Hello and Snowdrops!

A lot has happened since my last post, it was autumn and now it’s spring! I’ve moved house, been on work-related chainsaw, tractor and telehandler training courses, taken two RHS exams, spent a week in Scotland, attended a Mediterranean Plants and Gardens lecture at the Chelsea Physic Garden, finishing final year reports for my PGG diploma as well as preparing for a trip to Thailand which starts in 5 days time. Time really does fly when you’re having a good time!

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Snowdrop Grove

Regarding Thailand I will be spending three weeks in the north and north east of the country, studying orchids in their natural habitat. Thailand is home to over 1,000 different species of orchids, it’s an understatement to say I can’t wait; I was excited to spend 2 weeks in Portugal last year, this trip has taken my enthusiasm to another level!

In between keeping up with life in general I had time after exams to fit in a garden visit to Painswick Rococo in Gloucestershire. I visited last summer, please click here to read my post about it.

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It is home to a stunning snowdrop collection, with one of the largest naturalistic plantings of in the country; The largest collections of Galanthus in the garden are:

  • Galanthus nivalis
  • Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’
  • Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

Painswick Rococo is in many ways the spiritual home of Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’.  Known as a superior early flowering giant snowdrop G. ‘Atkinsii’ has a trouble history.
James Atkins (1804-1884), a retired nurseryman originally from Northamptonshire, but who was living in one of the estate cottages owned by the family at Painswick.

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Atkins obtained a bulb around 1870, most likely from southern Italy, which he grew and called Galanthus imperati. This name has lead and continues to cause confusion but is was offered by Atkins to the nursery trade as this and sales started on a commercial basis around 1875; this species was highly prized by early snowdrop collectors for its size and beauty.

In 1891 the name Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ was proposed to clear up confusion and recognise John Atkins as the selector of this particular stock.

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Two year after his introduction a nurseryman from York, James Backhouse, introduced a snowdrop which was to all intense and purpose identical to G. ‘Atkinsii’ but with irregular malformed flowers.

In 1914 E. A. Bowles called this G. ‘Atkinsii’ James Backhouse instead, recognising it as a distinct form.  One of the great mysteries here at Painswick is the appearance of G. ‘James Backhouse’ growing in sizable clumps without ever having been purchased by the Trust or indeed the family before it. . .

I enjoyed the snowdrop collection tremendously, it was a beautiful sunny day when I visited; the sun shining on a carpet of white heads in the woodland looked as magical, if not more so, than snow.

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Tree sculpture

A fantastic work of art had been carved out of a beech tree stump, if only I could create sculptures like this with my chainsaw!

This will be my last post for a while, it’s a little in advance but I wish all of my readers a very happy Easter – roll on spring! 😀

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Batsford Arboretum

A couple of weeks ago I visited Batsford Arboretum, to see their collection of trees in all their autumnal glory. I first visited Batsford two years ago in spring, when their magnolias and cherry blossom blew me away.

Views of the Arboretum

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IMG_7726I was really looking forward to seeing the arboretum at a completely different, but just as beautiful, time of year – it didn’t disappoint in any way.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'

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Acer pubinerve

Acer pubinerve

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IMG_7772It has 55 acres of natural Cotswold countryside and one of the largest private tree collections in the country with almost 3,000 tree varieties.

Ginkgo biloba

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Liquidambar styraciflua

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IMG_7688As soon as I stepped into the garden colour hit me from every direction. A fine Ginkgo biloba specimen was like a tower of gold, several Euonymus and Sorbus species had beautiful berries.

Euonymus

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Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’

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Sorbus pseudohupehensis 'Pink Pagoda'

Rhus succedanea

Rhus succedaneaA small woodland area primarily of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) was very dramatic with a carpet of russet brown leaves on the ground, mirrored in the leaves still hanging in the trees.

Woodland area

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More acers

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IMG_7652The acers truly stole the show however. From a distance every pathway was lit with a splash of red, orange or gold, as I got closer I realised every tree was an acer! Some trees looked like they were on fire in the sunlight.

