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Friday, 28 July 2017

A visit to David Austin's private garden

I've already written about my Garden Media Guild trip to the David Austin Roses in Shropshire, and I really was delighted by the gardens there and beguiled by certain roses.
But after a delicious lunch and gossip with other guild members (we talk a lot) it was time for another treat.....a look around David Austin's private garden surrounding his home.
There's always something so inviting about a gate ajar and a glimpse through to what lies beyond


From the back of the house your eye alights first on the water and then the statue in the distance draws you deep into the garden.

Like all good gardens, you can't see everything all at once,  you must seek and then you shall find...

While we were walking around , David Austin came into the garden to meet us...

and it was a pleasure to meet him. This after all is the man who has created over 200 English roses and developed  the National Collection of roses here. A man who developed his boyhood  passion to a business with three generations of his family working as world leaders when it comes to rose breeding. What a legacy...

As you would expect there were plenty of roses in his own private garden...and Constance Craig Smith, who organised our trip, was busy photographing just a few of them.

Making my way around the garden towards the front of the house,  I slipped through here

and found this charming piece, sculpted by David's late wife Pat

and then found two peacocks strutting their stuff

 before making my way back to the water lilies

and to wander around the roses one last time.


 A magical afternoon.....

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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.......