For the past seven years I have been lucky enough to enjoy a second career as a garden designer, and whether it’s working with a completely blank canvas or just giving a garden a bit of a makeover, I get huge amounts of job satisfaction from my work.
Photography is also an integral part of indulging my passion for gardening and design. Taking my camera for a walk around a beautiful garden is both a great way to relax and also a source of inspiration for my own planting designs.
There are so many wonderful gardens in my area, some of which just open occasionally for the National Garden Scheme, and others that are open all year round. My favourite local haunt is the National Trust gardens at Dunham Massey near Altrincham which includes a 7 acre winter garden. Under the expert guidance of head gardener Emily Chandler the gardens are flourishing and there is always something new to see.
To show you the whole of the gardens would take far more space than this blog allows, but let me take you on a little tour of the winter garden and some of its’ gems through the seasons.
I’ll start with the daffodils. These are spectacular at Dunham. There are so many varieties planted in the garden, from the early ones such as Rijnvelds ‘Early Sensation’ right through to the late flowering Narcissus ‘Actaea’ pictured below.
And this is one of my favourite spring bulbs -pictured below – Fritillaria Meleagris aka Snake’s head fritillary is establishing itself really well at Dunham now.
One of the paths that wind through the winter garden, with Magnolia stellata looking rather lovely in the foreground.
The winter garden in summer is a quiet place, as you might expect, but still my favourite part of the garden. At times you can almost feel like you have the place to yourself as the majority of visitors tend to head for the spectacular perennial borders and rose garden. This photo (below) was taken in early June last year and for me it captures the understated natural beauty of the garden.
Butterflies and insects are attracted to the wildflowers that are allowed to grow here in summer.
And in high summer the hydrangeas have their day enjoying the dappled shade of the trees.
What a glorious sight this is with the scarlet leaves of the acers falling over one of the pathways! I was lucky enough to capture this image below on a perfect autumn day a couple of years ago.
Underneath the many mature trees in the winter garden a carpet of pink Cyclamen hederifolium brings colour to the woodland floor.
Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ has the most unusual coloured berries. The birds tend to leave these alone, so the purple berries last well into winter.
We don’t tend to get much snow in this part of Cheshire, but when we do the winter garden takes on a new prettiness. The seed heads of Phlomis russeliana look stunning when covered with snow.
Hammelis or Witch Hazel is one of my favourite scented winter shrubs and the flowers are a dream to photograph. There are many varieties at Dunham and they add colour even in the depths of winter.
And although we think of snowdrops as a sign of spring, February is the month when they are at their best.
The latter part of 2018 saw us, as a nation, commemorate a number of centenary events linked to the First World War. By the very nature of the original events these were sombre events, and rightly so.
By contrast, 2019 will allow us to commemorate such uplifting centenary events as the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown, and Lady Nancy Astor taking her seat in the House of Commons as the first women member of parliament.
Additionally, hidden in the depths of the New Forest, there is a garden that was the passion of a banker, also celebrating its centenary. The banker, in question, was Lionel de Rothschild a passionate collector of plants and a keen supporter and sponsor of the early 20th century plant hunters and the garden Exbury. The garden was created in 1919 and was developed over the following 20 years to become a stunning 200-acre garden paradise in the New Forest filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees.
The centenary is being marked with the unveiling of a new ‘secret’ garden and a showcase display at the world’s most famous flower show, RHS Chelsea.
Visitors can now get to glimpse the new Centenary Garden designed by Lionel’s great grand-daughter, and RHS gold medal award-winning designer, Marie-Louise Agius. This was planted within Exbury Gardens in 2017 and has been carefully hidden from public view, whilst it grew and matured. Given the scale of the rest of Exbury Gardens, and that it’s had a 100 years to mature to what is seen today, the Centenary Garden is necessarily more intimate in scale. It is planted on the site of one of Lionel de Rothschild’s former tennis courts!
Grown in secret – Centenary Garden
It is contemporary in style, focusing on late flowering summer perennials, interwoven between a strong vertical planted structure, with the existing Yew hedging proving an evergreen backdrop. The central area is sunken – enhancing the 3 dimensional space – with the Rothschild 5 Arrows in black Caledonian slate set into York stone paving. At the far end of the garden is a curved timber bench surrounded by cloud-pruned evergreen azaleas, a modern salute to the core history of the Gardens.
Thomas Clarke, head gardener at Exbury, said: “The 1920s were the golden age of woodland gardening and Exbury, under the careful eye of Lionel de Rothschild and his staff, was at the cutting edge of this movement. The location, climate, existing oak woodland and acid soil all allowed for the creation of one of the finest gardens of its kind in the UK. Combine this with the legacy of the great plant hunters, and the extensive plant breeding programme at Exbury, and we are fortunate enough to have inherited a truly wonderful garden packed full of horticultural treasures.”
