We visited Cowbridge Physic Garden today. A scant half-acre walled garden, it manages to cram in everything you could ever ask from a physic garden. It is a magical place and I snapped my way around, greedily grabbing scenes of knot garden and pleach and fountain. At its farthest reaches, we stepped through an arched doorway, from brightness into shade. Unbeknownst to us, we were now in the Old Hall Gardens, admiring a pendula lime, ancient yew and tulip tree. The shaded border was plumptious with astrantia, thalictrum and Solomon’s seal. And a stand of perfect red poppies, dramatically spotlit. It was the shot of the day.
I’ve always enjoyed sleeping. Would it be immodest of me to say I’m rather good at it? Well I am, it would be my Mastermind specialist subject. That is until recently. My meagre superpower has abandoned me. In the past few weeks, months even, I have woken early, wide awake with no glimmer of sleep on the horizon.
There was no change this morning. At just before six I was up and about, full of beans, top of my game. I spent the two hours between rising and leaving for Nancy Nightingale’s, watering the garden, catching up with emails and the weekend papers (mainly looking at the pictures) and preparing for the day ahead, all whilst the nightbird dozed upstairs.
As I grabbed my work bag and headed out, I thought “I don’t think I’ve got my house keys. No matter, I won’t need them” and I pulled the door closed behind me. Something felt amiss. I looked down. Bare, naked feet. I had forgotten to put my shoes on.
Oh dear. Someone is going to be grumpy.
Well it seems that is it. The solstice has passed and we are now on the slippery slope to winter. Passed in a jiffy didn’t it? Here is my midsummer Six on Saturday. And perversely it actually looks like a summer’s day out there. It is where I should be, not here at my desk. As my heart is elsewhere, to be on the safe side, we should proceed with great haste. I’m sure our mentor The Prop is not sitting at his computer wasting sunlight hours thinking of things to say to his flock. He will be prepared and have done all this silly writing stuff ages ago and at this very moment be hard at work in his garden. Not me. Not organised at all. If we get on I might be able to steal a few moments of pottering later.
Here we are, my first photo, Simon the poppy. Simon was trampled on by steel toe-capped builders and scaffolders until I pointed him out in the nicest possible way and asked them to try their very bestest to avoid stomping on his head again. They did their best and here he is blooming well to tell the tale. I do love a good red poppy and Simon is one of the best.
In my little garden I don’t have the benefit of potting shed or proper greenhouse. When I do any potting up, pricking out or some such fiddlings, I sit on the bottom step of the set towards the top of the garden with my compost, pots and the “to be sorted” arranged about me. I then settle down with a nice cup of coffee, which in matter of moments has compost floating on the top, and enter my own little world. It was then that I noticed this chap on a Salvia elegans, possibly the diddiest grasshopper in the world. Splendid antennae though.
Next Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ which isn’t in the slightest bit sensational. Perhaps it has a good excuse in failing to reach more than 20cm high. They were planted late, they have been stood on (see above) and dug up by mistake (hangs head in shame). Next year they will be wonderful, I can feel it in my bones.
A lovely surprise yesterday was to find that Peggy was flowering, albeit in a rather dishevelled way. Like pancakes, the first dahlia flower is always a little bit dubious.
Next we have a horrid invasive geranium, it annoys me constantly by its continual march across the garden, swamping and strangling all that it passes. Then the sun catches the veined indigo flowers and I am once more smitten.
Lastly the disgraceful sight of Big Ted after a night out on the tiles. He has been severely reprimanded and is on house arrest for the foreseeable future.
All done, now let me out into the garden ……….
Six on Saturday here we go again, all good friends and jolly good company. Although I’m not feeling “jolly good company” this week. On the contrary, I am rather uninspired. Dull. Boring. Bored. Perhaps a little bit grumpy. But only a little. Maybe I should ring in sick, but then again I’m away next weekend and it might look suspicious. I can’t even think of anything cheeky to say about our leader The Propagator, other than he is our leader and of course that he is gorgeous (believe me flattery works every time). I’d better just get on with, sitting here at the dining table, typing away within one hand whilst making a chilli for tea with the other, neither with much conviction. OH is watching the rugby and shouting at the ref/touch judges/players/anyone who looks vaguely in his direction, his conviction never waivers.
