Discovering my other self!

Monday, September 9, 2019

One month on from our wedding it has been good to have time to visit friends, have friends visit us, go garden visiting and do some key jobs in the garden.

You might have wondered from the headline to this news item if I was going to reveal some hidden secrets about how our lives have changed since we got married. Well, we are pleased to say that our lives have gone on in the same way that they have in the last 38 years, but we do both enjoy being Mr and Mrs Brown!

The germ of the idea for the headline came from walking around the borders all over the garden and reflecting how they have advanced over the 20 years or so that they have been been planted.

Having grown up in my early gardening years with bedding plants, heathers, a few shrubs and of course vegetables I had no experience of planting up a garden the size of Cilgwyn Lodge or of how to integrate a wide range of herbaceous plants and shrubs into the attractive mixed borders I was eager to create. Visits to other gardens, books and periodicals were all part of the pathway leading to my end goal. Not to say that I ever got it right first time! The biggest influence on me were the books of Gertrude Jekyll in particular her classic "Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden". Quite old fashioned perhaps for many tastes but exactly what I was looking for at that time. The book is still available on line


Her mantra for border design was Flow and Harmony and colours and forms that sat comfortably together. Where the scale of a garden permitted, she also espoused the principle of double borders opposite each other, either in a contrasting style to each other or complementing each other. This matched exactly what I had planned for Cilgwyn, one border in sun and well drained soil, the other in shade with retentive soil, which gave me the chance to use a wider range of plants in each which all plants people love, affording the opportunity to acquire as many different pants as possible. 

 The 2 main borders in the garden are in the contrasting style and are 40 metres long and 7 metres wide


 The Red Border


The Pastels and yellow border


For years I  adhered to the same principles but latterly as horticultural styles and tastes have changed I have begun to find my other self, not to the extent that I have been inclined to radically change the planting combinations for the sake of it. But looking to be more adventurous when planting out in established borders, newly acquired plants, and limiting the amount of staking that I do to support border plants but letting plants stand as free and naturalistic as possible.

This orange lily henryi are growing through a large hydrange Annabelle, wich for me makes a pleasing contrast. I never would have thought I would grow so fond of orange and embraced it so much all over the gardens!


 Relaxed planting in a seed sown Wildflower type garden


The more plants are set out close to each other the more able they seem to stand without additional support.If not a gentle stake or cane can be slipped in. Some of the smaller plants lend themselves to this more than the "jungle Giants" that are long established here and would be damaged in inclement weather without judicious use of stakes.



Some strong growing perennials like acanthus are capable most of the time of supporting themselves.


 Contrasting forms of hakanachloa macra, a superb pendant form of Japanese grass, and a yellow daisy family member, inula hookeri, in one of the smaller borders in the House Garden, and have different leaves and flowers



If you regularly read our News or have ever visited the gardens you will have no doubt formed your own opinions! In all their guises they have given us such immense pleasure over the years and hopefully they will continue to do so. 



After a month of drought conditions in July it was good to have some welcome rain this month although we could have done without the strong winds that often accompanied it. The streams and rivers are flowing again as are the springs of those of our neighbours who have no mains water for themselves or livestock.


The monthly stats show what a mixed bag of weather we had including the first thunder and lightning for some time, on 9th. Weather stats on 4 days were not recorded when we were away

Sun:- 10 days. Max 26.14 on 25th.  There were 12 days with tempertures over 20C

Rain:- 4 days Most of the rain came in spells of changeable weather and total rainfall levels measured 8.7 inches

Changeable weather:- 11 days

Remarkably for August there were numerous records of relatively low overnight temperatures with a min of 4C (no damage done!) on 14th and a total of 19 nights under 15C

 Perhaps in response to the changing weather conditions there were signs of the steady advance of autumn


 Sorbus Olympic Flame is always one of the earliest trees in the garden to show some leaf colour but by the time of writing, September 4th, it had started to take on its fiery red suggested by the name.




Garden Update

The welcome rains have really freshened up the gardens, and the veg which we have watered regularly, have gone crazy! All the legumes at last presented us with a very large  harvest of peas, dwarf beans and runner beans, one of the best crops for many years. 