“In this centenary year we are delighted to be unveiling some fantastic new projects plus a continued focus on our work to conserve and develop the plants and landscape at Exbury for the next 100 years.”
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily until 3 November 2019 10am – 5.30pm. Adult tickets £12.50, children (3-15yrs) £4, under 3s are free and a family ticket is £29. Full information at www.exbury.co.uk
Exbury Gardens aims to enable visitors with disabilities and additional mobility needs to use and enjoy the gardens, railway and facilities.
Trevor Judd is an experienced photographer specialising in the photography of flowers, nature, and landscapes.
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice” – Robert Frank
Successful wildlife gardening is as much about what you
don’t do as what you do. This is not to say that a wildlife garden has to be
untidy. Many imagine a wildlife garden as an unruly tangle of brambles, nettles
and dandelions, and it is true that a laissez-faire garden like this will
certainly attract a lot of wildlife, but it is also perfectly possible to have
a tidy and beautiful garden that is teeming with life (though tidiness does of
course tend to require a little more work).
If I could give you just one wildlife
gardening tip, it would be this. You can get rid of all the weeds in your
garden in a heartbeat, just by renaming them wildflowers. The concept of a weed
is something we have constructed. Why do we endlessly persecute dandelions,
groundsel, willowherbs and so on, at great personal effort, and usually without
much success? Does it matter if there are buttercups and daisies in your lawn?
Many of us spend money on spraying their lawn with selective broadleaf
herbicides, intended to kill everything but the grass. Buttercups and
dandelions are beautiful native wildflowers. Ease off on the mowing, and they
will burst into bloom, adding colour and attracting insect life; bees,
hoverflies and so on.
from those in the lawn, wildflowers can be an attractive addition to herbaceous
borders. I have teasel, viper’s bugloss, marjoram, foxgloves, mallows, campions,
comfrey, betony, deadnettles and woundworts mixed up with the usual garden
favourites; lavender, catmint, coreopsis and so on. Viper’s bugloss is one of
my favourites – producing beautiful blueish purple flower spikes in July and
August that bumblebees adore. Controversially, I also have ragwort, loathed by
horse lovers as it is toxic when dried in hay. But this is a wonderful plant
for insects, attracting bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and of course the yellow
and black caterpillars of the cinnabar moth. Native wildflowers are worth
including not just for their beauty but also because they are often the
foodplant of herbivorous insects such as moths, butterflies, true bugs or leaf
beetles, so they help to support a whole ecosystem. My red campion flowers
attract bees, but also attract the campion moth which lays its egg on the seed
pod and the young caterpillar feasts on the developing seeds.
Relax, soak up the summer sun, and enjoy the weeds!
Dave Goulson’s new book, The Garden
Jungle, is on sale now in all good bookshops.
One way you can help Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity (GDT) is to open your garden to the public and donate the entrance fee to help us continue our life changing work.
One such garden that has done that is Fursdon House in Devon. Their stunning gardens are regularly open to visitors in the summer and they dedicated one day where the charity would receive a percentage of the garden entrance fee.
We have 9 volunteer committee members and work tirelessly to fundraise, enabling us to get more people back into their gardens by offering grants. We organise a number of events but by people opening their gardens and donating the income from it we do need to find manpower to carry it out. We assist with publicising the event but the garden owners deal with the logistics of the day.
GDT was invited to attend Canterbury Cathedral Open Gardens because we had been nominated as a beneficiary of the day and received a third of the garden entrance money. The other benficiaries were Perennial Charity and National Gardens Scheme.
The Duke and Duchess of Grafton have invited GDT to attend their Garden only Open Day at the magnficent Euston Hall on 16th September from the 10am until 2pm. The park and gardens are open and we will receive a portion of the profts form the day.
Please consider supporting these events or opening your gardens, or allotments etc and donating the income from it to us to enable us to continue our life changing work.
Visit our website gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk to find out more about our work .
At Eco Roses, we have the best wedding flowers which you have never seen before. Yeah! You heard it right… We provide a unique range of Wedding flowers, which are always the stars at any wedding. Our explosion of Roses, colours and textures including red, pink, spray, Tinted, Austin roses, Bicolour Yellow-Red, Hot Pink and Garden Roses combined with large new variety Roses.
If the couple isn’t careful an impressive floral arrangement or top quality flower can overshadow the couple themselves! Classic varieties of roses come in white, cream, tinted and dual coloured roses, which you never think of before.
