Monday, 20 June 2011

The veg is on the go

My garden is mostly flowers. I'm particularly excited about the dahlia Twinings After Eight which seems to be doing very well, and hopefully will feature later in the year when in flower.

However, one has to ride the zeitgeist and at the moment it's all about growing your own. Or at least it is if you listen to Monty. So there are pockets of the vast expanse of the garden that are devoted to the edible.

In the fruit corner, we have raspberries (polka). I'm hoping that these should fruit this year. They are in a nice sunny spot and the only check to their growth so far this year has been that a local cat decided that it was the perfect place to sunbathe for a couple of weeks when I wasnt looking, so a couple are a little the worse for wear. Having visited Wisley at the weekend and seen their Polka canes, all 6 foot tall, I'm feeling a little miffed, but am keeping my fingers crossed that the recent rain we've had will bring mine along to rival them.

There are also three strawberry plants, just coming into fruit. These are a mixture of runners from old plants and one of the ones from a pot last year. I'm a bit concerned that they might be a bit old to fruit well, strawberries only last a couple of years, but we shall see.

On the veg front, we've got the tomatoes (I know they are a fruit really, but you know what I mean), a couple of gardener's delight and my usual hanging basket of cherry tomatoes. I've got no idea what type they are as they are grown from seed collected from the basket two years ago. Too be honest, I could have tomatoes by the dozen as I'm finding seedlings popping up everywhere - probably a byproduct of my homemade compost that I mulched the beds with!

Providing some serious sustanance are the courgettes. One, parthenon, is in the ground whilst I have two young black forest plants in pots which I think are climbers, so could be interesting.

A couple of types of chillies provide me with the wherwithall for my curries and bringing up the rear are the herbs: rosemary, thyme, bay and mint which go on for year after year and this year I've got basil, parsley and lemon balm ready to plant out. All of these are grown from seed apart from the bay tree (a present) and the parsley, which I can never get to germinate. There's also a couple of sage plants. I use sage about twice a year so thats just enough for me. By the time I want to use them again theyve grown back!

Next time, I promise less workaday photography!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


During the Easter break we visted Hestercombe in Somerset for the first time. As the only time when two of my favourite designers, Gertrude Jekyll and Lutyens collaberated solely on the garden I was expecting great things.

What Hestercombe made me realise is that good garden design is all about taking the time to 'stop and stare'. You could walk through the formal garden in no time, not noticing much around you, but take a moment to look back at the way a fountain is framed, or the interplay of light, plants and structure and you realise what perfection in an English spring garden can be.

The hard landscaping, built of local stone felt part of the countryside in which it sat. The garden was broken up into a number of areas, some quite intimate, some quite expansive, with different levels allowing a number of views of each area.

A quiet seating area in the garden, with, what else, but a Lutyens bench.

In particular I liked the two 'arms' down each side of the garden through the middle of each of which ran a deep rill leading from a small fountain and paralleled by deep herbacious borders.

In this view the rill runs down the left hand side of the photo with orange shirley poppies in the foreground.

Wisteria and Clematis Montana frame an arch under a blue westcountry sky.

The planting in the main garden wasn't quite in full flourish when we visited , it being only April but this is definitely a garden worth a visit in the summer.

The garden is very much one of two halves. The formal gardens by the house, as described above and the 18th century landscape garden wending its way up the river valley behind the house, which is laid out as walk past various buildings such as a doric temple and a witches' house and with a mix of vistas and tableaux set out for visitors to admire.

Each view at Hestercombe is beautifully thought out. This is taken from beside the temple looking down over two small lakes to the gate at the bottom which leads into the formal garden. It would be a 'nice view' but the way the trees are felled as a frame, the curve of the path off behind the woods and the placement of the urn to stop your eye from moving too quickly through it all makes this a very restful vista.

The view looking back up the valley from the garden gate.