Thursday, 22 June 2017
Once upon a time I wrote about potatoes and the excellent service called Blightwatch which warns when weather conditions become ripe for an outbreak of potato blight.
Back then the service looked out for a Smith Period i.e. a time during the potato/tomato crop season when the weather served up 90% humidity over an 11 hour period in temperatures above 10°C for 24 hours, and for both conditions to exist over a period of two days. If this occurred for my postcode area, then I'd get an email warning me that a Smith Period had happened, or one saying there was a near miss if the conditions only occurred for a day.
These emails usually started around July/August time and I always received them with a sense of impending doom.
Now since May this year I've had several emails called a Hutton Alert from the same service instead. This is much earlier to receive a blight warning and slightly worrying. Is my practise of growing early spuds to avoid late blight in danger now?
It seems the Smith criteria are no longer performing well, so the James Hutton Institute conducted some research to see if the system could be improved. All aspects of the criteria were tested and their results showed lowering the humidity factor to a mere six hours improved blight prediction significantly.
From what I've seen so far, it means pretty much any period of rain or damp weather results in a warning email and as a consequence I've become more blasé about the future health of my crop. I'm sure the farmers for whom this service is really designed take it much more seriously than I.
I do remember an incredibly early blight year a couple of years ago (in June) so I do have anecdotal evidence of the need for a different system, perhaps in response to a change in the way the blight fungus performs. However, my allotment is on a windy site, which I'm sure helps keep the blight at bay.
In the meantime, I'm watching my potato leaves for signs of an earlier blight than usual. All's well so far *crosses fingers*.
How's your potato crop faring this year? Do you subscribe to the Blightwatch alert system?
Sunday, 18 June 2017
Sometimes even the most familiar things in life can offer a surprise which sets you off in a completely different direction. This is exactly what happened to me at Lacock Abbey recently - the garden I visit the most - in the form of Nettie Edwards, pictured above.
She was based in the botanic garden showing her work with anthotypes, a technique which uses plants as the light sensitive material to produce a photographic print. The technique itself is well over a century old, and until Nettie's demonstration I hadn't realised it's easy to do at home.
|The studio on the day I did pop by - Twitter screen grab courtesy of Nettie Edwards|
All that's needed is some suitable plant material, a means to extract its juices, a paper and frame for printing, a positive image for reproduction, a source of light, and plenty of time. The combination of two of my favourite things - photography and gardens - got me fired up and itching to get started. Nettie's enthusiasm for her work also helped :)
|Click to enlarge if needed.|
Note the scan hasn't quite reproduced the
actual colours, but you get the idea
From this I can instantly see which plants look the most likely candidates to play with - Centaurea montana, Clematis 'Arabella', buttercup, red berberis leaf, Rosa 'The Fairy' and Geranium psilostemon. The Monarda leaf result looks far better in real life (a lovely light green), so I've added it to my list.
Nettie's currently experimenting with 'Bull's Blood' beetroot and Allium christophii heads, though the latter came out a little disappointing in my test. Sue Carter - Lacock's Head Gardener - is growing a range of other plants for her to try and a tweet on June 13th, shows foraged wild garlic paste, and another on June 12th some gorgeous deep flower colours. Berries and other juicy produce are other possibilities to try.
My next consideration is which of my shortlisted plants can produce enough extract to coat the paper I'm going to use. I've reluctantly discarded the electric colours of the Centaurea and geranium as these currently only have a few flowers. The rest are up for grabs - watch this space!
Notes about the process for my future experiments
|New growth on Berberis thunbergii 'Gold Ring' - compare the colour obtained with old growth extract?|
Use a pestle and mortar or a small blender. Need to filter the liquid out from the rest of the material e.g. use a tea strainer, coffee filter paper, or a clean cloth such as muslin. May need to add a few drops of water (what effect does our hard water have?) or clear alcohol (Nettie held up a bottle of vodka!) to thin down thicker extracts such as the Bull's Blood beetroot she was demonstrating.