But luckily there is only a place, in this world that is blessed enough to be able to grow more than just those colours and many new forms of different varieties flowers. That place is Eco Roses. Let me show you how:-
First range of beautiful flower, has a very delicate soft orange/peachish centre with bold dark red edges. To put it mildly, these are truly a unique breed of rose we name it – Bicolour: Yellow-Red
Another variety has it all and connects with the soft and bold sides of the human personality and according to the decoration of wedding arrangements.
You can compare the presence of our freshly deliver roses, you will see the power that it holds in and the energy which presents the positive vibe that our flower brings to any event, indoor or outdoor, is contagious.
Our wedding flowers are fully appropriate to adorn both the bride and the groom, because it is the classic wedding tradition white and red? Our Red & White Bicolour roses are best for wedding functions.
The peachy orangish red outer petals, which contain some of the most beautiful colour connectivity by the best team growing team, blending found in nature.
Every wedding or event we cater, we focus on its nature, a truly unique event with its own combination of elements makes it special occasion with flowers by Eco Roses. Occasion like, weddings and any wedding related functions; we at Eco Roses, try to design and arranged several beautiful table displays for a wedding party. We requested for giant gathering as well as small gathering, spherical mixed rose bouquets to place in ornate cut glass vases.
We Work closely with our clients to ensure that you do not forget any of the important parts to your wedding arrangements.
Selecting wedding flowers seems simple and straightforward enough… until you dig into it and realize the dizzying array of choices, we at Eco Roses provides you Top quality unique roses for weddings. There are so many options by our farm to your doorsteps, all of them are incredibly beautiful, and never seeing designs; here is our compilation of most required handy FAQs to selecting the perfect wedding flowers for your one-of-a-kind celebration.
Take Cues from Your Venue
Chances are that if you love the idea of an untamed outdoor venue, you probably drawn to the look of wildflowers too. Similarly, if it is on the big villas and home, then it is completely your style then you are likely attracted to elegant.
Wedding Arrangements for an outdoor venue also tend to be less structured. In formal venues, according to us, classic flower choices and polished styles are a good choice.
Don’t Obsess Over Flower Knowledge
Maybe, you know your roses from your simpler colours but Eco Roses has made a victory over variety of roses. Therefore, most of our customers get badly confuse. Yes, they pretend as if they love all of them, as all the range is best and fresh for roses.
Some brides-to-be get their hands and hearts set on a particular flower, not realizing that it may be hard to get at the time of the wedding but we make it possible to them by our better preservers.
It is Possible to Start Too Early
The early bird gets the worm; if you arrive before your last days to wedding then it would be fun, because we give you complete knowledge of our certainly unique roses that you never find anywhere. It is quite exciting to start nailing down wedding details as sooner as you could.
Selecting you own wedding flowers should be great fun!! In addition, not overly stressful. Plan, but stay open to suggestions by our experts, where required.
You will asked most certainly by many of your friends or guests to name the rose variety on display and wedding arrangements. You can proudly say that, this is by ECO Roses, grown in their fresh farm to your wedding destination, they are home of the best wedding flowers in South America.
I run my own gardening
business and work with many people who have physical or mental difficulties. I
am constantly thinking about how I can make gardening easier for people, which
plants can be chosen to give maximum joy but require minimum maintenance and
how can I help keep people enjoying gardening independently at their home rather
than feeling overwhelmed with jobs.
Daily life stresses, bereavement, ailments and disabilities all bring their own challenges but whatever your situation an hour or two spent outside can work wonders for morale, reduce anxiety and lift spirits. Green therapy. Seeing a job through to completion is immensely satisfying and evokes a sense of pride.
Soil contains Mycobacterium vaccae, which releases
natural anti-depressants serotonin and dopamine so getting our hands dirty can
genuinely improve our mental health and make us feel more positive.
Gardening offers a great
distraction from everyday life, a few hours spent outdoors can work wonders. It
allows us a little breathing space away from issues that may be troubling us,
focuses the mind and gives purpose and hope for the future from the anticipation
of what will grow.
Try and keep gardening fun
and not a chore. If certain elements of the garden begin to stress you out then
change them. Gardens are forever evolving and need to develop to meet your
For example cut down on the
number of pots you have or consolidate small pots into larger as this stops the
soil drying out so fast. Small pots are rather needy for food and water.
Watering can feel an arduous
task so make life easy for yourself, choose drought tolerant plants like pelargoniums,
sempervivum, sedums or cactus for in a conservatory or windowsill. These
independent plants thrive on neglect. You can enjoy their foliage or blooms
with minimum input.
But if you love sowing seeds
and potting on then plant at a height you can work at. If you have back trouble
or cannot kneel then resist planting at soil level where you would have to bend
down; try waist height raised beds. It’s your garden so ensure you can access
Direct sow seed where you wish them to grow. This cuts down on the time
consuming task of nurturing seedlings through each stage till they are finally
transplanted out. Try Eschscholzia
poppy), calendula, cosmos, cornflowers, marigold, nigella
(Love-in-a-mist), Phacelia tanacetifolia (Purple Tansy)
Digitalis (foxgloves), poppies or
Cut down on weeding, use
groundcover such as hardy geraniums, vinca or hardy herbs to cover bare soil
and smother weeds.
