Six on Saturday – 16th December 2017

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.

Joining in with this popular garden bloggers meme

After two weeks of cheating a little on this Six on Saturday meme, firstly showing images from a nearby woodland and then last week picking the best of someone else’s garden, this time around I’ve picked some highlights from my garden.

When the light levels are low, and most of the perennial plants have dived under the soil to wait out winter’s worst, evergreen plants carry interest through undeterred. We didn’t have any of the recent snow this far into the South West so the garden is unscathed.

The Six on Saturday meme was started by The Propagator and you can find links to other garden bloggers taking part in the comments on his weekly posts.

ONE

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Primrose

This little Primrose was rudely lifted some time ago and dumped into a terracotta pot to be sorted later. Later hasn’t arrived so it’s still in there but doesn’t seem to mind and has started to flower. One day I’ll divide it and find room for it somewhere in the garden. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the flowers.

TWO

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Holly

This is one of the poor Holly bushes that have been languishing in containers for over 5 years. Whilst they have always formed plenty of berries, they never grew well, putting on only minimal growth.

When we were in Australia mum fostered them and duly doted on them with water and feed with very little in return. Only when the metal containers had rusted through and they needed repotting did I realise my mistake – they were still in their 2L plastic pots!!

I must have been planting them after a night shift.

THREE

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Tellima grandiflora

This easy to overlook woodland perennial is one of my favourite plants. It’s evergreen, has soft leaves and sends up delicate spikes of bell-shaped flowers that are fringed with pink. It’s also easy to start from seed and that’s where all of my plants have come from.

I’ve put a mental note to gather some seed in 2018 and start some more.

FOUR

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Helleborus foetidus

A horrible name for a very good plant. I like the evergreen foliage mostly. The flowers which are starting to perform now are just an added extra. Again, this tolerates low light levels well and earns its space in a shady garden.

FIVE

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Variegated bamboo

I’m a bit indifferent to bamboos. I have Phyllostachys nigra in a large container which has never delivered on its promise. Mostly they can be thugs but this shorter variegate variety was in the cottage when we moved here and hasn’t really spread. It adds a brighter element to a dark dry corner

SIX

Six on Saturday 16th December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme, primrose, evergreen, holly, tellima, hellebore, helleborus, helleborus foetidus, bamboo, grasses.
Grass display at the front of the cottage

The cattle feed troughs at the front of the cottage have done really well after their revamp this year. Even into December, they are full of texture and interest. When the low light catches the inflorescences it looks great. They have required no attention since planting.

The planting is a mixture of Stipa tenuissima, Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, a small leaved Hebe plants grown from cuttings, Euphorbia myrsinites. There are tulips newly planted ready to put on some spring colour.

 

 

 

 

So that’s my first Six on Saturday. Please join in to mark the changes in your garden over the year.

Six on Saturday – 2nd December 2017

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,

Joining in with this popular garden bloggers meme

One of my favourite activities at this time of year is to take the dog for a walk around some local woods. Not only does it give me some exercise, it’s the ultimate de-stressor.

There was so much to see today despite being in the thick of winter. I’ve been granted special permission to bend the rules of the Six on Saturday meme by The Propagator himself. This will give me some time to tidy my garden and find something, or six somethings, to post for another week.

ONE

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Euonymus europaeus – The Spindle Tree

I love the Spindle Tree. The bright pink fruit casings are incongruous in the more subtle colours of a winter woodland.

TWO

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Acer campestre – The Field Maple

I have Acer palmatum in pots in my garden but the bright yellow leaves of the native Field Maple hold for a long time and give a really bright glow.

THREE

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Umbellifer – ? Hogweed ? Cow Parsnip

It’s easy to get confused by all the native umbellifers. This one has a lovely pink tinge to its oldest petals.

FOUR

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Snowberry

There’s a hedge I pass on the way to the woods where the top growth always has big fat white berries. This makes it look like a heavy snowfall is sitting on top of the hedge and makes me smile every year.

