shaped leaves, I regret that you are out of luck - they've been decimated. It is all very demoralising.   

Sunday 7 June 2015

7 June : Bluebells

The Little Boy Next Door is cycling his trike up and down outside our front door singing "In and out the dusty bluebells". After the sixth verse I get up from the sofa and go to say hello. I tell him that I used to sing the same song when I was a little girl at school. The effort of imagining me as a little girl is too great for him so he cycles around in a circle a couple of times. Then he says "I decided to sing it until you came out to see me" and I am relieved that I gave in after only six verses. The hedgerows are full of campion and buttercups now but you can still find bluebells in the woods beside the stream  .

Saturday 6 June 2015

6 June : Foxgloves

My mother says "I am so glad that you have come today - I want you to see my foxgloves. Look at them! Aren't they wonderful this year? And those irises have come up very strongly - they are no trouble, I just leave them to it. Come and stand here by the bench, you get the best view. Of course the foxgloves won't last forever but by then the rose will take over and that should last for a few weeks. Now come and see my vegetable garden..."

Thursday 4 June 2015

4 June : Yellow

I don't grow yellow flowers in the summer as a rule but I have put this cheery little pot on the doorstep to make the postman smile. He is a melancholy man because, as he explained to me when I signed for a parcel, he needs his job to pay for his daughter's eBay addiction. I felt his pain.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

3 June : Gardeners

While I was digging in the front garden this afternoon it occurred to me that there are different types of gardeners. I am sure that this is not news to you but it was quite a revelation to me. There are those who enjoy the processes of gardening : digging, pruning, making compost. Other gardeners enjoy the nurturing involved : sowing seeds, pricking out, hardening off. There are the plant collectors who love plants which are new, rare or challenging to grow. I don't like digging, I am ruthless with plants that are idle or sickly and I don't feel the urge to have an auricula theatre so where do I belong? I think about gardening a lot but I am not sure that is an acceptable category. I enjoy design, using colour and form, making exterior space, so perhaps I am a landscape gardener on a micro scale. In other news the Hydrangea 'Annabelle' is covered with flower heads and is going to look spectacular soon.

2 June : Weather

So much weather! And none of it good. Rain, wind, hail, more wind, more rain. It's June for heaven's sake. I am afraid that I am going to have a tantrum because I have Things to Do in the Garden and I don't want to dig in the rain. I am not that sort of gardener. 

Monday 1 June 2015

1 June : Poppy

I was looking back through last year's photos of peonies and realised that the pink poppy has not appeared this year. Is it too cold? Is it sick? Or did it suspect that I did not love it? Now it is not there I regret glaring at it and suggesting that it was too large, too floppy, too pink. I am missing you with your spectacular, blowsy flowers. Is it too late to make up?