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




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'


Acer pubinerve

Acer pubinerve


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



Liquidambar styraciflua



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.



Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’



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



More acers


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




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:


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.



Last few acers


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. 🙂



PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Rosie’s Garden

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

As well as taking us to visit stunning gardens in the Algarve Rosie also showed us her own 4 acre garden, Quinta das Sesmarias. She told us all about the history of the garden over lunch, it was a fascinating story. Rosie and her husband, Rob, arrived in the Algarve in 2004. The land they purchased was abandoned agricultural, the original house had been there since 1991 and left derelict for 5 years.

Rosie’s Garden

View of Rosie's garden

The natural swimming pool

The natural swimming poolThe whole place was overgrown and completely weed ridden. The citrus area was changed the most, they planted species which survived naturally. The soil was very poor, the soil level was changed at the back of the house to create what is now the terrace. The leftover soil was used elsewhere in the garden and was aerated to improve the structure. Pine needles are used as a mulch in other areas of the garden.

Pathways were made as the garden was cleared, the mature trees (carob, almonds and oaks) were the main attraction. Existing shrubs were cut back to create better access throughout the garden, the Pistacia in particular – they can sprout from nothing. Wild olives which have seeded themselves are Olea europaea var. sylvestris, Olea europaea has been cultivated.

More views of the garden

Another view of the garden

Route through the gardenOver time orchids have naturalised in the whole garden, 7 to 8 species now grow here – the same applies for the lavenders. Lots of Cistus seedlings were moved and re-planted in the early days, they appear in the wet season (autumn). The garden was watered for the first few summers after being planted, now not at all.

Lots of native bulbs were also planted, such as:

  • Sternbergia lutea
  • Scilla peruviana
  • Narcissus papyraceus
  • Muscari sp.
  • Narcissus gaditanus

Annual tree surveys are carried out for the standard DDDX (dead, damaged, diseased and crossing wood) in January. Rosie and Rob have one full time person employed to maintain the garden whose main skill is arboriculture.

Selfie in a carob tree!

Me in a carob tree, photo by Jo Huckvale

View from the carob

View of the garden from the top of a carob tree!The carobs (Ceratonia siliqua) are kept under close scrutiny in particular, they are known as “widow makers”. They can be hollow inside yet still produce lots of foliage and fruit and collapse with no warning! The borehole was already in the garden when Rosie and Rob arrived, it is 90 metres deep. Water divining was carried out to discover where the water streams cross to determine where to bore for the holes.

Rosie let us go round the garden by ourselves for the morning, doing a plant identification test as we wandered. She had given us a list of key plants which we had already come across earlier in the week so it was a good test of our memories to see how many we could recognise and which names we could remember.

Wisteria sinensis ‘Rosea’

Wisteria sinensis 'Rosea’


Close-up of Wisteria sinensis 'Rosea’We collected specimens of various trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and climbers, ticking them off the list as we found them. I found it fun working through the list and seeing which plants we came across easily and which ones we had to really search for. We had time for a quick dip in the wonderful natural swimming pool before lunch, it was heaven to bathe in the refreshingly cool water on such a baking hot day.

After lunch we went through all of the plants we had found, then Rosie took us round the garden to point out ones we hadn’t seen. She also showed us other plants which weren’t on the list but which were still interesting species. Serapias lingua, the tongue orchid, was eye-catching, definitely the most attractive-looking species of the genus by far. There were lots of small colonies across the whole garden, it was pretty difficult not to step on them!

Serapias lingua

Serapias lingua Crop

Serapias lingua againTwo salvias caught my eye, Salvia africana-lutea had rust-coloured, hooded flowers. They were strangely beautiful, especially with the sun shining on them. Salvia discolor had an unusual colour combination, indigo-blue flowers with contrasting white-downy calyces. I couldn’t decide which one was my favourite!

I’d heard of Bauhinia blakeana, the orchid tree, before coming to Portugal. Rosie had a great specimen in her garden, it was just a shame it wasn’t flowering! I’ve seen photos of the large purplish-red orchid like flowers, hopefully one day I’ll see them for real.

Salvia africana-lutea

Salvia africana-lutea

Aristolochia baetica

Aristolochia baeticaDicliptera suberecta is a very drought tolerant plant – Rosie is a fan of it in her garden. It has velvety-soft leaves with bright orange tubular shaped flowers, another vivid flowering plant.

