Tag Archives: gardens

Bad Tempered Gardener?

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse

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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera

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“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

 

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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden

 

 


Travelogue : Lost and Found

 Hell eee gan, not misspelled, but more an attempt to phonetically write how our charming garden docent Graham told us it was pronounced. The emphasis, to correctly say it, is on the middle syllable. I shall always remember him politely chiding us, but I will probably forever say it wrong.

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A field of Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas)  on the West Lawn framing a breathtaking view  to the Cornish countryside in the distance.

Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder;  how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war and a hurricane-in this case,  it was all of the above.

Then a machete wielding man started hacking away at the tangled mess. His brain started thinking restoration. So began the adventure of Sir Tim Smit. Reading stories you will find most thinking him part visionary, part insane, and actually part rock and roll.  He is as much a marketer and PR master as a passionate garden creator:  “If you truly believe in something and you can get three others to believe in it too, it will happen. If you love something, provided you’re not a freak, they’ll be millions of others that love it too. Then, the only remaining issue is a marketing one”. He has added billions to the Cornwall tourist economy by creating two gardens that visitors flock to by the thousands. Heligan was one of the first projects that brought him into the gardening limelight. Eden was the other.

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Glimpses of old stone throughout the gardens reveal its past


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The true gardens of Heligan were the productive ones. The Kitchen Garden, The Melon Yard and the Flower Garden.


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A private retreat in the Italian garden built in 1906


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An iconic shot of  one of the features of Heligan. The Mud Maiden along the path of the Woodland walk


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A turn towards New Zealand (the portion of the garden, not the country!)

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Next travelogue:
If these walls could talk: Castles in ruins and beloved restoration


Travelogue: June in the UK

Many have asked how my trip was and sometimes I feel speechless because I can’t put it into quick, casual conversation. And if you know me, you know I love talking about gardens.  It was many words from travel over 1700 miles on a coach zigzagging across the countryside of Wales, Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

Come along with me for an exploration of gardens of Wales and England, not in the chronological order of travel sense,  but the things that inspired me to write something along the way.

IMG_7924 heathrow lavenderMust start here…
Arrival Heathrow, UGH! You know that place where people who are grumpy from flying get pushed into the dungeon of this mega airport to get their passports checked. Emerging into daylight, the swath of English lavender blooming reminded me where I had just landed. The aromatic journey begins.

English Roses
In my gardening realm, all I hear is roses are too hard to take care of and disease”y”, aphid magnets. I tend to agree unless they are the tough ol’ Rugosas. I have moved into a new place recently and there are a few old rose bushes (not Rugosa!) that are fabulous and now after this trip I have fallen in love with growing roses again.

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casting shadows on the walls of Kiftsgate manor

The “Kiftsgate” rose at Kiftsgate Manor was not in bloom as we had hoped. It was just its rampant, huge tangle of crazy that I remember from a visit in 2005, but as we walked through gardens over the next few weeks, it seemed like every other rose in the UK was blooming! Everywhere, scrambling up walls and in the middle of mixed borders, mixing and mingling all over the place.
So this first travelogue are some photos of those heavenly fragrant English roses all over Wales and England. It does seem unfair to give you a look, but not a smell of how a rose in Britain on a warm day in June fills the air with perfume.

 

 

 

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A sweet tango with Thalictrum

 

 

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Roses and hedges, so very Sissinghurst

 

rose collage again

Kiftsgate, Sissinghurst, Aberglasney, Veddw, Heligan, Eden

Join me on my blog for more photos and musings from my trip.

This trip was one of those I looked forward to and panicked as well, it is one of the busiest times of year for my landscape design business but a chance to visit and study gardens and the renovation of properties lost in the past to ruins. Two places were on my bucket list and we saw so many more that I never knew should have been on my list.