FIVE

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Harts Tongue Fern

This is my favourite fern. The mid-green sheeny leaves are awesome.

SIX

Six on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Plants, plant, garden, gardens, tree, trees, euonymus europaeus, spindle, spindle tree, maple, field maple, umbellifer, winter, woodland, woods, garden blog, garden blog meme,
Beech Tree Trunk

The moulds growing on the trunk of this Beech Tree match the colour of the turning Euonymus leaves.

 

So that’s my first Six on Saturday. Please join in to mark the changes in your garden over the year.

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017

I’m making the most of my RHS membership for a day out at RHS Garden Wisley

 

As we are members of the RHS we get free entry into the four main RHS gardens. There’s nothing better than a day out to see RHS Garden Wisley and to watch it evolve from one year to the next. This visit was special as it was the first visit for us with our new daughter to the garden.

My last post about RHS Garden Wisley

There have been some big changes around the garden. The new Exotic Garden was top of our list to see.

The new Exotic Garden

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
The fountain sits at the centre of the Exotic Garden

The former rose garden was re-landscaped and planted earlier this year. We saw it in April when the old layout was still visible but the roses had all been removed.

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
Leaves of Amica zygomeris
Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
Bananas form a grove at the lower end of the garden

It’s impressive to see how much work has been completed in such a short space of time. The garden will fill in and mature over the years.

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins

Dahlia imperialis in a mixed exotic border

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
The main central axis of the Exotic Garden

The site of the new centre for horticultural science and learning

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
A large planting of pumpkins and sunflowers

At the top of the hill where there used to be a large lawn, is a new planting of pumpkins and sunflowers. They’re informally planted with meandering paths between them. The varieties are well labelled and there are signs showing the different types being grown.

There were kids running around the site, clearly excited by all the different types of pumpkins.

Trial Beds

I love seeing the AGM planting trials that are always taking place at Wisley. I have two special posts looking at the Zinnia and Echinacea trials taking place coming up.

The runner bean trial was interesting as I’m still researching the varieties I’m going to try and grow on the allotment next year. I’m always drawn to edibles that have ornamental value. These two runner beans had large straight pods with healthy foliage and attractive flowers.

I’ve only grown Zantedeschia once; when we lived on the Isle of Wight. It hasn’t really caught my imagination since. That was until I saw these two varieties growing in the trial beds. ‘Montevideo’ had blood-red stems and a fun drooping flower spathe. ‘Sumatra’ had cherry-red spathes.

The glasshouse gardens

I’m on the lookout for new plants to go in the Far Garden at the cottage and we’re looking for bright / exotic plants. I would like some more tall perennials and Rudbeckia maxima caught my eye from meters away.

Other botanical garden visits

Queens Park, Toowoomba

Singapore Botanical Garden

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Containers at the front of the Cottage

Containers at the front of the Cottage

Two agricultural feeding containers are the main planting interest at the front of the cottage

This year is all about reclaiming my garden from the weed wonderland out the back and the barren, baked wasteland at the front. As I’ve previously described, I have been taking stock of what has survived two years of tenants and reclaiming ground from the onslaught of new weeds. This week I am doing an update on the front of the cottage.

An overview of the cottage’s garden areas

A big clear-out in the far garden

Getting control and structure sorted in the immediate garden

What I returned home to

MyPottingBenchBlog returns home
Looking up the lane

As there is no earth at the front of the cottage, I installed two agricultural feeding troughs to be a simple but vernacularly correct addition to the front of the cottage. These get baked in the sun and have to cope with more breeze than round the back of the cottage. There’s a suffering clematis left over from the previous owners in a planter that looks to have given up the struggle.

MyPottingBenchBlog returns home
Right of the front door

We returned to find that the young wisteria has succumbed and some annual weeds were installed. Mostly though this area was the best of the bunch in terms of jobs to be done.

