SNV30239

SNV30239

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The day I went to David Austin Roses

When my children were young, I didn't really appreciate roses. There were two trained up the arch to the lawn from the courtyard when we first moved into our cottage. A yellow and a pink one - don't ask me what they were, there were no accompanying labels.

I had to prune them back hard each year after all of my children got scratched by the roses. One eventually gave up the ghost (the pink rose, not my darlings) and the yellow one still looks as if it's on death row.

But in recent years, I've begun to adore roses for their virtues, not concentrate on their thorns. Their scent and the sheer beauty of those I've seen in gardens and at the big shows recently have made me determined to put in some more roses.

I've already written here about The David Austin Roses stand at Chelsea in May, and how beautiful it was.

http://thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/press-day-at-rhs-chelsea-in-grand.html

So last month, I joined other members of the Garden Media Guild on a special visit to their nursery, based near Wolverhampton.  I took a wrong turn and took an impromptu tour of the perimeter of the  nearby air force base before skidding in just before the tour. Fortunately there was still time to stuff a croissant down my throat and visit the loo before Michael Marriott , the Head Rosarian, showed us . around.

From small beginnings on this Shropshire farm, this family nursery now sell between two to  three million roses a year all around the world. It's an amazing story of one man's determination (David Austin) to develop a rose which would repeat flower, be disease resistant yet capture the glory of the
old fashion English roses.

Michael  has been with the company for many years, and he's obviously very proud of what is being achieved here, especially in the glasshouses. These are full of possibilities....around 120,000 seedlings and plants being grown on , all potential stars of the future. Or are they? It takes a very special plant to make the cut and to be put on the marker....eight only out of 120,000 actually make it. I was staggered too by the time it takes to create a new rose and get it on sale to the public.  Hazard a guess? I tried but was way out. It takes ten years.
.





Fifteeen people work in the breeding programme  So who decides which roses go to market? David Austin senior and his son David do.






Across the road from the nursery is a field, with rows and rows of the roses being trialled which have made it this far. Under grey skies, the colours shone out, and it was like being a child walking through a pick and mix selection of sweets. Which ones did I like best? Which had the prettiest colour, which had the most attractive scent?












They're all factors in deciding which specimens to trial further, but being resistant to disease and adverse weather conditions is also important. That's why in the distance I could see a large sprayer, spraying copious amounts of water over the lines of roses. Would they be able to cope in this field's sandy soil?

A few of us rather liked a pale yellow rose at one end of the field...we called Michael Marriott over to show him and one of us, I can't remember exactly who, suggested a name for it...."Lemon Sherbert"
Michael stuck his nose as close as humanly possible into the petals, murmuring "Mnnnn". He said it had its merits, but that could mean anything!






We then walked back to the nursery, which was very busy with visitors. No wonder, this is not just a nursery where you wander around pots of plants deciding which ones to buy. This is a feast for your senses ....gardens planted with hundreds of roses, all carefully labelled, growing in situ, so you can see their spread, how they look when they are mature.

This is the view as I sat on a bench with Michael whilst I interviewed him for the gardening programme I was presenting the following week. The scent was intoxicating as we chatted about the nursery, the breeding programme and much more.





Afterwards there was a chance to walk around the gardens on my own





feeling heady at the fragrance and beauty of the roses







and admiring the design of the gardens which showcase the different types of roses beautifully....


and very importantly, there were plenty of places to rest, to chat, and admire the vistas.





There are also distinctive sculptures to admire...they were created by David Austin's late wife Pat.....






 
Back to the roses, this was a favourite - The Ancient Mariner
 







and this ...Olivia Rose Austin




Mind you, I also liked the cool calmness of the white climbing rose Claire Austin. As Alison Levy who blogs as the Blackberry Garden said to me...you can always tell the really best plants when they're given the name of  one of the family. I agree, only the best for them.

By now, I was in the area where visitors were selecting their plants...I have a list of my favourites that are on my wish list...Olivia Rose Austin, Claire Austin, The Generous Gardener and Gertude Jekyll and James Austin.

But decisions decisions...there are so beautiful scented roses to choose from.

By now it was time to join the others for lunch, and as I scurried to the marquee, I could 'nt help laughing as I saw these satisfied customers taking their newly found treasure triumphantly back to their cars.




 
 
 
Their visit was over, but I had an even greater treat in store after lunch  - a private tour of founder David Austin's own garden.  You'll have to wait until my next blog to see how beautiful that is.....

But in the meantime, why not listen to my interview with Michael Marriott ? Click here.....



Monday, 17 July 2017

An afternoon of open gardens in Lubenham


Yes, I love going to open garden events through out the summer.

