Friday, September 2, 2011

September, Seasons of Mists, Harvest all done aaah

So finally we lop into September - a quick dash to Bristol to be nurtured by the kindly and specially trained people at the Apple Store.  They must go to a special special school for unflappability - all deserve medals for those of us who have finally succumbed to a Mac - I have hankered for 17 years and finally for one of those unmentionable birthdays it happened.  It is never straighforward though is it - happily going through life as a leopard I now have to navigate and move up to being a lion in order to be the same as the techies who currently abide here.   It should mean dear blog slogger that my photos are clearer and even more excitingly the right way up.  A lesson is to take place tomorrow - we will see! For now I will have a quick peruse on the camera to see what joyous snaps we have for the last week.

The Bank Holiday Weekend was filled with the gorgeous flower festival at Lingen - the Church was full of stunning quilts and flowers depicting biblical scenes.

Bank Holiday Monday I had to act as chauffeur to Ross and had an hour to spare - do pop into Labels on the M50 Ross-on-Wye if travelling to stay with us.  Wiggly Wigglers now have a mini shop upstairs and there is a lovely little food hall.  You can of course get sucked into retail therapy downstairs but I averted my gaze - well apart from a lovely little Italian white, pin-tucked floaty coat - for a split second I thought I could match our new bedlinen and be very corporate serving breakfasts and then ... well I restocked up on our ecover washing up liquid and bought a few gluten free nibbles and read a few packets (still looking for sugar free, gluten free, dairy free TASTY biscuits).

Took this photo last year - obviously as it is all so green (AND he who is important mentions that the plough now has one extra furrow on it  -thus conserving fuel)- we are really struggling with lack of rain - I am definitely getting out my Beth Chatto Dry garden book.  I bought a few different miscanthus grasses in Hereford from an old colleague the other day and have great plans for a mini prairie in the Cottage gardens - after they have been well mucked and green manured first.  It is so mild I thought I'd try some mustard to break up the cloddy red Herefordshire earth but this time I must remember to trim it before digging it in!  Learning all the time!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Escape to Alnwick

Can't believe I am the owner of a new greenhouse and I've left it and all the apple crumble seedlings.  Still - visiting Alnwick gardens has been a wish for about four years after reading the book about the development of the gardens whilst at Pershore College.  It did not disappoint - and a most ungardenworthy comment has to be made about the amazing food in the treehouse.  Youngest daughter was bribed with promise of the Poison Garden, getting wet in extreme fountains and a meal in the best treehouse ever.  Best of all we had a lovely chat to Trevor Jones, Head Gardener and discovered some more details of the next phase of the garden - going to revisit in 2014 to see.  Hopefully to stay in wonderful self-catering in Alnmouth too and return with he who is most important who hopefully will not be harvesting then.

Anyway a few photos to wet appetites.   Tomorrow we are checking out Trentham Gardens, the Prairie planting and restoration of the Italian gardens and then hope to resuscitate they who were just peeping through!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Keder Greenhouse ... is here!