Lasagne plant bulbs at
different depths in pots to get a successional display of blooms from winter
through to summer. Try crocus, muscari, fritillaria, narcissus, tulips and
alliums. All super easy to grow and provides months of colour.
If you are feeling lonely or
isolated then ring a friend, get them round for a cuppa and a gardening
Join a local gardening club.
Meet up with like-minded people and discuss what is going on in your garden. If
you are physically unable to garden yourself then go to the gardening talks.
Get inspired by the professionals and learn about plants. You can always hire a
gardener to come and help implement your new ideas.
Little did I know when I
start out on my horticultural path that an over riding factor of gardening
would be friendship. Over the years I have become great friends with the people
I work for. And it is a two-way street, putting the world to rights whilst
pulling weeds can be incredibly therapeutic. It can provide the platform to
express how we feel whereas we may not be able to find the words whilst stuck
within four walls.
Gardens are so personal and
bring such joy. They are an extension of our personalities and provide respite
from the stresses and toils of modern life. So get outdoors and inhale all the
scent, sights and sounds of nature and get gardening!
A sniff of aromatic sage leaves, a few snips of garlic chives, a dusting of fennel pollen… giving everyone the chance to experience – and taste – the power of herbs first hand is what a community herb garden is all about. And it just so happens that the garden I help to run is situated on a roundabout.
It may seem an unlikely situation, but it is not your average car-choked traffic feature. And the team of volunteers who help to keep the herbs happy and the litter at bay know that what they do brings joy – and free herbs – to the local population.
The Rothsay community herb garden sits at the junction of two residential roads in Bedford, a town of roughly 80,000 people situated around 50 miles north of London. The streets are lined with Victorian houses and mature trees, and the roundabout itself is larger and greener than you’d expect, with a diameter of around 40m (130ft).
Within it there are two large beds that make up the herb garden, filled with herbs of every shape and size, from creeping thyme and clumps of mint to mounds of purple sage and the towering elacampne (Inula helenium). All the plants have some value as herbs: some culinary, some medicinal. Paths intersect the roundabout so there’s plenty of passing foot traffic, and there’s an open invitation to everyone to harvest whatever herbs they need from the plot.
Regular maintenance sessions bring together a small group of local volunteers all willing to help maintain the garden, weeding and pruning sessions are full of chat on the local news and the odd passerby will stop to admire our handiwork.
Communication is a key part of the herb garden’s success. A noticeboard that helps local people understand the purpose of the garden and identify the individual herbs. Annual open days provide a chance for people to find out more about the garden and what they can do with the herbs in it: one of my jobs has been to give a talk which always garners lots of questions: it’s always surprising how some useful herbs are so unknown and under-appreciated.
The garden was set up a decade ago by Zero Carbon Castle, a local community group inspired by the Transition town movement, which fosters grassroots, eco-friendly community projects. The town council, who owns the roundabout, gave permission for the garden and helped pay for herb plug plants used by around 20 local people as they planted up the garden for the first time.
Ten years on, and although Zero Carbon Castle has since fizzled out as an organisation, the herb garden has gone on nonetheless, managed by a small team of local people, including me. The volunteer crew may have changed its personnel a little over the years, but the aim remains the same: providing something beautiful for people to look at, providing locally grown herbs for the community.It has been entirely self-funded for the past seven years.
It’s not always easy: I popped down to mow the grass around the beds the other day and within a couple of minutes I’d collected an empty sandwich carton; one nitrous oxide canister; a few cigarette butts; and a blizzard of sweet wrappers. Litter is probably our biggest problem, but by tackling it regularly, the space stays well looked after, which reminds people that it’s anything but a dumping ground. Whole plants have been dug up on occasion, and a few dogs wander between the herbs from time to time.
Bedford is a multicultural community, so there are sometimes language barriers that can cause confusion: signs in Italian and Polish as well as English help to explain that while people are welcome to snip away at any herbs they want to take home, digging up whole plants is not allowed. There are two benches on the roundabout that attract people stopping for a rest and a chat, but also act as gathering places for late night drinkers and those taking drugs (which explains the nitrous oxide canisters). That said, the vast majority of people respect the space.
There is no source of water nearby so the planting has to be drought-resistant: bark mulch helps to keep the moisture in, but during prolonged dry spells we carry out emergency watering, transporting containers of water from a local resident’s outside tap to the herb beds.
