Gravetye Manor. The Wild Gardener.

William Robinson was a pioneer in gardening and introduced so much that we now take for granted.  For some reason, he is not remembered in the same way as innovators such as Gertrude Jekyll, but he was just as influential. He was  a vociferous advocate for the overthrow of the bedding out system and the adoption of a naturalistic method of planting. He was not unique in his views, in fact he jumped on a bandwagon that had alreay been going for several years. But he popularised them through the medium of his books and his gardening journals.  He started several journals, including The Garden and Gardens Illustrated. In the latter, he included an advice column and must have startled his readers, when his suggestion for dealing with cats in the garden was to trap them and drown them

He was incredibly opinionated and he had a talent for stirring up controversy and making enemies. At different times he attacked ‘ landscape architects’, (his particular bugbear), botanists, topiarists as well as advocates of carpet bedding. He particularly hated botanists: ‘ The stock of bad Latin which  we owe botanists leads to some people to cut capers with that language with fearful results- the terms which issuing from the mouths of botanists are bad enough, when descending into those of gardeners are grotesque indeed’. In fact, Robinson’ s insistence on using English names causes confusion in his book, not only did he use English names, but he made them up too. One of his last books was called: The Virgin’ s Bower, which baffled me, coming from a confirmed bachelor, who presumably had no interest in virgins. The book is actually about clematis, one of his passions. The texensis hybrid, ‘ Gravetye Beauty’ is still popular today, as is Clematis montana ‘‘Earnest Markham’  named after his head gardener.

When Canon Ellacombe, a noted gardener of the time, mildly suggested that gardens are a matter of taste and everyone should please himself, his outraged response was: ‘the old notion of tamely acquiescing in the belief that all things are ‘a matter of taste’ will not do. The future of our gardens depends on calling ugly things by their names... That it is a matter of taste is the expression of hopeless and blind weakness’. That was telling him. 

 I love the description of him by Edward Lutyens: ‘ Been for a long walk with W.R. I left him because he bores so. He starts for a walk, never says where he is going and then stops here and there and goes off at tangents- his conversation wayward and he contradicts himself every two minutes until one feels inclined to explode.’ Despite his irritating ways, he had a wide circle of illustrious gardening friends, although they were mainly confined to letters and short visits.

His contradictory nature lead him to make odd claims.  He had firm ideas about what he called ‘wasted effort’ and wrote scathingly about moving earth as being a total waste of time. But on another occasion, he explained how to make a beautiful lawn by removing the’ top foot of the soil, draining 12-18 inches with the addition of burnt ballast, digging to a further foot depth, then adding a foot of good soil… on this the turf to be laid and top-dressed with fine ballast, wood ash and the top 2 inches of soil from the woods, all sifted and mixed up well’. Right, now I know where I was going wrong, I’ll give that a try tomorrow.

One of his  other bugbears was what he called ‘book learning’. He hated it, which is odd as he wrote so many books himself. He also hated greenhouses and the whole business of growing bedding plants. Robinson grew up in Ireland where he progressed from being a garden boy to the position of foreman. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that he argued with his boss and walked out, but not without damping down the fire and leaving all the windows open in the greenhouse and so killing all the plants. If true, how neat that with one fell swoop he could attack greenhouses, bedding plants and someone who had the temerity to disagree with him.

His two most well-known books are The Wild Garden and  The English Garden which was extremely popular and went into many editions. Later editions had illustrations by Alfred Parsons.  Several contributors wrote articles on various subjects for the book and in later editions, when the authors were conveniently dead, he claimed the articles for his own.  There is a long list of desirable plants in the book (the names are in alphabetical order, in the despised Latin.) I know he loved dramatic foliage, but I was surprised to see him recommending  Japanese Knotweed, Fallopia japonica. He  probably helped to popularise this scourge of the countryside. He also admired the viciously dangerous Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum for its stature.  He called it Giant Parsnip, which makes it sound rather endearing and possibly edible. I hope nobody tried it. Another decorative plant I was surprised to see him mention is Cannabis sativa, as being a fine, graceful plant for the back of the border.  It would certainly have to be right at the back of the border these days.

For a former garden boy from Ireland he did very well for himself. From his writing and some canny investments he was able to buy the beautiful Tudor Gravetye Manor when he was 46. He devoted the rest of his life to restoring the house and creating the most beautiful grounds.

Today, Gravetye Manor in Surrey is a luxurious hotel with a Michelin star restaurant. The head gardener, Tom Coward used to work at Great Dixter with Fergus Garrett. The gardens have been brought back to their former glory and are staggeringly beautiful.
A great feature is Robinson’s walled kitchen garden. This is elliptical and I believe this shape for a walled garden is unique. It means that there are no frost corners. The sandstone for the 12 foot walls was all quarried from the estate. Here vegetables and flowers for the hotel are grown.It is beautifully maintained.
A visit to Gravetye manor has been on my bucket list for years. On our recent jaunt to Brighton, we stopped here on the way home. We enjoyed Sunday lunch in the beautiful wood-panelled dining room and spent the afternoon strolling round the fabulous garden. I now want to come back here for afternoon tea, the tables are dotted around the garden and look very inviting.
Spending time here is like going back in time and being on an Edwardian weekend house party. I felt as if I had stepped into a P.G. Wodehouse story and quite expected to see Gussie Fink-Nottle looking for newts in the the pond.
Actually, never mind afternoon tea, I want to spend a weekend here. In fact I want to live here.