Giving the containers a freshen up

The goal for these planters was to have a slightly wild grass planting scheme which would cope, or even better, thrive in the drier and windier conditions. They would also look good through winter and wouldn’t need too much maintenance. The two main living areas of the house look out of these windows on to the lane, and by extension, can be looked in on from the lane. I wanted the planters to be sufficiently visually interesting to draw the eye away from whatever was happening inside the house and to form a light screening for us looking out. Importantly, I didn’t want to block any light.

Containers at the front of the Cottage
A teucrium in a terracotta pot beside one container
Containers at the front of the Cottage
Hebe, iris and grasses
Containers at the front of the Cottage
Salvia and stipa

Plant List

Stipa tenuissima

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foester’

Salvia x sylvestris ‘Rose Queen’

Hebe (unknown variety)

Euphorbia myrsinites

Rose ‘Moody  Blue’

Teucrium (unknown variety)

Iris (unknown variety)

Physalis alkekengi

Plans for the front of the cottage

I’m going to source a climbing rose to replace the clematis. I think the pot it’s in is too small. The roots are getting too hot and dry for it to ever thrive. We’re still deciding on a colour (and may paint the cottage a different colour so that has to be decided before I can purchase anything). I think we’ll get another metal planter to match the two large ones as I think a third type of container would be too much visually.

Allotment Layout Ideas – When the first ten designs aren’t right

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 08

How many allotment layout ideas do you have to go through before picking up the spade?

The answer in my case was 10.

Ever the planner, and looking to avoid tiring revisions to beds and paths after the hard work was done, I put pen to paper, or finger to the mousepad, and mocked up some ideas.

Key priorities when deciding on your allotment layout

  • It has to maximise growing space
  • The paths must give me adequate reach into the borders
  • The water butts shouldn’t be in the far corner
  • Be mindful of shade cast by sheds and other structures
  • It should be easy to construct

Allotment Layout Ideas 1 and 2

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Simple and symmetrical

The paths were wide on this plan but I liked the symmetry. The allotment is 10m x 10m and I love a strong structure in a space. I was concerned about the depth of the central 4 beds, however. I also wasn’t sure there would be enough space around the shed and water butts for practical access. The fence is located along the bottom of the image and the main allotment path runs along the top line. I hadn’t measured out the allotment at this point so I wasn’t sure how much access from the sides I would get.

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Improving the size of the central beds.

By centralising the utilities I was able to wrap the beds around the middle. Aesthetically this pleases me and gives the central beds more accessibility.

Allotment Layout Ideas 3 and 4

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Moving the shed to the back fence I can reduce the impact of shading

I was worried that placing the shed in the middle of the plot for aesthetics would mean I would have to have shady borders behind it (the sun comes from the top of the image). This change pulls it right down to the bottom. It’s still symmetrical though.

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Getting into the finer details

I was worried that the wide central main path was too generous and the access paths were measly and tight. This change tweaks that for better access.

Allotment Layout Ideas 5, 6 and 7.

These are all variations on the themes above. I’m tinkering with flexible growing spaces with more smaller beds that can be optimised for different plants, looking to standardise the central beds to make them easier to construct, and doing away with separated outside beds.

Allotment Layout Ideas 8, 9, and 10 – the oddballs

I was starting to worry that my fixation on having an attractive, read symmetrical, design was compromising the utility of the space and complicating the construction. However, after playing with other layouts and asking for a second opinion from my better half (the verdict being that these look like ‘prison grounds’, ‘graveyards’ and ‘old-man-ish’) these were dumped from the shortlist.

The walkaround

After getting eyestrain from too much time on the laptop I hiked my pregnant wife and bored aunty to the allotment for some fun with string. I had bought a spool and reel from the lovely lady at Twool. With my aunt doing a good impression of a boundary post, we measured out the various beds (quite tricky with a 3m only measuring tape).