A largely organic approach means that we can help rather than harm what’s a surprisingly wildlife-rich area, with owls hooting from the trees at night, hedgehogs snuffling for insects amid the herb beds, and bats circle above on warm summer nights. Not bad for a roundabout, really.
Six tough herbs for community spaces
The stands of feathery, deep red foliage make it a wonderfully pretty plant for a herb garden, but its delicate looks belie the fact that, given the right setting, this herb is tough as old boots, naturalising along railway sidings and road verges wherever there’s a patch of sun and a scarping of poor soil. Pollinators such as hoverflies love the acid yellow umbels of the flowers, and it self-seeds around given the chance: just let any artful interlopers remain and pull up any seedlings that turn up out of bounds. A mix of bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) can look particularly striking mixed with regular green herb fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
I have a love-hate relationship with this plant: on one hand, it’s one of the most easily recognisable and widely-used herbs there is, valuable for everything from teas and salads to cocktails and garnishes. It’s also extremely tough and tolerant. But boy, does it spread. We have several different mint species and cultivars in the garden, but keep them under close control, and aren’t afraid to remove huge clumps every maintenance session to keep it in bounds. There are dozens of stunning mints to choose from: my favourites are chocolate mint, and mojito mint (Mentha x villosa), a ruffled-leaf mint that makes the perfect cocktail. ‘Eau de Cologne’ is marvellous as an addition to a hot bath.
This plant (Latin name Helichrysum italicum) is worth it just for the incredibly aromatic smell it pumps out on a hot day, although it also makes a good addition to the colours and textures of a herb garden: nursery Architectural Plants calls it a ‘shapely grey blob’ which is a little like damning with feint praise, but you get the idea. Its yellow flowers also attracts huge numbers of pollinators, and I cut springs of the silvery-grey foliage for use in vases and make aromatic herb wreaths out of it, too. Some education is required to show people that this isn’t the plant to use to flavour your curries: that plant, Murraya koenigii, is too tender to survive in temperate locations over winter.
Lavender has the whole package: aroma, flowers, and a surprisingly wide repertoire in the kitchen; I use it for everything from baking to barbecue marinades. Lavender looks great as a low boundary hedge to a community herb garden (try the compact cultivar ‘Miss Muffet’ if you want a really low hedge), or dot it throughout the garden to bring the bees in: its evergreen foliage also provides added interest in winter. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most hardy species, perfect for planting in beds; French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is bet planted in containers that can be moved or protected as temperatures drop. Lavender’s only vice is becoming leggy and sparse after a few seasons, so treat it as a shortlived perennial, taking cuttings to raise as new plants.
The seed of this biennial herb is reputed to be difficult to germinate, and there are many tips and tricks to get it to sprout. The strange irony is that once planted in a herb garden, it will self seed around very happily and provide you with many a plant for selling or sharing. If you have several plants, cut all but one down before it sets seed but after it flowers (it’s another pollinator magnet) if you don’t want it spreading all over the place. I love flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) most, and love the huge-leaved variety ‘Gigante d’Italia’, whereas other swear by the curly (Petroselinum crispum), or butcher’s parsley as my mother calls it, has its place – for one thing it’s generally hardier than Italian parsley: it may even be due for a revival.
I think of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) as the perfect herb garden plant because pretty much everyone recognises it, and very few people object to its flavour. Plus it produces stunning lollipop like flowers every June and can thrive in all sorts of soils and situations from heavy clay to an unirrigated green roof. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, its relative garlic chives aka Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), with flat strappy leaves and white flowers makes a useful addition.
Saturday, 13th July for Gardening for Disabled Trust.
Court Lodge, Bodium, TN32 5UJfrom10.30 until 4.00pm
Teas, coffee, cake and Rodda’s Cream Teas.
A sense of panic has been slowly pervading this household over the past few weeks. In the depths of winter, after a couple of gin and tonics, it seemed a warming thought that summer would eventually come and we would share our garden with others in aid of charity. The reality is now beginning to bite. In six weeks, garden enthusiasts will hopefully be queuing at the gate and paying money to see what in my darkest moments is a bomb site strewn with weeds. We have agreed to open our garden to the public to raise funds for St. Michael’s Hospice and for the Gardening for Disabled Trust. We have actually done this before, but it’s rather like having a baby….somehow you block out memories of the pain and happily only remember the good bits. I had conveniently forgotten the work involved and the sleepless nights fretting about gaps in borders and rampant bindweed.
first asked a few years ago my immediate reaction was “absolutely NO”…our
garden is not nearly good enough….we have no specialist plants or water features
and what design there is has had to fit in what was already there. But the very
persuasive and charming lady from the Hospice reassured me that it wasn’t like
the NGS (which has very high
standards)…and that people are curious, or actually just plain nosey, and love
to see other peoples gardens, in fact they quite like to see other peoples
weeds and messy little corners….it gives them a lift in a schadenfreude kind of
way. We are lucky to have a fabulous view over Bodiam Castle and to the east
along the Rother Valley…I rely on this as the main attraction….or distraction.