The title for this blog post came from a great book about William Robinson. It is written by Richard Bisgrove and is called: William Robinson: The Wild Gardener. The book is sumptuously illustrated. It was published in 2008 and is out of print now. It is sometimes offered for silly prices, but if you look around you can still find it for quite reasonable prices. William Robinson still remains an enigmatic figure because not much seems to be known about his private life. I know that has nothing to do with his gardening work, but I am nosy and love biographies about writers and gardeners that reveal all. You don’t get that here, but  it is still an interesting book.


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Monk’s House, Rodmell and Brighton Pride.

Leonard and Virginia Wolf bought this 17th century, weather-boarded cottage  for £700 in 1919 as a weekend retreat. In 1940 they moved here permanently. For 22 years Virginia found the peace and isolation here which she needed to keep her fragile mental state in balance.

Monk House, Rodmell.

Monk’s House, Rodmell.

The house was comfortless and primitive, with no running water or electricity, but they both loved it. They entertained leading lights of the Bloomsbury set here and the lack of comfort is often mentioned in their records. The food was bad and there was no wine. T.S. Eliot said that it was the most uncomfortable bed he had ever slept in and E.M.Forster burnt his leg trying to get as close as possible to the meagre fire . The walls were painted in Virginia’s favourite green and there were books and papers everywhere.  The house was inconvenient and lacking in mod.cons, but it was the garden and the orchard which particularly delighted Leonard and Virginia. Virginia wrote of it: ‘There seemed an infinity of fruit-bearing trees; the plums crowded so as to weigh the tips of the branches down; the unexpected flowers sprouting among the cabbages…  I could fancy a very pleasant walk in the orchard under the apple trees with the grey extinguisher of the church’s steeple pointing my boundary.’ Leonard was to become passionate about his fruit trees and even tried his hand at grafting.

The shed on the left was Virginia’s writing room and she became so successful, specially after ‘Orlando’ was published, that they were able to make improvements to the house.

Leonard became a passionate gardener and although Virginia was not so fanatical she found pleasure in weeding. All gardeners will understand when she says that when weeding she felt: ‘A queer sort of enthusiasm  which makes me say this is happiness’.  She  enjoyed playing bowls and feeding the fish and she was proud of what they achieved.’Our garden is a perfect variegated chintz; asters, plumasters , zinnia, geums, nasturtiums and so on: all bright, cut from coloured papers’. (I’m not sure what she meant by ‘plumaster’.)

There are two fish ponds and a croquet lawn . The  walls of old buildings divide the garden into rooms and  Leonard laid down brick paths everywhere.

There are long views over the Downs where Virginia loved to walk. ‘The garden gate admits to the water meadows, where all nature is to be had in five minutes’.

Sadly in 1941, faced with the horror of another bout of madness, Virginia put a heavy stone into her pocket and drowned herself in the nearby River Ouse, the scene of so many happy walks. Leonard stayed on at Monk’s House until his death in 1969. The house is now cared for by the National Trust. Even today, with so many visitors thronging to pay homage, their ghosts seem to linger in the garden that they loved.

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Leonard Woolf

Leonard Woolf

If  you would like to learn more, there is a great book about Monk’s Hall called ‘Virginia Woolf’s Garden‘ written by Caroline Zoub who lived there as a tenant for 10 years and cared for the garden.


By  way of a total contrast, we arrived in Brighton for the weekend, to find the whole town en fête.


We wondered what all the carnival atmosphere was about and on Saturday we found that Gay Pride was having a party and we joined in the crowd of more than 200,000 people to watch the parade, which this year was called ‘The Carnival of Diversity’. And what a joyous occasion it was.

Getting ready...

Getting ready…

Getting ready...

Getting ready…

...and off we go.

…and off we go.

Around the world there are still hate crimes against the LBGT community  as the recent shooting in Orlando proves. At the party in the evening, there was one minute’s silence to honour the Orlando victims and the many other victims of hate crimes across the globe.

We didn’t intend to be here for this event, but we were glad to stand shoulder to shoulder with these people and make a stand against the politics of  fear and discrimination and support them in their celebration of diversity and tolerance.


“Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole’.

 ‘De Profundis‘. Oscar Wilde.

If only he could have been there on Saturday.

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Wednesday Vignette. Shakkei.

I don’t have much borrowed landscape in my garden apart from trees and this suits me fine. I like to be in my own green world in the garden with the world shut out. But from a couple of places, if you position yourself carefully, the tower of the fifteenth century church is just visible.  And there we have it; a tiny bit of shakkei, as the Japanese call borrowed landscape.

In the forefront self-seeded Verbena bonariensis has thoughtfully provided a beautiful frame. This is a trouble- free plant that always seems to place itself where it looks good. It is tall and elegant and enhances any other plants it decides to spend the summer with. You can buy a shorter version called Verbena bonariensis ‘ Lollipop’, but I really can’ t see the point of a dwarf version. The joy of this verbena is its stature. Bees and butterflies love it. Unfortunately, butterflies are scarce in my garden this year, but I live in hope. And in the meantime, there are bees.