Greenhouse, end of term and the Royal Welsh Show
There has been a bit of a gap with blogs since June as THE greenhouse arrived - really efficiently popped up by gentlemen who made it in Evesham.  The next day the Rudbekia seedlings in various forms were transplanted and the difference the heat and space made was phenomenal - two weeks later they are ready to go out - or would be if we had had - you guessed it, some rain.  Some strange seeds bought at Chelsea Physic Garden are sitting under perlite - which when watered coloured up and now looks like I am growing apple crumble.  I decided against transplanting the tomatoes but benefitted from some heavily discounted monsters from Country Homes at Wellington.  I rescued some aubergine seeds too and they are already sprouting.  A kind gnome - who will become the Upper Newton form of The Stig - sealed and popped in a water tank for me so now no excuses for not sowing all the lovely new seeds harvested throughout the garden.
Royal Welsh Show
Becoming a bit of a tradition now - our favourite local show - it keeps us busy all day and we are all happy to go our separate ways and just meet up for foodie samplings.  Our feet were needing some tender care by 4 pm which is a great time to head for the stands and watch the hilarity of the Hunt races and the magnificence of the procession of livestock.  This kind of display really grounds us and instils a terrific pride in the agricultural workers and breeders who take three days to show their stock - although of course their awards are the result of years of breeding and months of training.
A bit like the allotment section in the floral marquee - you wondered when the gardening was coming in!  Well lengthy conversations were held with me deliberating whether to plant/trial one of the new tomato plants in a straw bale - I still have a suitably soggy one down by the pond tap, used as insulation during our two periods of -16 degree winter - hard to remember that far back now!
Mystery Solved 
This reminds me, we saw Kim Hurst at the great Aardvark Books at Brampton Bryan Food Festival a few weekends ago and she identified my pretty blue flower - it is salsify, so now it can be sown both for the garden and the veggie patch.  I suspect it may be in competition with the Jerusalem Artichokes in antisocial effects but we will see!
Pembridge Show and Trotting Races
Busy weekend with lots of choice locally of fetes and shows - we opted for the above.  Lovely countryside setting by the bubbling river in Pembridge.  Lots of ponies, lots of dogs both in a dog show and also an obedience show.  As a bonus local folk had really interesting stalls and we were able to take lots of pictures in gorgeous sunshine.  We arrived home to happy farmer with completed oil-seed rape harvest and baleing in full swing - will be interesting to see if the weather holds for hay-making.

Brampton Bryan is featuring pretty heavily as Sunday we visited the Festival and had the privilege of listening to Edward Harley whilst he explained the amazing history of the castle next to his home and particularly the incredible story of the Cromwellian castle siege when the chateleine widow 43 year old Lady  Brilliana  held the castle.  I loved the understated planting alongside the castle walls - irises and a superb clump of deadly nightshade.  The flowers remind me so much of bupleurum. What she would have made of the scarecrow trail around the village I am not sure but we thought it was great fun as was the Milliner's Shop with the discussions about hats from Brampton Bryan seen at the Duke and Duchess's wedding.
What a long blog - a respite now while I transplant Nicotiana and return to the landscaping around... The Greenhouse!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coppice Work - hazel plantation? Wisteria - GCSE's and A levels

Taking my mind off motherly worries for two taking pretty major exams busy considering a happy new wisteria - rescued from some nursery graveyard - now recovered next to comfrey bin and needing to be encouraged to scramble up the external stairs to the cottages.  A coppice worker I met at RHS Malvern came over to see if there is anything suitable in our little woodland - we seen to be missing a mid-storey but have some lovely oaks and ashes with dog roses and wild honeysuckles scrambling up them.  Fabulous habitats - it was also good to see so many english bluebells with bursting seed pods, that was after fighting our way through the nettles - I love the idea of using our wood rather than buying in anything.  Hopefully the planned arch will be suitable gnarled and twisted too - it will fit in really well in the Taylor household!

Joking apart it will be a gorgeous addition to the lovely productive vegetable area.  It's all a bit crammed in but that definitely means less weeds.  The pink fir potatoes, chard, pak choi, salad leaves, dill and radishes have been a great success. The experimental white japanese radish is not so good - lots and lots of leaf and radish long and skinnier than a pencil and not at all tasty - so that will be off the seed list next year.  The main problem is that the vigorous leaves are covering the row of very juvenile carrots - I guess they confuse the carrot fly but I think a trim with a scissors is imminent.  I bought some elephant garlic bulbs to trial planting late - now is the time as we finally achieved an 8 mm of rain yesterday.  No-one would believe how frustrating it is living in a rain shadow - you can almost touch the black rain clouds - just as you dash to recover dry washing or tools the clouds part around the valleys - we are try but just up the road is receiving a soaking - a great geography lesson.
I might drop a photo in of the L shaped veg patch - tricky to get a good shot as it is all interplanted with a Falstaff apple tree and an unknown variety (good excuse to drop into the Cider Museum and look at the Herefordshire pomona and see if I can identify it in the autumn) and a newly planted greengage on a pixy rootstock so it should be smallish.  The other side of the "L" has masses of potatoes - three varieties, a three year old cherry tree - now protected from the birds, an overladen white currant and a quince, medlar and mulberry tree - yes I know - planted too close but oh the blossom and the smell.  I'm working on the idea of a boosey hedge around it all, so far just the elder is planted but I'll try to get some sloes established in the autumn - prickly but again lovely early blossom for the bees.  Speaking of which we were treated to a wooden file full of honeycomb last night - what a delicious chew - very very sweet as it was the apple blossom honey, pity no guests to share it with at breakfast at present - it will not last long! Thanks to Peter and Marion Guthrie our amazing beekeepers for that.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wind - still no rain looks like a bumper harvest