and gardening are my passion and it is immensely rewarding to share the fruits
of labour with others for a good cause. It has the added advantage for an
innate procrastinator, of forcing one to plan ahead, keeping up to date with
all the chores and constantly thinking of where improvements could be made.
life started for me growing sweet peas on a London balcony. We moved here to
East Sussex 27 years ago in the depths of winter. The comparatively large
garden looked neat and tidy, if a little bare. We knew we had to mow the lawn,
although a new mower was stolen within 2 weeks of our arrival. But spring came
and a wonderful garden appeared, lush borders full of colour and unfamiliar
plants. However, we did not understand the dynamics of herbaceous borders and
the amount of care required. Within a few years some plants had grown enormous,
and others had completely disappeared; the whole lot held together by a mass of
tangled bindweed and dandelions. Sorting out the beds was a steep learning
curve but eventually we learnt the mysteries of digging, dividing and staking.
main interest has always been vegetables, they are rather more controllable and
there is nothing more heartening than finding something to cook at the last
minute after failing to plan ahead for the evening meal. It is also immensely
satisfying to cut out shelf life, food miles, and all the chemicals. At this
time of year asparagus to plate, covered in butter, in under 15 minutes is
heaven, and freshly dug leeks in the winter almost as satisfying.
am a list person, and lists of jobs for the garden are no exception. The “Pre
Open Garden Countdown List” started in the autumn. It went something like this….
Make a list
seeds. The only seeds I sow in the
autumn are sweet peas, on October 6th (my birthday)
catalogues again, order more seeds
cuttings. This is an exciting and satisfying way to obtain more plants, for
free. Some of the ones that work well for me are lavender, artemesia (Powys
Castle) Argyranthemum (Jamaica Primrose)
any structural work needed and get it done early. (We did decide that it was
time that the greenhouse was renovated, but unfortunately that slipped and
won’t be done until the week after the open garden)
the front of the house will have to wait another year….or two.
catalogues again, order more seeds
early. I invested in a heated propagation mat a few years ago which makes life
very exciting. This year I am growing
some unusual beans…Borlotto Lamon and the purple climbing French bean,
Blauhilde. I am also trying a new tomato called Black Sea Man which is supposed
to have very good flavour.
control early, especially the drive and paths. Repeat every 3-4 weeks.
Keep on top
of mowing, edging and watering (check weather forecast daily)
plant supports before plants start to fall over, about 2nd/3rd
a Chelsea Chop at the end of May. Hopefully this should delay some of the
flowering until the open garden in July.
helpers for on the day, cake donors, scone makers. A wonderful outfit called
“Rodda’s Good deeds” who make Cornish Clotted Cream are donating clotted cream
and Tiptree Jam.
tea urn, crockery, tables and chairs…gazebo?
plants needed for the plant stall, as well for church coffee morning, and village boot fair.
Feed…this was a useful tip I heard on Gardener’s Question Time to encourage a
weekly habit. Unfortunately I have only managed it once so far this season.
slug damage. Coffee grounds scattered around the base of plants seem to work
for a while, beer traps are effective and I often resort to hand picking slugs
off at night by the light of a torch. I enjoy feeding them to the chickens.
badger damage, fill holes with soil and grass-seed. This year seems to have
been a bumper year for leather jackets and chafers… Michelin meals for badgers.
mole hills. After a nightmare last year, so far this year there have been very
few. I invested in some special French Putange mole traps which worked very
well but thick gloves are essential to avoid broken fingers. Thank goodness we
don’t have deer or wild boar……yet.
Vow never to
read another seed catalogue
list goes on a bit. Nearer the time it gets more specific…
edging, final weed
areas that might be dangerous….remember the greenhouse?… swimming pool… or
unsightly…the compost heap…behind the old pig sty
not all of these jobs are completed….the day arrives…you take a deep breath and
resolve that people will have to accept us as we are…and pray for good weather.
did occur to me that after all the hard work, neatly trimmed edges, swept
paths, weedless beds, neatly trimmed lawn, all over in one day…why not open for
a second day whilst it is still looking good and double the donation? So this
is what we are doing.
Tuesday, July 9th for St.Michael’s Hospice. 10.30-4.00pm
£5.00 entrance. Teas, coffee, cake, and lunch.
Saturday, 13th July for Gardening for Disabled Trust. 10.30-4.00pm
entrance. Teas, coffee, cake and Rodda’s Cream Teas.
come and visit us but please don’t point out the bindweed.