Nothing to do with Wednesday Vignette’, but if anyone was surprised to see a post called ‘June Delights’ appearing here rather inappropriately on the first day of August, I must apologise. WordPress has a habit of dropping the photos from older posts and I was replacing a nice Papaver orientalis ‘Patty’s Plum’ which had disappeared from an old post. I had no idea that I had republished it until a few people commented. I have removed it now. But for the ShrubQueen who asked me, I will say that the gorgeous Delphinium elatum ‘Alice Artindale’ does not set seed as it is a double and so infertile. And as it is so gorgeous, I will show it once more for those who didn’t see it and don’t know it.

Delphinium elatum 'Alice Artindale'

Delphinium elatum ‘Alice Artindale’

Now back to August. ‘Wednesday Vignette’ is hosted by Anna at FlutterandHum .  I’m off now to look at her blog and to see other Wednesday Vignettes.

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In a Vase on Monday. Zingy Zinnias.

Many of my annuals got eaten by slugs at the seedling stage this year whilst I was in Italy. But the zinnias managed to avoid their depredations. Slugs adore them, so they were given special protection. And it was worth all the care lavished on them. Because for the first time I have zillions of zingy zinnias. Well, not zillions, but enough to stuff a vase with.

I grew mixed colours because I couldn’t decide which I liked best and the colours are all so bright and jolly that I thought I would go for a kaleidoscope effect. Some are large, some are small, but they are all lovely.
I put them in my Corsican pottery vase, which brings back memories of a golden holiday in the sun. These flowers aren’t made for tasteful pastel coloured vases.
As everybody knows ‘In a Vase on Monday’ is hosted by the inimitable Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden. Do pop over there and see what Cathy and all the other vase fillers have been up today.

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Potatoes and Pincushions.

I have grown Charlotte potatoes this year as my chef, ( aka the Pianist) prefers waxy potatoes and has forbidden me to grow the sort that fall apart in the water as they are cooked. But that is not the sort of potatoes that I am writing about here.

I love the climbing  Chilean Potato Vine Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’. It is always full of  clusters of lilac- coloured blooms with prominent yellow stamens. It grows exuberantly so I hack it right back from time to time and then off it goes again. The correct time to prune Solanum is in the spring, when the side shoots should be cut back to about 6 inches. I actually cut it back when it starts to annoy me by blocking the path. Its long shoots are desperate to get into the nearby silver- leaved pear Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ and although they look good together, I can’t put up with this sort of anarchy. The Pyrus is getting ideas above its station at the moment too; like everything else in the garden, it very badly needs a haircut.

Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin'

Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’

I am a bit confused about the name of the lovely white potato vine. Is Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’ the same thing as Solanum laxum ‘Album’ ? They look the same to me and so I am not sure which one I have. But whatever the name, it is very pretty and blooms for longer the the blue one. The flowers are supposed to be lightly fragrant, but I cannot detect any scent.
When I was at Beth Chatto’s nursery a couple of years ago I fell in love with the fabulous solanum that she has growing on the wall of the shop. This has white flowers which are tinged with violet. Some of the flowers in each cluster are white, some are violet. Fortunately, there were some for sale, because I needed it very badly. It is called improbably, Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’. I noticed that Beth called it ‘Creche du Pape’ in attempt to make it more grammatically plausible. But on the other hand, it still doesn’t make much sense. What would a Pope need a creche for? One likes to think he is above such things, unless like one of the earlier popes, such as Pope Paul 111, there is a brood of children to be accommodated. Anyway, I did a bit of research and found that there is a garden in Brittany called ‘Pape Ar Crech‘ and I suppose this lovely Potato Vine was born there. Somewhere along the line the name has gained an ‘e’.

Solanum laxum'Creche ar Pape'

Solanum laxum ‘Creche ar Pape’

I am going to Beth Chatto’s soon with Christina from MyHesperidesgarden and I will take a photo of the lovely one there. In fact I am sure that Christina will fall in love with it too, so I will take some cuttings for her.

As this is an alliterative-themed post,  I am going to write about some pincushion-type plants. They are everywhere in the garden right now.  The pretty Knautia macedonia is a bit of a thug, but I don’t mind, it is so pretty and the seed heads are lovely too. I believe this used to be a scabious, but the powers that be decided that it is  Knautia – pronounced ‘naughtier’. Christopher Lloyd disliked this plant, but I can’t see why, apart from its thuggish ways, I think it is a delight.

Knautia macedonia

Knautia macedonia

I grew some wine-coloured scabious from seed a couple of years ago and they obligingly seed around everywhere now in different  shades..


Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight'

My favourite pincushion flower is Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’. It has large black flowers with little white pinheads and is the most dramatic of all the lovely tribe of scabious. It is said to be lightly fragrant, but I think it smells faintly of public lavatories. Very clean ones; but still not a pleasant smell. It is only detectable if you put your nose right into it. Bees and butterflies love. Well,the butterflies would if they were around. I just seem to have Cabbage Whites this year. Where are all the butterflies? Even the Buddleia hasn’t got its usual flutter of colour round it.

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight'

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’

Most of my Astrantias are over, but I still have this one in bloom. I love the old-fashioned name,‘Hattie’s Pin Cushion’ for this plant.