Runner bean "White Lady"


 All time favourite pea "Hurst Green Shaft"


 Peas and dwarf beans


 A basket of yellow veg, some of which will be familiar, perhaps save for the yellow dwarf beans which were bred in Poland and gave it the appropriate name of "Polka"It has a lovely creamy texture and mixes well with a similar sized climbing French bean called "Cobra" and they look good together on a plate.

Courgettes of varying colours. The yellow ones are soft and mild in texture but cook just as well as the green forms


 Sweet corn "Swift"are really cropping well with very  large cobs that the birds are are troubling as they often do, but not as severely as usual.  The pic below  shows the damage they can do!




 Onions harvested before the worst of the rain came, drying in the large greenhouse


 As crops finish they and are cleared, we use the space they leave behind to sow later season crops. These two rows of seedlings are carrots which I have taken a chance with much earlier than I have before, because the main crop carrots have produced a disappointing harvest this summer.


 Some of the worst carrots! Embarassed to show you!! Hardly any carrot fly damage though.


 No clubroot either on the brassicas this year which whatever the variety or type always come up with a fine set of roots. which has not been the case for some years.




 Always something to cut back or clear away all over the garden   and even on the wettest of days Moira plays a considerable part in this.


With the grass wet for much of the month the rate of mowing has slowed down, and when I do mow it takes 2 cuts over several days to bring the grass down slowly otherwise it would go yellow or chew up

The ponds have filled up and the Paddock pond is much clearer now that the stream that feeds it is flowing strongly








The Koi pond has been a problem most of the year as the pump has been failing and the filters blocked so it needed considerable attention. The Koi too were becoming stressed especially in hot spells of weather. Our friends Tony and Sylvia, on a visit to Cilgwyn, suggested that we got to work to solve the problems. Tony had devised the pond sytems based on a model of his own at home. The problems were resolved and the fish are now looking much better. See pic above


What is/was looking good

August is a time when a different range of plants come into growth to add to those that have been flowering for several months. As usual pics to show the best of all these

 An interesting range of plants in this smaller border  which I have replanted over the past 5 years or so in tune with my other self!


 Lilium speciosum rubrum


 Lilium auratrum "Gold Band" sometimes also called called The golden rayed lily of Japan. Exquisite perfume too.



Hydrangea paniculata "Vanille Fraise" which like others in this group, changes colour later in the season from white to various shades of pink. The blue of lobelia siphilitica sits well with it and a red dahlia peeps in from the nearby Red Border!


 The same plant looking up the Paddock Garden from a different angle with other border companions. Quite clever that of me to use it twice he said modestly


 We have a good range of crocosmias in most shades but I have always been fond of ". Emberglow" which has a prime place in the Red Border. I had Lucifer in this border but found it too orange with the rest of the reds and has a tendancy to flop over the other plants companions


 A recent introduction  has, for me, put all the other red forms in the shade with its deep red flowers and no trace of yellow in the eye, Some of the old me in this!! but I really do like it.


 One of the top summer perennials for August which is a special favourite of mine, is rudbeckia var sullivantii "Goldsturm". I like it so much I chose it for the Banner Image of our website! Such a joyful riposte to the forthcoming Autumn.


 Roscoea "Spice Isand" with fluffy pink tails of sanguisorba hakusanensis in the form collected by Crug Farm Nursery known by its collection name as B&SWJ8709


There are other roscoeas in the gardens with an increasingly wide range to choose from. There are many hybrid forms, not always named, this one often called simply purpurea possibly originating in part from "Brown Peacock" Looking really tender but they are hardy, solid, reliable perennials for rich soil in shade or part shade



 Paniculata hydrangea, an unknown form which I cut back earier in the year which has the effect of producing much larger flowers than the norm. A lovely contrast with the deep purple of monarda "Prairie Night" or "Prarienacht"



Another fine  monarda is "Snow White" or Schneewittchen" which looks good even when it is aging.



I hope I have got the monarda names correct! as a very good friend of ours is Carole Whittaker who is a National Plant Collection Holder of Monarda for Plant Heritage. If you are interested in this genus go to her website for information and visiting arrangements during their flowering season.


Chelone Obliqua


The so called "turtle head" It desrves a better common name than that!. Flowers for up to 3 months from early August with a vibrant pink



With so much colour elsewhere in the gardens it makes a change to have a cooling contrast. This happy combination of green umbelifers is composed of Bupleurum Fruticosum (a medium shrub) in the foreground of the pic, and green fennel at the back. The borrowed landscape adding furher tones of green.