As the material is sensitive to light, I guess it has to be used quickly. How to store to preserve its 'shelf life'... possibly in the fridge?
Don't use shiny paper, use matte so the liquid doesn't 'pool' on top of the paper. Note that chemicals in the paper can affect the final colours, depending on the chemicals used in the production process. Adding chemicals such as a few drops of lemon juice (acid), or bicarbonate of soda (alkaline) is a great way of playing around with the colours obtained. Even gently touching the damp paper with a finger can change the colour.
Several coats of plant extract may be needed to produce a colour deep enough for printing (hence the need to think about possible storage).
The paper needs to be dried in darkness before applying the next coat, or going onto printing. I'm going to use our airing cupboard.
|I love the idea of linking my recent #mygardenrightnow project with anthotypes in some way|
Image selection for printing
This is a positive:positive process, so an object or a transparency is needed for the final image. Leaves e.g. ferns would be a great way of connecting my experiments with the early photographers celebrated at Lacock Abbey, especially Fox Talbot himself.
Transparencies need to have a high contrast, preferably with lots of black & white. These can be made easily by converting a digital photo into a black & white one, upping the contrast if needed, then printing it out onto acetate. An inkjet printer like we have should be fine.
Nettie had some lovely vintage contact printing frames, but I found later these are expensive to buy. Improvisation with various picture frames is the name of the game and I'm going to try some cheap clip frames. Nettie suggested I use masking tape to attach the image I use to the print paper. How the print is progressing needs to be checked from time to time and the masking tape prevents the image from going out of alignment.
Producing the print
The print frame + paper/positive image needs to be left for some time to develop. The sun is used as the light source needed to bleach out the white/lighter parts of the image onto the paper, so I've earmarked my south facing windowsill upstairs for the job. How long the print takes to develop depends on where in the world and the time of year. In Italy it'll probably take just a couple of hours; here at this time of year we're looking at a couple of weeks or so, depending on the weather (hence the need to check progress).
|Or how about a plant portrait using the flower as the photographic material? I have so many ideas I want to try!|
Unlike most photographic prints, these can't be fixed so they deteriorate when lit as the light continues the bleaching process. Prints need to be stored in darkness and brought out on special occasions for viewing (it'd be like having a secret garden!). Alternatively prints can be mounted behind museum quality glass which reduces the UV light levels.
Nettie takes photos of her finished prints, but for her it's nothing like looking at the real print itself. The ephemeral nature of the process (just like a garden is too) and the gradual decay of the print is part of the continuing life of the image.
There are anthotype images around which are over 100 years old, so it is possible to limit the loss to a slow decline. Just like there's a slow flower movement, there should be a slow photography one too.
I love the element of unpredictability in this process. The colours obtained from a plant will vary depending on time of picking, location, climate, weather, soil type etc etc. Then there's the potential of added variation with the paper used, the extraction process, the number of coats applied to the paper, the addition of other chemicals, and a host of other things I haven't thought of, even my mood perhaps?
I'm going to enjoy lots of experimentation with this process, by playing around with it and my garden, perhaps even linking Lacock Abbey to the project in some way. In view of the time needed, please grant me the patience to carry it through...
You may also enjoy
Nettie's demonstrations continue on weekdays until the end of June. Highly recommended.
Read Nettie's description of the anthotype process and the production of her first print on her blog. Note the improvised equipment she used from what's to hand at the time. It's something I'm going to enjoy doing with my own experiments.
Read about some of my other visits to Lacock Abbey on my Garden Visits Page (or visit!). NB the curators at Lacock have a great way of linking the garden and photography together using various art and photography exhibitions, plus different installations in the garden - both temporary and permanent. It befits the place where modern analogue photography began.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
I usually think of my garden in terms of cool blues and mauves at this time of the year because of the many alliums, clematis and other flowers in full flow.
Whilst they're there as expected, their presence is dwarfed by the outburst of white that's happened over the past week or so, mainly in the trees which surround the garden. Here you can see my 'Rambling Rector' rose which has leapt over the fence onto the public land next door. The clematis you can see are draped over six foot high obelisks which gives you some idea of how high the roses have jumped.
