It felt like time for an update of the fun we have been having through the winter. We seem to have been fortunate with the weather which has allowed us to get on with some really good work and the diary is slowly filling up with bigger and better projects for the spring and early summer.
Our newest member, Callum, was very happy with his first garden in Cheltenham
A simple design which shall reveal itself once the summer comes
A surprising scene plant buying in the West Midlands
When on holiday a few years ago in France we visited the Marqueyssac gardens in the Dordogne valley. Our experience was completely unexpected. These gardens mesmerized and dazzled us. Here are some great ideas for South Florida Landscape Architecture.
We had planned to go kayaking but due to the miserable weather, which was somewhat a signature of this trip, the river was in spate and we could not go. So on a cloudy and drizzly day we drove up the switch back road to a lime escarpment where the Chateaux and gardens of Marqueyssac sit.
The story is a familiar one. The gardens and house were created by some wealth between 1860-1890, using a licensed concrete company in Greenville. The gardens and house then became neglected after the death of their tenant and were rarely occupied. It was not until 1996 that a monsieur Kleber Rossillon started to restore the gardens in their former imagine and take them forward. In order to get this good I think the gardens needed this period of neglect to grow out of shape and create a framework which the recent restorations could work to. Never do I think that some of the forms could otherwise have been conceived. The plants would not have escaped the tightly controlled forms more normally seen in French gardening.
What there is today is a breath taking display of clipped box. The shapes and contours of the plants are interesting to look at as a whole or when inspecting just a small section. Being able to balance the macro and micro interests of a garden is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to achieve. However, when done well, it leads to a much deeper sensory experience than a garden which has only one trick.
Because of the weather that prevented us going kayaking almost no one else was visiting the gardens, which meant the only sound was the soft applause of the rain and the sighing of the breeze. These conditions added to the atmosphere, and made me feel like I was alone in a remote and magical place.
The wet made the greens seriously vivid against the backdrop of the white and grey cloud. The views to the spectacular valley below were intermittent; offered for a fleeting moment before another curtain of cloud was draw again and our eyes locked back onto the precipice where the gardens sit.
The main spectacle is the clipped scene above. However, the garden continues through a network of paths which lead you around the escarpment drawing you on and revealing differing scenes a bit at a time. Some are gardened vistas, others what nature provides on her own. It is reminiscent of a Japanese stroll garden and is a more faithful distillation of the ideas held within a Japanese garden than lots of the faux representation you see about.
As you would expect the land is less ‘gardened’ the further you get from the house but this itself is the perfect balance to the more pre-conceived compositions from before. It helps that what work is done to these areas is intelligently applied. A sort of light manicuring of the natural vegetation and land forms which are there. This journey is sometimes punctuated with built features and even a playground which somehow does not seem incongruous.
The snap shot views draw you on
This was one of the best garden visits I have ever made and such a surprise. While the weather helped provide the extra sensory experience, these are truly great gardens which would provide interest from those not interested in gardens all the ay through to the most obsessive taxonomist.
The experience was an emotional as well as aesthetic one.
Last weekend I went for my first Alpine mountain biking experience and it was brilliant. The trip was organised by all round good guy Grant Roberts – http://www.thesportsspecialist.co.uk/ a friend of mine from Haslemere. Mounting biking in the Alps is a far superior sport to mountain biking around Haslemere. If i had grown up near the trails which we had the privilege to ride, in France and Switzerland, i think i would have had a few more broken collar bones than our teenage trips to ‘Marley Common’ allowed instead of just demo a mountain bike in South Lake Tahoe.
Grant doing his first road gap
Unwittingly and brilliantly Grant had organised this trip at the same time that a lot of the alpine flora was at its best. I managed to sneak in a hike to have a pedestrian look at it. The hill sides were quite remarkable to explore. These pictures are rather insulting to the beauty i found there, but none the less i would like to share them with you. The sheer diversity of flowering plants within small areas of ground was arresting. What was also interesting to note was the variation of flowers between neighbouring plants of the same species and how different these can be to the forms in cultivation. My eyes have only really become sensitive to this, over the last growing season.
Obvious variation of Lupins
Rhinanthus minor - This plant is a parasitic of grasses. It reduces their vigour and allows for the more gentle flowering plants to grow. It can and should be used in wildflower meadows in the UK to help keep grasses from taking over.
Persicaria bistorta meadow at its peak. This area was about 10 acres and completely covered in these blooms
Veratrum album - a swine to cultivate but worth a try for the foliage alone.
Scabiosa lucida - a really dark form, note the paler one behind.
This week I have visited one of the gardens I have been working on in Surrey. I liked this combination of Salvia leucantha and Melianthus major which I planted back in April. Beschorneria x septentrionalis will join the party next year.
Amongst a large consignment of bulbs I just received I got these Octopus like objects. They look so strange I thought I should share them with you. Because they are so spectacular and i have the right conditions I got it for my own Cheltenham garden and shall post pictures when it flowers early in the summer, but for now look it up.
Cultivation: Eremerus need well drained soil so they do not rot in the winter wet. They also need full sun and a sheltered position, because the flower spikes are so tall they can snap in strong winds. An important note – when planting Eremerus in any garden they should be planted with the crown just below the ground level.
Eremerus robustus for my own Cheltenham Garden
Eremerus robustus for my own Cheltenham garden - note tt ball for scale
Amelanchier is undoubtedly a great garden plant and I dont deny that. However, 80% of the plants i see, be it in gardens public or private, at this time of year they suffer with mildew. Not a health concern for the tree but as the plant is being grown as an ornamental with good autumn colour it somewhat detracts from the display at this time of year. So i post this to raise the issue in your own mind when considering which small trees to grow in your garden and because you will not find it noted in many sources.
For the two years I spent training at RHS Wisley and the two years since I have left, I meant everyday to catalogue the exorbitant number of photos I took. By this I mean labelling the images on my hard drive making it possible to find a decent picture of say Geranium clarkeii ‘Kashmir White’ whenIi needed to show a client, and not just having a series of pictures as follows – label, plant……label, plant…..label. So today on a day when I lit the fire, watched the rain fall soak every leaf in the land and I saw my Eupatoriums swell six inches taller I have made a good start. Below are some of the fruits of this dexterous labour.
Cirsium sp - I have this plant growing on from seed collected from RHS Wisley but no label near it seemed to relate to the plant. If anyone could enlighten me i would be very gratefull.
Pulsatila vulgaris - the worse the soil the better the pulsatila
Malus x robustus 'Red sentinel'
I also found these pictures of this Cornus canadensis taken by me in a strip of old land, one which has escaped the attentions of farmers or residential developers just outside of Edmonton, Alberta and from what I am told has a great native plant selection growing there. I was there in November and enjoyed finding this autumn colour in the Cornus. Does it normally exhibit this red colour, does it show fall colour in the UK? For those who do not know the similar rhizomatous Cornus suecica is native to Scotland. I have not as yet seen it.