A few things became apparent;

  • I needed more space around the shed
  • I didn’t have access from the sides as the neighbouring plots are back to back without a path between
  • The outside beds would have to be smaller to be accessed from inside the plot
  • I wouldn’t need access across the outside beds to tend from the other side
  • The front border may have to be narrower or replaced entirely by a stepover apple.

Final Allotment Layout

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
The final allotment layout with suggested planting for this year

This is the working plan for this year. Permanent planting will go around the narrower outside borders, including asparagus, fruit bushes, and eventually, trained fruit trees.

The beds near the shed will be permanent herbs and cut flowers.

The four main beds will be the focus of the crop rotation.

The front borders are theoretical at the moment until I get my long measuring tape to ensure I’m not encroaching on the main site path. If things are a squeeze I may train a stepover apple along the front to provide a boundary. The maximum height of a fence on the site is 1.2m so I’m going to train fruit to this height to form a living fence and enclose the space a little.

You can see how things have started with my Garden Update 6th May

 

Project 1 : Complete

Project 1 : Complete

The final instalment on the transformation of mum’s courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.

I’ve now finished the regeneration of this shady dark corner of my mum’s courtyard garden.

The main issues we took on were;

  1. No-where to sit
  2. Dogs use the garden as a toilet
  3. Dark corner
  4. Limited planting
  5. Uneven, ugly, crazy-paving floor which was a safety issue as well as unsightly
  6. Level changes
  7. Access required through space

 

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
The white wall has brightened the space and sets off the green climbers

Previous updates;

Mum’s Courtyard Garden Redesign

Destruction Phase

Planting complete

How did we do?

The white walls really brighten and tidy the space. It now looks like a planned garden area as opposed to a leftover storage area. The seat was bought off amazon and softens the square boundaries.

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
The main corner seat and planted zinc bath

Taking a step back – you can see another layer of slate rocks was added to the steps to form a restraint for the new gravel. This achieved a few things. Firstly, the gravel leaves a simple uniform base to unclutter the space (this was especially needed after the single raised bed idea was thrown out in favour of vintage agricultural reclamation). It also meant that an area near the step that pools water is now raised to avoid it getting slippy and means one level here rather than 3 smaller steps down.

Hard landscaping

The gravel is Blue Slate Chippings (sourced from a local company who delivered it very quickly) and it’s perfect. There were companies offering it cheaper than what we paid (£170 for 850kg bulk bag delivered inc VAT) but we liked the idea of supporting a local business and that we’d be able to pop down the road to get a few more matching bags if we ran out. 

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.

Taking a step back to see the new steps retaining the gravelA wide shows you the change where the large storage structure was. This space is now much larger to the eye. It also gives a home to the tree fern. From here you can see the two trees which shall grow above the fence line on clear stems. This will free up space for planting below and allow the canopies to block the view over neighbouring homes.

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
A wider view showing the Tree Fern and the wider profile after removing the structure

The unusual shapes of the grain hopper and zinc bath add interest but also perform a practical role of lifting plants up and away from the dogs’ attentions. The plants in the main beds have been chosen to be more resistant to dog urine with thicker leaves (ferns, euphorbia, etc).

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
This beautiful hosta lives in the grain hopper and brightens this shady wall

 How this space links with the rest of the garden

The main sight-line from the courtyard and the bench runs to the greenhouse. That area wasn’t originally due to be redone at this time but we had a lot of gravel left over so decided to go with it. The gravel here makes the path look wider and forms a link between the two areas. When we replant the border on the right the plan is to include some plants that will feature in both areas to achieve the same unity.

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
The view back to the greenhouse with the gravel linking the areas

You can see below the way the layout of the garden is in two parts. There is the main terrace outside the patio doors, where the seating area has been created, and a lower area, with greenhouse, shed, pond, and a small herbaceous border. By continuing the gravel all the way to the shed we clearly delineate two separate areas and reduce the number of surfaces to just two instead of three.