If you looked at my submission for #mygardenrightnow the first weekend of June, you'll know that bright ox-eye daisies have taken over the lawn. White clover is also making its presence felt (along with some red), and I was surprised to find some sweet rocket lying in the grass at the bottom of the double terrace bed.
I grew this flower in the lower terrace for the first couple of years (2001-2) of the garden's incarnation, only for it to disappear in year three. It must have gone to seed and remained dormant for around 15 or so years. It's a testament to the seed's viability... I wonder what stirred it into action this year, lack of lawn mowing perhaps?
Here's a closer view of some of the most notable white flowers in VP Gardens this month...
1. White clover, Trifolium repens - no 4-leafed clover found... yet
2. Rosa 'Kew Gardens' - compare the flower colour with its bud
3. Ox-eye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare
4. Rosa 'Rambling Rector'
5. Mock orange, Philadelphus 'Virginal'
6. Marguerite daisy, Agyranthemum Molimba® L White
7. Mexican fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus
8. Nemesia 'Wisley vanilla'
9. Sweet rocket, Hesperis matronalis
10. A sprinkle of delicate elder flowers which have fallen from the flowerheads above
Rambling Rector and the mock orange are on the western fence and the prevailing wind is combining their scents in a most pleasing fashion. Too bad I can't share that piece of my garden with you.
Rambling Rector and the mock orange are on the western fence and the prevailing wind is combining their scents in a most pleasing fashion. Too bad I can't share that piece of my garden with you.
Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
Monday, 12 June 2017
|Apologies if this photo is sending your eyes a bit squiffy!|
Last week saw an unexpected and special group of visitors in our house. As you can see, I found a ladybird larva crawling across my laptop whilst I was in my study.
There were four in total, including one NAH found on my hair, plus a couple more I found on the Flowers for Mum bouquet I shared with you last week. I suspect that was the source of all of these most welcome visitors.
I was concerned when I spotted the first one, because it was quite small and there didn't seem to be any food available. However, the next day it had happily doubled in size and I saw there were a few aphids clambering around the lemon balm and ox-eye daisies.
A day later all the aphids had gone and I discovered my first ladybird had a companion. Both were transferred outside to my 'Kew Gardens' rose to continue with their good work, as were the others I found later that day.
First I found an earthworm, then the snail, then last year a cricket graced unexpected places in my house. What's the most unusual garden creature you've found at home?
Update: NAH has just found another one upstairs and there are loads in the garden. It looks like it's going to be a good year for ladybirds.
Friday, 9 June 2017
|I love the cool greenery and strokeability of this simple arrangement.|
Since I outlined my Flowers for Mum project, it's fair to say things have not gone to plan. I've been preoccupied instead with obtaining some specialist equipment and care for her, and despite Georgie's reassurance that growing cut flowers can be broken down into manageable chunks of time, I failed to sow any flowers this spring.
Thank goodness for Franks Plants - still going strong - who've supplied me with many of the plants on my original list (plus a couple of extras based on your comments on my previous post) at a reasonable cost. These are now safely planted out on the allotment as planned ~ more on these anon.
Thank goodness too for my Wild and Woolly Lawn, whose self-sown flowers and leaves have yielded my first home-grown bunches of flowers, not only for mum but with a bonus bunch or three for me. I'd anticipated using the ox-eye daisies, but never the lemon balm nor the lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) which grace this week's offering.
I picked the daisies just as their buds were starting to open. They're still slowly unfurling a week later and along with the accompanying leaves are proving to be a selection with a good vase life as well as looking attractive (in my view). This bunch also has the bonus of the lemon scent from the balm, plus the strokeability of the Stachys. It's a bunch with visual, scent and touch appeal... plus taste if a few of the lemon balm leaves are nibbled or made into a refreshing tea. Mum appreciates them all.
|May's first home-grown and self-sown bunch of flowers - perennial cornflowers, alliums and Aquilegia|
Monday, 5 June 2017
What an amazing response to #mygardenrightnow over the weekend! We nearly doubled the participants from March, and more than doubled the number of entries across social media. Twitter and Instagram in particular exploded into life and as a result it's taken me a while to catch up with you all.