Eriocephalus africanus is a shrub with fine grey aromatic foliage which smells like Vicks when crushed! It has snow-white flowers followed by fluffy cotton wool seeds, providing interest for pretty much every season. Another plant perfect for a waterwise garden.

Cistus ladanifer

Cistus ladanifer Crop

Cistus salvifolius with Cistus albidus

Cistus salvifolius with Cistus albidusI didn’t realise Melaleuca alternifolia is the main source of the commercially produced tea tree essential oil. Sarcopoterium spinosum was an interesting evergreen shrub, it had dark green feathery leaves and created a dense mass of impenetrable thorns. A very effective anti-personnel plant!

Vetiver zizanioides is a grass with very perfumed roots, used in aromatherapy. Polygala myrtifolia was a cute shrub, with pea-like whitey-purple flowers which close at night time. Haemanthus coccineus is now my new favourite bulb, also know as the blood flower. It has striking red flowers which look like shaving brushes, very cool.

Euphorbia milii

Euphorbia milii

Cercis siliquastrum

Cercis siliquastrumA euphorbia I hadn’t seen before was Euphorbia milii. It has thorny succulent branches with evergreen leathery leaves. The tiny clusters of small yellow flowers are surrounded by bright red bracts. A feast for the eyes!

I loved the use of Buxus sempervirens fruticosa, also known as dwarf box hedging, to create a low border along the pathway in the citrus area. I never thought I’d see box thriving in Portugal.

Citrus area

Citrus area

Rows of Buxus sempervirens fruticosa

Rows of Buxus sempervirens fruticosaI enjoyed the time we spent in Rosie’s garden immensely, it was one of my favourite days in the Algarve by far. I loved hearing the history behind the garden and learning about all the varied and unusual plants in the garden too. It is a wonderful example of letting nature lead the way by simply enhancing the natural beauty which was there to begin with instead of changing it completely. Some might say it’s a wilderness but I call it paradise.

Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae

Polygala myrtifolia

Polygala myrtifolia

Plants identified:

  • Trees
  • Ceratonia siliqua
  • Cupressus sempervirens
  • Laurus nobilis
  • Olea europaea
  • Olea europaea var. sylvestris
  • Pinus pinea
  • Prunus dulcis
  • Quercus canariensis
  • Quercus ilex rotundifolia
  • Quercus suber
  • Shrubs
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Atriplex halimus
  • Bupleurum fruticosum
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Cistus albidus
  • Cistus crispus
  • Cistus ladanifer
  • Cistus monspeliensis
  • Cistus salvifolius
  • Coronilla valentina
  • Genista hirsuta
  • Lavandula stoechas luisieri
  • Lavandula dentata candicans
  • Medicago arborea
  • Myrtus communis
  • Phillyrea angustifolia
  • Phlomis purpurea
  • Pistacia lentiscus
  • Quercus coccifera
  • Rhamnus alaternus
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Spartium junceum
  • Thymbra capitata
  • Viburnum tinus
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Hyparrhenia hirta
  • Pennisetum setaceum
  • Stipa tenacissima
  • Climbers
  • Aristolochia baetica
  • Clematis cirrhosa
  • Clematis flammula
  • Lonicera periclymenum
  • Smilax aspera

Scilla peruviana

Scilla peruviana

Locust shells near the natural swimming pool

Locust shells near the swimming pool Crop

Plants noted:

  • Aloe ferox
  • Aloe striata
  • Asparagus acutifolius
  • Bauhinia blakeana
  • Brachychiton populneus
  • Buxus sempervirens fruticosa
  • Cassia artemisioides
  • Celtis australis
  • Cercis siliquastrum
  • Cistus hybridus
  • Cistus populifolius
  • Cussonia spicata
  • Daphne gnidium
  • Dicliptera suberecta
  • Elaeagnus x ebbingei
  • Eriocephalus africanus
  • Escallonia rubra var. macrantha
  • Euphorbia milii
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Gladiolus illyricus
  • Haemanthus coccineus
  • Jasminum polyanthum
  • Lithodora fruticosa
  • Lupinus angustifolius
  • Lupinus micranthus
  • Melaleuca alternifolia
  • Morus alba
  • Myrtus communis subsp. tarentina
  • Nepeta tuberosa
  • Nerium oleander
  • Pistacia terebinthus
  • Polygala myrtifolia
  • Salvia africana-lutea
  • Salvia discolor
  • Sarcopoterium spinosum
  • Serapias lingua
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Tulipa clusiana
  • Vetiver zizanioides
  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Rosea’



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



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


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


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

262279Close-up of the hedges

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. . .