Especially when the sun is shining. Even when it rains.

There's nothing like seeing other gardener's hard work or pinching some of their ideas. Sorry , I meant to write "gaining inspiration" there.

And there's nothing like paying a few pounds or so to have carte blanche to be as nosy as you like , seeing how others live their lives in their gardens.

So yes, last month I was eagerly off to Lubenham where there were over twenty gardens open in aid of All Saints, the village church.

I started off  by viewing the largest garden , just outside the village at Thorpe Lubenham Hall. This wasn't intentional, but a tractor had just pulled up on the village green , ready to take people up there.


 It was hot and as I was feeling downright lazy, I joined the others as the tractor chugged its way up the hill for about there quarters of a mile. The boys sitting opposite were loving their tractor ride, and so I was I especially when we had to duck out of the way of some branches in our way and the boys "oooohed "and "woohed"..



Thorpe Lubenham Hall is a gem of a house....Queen Anne style but built around 1800 and owned at different times by the Cunard family, Lord and Lady Kemsley and Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher. Apparently the Queen and her family were frequent visitors in the 1950's. Nowdays it is owned by Sir Bruce and Lady MacPhail who own the hall and fifteen acres of gardens.

 The ancient moat leads to the garden, where the terrace at the back of the house overlooks a large circular pond and fountain which is edged with lavender, alliums and  clipped yew.


 
 
 
 

There's a timeless quality to the gardens here....so no fancy pants modern ideas ...just a quietly serene air
 
Mind you, I did like this gate at the side of the house, the grille made of horseshoes -so effective.
 

|I also appreciated this quiet spot, planted with pale pink roses and alliums Christophii



The other side of the brick wall pictured above is where the swimming pool now is, was this the former walled kitchen garden I wonder>


 
 
 
Teas were being served next to the pool undercover....and  amid the laughter, sounds of crockery clinking and shouts of "How many cream teas?" I had to leave suddenly as my eyes filled with tears.
 
Memories had come  flooding back of an open garden here which my friends and I helped at a number of years ago. There was a gang of us on a British Red Cross committee who used to bake and run open garden events throughout Leicestershire for a while to raise funds. Gill K, Jill P, Alanda, Kim, Lorna, Jackie, Lucy, Lucinda and I were on duty here at Thorpe Lubenham Hall , and as usual we'd had such a laugh...Jackie was in charge of the tea urns and Jill P as usual was the Queen in the counting house, counting all the money raised. Lovely Jill P died suddenly on the Friday before the Lubenham Open Gardens event.
 
So I declined the offer of the tractor ride back and took a solitary stroll  down the hill and stopped to watch the local cricket team playing a match alongside the lane.
 
 



The first open garden I came to was the Tower House, which was originally a Georgian farmhouse until it was enlarged as a hunting box back in 1865 . Stables, and a tower were added to watch the horse racing nearby.

I loved this tree with the leaves as big as dinner plates...it is supposed to fruit, but never has...and I've quite forgotten the name of the darned thing.


There was tea and cake at Adams Farm which was attracting a crowd,

 
but the bees and I were attracted to the border on the right of the garden 
 
 
 

 
 
The afternoon was marching on, so I'm afraid I had to whizz past a number of gardens, to this one on Mill Hill. A large garden with plenty of space to sit in the sunshine and admire the newly hatched chicks.
 

 
 
There were also fruit, flowers, a pond without fish, but with this rather gorgeous piece. I also had a chance to catch up with the garden's owner, Diana Cook, who had organised the whole event. How she found the time to run the event and get her own garden ready I just don't know.
 

 
 
 
 
A few doors away was a small cottage garden which was incredibly busy. Everyone was there to grab a bargain from Peter Shelton who restores old tools. There were rakes, dibbers, spades, forks, all lovingly refurbished and something which looked like an offensive weapon, but was a Victorian tool of some sort.
 

 
 
When I say Peter restores these, that's not his job, he was a biologist, but for a number of years now  he's spent hours and hours doing so to raise money for Lubenham Parish Church. He's good at it too...he's raised thousands on the tools alone.

 
 
What a lovely Sunday afternoon it was, even though there's so may gardens I missed. I didn't miss the Undle Project though which is a three and a half acre co operative small holding. Wow....a wonderful work in progress which I shall write about another time...
 
 
 

 
 
You've got to hand it to the villagers in Lubenham, it was a really good Open Gardens event, with gardens of all different sizes to inspire and interest everyone, and genuine friendliness towards all the visitors.
 
And yes, I will be making a return visit next year ....you should too....
 