Just thought I'd share a Linda Mills stencil from Apple Bough Cottage as apple crop, potential of scab and the wind are all topics of conversation in Upper Newton at present.  Really need a substantial June drop, really need some rain.  During harvest it's great to live in a rain Shadow of the Black Mountains but not right now - the roads are running with water just a mile away. 
Still going to risk popping some Erigeron into the new herbaceous bed outside the kitchen window.  Spent two hours fighting the ground elder yesterday - all tangled in the Skimmia - which in itself is sulking and needing a dose of Epson salts.  Had a bit of a play with a tidy weed gun yesterday - bit scary with the wind so will leave the big paraffin driven one for another day - the paths are seeding merrily - more efficiently than my asparagus pea, dolcios lablab and nicotiana seeds frustratingly.
Also frustrating is the fact that this gorgeous poppy appears all over the garden but P."Patty's Plum" insists on staying on one side a bed when she is supposed to be mirrored on the other side.  No photos of her - she is looking decidely bad hair dayed because of the wind.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roses and Poppies - truly May

Sorry about the sideways view of Rosa Ferdinand Pichard - cannot work out how it twisted whilst being uploaded!  Still with gorgeous self-sown pink aquilegia and deep red Persicaria bistorta "Red Dragon"a jolly bunch to welcome Hay Festival of Literature guests to Chess Cottage.
Winchester Cathedral - lovely white rose (with hint of pink on buds) with Geranium "Jolly Bee", Blue centaura and peeping white Allium Nigrum - about to be thinned out but to the eye very pleassing - photos never do blue justice do they?
I always love the evening scent of the Hesperis matronlis - alba died during the snow but the lilac is faithfully drifting through the box ball border.  The other herbs are from The Cottage Herbery - I have forgotten the name of the great blue - looks like a weed - some kind of ... wort.  It's a rare open weekend on 5th and 6th so I'll drop over to Tenbury to reacquaint myself.  Also to see what Maggie and Kim have in the way of dye plants to add to my collection. Another good reason not to wash that fleece ... actually its been pretty chilly and damp so it's still propped ominously in the garage watching the swifts dive in and out.
Ok so I give up, why are photos that are correct in My Documents loading sideways?  This lovely cat applique resides in Chess Cottage - sewn by Anne Bebbington - a real treat.  Do look at her blog her work rate and skill is phenomenal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chess Cottage - white linen, yellow flag irises yum

Just decided having made bed again I'd take a photo for you.  Actually it was the lovely yellow flag irises with fresh cardoon leaf that did it - photos don't do justice.  I couldn't decide whether to eat blanch and eat the cardoon or flower arrange ...

Quick picture of the downstairs and flowers too as the Circium rivulare atropurpureum looking gorgeous with the pink foxgloves - picked as they were in the white garden - another ..... moment.

People have asked why Chess Cottage, here is the answer - Chess pieces stencilled on the landing!
Final photo for today - a quick shot of downstairs with the foxgloves, just think the bright tangerine of the silk table cloth and pink foxgloves is yummy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Malvern Show Gardens - back to school!

Treated myself to Gold Day Malvern RHS, what a treat - no crowds, time to really talk to enthusiastic nursery folk and take photos of Show Gardens minus bottoms and hats!  Really loved the Chemistry Bias to the Graduate gardens and as usual loved workmanship and finish in the Graduate Garden well deserved Best in Show.  What a funky idea having a decking overlooking a pool surrounded by your veggie patch - lovely.
Having problems uploading small enough files but here is a novel way of willow hedging.  There was a great example of this in the Coppice stand using larch (now beginning to suffer from phytophera, and ash with willow), based in Malvern - really worth a look and they run courses.  Great idea for around my veggie patch  - more picturesque than my recycled pallets! 