Great Times in the Great Glasshouse

My time spent in the Great Glasshouse has gone by extremely quickly. One minute it was the end of January and the next it’s March! Only two members of staff look after the whole of the Great Glasshouse, with us students helping out on a temporary basis.

Sunrises over the Great Glasshouse



Sunrise in the Great Glasshouse


View of the pond from Western Australia


It’s staggering how well maintained the place is kept, with so few pairs of hands and so many plants to look after, most of which require specialist horticultural knowledge and skill.

I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with the soil rejuvenation work which is gradually being completed on all of the beds in the entire glasshouse. Basically when the glasshouse was created the soil which was used wasn’t good quality and resembled rubble from a building site!

In the middle of soil rejuvenation




This isn’t ideal conditions for the plants to grow in by any means, so by carefully going through all of the beds this will ensure the plants root systems have a better chance of establishing, enabling them to live for longer and be less prone to pests and diseases.

The process of soil rejuvenation is very labour intensive and repetitive: the soil has to be dug out and sifted by hand, to separate the soil from the rocks and other debris. The sifted soil is then mixed with fresh compost and put back into the bed, with the stones spread over the top as a mulch.

Nearly finished. . .




I repeated this process several times on different beds throughout the glasshouse. Although it was tedious it was also incredibly satisfying to look back and see the progress being made. Knowing the difference it will make to the plants in the long term was an added bonus.

As well as working closely with soil and stones I also spent a lot of time getting down and dirty with actual plants(!). A large number of plants from the different regions in the Great Glasshouse were ready in the nursery glasshouses, waiting to be planted.

Planting in the Canary Islands









It is a hundred times easier to plant up the beds once the soil has been rejuvenated, hence why there were so many plants filling up the nursery. We needed an army of people to sift soil and another one going behind planting!

Planting in California and Western Australia





As it was I managed to plant up three big areas of the Great Glasshouse: Chile, California and the Canary Islands, as well as a small section in Western Australia. I had no idea about the heights and spreads of any of the plants I was working with as 80% of them were all new to me.

It was fun looking up the plants and helping my boss, Marilla, arrange them in the different beds. I’m looking forward to returning to the Great Glasshouse again in the summer to see how the areas I planted are establishing.

Before pruning Wisteria


Me with my finished Wisteria!


A cheery clump of daffodils


I was let outside of the Great Glasshouse for a day at the beginning of February, to help give the wisterias on the Broadwalk a winter prune. I had done this before in my previous job, it was good to be able to do it again and refresh my memory – practice makes perfect!

This was the sprinkling of snow we had in South Wales!


Frosty mornings



I’m looking forward to returning outside tomorrow at the most wonderful, positive time of year – spring! I’ll finish with an apt quote:


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






20141125_082322 B&W


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

IMG_9459 B&W

The Wallace Garden


Close-up of a Cornus (Dogwood)


The Circle of Decision


Mirror Pool


View from the bottom of the Broadwalk


Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple)


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

Fagus sylvatica (Common Beech)


Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress)





Views across the lakes






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




Miscanthus sinensis


More grasses




More views



Quercus robur (English Oak)

IMG_9548 B&W

Betula pendula avenue (Silver Birch)


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


The Tropical House


Inside the Tropical House


Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)


View of the Double Walled Garden


Inside the Double Walled Garden



Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)

IMG_9584 B&W

Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii (Chinese Lantern)

Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii

B&W version

Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii B&W

The Japanese Garden



Close-up of the Acer trees



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

Delights in the Great Glasshouse

I can’t believe I’ve been at NBGW for three months now. It feels like last week I was driving over the Severn Bridge into Wales for the first time!

Inside the Great Glasshouse




Spot the fish!


