Sunday 28 July 2013


Papaver commutatum 'Ladybird'
 There has been a small flurry of poppies in the garden in the past few days, giving fleeting pleasure. Although sowing annuals in ground infested with weeds was not a good idea really, I couldn't be without them for a whole season.

Papaver rhoeas 'Fairy Wings' - surprising greenish-yellow pollen.

The perennial P. paucifoliatum; this has been the only flower so far on the bits I brought from Colesbourne and in some way the single flower accentuates the intensity of the orange colour.

My favourite: Pam and Sibylle's pure white P. somniferum, my plant of the year 2011.

It combines well with other plants - Anthemis 'Tinpenny Sparkle' and Heuchera 'Raspberry Ripple'

Less welcome, the weedy but demurely pretty Papaver dubium, of which I have pulled out thousands of plants during the course of the spring and summer.

Friday 26 July 2013

90 minutes at Wisley

The Laboratory seen from the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden, in which the roses are cunningly concealed among masses of perennials.
A meeting took me to RHS Wisley on Tuesday, but for once I was actually able to get into the garden too - for all of an hour and a half. As it was before opening time it was very peaceful - no yummy mummies and their offspring - and I had a very pleasant if quick walk round. The garden was looking magnificent, full of colour and interest despite the hot, dry spell, with only a few areas of crispy grass. These are a few things that caught my eye and made a good picture.

Stipa gigantea and Rosa 'Goldspice' combine well in the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden.

Attractive, innovative bedding near the entrance: Lagurus ovatus dominates the centre of the bed, with a Verbena.

Sempervivum with Deschampsia behind.

Allium heads with Nassella tenuissima

There were some striking clumps of the South African Mentha longifolia at the foot of the rock garden, attracting many butterflies: I've never seen such a floriferous mint.

Lilium lankongense

Waving masses of sweet peas in the trial on the Portsmouth Field, scenting the air around.

The current Phlox trial, after a slow start, has come good at last and is showing off an incredible diversity of cultivars, mostly of P. paniculata: it is an extraordinary sight.

The impact of the trial is made more remarkable by the apparent juxtaposition, but in different rows, of violently clashing colours - but as with cymbals, clashing can sometimes be good. Phlox paniculata 'Betty Towe' in front.

For those who prefer more peaceful shades, P. paniculata 'Grey Lady'. Judging this trial for the Award of Garden Merit will not be easy, though there are no limits on the number of cultivars that can be so awarded.

Monday 22 July 2013

A gardener's garden

Lush planting characterises the Pottage garden.
 Yesterday afternoon, accompanied by Mark Weathington, Curator of the JC Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina, I visited Matthew Pottage's garden in Withernsea, East Yorkshire, which was open for the NGS. A modestly-sized space around a modest family home, it is rather different in scale to his other garden - he is a Garden Manager at Wisley, with responsibility for the majority of the open-air ornamental horticulture there. Coincidentally, he was named in The Sunday Times yesterday as one of Britains 'young guns' of horticulture, a well deserved accolade. Wisley may be his main patch these days, but it is easy to see where he practised the skills that got him there while still in his early twenties.

The Withernsea garden is now mostly gardened - under strict instructions - by his parents, with occasional visits from Matthew to undertake major work. The arrangement seems to work extremely well, with the garden being immaculate in all respects. It is well-planned to maximise the space available without feeling cramped, and the borders are lushly planted with both flowers and good foliage, while round the house are impressive large pots of succulents. I hope these images convey something of the quality and interest of the garden.

The blue border: Salvia 'Mainacht' and a loosely double Geranium pratense, name unknown.

Persicaria 'Purple Fantasy' with Melianthus major.

Agastache 'Raspberry Summer' is impressive.

A well-placed Sedum morganianum.

The compact vegetable garden is also well-planned for effect.

Not the least impressive thing in the garden: a sculptured leylandii hedge, carefully clipped by Mr Pottage senior.

Mathew Pottage and his partner Kishan.

Stars of the show: a very confiding family of ducklings entertained visitors all afternoon.

Monday 15 July 2013

Hot weather

Cyrtanthus epiphyticus - a lovely but strictly terrestrial plant from grassy slopes in the Drakensberg.
For the past couple of weeks we have been enjoying some real summer weather, with genuinely hot days in the upper 20s - rather too warm for comfort in the afternoons, but cooling to give delightful evenings. The garden has responded with a spurt of growth (aided by irrigation on occasion) and the borders are finally looking really colourful. To convey the sense of brazen heat, however, here are three brightly coloured plants of South African origin that are flowering now, though all are potted.