On to the first photo. This is no exotic bloom, but our very own, introduced invasive weed, the three-cornered leek, Allium triquetral. I have no idea how it got into the garden, and although he denies it, I have my suspicions who smuggled this ferocious monster onto my patch. *follow my eyes to the hollering mad man on the sofa*. It was looking rather lovely in the sunshine yesterday.
Thank you to everyone who enquired as to the well-being of Simon the poppy, who had the misfortune to grow smack bang in the middle of the builder’s M4 motorway. “Everyone” amounted to the grand total of “no one”. As you can see, he is looking healthy and happy. For all you lot care.
Now we have Sophora microphylla which suffered terribly at the teeth of various beasts of 2018. It has limped along ever since, like a horticultural Tiny Tim. I am very pleased that it has gathered the strength to attempt a little flowering. God bless us every one.
My relationship with Exchorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ is turbulent. Most of the year I am not enamoured with this tumblesome, unruly shrub, but as soon as the blooms begin I fall back in love. A little bit of die-back there needs sorting, anyone know a good gardener?
I spotted this hyacinth skulking amongst the foliage of the libertia. These loose panicled blooms are stunning, the iridescent blue of the bells perfectly set off by the midnight stems.
Lastly the Salvia gesneriiflora has just begun flowering. Bang on cue, “late winter, early spring”. But it was worth waiting for. Furry. Red. Giant. This was
the one of the plants that I was unable to resist when I attended the Hardy Plant Society AGM last March. I’m so pleased that my willpower is so weak.
I made it! Now I’d better join in the shouting …….
Last week, on my first day back on Button Moon, we prepared the annual wildflower beds for the coming year. It seemed a fitting way to mark the occasion of my return to the fold. The border was weeded, the bones of last year’s blooms were pulling up and any remaining seed broadcast. Looking forward to the future. It is the only way to go.
This is the carcass of a particularly frou frou, bruise purple poppy that infiltrated the native mix. It might not be true to the standard meadow form, but it was welcomed with open arms. The contents of the pepper pot seed head will be scattered with the rest. We do love a bit of frou frou.
Happy Six on Saturday to you all! It has been a week of weather; from the unimaginable cold in the North of America to the searing heat in parts of Australia. We had some of the white stuff in the UK too, which has been followed by the inevitable chaos on the roads and the panic buying of Mother’s Pride and Chardonnay. In Ilfracombe we had a pathetic smattering, but you didn’t have to venture far to see the real McCoy. But I didn’t bother venturing anywhere. I decided to just imagine it instead. This morning I asked OH if it was too late to indulge in a little panic buying. We bought a multi-bag of snacktastic crisps and a pack of blood oranges just in case. If you are tempted to join the not-so-secret society of SoSers or would like to be shown how it is supposed to work by more sensible folk, pop over to King Prop’s blog and all will be revealed. Let’s get on with it, too cold to hang about.
First we have a snowdrop. A distinct feeling of déjà vu? This is in fact my other snowdrop Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’, also bought at Helen’s Little Ash Garden open day. Don’t worry, this is the extent of my snowdrop collection. I’ve got a long way to go before I can be classed as a true galanthophile.
Although we had but a mere smidgen of snow, it has been both very cold and exceptionally windy. So windy that in the early hours of Sunday morning, after lying awake listening to the roaring and scaffolding boards dancing, we got up and listened to the World Service until light. We then called the builder who came to tie down the boards again. He was grumpy to have been roused from his weekend slumber, I hadn’t slept a wink all night, he didn’t stand a chance. This Lycianthes rantonnetii is paying for its vigour, the leaves are withered and lifeless after the desiccating gales. I am hoping that beneath all is well.
On to my oriental poppy. It is in the middle of the superhighway that the builders macheted through the Bed of Anarchy. By some quirk of fate it escaped a size ten steel toecap. They were back yesterday, the Velux in the office roof has sprung a rather impressive leak. Before they started I pointed it out to them “That is a poppy” I said “It is called Simon and I would like you to do your utmost to avoid standing on it.” They did their best. Quite sensibly they were concerned about the potential for retribution by someone who names their herbaceous perennials.
