Sunday 30 June 2013

The gardens at Newby Hall

The elegant brick facade of Newby Hall from the double borders.
This afternoon I went to Newby Hall, home of the Compton family just outside Ripon, and justly famous for its 25 acres of gardens. This large expanse is maintained to a level very seldom achieved and makes for a very impressive garden indeed, around an elegant house. Highlights are shown in the photos: more information is available from the Newby Hall website.

Part of the famous double borders, whose season is still very much behind the date. 

A shimmer of primulas in the water garden.

Newby Hall holds a National Plant Collection of Cornus, currently looking magnificent.

Cornus kousa 'Miss Satomi' - a delicious soft pink

Cornus kousa 'John Slocock' is an outstanding newer selection: we gave it the AGM last year.

This was labelled Cornus multinervosa but there is no such plant... the creamy bracts are attractive.

Alangium platanifolium was not a tree I expected to see in a North Yorkshire garden, but is apparently thriving against a warm wall.

The extraordinary development of the calyx on Rosa 'Chapeau de Napoleon'; but it isn't aromatic in the way the 'moss' of a moss rose is.

Backing the rose garden with a purple beech edge is very successful, further enhanced by the purple plum behind.

The old orchard, hedged in Philadelphus; the scent of Philadelphus filled the garden deliciously today.

Friday 28 June 2013

Just a portrait: Magnolia officinalis

Magnolia officinalis in Ray Wood, Castle Howard

Sunday 23 June 2013

Jackson's Wold

Jackson's Wold: a lovely garden around an old farmhouse.
This afternoon, having lots to do at home, I went out to see a local garden open for the National Gardens Scheme, Jackson's Wold. It's just a few miles from here, up on the chalk of the Yorkshire Wolds, and has been created around an old farmhouse by Richard and Sarah Cundall in the past thirty years. More information about the garden can be found on their website, which also gives details of opening arrangements. It is well worth visiting!

The garden is clearly planned to give a peak display in early summer, although it must also be interesting before and after the visiting season of May-July, and in essence it is an expanded cottage garden with overflowing lush borders full of big perennials. Having seen the chalkiness of the fields as I drove in I was astonished by the vigour of the plants and while sheltering from an inopportune thunderstorm asked Sarah Cundall about this: the secret is the very generous application of mushroom compost to the beds each year, with chicken manure worked in at planting time. Although the effect may be 'cottagey' the garden is carefully planned for combinations of texture and colour using good bold blocks of plants, with many being repeated in different areas - though there are some nice groups of choicer plants too, and some good ferns. Very nicely kept lawns provide open space between the borders, while beyond the potager-style kitchen garden is a meadow area with a short lime avenue leading to a viewpoint over the Wolds and Vale of Pickering to the moors beyond.

Planting is characterized by big blocks of relatively few plants, which gives the garden cohesivity. Peucedanum ostruthium 'Daphnis' forms a conspicuous band through a bed.

Astrantia 'Roma' is a signature plant in the garden.

Geraniums are in full flower.

A nice Persicaria bistorta cultivar.
Purplish shades in one half of the walled garden

....and white and yellow in the other. Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White' and Bupleurum longifolium are stars at present.

A pen of  friendly Oxford Sandy and Black pigs was a surprise in the woodland shelterbelt.

The northward view across the Vale of Pickering from just below Jackson's Wold.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Just a portrait: Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi

Friday 14 June 2013

Wildflowers in the Yorkshire Arboretum

Ranunculus repens, Creeping Buttercup: a wonderful wild plant

Creeping Buttercups flourish in damp grassland and are contributing a great display to the arboretum at present.

One of my main thrusts at the Yorkshire Arboretum has been to start the process of converting the grassland of the vistas and between the trees, where possible, from coarsely mown grass to species-rich wildflower meadow. I am under no illusions that this will be a very long process, as much of the arboretum was formerly under intensive agriculture and is both biologically depleted and has rather fertile soil. But one has to make a start and in partnership with Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Charity, we have committed to creating as extensive an area of 'wildflower meadow' as possible on the site. We started in a conspicuous location last September, inviting visitors to the Wild About Wood festival to plant some plug-grown wildlowers in an area designated as future meadow. In warm wet soil they got away fast last autumn and are now established and coming into flower. A few thousand plugs don't make much impact in long lush grass, but they are there and will soon be sowing their own seed for the next generation.

The main display of wildflowers in the arboretum at present, however, is not from these, but from pre-existing plants that an adjustment to the mowing regime has permitted to flower. Outstanding is the much maligned Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens, which is creating great swathes of rich gold in many areas. It's certainly not desirable in the border, in its natural habitat of rich damp grassland it is magnificent. Several people have suggested to me that the buttercups are particularly fine this year - they are currently glorious, but they usually are! Elsewhere are pockets of other habitats with their own assemblages of plants, some of which are shown here.

Planting wildflower plugs last September.
Oxeye Daisies, Leucanthemum vulgare, in the wildflower meadow planted with plugs last September: establishment has been excellent.

As one of our horticultural lectures, Dr Paul Evans of Buglife spoke yesterday about the B-lines project to preserve and restore meadow habitats. It was not a warm evening.
A subtle carpet in the Sandbanks area of the arboretum, gowing on very sandy, acidic soil: Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis);  Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile) and Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Looking down Sata Vista from the Sandbanks: the division between sandy and clay soil is very apparent.

We are fortunate to have a small population of Southern Marsh-orchids, Dactylorhiza praetermissa, in the arboretum. They are just starting to flower.

Meadow Buttercups (Ranunculus acris) and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) contributing to the beauty of the arboretum. Cornus alba 'Aurea' in the background.

Saturday 8 June 2013

In the garden this week

Tulipa sprengeri is now in full flower, about two weeks later than usual.
I have continued to be busy preparing and planting sections of the garden, and although much of it is getting going very well it isn't presenting anything like a display as yet. However there are some good things in flower, of which this is a selection.

The magnificent Camassia leichtlinii 'Buckland Blue Sceptre', a selection from The Garden House, Devon, standing well over a metre in height, with huge flowers.

Lilium rhodopaeum

A pale form of Ranunculus bulbosus found by the late Marian Warland, formerly librarian of the Plant Science Department in Oxford.

Anemone fanninii unfurling a leaf. An inflorescence has aborted, alas.

A selection of bearded irises grown by my predecessor are coming into flower - nice but no names.

Monday 3 June 2013

Gardening Scotland

Fresh back from a Gold Medal at Chelsea, Stella and David Rankin of Kevock Plants won the Best in Show award at Gardening Scotland less than a week later.
I was invited by the RHS to speak about the Award of Garden Merit at Gardening Scotland on Saturday, so I travelled up to Edinburgh on Friday night and enjoyed a weekend in that beautiful city in perfect weather and in the company of friends. Gardening Scotland is the country's major horticultural event, taking place at the Royal Highland Showground, just by the airport, and evidently very popular. The main horticultural displays are in one of the large halls, which gives plenty of space but is rather dark. There were fewer stands than one might hope to see, but there were some excellent exhibits among them, with a different flavour to those seen in England. Meconopsis, not surprisingly, featured prominently.

Nursery displays inside the hall at Gardening Scotland

Peonies from Binny Plants...

...and their magnificent display of perennials. Note how well the coloured heucheras are blended into the predominantly green display.

The Scottish Rock Garden Club is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year: this display won it a gold medal.

A massive display of 667 potato cultivars by JBA Scottish Seed Potatoes.

Busy commerce on the outdoor nursery stalls.