Gladiolus flanaganii is another Drakensberg plant, in this case growing horizontally from cracks in basalt cliffs high on the escarpment. Sadly its colour is not as deep a red in cultivation as it is the wild.

Pelargonium 'Stadt Bern' is about as red as 'red geraniums' come - a firecracker of a plant, and modestly sized.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

In the garden this week

Gillenia trifoliata 'Pink Profusion' with Iris latifolia.
After what seemed like a slow start, the garden here is beginning to fill out and look quite colourful, with some nice things in flower and some pleasing combinations developing. The larger plants are inherited from my predecessor, with my own collection worked around them, but without them the garden would look a bit sparse. Here are a few images taken at different times of day over the past week or so.

Iris latifolia, moved from Colesbourne last year, with golden Anthriscus.

The border in front of the house, with old-established plants contributing most of the show.

Delphinium 'Piccolo': I can't understand why Belladonna delphiniums are not more widely grown. This one is outstanding.

Scabiosa 'Blue Butterflies' (I think), with Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero'

Red Papaver somniferum from the soil seed bank.

Buphthalmum salicifolium 'Dora' and Silene dioica 'Firefly'

Phlomis russelliana with Linaria 'Peachy' and Gillenia trifoliata.

Deschampsia caespitosa 'Goldtau'

Lilium martagon 'Naoussa Boutari' - a very apt name for this Greek selection.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Summer in Ray Wood

Cornus kousa
Now that the glorious spring display of rhododendrons has faded and the leaf canopy has expanded I have been curious to see how the summer unfolds in Ray Wood, but having been planted with consummate skill by Jim Russell there is still much to see. Although the floral display is quieter, there are lots of interesting plants in bloom now, and the cool greenness of the wood itself is delightful. Shafts of sunlight illuminate flowers and foliage rather attractively, as seen in some of these images from today.

The flowers of Magnolia officinalis are deliciously fragrant.

Deutzia ningpoensis

Rosa davidii

Rhododendron  'Lava Flow' is one of last to remain in flower

Although the Rhododendron flowers are mostly over, many have very attractive new growth: this is R. pachysanthum.

A good clean pink Lilium martagon:

There is a dense groundcover of ferns in many parts of Ray Wood, mostly natives, like this Dryopteris filix-mas, but also some intersting exotics.

An interior view of Ray Wood: 'green and pleasant' is an apt description.

Monday 1 July 2013

Happy Birthday Kirstenbosch

Part of the succulent collection at Kirstenbosch.
Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, one of the great gardens of the world and for me, like many others, an excursion to Kirstenbosch is the highlight of a visit to Cape Town. The garden proper covers 200 ha on the slope of Table Mountain, and with the exception of a few historic trees, grows only indigenous South African plants. It blends seamlessly into the fynbos and forest of the mountain, making it a very special and beautiful place.

The garden and native fynbos blend almost indistinguishably, here with a grove of Leucadendron argenteum straddling the boundary.
To mark the occasion a fine commemorative book, Kirstenbosch, the most beautiful garden in Africa, has been written by Brian J Huntley, the former CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, who is particularly well-placed to do so. Published in Cape Town by Struik, it is beautifully produced and well worth acquiring, not only for the pictures (in which the South African sun is only ever beaming wonderfully down) but for the genuinely informative and interesting text. The Kirstenbosch estate dates to the earliest days of Dutch settlement at the Cape, and one of its interesting features is part of the hedge planted in 1660 to demarcate the colony’s border. It was later owned by Cecil Rhodes’ and was left to the South African Government at his death; the history of how, through the persistence of Harold Pearson, the National Botanical Garden was founded in 1913 and its development since, through to the very different days of multicultural South Africa, is fully told.

Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) planted to shade the road through Cecil Rhodes's estate in the 1890s.

Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold', named to commemorate a visit to Kirstenbosch by President Mandela in 1996.

For me the great interest in Kirstenbosch lies in the diversity of its plant collection, mostly displayed to great horticultural effect in the garden, whose beauty is enhanced by its position on the slope of Table Mountain with occasional views across the city to the sea. These pictures were taken in September 2010 and give only a hint of the diversity and spectacle of Kirstenbosch in spring. One has to hope that its fame and beauty can be preserved for its next century, and beyond.

A spectacular Lampranthus hybrid.

Protea cynaroides