Next travelogue post: Check marks on my bucket list


Get Dirty


Steal this…2012 Northwest Flower and Garden show

We all know that display gardens at flower shows are a bit of theater in the midst of all that horticultural giddiness. Plant nerds almost hate to admit it (it’s all about the plants right?) but we go to the show to be entertained too. Give me an emotional response, not just a stone patio with primroses and red twig dogwood around it. I loved that I could wander to a boulangerie in Paris (Wight’s Garden) or drift off to the sound of a harp playing (Fancy Frond’s). When the Bluegrass band started playing (Susan Browne Landscaping) it made me smile and crave a tall glass of sweet tea and of course the slow rhythmic drip of water on drums from Sublime Garden Design beat to its own unique style of creativity.

Every time I design a garden for the show, I want to incorporate ideas that you can see in your own garden. I strive to be horticulturally accurate (right plants for the conditions we are mimicking),  incorporate garden elements that are usable in the real world (floating water steps, decking that overhangs the water for dipping your feet into) and then I want to give that moment of entertainment. When we heard repeatedly how people would love to sit on the chaise and nap, I knew we had hit the mark.

Re-defining Andante

Over the next few days I will share my steals and inspiration from the garden we designed at the 2012 Northwest Flower and garden show…

O. k… for me it is about the plants:

Variegated Farfugium plays along the water's edge

Epimedium, Deer Fern and Heuchera 'Melting Fire'

Create a plant palette. Much like an artist chooses colors that accent, blend, contrast and compliment each other; choose plants that do the same. Start with color. This plant palette played in the shade with burgundy and silver. Dark colored foliage in a shade garden needs contrast; silver and white variegated plants do the trick. The shape and habit of plants is also vital. The spiky foliage of ‘Silver Dragon’ Liriope against the ruffled deep colored foliage of ‘Crimson Curls’ Heuchera, flattered with the dissected fronds of Deer fern (Blechnum spicant) all bring out a tapestry on the ground. You don’t want plants to blur together in boredom; you want to play off the assets of each.

Bergenia 'Baby Doll'. Liriope 'Silver Dragon', Heuchera 'Green Spice' tucked with scotch moss along rockery edge

The heart-shaped foliage of Epimedium is perfect to weave around the ankles of Sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) and the understory of trees to create an airy evergreen groundcover. Bergenia ‘Baby Doll’ in groupings made you look at this common plant in a whole new way. Plant this like a drifting puddle along the edges of pathways or rockery.


Then there was the darling (and a bit diva-like too) the Farfugium japoncium ‘Argenteum’. This bold foliage was an eye catcher along the edges of the pond, juxtaposed with the linear blades of ‘Elk’s Blue’ rush (Juncus patens). The leaves were bold enough to compete with the massive rock that made up the falls of the water feature. Placing plants next to large rock is not for the faint of foliage. Landscape rockery becomes more natural when plants are tucked around them; just remember to do it like you mean it. Give the rock some competition with bold foliage and color against it.

 

Pinch for tomorrow:
Water features are a lifestyle choice


Future sustainable gardener

Can’t resist another  kid story, somehow being a grandma gives inalienable rights. My granddaughter Alexis was visiting over the weekend and as always,  loves to be outside chasing the dogs, riding her bike and gardening. Since she was tiny,  she puttered around with me, even when she was just an infant, she would sit outside on a blanket while I gardened. I often wonder if that is how she spouts plant names so readily, by hearing me mutter them under my breath as I worked away.  She is an awesome weeder, greenhouse sweeper,tag sorter, container garden waterer and even helped plant my whole veggie garden this year. (Probably another post on our latest harvest of potatoes, stay tuned.)

Last Saturday,  we were working outside, I was raking leaves and trying to win a battle against blackberries along the property line.  I hear Alexis, excited and yelling, “Nana, look what the rain left for me.” She had gone down to the potager and found her watering can had filled with rain water. She said, “the rain left me water for your plants”. She proceeded to water my container gardens with her little green watering can. Hours later, as we were cleaning up the tools for the day, her watering can was perched on a stone wall near the garden, I asked her to put it away. She told me no…that she needed to leave it out so the rain could give her more water. I really can’t argue with that logic.

It also gave me a moment to ponder about what I do and the business-side of gardening; sometimes it can feel a bit over-processed and uptight.  Once in a while,  it is nice to think like a 4-year-old… “Look what the rain left for me…”

 


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