Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Making the most of my RHS Membership with a visit to the partner garden – The Sussex Prairie Garden

I remember seeing the Sussex Prairie Garden on Gardeners’ World in 2015 but had managed to forget it was on my ‘to visit list’. We had a spare afternoon when visiting family in Surrey so made the short trip to West Sussex.

This eight-acre garden focuses on prairie-style plants planted in large drifts through sweeping borders. The site is flat and it has wide grass paths for wheelchair accessible viewing. They have a cafe and terrace on site.

How to find the garden

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Where to find the garden

We took the A24 south from Horsham and onto the A272 where the brown tourist signs start. There’s free parking in a field adjacent to the site.

Useful information

Website: www.sussexprairies.co.uk

Entry Fee: Free for RHS members. £7 for adults with some concessions.

Opening Days and Times: Open 6 afternoons a week (closed Tuesday) 1pm -5pm

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Bendy straws of sanguisorba species

Main Features

  • Main garden with large borders
  • Cutting Garden
  • Tea Shop
  • Terrace
  • House Garden
  • Art Installations
  • Pigs!

Main Garden

The large open site at Sussex Prairie Garden is really impressive. We visited in the late afternoon in September which must be a peak for the garden. The sun was low and lit the borders beautifully. Most of the plants were in full display and the tapestry of colour and texture was a masterclass in prairie planting.

I like this style of planting due to its naturalistic feel and benefit to wildlife. It was popularised in the late 90s by Piet Oudolf and has since become mainstream.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Looking back towards the cafe terraceWhilst the borders are wide and generously planted, there are narrower bark paths traversing them so you can get right inside the planting. This makes you feel enclosed and part of the garden. A very neat trick as it’s easy to feel that some gardens are tableaux to be simply observed and not experienced.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Narrow bark paths take you into the wide borders

Garden Structure

Any loose style of planting can appear lacking without a good structure to contain it. I loved the structural elements of the garden for the formality they brought but also as great examples of planting and maintenance. These three Betula trees provide a steady rhythm to the scene and this tree was also repeated throughout the garden.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Betula trees planted for structure

The hedges could have been left as rectangular boxes but the heights varied as you went down the central axis. This made them function as backdrop, concealer and framer all at the same time.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Tapering hedges form structure in the garden
Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Ornamental grasses mimic the line of the hedges.

Key Plant Highlights

There’s always a few new plants to discover when visiting gardens. This time my eye was caught by Sidalca for the first time. This tall and airy plant provided contrast to some of the other, denser, specimens.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Sidalcia ‘My love’

I was amazed to find that this startlingly bright plant was herbaceous. I had assumed it was a semi-tender tree. Apparently, it’s native to America, as are so many of the prairie plants.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Phytolacca americana
American pokeweed

I have a similar Eryngium in my garden but this species has a more upright basal cluster and smaller, more numerous, flowering clusters.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Eryngium pandanifolium forming strong silhouettes

Another bright pink shock amongst the planting was this Meadowsweet relative.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Filipendula rubra, a pink relative of our native Meadowsweet.

I like Rudbeckia, not being one for the common aversion to yellow and orange in a garden, but I have become tired of reading about Goldsturm. My eyes almost glaze over when I see it listed as a recommended plant. Having seen it in this context and planted en masse I might have been converted. I’ve recently sown some Rudbeckia maxima for the garden but if I need a lower growing type it will have to be Goldsturm.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Art in the garden

Art installations in gardens don’t often catch my interest much, there are plants to be seen after all, and the garden hosts a variety of classes and exhibitions that were placed amongst the borders.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
The late sun lights the borders

 

I’ll be sure to make the trip to Sussex Prairie Garden again in the future, now I know where it is, but it would be good to see it at another time of year to assess how well the planting holds interest in other months.

Other Garden Visit Posts

RHS Wisley

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons

Gardens by the bay, Singapore

 

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,

Taking a look at the Zinnia trial happening at RHS Wisley

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Trial beds at Wisley

The Zinnia trial was planted this year, which makes sense when you consider that they are annual plants in the UK so they can’t run longer trials, and there are 100 varieties on trial. I’ve grown them a few time over the years. I try to find varieties that have bright, clear colours that age well. A lot of the plants on show had a muddy colouring and tend to have unsightly flower heads as they age. If you’re quick to dead-head that won’t be too much of an issue.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

 

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
The trial beds at RHS Wisley

Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

This one had really strongly coloured petals. It’s not the blowsiest of the varieties on offer but I thought the intense blooms were very special. The older flowers still looked good on the plant and it was nice and tall.