Garden Opening gives all the hard work a genuine sense of purpose and it is a great privilege to share nature and man’s wonders with our visitors and raise a little money for good causes.
Fursdon House and Gardens, Cadbury, Exeter, Devon.
The gardens of Fursdon House will be open on Wednesday 19th June 2pm-5pm and the money raised from the entry to the garden on that day will be donated to Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity
The History of Fursdon House by Catriona Fursdon
The Fursdon family have lived in this place since 1259 – so we have our 760th anniversary this year!
David and I came to Fursdon in 1979 to take over the running of the house and the estate from John Fursdon, David’s uncle. We were newly married and had no clue about running a big house or a farming estate that was sadly rather rundown. Through a combination of misfortunes Fursdon was not in a good state of repair. We were lucky enough to have some wonderful mature trees, great views and a fabulous framework for a garden but it had been sadly neglected for many years. We had no money and no gardening knowledge – so the whole thing was a steep learning curve!
However, with the enthusiasm of youth we set about a restoration project that has been ongoing for the last 40 years. We are so grateful to friends and family who helped in those early days of keeping nettles and brambles at bay and a sense of humour intact. Mostly! We’ve had professional advice from friends with horticultural expertise and I (Catriona) attended a Royal Horticultural Society course a few years ago – so slowly but surely we made inroads into the garden which has been open to the public along with the manor house since 1982.
As confidence in the garden grew we started opening it to visitors even on days when the house was not open. And the biggest difference in the last few years has been the introduction of Katie who shares her flair for colour and horticultural design with us. Katie grows plants from seed in her own greenhouse thus adding a far wider range of flowers and shrubs than we’ve previously been able to have. She has made the gardens around the house into a very special place that visitors tell me is inspiring and uplifting. We are thrilled to benefit from her enthusiasm and expertise.
If visitors are feeling energetic, they can take a stroll to the Meadow Garden, a wilder area which we began to restore in 2009, with the creation of a pond and wildflower areas. Work in the garden never stops and we don’t pretend that it’s perfect – but we derive huge pleasure from giving visitors the chance to experience this historic and special place.
It’s only right that Katie should have her say too:
I started working at Fursdon six years ago, when I was asked to help create and care for a Cutting Garden – growing flowers to be cut for the house, tea room, and holiday accommodation. It was an offer I couldn’t turn down!
A few years later, in October 2017, I was asked to take care of the main garden that surrounds Fursdon House, including rejuvenating and replanting some of the flowerbeds and borders that were becoming tired. The creative side of gardening is what I love most of all – combining colour and texture with plants and flowers provides endless possibilities and fun!
This season has been so rewarding; watching all the new planting mature, and I love to see visitors enjoying it too, and finding inspiration for their own gardens. It’s lovely setting to work in. Fursdon is such a friendly, welcoming place, and I like to think the garden is too!
Relaxed, informal planting throughout the garden provides plenty of colour and interest through the seasons, and we very much encourage wildlife – visitors often comment on how alive the garden is with birdsong and buzzing bees. I love the tranquillity – and the fantastic views over beautiful Devon countryside at almost every turn are a real treat too. I just need to remind myself to look up and out of the borders every now and again… especially during the frantic month of May!!
Fursdon is a special place indeed. I’m a lucky gardener.
General information about Fursdon by Becky Smith:
Our gardens and Coach Hall tearoom are open on Bank Holiday Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from Easter to the end of September, 2pm to 5pm.
We run relaxed and informative tours of the family home on all Bank Holiday Mondays, and Wednesdays and Thursdays in June, July and August (2.30pm and 3.30pm) and as part of this tour, visitors are delighted to take a look around our small family museum in which we display family costumes and other precious artefacts.
We are delighted to welcome groups to visit the house and gardens by arrangement – we have hosted numerous local WI’s, Historical Societies, Book Clubs and other groups – and we are very happy to open the tearoom for groups so that they can enjoy tea and cake either before or after they have explored!
We also have special open days where monies raised from the garden entry is given to various charities. This year, 2019, we are open for the National Garden Scheme on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th June, Hospiscare on Wednesday 12th June and of course, the Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity on Wednesday 19th June (all 2pm-5pm – house, garden and tearoom open).
The Coach Hall tearoom has become somewhat legendary for its delicious home-made scones and variety of cakes, lovingly baked and served by Kashy. We believe that no visit to Devon is complete without a proper Devon cream tea – freshly baked scones served with lashings of clotted cream under delicious strawberry jam accompanied by a perfectly brewed cup of tea! We have lovely outdoor seating for when the sun is shining and a warming log fire in the Coach Hall for the chillier days.