Friday, 14 July 2017

The day the dogs were stripped


Our two terriers Boo and her son Eric are country dogs. They're not ones for the high life. Walks and runs in open fields, guarding the perimeter of their own little kingdom and curling up on the sofa are their delights.

Boo is on the left next to her son Rudi (my daughter's dog who lives by the seaside) Eric and then at the right is Winnie, my son's dog who lives in the city.





Boo and Eric  aren't ones for pounding the pavements of city streets like Winnie. They do like the beach , but not going into the sea , unlike Rudi who is a real salty sea dog. Unlike certain high maintenance celebrity dogs, they don't frequent dog grooming parlours either..

Oh no. They're patterdale cross border terriers, and Boo has always rocked the Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy look while Eric has a smoother but still wiry coat.




They like to be brushed, but hate being bathed. Until about a fortnight ago.

Recent searing high temperatures made it obvious that Boo needed hand stripping for the first time.....so yesterday off they went for their first visit.

I took a before photo......





And when I came home  this is what I found...Eric looking much the same but a little tidier, but as for Boo....



Doesn't she look pretty? I can't get over how much younger she looks too...positively puppy like!
No more being called Hairy Maclary from now on.......

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Evenings in Summer

So it's official, according to the newspapers. We have a heatwave...all five days of it. And today, on the Summer Solstice, is going to be the hottest of all - it's already 33 degrees.



For those of you living in Southern Europe, many parts of the USA, Australia and New Zealand, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. The late 20s for you  is nothing, but for us here , it's hot!



I'm not complaining though, I'm embracing it! Because the best part of a heatwave, is being able to sit outside,  eat al fresco  on consecutive  June evenings, revelling in those extra hours of daylight until nearly ten o' clock. And we have to make the most of it, because the chance to do it doesn't happen all that often here. All too often, it's so cold or it's raining to make the most of the summer evenings.



On Saturday after supper in the garden , I sat outside with the broadsheets and a glass of wine, relishing the view, and the warmth. In the next village down the hill, there was a party in an open field. The sounds of music drifted up the hill and I could hear laughter from at least four fields away.










On Sunday we were up in the Yorkshire Dales for a very enjoyable family gathering, and at  six o' clock we were still so replete after a huge outdoor feast, and the heat was still so intense. We went for a stroll around the village to admire the local church and admire the mosaics in the dim, cool calm inside.










My sister in law Mandy  says attending church there in winter is like praying in a ice box, but on Sunday evening it was rather lovely.




On Monday night , I sat in the garden again until dusk. It was so silent, so still, all I could hear were the house sparrows who've built their nest here . The scent of the honeysuckle was competing with the fragrance of lime flowers in the courtyard. it was so intoxicating. As I pottered around doing the last bit of watering the plants, I thought how blissful it was.








Last night, we were just outside our village with friends. "Come for a drink and nibbles around seven  "Jay and Caroline had said....

As you can see they have the most wonderful garden







Beer for the boys, prosecco of course for Caroline and I.

We sat in their orchard with apple, pear, cherry and mulberry trees...







There's one thing I can never resist (apart from prosecco) is a swing....so Caroline and I walked down to the lawn below leaving the menfolk nattering






I had a lovely time on the swing and we did have a giggle




We made our way back to the house for more prosecco and nibbles...













When Caroline said nibbles,...she lied, it was two full mezze boards and we sat eating, drinking and laughing as dusk turned to darkness and then we realised the time...nearly midnight. Time to go, after such a lovely evening.









So tonight, the night of Summer Solstice, I know where I will be as soon as I've finished work. In the garden, so grateful for summer evenings like these....and the memories of them will be something to cherish during the dark, cold winter months.





 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Press Day at Gardeners' World Live


This year's BBC Gardeners' World Live at the NEC near Birmingham is a milestone - the 25th year of the show. It's also just happens to be the best one I've been to here.

I know that's quite a statement, but for me, the show which celebrates 50 years of BBC Gardeners' World on our television screens, is a delightful celebration of our British gardens through the last half a century.

Also this year, you won't be able to miss some of our best loved television gardeners , they're here every day on stage at the BBC Gardeners'World Live Theatre, in the potting shed, and at the Demo bench in the Floral Marquee. Carol Klein, Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh, Joe Swift, Adam Frost , Toby Buckland, Uncle Tom Cobley and all will be around the show. You'll be tripping over them...we were on Press Day !

But what about the actual gardens? Well, there are some absolute delights and the show garden which made me smile and took me straight back to my childhood was the Nostalgia Garden.