Roses are most definitely the bloom of the moment with geraniums and lavender running a close second. It's harder to pinpoint a produce favourite, lettuce or beans possibly. We also had some early harvest action - strawberries plus various salad leaves and herbs.
A mainly sunny weekend saw you out enjoying your gardens in many ways, with washing lines being a new notable feature alongside various garden toys. It's great to see real gardens being used by all family members and for all kinds of purposes. Sadly there was no anticipated barbecue activity, but a rather nice bonfire finished off Sunday's efforts.
Here in the UK we awoke to horrific news yesterday morning, which required a pause for reflection for a while. After that it was uplifting to see everyone coming together for #mygardenrightnow - including contributions from other Chelsea Fringe projects plus Canada, Denmark, France, India, Switzerland and the USA - to share the positive aspects of your world. I found it most soothing - perhaps gardening is the answer after all.
The next episode of #mygardenrightnow will be the first weekend in September. See you there?
|Some of my efforts for #mygardenrightnow from the weekend. Jess says hello!|
For a beautiful set of photos of real gardens, look no further than the Instagram and Twitter #mygardenrightnow timelines (you don't need an account to see these feeds).
My post on Saturday has all the links to the wonderful blogs written for #mygardenrightnow.
Saturday, 3 June 2017
Ahhhhhh, that's better! I love walking through dewy grass in bare feet, not that there's much in the way of grass on my back lawn this weekend. My wild and woolly lawn has morphed into meadow of sorts this month, which even NAH admits looks attractive*.
It's also proved a great source for my Flowers for mum project so far, yielding self-sown perennial cornflowers, lamb's ears, and lemon balm in addition to the blooms you can see. These originated from elsewhere in the garden, the ox-eye daisies must have blown in from the A350 nearby.
* = he got very stroppy about the weeds aka self-sown foxgloves in the lawn one year, so he's come along a bit since then.
Skimble's demanding to say hello to you too. He does enjoy the patio when it warms up.
If the embedded video doesn't work try this link instead.
The Nectaroscordum are a revelation. I planted the bulbs around 2 years ago, but it's only this year they've bloomed properly. The bees gather around the flowers, and it's such fun to watch their antics from the comfort of our kitchen.
NB please enter the URL of the blog post itself rather than just your blog.
Not sure of what to do for #mygardenrightnow? All is explained here (opens in a new window).
Here comes Mr Linky...
Friday, 2 June 2017
Back by popular demand, the second #mygardenrightnow weekend is upon us! This time we're doing it as a Chelsea Fringe event because it's a cool project, worthy of inclusion in their wonderful activities. It's so cool we've even made The Guardian!
The principle is the same as before. All you need to do is take a photo of yourself in your garden sometime this weekend, then blog about it or post on your favourite social media (choose from Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) on Saturday or Sunday and let me know when you've posted your effort.
Last time we had plenty of mud, puddles, leeks and crocuses. Who knows what we'll see this time? I hope there'll be lots of evidence of you enjoying your garden as this project is all about celebrating real gardens as used and loved by real gardeners.
I'll post my effort tomorrow, along with a Mr Linky to add your blog posts. I'll also patrol the #mygardenrightnow hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote what you're up to. Expect others to pop by as we all come to have a peep over the virtual garden fence!
|Clematis are going bonkers in my garden. Watch this space to see if they feature in #mygardenrightnow|
Some FAQS from March to help everyone join in this time around...
Does it have to be just one photo for my post?
That's entirely up to you! I plumped for one photo so it's easy for as many people as possible to join in. If you want to do more, please do.
I'm away this weekend, but I still want to join in
We had a couple of people 'adopt' the garden where they were staying last time, and you're welcome to do the same.
I have both a garden and an allotment, which one should I photograph?
It's entirely up to you. I've linked my garden and allotment together previously by using my trug to represent what's going on at the allotment. If you want to take separate photos of you at both sites, then that's OK too.