On Monday me and the other horticultural student, Becky, swap places with the inside and outside teams. I have been working outdoors since September so for the next three months I will be inside, working in the nursery glasshouses and polytunnels and the Great Glasshouse of course. I’m really looking forward to changing teams and learning new skills, being inside for the winter months is an added bonus as well! 😉

(Anigozanthos kalbarriensis) Kangeroo Paws

Anigozanthos flavidus

Lechenaultia biloba 

Lechenaultia biloba

Melaleuca fulgens (Scarlet Honeymyrtle)

Melaleuca fulgens

Protea cynaroides (Sugarbush)

Protea cynaroides

At NBGW we all have to take turns working weekends, I am on the rota for this weekend and the following one. It’s quite nice being at work with only one other person around to help with the watering, it feels like I have the garden to myself!

Callistemon citrinus ‘Splendens’ (Bottlebrush)

Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'

Protea (Sugarbush)

Protea 'Pink Ice'

Templetonia retusa (Cockies Tongue)

Templetonia retusa

Echium candicans (Pride of Madeira)

Echium candicans

Calothamnus quadrifidus (One-sided Bottlebrush)

Calothamnus quadrifidus

I was in the Great Glasshouse this morning and noticed so many delightful plants in flower. I had to stop and take quick shots of them all, how could I not share them?! I love plants from temperate regions of the world, they just fascinate me. I can’t wait to work more closely with them when I get round to working in the Great Glasshouse full time.

Leonotis leonurus (Lion’s Tail)



Alyogyne huegelii (Blue Hibiscus)



I made a new friend!


That’s all for now, hope you enjoyed the photos. 🙂

NBGW – First Post

It’s been three winks since I left Hertfordshire and started my new job at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Where has the time gone?!

Avenue of Betula pendula


A rose in the Double Walled Garden


Waterlily (Nymphaea)


The Rill


I mentioned in my previous post that the weather has been glorious since I arrived. Sunshine every day, with no hint of rain – no wet Welsh weather like I had been warned about before moving here!

I’m settling in well to my new life. It was sad to say goodbye to my old one but in a bitter-sweet way. I’m working in an amazing garden and living in a beautiful part of the country – it’s been a manic few weeks but all the packing and unpacking has been worth it.

The Tropical House





Trimezia martinicensis

Trimezia martinicensis

Paphiopedilum orchid


I’m at NBGW with one other PGG trainee, who is in her third and final year on the traineeship scheme – she’s called Becky as well, not confusing at all!! We work with the inside and outside teams on a rota, for three months at a time.

I’m with the outside team until December, Becky is with the inside gang. The first week we spent working together, a few days with both teams, and now we’ve settled into our rotas. This past fortnight I’ve slipped into a routine, I didn’t think I’d settle in and feel at home as quickly as I have done. It can only be a good sign!

Inside one of the nursery glasshouses


Clean pots!


I’ve been working in one quadrant of the Double Walled Garden, blitzing the herbaceous beds. Staffing levels are very tight at NBGW, with ten full time horticulturists for one hundred and eighty acres. It makes students like me more valued as members of the team, I’ve been trusted to get on with the job I’ve been given without supervision. I’d better not screw up!

Beds before blitzing. . .



. . .and after!



A busy trainee!


A friendly pheasant


My accommodation in Wales is fantastic, it really does feel just like home. It’s an old farmhouse/lodge which dates back to the 1880s. My dad managed to find an old photo of it when it was in its prime, cool or what!

My lodge, Allt Goch, in the 1880s

Allt Goch Hey Day

It’s about a mile away from NBGW, I can walk to work in twenty minutes. The route is through three fields, which are inhabited by cows and sheep of course! It’s all downhill going to work, the journey back is a bit of a killer – I never realised how steep the hills were in Wales!

Views on the walk to work



The Great Glasshouse in the distance




That said I still think I have the best commute to work imaginable – when the mist lingers in the valley first thing in the morning I realise how lucky to have a job I absolutely love.

A misty morning




Evening sun


My parents came up a week ago for a weekend visit, it was lovely showing them round NBGW for the first time. They loved the Double Walled Garden, my mum couldn’t get over how colourful everything was.

Double Walled Garden













Hesperantha coccinea



The Great Glasshouse was a winner too, I remember how much it took my breath away when I first saw it.

The Great Glasshouse













The Wallace Garden was looking gorgeous too, with beds of dahlias and wild flowers. I know I’m going to enjoy working in every area of NBGW while I’m here, there’s nowhere I don’t like!

Wallace Garden











That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed my first post about NBGW. It will be the first of many more to come! 🙂