Zinnia ‘Zinderella Peach’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Zinderella Peach’

All the plants in the Zinderella breeding program were very strong contenders for my favourites. This burnt-orange flower was such an unusual colour I had to have it. The older blooms have a yellower tinge but they complement the fresh flowers well.

Zinnia ‘Envy’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Envy was a variety known to me before seeing it at the trial beds. The clear, bright white flowers are large and impressive.

Zinnia Benary’s Giant White

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant White’

Another white variety is Benary’s Giant White, which has larger blooms than Envy, that has a creamy tinge when they age which is really pleasing on the eye.

In Summary

If I had to choose from the 100 varieties on offer then this group of 4 plants would be top of the list. These can all be grown from seed so you might get some variation. The seed strains for some of the mixed varieties on trial contained good coloured forms but I struggled to enjoy the colour mixings all mixed together. I prefer just one type at a time.

Suppliers

Chiltern Seeds – Chiltern Seed list 25 varieties including all 4 on this page

Plant World Seeds – A local seed producer here in Devon lists 3 varieties.

Higgledy Garden – 3 varieties from a South West seed company

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,

Picking my favourite varieties in the 2017 Echinacea Plant Trial

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

The trial is in its second year of three and, for me, there were some clear winners in the patch. I didn’t have any Echinacea in my garden when I visited Wisley but I soon corrected that by buying ‘Magnus Superb’.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea trial beds

Traditional pink Echinacea

When I think of Echinacea the first thing that comes to mind is tall, pinky purple, daisy-like flowers held high amongst a mixed grass border. Their rich, deep pinks are complemented by the central cone that often has burnt-orange tints.

For this reason, my favourite selection has to be ‘Fatal Attraction’ – apparently bred by Piet Oudolf – and has a real quality of colour with strong dark stems. The Sombrero Baja Burgundy (possibly a breeding label rather than its eventual commercial name) had petals that were much closer to a cherry-red. ‘Pink Shimmer’ seemed to glow and really stood out amongst the rest.

White Echinacea varieties

I like the white versions too. They can bring a lighter feel to a border and are a little more restful to look at.

‘Green Jewel’ was white/acid green on the petals and stood tall. ‘White Meditation was a much more compact bush and would suit the front of a border or a pot. The species variant ‘alba’ has relaxed reflexed petals.

Double Echinacea varieties

I’ve never grown the double echinacea varieties and at first glance, they’re a little off-putting. The more you stare the better they get and I think I could get used to them.

‘Catharina Red’ and ‘Elegance’ were the least fussy of the varieties on offer.

For something different

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’

I really liked ‘Tiki Torch’ and it is my second favourite variety on trial. The orange is rich and could easily be mixed in a border with yellows and purples and the plants looked healthy.

In summary

These nine varieties are my favourite of all the types on trial. Some of the plants don’t have commercial names yet so are very new. It’s hard to know how well they will perform in a garden setting and how much hardiness and longevity they can muster. A lot of the varieties, particularly those most often flaunted in catalogues as being a colour break, were a disappointing, almost muddy, set of colours. Many had few blooming stems or had flopped untidily.

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

Top 5 UK Podcasts for Gardeners  

Take gardening with you when you’re out of the garden

When you garden in the UK you have to accept that there will be some times when the weather makes it hard to spend as much time in the fresh air as you’d like. There’s a limit to what good wellies and a poncho can offer when it’s sub-zero and the wind wants you knocked off your feet! There’s also all the other demands on our time, be it commuting or house chores, so it’s not so easy to fully immerse yourself in gardening 24/7. This is where podcasts can come in handy.

I hate ironing. It’s one of the household chores that I actively avoid which explains why I’m often rifling through my wardrobe when it’s time to leave for work cursing my lack of forward planning when there’s nothing to wear. However, it’s a perfect task that can be completed whilst listening to the radio or, even better, a gardening podcast. Ironing is the perfect low-skill activity that uses the body without much supervision and can leave your mind open to taking in information. I have now expanded my podcast listening and incorporated it into my commute as well. Here are a few of my favourites.

My top 5 UK podcasts for gardeners

Gardeners’ Question Time

Publisher: BBC Radio 4

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qp2f/episodes/downloads

Gardeners' Question Time Podcast- BBC Radio 4
Gardeners’ Question Time Podcast- BBC Radio 4

This was the first podcast I ever listened to after catching the end of a program when driving from Surrey to Devon many years ago. It’s the perfect length for ironing as I manage to get through one load of washing per episode. It makes the chore go by so much faster.