Astrantia major

Astrantia major

My last pincushion is a silver-leaved Santolina. The foliage is lovely enough, but I fall in love with it all over again when it blooms. I can’t remember its name, as I have had it so long.



As this is a ‘P’ themed post, I must show you a couple of poppies. One is an Opium Poppy which turned up from somewhere and I think it is a very pretty colour.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum

The next is a Californian Tree poppy which is not really a poppy at all. Romneya coulteri is a very handsome plant with pure white flowers and a nice pop pom of yellow stamens. It is sun-loving and hates root disturbance. This can make it hard to establish, but if it is happy, it romps away enthusiastically.

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

I have a really pretty Clematis called ‘Pagoda’ which I had coveted in a friend’s garden for years. I finally found it for sale at Great Dixter last year, although it was an act of faith buying it as it looked dead. Fortunately, it is now thriving and sharing an obelisk with ‘Betty Corning’.

Clematis texensis 'Pagoda'

Clematis texensis ‘Pagoda’

My last ‘P’ is an imposter and I am very annoyed about it. I finally succumbed and bought a lovely Hydrangea which I have seen on several blogs. My reluctance was caused by the eye-watering price and even more, by the truly toe-curlingly, embarrassing name. Yes dear readers, I shame-facedly bought a plant called ‘Pinky Winky’. I tended it lovingly and paid somebody to water it whilst I was away.
But it is clearly not ‘Pinky Winky’. Pinky Winky has pretty pink plumes. When I complained to the nursery, they said it was perhaps my soil. Which is rubbish, it was wrongly labelled. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not ‘Pinky Winky, more ‘Whitey Whitey’. And I am weely, weely cross.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky ' Imposter.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky ‘ Imposter.

I could go on with this ‘P’ themed plant post, after all I have some lovely Penstemons and the Platycodons are particularly pleasing. But a pack of pesky pixies are whispering in my ear that enough is enough.

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The Jetty Garden Again.

I have had a break from the blogging world as we have been away for a while.  I have come back to a wilderness and so I can’t show the garden to you until I have done some serious tidying up. Meanwhile, I am going to give you another tour of the fabulous jetty garden created by my son Bertie and his lovely Beatrice.  I was there yesterday and what  a wonderful green oasis this is on a hot summer’s day.

IMG_1269 IMG_1278
The collection of tree ferns is rapidly expanding, there are twelve now. Beatrice has made a beautiful bamboo shade for them so that they don’t get frazzled by the sun.

The latest ones have beautiful brown furry stems on the fronds which are starting to unfold.
The hostas are clearly fed on some sort of magical elixir and the snails are picked off by hand and thrown into the river.


Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

The wonderful Japanese grass with the unpronounceable name looks fantastic. It has produced a seedling which now looks just as amazing. I think I will throw mine away, it will never look as good as this.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Bamboos do well here and are contained in large pots.



I love the rope wrapped round the one in the next picture.
The acers add a wonderful splash of colour and texture.
I love the way the colour of the next one goes so well with the pot.
There are some flowers, including this gorgeous agapanthus.
And the hydrangea is just coming into bloom.
What a backdrop!
Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ makes a nice splash of red.
There is a specially made shade area for the plants which prefer it.
And there is a secluded sitting area for people too.
There are even fruit trees, an olive, a fig and two apple trees.

Olive tree

Olive tree

Fig tree.

Fig tree.

Apple tree

Apple tree

This jetty really is paradise; everything is planted in pots and lovingly pampered and cared for by two of the nicest people you could hope to meet. An invitation to spend an hour or two in this little Eden is the greatest of summer treats.
I am hoping to catch up with some of the blogs that I have been missing, but it is rather a huge task after two or three weeks. Nevertheless I am keen to see what has been happening in all your gardens whilst I have been away.

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Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.

In his book:  Foliage Plants, Christopher Lloyd wrote: ‘For it is an indisputable fact that appreciation of foliage comes at a late stage in our education, if it comes at all’. I suppose learning to love leaves is an acquired taste, a bit like olives. As gardeners, we start of with beautiful blooms and then gradually realise how much better they look if set off by lovely foliage.

Berberis thunbergii 'Golden Rocket' with Alstroemeria 'Ligtu Hybrid'

Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Rocket’ with Alstroemeria ‘Ligtu Hybrid’

This foxglove put itself here, which was very tasteful of it as it lights up a dark corner and is perfectly matched with the cornus.

Cornus alba Elegantissima' with white foxglove.

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ with white foxglove.

The beautifully named Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’ has now been changed to Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’ which is a shame if you have a childish sense of humour. I have always referred to this plant as ‘Superbum’. Anyway, whatever its name it looks good growing with blue leaved hostas. For some reason these hostas by the big pond don’t get eaten by slugs. Maybe the frog population keeps them down.

Hosta with Persicaria affinis 'Superba'

Hosta with Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’

Green is a Colour.
By June, if we live in the country, we are surrounded by green. And how lovely it is. When I had a bigger garden I toyed with the idea of making a small enclosed garden, using just different shades, shapes and textures of green foliage. How calming and restful it would be. Here, I haven’t really got room to indulge such fancies, but when I look out of the window today, despite all the colourful blooms, I realise that what I have, is a green cocoon.


