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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Close-up

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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Close-up

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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The Beauty of Autumn

A few weekends ago I visited NBGW and had a lovely stroll around the garden. It was a beautifully sunny, crisp autumn day, perfect for a walk.

Views of the Great Glasshouse

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It’s easy to forget to appreciate the wonderful surroundings I see every day when I’m at work and there’s so much to get do. It’s nice to take time out and marvel at the garden from a visitor’s perspective for a change!

The Rill

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The Wallace Garden

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Close-up of a Cornus (Dogwood)

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The Circle of Decision

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Mirror Pool

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View from the bottom of the Broadwalk

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Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple)

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Several trees were displaying fantastic autumn colour, such as Liquidambar styraciflua, Fagus sylvatica, Taxodium distichum and various Acer species.

Fagus sylvatica (Common Beech)

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Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress)

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Views across the lakes

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Prunus

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I find grasses really come into their own at this time of year, especially when they catch the sunlight or they’re covered in frost. My favourite has to be Miscanthus sinensis, I love the featheriness of its fronds.

Views of the Slate Beds

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Miscanthus sinensis

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More grasses

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More views

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Quercus robur (English Oak)

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Betula pendula avenue (Silver Birch)

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Even when the trees stand bare and most plants have died back until next season it doesn’t mean the beauty has disappeared. Seeing a garden in its bare, skeletal state, can have just as much impact as seeing it in the height of spring or summer.

We’ve had a few misty, frosty mornings which enhance the raw beauty of the garden even more – magical is the only way I can describe it.

Frosty morning

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The Tropical House

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Inside the Tropical House

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Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)

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View of the Double Walled Garden

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Inside the Double Walled Garden

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Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)

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Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii (Chinese Lantern)

Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii

B&W version

Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii B&W

The Japanese Garden

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Close-up of the Acer trees

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I hope you enjoyed the photos. 🙂 I’ll finish with one of my favourite autumn quotes:

“No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace

As I have seen in one Autumnal face. . .” ~ John Donne

Staverton Bridge Nursery

First written and posted on 24th August, 2012. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

If you read my last post then you’ll know I am moving away in a couple of weeks, to start an apprenticeship in horticulture with the Eden Project – my start date is rapidly approaching and I’m getting more and more excited about the whole thing!

Even though I can’t wait to get started I’m also feeling sad about leaving my old job behind – bittersweet is the only way I can describe it.

I’ve worked at Staverton Bridge Nursery since I was fourteen, for the first two years I helped a lady called Muriel, learning about all aspects of horticulture alongside her. She sold the business to her daughter and son-in-law about eighteen months ago who chose to keep me on – since then I’ve been helping them re-vamp the whole site, and watching them work wonders by building a brand new café.

We officially opened last July, this year is the first full season being open – I feel lucky to have witnessed it grow from baby stages to what it has blossomed into. The transition from then to now is amazing! I felt blessed to have any job in the current economical climate, let alone one I thoroughly enjoy.

Steph, Mu’s daughter, looks after the plant side of the nursery and Dan, her husband, is in charge of running the café – I do a mixture of both! If it’s quiet in the café then I will be outside doing all kinds of jobs, from weeding to watering, pruning to planting – there’s never a shortage of things to do where plants are involved!

Or if it’s a busy day inside then I will don an apron and be a waitress/coffee maker/cook – the one thing I can say about my job is there’s no time to be bored!

The Nursery

Although I love the versatility of my job, plants are my passion and nothing compares to being outside with them – I’d do weeding over washing-up every time! There are two huge glasshouses full of plants which are for sale, and two polytunnels which are for growing plants in, until they’re healthy enough to be put on display and sold.

My favourite job to do is re-arrange the plants, “display organisation” I call it. Steph is pretty pedantic about things like that, so for her to trust me enough to do it unsupervised is great! We don’t just have plants for sale in the glasshouses, there are also various bits and bobs like vintage watering cans, troughs, pots, furniture and pottery, made by a range of talented local people.

There are always the standard shrubs, perennials and herbs in stock, as well as seasonal annuals and bedding plants. At the moment the glasshouses are full of geums, cosmos, asters, and dahlias to name a few.

The dahlias are easily my favourites, it’s astonishing how many different varieties there are. I would love to have an acre of them at home but unfortunately they are incredibly susceptible to slugs – those little buggers love nothing more than munching on dahlias day and night!

I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photo of any plant, no matter how amateur a photographer you are – one evening after closing time I went round and took a whole load of shots, which you can see are included throughout this post. Hopefully the photos will give you a feel for what an inspiring and beautiful place the nursery is!

The Café

For many people the café is the main attraction, you don’t have to be a genius to work out why.

The setting for it is unique, it overlooks the River Dart and out to the Staverton steam railway which is a five minute walk away. A lot of train spotters come into the café for a quick coffee, whilst waiting for a special train to chug by.

As well as tables and chairs outside, there’s also a summer house (or a posh shed!) to sit in and a Wendy house, which children love. We’re child and dog friendly, walkers come down from the woods opposite, as well as cyclists on their way past. It’s the perfect place to stop and rest, as the atmosphere is so relaxed.

You can’t run a successful café without the food being outstanding – which it definitely is! Everything is hand-made by Dan, apart from most of the cakes which come from a baker in Ashburton whose cooking is second to none.