It takes the form of a panel show with a rotating panel of experts answering questions from the audience. Each week comes from a new setting so there are varied conditions explored. They also have features when the panel go out to local landmarks/sites/gardens/nurseries and learn a little more. It’s good-natured and always guaranteed to raise a titter with inadvertent innuendo.

Gardens Illustrated Podcast

Publisher: Gardens Illustrated Magazine

Source: http://www.gardensillustrated.com/podcasts

Gardens Illustrated Podcast
Gardens Illustrated Podcast

This erratically released podcast comes from one of my favourite magazines. They have exclusive interviews and talks, often from world-leading garden designers, and coverage from gardening shows. My highlights last year were the episodes talking with Sarah Raven and Anna Pavord.

RHS Gardening Podcast

Publisher: The RHS

Source: https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/publications/podcasts

RHS Gardening Podcast
RHS Gardening Podcast

Great for beginners, but often too simplistic for enthusiastic amateurs and above, this podcast has a variety of elements including listeners questions and interviews with key RHS employees. It’s a useful way of keeping up to date with the events and shows that the RHS put on. A new episode is made each fortnight.

Sow, Grow, Repeat

Publisher: The Guardian

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/series/sow-grow-repeat

Sow, Grow, Repeat - The Guardian
Sow, Grow, Repeat – The Guardian

I haven’t been a long-term listener to this one but I’m working on it. Seasonal episodes presented by Jane Perrone with Alys Fowler answering reader questions. They focus on clear topics, be it seasonal tasks or a particular plant, with good information classily delivered.

The Sod Show

Publisher: The Sod Show

Source: http://www.sodshow.com/

The SodShow Garden Podcast
The SodShow Garden Podcast

Another new podcast that’s won its place on my regular list. This guy Peter Donegan actually made me laugh out loud whilst walking the dog the first time I listened. That’s a 5* outcome in my book. It takes the form of guest interviews with an impressive list of previous guests. They show no snobbery in inviting people on to speak; I’ve heard world-class nursery-folk and garden designers back to back with bloggers and authors. Peter has a way of asking just the question you’d like asked with an awesome turn of phrase. I’m looking forward to a pint of Guinness with him one day.

What’s your favourite UK Podcast?

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

gardening books for christmas gifts 2016

At this time of year it can be hard to come up with ideas for Christmas gifts for your loved ones. That can be especially true for gardening gifts as we’re a very particular lot. I know myself that most of the tat I see in garden centres – I’m looking at you novelty mugs and neon plastic hand tools – would require a very large effort on xmas morning in the ‘look like you’re pleased face’ department. You’d think that just buying someone a plant would be an easy win but at this time of year a garden centre or nursery can look a bit dismal to the untrained eye and if it’s not on the planting plan it doesn’t go in my garden.

One safe option should be a good gardening book. You’ll now know the obsession I have with gardening books. It’s dark and cold outside and curling up with a good gardening book seems perfect. Only if it’s a good book mind you. ‘101 fake houseplants’ or ‘dummies guide to plant care’ would be re-gifted without hesitation. What I’m looking for is not so much the ‘How to’ style of publication but books about gardening. Gardening has a wide variety of sub-genres to mine for book ideas (history, plantspeople and finders, historical gardens, species specific, instruction guides, travel, and many more) but the ones that have caught my eye this year look to be opinion, historical and ecological. A suitably vintage / illustrated cover also seems to be a requirement.

The Apple Orchard

I heard Pete Brown on a recent BBC podcast with Mark Diacono (of Otter Farm and River Cottage fame) and made a note to look up his most recent book. The poor chap has an allergy to the apples he was researching! The apple merges the horticulture, food, and history of gardening perfectly and I’m excited to delve in and learn more.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Apple Orchard

Nigel

Okay, hands up, I know this isn’t technically about gardening but this list is for gardeners and who doesn’t love a bit of Monty?

It’s too soon since the loss of our beloved chocolate labrador to be diving in to this book just yet. I’m not making a Marley and Me mistake again. Monty has shown time and again through his published books and articles that he’s a master of words and I’m looking forward to learning more about him and his beautiful retrievers.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Nigel


Rhapsody in Green

The ‘look inside’ option on amazon is a really useful tool if you’re like me and can be easily annoyed by the voice of an author. There’s nothing worse than finding a good book ruined by irritating prose. My top peeves include overly tortuous metaphors and asinine turn of phrase. None of that with this writer. I chuckled in the first paragraph I read and I am very looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

The blurb suggests it’s content is a gardeners experiences managing a cramped urban garden and other thoughts.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Rhapsody in Green

The Running Hare

I’ve not come across the author John Lewis-Stempel before. Looking into his bio I’m not sure why that is as his past catalogue looks to be right up my street. This book details the plight of the native hare in England as an example of the changes in the countryside due to modern agriculture.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Running Hare

Hedgerow

John Wright will be familiar to some from his appearances on River Cottage over the years. He has spent a year foraging for his food in earlier works. In this book he takes you through the history of the hedgerow, and variations on alternative field boundaries.

