Last week we had the great pleasure of visiting the flower gardens at Aston Pottery in Oxfordshire. At a time of year when many gardens are beginning to decline and look rather tired, the garden here at Aston Pottery was bursting with colour and intensity.
The sheer range of flowers and the quality of the blooms was extremely impressive. Many people have reported that the Dahlias this year have been poor in their gardens but there was no sign of a bad year here at Aston Pottery. I was particularly struck by the way the borders had been laid out in triangles giving them both structure and allowing the complementary colours and forms to work well together.
There was no doubt that a huge amount of effort had gone into the planning, planting and subsequent plant husbandry to create a wonderful effect.
Well worth a visit if you get the chance at this time of year.
Location: Aston Pottery, The Stables, Kingsway Farm, Aston, Oxfordshire OX18 2BT
It is always nice to discover new gardens especially when they are on your doorstep. Morton Hall Gardens is located near Inkberrow in Worcestershire and opens for charity on only a few days a year. The gardens surround an 18th century manor house that has stunning views across the Vale of Evesham.
Despite the very difficult 2018 summer the gardens were full of colour. We were very impressed with the wide range of late season clematis that were in full flower throughout the garden. Most of the clematis in our garden are now past their best and we will certainly look out for some of the varieties we saw this week to enhance the late summer borders.
There is no doubt that a great deal of thought and attention to detail has gone into all the planting. The colour combinations worked wonderfully well in both the potager with its shades of yellow and red and in the formal borders of pinks, whites, pale blues and lavender. The density of planting was not cluttered and overdone and you could enjoy the individual plants and combinations.
A very impressive garden and well worth a visit if you get the chance. We will certainly go again at a different time of year if we get the chance.
The gardens are next open for charity under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) on 1 September 2018. I am sure that my photographs do not do the garden justice and you might like to visit the very informative website at: http://mortonhallgardens.co.uk
In the new flower garden at Honey Pot Flowers we are keen to introduce much more structure and height than we had previously. With a bulk load of roses due in November we have been putting in place two new rose arches ready for their arrival.
Each of our arches is going to have a mix of rambling roses which will mingle together. The two varieties we are using on the arches are Rambling Rosie and Blush Rambler.
Arches, however, are much more than just creating something for the roses and other plants to climb up. They create a barrier between areas of the garden creating that sense of exploration and romance and can lead the eye through to a focal point in your design. Importantly they bring your flowers up to eye (and nose) level so they can be appreciated as you wander through your garden.
We have learnt from experience that commercially bought arches are not always up to the job (particularly the metal ones). A year or two down the line when the roses are lush and heavy with foliage and flower they will need to stand up to the strong winds of the autumn and winter months.
We have built two arches, each 2.4 metres (c.8 feet) high. This may seem excessive but once grown those wayward branches will hang down and need to be high enough so that you can easily walk through or cut the grass without getting annoyingly scratched.
If you want to build one similar for yourself you will need the following for each arch.
4x metal wedge grip fence post spikes (75mm x 600mm)
4x treated fence posts (75mm x 75mm x 2.4m)
3x treated beams (47mm x 100mm x 2.4m) (one cut in half to create the side beams)
2x treated trellis panels(1828mm x 610mm)
large pack of 4″ wood screws
As the old saying goes ‘measure twice and cut once’!
Bang in the metal fence spikes to their respective positions making sure that they are straight and true with a spirit level. It is much easier to bang these in straight if you use a rubber block. Keep the post ‘socket’ above the ground. I have found that this helps stop the posts from rotting off prematurely. If you push the ‘socket’ into the ground the wooden fence post sits in the damp soil all the time and rots much more quickly (even if treated). I have spent so much time over the years trying to remove the concrete blocks of old rotten fence posts that I tend to use metal fence spikes now. If you want to move them in 15-20 years time you can.