And of course, if you feel like you might like to treat yourself to a longer visit, we also have accommodation on the estate, where you can escape the demands of ordinary life and relax in the heart of stunning mid Devon. Fantastic Fursdon Cottage is available all year and has its own terraced garden – perfect for families, friends or couples – and dogs are welcome to stay in the cottage too! Also, until the end of June 2019, we have 2 beautiful and stylish apartments on the first floor of Fursdon House – the Park Wing and the Garden Wing – which offer lovely historical features and up to date style, colour and comfort.
If you would like to know anything further about the House, gardens or accommodation (or how Kashy makes such superb apple cake!), please contact us on 01392 860860 or email email@example.com. Our website is www.fursdon.co.uk and there you will find pictures and more information about all that we do here.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog and we would be delighted to welcome you to Fursdon in the future!
Catriona, David, Katie, Becky and team
some of the photos by Guy Harrop
I tumbled into a love of gardening in my middle age, finally escaping London to buy a house
in a mediaeval town in the High Weald of Kent. The walled garden that came with it is not large, nor tiny, but just the right size for someone happy to make their own mistakes, with one long, sunny border, several square beds in dappled shade and a scruffy greenhouse tucked in the corner. I had volunteered for the rangers at Sissinghurst Castle, tackling tough, woodland tasks, but little in the way of gardening, so I applied to help one day a week at the renowned Great Dixter, to see if I could improve my skills. This was a life-changer, indeed. Under the patient eyes of a team of young and talented gardeners, led with infectious charisma by Fergus Garrett, I did my utmost not to kill anything and absorb everything, though failed, probably, on both counts. My modest garden began to flourish. A sense of wonder set in, an appreciation of when and where to plant and a keenness to be daring;
inhabiting Dixter was to exist, however briefly, in a masterpiece and my dreams were full of colour and shapes for nights after each visit. My iPhone filled with photos of plants, idents of plants, wish-lists of plants, plants, plants.
And then disaster struck, or seemed to. A year into volunteering, I damaged my Achilles tendon and was off my feet for weeks, unable to really dig and heft about for months. Impossibly worse, just as I recovered in time for Christmas 2018, I found an undeniable, egg-shaped invader lurking deep in my left breast and by early January was informed that it was indeed a cancer and of the aggressive bent, so I would be forced to go through six rounds of chemotherapy, then surgery and radio therapy, stretching far into the Autumn and recuperation beyond. Almost a year swallowed up before my eyes on only January 2nd . Of course, the immediate fallout had little to do with gardening; priorities are what they are when you have two boys and a husband and a working life to try to protect, though I did find
myself googling “gardening during chemotherapy” in the days that followed and being told by my sensible MacMillan nurse that the risk of infection was likely too high, given the bashing my immune system would take. I shrugged it off; what did the garden matter, in the scheme of life and death. A flurry of invasive tests bludgeoned Winter, Valentine’s Day marked the beginning of chemo, but, by March, Spring was clamouring at the door and I gazed at my neglected borders, shocked to feel such despair. The Honesty, Sweet Rocket, Snapdragons, Calendula and so much more I had sown the previous year for planting out, were busting out of their pots, weeds of every ilk were taking possession of the beds and my plans to build on anything I had learned at Dixter seemed as laughable as returning to life
before the diagnosis. Some start had to be made.
It seemed my garden did matter, a great deal, especially on the worst days of chemo, when hours shrank to monotonous shifts between nausea, indescribable fatigue, or worst of all, dank depression. At first, merely going outside seemed a stretch, the Spring chill and unfinished tasks an unwelcome weight; but looking became everything. One of the best
things about gardening is that there is always a subtle difference to be made; a snip here, a weed pulled there, a handful of seeds scattered, all add up to a visible difference and a sense of achievement. I reopened my seed box and began to dream again, pulling out one packet a day and sowing just a few, wrapped up against the cold and possible scratches in my little
potting station. Walking out to water the greenhouse anchored my days and in the third week of every regime, as toxicity lifted, I found a surge of energy to plant out whatever I could, often late by weeks, but with a sense of delicious victory. My 49th birthday brought stout presents of gauntlet gloves and a long-handled weed tickler as well as a desire to involve my
menfolk in what had been a rather private, even prickly obsession. Deep holes were dug for two white climbing roses over an ivy-clad arch, inspired by one of my favourite photographs of Dixter, a project which I had put off, endlessly, for no good reason. Seeing these beauties in place, already scrambling for height and for life itself, feels like a promise to the future I
am determined to be part of.
So, the cycle of sowing, potting on and planting out flows into Summer, albeit much more sedately than I had in mind and with weeds merrily filling the gaps. In May, I find myself halfway through treatment, calmer than where I began and philosophical, thanks, to be sure, to my lovely family, the incredible NHS, but, not least,
because in every corner of the garden, life my own hands have pressed into the soil, prevails.