There’s a certain cake which we have to sell all the time otherwise our regular customers would cause a riot – the infamous pear and chocolate cake should have a page on Facebook, it’s that popular!

We do lunch every day, midday til 3pm. You can choose between soup of the day, ploughman’s or hummus salad.

I know how to make everything on the lunch menu, apart from the bread which is Dan’s own recipe – no one but him is allowed to bake the bread! We also sell Rockbeare ice-cream, Burt’s crisps, Luscombe and Tom Morrow’s cold drinks.

The other thing we’re getting particularly renown for is our coffee – Dan prides himself in serving the best coffee possible because, as he says, there’s nothing worse than drinking a cappuccino which tastes like an ashtray!

It took me nearly four months to get my coffee making skills up to scratch, before Dan was satisfied it was to a high enough standard to be sold to customers.

My friends and family loved it though, it meant they could get my practice coffees for free!

Now I know what proper coffee tastes like I don’t think I could ever go back to drinking instant – I think not having a constant supply of free lattes and mochas is the thing I will miss the most about my job!

If you would like more information then take a look at http://stavertonbridgenursery.com/ which includes opening hours and directions on how to find us.

Anyone is welcome, if you have a spare moment then come along and have a wander round – the scenery if nothing else is beautiful. You never know, if you come within the next few weeks you might even see yours truly!

For me the nursery isn’t simply a place of work, it’s where I’ve grown up and learnt not just horticulture or culinary skills, but social and life skills, which will be invaluable to me in the future.

Saying goodbye to not only the place, but the people, is going to be harder than I imagined. This chapter in my life is coming to an end but it’s one I’ll keep bookmarked, for sure. . .

Plant of the Week – Liquidambar styraciflua

First written and posted on 5th November, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

Here is this week’s plant profile, which is all about the sweet gum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua. There is an avenue of these trees at Ashridge and they are looking absolutely stunning at the moment, turning beautiful shades of red and purple. It definitely deserves its title of Plant of the Week! 🙂

Liquidambar styraciflua

Genus: Liquidambar

Species: styraciflua

Family: Hamamelidaceae

Common name: Sweet gum

Translation: From the Latin liquidus and ambar meaning “liquid amber” and styraciflua translating as “storax flowing”, in reference to the gum (storax) yielded by most species – hence the popular common name sweet gum.

Type of plant: Deciduous tree

Origin: Native to eastern North America

Technical details

The ideal growing conditions for Liquidambar styraciflua are full sun or partial shade, in an exposed or sheltered position with moist but well-drained soil.

Soil: Liquidambar styraciflua can tolerate most soil types and pHs, including: acid and neutral: and loam, clay or sand.

Resilience: Hardy

Propagation: Propagation is easiest via semi-hardwood cuttings.

Cultivation: Liquidambar styraciflua is mainly used in Britain for its spectacular autumn foliage. The leaves turn brilliant shades of purple, crimson, orange and yellow, making it a popular ornamental tree.

Pest and disease problems: Liquidambar styraciflua is generally pest and disease free.

Liquidambar styraciflua leaf

Interesting Facts

1. A resin called storax is extracted from the trunk of some species of Liquidambar, mainly Liquidambar orientalis (a relation to Liquidambar styraciflua) and is used in incense, adhesives and perfumes.

2. A Spanish naturalist by the name of Hernandez was the first European to discover Liquidambar in the early 16th century. It was given its botanical name because of its aromatic gum, which he described as ‘liquid amber’. However, it wasn’t until 1681 that it was finally introduced to Britain by the missionary plant collector John Bannister.

3. Often mistaken for a maple, Liquidambar styraciflua has similarly-shaped five-lobed leaves. However, while the leaves on the maple are arranged in opposite pairs, those of the Liquidambar styraciflua appear alternately on the leaf shoots.

4. It is not only the maple-like leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua that can cause confusion in its identification. The fruits of the tree are known as ‘monkey balls’ and are green when immature but ripen to spiky brown globes that hang on the tree throughout the winter. In this regard, they closely resemble the London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica) but while the fruit of the sweet gum appear singly, those of the London plane are generally in bunches.

5. The timber of Liquidambar styraciflua is dense, close-grained and rots easily, so is of no use in construction.

6. The wood of Liquidambar styraciflua is easily worked and is valued for its use in veneers and furniture – it is the second most commonly cultivated hardwood tree, alongside oak (Quercus robur).

7. Liquidambar styraciflua is native to America, where it thrives in wet and warm conditions, like swamps and bottomlands. In these conditions it can grow as tall as forty five metres (one hundred and fifty feet) but is often much shorter and rarely grows to half that height in Britain.

8. Native Americans and settlers used the sap of Liquidambar styraciflua as chewing gum, and to treat a wide variety of ailments in both humans and domestic animals. The roots and bark were also used to treat skin disorders, diarrhoea, fevers and other ailments.

9Liquidambar styraciflua has great wildlife value, as mice and rabbits are known to eat immature stems. The seeds are eaten by birds, squirrels and chipmunks.

10. Liquidambar styraciflua can live for more than one hundred and fifty years, but it doesn’t flower or produce seed for the first fifteen to twenty years of its life.