It appears that one of my hedychiums has set seed. This is good. I have grown a ginger lily from seed before and it only took a few years to get to flowering size. These will stay on the plant for as long as possible. Perhaps Mr P would like some? What do you mean “creep”?
Lastly we have an example of the importance of being in the right place at the right time. The crimson tinged foliage of this rose, which could be ‘Peace’, has not suffered in the slightest in the recent inclement weather. It is as fresh and pristine as the moment it unfurled from the bud. I hope I haven’t summoned the demons of fate tempting.
And second lastly is a gazania that was in hiding, possibly due to the fact it doesn’t want to be spotted by the evil north wind. Did I get away with it? Maybe not.
Another SoS completed, always a triumph. Until next time!
Crazy times are unabating, so once again I must be brief. Easier said than done. As you may have guessed I tend to go on a bit. Briefish is perhaps more accurate. I don’t want to aim too high. Here we go. Six on Saturday, horrah for the Grand Old Duke of Prop, he knows the business, he is the business. Sashy over and find out all about the Sixers.
It hasn’t made it any easier that I have had to follow that smarty pants brother of mine. Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. Shall we get started, before I get too self-indulgent?
First of all we have apple blossom. We have two apple trees in our our tiny garden, both planted by the previous owner. I could think of better use for the space, but sentimentality means they stay. For the moment.
Next we have a crop of nasturtiums. A myriad. A self sown plague. Some will be saved, the rest culled. Harsh but fair.
Then a brand new shiny rodgersia. Bronze and beautiful.
Next a candelabra primula, bought from a garden society plant stall, unnamed but no less for it.
Then Rhodotypos scandens, in my front garden. A great favourite of mine and a complete mystery to me why it isn’t grow more widely.
And finally, last week’s hairy bud, now a fully fledged, paid up member of the poppy family.
Thanks Prop me old darling. Next time, all will be calm, time will be plentiful, and I will devote my full attention on the cause. Until then, nanoo nanoo ….
For those of you who doubt that I am a proper grown up gardener, I must confess that once upon a time I actually did some training. And it was in horticulture. Of all things. Crazy I know. And the esteemed hub of learning that had the pleasure of my patronage was none other than the world renowned Cannington College in Somerset. Perhaps just “Cannington” at the moment, but working towards greater things.
Now the story gets a little complicated. Although it was officially “Cannington College” I was actually based in a satellite division in Bristol, my time spent between Bristol Zoological Gardens (the clue is in the name) and in a defunct walled garden at Blaise Castle. The only time we actually went to Cannington was for the Unit called, which I think has certain industrial chic, “Machinery”. From my slightly dodgy memory, this involved driving tractors, laughing and maintaining lawnmowers.
At this time I was still working in an office whilst studying part time. My employers generously paid for us “gals” to go for a day at Champneys Health Spa. Included was a “healthy” lunch, full use of the gym, pool, hot tubs, a manicure and massage. With great foresight we had stocked the minibus full of wine and crisps for the return journey. The following day, when my colleagues had returned to the photocopier and filing cabinet, I was adjusting the blades on a Qualcast. In perfect purple nail varnish. Not sure my tutor understood the irony.
During the two years that I was a Cannington student, we were never invited to the walled garden. When it was demanded that we continue our quest to achieve the perfect cut, we once again headed west. Our minibus, driven by the wondrous and fearless Julie, arriving in the village turned utilitarian right, whilst the joys of the famous garden lay to the decorative left. Never did the twain meet. Were they trying to tell us something? Perhaps.
So when my local Plant Heritage group arranged a trip to this garden, it seemed that it was an opportunity for what Oprah would call “closure”.
What had I missed? Some beauties actually.
There was a full flowered Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’.
A Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, dripping both bloody blossom
and seed pods.
The outlandishly exotic Beschorneria yuccoides
Dew dropped poppies
And weeping Iris
And much, much more.
I did skulk slightly, worried that I would be discovered and sent back to sharpen a blade or reverse a trailer into a gateway. Old habits never ever die.
We were laughing.
I was attempting to photograph the newly emerged poppy. The wind gusted the ephemeral flower in a haphazard dance, impossible to capture unless you were acquainted with the moves. Which I wasn’t, although I did my best to keep up. This was all I could manage.
When I saw the picture I laughed again.