Hedgerow

The Sceptical Gardener

I’m always a little apprehensive when a collection of newspaper articles makes it into book format. There’s always a feeling of ‘bubble and squeak’ trickery in reusing material. However the reviews of this book look great. I love a different viewpoint approach and more than that I like the being more informed than the Average Joe so I can feel superior in my knowledge.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Sceptical Gardener

Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

I’m currently reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf and this new book immediately caught my eye. Having a peek at the inside pages provided by the publisher reveals images of the actual herbarium specimens and notes made by the explorers covered. It looks like a beautifully constructed book covering one of my favourite gardening topics.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

 

We’ll see is Santa is being generous this year and with any luck I’ll be able to post a book review of one or more of these titles. Fingers (sticky with mince pies) crossed. What’s on your Christmas book list?

RHS Wisley Visit

Spring planting at RHS Wisley

The benefit of an RHS membership is free entry into the four gardens

Two weeks ago I popped in to RHS Wisley Garden for a look around. I had an hour to spare before I had to pick the other half up from the train station after attending the Crocus open day. Previously when we’ve visited it’s been during the winter months for reasons we don’t really know. So it was nice to see some some different aspects if the garden. I was going to say it’s nice to see some colour in the garden but anyone who has visited during winter can tell you there’s still plenty of stunning displays.

Fritillaries and anemones flowering
Fritillaries and anemones flowering

Newly added to the must have list in my head

I don’t have any trilliums in the garden but after seeing these they’re definitely on the want list. Dark and mysterious they like shady woodland environments. I have plenty of shady areas due to the stone barn in the garden.

Dark and mysterious Trilliums
Dark and mysterious Trilliums

Eye-searing colourful displays

I’m not a huge fan of bedding displays. It’s certainly not a style of gardening I’m in a hurry to include in my garden but I can appreciate the skill it takes to create such displays. These beds near the entrance to the gardens were very impressive indeed.

Seasonal planting showing a mixed border of spring bulbs and herbaceous perennials / annuals
Seasonal planting showing a mixed border of spring bulbs and herbaceous perennials / annuals

A highlight of the visit was the tulip garden. Apparently they had hundreds of varieties supplied by one of the large Dutch bulb growers to put together the garden exclusively from tulips. The effect was breathtaking and a huge contrast to the more muted palette of the woodland areas.

Spring planting at RHS Wisley
Spring planting at RHS Wisley

Trials beds

The trials area was half full – they’re obviously making plans for new trials starting this year. The Flowering Currant trial was looking great, along with the narcissus and euphorbia beds. However, it was the Erythronium trial that really caught my interest. White Beauty was my favourite here and also finds itself on the want list.

Winter highlights

Enkianthus campanulatus Early flowing shrub
Enkianthus campanulatus Early flowing shrub
Snakes-head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)
Snakes-head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)

RHS Seeds 2014

RHS seeds

The RHS Member Seed Scheme

Waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday was a lovely brown envelope from the RHS. At the end of last year I made my choices online for the 12 packets that I wanted to try this year. It’s always exciting to see the list of seeds on offer and, whilst there’s a lot of repetition from one year to the next, there’s always something new to research and then try. There were some changes this year in how the scheme works with a smaller selection and you can receive only 12 packets.

My packets this year are;

  • Baptisia australis
  • Campanula punctata
  • Carpenteria californica
  • Dictamnus albus
  • Digitalis parviflora
  • Digitalis ciliata
  • Dickie frigida
  • Foeniculum vulgare ‘purpureum’
  • Galtonia candicans
  • Veratrum album subsp. Lobelianum
  • Verbascum chaixii
  • Verbena hastata

It’s hard to make a selection when confronted by the list and knowing that you have to choose 12. In the end I opted for some plants from California (we’ve recently just been on holiday there) and more herbaceous perennials. Once the greenhouse is built I can get started. Watch this space.

Interestingly the Dianthus carthusianorum plants I planted out this weekend were from last years selection.