Landscape gardeners talk about using ‘borrowed landscape‘ to enhance your own. Apart from a glimpse of our old church tower, I don’t have any views to borrow. But I have borrowed trees, in fact I am surrounded by them. We have the benefit of the huge cedar tree and the birch tree in the old rectory garden. The tree on the left is an Amelanchier lamarckii in our garden.


There is a small wood at the bottom of the garden and so we are incredibly sheltered and the garden feels like a woodland glade.
On the other side of the garden, somebody has planted two Horse Chestnuts which are really too big for a garden, but they add to the feeling of seclusion. But perhaps nobody planted them, it is quite likely that squirrels brought the conkers from the ancient Horse Chestnuts in the nearby church yard.

Aesculus hippocastanum

Aesculus hippocastanum

With so many trees around we have plenty of birds. Up until a couple of years ago we had nightingales. Unfortunately they seem to be getting scarcer everywhere. Another bird with a beautiful fluting song is the Blackcap. I was sad to find this little body lying on the terrace in front of the summer house. He must have flown into the window.

Sylvia atricapillla. Blackcap

Sylvia atricapillla. Blackcap

I was surprised to find this little chap in the greenhouse. He is a Goldcrest. I thought they lived in pine woods. Goldcrests are Britain’s tiniest birds.

Regulus regulus. Goldcrest

Regulus regulus. Goldcrest

When we came here, the garden was very overgrown and neglected and I often wished that I had a blank canvas to work on. But of course, it is wonderful to have mature trees like this weeping birch. I love the shadows and dappled shade.

The multi-stemmed tree on the left  in the next picture is a mulberry. It has a tag on it saying that it was grown from a cutting of the historic tree in the village. This tree was reputed to have been planted in  1550 by Adam Winthrop, grandfather of John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts.
Another tree which lights up the garden in summer  with creamy variegated leaves is the large Acer drummondii. It is lovely to sit in the shade of this tree on a hot summer’s day. It is not such a pleasure in the autumn when we have to clear up its leaves.

Acer platanoides 'Drummondii'

Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’

One of my favourite shrubs is the Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’ It has a lovely habit with tiered, horizontal branching. Burncoose Nursery says this is difficult to propagate and slow-growing. I propagated this from one in my old garden and I have been astonished at how fast it has grown. It is very elegant.

Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'

Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’

You don’t often see the blue- leaved Berberis temolaica which comes from Tibet.

Berberis temolaica

Berberis temolaica

And if it is purple foliage you like then Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’ is a real eye-catcher.

Nandina domestica 'Plum Passion'

Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’

But of course, nothing can compete with the Forest Pansy,Cercis canadensis for gorgeous reddy-purple leaves.

Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis

And the purple smoke tree Cotinus coggrygia ‘Notcutt’s Variety’ is looking its best right now with a haze of purple ‘smoke’.

Cotinus coggygria 'Notcutt's Variety'

Cotinus coggygria ‘Notcutt’s Variety’

In the front garden a previous owner has planted the golden philadelphus next to a yellow Phlomis fruticosa alongside the drive. I hate deadheading or pruning this phlomis as the fine hairs make me cough.


DSC_0659On the other side of the drive there are two silver-leaved weeping pears, Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’. Two seems a bit excessive to me, but never mind , they  make good climbing frames for roses. Up one, I have put  Rose ‘Veilchenblau’ which is still in bud and in the other ‘Felicité Perpetué’  which has pretty pink pompom flowers.

Rose 'Felicite Perpetue

Rose ‘Felicité Perpetué’

I have quite a few ferns but the most showy at the moment is the Royal fern; Osmunda regalis which likes boggy ground.

Osmunda regalis

Osmunda regalis


The next ones are quite ordinary, but they grow huge in the damp soil along the old wall.
Last year I found an old brick path along here.

I love umbelliferous plants but Angelica archangelica seeds itself a bit too enthusiastically along here. This year I have found two new angelicas with much more exciting foliage. One of them is called Angelica sylvestris ‘Ebony’ and it as really dark purplish leaves and stems.

Angelica sylvestris 'Ebony'

Angelica sylvestris ‘Ebony’

The other one is called Angelica hispanica and it looks as if the leaves have been polished with wax.

Angelica hispanica

Angelica hispanica

Another lovely umbelliferous plant is this one. I just can’t think of its name. I will  probably think of it in the middle of the night. Meanwhile if anyone can remind me?



In the sun this purple-leaved sage is always eye-catching.

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurescens'

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurescens’

Eryngium is another sun-lover with gorgeous metallic spiny leaves.


Eryngium bourgatii

I will save some more gorgeous foliage for another post. Garden Blogggers’ Foliage Day is hosted by Christina at Myhesperidegarden blog. Christina’s beautiful garden in Italy is enhanced by the most wonderful and artistic use of foliage which is an inspiration to us all.

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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. June Delights.

I have said before on this blog that if our gardens are not full of flowers in June,we might as well hang up our gardening gloves. This is the month that it is all happening. I am not a tidy gardener and I cram in more plants than this garden can reasonably hold, because I like the effect of  everything frothing over exuberantly and let’s face it a bit out of control. June is the time that my front garden comes into its own.

I have already written about roses and these two cistuses are at their best too. I love the dark maroon blotches on the throat. The petals are like tissue paper.

