The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot
Dreaming of my summer garden

Monday, 26 September 2016

A Gull on the roof and other stories

We've just got back from a much-needed break down in North Devon, a week in a small studio on the cliff tops of Putsborough beach
What a place to stay, we had our own set of steps down to the beach and were on there most days walking, beach-combing, playing frisbee, paddling, star-gazing, sun-bathing, reading, swimming, body-boarding and I was even persuaded to have a surfing lesson! Blimey that was hard work, I was aching all over for a couple of days after that but it was exhilarating being in the still warm sea. Admittedly I wasn't very good, Martin was much better, I might give it another go but body-boarding might be more my thing! It was certainly a good buy getting wetsuits last year. 
If you've never been, Putsborough beach is at the one end of a 3 mile stretch of beach with Woolacombe at the other end. Its one of the cleanest beaches I've ever seen. The whole stretch of beach has been awarded the best beach in the UK on TripAdvisor. Its not as popular as Croyde and Saunton sands for surfers but very good for beginners. Martin knows it well, he went there for many years as a child from their holiday base at Combe Martin, and he's introduced me to it. I think North Devon gets overlooked compared to the more popular beach resorts in South Devon and Cornwall, and long may that last. Though to be fair I've never been there at the height of summer so it might be manic then.
Looking out to Woolacombe.
Our view from the kitchen window.
We did a lot of walking, mostly round about from the accommodation, along the beach to Woolacombe, into Croyde the next village. But there was no mobile signal round there and much to Martin's dismay there was no wi-fi in the studio but actually we both enjoyed the break from that and did lots of reading. One thing I love when I go away is to see what books they have at the cottage. There is usually a shelf or two of ones that people have left behind or the owners have kindly provided. It can introduce you to books that you might not otherwise choose yourself and new authors. I quite like reading books about the area that I visit. The Island by Victoria Hislop on a visit to Crete, Daphne du Maurier books on a visit to Cornwall. On a visit years ago to a cottage on the Isle of Skye there was a load of books by Lilian Beckwith which I devoured in a week while I was there. Her tales of moving there from England in the 1950s and buying a croft and all the characters and shenaniggans that went on were brilliant and even better read in a cottage by the edge of a loch with the heather out and wildness all around. This time I was intrigued to see a book called A gull on the roof by Derek Tangye, about him and his wife Jeannie giving up a busy life in London to run a flower farm on the cliffs in Cornwall, again set in the 50s. Such a lovely book, with beautiful illustrations by Jeannie. Reading all about them growing potatoes and daffodils literally on the cliffs down to the sea, with all the challenges that they faced but how they embraced the simple life and the descriptions of the nature all around them and the seasonality was a joy. I'm looking to get the other books now too. Reading about the couple now online, this book is the first of the now called Minack Chronicles, named after the daffodil farm. The fields around the cottage are preserved as a nature reserve 'The Derek and Jeannie Tangye Minack Chronicles Nature Trust'. It is a place for solitude and quiet contemplation. Other books there to read included a Rosamund Pilcher book, an author who I've not read for years and her descriptions of Cornwall and beaches were just the thing to read on a beach, albeit in Devon!! Is it just me or do others have favourite books to read when they go certain places?
I did a couple of garden visits, to Arlington Court and also to RHS Rosemoor, both with glorious walled gardens. I'll blog about those later. Arlington Court had the Woollen Woods where you could spot a medley of woollen creatures. Some more realistic looking than others!
Living in a big town, where we are never far from street lighting it always fascinates me when I go away somewhere like Devon to be in the proper dark. We were well prepared with a couple of torches for when we walked back on the lanes from Croyde. But one night we just sat on a bench on the cliff and looked up and beheld an array of stars. A real treat for a reluctant townie like me.
We had an interesting last night there though, watching a helicopter fly over the bay with search lights and two lifeboats going up and down the seas again with big powerful lights obviously searching for something. They were there for a couple of hours searching a massive area of sea. What seemed to us like looking for a needle in a haystack Our hearts were in our mouths and we were again made aware about what an amazing job the RNLI do along our British coastlines. We looked at the local news the following day and it was thought that a handglider had gone into the sea off Baggy Point on the headland but thankfully this time it was a false alarm.
After the long drive home its time to catch up with washing and back to work and real life till next time.....