I'm camera shy
It doesn't have to be a photo of all of you. Feet or hands are acceptable and are easy to do if you're taking the photo yourself (see above). Selfies are acceptable too, the more the merrier!
I don't have a garden
If you have just one houseplant, then you can take part. That's your garden.
My garden's not a showpiece
But you love it because it's yours, right? That's just the kind of garden I want to see in #mygardenrightnow - we're celebrating all gardens. Though if yours is all primped and ready for a NGS opening (real or otherwise), that's welcome too.
Can I use YouTube?
We had a debut YouTube video the last time round (embedded in a blog post, plus another included in a Facebook Note), so I don't see why not. You will need to let me know where it is if you choose to go down this route. If you don't link to it via your blog or other social media it's more difficult to find and promote your efforts.
Let me know in the comments if you have any further questions...
... otherwise see you tomorrow and Sunday for #mygardenrightnow!
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
|Sunset edged irises at Chateau du Rivau|
It was bearded iris time on our recent trip to France; also at last week's Chelsea Flower Show; and judging by my peeps into social media, it's currently iris time for many of you too.
I must admit I'm late to warm to these flowers. The earlier blooming Iris reticulata, then elegant Iris sibirica are usually my species of choice, but seeing so many fine bearded irises whilst away along with the steady drip feed of your photos finally got me thinking differently.
Then yesterday whilst sorting through my things, I found a leaflet from Cayeux nursery (which I picked up at Chelsea last week), which has answered all my doubts...
|I loved Cayeux's colour sectioned display at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. Guess which one is my favourite?|
Doubt #1: They don't bloom for very long
Cayeux says: "If you select a mixture of small, intermediate and tall varieties you can have irises in flower from mid April until early June... And even after the flowering season the stiff fan of leaves is attractive for much of the year."
Update: my friend Helen commented there are some varieties which re-bloom. That's definitely something to look out for. Here's Claire Austin's list of remontant irises (the technical term used for those irises which re-bloom) plus her notes on how reliably those varieties exhibit that tendency in the midlands.
Catherine Horwood also reminded me about the smaller Cedric Morris varieties via Facebook. I saw these exhibited at Chelsea a couple of years ago, and very fine they were too.
Doubt #2: They don't thrive on my limey soil
Cayeux says: "In fact bearded irises are fairly unfussy about the soil they grow in. Really good drainage* is more crucial than acidity."
Doubt #3: They struggled to flower when I tried them
Cayeux says: "You may have planted them in shade: irises need full sun for at least two thirds of the day, preferably on the rhizomes which should be visible above the soil. Or they may have needed dividing: after 3 or 4 years one rhizome can form a good clump."
* = I'm concerned about that too because of my clay soil, but I've also come to realise I have some sunny gravel areas in the garden which should provide better drainage than usual.
Conclusion? Perhaps I should try them one more time bearing the above points in mind.
|A case of mistaken identity at Chaumont, oops!|
So which iris am I planning to buy? Not the one pictured above, fine though it is. I thought it was the Jardins de Chaumont variety pointed out to me at the time at Chaumont, but a quick check of Cayeux's website shows that one is much paler.
I think Jardins de Chaumont will be a good 'starter for 10' - a fine iris selected by Chaumont's director and a great souvenir of happy times. I must also ask Patricia Laigneau about the pictured varieties I've chosen to show from Le Rivau; such a magical time.
|Massed white irises at dawn at Le Rivau|
Where to see bearded irises in profusion
These are places for inspiration, whether you're a fan already, or need more persuasion like me.
If you're considering a trip to France - the Loire valley in particular - then their new Route des Iris trail is worth considering for May next year (or this year if you're quick!). It takes in 2 nurseries and 5 gardens, including Cayeux and Chaumont.
Claire Austin usually has open days at her Shropshire nursery timed to coincide with the flowering of her national collection of bearded irises. This year is no exception - you'll need to be there this coming Friday or Saturday (2nd & 3rd June 2017), 10-4pm. Tea, coffee and cake are also available to lure you there.
