Deep winter snow, a true rarity in Shropshire, which brought my working life as a self employed gardener to an abrupt holt for five days.

These images will remain etched in my memory for a very long time.  Believe me it has been breathtakingly beautiful.

Income generation recommences tomorrow, as sadly it all melted today.

 

 

041 I always wait for a frost or two before commencing my winter work.  In addition to pruning and removing perennials which have outstayed their welcome,  I am mulching borders and  placing  vast amounts of bamboo canes in gardens to imagine places for new plants and trees.

Amelanchier, Birch, Magnolia and  Sumach are amongst my favourite garden trees –  I particularly like their multi-stemmed forms.  Sadly, not everyone I work for  is as enthusiastic for planting  trees in their borders as I am –  which I consider to be a great opportunity missed.

Recent December  images of gardens in my care include.

My recommendation is ” make a realistic winter garden plan, and within that plan attempt to plant at least a couple of trees, and vast amounts of bulbs ”

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Every November, for at least an hour or two, I question why I chose to become a gardener?   The answer is always quite simple in that  I have packed neither my ever faithful thermals or waterproofs, and I  am either cold or wet.   Once found  I am set for any winter gardening eventuality as a  happy, warm and dry gardener.

Gardens are gaining their winter definition, whether through their sturdy structural form or the demise and decay of soft plant material.   I love being an all year round gardener

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently spent a day at Scampston learning how Professor Nigel Dunnett’s planting design philosophy has been guided through intricate research studies of the dynamics and characteristics of the natural landscape.

Nigel’s creative response is stunning.  Naturalistically inspired planting schemes are being created from annual seed mixes, perennials, shrubs and trees.  I took away several new thoughts to work on including:-

  • Successional layering. Taller plants rise above the previous season fading flowers, creating a successive flowering effect.  For example  Verbascum and Achillea will leave long-term structural interest through their sturdy stems and seed heads after flowering.247
  • Creating a  planting matrix.    The entire planting scheme is set out species by species.  Planting a small group (of say three) followed by  an individual (of the same cultivar)  a short distance away enables the overall desired intermingled effect to be created;  rather than the more traditional  English style of planting in  formal  blocks or drifts.  I thought the natural formation of moss on my Dad’s shed roof depicted a planting matrix  quite well !053
  • Using two  or three harmonious colours,  then throwing in a contrast, which visually lifts the colour impact of the overall scheme.  Just  imagine if there was cornflower blue as a contrast.260

Restraint and simplicity.  Through limiting the numbers of plant species, will create  cohesive planting, that stops you in your tracks to photograph.275 All these images are from the woodland planting and pictorial meadows at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire.  This is  design and implementation at the highest level, which filled me with childlike wonderment.  It truly was a superlative, dynamic and immersive experience.

How can  I transfer this without becoming a pastiche or a token effort, into smaller domestic garden landscapes ? My friend Judy says I can use her garden to experiment in – Thankyou Judy.

 

002003005I have finally rounded the once sharp edges of my lightweight, tough and  ergonomically designed Fiskars spade. This has taken ten years of  border creation  and soil turning to achieve; and as a gardener I feel a true sense of pride and accomplishment.

Last week my  spade and I  dug out a new border, which now wraps around the Wilde’s home here in Shropshire, it was here that I observed this beautiful new curved edge.

In my constant quest for superlative planting inspiration for this particular new border, and all the gardens in my care,  I am off to Trentham Gardens  in Staffordshire with my great gardening friend Judy.  We will  immerse ourselves  within the stunning planting by  Nigel Dunnett, Piet Oudulf and Tom Stuart Smith.  There will be a  blog about our visit.

On my last visit to Trentham, these were  my favourite images.  I wonder what Judy and I will see next weekend ?

 

 

I am fascinated by the vibrancy of late autumnal colour,  followed by foliage and flower disintegration and subsequent formation of stunning seedheads.  Have you checked your garden out recently?

 

This is Scampston Hall Gardens in North Yorkshire.  Designed by Piet Oudolf

037If you really want to  experience this specific  element of Scampston, then take some  time to sit in these incredibly comfortable chairs.  They enabled me  to physically and emotionally  immerse myself  within the perennial grass garden and watch the autumnal light filter through the golden hue of Molina caerula ssp caerula’ Poul Peterson’ .   I really could have sat  for a very long while.  I had to remind myself that I was there to see all  the interconnected garden rooms.

My aim with these images is to  express the  beauty of this inspirational garden.  Form, texture  and structure of the planting as in all Piet Oudolf’s designs is chosen over the  plants flowering capacity.  As  Scampston heads towards late autumn, the  structure of the soft landscaping  is  superlative.

 

 

 

 

 

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Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’ commonly referred to as  white flowered red bistort.  I was recently attempting  to describe this perennial to a friend, who was asking for advice about good white Autumn flowers for her border.  My initial description was a little lack lustre “It is one of my favourite Autumn perennials, with a great seed head over winter ”  This really did not give to many clues  as to why I am so taken by it”

I  came up with the analogy that the flower stem was similar to the structure of a sparkler with the tiny delicate bell-shaped flowers appearing to explode like the tiny sparks from a lit sparkler.

If you are taken with the idea of a sparkler or two in an Autumn, they can reach upto a metre in height.  They are really tolerant plants growing in all soil types, and will survive in dappled shade right through to full  sun.  They have the capacity to spread in the open ground so  I grow mine in a large container which I keep by the front gate.  I think it makes for a great start to the day as I head out to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

005I came across this stunning sculptural  Japanese anemone today in Diane and Dom’s garden in Much Wenlock.  I was particularly taken by the curvature of the stems.  This has now become my favourite flower image so far for this year.

 

 

This garden is particularly vertical,  to work here you definitely require a head for heights, as these earlier images hopefully depict.

 

 

Italy –  a magnificent fortnight of  searing blue sky ,art, architecture and gelatos.

I was also lucky to spend a  weekend in Barcelona shortly afterwards, where the intense light brought perspective, pattern and colour into sharp focus.

As a gardener, this is the start of my favourite season.  Autumnal sunlight saturates  foliage and flowers as they commence their natural demise.  Long may the sun shine!