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A tour of......Dove Cottage Nursery and Garden

One of the closest gardens to me in Huddersfield is Dove Cottage Nursery and Garden in Halifax, how lucky am I! A real treat for lovers of hardy perennials and the garden is a true showcase for the plants. I have done a post about it before when I first visited. But I've been a few times now and it is always changing, with new plant combinations and varieties. The nursery was recently visited by Roy Lancaster for one of his features on UK nurseries in the July issue of The Garden magazine.
My garden visit this time was at the end of August, probably the latest that I've been to visit the garden and it was still going strong and in fact was so lush that you really could almost get lost in the planting. The great thing about the garden is that its on a slope and you walk up and down the garden getting amazing views above and below the plants. There are many really tall plants around and lots of grasses so it always feels like such a swaying garden, lots of movement and colour. Delicious plant combinations abound and you really get a feel for how plants love to mingle.
Enclosed by tall yew hedges, you enter the garden from the nursery through a lovely old door with no view of what is on the other side and it makes you catch your breath as you step through.
 Then you can wind down the garden towards a small summer house and then meander upwards to the top of the garden, with views out to the hills around. It is hard to believe from the lush planting and the huge range of plants that this garden is situated on a north-facing hillside. So it gives you ideas of plants that will grow in more challenging conditions. The views change as you go round each bend in the path.
There is a river of the creeping bronze-leaved Acaena with the frothy grass Panicum. 

There are lots of lovely grass seed head at this time of year which look great against the sunshine, this is Hordeum jubatum.
The little summer house is almost buried by plants.
The Echinaceas were looking particularly splendid at this time of year.
There are also some lovely lower level plant combinations including this Oregano, bright pink geranium and Hordeum.
There is a gorgeous border full of lovely yellows, with Rudbeckias, Achillea, Fennel and the really tall white Sanguisorba.

This lovely plant caught my attention as I wandered through the garden.
If I had read the article in the magazine I would have see that it was a variety of Teasel called Dipsacus pilosus, but actually what is great about this place is that you can chat to the owners, Stephen and Kim about the plants, you can really feel their passion for them. So I asked about it and Stephen said this had been the plant that most people have talked about this year, its common name is actually Small Teasel but its not small at all, reaching up to 2.4m if grown in rich soil. The small actually refers to the flowers which are well loved by bees and hoverflies with lovely white scabious like flower. But I actually was more fascinated by the seed pods. I think the flowers and seed pods will make a lovely unusual cutflower. Its a biennial and can seed around a bit and there was evidence of that in the garden but I bought a small plant of them and am giving it a try.
It seems that they let quite a lot of plant self-seed, the bronze fennel, Erigeron anuus and the lovely acid yellow burpleurum, taking control later in the season, moving plants as they see fit. It all culminates in a garden with a contemporary feel but alive with movement not just from all the grasses but from the insects that the planting attracts.
I would recommend a visit here, but you will need to be quick for this season as the garden and nursery shut on the 30th September. The nursery will reopen again in 2017 around early March and the garden in June.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Slowly getting back to things

Thanks to you all for the lovely comments on my last post, still get emotional reading it and I miss my mum so much. But its a bit like how I felt after my dad died, when you lose someone it makes you cherish your own life and want to make the most of every day. Autumn is starting to creep up on us, the nights are drawing in slowly and its darker in the mornings, its a bit cooler in the evenings and there is a lovely light to the days. Some people get sad about autumn and the slow march into winter, but there is something about autumn that also feels positive, there is the abundance of crops the feeling of harvest festival time. I love the colours, the rich reds and yellows of sunflowers, rudbeckias and eupatoriums, the purple heather on the moors, the black shine of the blackberries and the spiky punks of my plot, the globe artichokes. As ever are covered in bees.
There is the planning ahead to next season with all the bulb planting and some seed sowing. I've already started thinking about where things are going to go on my plot next year. Sometimes spring can get a bit frenetic and I prefer the calmer time of autumn.
I can't say my allotment has been a huge success this year, I've just not had the time to dedicate to it like I usually do and it really makes you realise how quickly you can lose control of planting, harvesting and weeding. For the first time ever it became a bit of a chore and got me a bit stressed at not being able to get on top of things but then I just thought, let it go for a year, it won't come to any harm and do a bit at a time, its not the end of the world if your sweet peas go to seed, if the slugs eat all your celeriac or if you have a few weeds. Then I just popped up there when I could to get some fresh air and away from it all.