Acers again

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IMG_7740I became so inspired I even wrote a quick poem! I have a lot of scribblings in my notebook that I haven’t typed up yet. . . here’s the one I wrote at Batsford:

Acer

blood red ‘Bloodgood’

foliage flickering flames

even on the greyest, dankest of days

your colour doesn’t wane

it burns, brighter and brighter

reds and golds

chasing the cold away

a light of life

on this autumn day.

Callicarpa

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Last few acers

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IMG_7769The arboretum was a truly sensational display of colour, I always think autumn is the farewell party nature throws until spring. . . and everyone’s invited. I hope you enjoyed the photos. 🙂

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Painswick Rococo Garden

Yesterday I visited a truly delightful garden which is right on my doorstep, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. Painswick Rococo is a 6 acre hidden haven, tucked away in a Cotswold valley. It is the sole complete survivor from the brief early 18th century period of English Rococo Garden design, which is best known in France and Italy.

First view of the garden

014102Ancient tree stump

017This style of garden combines formality and informality in a flamboyant package, filled with pavilions, fountains and staircases as a place for owners to show off their wealth and entertain guests. It is not about plant collections but more a place where plants become part of the furnishings of an outdoor theatrical room in which to entertain.

The chapel

019020067This somewhat bizarre and extravagant form of garden design was a fleeting craze in England. Most people are more familiar with vast herbaceous borders, vivid planting schemes and arboreta which shaped gardens created in the 19th and 20th century.

The house

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Pigeon house

095Owl sculpture

097The garden at Painswick was abandoned when it became over planted by trees, however a painting dated 1748 by a local artist which showed the original garden design proved invaluable in guiding the ambitious restoration programme that began in 1984. The garden was transformed from an overgrown wilderness to its former 18th century glory, it is now managed by a charitable trust.

Eagle house

070View of the surrounding countryside

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068It was refreshing to visit Painswick as I had never seen the unusual style of a Rococo garden before. The entrance to the garden is via a doorway which leads out onto a viewing platform, suddenly revealing the whole garden spread out below you. It’s a magical first impression, I had my usual “omg!” moment!

Sensational hydrangea

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006Exedra garden

040The Exedra garden and Plunge Pool were the most colourful areas at this time of year. Huge clumps of Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Geranium endressii and Thalictrum delavayi gave the most colour, a massive hydrangea stole the show for me though. There was no label that I could see to determine its name, however it looked very similar to Hydrangea aspera ‘Anthony Bullivant’ and Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana. If anyone can identify it more accurately from the photos then please let me know! 🙂

034Geranium ‘Rozanne’

038Thalictrum delavayi

045The Kitchen garden had mouth-watering vegetables, the mammoth courgettes and brassicas got me in the mood for lunch! The fences to keep rabbits out were constructed with military precision, an idea I’ll take away to re-create in my own veg plot. . .

The Kitchen garden

062050060059Painswick is most famous for its display of snowdrops, even though it was the wrong time of year the walk around the woodland areas were still enjoyable, the shade giving pleasant relief on such a hot day.

Plunge pool

071075Fish pond

080A maze was opened in 1999 to mark the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the garden. A viewpoint enables you to watch from above and see people trying to find its three centres, which I managed successfully! There’s something mysterious and intriguing about a maze or labyrinth, they never fail to mesmerize me.

The beech walk

088Gothic alcove

091The maze

047Vistas drew the eye in various directions from the surrounding landscape to follies, statuary and water features. I liked the little red chapel in particular, it was tiny! A wedding was about to take place as I was leaving, I couldn’t imagine anywhere more charming to have a ceremony than at Painswick.

Orchard

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094I will visit this gem of a garden again without a doubt, I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a regular haunt while I’m living in Gloucestershire. 😉

Wyndcliffe Court

The third and final garden I visited during my day trip of Monmouthshire was Wyndcliffe Court, just five minutes away from Veddw House Garden. Situated along the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Tintern the views of the Severn estuary in the distance were breath-taking.