The final instalment on the transformation of mum's courtyard garden from grey, dingy, unloved space into a light, floriferous, quiet space for relaxation.
This view is perpendicular to the one above and shows the level change within the garden

In Summary

I’m really pleased with how things have turned out and I’m pleased that my mum loves her new sitting area. It was interesting negotiating design changes with the garden’s owner – I didn’t get my way on the raised beds but I still like the finished product – and it’s nice to see the finished product for all the effort put in.

Project 1 : Planting complete

Project 1: Planting Complete

After a few changes of direction and some very heavy lifting, the bulk of the work is done

It’s been a busy week working on the courtyard garden. At this stage, the majority of the planting is in place. Nearly two days of negotiation was needed to make sure everything is in the correct place. We’ve veered away from some of the original plans as more inspiration was given by a local nursery stocking some zinc planters. The raised beds were researched, and researched, and eventually discarded. Not until we’d gone through sleepers, breeze block and mortar, and dry stone walling did we throw it aside for what you see now.

Previous updates;

Mum’s Courtyard Garden Redesign

Destruction Phase

Jobs completed

  • Walls painted – again
  • Planters purchased
  • Planters filled
  • All planters planted up
  • Border deepened and edged.
  • Climbers tidied

Plant Lists

* repurposed from the original garden

Boat / Bath Planter

Project 1: Planting Complete
Boat Planter and the Border Behind

Sorbus aria Lutescens – White Beam

Choisya ternata

Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

Helleborus hybridus

Digitalis purpurea*

Border behind Boat / Bath Planter

Clematis x cartmanii ‘Joe’

Bay Tree

Under and behind the seat

Project 1: Planting Complete
The corner seat around the apple tree

Digitalis purpurea*

Apple Tree* – Likely a Bramley but we’re unsure as it was here when the house was bought.

Griselinia littoralis variegata

Hosta

Ferns

Cyclamen*

Grain Hopper Planter

Project 1: Planting Complete
Grain Hopper Planter

Hydrangea seemanii – climbing hydrangea

Prunus avium Plena

Hosta ‘Paul Revere’

Viola tricolor

Circular planter

Project 1: Planting Complete
Dicksonia antarctica in a circular bucket planter

Dicksonia antarctica – Purchased nearly 20 years ago from Trebah Garden in Cornwall. This poor specimen has been dragged from house to house and we’re hoping it’ll pick up in this new home. It’s been thoroughly watered.

Concrete planter

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’

Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Solomon’s seal’*

Digitalis purpurea*

Railings

Holboellia coriacea – likely to be too brutish for the main courtyard garden but it can be seen below on the railings that go around the main terrace.

Project 1: Planting Complete
The garden waiting for gravel

Jobs to be done

  • Lay gravel when it arrives
  • Glass of wine

 

Queens Park Botanic Gardens, Toowoomba

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 18

The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip

I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.

Queens Park Gardens

To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.

The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Vera Lacaze Memorial Fountains

These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.

Botanical Gardens

The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Wollombi Pine (it lives behind a caged enclosure so I apologise for the interrupted view) 

The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants.  More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?

toowoomba botanical gardens
Grass Trees in a mixed border

The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Castanea sativa – Spanish Chestnut

This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus tiliaceus – Sea Hibiscus

I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus mutabilis – Confederate Rose

This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Where to get you gardening fix when you don’t have your own garden  

Finding opportunities for horticulture

Whatever your circumstances, if you have an interest in gardening and horticulture, there are many ways to find information and immerse yourself when your situation isn’t perfect. Lots of people have dreams of a rolling country estate with a perfect garden but most of us have to make do with what we’ve got. Whether our space is limited, if we are in a rental property where there is no access to proper soil, or if disability puts a limit to what can be achieved outside, here are some ways to join this wonderful community of gardeners.