My cut flower patch has been reasonably productive but there have been some failures, only one sunflower survived the slug onslaught this year. One of my allotment neighbours said how much she missed the sunflowers that I usually have on my plot. The Ammi visnaga which was such a great success and not touched by the slugs at all last year was ravaged by them this year. I managed to rescue a couple of plants. The Zinnia have been disappointing. There have been some failures I think as I wasn't able to water as often as I'd have like too. A few things flopped too early on and never really recovered. My sweet peas were fantastic and started flowering early but then I just couldn't keep on top of them and so they started setting seed and that was the end of them. Actually I've done quite well for collecting seed, one up side for not being able to pick as often as I'd have like! There were some successes though with some lovely Scabious. I'm starting to get a real feel for the good old stalwarts of the cut flower patch, the reliable plants whatever the season can throw at them. I'm starting to assess what I've grown and thinking about whether they get added to my list this year!
On the veg side of things, I managed a good crop of onions and potatoes, I'd completely forgotten that I'd planted 'Arran Victory' a vibrant purple skinned potato, so that was a surprise when I came to dig them up! A good spud for mash. Courgettes have been a disaster, the plants grew well but the slugs just kept eating the flowers and so hardly any crops off those. I planted all my celeriac and celery and when I next returned to the plot the bed was completely bare, not a single plant. So frustrating for a crop that you start so early and cosset through. Yes slugs have been a big problem for me, I just haven't been able to really stamp them out this year. The rain we had early on was perfect conditions for them, not weeding as much also means more slugs I think too. I've also realised that I've created lovely slug and snail hotels on my plot. Most of my veg beds are divided by rows of chives and I think this is where the critters go to shelter in the day. I've got rid of a load when I've cut back the chives hard recently. May need to rethink that, but I do love them, they are a good early flower for bees on my plot. I've managed to salvage a few things more recently, I have some crops growing for winter, I've some good parsnip plants, some leeks and have got some sprouts and greens for later.
Another negative aspect to this summer has been a thief on our site, we have had our communal shed broken into and the shop money stolen. But more frustrating for some people we have a thief who is going round the plots and pinching crops. Just a few bits of things, some peas, some courgettes, onions, potatoes and a whole cucumber plant. I didn't think I'd been affected but with only having a couple of squash on my plants this year, I couldn't fail to notice when one went missing. Its almost as if someone is selecting stuff to have for his (or her) tea!! It just causes a bit of bad feeling as its likely someone on the site.
On a more positive note, I'm pleased to announce I have some lodgers on my plot now, some residents in my bug house.
Anyway, just a quick update on my plot, I'm doing a bit of clearing and reorganisation of things this year. Planning on even more flowers for next year! 
I've made a couple of garden visits recently which I'll try and blog about soon, a return visit to one of my favourite gardens and nurseries, Dove Cottage in Halifax, always a delight to see the everchanging plant combinations that they try out each year. Then last week I made a much anticipated visit to Trentham gardens near Stoke-on-Trent, I've see lots of photos on Twitter of the newly planted meadows there, designed by one of my gardening heros, Nigel Dunnett. Anyway more on that in a later post.
Enjoy your garden xx

Friday, 19 August 2016


Gardening is such a big part of my life, its keeps me happy, sane and grounded. I love flowers they bring me joy, and gardening I can't imagine not doing it, the connection it gives me with nature and the environment, the fresh air and the eternal link to the seasons, it keeps me going. My love of gardening has been nurtured by my mum, she has always created beautiful gardens in both of my family homes and I have strong memories of the plants and flowers in those gardens. Even more recently when she moved into sheltered accomodation she created a small garden of containers which everyone there admired. More than that she was always creating pots for all the other people in the home. Sharing her joy with others. My mums name was Daisy and she had three sisters Lily, Iris and Violet, is it any wonder that she loved gardening. It gave her great happiness and enjoyment, sitting out there watching the birds. It was her pride and joy and got her through the many trials and tribulations which every family has to contend with.
My mum passed away a few weeks ago, I'm going to miss her so much, she has been the centre of my life, always there for me either in person or at the end of the phone to hear about my week and telling me her news.
She never really got over the death of my dad three years ago though was really brave and tried really hard to keep going, even with increasing ill health she never complained. I myself have 4 sisters and a brother and over the last few years we have seen her at least once a week and how glad I am to have had that time with her. Our routines will all have to change now, but one of the nice things in these difficult few weeks has been spending time with them. We have made promises with each other to arrange more times together.