Cistus x purpureus

Cistus x purpureus

The little daisies of Erigeron karvinskianus round the feet of Cistus ladanifer seed around generously and they are always welcome. This cistus exudes a sort of sticky resin which smells wonderful in the sun and makes you feel that you are in Provence.

Cistus ladanifer

Cistus ladanifer

The daisies look pretty with Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Cambridge’. I am not very good at remembering geranium names, as so many of them look alike and they are only the chorus in my garden, not the the main players. Besides, they seed about and the offspring are often a bit different. In my opinion there are too many names. But this one  is quite distinctive.

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Cambridge'

Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Cambridge’

This blue one has seeded and the offspring is much paler. The small purple one is Geranium sanguineum.

The dark leaved one appeared in my drive, it looks like a form of Geranium pratense.

Geraniums are all very well, but they don’t make the pulse race. I love the little pinks which edge the path far more.

Dianthus 'Gran's Favourite'

Dianthus ‘Gran’s Favourite’

Dianthus 'Haytor'

Dianthus ‘Haytor’

Bindweed is a gardener’s nightmare, but there is one well-behaved little convolvulus which everyone who comes to my garden covets. It doesn’t spread at all; with a neat clump of silver foliage and pretty trumpet flowers it is a little treasure.

Convolvulus cneorum

Convolvulus cneorum

Another Mediterranean plant is Saint Bernard’s Lily, Anthericum ramosum.

Anthericum ramosum

Anthericum ramosum

The sun-loving Carpenteria californica with its anemone -like flowers is a favourite of mine. It makes a nice bush, but I find it needs staking.

Carpenteria californica

Carpenteria californica

I have quite a few late-flowering clematis in the front garden, but the elegant ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’ with its velvety pink flowers is coming into bloom now.

Clematis 'Comtesse de Bouchard'

Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’

Salvias are very easy to keep going from cuttings, but with the mild winter we had last year, some of them never died off. ‘Hot Lips’ generally survives , but I was very surprised to find ‘Water melon’ blooming again.

salvia micropylla 'Water melon'

Salvia micropylla ‘Water melon’

Salvia x jamensis

Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot lips’

Let’s leave the front garden now and see what is happening round the small pond I made in the back. It has to have plants all round to protect the fish from the heron.




I have several pots of the delightful, little, starry flowers of rhodohypoxis. They live in the greenhouse in winter with a pane of glass over them to keep them dry and to keep them safe from mice.

Rhodohypoxis bauri

Rhodohypoxis bauri

This lovely dark red Osteospermum overwinters quite happily in the greenhouse.


In a big pot I have the rhododendron my son gave me for a mother’s day gift years ago. It started off as a tiny little thing which had been forced to bloom in March. Now it is just lovely with peachy buds. and delicately coloured flowers.


The dark red flower is labelled Calceolaria ‘Sultan’ which is a bit odd as ‘Sultan’ is supposed to be orange. I think this is far more eye-catching.


I made a bog garden on one side of the pond. At the moment this large flowered yellow Trollius europaeus is lovely. The iris is Iris sibirica ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ which is one of my favourites.


I love Ragged Robin and this white one is rather pretty. It likes a nice, damp soil.

Lychnis flos-cuculi 'White Robin'

Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘White Robin’

In the pond water-lilies are bloomng.
This is getting rather long, but let’s just go down the garden to look at how the winter garden is faring in summer. I wrote about roses and irises in my last post, but on the way, we must have a quick look at the roses which have come out since then.  I think this first one looks like an Alba. Maybe ‘Celestial’?



I just popped out to get a shot of the wonderful froth of Crambe cordifolia in the fading light. It looks wonderful with roses.

Crambe cordifolia

Crambe cordifolia

Well, we have arrived at the winter garden at last.
I grew some verbascums and some Euphorbia oblongata from seed to add some summer colour to this bed.

The foxgloves in the other bed are a total disappointment. I grew them from seed and they were supposed to be the lovely ‘Pam’s Choice ‘, a white foxglove with deep maroon spots. Look at the wretched things and I nurtured them for two years for this. If you are wondering what the yellow flower is it is self seeded Poached Egg plant, Limonanthes douglasii. Somehow the egg yolk has got separated from the white.

Another self-seeded plant down here is the lovely Evening Primrose, Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The blue Corydalis ‘Spinners’ is the same one I showed you weeks ago and it is still going strong.

Oenothera versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard'

Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’

Another welcome plant which has self -seeded here is the ladybird poppy, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’

Papaver commutatum 'Ladybird'

Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’

If you are still with me I am sure that by now you have floral indigestion, so that is enough for today. I will finish with my beautiful orchid which has been in bloom for weeks now. It is the common spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. But it is not common to me, it is uncommonly beautiful.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Thanks to Carole at Maydreamgardens for hosting garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I am off now to see how other bloggers around the world are celebrating Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

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A Celebration of June.

The  best of the year has arrived, its crowning glory. Now at last, it is the time for the floral aristocrats; roses and irises, poppies and peonies.  These flowers look as if they are cut out of rich fabrics; silks, taffeta and velvet. The garden is spangled with  opulent colours and exquisite scents. ‘Karlsruhe’ is a climbing rose from the 50s, but it has an old-fashioned look and healthy foliage. It looks lovely against  the dark foliage of a yew tree.