Gently bang the fence posts into the metal spikes. At this point check that all the post tops are at the same height. I do this by using one of the long beams and placing it across the posts and checking with a level. Gently adjust the posts if necessary. Keeping everything straight and level at this point helps enormously down the line. It is very difficult to adjust things later if it looks wonky.
It is up to you how ornate you want the ends of the cross beams to be. I chamfer the corners of each beam to soften the appearance slightly.
Having cut one of the long beams in two, fix these to the side of the arch at the top. Measure and mark them carefully before offering them up to the posts to make sure they are identical on each side. The posts will be flexible enough to fit to your marks. Screw to the posts with the 4″ wood screws (pilot holes help enormously here). I use 2 screws per post so there is less chance of the arch twisting in the wind and rotating around the screw. This arch will have to hold a lot of weight in time!
The two long beams go across the front and back of the arch. I cut a square notch out on each side. The notch is half the width of the long beam (ie. c.5 cm) and the width of each notch is the breadth of the side beam (ie. c.4.7 cm). I do all this measuring and cutting on the ground. These long beams are then lifted onto the side beams and slide/lock into place with some gentle encouragement from a mallet. If you have measured carefully everything will shift into place and be straight, true and level. (I appreciate that this is easier said than done!)
Screw the long beams onto the side beams.
Assuming you have measured the distance between your posts correctly the trellis should now slide easily between posts and can be fixed with four screws. It is easiest to put the screws into the trellis first and drill your pilot holes in the posts before offering the trellis up to the posts to finally fix them securely.
One of the great things about planning and developing a new flower garden is that it is a wonderful excuse to go out and seek inspiration from other people’s gardens (not that we really need much of an excuse to visit the beautiful gardens across England!).
During last week (w/b 7 October 2017) we visited four varied Herefordshire gardens to find out how they had maintained the colour in their borders into October. We want to be able to extend the flowering season well into autumn if possible. We had not visited any of the gardens before and everyone offered something to think about.
Firstly a little about the gardens and then we will say something about the planting combinations we discovered:
Located at Hope Under Dinmore just south of Leominster, Hampton Court has been standing by the River Lugg for 600 years. This wonderful ‘formal’ garden is divided into a number of garden rooms with island pavilions, pleached avenues, grottoes, a yew maze and more. We thoroughly enjoyed this garden and will try and visit again at other times of year.
A National Trust garden situated near Yarpole and the home of some wonderful ancient oak and spanish chestnut trees. If you like walking and have a dog the estate is dog friendly and there are a range of well marked walks throughout the parkland. The castle has a walled garden and working vineyard.
A plantman’s garden with a wide range of interesting and unusual trees and plants. Located in the grounds of a building of the arts and crafts period the garden draws on specimens brought back by the plant hunters of the period. The garden boasts over 90 champion trees.
An absolutely stunning Georgian Manor and parkland near Leominster. The manor sits within the last landscape commission of ‘Capability’ Brown as well as having excellent walled gardens, kitchen garden and orchards.
October colour in these enchanting gardens
The first observation is that it is clearly possible to maintain the colour in your herbaceous borders right into October as long as you are clear of frost.
At Berrington Hall we saw beds of complementary colours brimming with colourful cosmos in a range of varieties and shades, complemented with pink malope (Malope trifida). These beds also made use of Nicotiana sylvestris creating a wonderful structural candelabra effect (and I suspect that in the evening these beds would also be bathed in scent). Contrasting some of the darker, purple cosmos was the lovely perennial sunflower which we assume was the variety ‘Lemon Queen’
Berrington Hall also made wonderful use of grasses within the borders which really come into their own as this time of year. The tall Miscanthus with its slightly pinkish seeds heads sits well with the candelabra of the Nicotiana sylvestris, Malope trifida and cleome. The Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ brings in a subtle red/brown which works well with the rest of the border.
But of course contrasting colours can give a totally different effect and bring a zing to a border. At Croft Castle the perennial sunflower ‘Lemon Queen’ sits alongside the tall floating stems of Verbena bonariensis. In the evening light this Verbena almost has a fluorescence as the light fades.
