Garden Journal - March 21st 2005

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson

 

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Mar 21st 2005 - Garden visit

We had a few days away last week, a very welcome break spent visiting friends in Oxfordshire and then to look at Beth Chattoís garden near Colchester in Essex.

"...Even at this time of year when little is growing, it was filled with colour."

Beth Chattoís garden was a lovely treat for more several reasons. Firstly, it was extremely quiet and we could wander about without being disturbed, allowing us to get the atmosphere of the place. Then I discovered that, over the winter, RHS members get in free so it only cost us £4 rather than £8 Ė a bargain. The best was that it was my first visit and Iíd been looking forward to it for some time. Lastly, that I wasnít the least bit disappointed. It was beautiful. Even at this time of year when little is growing, it was filled with colour. The sun shone through red leaved Bergenias, of which there are many types planted in groups at the front of some beds, making their leaves blaze.

 

 

Then, we saw red and orange-stemmed Dogwoods planted alongside a still pool, their reflections fiery in the sunlight. I was particularly taken with Cornus sanguinea ĎMidwinter Fireí. The branches are yellow at the base, deepening to orange-red further up the stem. I felt compelled, bought two and have put one in front of a dark green holly where it glows quietly. The other has gone in the front garden against the wall, where it breaks up the brickwork nicely.

the woodland floor is a carpet of early flowering plants

More colour was seen in the Woodland Garden, where the woodland floor is a carpet of early flowering plants. Galanthus nivalis growing with daffodils, rich blue Scilla sibirica 'Spring Beauty' growing under dark purple Helleborus orientalis, Pulmonarias, Cyclamen coum and a good amount of what I think is Arum italicum ĎPictumí with its glossy, variegated dark green and white colouring. In amongst it all was the promise of lush growth come summer: the currently leafless mounds of sleeping ferns, just showing the little brown nubs of new fronds.

 

The Water Garden was serene, the tall trees reflected in the still surface of three pools. Swamp cypress grows well here and the white trunk of a Betula utilis var. jacquemontii stood out proudly against the green lawn. One large weeping willow drooped towards the water, its thin stems dotted with green leaf buds. The pools are bordered by many moisture loving plants, plus grasses and Gunneras, still dormant at this time of year.

 

"...In the Gravel Garden we saw more of the red leaved Bergenias growing with daffodils"

In the Gravel Garden we saw more of the red leaved Bergenias growing with daffodils, flowering Euphorbias (E. rigida was especially bright), Eucalyptus and a grass-like plant that I was very much taken with: Libertia peregrinans. It forms tussocks of flattened fans and in sun shows stripes in green, orange and yellow. Set in gravel, growing near grey-leaved plants, it looked stunning. It would be useful here to contrast with the rather dull buff-grey brick walls that our house and garden walls are built of.

 

 

My RHS teacher, Gail, has a nursery in Winterton, which grows many ornamental grasses. She tells me she has this Libertia in stock. Iíll have to get some.

A male frog was sitting over it, in guard mode, and we later saw the female who was quite a bit larger and a bright pale green compared to the maleís dark grey skin.

So to the garden here, where spring has started at last. We heard croaking from the pond for a couple of nights and were greeted with three large clumps of frog spawn last Thursday morning. A male frog was sitting over it, in guard mode, and we later saw the female who was quite a bit larger and a bright pale green compared to the maleís dark grey skin. Talking to neighbours who have ponds, everyone seems to have got frog spawn at the same time. I suppose the frogs must have decided for themselves that spring has arrived, so it will be interesting to see what the weather does.

 

"...One of these days Iíll make a plan with all the plants marked in their proper places."

Tight buds of new green are showing on all the shrubs and many spirals of folded green leaf shoots are poking up from the soil. Itíll all change so fast now, as the plants wake up. Looking at some of the shoots, I canít remember what they are and will have to wait till they get a bit bigger so they can be identified again. One of these days Iíll make a plan with all the plants marked in their proper places.

 

Weíve been agonising for ages now about how to give ourselves more privacy in our patio area without cutting it off from the rest of the garden. If we put up fence and trellis then itíll cut off the view of the apple tree and break the garden up in a way that we donít want. We like its open layout and the fact that you can walk all round the house without facing obstacles. If we do nothing then we are open to the public gaze.

"...So, no first cup of the day on the patio just yet."

At the moment I would never step outside in my dressing gown, though it seems to me to be the right of anyone to do who wishes it. It isnít vanity, itís just that I donít want to put myself on display as soon as I get up; and, whilst not that many people walk by the house, a few do. Itís natural enough, people see movement and look towards it, but I donít want to be looked at by strangers when Iím in my jimjams. So, no first cup of the day on the patio just yet.

 

The situation may have a remedy in the form of Dogwoods. We shall see how it works, but what Iíve done is to plant a row of green and red stemmed Dogwoods along the side of the patio that faces the road. They will have attractive stems in winter, when we wonít want to be sitting out, and (I hope) by summer will have grown taller and leafed out enough that we can relax outside without feeling conspicuous. Under-planted with herbaceous perennials, they should form a screen that will be colourful and attractive.

 

Apart from us, the wildlife will find them better than fencing as they provide shelter, summer flowers and autumn berries. There is also the matter that they wonít just blow down, as a fence could do, in some of the strong winds that we get in this part of the country. As they are replacing some rustic wooden tepee supports, which have blown down several times over the last three years, this last issue is significant. I feel optimistic that it will work, if not perfectly then at least to increase our comfort level for sitting out.

© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2005

 

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