Rosa 'Karlsruhe'

Rosa ‘Karlsruhe’

Every self-respecting tudor house has to have roses growing up the walls.

DSC_0443  On the back wall, Zéphirine Drouhin  is always full of blooms and it is thornless which is a great advantage as we pass it every time we step outside.

Rosa 'Zephirine Drouhin'

Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’

Down the garden by the big pond, ‘Teasing Georgia’ seems unconcerned by the shade of the huge weeping willow. She has gorgeous, rich yellow flowers.

Rosa'Teasing Georgia'

Rosa ‘Teasing Georgia’

When we arrived here the garden had several straggly roses which I nearly removed. Instead I pruned and fed them and now they look very pretty. I planted some tall Aconitum napellus by this one.

This one is not a colour I would have chosen, but it looks lovely with Stipa gigantea shimmering in front of it.


I am not sure which this next one is but I am glad I kept it. I love single roses and it always starts blooming early.


Nearby is the dear little buttonhole rose ‘Perle d’Or’.

Rosa 'Perle d'Or'

Rosa ‘Perle d’Or’

I love the deep apricot  colour of Grace’.

Rosa 'grace'

Rosa ‘Grace’

‘ Evelyn’ is a similar apricot shade but not as beautiful,  or as graceful as Grace.

Rosa 'Evelyn'

Rosa ‘Evelyn’

Another David Austin rose, ‘Anne Boleyn’ is healthy and will certainly stay, I have no intention of chopping her head off.

Rosa 'Anne Boleyn'

Rosa ‘Anne Boleyn’

The China rose Rosa mutabilis is one of my favourites, its flowers look like flights of butterflies.

Rosa mutabilis

Rosa mutabilis

I love single roses and a great favourite is the Burma rose, Rosa laevigata cooperi. It is a climbing rose with huge white flowers and glossy green leaves. I used to grow it against a black shed which looked wonderful. Now it has to content itself with a wall and a greengage tree. It grows very quickly,  mine is only a six year old cutting.

Rosa laevigaat cooperi

Rosa laevigata cooperi

The idea of a blue rose is horrible and I don’t know why ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ has such an off-putting name. Of course it is not blue, it is a lovely faded, antiquey , slatey mauve and I love it.  I have a friend who hates it, I am sure she would like it if she didn’t think it was pretending to be blue.

Rosa 'Rhaaaaapsody in Blu'

Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’

Summer took us by surprise here in Suffolk. Last week Scotland and the West Country greedily hogged all the available sunshine and left us with wind, rain and chilly days. In my village, gardeners were wrapped up in their fleeces and sou’westers and bravely working until dusk to get ready for the Gardens Open Day on Sunday.  Tired and battle-weary, but triumphant, on the big day we basked in the sun and the kind compliments of visitors. This week with sunny weather every day and everything looking great, for a brief moment, we can laze in the sun, drinking in the scent of roses, philadelphus  and honeysuckle. The bees are humming and the young sparrows are quarelling in the bushes.  The sounds of June fill the air. Heaven.

The weather is perfect  and for a brief moment we can be idle.  Hector  is  being a little over-cautious and worried about catching a chill.



Or maybe he is sulking because nobody will play with him.


June means peonies and although I love single flowers, I love the extravagance of petals on the overblown double peonies, they are so heavy that they can barely hold their heads up. They remind me of women with far too much make up and over back-combed, puffed up, eighties hairstyles. A touch of the Dolly Partons. But they are so lovely that they make me smile.

Peony 'Bowl of beauty'

Peonia ‘Bowl of beauty’

Peonia festiva maxima

Peonia festiva maxima

Every old garden seems to have an old Peonia officionalis ‘Rubra plena’, it is not as glamorous as modern hybrids, but still earns its place.

Peonia officionalis 'Rubra plean'

Peonia officionalis ‘Rubra plean’

I love the singles even more and I wish I knew what this little darling is. I don’t remember planting it and have no idea where it came from.
It grows happily in the shade with the ubiquitous little Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica.
My son gave me a beautiful tree peony some years ago and I dug it up to bring it with me. Peonies resent being dug up and it died. But it had been grafted and to my delight this lovely single peony grew from the base. I love it.

Oriental poppies loll about langourously, but they are so beautiful that I don’t mind. I feel one should provide a chaise-longue for them, rather than rudely corralling them with stakes. When’Patty’s Plum’ first opens, the petals look like crushed tissue paper.

Papaver orintalis 'Patty's Plum'

Papaver orientalis ‘Patty’s Plum’

The rose next to Patty is ‘Pearl Drift’ which was a gift from a dear friend.
I aalso grow Papaver ‘Beauty of Livermere’ which is a bright red and is difficult to place. But I have a sentimental attachment to it as my father always grew it. It is fine to stake this and make it stand to attention as it looks rather martial in its scarlet jacket.
New bearded irises are opening each day and I love them and can never get enough of them. I have friends who dislike the newer hybrids in their extravagant fancy dress and all their frills and frolls, like bridesmaids at a big, fat gypsy wedding. They come in the most wonderful rainbow colours. I have a friend who always asks me anxiously if her new plant acquisitions are vulgar. She must think that I am the most appalling plant snob. For her birthday I bought her Iris ‘Carnaby’ which is peach, orange and raspberry. I told her it is gloriously vulgar, but gorgeous. I hope she enjoys it. Next year I will be cadging a bit of it. I have many irises that I don’t know the name of but I enjoy for their glorious colours.