 Another monochrome composition formed by double gysophila and eryngium varifolium.


 Clematis have done well and are flowering their hearts out in a wide variety This one being "Blue Belle" Remarkably large flowers for a member of the viticella group.


 This more delicate flowered form is "Heather Herschell" Intergrifolia group


 Up the 12 sweet pea wigwams we grow a mix of other clematis


White phlox, a lone  lily and a fine stand of echinops ritro




Wildlife and Countryside

The plethora of butterflies was the best we have had for years including last summer. Nothing particularly unusual but they were everywhere!







 So good to see so many Painted Ladies returning from their long journeys back from Africa




 We had to travel to the coast to see a blue butterfly that we have never seen here


Two bird sightings were welcome The first kingfisher for a long time over the Paddock Pond which flew straight over me! when I was clearing the pond weed.

Secondly a bird I have heard a lot over the last month and seen just twice. The green woodpecker or Yaffle in English dialect. Common in Gloucestershire where I came from, but not so much here over the last 43 years. The call of the bird is one that once heard is never forgotten.

On the way back home from Powis Castle there were numerous fine stands of wild chicory along the road verges often mingling attractively with other wild flowers.


Just one feed of large field mushrooms courtesy of a local farmer friend.



We really made up for lost time with many more visits than in the last 4 months! 6 gardens in all, including some of our old favourites, truly exceptional gardens, especially a new one that in time, as it matures, is likely to become a legend:- Broughton Grange, Banbury, Oxfordshire.

350acres of gardens including arboreta, water features, formal borders in a variety of habitats, all designed from scratch by Tom Stuart- Smith and constructed in 2001


New twists in design appear at every time you turn around 






The gardens have only relatively recently started opening to the public but there are facilities available and a refreshment marquee serving simple lunches with produce from the gardens. Very welcome on a cold wet day!









 A striking and rarely encountered feature is a shade walk through banks of peat blocks with a wide range of planting combinations.




 The wider landscape on a distant ridge


John one of our friends showed his gift for walking on the water  of one of the rills!!




 From the new to the old, and one with a modern link to Broughton Grange

Trentham Gardens Stoke on Trent

Records of gardens there go back to approx 1759 when they were remodelled by Capability Brown (not a close relative of mine!) There have been subsequent remodellings over the centuries including modern designers Piet Oudorf and Tom Stuart- Smith which is where the link to Broughton Grange comes in. Compare this pic, with an almost identical one from Broughton. 






 Part of a very old estate there are numerous buildings and artefacts  to experience




 The lake is one mile long!


 Very handy for a boat trip and to show off  one of the many fun items that pop up all over the huge garden.




 A Fairy figure crafted from steel, ideal for the many children and their parents attracted by the venue


 The entrance borders have considerable impact as they have to in a garden on such a large scale. Think how out of proportion bedding borders would look!




 The gardens are part of a larger estate which has considerable commercial outlets which are not in the gardens so  they never detract from the gardens which have to be financially supported to keep up their maintenance and development all of which are excellent.


 Powis Castle, Welshpool' Powys.>powis-castle-and-garden

The oldest gardens (From 1680) we visited. South facing on a stunning site














 The gardens are very steep and Moira kindly volunteered to demonstrate this!



 Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Chipping Camden, Glos.

The final one of the old gardens which in parts is also on a steep slope.

Celebrating the Gardens 100th anniversary this year having been developed by 3 generations of lady gardeners from the same family and still in the same ownership.

Just down the road from Hidcote but Kiftsgate should be your first choice to visit!






 The view across the Vale of Evesham is an added bonus when you visit the garden


 Each of the ladies has added their own touches and this one of course is that of the current owner.



As a change from garden visiting we paid a visit to the Pembrokeshire seaside with friends Sylvia and Tony.

 Freshwater West, Angle.

We are all devotees of Pembs but had never previously visited this huge beach


 The beach has firm sand and there is an added interest from the sand dunes that back it


 Sea Holly is an added bomus in the dunes along with other sand loving plants


However to find our native clematis vitalba in that setting was quite a surprise


It is such a popular spot that parking can be an issue.



Sections of the beach are covered in a range of attractive stones that merit beachcombing which can be quite obsessive!





 Syvia's work of art on the beach- no shortage of stones



PHEW. What a marathon! Thanks for staying with me KeithX