And lets us not forget the strong shades of autumn colour that can really bring a garden to life. Here at Croft Castle the Vitis coignetiae was in its full glory in the walled garden.
At Hergest Croft Garden we saw a more traditional autumn border of michaelmas daisies, sedum and saxifrage in pink, mauve and white. Very much loved by butterflies at this time of year these combinations are not to be under estimated.
In contrast, Hergest Croft also showed that the more tender perennials such as Salvia confertifloraand Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ can still provide striking border plants at this time of year if frosty nights have not yet arrived. Mixed with dahlias and other salvias and edged with Liriope muscari these borders are still brimming with colour into October.
Dahlias also featured in the beds at Hampton Court Castle gardens along with white cosmos to give a light airy feel and more cottage style to the borders. A very striking addition was the strong architectural shape of the deep burgundy amaranthus, grasses and white cleome in these borders – stunningly effective planting.
In addition to this stunning planting of complementary shades, many of the borders a Hampton Court Castle also used contrasting colours to great effect. Combinations of strong blue with a very dense double ‘feverfew’ and also the yellow perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with tall stands of blue Monkshood (Aconitum) made wonderful combinations for an October border.
Plenty to think about…
Well there is certainly no doubt that, with planning, your herbaceous borders can look full of colour right into October. We will certainly be adding some of these combinations to our future planting plans for the new garden and I hope it has also inspired you to see that the garden has much to offer at this time of year and is not simply shutting down for the winter.
Well the thinking and planning are over and it is now time to get down to the hard graft in the new garden. We are starting with the planting of the new formal hedges as we want to get these into the ground and give the plants time to get their roots down before it gets too cold.
We could have used box or yew for this but have decided to go with Lonicera nitida. With all the problems with box blight here in the UK we decided on the honeysuckle because it has worked very well for us elsewhere in the garden providing an excellent, dense dark green hedge which is easy to keep in shape and under control. The hedging plants were sourced from Buckingham Nurseries (www.hedging.co.uk) and were delivered in 9cm pots ready for planting.
Having marked out the circle we dug down deeply and removed as many perennial weeds as we could. We suffer from a lot of couch grass so try hard to remove as much as we can before planting anything new. Many wheelbarrows of garden compost were added to improve the sandy thin soil before planting.
We would like to have added bone meal but the dogs just love it and we struggle to keep them off anything we plant. We did add pelleted chicken manure and dug it all in well with our Mantis tiller (an excellent machine!).
Once prepared we covered the ground with weed suppressing membrane to reduce the future weeding around the plants.
To plant we cut slits in the membrane and planted the new plants about 1 foot apart (80 in all). Having watered in well we mulched with wood chippings we had collected from tree pruning work last year (nothing goes to waste here!).
Last but not least is the final pruning of the new plants to help them get really bushy. I hate this bit but it has to be done. Each plant was cut back by half to make sure they will bush out well from the very bottom.
Voila! Hopefully these will all settle in well and we will begin to see the formal structure of the garden develop in the spring next year. A very satisfying job.
The Honey Pot Flowers cutting garden has been a very productive space over the last six years providing us with a wide range of beautiful cut flowers for use in our wedding flowers, gifts and celebration bouquets.
However to grow efficiently and provide easy cutting the garden was created in long straight beds using large blocks of the same species or variety. It worked very well for us but we have decided that we want now to develop the garden to be more aesthetically pleasing, still a cutting garden but somewhere that you want to stop, sit and enjoy.
Visitors often think the cutting garden will be a wonderful sight, full of colour, but in reality there is often little to see as it has all been picked. By its very nature an efficient, large commercial cutting garden will be constantly picking and there should only be a few flowers in bloom.
Our aim over the next few years is to move away from a production orientated flower garden to one that a wonderful place to be. No longer large blocks of a single species but a garden that has wonderful colour combinations and fragrant flowers, changing naturally as the seasons develop.