I live near Sarah Cook who has the national collection of Cedric Morris irises and of course I have some of these more refined beauties. The owner of my previous garden was a great friend of Sir Cedric and I have quite a few irises that were given to him. I will write a post about Cedric Morris irises another time. In the meantime here is one of them,’ Benton Sheila’.

Iris 'Benton Sheila'

Iris ‘Benton Sheila’

To enjoy June days to the maximum we have to have fragrance and I have philadelphus in every corner. This is the bush near the path to my two greenhouses.  The far greenhouse is quite large and timber, but very old and held together mainly by will power and probably  duct tape, as the Pianist has done a few repair jobs.

This golden-leaved one by the gate was pruned into a better shape last year and has fewer blooms. But still it smells divine.
Of course, there are better designed gardens than mine, better maintained and with better grown plants. Gardens with beautiful velvety lawns and exquisitely cut hedges and topiary. Gardens with lakes and rills and wonderful sculptures. But on a June day like today, I don’t envy anyone else their gardens. Mine is heaven to me and I don’t want to be anywhere else, but right here in my own Eden.

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May Favourites.

I am joining in with  Country Garden blog where Gillian’s meme encourages us to share what is giving us pleasure in the garden on the last Friday in the month.  Loree of Danger Garden has a similar meme of favourite plants each month.  I am a day late because after gardening for eight hours yesterday, I was in no state to write a post. This is the time of year when everything seems to get out of control. May, of course is a specially beautiful month, giving us so many beauties to enjoy.  I will start with the bearded irises and in particular, one I am specially pleased with. It is my very own, as I arranged its parent’s marriage. It is the first to bloom, its four siblings look as if they will wait until next year. The mother was plain blue ‘Jane Phillips’.

Here is my baby, drumroll please.

I was so excited until the father came into bloom and I realised how similar they are. I can’t remember his name. But all the same, I think my baby is more beautiful.

Father Iris

Father Iris

Irises are easy to hybridise and bloom in about three years so it is fun to have a go. I also have some Siberian iris seedlings coming along.
Bearded irises don’t last long, but they don’t all come out together, so the season is extended.

Tree peonies are easy from seed but you have to wait at least six or seven years for your first bloom. I have written before about the Paeonia rockii  I grew from seed, only to be disappointed that the expected white flowers with maroon centres were magenta. The bees get busy so you can never be sure what colour your blooms will be. Still, after eight or nine years, this one is looking wonderful and this year there are eleven blooms .


I bought the seed from Chilterns seeds. Four germinated, but two were eaten by slugs. The other one has fewer blooms this year, but they are a pretty shade of pink.
If you want to try growing them from seed you have to be patient. The seeds need to be left out in the cold for the first winter and for a year it looks as if nothing is happening, but with a bit of luck a root will be growing. You have more chance of success with fresh seeds.
Aquilegias of course, need no such pampering and put themselves everywhere. Sometimes in fact they place themselves in the perfect spot.

Thalictrums have similar foliage and seed around too. I love their frothy flowers.

Another plant which is easy from seed is Libertia grandiflora with its persil-white flowers. An Orlaya has seeded itself in front which is clever of it.
By the pond, I love the creamy yellow flowers of Trollius x cultorum ‘Alabaster.

Trollius xcultorum 'Alabaster'

Trollius x cultorum ‘Alabaster’

Also by the pond is Ranunculus aconitfolius ‘Pleniflorus’ with Geum ‘Flames of Passion'(Goodness, who makes these names up?) The fern is the stately Osmunda regalis.
From time to time, we all get beguiled by lovely blue Corydalis flexuosa, only to be disappointed when it disappears without trace. For a long-lasting blue Corydalis, ‘Spinners’ is the one to go for. It is a cross between Corydalis flexuosa and Corydalis elata. I love it.

Corydalis 'Spinners'

Corydalis ‘Spinners’

June is rose time but some of them are starting already. The David Austin Rose ‘Summer Song’ starts early and goes on and on.

Rose 'Summer Song'

Rose ‘Summer Song’

Some of my roses were here when I arrived and looked very sick. I was going to dig these three up, but with a bit of feeding and heavy pruning they look fine now.

May is the time for Azaleas and Rhododendrons which I can’t grow here as my soil isn’t acid enough. But I do grow the wonderful Azalea luteum in a pot so that I can enjoy its heavenly fragrance.

Azalea luteum

Azalea luteum

One of my favourite viburnums is the lovely Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ which has an attractive tiered habit and snowy white flowers. Mine spreads out, wider each year, but so far refuses to grow upwards. It is beautiful though.

Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii'

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

I have never been too keen on hebes as they remind me of municipal park planting. But I do have one special one from New Zealand which doesn’t really look like a hebe at all. It is called Hebe hulkeana. Thanks to my dear friend, M, who has shared so many of her treasures with me, for this beauty.

Hebe hulkeana

Hebe hulkeana

I will finish with just a few more May treasures which are delighting me at the moment.

Thanks to Gillian at Country Garden and Loree at Danger Garden for encouraging us to write about the flowers we are enjoying at the moment.

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