This was a loving recreation of a garage, with a village shop and  nursery attached from the 1960s and 70s.,. The attention to period detail was superb


Gardening photographer Julia Stanley and I were admiring the hump back bridge over a stream in the foreground....and there was even an orange flymo left in the long grass, which was a clever touch which made us giggle. No wonder this garden designed by Paul Stone won a gold medal.


The garden which caught my heart though was Wyevale Garden Centres: Romance in the ruins. Partly broken brick walls, pergolas wreathed in fragrant roses, this was a wistful, romantic notion of the faded grandeur of castle ruins.


The subtle , muted colours, the layout, all were so evocative of what was and what is. There's so many castle ruins still in our country, and this was a homage to them all I feel. A stunning design by Claudia de Yong who oh so rightly won the award for Best Show Garden.


I spoke to her briefly while she sat on the grass opposite about the roses she chose....the white Desdemona, Albertine , Wedgewood and the Generous Gardener rose which is one of the most highly scented..

I wish I could have taken more photographs and spent more time in this garden, but there was so much filming going on in there, I didn't get a chance. Unlike radio, where I can slip in and do a fairly quick interview, telly has different demands -and they're very time consuming.

Close by was the Anniversary Garden ;A brief history of Modern Gardens . This has been designed by Professor David Stevens - he's the one who's won oodles of gold medals and four best in shows, and again he's got another gold medal.

The garden was divided into five small sections, each one representing a decade from the 1960's to the present day..

The  first one reminded me of my grandfather's garden at the back of his Victorian terraced house , the line post cutting the garden into two, with the shed, and bedding plants. Ooh they loved their bedding plants back then didn't they?  Neatness, precision and crazy paving ruled.


Demonstrating that the vintage lawn mower worked ( I have virtually the same model in the shed next to our piggery) was Peter Dowle from Howle Hill Nursery who's done well this year after getting Best in Show at Malvern earlier this year.


No wonder he looked rather happy as he relaxed





I wandered up along APL Avenue as it's called...where members of the Association of Professional Landscapers showcase their work.

I did like Big Fish landscapes "Wetland Plants- the idea of Wilderness Garden".

All so often a wilderness garden can look ....well, wild and rampant. Here, this wilderness garden is a contemporary garden which would work anywhere yet would still encourage biodiversity.

 


 
 



Here you can see the quote from Edward Abbey the American writer who was a passionate advocate of environmental issues who died in 1989.

Further along, the Pro Gardens "Clic Sargent "Garden was awarded a silver gilt medal. Straight out of a children's picture book, this is a place to definitely be a child again. Something that children with cancer don't get the chance to be ...they're too busy trying to survive and be brave.






A very popular , and award winning gold garden was Living Gardens "It's not just about the beard" .

It got my vote for the most intriguing titled garden in the first place! Now, you can't ignore Peter Cowell and Monty Richardson who are Living Designs. Both with bushy beards and braces, you couldn't miss them on Press day..


And the irresistible aroma of barbecued jerk chicken led people by their noses to their garden  which uses reclaimed construction materials and featured a bar as well as the barbecue. A hipster garden for sure, but one which really worked as a garden to relax and entertain in.



I really liked this living wall of thymes ..so tactile, and as I brushed past the wall, they released their lovely tangy Mediterranean fragrance.
 
 

But BBC Gardeners'World Live isn't just about show gardeners, there's so many accessible displays here with new, quirky, simple ideas which work so well.. The Beautiful borders category for instance,
 the Meal in a wheelbarrow feature for instance and there's so many plants to buy.

Let's not forget the Floral Marquee either.On Press Day, many of the stands were still being built, plus there was still so much titivating to do to make each plant was perfect....



Judging didn't place until yesterday, but I'm not surprised that Barnsdale Gardens won a gold for their wonderful display with a bust of the legendary and much loved Geoff Hamilton at its centre. What an inspirational gardener he was to thousands of viewers over the years on Gardeners' World.

My favourite stand in the Floral marquee though was this one from W.S.Warmenhoven. It stood out for so many reasons...the stark simplicity, the oh so precisely placed alliums, the plants at their peak of desirability...I loved it. Unfortunately when I was there , there was no one to talk to on the stand....I had so many questions....






But a five o clock, we all gathered outside for a photo...not of the press you understand, but a photocall of all the Gardeners' World presenters.

It was herding fish trying to get them all together.....and even when they were just about posing perfectly, everyone had to wait while Carol Klein adjusted her bra strap which was just peeping out from her dress. Obviously none of the others had a similar problem.



This show has so much to offer..as the weekend is set fair (it's going to a scorcher tomorrow) why not venture along to the NEC and celebrate the last fifty years of gardening here in Britain?