This was the poem that I selected to read at her funeral. Think it was perfect for my mum and also for all us siblings, hope you don't mind me sharing it with you.

My Mother kept a garden.
A garden of the heart;
She planted all the good things,
That gave my life it's start.

She turned me to the sunshine,
And encouraged me to dream:
Fostering and nurturing
The seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rains came,
She protected me enough;
But not too much, she knew I'd need
To stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example,
Always taught me right from wrong;
Markers for my pathway
To last my whole life long.

I am my Mother's garden,
I am her legacy.
And I hope today she feels the love,
Reflected back from me.

As you might imagine my garden and allotment have taken a back seat these last few months but I'm slowly getting back into it and finding it helps. I have missed following all your blogs, I hope to catch up with all your plots and gardens soon xx

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Chelsea highlights - The Great Pavilion

Its a grey windy day here in Huddersfield and I'm quite glad to be inside looking through my photos from Chelsea. It was a busy couple of days and tiring but I was very lucky to have two days there. Its my treat of the year, a real celebration of Britain's love of gardening. I know it gets busy but you can time it and get to see everything. On the Tuesday I was helping Sue Beesley on her stand in the Great Pavilion, she had a lovely display of shade loving perennials.
In only her second time at Chelsea she got a silver medal which she was happy with, the judge came round while I was there to give feedback and it was positive on the whole, he said that most of the plants were gold medal quality, there were just some issues with the presentation. There were gaps in height at the back of the display and some were too close to each other, they also thought the willow cat was a bit big for the display. Sue would prefer to get an island stand for the plants that she displays, as they are often small and delicate and deserve close inspection which you can't really get with this type of display. But Sue has learnt lots and standing by the display we got lots of feedback and interest. People seem to love the Thalictrums which are fabulous plants for shade, giving height and gorgeous ferny-like foliage and airy flowers (and most importantly slugs don't tend to like them!). Another popular plant were this Primula.
Primula sieboldii 'Winter Dreams', isn't it lovely. Unusual foliage for a Primula and soft-pink flowers like a snowflake. I had many discussions with people about the renaming of Dicentra spectabilis to Lamprocapnos spectabilis, yes doesn't it just roll off your tongue. The display contained the white form and also a newish variety called 'Valentine' which has dark red flowers and dark burgundy stems. 
Sue is specialising in Thalictrums at her nursery and she displayed a range of varieties, from the tall varieties such as Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' which has dark purple star-like flowers and dark almost black stems to small delicate varieties such as Thalictrum ichangense which is a tiny variety with unusual foliage and the pinky white star-like flowers of the genus.
You can see from the very top picture that the Bluebell Cottage Nursery stand was right next to a display of lilies. Two more contrasting displays you will ever see! The scent was very strong and a bit much after a few hours!!
On the Wednesday when I got there at just after 8am the show gardens were already busy so I headed for the peace and tranquility of the Great Pavilion and it was really quiet. There had been long queues previously to go into the Bowdens display which was taking the usual place of Hilliers nursery in the centre of the marquee at the monument site. I'm sure you saw this on the TV coverage it was the one with the train carriage, the Belmond British Pullman. The concept was that you stepped onto the train from a typical English country station and leave the train onto a lush, exotic rainforest, with tree ferns and bamboos. It was a great idea and really popular but I had it almost to myself that morning what a treat.

