‘DaDa Daa Da Daa Da Da Daa, Bom Bom
DaDa Daa Da Daa Da Da Daa, Bom Bom
DaDa Daa Da Daa Da Da Daa
And sweet Marie who waits for me there. ‘
Welcome to my blog, ‘Is this the way to Amaryllis?’. As this is the first post I thought we would start with a musical introduction. Hope you enjoyed it.I had thought if it goes well we might, as well having an intro , also have an outro. My first choice was Prince’s ‘ Little Red Courgette’ but translating it into Da Das or La Las proved too difficult.
This is in essence a gardening blog which I decided to write more for the reaction it might elicit from readers than for me to pedal my thoughts and opinions. I might veer off the garden path now and then if anything interesting comes along.
I’ve had it mind to do this blog ( ugliest word in the world) for some time but I was finally prompted to put finger to keyboard after a thoroughly enjoyable day out with a group of students who I taught RHS practical classes to earlier this year. They had a class get-together and they invited me along and I was glad they did. I was going to call them mature students but thought that that made them sound like blocks of cheese and none of them were so I will call them grown up students. It was a Sunday and possibly one of the only completely dry days we have had for weeks. We visited Hidcote Manor garden and Kiftsgate Court , two north Cotswold gardens which are about ten minutes walk from each other. They are two gardens with very different characters. Kiftsgate Court is set on the steep edge of the Cotswold escarpment and has a very comfortable, approachable feel to it. The only real challenges to the visitor are the very modern styled water garden which is in total contrast to anything else in the garden and then the physical challenge of the walk /climb back up to the house from the lower garden as you leave behind the spectacular view over the Vale of Evesham. It is family run and has the intimacy that goes with something that has direct personal involvement. We can’t leave the garden without mentioning the Kiftsgate Rose. Anyone contemplating growing this rose should first visit the garden and see the size of the several trees it has devoured. It is a monster but a monster of overwhelming magnificence when its massed cascades of small white flowers steal the rose garden limelight. A plus for Kiftsgate Court garden is that many of the plants are labelled and a plant list is available.
Hidcote Manor is one of the top National Trust gardens and was the first property taken on by the NT for its garden rather than the house. Large, anonymous donations meant there has been an extensive refurbishment programme restoring many of the features that the original owner had created and the garden has come on in leaps and bounds in the last ten or eleven years after a spell in the doldrums. Hidcote is a garden made up of rooms, mostly with green walls, and with long axes and enticing views through connecting the garden rooms and leading you on. We were fortunate to meet head gardener Glyn Jones whose irreverent sense of humour steams on unabated and whose enthusiasm and energy is reflected in the rate of improvement of the garden. (There seems to be some sort of story about what is thought to be an alien spaceship landing near the big Ha Ha at the top of the garden. Scorched foliage and symmetrical marks on the grass! Does anyone know anything about this, it sounds a bit far fetched to me?)
I was talking to Glyn near to what looked like the most glorious, small scale, wild flower meadow but was in fact an effort to create a corn field from the past with all its associated flora and then to harvest the wheat grains and children will grind it into flour and make some bread. What no one had taken into consideration was that modern wheats have been bread ( just kidding) to have short stalks and so were overwhelmed by the taller cornfield flowers. The flour might be in short supply and the children might have to rely on a loaves and fishes principal if they are all to get some homespun bread.
This idea of wild flowers growing in the cereal fields made me wonder how they came about. Many of them are annuals; cornflowers, corn cockle, poppies, corn marigold, and corn chamomile for example. It stands to reason that there have not always been cornfields, if you go back far enough we were hunter gatherers with no settled settlements. Where were these annual flowers growing then? They thrived in cornfields because they took advantage of the soil being disturbed but who or what was disturbing the soil before we started cultivating the land and furthermore, aren’t we always being told that this land, the UK, was completely covered with forest which is not good for sun loving annuals. Maybe wild boar or floods were doing the disturbing and giving these plants a chance to grow, I don’t know. There has to be someone out there who can answer these questions and dispel my naïve view of this situation; please do.
Walking round gardens with students, mature or immature , keeps you on your mettle and sorely tests your plant knowledge but it also helps you look at things in a new way. One student , I’ll call her Jo ( You can call her Jo too but names have been changed to protect the innocent) was asking have Alliums had their day , are they becoming a cliché? They are certainly easy, perhaps too easy, to use. I have used them myself recently in a prominent , showy planting which used tulips followed by Alliums then Agapanthus and Dahlias with Penstemons also thrown in the mix and the Alliums did what you expect them to, they stood proud, they lasted long and the seed heads gave added interest plus their colour worked well with all the plants around them whatever colour they were. I might have fallen for the Allium cliché . Where I have found them to have a more subtle effect is when they are planted in wilder parts of the garden such as in long grass or a meadow style garden. Sure they are not native but if a few are dotted around randomly with other non natives they can give a colourful lift after the early Cammasias are finished and the tall white spikes of Ornithogalum magnum have not quite got going. Let me know where you stand on Alliums.
Prior to writing this blog several people have written to me with gardening queries and I hope that my answers will give an insight into similar problems you might have. I would also like to hear your questions but in the meantime here is one of the correspondences I have received.
This one came from Anton D’Eque who has just moved to England from the south of France. He has, in true gardener style, hauled all his collection of Agapanthus plants with him but is worried about how they will fair in our cooler climate. He has not said where in the UK he has moved to. For a long time I avoided growing anything but Headbourne Hybrids believing they were the hardiest for my South Warwickshire garden and they did survive many cold winters. They were grown in the ground. However since then I have tried other varieties including the slightly dirty white ‘Ardenei Hybrid’ and small, dark flowered ‘Lilliput’ both of which have come through the last two cold winters outdoors in the ground uncovered. The least hardy is the evergreen Agapanthus africanus. This tenderness means it will often lose its leaves in a squishy mess after the first few frosts but if the soils is fairly free draining it could well survive most winters. Plant them deep in a soil that does not become waterlogged and give them a covering of straw or scrunched up fleece under an upturned hanging basket for winter and I think you will find Agapanthus are hardier than we usually imagine.
That’s it. The end of this first posting. What I would like from you is any gardening queries or original ideas you might have, any ideas for songs with some sort of plant /garden connection and perhaps some suggestion for outro songs complete with La La las or Da da das – perhaps you could send in the la la las with a clue and we can have a guess at what it is, yeah?
A quick P.S. If you have read this and are thinking Argh?! I can’t take anymore , give me something decent to read, can I suggest you check out Hortus at www.hortus.co.uk
Plants looking good in the garden now.................
|Can you guess what this is? No prizes just some smug satisfaction when you get it right.|
|Anthemis tinctoria but which one? 'ECBuxton' ? I think it is.|
|Eryngium agavifolium and it is an umbellifer which means it is a close relative of the carrot and cow parsley.|
|Buddleja 'Snowball' About a metre high, three years old and never been pruned.|
|Sedum 'Purple Emperor' and Molinia caerulea 'Variegata' with |
a bit of Nepeta grandiflora 'Bramdean' in the background. Mmm, nice.