Birthday trip to Bicton Botanical Gardens

Orchid flowering in the Bicton Botanical Garden

A Birthday Day Out

Last Saturday was my birthday and since my fiancée and I are on thrifty street at the moment we decided to go for a cheap day out to mark the occasion. What’s the best thing to do on a cool and rainy day in Devon? We decided to make a short trip to the Bicton Botanical Garden near Honiton. Despite it only being half an hour away from where we live we’ve never been there before. However we found it was an RHS partner garden so I would get in free with my membership.

How to get there

 

Bicton Botanical Garden Map
Bicton Botanical Garden Map

It’s well signposted from the a30 and took us about 2 hours to see what we wanted to. However at £8.95 for an adult the ticket was a little pricey.

List of Areas

  • Glasshouses – Arid, Tropical, Temperate
  • Italian Garden
  • American Garden
  • Mediterranean Garden
  • Rose Garden
  • Woodland
  • Winter Garden

What to see

Despite it being the very beginning of January there was plenty to see. The witch hazel was in full bloom and the camellias were just about to burst.

Witch-hazel in bloom. Hamamelis
Witch-hazel in bloom. Hamamelis

The main disappointment was the children’s play areas and the gift shop. I understand botanical gardens need to generate funds to continue, and it can’t be easy, but these areas blotted the grounds. The children’s area was run down and wasn’t very inspiring. The gift shop was mostly empty, perhaps they were doing a stock-check, but only contained the usual tat found in every run down garden centre.

The best part of the visit was seeing their collection of mature trees that are all looking beautiful.
Despite the storm that had swept through in the days before and the local flooding, the gardens looked immaculate. The casualties had already been cleared and shredded and all the paths were open.

Camellia flowering
Camellia flowering

It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. Even better to have 2 quiet hours with the other half.

Other botanical garden visits

Mount Tomah, NSW, Australia

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf this Christmas

My Potting Bench Blog

The confession

I love gardening books. It’s true to say I probably have too many gardening books (but don’t tell the other half). Yesterday I was in a well-known national book shop and realised I had more books than their gardening section offered! Shame on them.

When the weather changes to wet and dreary, the garden has been tidied for winter and the seed shopping is done, what’s better than curling up in front of the fire and losing yourself in indulgent fantasy.

I’ve included links to amazon pages. Also have a look in your local independent bookshop, or online book recycling websites.

Christmas Book Wishlist

1. Carol Klein – Wild Flowers

Carol Klein WIld Flowers

I love Carol Klein and have all her books and I can happily watch re-runs of her tv series. I even had an embarrassing fainting episode at RHS Tatton Park show a couple of years ago during her demonstration on propagation. To this day I still maintain that it was a combination of the hot sunny day and a lovely pint of cider but my fiancée is convinced it was a teenage-TakeThat-fan-like reaction to seeing Carol.

2. Jennifer Potter – The Rose

This book has received great reviews and would sit well alongside my Anna Pavord titles. I had a look at the beautiful hardback in the bookshop yesterday.

3. Jennifer Potter – Seven flowers and how they shaped our world

I love the meeting of plants and history. I have Andrea Wulf’s offerings in pride of place on my bookshelf. In Jennifer Potter’s second book on this list she covers seven plants and explores their impact on the world.

4. Sue Stickland – Back garden seed saving

The first of two books on this list I’ve learnt about via the Real Seeds website. Reviewed as being invaluable for anyone looking to save their own seeds and interestingly looks to be achievable at home.

5. Kate Collyns – Gardening for profit

I learnt about this book via Grow Green @ Hartley Farm and I have also found great reviews elsewhere. This fits the daydreaming requirement of gardening books for me. It’s unlikely I’ll be running my own well-respected, viable, specialist nursery any time soon. What this book offers is practical and experience-based information on the business of gardening.

6. Carol Deppe – Breed your own vegetable varieties

With my love affair with all things heritage, see here, I was intrigued by this book on the Real Seeds website. I shall be saving the seeds of my recent purchases and hopefully this book could come in handy.

7. Geoff Hodge – Botany for gardeners

Last year I bought the RHS Latin for Gardeners. I was really excited to see this new title appear. I had a quick, indulgent look yesterday in the book shop. It’s so tactile with its textured hardback. The inside looks like a series of paintings. I know it’s wrong to covet but ….

8. Chris Beardshaw – 100 plants that almost changed the world

I’m a huge fan of Chris Beardshaw. His explanations on gardeners question time and Beechgrove are always interesting and imbued with his vast knowledge. I also like the humour he brings to things.

Thanks to a kindly donated sideboard from a relative we’ve been able to clear one of the shelves in the gardening bookshelf.

So Santa, if you’re reading……