Another popular display in the pavilion was that from Birmingham City Council. Rare these days to see council displays and they are one of the few councils left that grow their own plants for shows and for their parks and displays. Their display was a bit odd in celebrating sport but also collaborating with an amazing artist called Willard Wigan who makes small sculptures in the eye of a needle!! Crazy stuff and they had set up little microscopes round their display to show the work. There was then a larger version on the stand. Bit bonkers but certainly a talking point.
The flower arranging displays as always were impressive. Especially the display by New Covent Garden market, who were making their debut at Chelsea. With one side showing the work of the market with a wall of black flower buckets highlighting the range of flowers and foliage.
But then on the other side is a modern sculpture of the Queen's head with layers of colours and flowers against a white background, a tribute to the Queen's 90th Birthday.
Fabulous, and well worthy of the Gold medal.
The NAFAS display was a Victorian revival
But one one piece stood out for me, look at this, a little pouffe footstool made from Stachys byzantina leaves (otherwise known as Lambs ears!), gorgeous.
There was a definite change in the pavilion this year regarding some of the plant displays there was a clear move towards the use of props and I think this was a bit hit and miss. I do wonder what traditionalists will think of this. My feeling is that it worked sometimes but less so with others and it is a fine balance between them helping to show off your plants and detracting from them!! I think some of it is needed as I've been to Chelsea for many years now and some displays are exactly the same every year. So for example a display from Blackmore and Langdon (who have shown at every single Chelsea Flower Show since 1913) of Delphiniums and Begonias is a fantastic display, though like Monty I'm not a great fan of the big Begonias, but isn't it the same each year and to be honest I think I just whizz by these displays. Maybe its the displays that show only one type of plant, I also don't go a bundle on the displays of Chrysanthemums, Gladioli or Lilies. Even the tulips, though they can give you ideas of varieties to choose. But some nurserys were using more props to highlight their plants, such as Heucheraholics who displayed their plants around some colourful beach huts. I think this worked and the plants were definitely the stars but then I wasn't so keen on a display by Primrose Hall nursery who had a display of paeonies, one of my favourite flowers, but the display had a big Chaise-Longue in the centre and not many plants!! Apart from the flower heads in a bunch at the bottom. Didn't take a very good picture, I apologise. I know that nurserys are being encouraged by the RHS to work with designers to develop these displays but I don't think this one quite worked. The plants should still be the stars of the show and I didn't think the balance was quite right on this one.
No my favourite displays tend to be those that have a mixture of perennials, such as Hardy's, Barnsdale Plants, Culm View Nursery or Claire Austin's stand. I also like the displays of alpine plants in troughs and pots. I loved the display by Kevock Garden Plants, I was fascinated by the range of Primula species, and I spent a good few minutes going round this stand.
They had a stunning display of Blue poppies, which I can only dream about growing but lovely to see it in its prime.
Having said that I prefer stands with mixed plants, the stand out display in the Pavilion this year was a display of a single genus. This was a display by Ashwood nurseries of Hepatica's. What an amazing display and far and away the best in the pavilion and rightly so the winners of the Diamond Jubilee award for best exhibit in the pavilion. What a challenge this would have been to bring these early spring flowers to a late spring flower show. But the display showed off these jewel like flowers to their best in a mini-woodland setting. All set at the perfect height to inspect their delicate blooms. A real delight and if you saw the interview by Carol Klein with John Massey, the nursery owner, you will have seen what it meant to him. A real dream come true.
I don't think my photos do them justice really, the range of flowers and also interesting leaf shapes and foliage markings. Ah I could go on and on about this stand. Just gorgeous. I really must visit this nursery. Anyone else go to Chelsea? Or saw the coverage, what are your thoughts on the displays and plants in the Great Pavilion?

Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunshine, showers and off to Chelsea

May has been a much warmer month thankfully and the plants are growing quickly. Its manic with all the seed sowing and planting, but I love this time of year. My garden is looking good, alliums are just starting to come out, foxgloves start to point to the sky and roses coming into bud. The tulips are finishing and blossoms floating from the trees. At the allotment its all about the chives, its a sea of purple and the bees love it. I'm excited because the asparagus which I've grown from seed is coming up well, I'm not able to pick this year but its starting to bulk out a bit, so maybe next year!
The cutting patch is getting into gear. Lots planted but still more hardening off in the greenhouse or being potted on, be glad when its all in now. This mixture of sunshine and showers is really getting things growing at last which is great. Though the slugs are also loving this weather too as you might expect.
The plot is certainly looking greener. The wallflowers are still flowering away and I've picking lots for the house. There are lots of flowers on my fruit bushes and the strawberry plants so looking forward to a good crop from these. There are buds developing on my artichokes. I've got ladybirds all over my plot, has anyone else noticed lots this year. Its been lovely to see.

I've got some lovely Camassias on plot starting to bloom.
I'm off to Chelsea tomorrow, going to help Sue Beesley, from Bluebell Cottage Nursery, on her stand in the Great Pavilion, she has a small stand showing Thalictrums and delicate shade loving spring perennial. Then on Wednesday I have a ticket to look round the show myself. Looking forward to seeing all those lovely plants and get lots of ideas for my garden.