View of the Severn estuary

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View of the House from the Summerhouse

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View of the House from the Walled Kitchen Garden

375The gardens are Grade II listed and designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Henry Avray Tipping, friend of Gertrude Jekyll and editor of Country Life magazine. Completed in 1922, they are probably the best example of their type in Wales. The gardens are laid out in a series of “rooms” (a design I love!) featuring sculpted topiary, a sunken garden, a summerhouse, walled gardens, fountains, lily ponds and a bowling lawn leading on to wooded walks.

View of the Summerhouse

361The bowling green with a backdrop of topiary

431A blaze of colour in the Walled Kitchen Garden

402Wyndcliffe Court also showcases contemporary sculptures by local and well-known British artists from April to September every year. Each collection features hundreds of sculptures in a wide variety of mediums, sizes and styles situated throughout the garden. My favourites were a robin perched on top of a garden fork and pieces of wood with stained glass windows. When the sunshine sparkled on them the effect was magical.

My favourite sculptures

433338337Since 2013 the gardens have undergone extensive and continued restoration. One of the main features is the original walled kitchen garden, with stone walls and ornate iron gates. It is home to a variety of traditional fruit trees such as apples, plums and pears.

Iron gates

404Old fruit tree

389Veg plot

366It also has an area designated for cut flowers, the display was bright and beautiful. I couldn’t get over the planting combination of the fiery orange Crocosmia with the crisp blue Agapanthus. It was made even more dramatic with the brilliant blue sky as a backdrop, you can tell how much I loved it by the amount of photos I took!

Love this winning combination

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390An impressive 1920s glasshouse was against one of the walls, unfortunately in a state of disrepair. It is the next large restoration project which is on the cards at Wyndcliffe, a mammoth task and one I look forward to seeing the progress of when I return.

Sunken Garden

430The Lily Pond

427View of the Summerhouse from the Woodland

356The shaded woodland area was a pleasing contrast to the sun-trap which was the sunken garden, the lily pond in its centre was a striking focal point. A summerhouse nestled in the corner was a peaceful place, again offering superb views of the valley over yonder.

More sculptures

354377334352Wyndcliffe was a joy, an intimate and stunning place which I know I will visit again.

Veddw House Garden

The second garden I visited during my day trip of Monmouthshire was Veddw House Garden, set in the wonderful countryside of the Welsh border above Tintern. 2 acres of ornamental garden were created in 1987 by husband and wife duo Anne Wareham, garden writer, and Charles Hawes, garden photographer.

First view of Veddw

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Love this seat

197The garden is about patterns, shapes, colours, drama, sculptural hedges and views. It is also about history and acknowledgement of people who have lived and worked here in the past and about the landscape it sits in and belongs to – less about the plants and more about the place.

The meadow

207210Rosebay willowherb reaching for the skies!

200Anne and Charles are “passionate about gardens but not about gardening” – their quote, not mine! It was refreshing to see plants which most people would consider weeds used to great effect in planting schemes throughout the garden such as rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium.

North garden area

236230211Another cute seat

215Anne has a great interest in the history of the local landscape and has incorporated this into the garden design, in particular a large parterre of grasses in a pattern of box hedges based on the local Tithe Map of 1842.

Interesting water feature

296A very blue hydrangea

316Hosta walk

272This is the first view you get of Veddw, looking down upon the garden with the tops of the hedges mimicking the rolling hills in the surrounding landscape was pretty awe-inspiring. The combination of beech, yew and box hedging added extra depth than if just one species of hedging plant had been used.

Swooping beech hedge

199Charles’ Garden

217Red and silvery-grey foliage combination

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Box topiary mimicking the cardoon heads

221An area called “Charles’ Garden” had a mixture of red and grey/silver plants, such as heuchera, cotinus, persicaria and hostas. My favourite detail was how the topiary Buxus sempervirens had been cut in the same shape as the heads of the cardoons, Cynara cardunculus.