You may remember I visited an amazing collection of irises at the Laking Garden in Canada a couple of years ago.
The British Iris Society has a list (with links) of gardens and nurseries (UK and worldwide) noted for their irises.
|I have a similar site at home to this one at Le Rivau. Will their irises follow me here? Watch this space...|
Friday, 26 May 2017
Green walls were a must-have for Nigel Dunnett's garden for Greening Grey Britain, so it was no surprise there were two of them incorporated into his design. The one which interested me most was found at the back, enlivened by Jo Peel's street art.
This turned out to be a new-to-me type of green wall; low(er) in cost and lightweight, and designed to hang in order to hide ugly facades or fences. The wall contains a seed mix of fescue and wildflowers and was started around 4 weeks ago ready for the show. Unlike most green walls, this one is usually hung just after seeding and would initially be brown.
Like other walls of this type it has an irrigation system at the top which could be run off a rainwater harvesting system. I was surprised to find it's only designed to last around three years, so it might be a better proposition (in my view) as a temporary installation, as an alternative to the ivy screens such as those used currently by the Crossrail project (see here for an example). Whether it's viable as a longer term solution depends on the initial and replacement costs involved.
City Living design included a couple of the more familiar, verdant living walls I've seen in public places.
The difference here was a new-to-me supplier, called Gro-Wall. When I peered into the foliage, it looked like the planting pockets for this design are much deeper than the ones I've found in previous Great Green Wall Hunts. The blurb on the RHS website (see above link) confirms my findings:
"The living wall uses larger than normal planting trays..., meaning that a wider range of specimens can be used, including tropical plants. Shade loving plants have been planted at the bottom of the wall, while sun lovers are at the top where they have access to more light."
Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, where the rounded moss balls certainly added texture to the feature wall. It's a shame they weren't repeated throughout the design, though I suspect these are quite hard to supply in vast quantities.
We usually see these as a signature feature in Kazuyuki Ishihara's designs. Don't worry, he had them in his Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War garden as well (click to enlarge if needed).
Not to be outdone, the Great Pavilion sported at least two examples of green walls and I was pleased to find an edible version on Tom Smith's exhibit. This is a great way of extending edible space in small gardens and can easily be replicated on a budget using drainpipes or pallets as planters.
Just through the greenhouse door you can see the world's hottest chilli Tom's son Mike bred, which is now being researched by Nottingham Trent University as a possible anaesthetic (remember how numb your mouth goes when you have a hot chilli sauce?).
To the right we have the British Ecological Society's Delight in the Dark exhibit, which demonstrates the way some plants are adapted for life in the shade. It's the first time I've seen a torch used to explain an exhibit, to simulate different light levels and how plants adapt to the shade itself, or are vernal i.e. they flower in spring when there's less shade from the canopy above.
The internet also offers some relatively cheap (though much smaller) and DIY options which use moss or succulents as the planting material. Information on how long these living pictures last isn't readily available.
These are all options which merit further investigation for The Great Green Wall Hunt when the opportunity next presents itself.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
I was all geared up to bring news from this year's Chelsea Flower Show, but after I'd heard the dreadful news from Manchester this morning, it seemed crass and too flippant to do so.
Then I remembered Interflora's Stories of Emotion exhibit whilst I was up at the plot this afternoon. The arrangements and their accompanying stories stopped me in my tracks yesterday, just as today's news has stopped me again.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I've decided to show a snippet from the exhibit as a reminder that a glimpse of beauty can always overcome adversity.
Friday, 19 May 2017
|Adding my thoughts to the back of Au Pied du Mur|
I've heard loads about Chaumont International Garden Festival previously, but I never thought I'd actually get to go there. You can imagine I gave a quick hop and skip of delight when I found it was a must-see on our itinerary for France.
If you ever get the chance to go, do - it's quite unlike any garden show in the UK*. For starters the Festival lasts several months rather than days (from 20th April to 5th November this year), and each garden is surrounded by a beech hedge, housed in a permanent site which set aside from the rest of Chaumont's extensive grounds.