During the last six years, working as wedding florists with seasonal British flowers, we have learnt a lot about bringing together stunning combinations and arrangements. We recognise that these ‘bouquets’ cannot necessarily be created in a garden setting as many of the plants you use in a bouquet may need different growing conditions. However, what we are seeking to create as you look across the garden each day of the year is a series of colour themed cameos along similar lines.
This vision requires a major change to the layout and design of our flower garden. It will continue to include a wide range of annuals, biennials and perennials but will increasingly involve more shrubs and roses.
I call this approach formal informality. We have used this in other parts of the garden very effectively, combining formal well clipped hedging with cottage garden planting of foxgloves, hesperis and campanulas. In my view the association works very well and creates a striking effect.
In addition to adding more formal hedging and having fun with our planting plans we are also looking to use height variations to add additional interest.
Honey Pot Flowers is located in the small hamlet of Lower Norton between Warwick and Henley in Arden in the heart of the Warwickshire Countryside.
The garden is about 1 acre in size and is at around 350ft above sea level sloping gently down hill in a south-westerly direction. This does mean that the garden in bathed in sun throughout the day but is subject to south westerly winds as they blow up the shallow valley and across the fields beyond.
The soil conditions vary throughout the garden with some areas very dry and others continually damp. This allows us to grow a wide range of different plants as long as we are very careful in exploring what each individual plant prefers. We have learnt a lot over the years about what works and what does not.
Prior to setting up the garden in 1994 the site was meadow grazing although there is evidence of previous ridge and furrow cultivation especially in the orchard area.
We have about 2 feet of soil sitting on top of heavy (triassic) clay. In the winter this means that the water table is very high and many parts of the garden are sodden and there is often standing water in some of the beds. The top soil is very sandy and dries out quickly in the summer but over the years we have improved this by adding lots of organic matter from our own garden compost heaps. Both the wet and the dry offer interesting challenges. For example some of our large orchard trees have struggled to gain a deep foot hold and have ended up leaning badly (but are still very productive as you will see).
The garden is sheltered on all sides now by a range of tree species. Many were planted in the early 90’s as part of a Warwickshire District Council hedgerow scheme. The boundary hedgerow and copse trees include hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), hazel (Corylus avellana), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), oak (Quercus robur), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), lime (Tilia x europaea), field maple (Acer campestre) and holly (Ilex aquifolium). As many are now over 25 years old these mature trees provide a wonderful range of habitats for different wildlife species.
We are starting a new era and setting out on an exciting journey – we would like you to share this with us.
We are Carol and Steve Lucey, a husband and wife team with a life long interest in growing beautiful plants, being creative and enjoying the countryside. We are now in a position to spend more time developing our own garden, building on over 30 years working in agriculture and horticulture research, as a garden designer and professional gardener and more recently growing a wide range of wonderful British cut flowers. For the last six years we have had great fun, developing a new business providing locally grown British cut flowers and events floristry for weddings, gifts and celebrations.
For a number of years our flower garden, though beautiful has been a rather utilitarian space. The objective has been to grow as many flowers as possible. Not a bad objective but we feel it is now time to develop the garden into a more creative and beautiful space, focusing on the enjoyment of wonderful plant combinations rather than purely seeking the biggest income.
Although it is a great pleasure in its own right a garden is for sharing and through this blog we would like to share our successes and the inevitable failures and ask you for your advice and comment.
As well as the development of the garden we are keen to exploit what it produces. Much of the garden yields produce to eat and we will be sharing some of the exciting recipes and drinks that result. We would love to receive your recipes as well.
Our life in wedding floristry also remains a passion and over the months we will bring together some of the wonderful flower combinations that you may wish to try out yourself.
Finally, we share the garden with the local wildlife and will share the rich biodiversity that we have around us.
We look forward to hearing from you over the coming years!