Vitis coignetiae

251Views of the south garden

248257A crimson glory vine, Vitis coignetiae, had been left to climb and ramble as it pleased, it was massive! The views of the south garden from the edge of the wood were spectacular, I appreciated the layout of the garden even more when viewed from above.

View of the Wild Garden

253Close-ups

259260The “Wild Garden” was a riot of colour, hardy perennials like Crocosmia and Solidago were mixed with wild flowers like the rosebay willowherb, cow parsley, knapweed, etc. It was a vivid blur of oranges and pinks, the colours seemed even more intense in the sunshine.

The Pool Garden

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278The “Pool Garden” was the simplest yet most striking area for me. An inky black pool reflected the undulating yew hedges like a perfect mirror, it was the place for reflection in every sense. I’d love to see it on a crisp winter day with just a hint of frost, I bet it looks magical.

286274Peacock butterfly on a buddleja

320It was refreshing for the garden to be the dominant feature in the property instead of the house – so often buildings are the focal point yet at Veddw the opposite was true.

More views

307312It was a small but sensational place, you didn’t have to be a plantsman to be wowed by the garden. I could have wandered round there for the whole day, there was an area for every occasion. I hope to achieve a design similar to Veddw when I find a place of my own, someday. . .

Dewstow Gardens

Yesterday I toured Monmouthshire and visited three gardens in one day – Dewstow, Veddw and Wyndcliffe. The first place I went to was Dewstow Gardens, which has a fascinating history. The gardens were built around 1895 and were buried just after World War II then rediscovered in 2000 – just fifteen years ago.

View of the Rock Garden and Tropical House

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Fern Grotto

057In 1893, Henry Oakley purchased the ancient Dewstow Estate, managing it until he died. A keen horticulturist and wealthy bachelor, Oakley embarked on the creation of a truly ambitious and unique garden in his grounds. Work began on the transformation in the late 19th century, after Oakley commissioned James Pulham & Son, the eminent family of Victorian and Edwardian landscape artists who specialised in the construction of picturesque rock gardens, ferneries, follies and grottoes. While there are many examples of the Pulham’s work in stately homes across the UK, Dewstow is unique in its scale and subterranean focus.

The Square Garden

111115With no descendents the land passed from Oakley at his death in 1940. During World War II the garden was filled in and the land reverted to working pastureland. The vast majority of the private gardens were buried or destroyed and, as no records of their existence remained, they were forgotten until the land was purchased by the Harris family in 2000.
The discovery of steps leading underground aroused curiosity, other evidence of the garden was then found which prompted further investigation. Subsequent excavation has revealed far more than was ever imagined.

Grills in the lawn, sign of the tunnels underground

103View from inside one of the grottoes

072Dewstow is a Grade I listed garden, and has been found to be one of the most significant examples of Pulham’s landscape gardens. The renovation of the grounds to their original glory has been an ongoing undertaking, as the records of both the Oakley and Pulham families were destroyed there is very little information on the original gardens. Their reconstruction is an intricate historical and horticultural puzzle.

Herbaceous borders

045187The gardens contain many ponds and rills but interestingly a labyrinth of underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries. The rock gardens are made up of a mixture of real stone and faced stone using various types of Pulhamite.
The grottoes in particular grabbed my attention, I couldn’t get over how similar they were to others I had seen in places such as Benington Lordship, Waddesdon Manor, RHS Garden Wisley, etc. It all made sense when I realised they had been created by the same landscapers, James Pulham & Son.

Grotto entrance

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Ceiling of one of the tunnels

176The Rock Garden was a sun trap, perfect for housing plants from temperate regions of the world like Cistus crispus, Brachyglottis, Cupressus sempervirens, Santolina chamaecyparissus and Rosmarinus officinalis to name a few – it was like being back in Portugal.

View of the Rock Garden and Tropical House

039034Cistus crispus

012The water running through the rockery gave a very tranquil feel, I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the pond when crossing the stepping stones – one way to cool down! The Tropical House was in the same area, access to it was via the Fern and Tufa Grottoes. A small selection of tropical plants like various species of palms and hibiscus were used in the planting.