It also pays to put any preconceptions to one side as applications are drawn from a much wider circle of potential candidates than usual with around 20 to 30 gardens selected from a pool of hundreds of applications. Artists are well represented as well as those from the world of gardening and landscape design.
I could imagine RHS judges tutting behind me at the standard of each garden's finish, but that didn't matter. These are expressions of ideas and visitors can wander all over them, feeling and breathing in the designer's intention as they go. I found I felt a wider range of emotions as a result, from 'What the f***????', to bursts of giggles and joy.
The festival's longevity means my experience of a couple of weeks ago will be quite different to what later visitors will see. Plants will fill out and inhabit their spaces completely, and the flowers and plants designed to fulfil this year's Flower Power theme will truly come into their own.
* = sadly the similarly intentioned shows at Westonbirt Arboretum held around 15 years ago are no more.
So what caught my eye at this year's show?
Ways of viewing a garden can be quite different...
|A view onto Puissantes Immobiles which gave the effect of highlighting individual plants|
... and you'll find plants may be labelled.
Your view of 'what is a garden?' will be challenged quite thoroughly...
|The reverse side of Au Pied du Mur|
Gardens aren't just for humans...
|This little dog was most reluctant to jump over the water in Levant|
... and may prove rather a challenge to some of them.
Reality will be distorted in all kinds of ways...
|Playtime and photocall in Monochrome Blanc|
... now you see me...
|Monochrome Blanc looking the other way - a potential candidate for my Great Green Wall Hunt?|
... and now you don't.
Sometimes an interior deserves special attention...
|I loved the attention to detail in her 04bis workshop, reminiscent of the artist's studios we saw in Giverny the day before|
... because there's a chance to meet my first ever plasticine artist, Anne Marlangeon.
|I loved the play of light on the foliage and the dark architectural shapes of Phoenix|
|Spot Naomi and me photobombing our own photographs in Les Coulisses de l'Attraction!|
Hop on over to Sign of the Times to see another favourite featured as today's Friday Bench.
Chaumont isn't just about the garden festival. There's a wildly romantic looking chateau overlooking the Loire for starters.
And in the historic Park the gardens team provide an amazing sourcebook of planting ideas too. I now believe my massed planting of alliums seriously lacks an equivalent amount of camassias after I viewed this scene.
Use succulents as bedding plants? Why not?
They can manage self restraint too, as shown in this area where visitors first approach the festival and room is needed to avoid a pinch point. Something to think about for Greening Grey Britain perhaps?
Chaumont has lots of other features such as land art (including one by Andy Goldsworthy); a misted, jungly garden and much more besides. We didn't have time to see it all in our allotted afternoon; it's the perfect excuse to go back one day.
I was the guest of Loire Valley tourism, who put together a fantastic programme of varied gardens, accommodation and food for our visit.
As usual, the words and opinions are my own and there are no affiliate links or cookies associated with this post.
Monday, 15 May 2017
I bought this clematis at my first visit to Malvern show (before I started blogging) for the princely sum of £2, because its extra-large blooms caught my eye - the diameter of each is about the size of my hand's span. It's one of the earliest clematis to flower, but until now it's been a little shy for me. This year is proving to be different, with many buds lined up below the three flowers you can see.
It's reputed to have both double and single blooms, with the doubles appearing first followed by the singles later in summer. This is because it can flower on old and new wood, though mine has always been single flowered, even when I forget to prune it like I've done this year (it's pruning group 2, in case you were wondering).
It was bred by Charles Noble in 1882, possibly a cross between C. lanuginosa (discovered by Robert Fortune in China) and a seedling of 'Fortunei' × patens. It's long servitude makes it a 'good doer' in my view, though it took the RHS a while to give it the recognition it deserves, only awarding an AGM in 1993. Noble also bred the well-known 'The President', which I also have in my garden and usually blooms for me in June.
Why the name Daniel Deronda? It's a book by George Eliot and it seems Charles Noble was an admirer of her work. Sadly the clematis he named after her is no longer available.
