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Garden Blog

September 14th 2014

During our recent visit to Jersey, we went to the Gardens of Samares Manor, an inspiring collection of gardens.  These were initially created in the 1920s, and have been restored in the past 20 years.  There are several different areas which provide ideas and guidance to gardeners, such as the Calendar gardens, showing what plants are active in which months, Gardens of Colour, with beds planted in colours from the same palette such as red, yellow, blue, purple, orange, white, etc.

A Japanese Garden we felt was somewhat disappointing, but other areas were excellent.  A willow labyrinth, a branching tunnel of willow winding through a wooded area, was great fun.  Vast areas of lawn, meadow and woodland made for a very varied day.  

Our favourite part was the Herb Garden, designed by John Brookes, situated alongside the original walled garden, with paths of gravel which reputedly form a maze.  There are large beds of culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and fragrant herbs, everything clearly labelled and named.  Many of the better known herbs, such as mint and thyme, have many different examples, so the different flavours can be experienced.  Every weekday there is a guided tour of the Herb Garden, which we attended.  It was excellently presented, with samples handed out to taste or smell, plenty of information and fun.  This is reputed to be the largest and most complete collection of herbs in Britain, and very well worth a visit.

One of the most endearing aspects of these gardens is their realisation that visitors wish to know what they are seeing, and as everything is labelled, yet not intrusively, this wish is generally satisfied.  The gardeners are also willing to share their knowledge.  An excellent day out.

11th May

We have a small greenhouse, which is attached to the house, so its northern wall is redbrick. The eastern wall is patio door into the house, the east and south are glass, as is the roof.   This gives us a wonderful place for growing on small bedding plants, seeds and later in the season, tomatoes.  Right now it is full of seed trays, with lots of new growth.  Some of the larger plants have been moved out into the cold frames, which were newly built last year.  The broad beans have had a spell in the cold frames, and have now been planted out into their final positions.  Last year we had a disastrous crop of broad beans, largely thanks to some very hungry mice, which ate many of the seeds which had been planted in situ.  They then ate the young plants which had been raised under glass.  So far this year, there has been no attack on either seeds or plants.  So maybe I shall have to search out lots of new recipes for using the beans.

We have a number of planters, which each year are planted with annuals.  One has been planted with fuchsias, and until all risk of frost has passed, it is sitting in the greenhouse.  This both protects the tender plants, and also encourages them into growth.  By the time the planter is put outside the plants will hopefully be already in flower, and creating a wonderful display

Hello again. Time for some more ramblings.

The continuing very warm weather, along with some rain, is encouraging all plants to grow, both wanted and unwanted.  Weeds are a constant problem in the new shaded beds, as two of the trees are an oak and an ash, both of which produce seeds prolifically, and we are waging battle with little seedling trees.  As we read about ash dieback, and an oak disease as well, we feel like murderers when pulling up these tiny tree seedlings, but we would need about 20 acres to grow on as many as we find.

Some years ago we were trying to find just the right position for an armillary sundial.  We eventually placed it in one spot, and liked the effect, so there it stayed, perching on a very temporary base.  That base has now been re-laid, with a mowing strip of pavers, and in filled with gravel set into concrete.  Finally the sundial is vertical and properly aligned, and now looks as if it is a permanent feature of the garden.

Another mowing strip is currently being laid.  Grandad, ably assisted by 4 year old grandson expertly wielding rubber mallet, is laying a strip along the bottom of a trellis, where weeds and long grass formerly lurked just out of reach of the mower.  It is looking much tidier now.

More next time.


The time seems to have arrived for hedge cutting.  The contractors and farmers are busy tidying up the roadside hedges, and as most nesting birds have completed the cycle, we are looking to our hedges.  The leylandii hedge is well due for its twice yearly haircut. This type of hedge has had some bad press over the years, but the fault lies mainly with the owner.  If kept under control it can make a lovely dense hedge.  Ours however had been neglected, and we had to cut off 30 feet of height, and it has taken several years for the shape to become acceptable.  It is now just beginning to look good.

We recently had a visitor who brought us a number of cuttings, thinnings and plantlets from her garden.  What a lovely gift.  It is a good way of adding to our plant range, and with lovely associations as well.

The Victoria plums this year are magnificent; we are trying to pick them before the branches break under the weight.

The sweet peas are still blooming, although the flowers are less dense than they were.  We grew them up obelisks this year, adding welcome height in the centre of beds of low flowering plants.  This method also creates a three dimensional flowering mass.  They have been really spectacular. Frequent cutting for indoors also encourages further flowering, so it’s a win/win situation.

More next time

Hi, and welcome to the diary of an enthusiastic amateur gardener.  This summer has been so much more conducive to gardening than last, most of our garden was either under water or simply saturated last year, and we lost quite a few plants as a result.

However, it’s a different story now.  We spent the early months tidying up, and starting two new beds in the heavy shade of a weeping willow.  The plan is to create several paths through a wooded area at the edge of the lawn, with either an object or a special plant to encounter on each route. For example, one path leads us through an arch, another leads past a young but thriving Viburnum Plicatum.  A third path opens out onto the lawn.  Our grandchildren enjoy exploring the different paths!

On our visits to various open gardens we are constantly looking for ideas which we can borrow.  Many smaller gardens take a path right to the boundary, using every bit of width to create the impression of greater size.  This is one idea we are now trying out ourselves.  The Viburnum is only a couple of feet inside our boundary, and the path passes behind the shrub, giving an impression of space beyond.   We are also considering cutting a hole in the hedge at the boundary, creating a window overlooking the field beyond, a “borrowed view” as loved by the Chinese garden designers of old.

Well, the sun has emerged again following brief showers, so the garden is beckoning!  More next week




The fence bottom mowing strip has been completed.  The gap behind the pavers and in front of the trellis base has been levelled and covered with weed suppressing membrane which is now covered with gravel.  If we wish to plant climbers up the trellis it is a simple task to scrape back the gravel, make a cut in the membrane, plant the climber, replace the membrane and gravel, and the job is neat and tidy.

The weather seems to have decided that we have had a long enough summer, and the temperatures have dropped significantly.  There is now a lot of dead heading to do.  We have been trying to keep up with this task throughout the flowering season, to encourage more flowering, but some plants are now ready for tidying up ready for the winter.  Also, my herb bed is ready for some major attention, the mint has gone mad, and I need to cut it right back to make sure it has not rooted where I do not want it.  However, the bits I cut off can be dried ready for use during the winter months.

The blackberries are magnificent this year, so we are busy picking and freezing them. Apple and blackberry crumble is a family favourite, so as soon as the apples are ready (very soon) we will be in business.

More next time.