Inside the Tropical House

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Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

In the grotto Pellaea rotundifolia, a fern endemic to New Zealand, caught my eye, I liked the way its leaves were arranged. It was weird walking underground from one grotto to the other, seeing shafts of light penetrating through from the world above.

The Lion Grotto

078092084The Lion Grotto was my favourite, it had an exotic, more flamboyant feel in the construction and overall appearance than the others. More unusual palms, ferns, vines and fuchsias were used in the planting, the water features were more prominent too.

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Streptocarpus

076The herbaceous beds and borders throughout the remaining areas of the garden were bold and vibrant, a border of dahlias had me drooling for a while!

Dahlia border

134Close-ups

121124A small waterfall ran into three main separate ponds, the shade provided by a canopy of mature trees was welcome on such a hot day. An old horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) had succumbed to the rampant disease, even so it was still an impressive specimen.

Horse chestnut tree

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View downstream from the waterfall

139Other ponds

118162A border filled with pink and white hydrangeas was at its peak of flowering, an annual bed also with a pink and white colour scheme was incredibly effective. Cleomes, dahlias, snapdragons, cosmos and begonias had been used, the blend of texture, height and colour was spot on.

Hydrangeas

160Annual bed

192I liked the way ornamental grasses and herbs were planted close to pathways and steps throughout the garden, scent was released as you brushed past and the grass was playfully tactile against bare skin.

More dahlia close-ups

126130Dewstow captured my imagination, the mystery surrounding it was intoxicating. Add to that the variety of plants and grottoes and tunnels to explore and you have a winning combination.
After a quick coffee it was time to head onto the next garden of the day, Veddw – watch this space! 😉

Colesbourne Park

Last month I visited a garden with the best snowdrop collection I’ve ever seen – Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire.

Display of Galanthus nivalis

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I’d heard people rave about it, from snowdrop lovers “galanthophiles” in particular. The collection at Colesbourne was started by Henry John Elwes (1846 – 1922), a traveller and naturalist who, in the course of an adventurous life, introduced many plants to cultivation. Among these was Galanthus elwesii, which he found in western Turkey in 1874.

Some close-ups

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After his death the collection lay more or less undisturbed for sixty years until his great grandson Henry Elwes and his wife Carolyn began to identify the plants and spread them out through regular bulb division. Carolyn has added many further species and cultivars which has made the Colesbourne display of snowdrops to be acknowledged as one of the finest in the country.

Display of Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

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Galanthus ‘Wasp’

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The snowdrops are planted in masses through the arboretum and lakeside landscapes, as well as in smaller groups in the garden. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to compare so many different varieties and cultivars in just one garden. I saw many familiar favourites such as Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’, Galanthus ‘Wasp’, Galanthus nivalis ‘Tiny Tim’, Galanthus nivalis ‘Anglesey Abbey’ to name a few.

Galanthus ‘Titania’

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Galanthus ‘Esther Merton’ 

Galanthus 'Esther Merton' Crop

I discovered new snowdrops too, ones like Galanthus elwesii ‘Carolyn Elwes’, Galanthus ‘Colesbourne’, Galanthus ‘Esther Merton’ and Galanthus ‘Titania’.

The extraordinary blue lake

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I couldn’t get over the extraordinary looking lake, a great feature of the garden. Its eye-catching blue colour is caused by minute colloidal clay particles reflecting only the blue light waves; it remains the same colour all year round, unless muddied by heavy rainfall. If there had been a beach surrounding it you could almost have mistaken it for the Mediterranean sea!

Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis)

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Winter aconites and snowdrops

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Snowdrops and cyclamen

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I spotted this sweet hellebore amongst the snowdrops!

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I liked how winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and cyclamen were being naturalised in some areas and growing amongst the snowdrops. The sight of so many beautiful bulbs, the snowdrops stealing the show of course, made it a memorable day out. If you only get to visit one garden for snowdrops then make Colesbourne Park the one – check out their website for more information: 🙂

http://colesbournegardens.org.uk/