There's a great write-up about this clematis on the Clematis International website - though I can't link to it directly. Click on the link I've given, then on the By Category link which subsequently appears in the website's sidebar. Then click on to Early Large-flowered option on the subsequent drop-down list. 'Daniel Deronda' should then appear as one of the pictorial thumbnail options, which will also give you an idea of how it looks in its double-flowered form.
I've enjoyed finding out the story behind the name for Blooms Day, quite literally in this case!
Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
Saturday, 13 May 2017
Further to Wednesday's cri de coeur about where to start, I've created a Google Map to summarise our trip and to start to get my head around my amazing time in France. You can get the full interactive map experience here (NB do take the link, the map on display here is just a jpeg image). When you're in the map, click on each place on the map itself or on the list at the side, and you'll find some initial thoughts on each place we visited, stayed or ate at, plus a summary photo or two to set the scene.
Looking at the map, it's clear that in/near Rouen, Chartres and Tours would make ideal bases for various parts of the trip if you wish to see for yourself. Dieppe is a suitable alternative entry point for those of you in the south-east (from Newhaven), instead of our Portsmouth/Le Havre combo. We completed our tour in 5 days at full steam ahead, bookended by overnight cabins on the ferry. I'd recommend at least double that to enjoy and explore each place more fully than we did.
I'll update the map with websites and links to articles/blog posts later, and I'll also be using it as a reference throughout my forthcoming bloggage.
If you have any questions or comments about the trip, I'll endeavour to add answers on the map as appropriate as well as replying to you directly. I've had some useful conversations already via Twitter and Facebook, and one of my USA pals is keen to discuss the trip as a possibility for herself when we meet at the Garden Bloggers Fling next month.
Your suggestions for further gardens you've enjoyed in these regions are also welcome - I already have some for planning the next trip. They include Jardin Plume, Sericourt, Parc du Bois des Moutiers, Le Lude, Talcy and Villandry. I also like the look of Etretat from the leaflet I picked up along the way, and Naomi from Out of My Shed has pointed me in the direction of the rose festival at Chedigny, usually held at the end of May.
The port of Le Havre is also worth a look, especially as it celebrates its 500th anniversary this year, and note that Val de Loire has designated 2017 as Jardins en Val de Loire, with plenty of extra gardens-related action to usual. There's also an interactive map on the Normandy tourism website of over 100 gardens to visit, which leaves you spoilt for choice. In the Loire, there's the new iris route for this time of the year, or if you're a keen cyclist, you may like to make a leisurely tour of the Loire using the Loire à Vélo website.
If you're an RHS member, then note you may have free entry to some French gardens; i.e. those designated as RHS Partner Gardens. At the time of writing this includes Le Rivau and Valmer we visited, plus more besides. You can also buy a pass in advance (online or at local tourist offices) to some of the Loire chateaux - full details are here. Otherwise admission prices to gardens/properties are broadly in line with the UK (thanks to the strong Euro).
Most properties also have special events, especially cultural ones such as art exhibitions, and outdoor theatre or opera. It was noticeable that performances are generally well priced compared to similar events in the UK.
NB It's worth checking opening times before you go. Some properties close for lunch, as do some local shops/post offices/banks/cafes in the smaller towns and villages. The gardens may also have limited opening hours during the week, or on Bank Holidays (NB these are different to ours), or according to the time of year.
I love the idea of the Chartres Greeters scheme, where you can hook up with a volunteer to show you their city tailored to your interests. We were due to go on a garden walk with a Greeter on arrival in Chartres, but unfortunately time and rain conspired against us on the day. It's a pity because our drive into the city revealed much of interest from a parks and public planting point of view.
I was the guest of Normandy and Loire Valley tourism, who put together a fantastic programme of varied gardens, accommodation and food for our visit.
As usual, the words and opinions are my own and there are no affiliate links or cookies associated with this post.
NB the information and links are correct at the time of writing in 2017, though may be subject to change. Let me know if you spot any broken links in this post or on my map.