Since moving to Australia 2 years ago I’ve come to rely on other sources of gardening entertainment when I haven’t been able to do much proper gardening as described here.

Blogs

Top of this list is blogs. If you want to experience what it’s like to garden in the UK or further afield just find yourself a useful blog and live vicariously through others. Here are a couple  of my favourites;

Real Men Sow  – Jono takes you through the year by showing how much he has been able to grow in his allotment. He’s recently moved to a new garden so watch this space for new adventures.

The Patient Gardener  – Helen gardens in Malvern and shares the changing seasons through her blog that I’ve followed for a couple of years.

Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to infuse your day with some gardening when time or chores don’t allow proper hands in the dirt gardening. Here’s the list of my top 5 UK Podcasts.

Books

I brought a whole bookcase of gardening books with me when I moved. I’m always on the lookout for new releases and I have an amazon wishlist building for good Christmas and Birthday present ideas.

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf this Christmas

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

Botanical Gardens

Wherever you find yourself there are always public and private gardens to visit. What always amazes me is how many of them offer free entry.

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Singapore Botanic Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

Bicton Botanic Garden

Wildflower Hunting

Whether you’re in a rural or urban environment it doesn’t take much to explore your surroundings and find horticulture on your doorstep.

Singapore Airport

Down Under Wildflowers

Holiday Horticulture: Hayman Island

Holiday Horticulture: Italy 

 

How do you get your gardening fix?

 

Garden Visit – Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

To celebrate the birthday of my lovely wife we decided to treat ourselves to a mini break whilst we were visiting the UK.

We chose Oxford and The Cotswolds, primarily due to the location of a few notable gardens and a long-term desire to spend the night at Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel.

How to get there

It’s an easy drive from London on the M40 and a 10 minute trip out of Oxford to get to the gardens. We were staying the night so were able to explore the gardens in the evening and first thing in the morning. The grand gates signal that you’ve arrived outside the hotel but you have to get very close to be able to read the golden signs clearly. I drove past this entrance twice!!

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

The Highlights

For me the best parts of the garden were the potager / greenhouse area and the Old Orchard which has recently been redesigned by Chris Beardshaw with perennial underplanting.

 

List of Gardens

 

  • English Water Garden
  • Orchard
  • Old Orchard
  • Japanese Garden with Tea House
  • Polytunnels
  • Mushroom Valley
  • Herb Garden
  • Vegetable Garden / Potager

The Vegetable Garden

Walking around the quiet vegetable garden as the sun went down was a highlight of our recent visit back to the UK. We could smell the open fires burning and the air was crisp and cool. A perfect dry winter day. The paths are easy to traverse and the display of world-class productive gardening was impressive.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Winter Squashes seasoning in the greenhouse
Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Clay cloches / forcing jars lining the gravel path in the potager.

 

I spent a long time exploring the greenhouse shown below. I’ve taken the details to furnish my imaginary future garden. At this time of year they had a wide variety of chillies and peppers still producing in the sheltered environment. Also, as seen above, were the winter squashes seasoning.

 

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Can anyone say greenhouse envy?

 

The Orchard

At the furthest point of the grounds, on the other side of the main car park, you’ll find the new orchard. This is a fantastic display of over 800 varieties of fruit. The gardener encouraged us to take an apple to try with no hesitation. They were beautiful.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

 

 

 

The Old Orchard

 

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
A view through the old orchard at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons underplanted with perennial beds designed by Chris Beardshaw.

 

The most popular twitter post I’ve ever had came from this image of Chris Beardshaw’s perennial planting design under the old Orchard. It is a magical area of the garden. I wish I could have spent more time sitting in there but it was dinner time and needs must.

 

How to visit the garden

 

One way to get access to the garden is to spend the night at the hotel. For those on a more sensible budget you can join one of the garden group tours which run regularly during the year. I haven’t done this tour but for Thirty Pounds and tea and biscuits included it would definitely be worth the money.