This hard landscaping was inspirational too and the aliums looked amazing despite the terrific wind at this end of the site.  I remember helping a friend with a show garden with tulips two years ago - they spent their week almost horizontal.

These photos are not cropped or fiddled with - I'm having problems uploading but it gives you a taste if you live too far away to go yourself.  Ballotta was planted in ribbons behind this blackboard - not often seen but fabulous and thrives on neglect.  Sadly mine succumbed this winter - it had spread into a half barrel size specimen.  Hoping to return to show today to purchase one in the sell off - always good fun!

This doesn't do justice to Graduate Gardeners veggie garden with chalet style "shed" but illustrates great blacksmithing and aesthetically pleasing planting surrounding the pool.  I tend to take snapshops to remind me of ideas I might like to utilise rather than whole gardens - plenty of those photos around by now I am sure!

Loved the simplicity of this and like London Fashion Week - nice on the model but the practicalities of baubles in a farm garden - I don't think so!  Immaculate planting though and lovely subdued hues.

Oh did I buy?  Seeds mostly - oh and a greenhouse - new learning curve - so when you arrive for B&B and are gasping for a cup of tea there will be a new notice on the backdoor - in the garden/orchard/pottingshed/.... greenhouse!  Just trying to work out how to get some electricity and water to it now - not exactly an impulse buy - I've been chatting to the standholder for five years oggling his vents - but still have to get around he who is important to help me level the ground etc.

Happy gardening and show visiting.  Oh nearly forgot I visited a fabulous new NGS garden yesterday Titley Mill, Herefordshire, now here are some gardeners who know how to plant a bog garden and do wild in the orchard set beautifully in the landscape.   Teas are great too - do visit if you can.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Final touches to Self-catering cottages today

Unfortunately photos do not do them justice - gardening hours too precious so took them after the lovely west light had faded - so for now, just a cute corner shot looking out into the herb garden.  Wouldn't it be lovely to still be able to fit into this wee chair?  Guests last week could!
Counting down to Hay Festival now - great excitement but Malvern tomorrow first - real treat going on the RHS day so that the nurserymen/ladies are not shattered and I can have a look for some great quality plug plants - maybe to plant up the labyrinth.  Anyway, more garden photos tomorrow - for now my dark corner shot!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finally a spot of Rain - well 5 mm so the last of the Bluebells, first of the cuckoos and a busy woodpecker

Ok so not Bluebells, but a lovely hazy morning shot of the rape in full flower overlooking the black mountains.  Everything looks lush but in reality of course the grass is beginning to gain the August drought look.  The veggies are up with great anticipation on the pak choi front and a few other exotic seed packets unearthed from the "bag I stuffed to try to look tidy" - I am intrigued by the asparagus peas and wondering whether to use them in flower arrangements, eat them as micro greens and trendy pea tips or wait - having remembered to water.
Now to the bluebells - the Spanish were going to be added to the compost BUT they are so blue and so great by the ancient red brick wall.  So a compromise - photos of the woodland with true English bluebells.  Spanish moved to a very dry part of the garden where they will not seed or divide so successfully.  That way they are available for vases for the cottages for Easter guests and reminders of the need to walk down the Long Meadow for the first hazy sightings usually a month later and accompanied hopefully by the cuckoo.

While down in my favourite stream bordered part of the farm I looked up to investigate a woodpecker's tapping and found this obviously favourite branch.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gentle Rain, effervescent colours in the garden today.

Thought I'd cheat and show you a lovely June photo to inspire you to grab those picnic days.
Actually I am rather proud of myself as I have managed to get into my website and find out a url and paste it somewhere suitable and upload it for you to share!  Sometimes gardeners need to leave the age of the dinosaur although I am sorry as it takes a while to load in the website.
And then I tried to do another one and failed - what is it about computers.  Back to root cuttings!  Brainwave, send you to look yourselves!   Website under construction so please chip in if you do not understand anything.  I'm trimming my verbosity - yes it hurts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring arrangement outside holiday cottages - pretty pleased!

At this time of year, Upper Newton is singing - it is definitely a Spring and Autumn garden. Really delighted with these beds outside the holiday cottages.

Also in the main garden the quality of the White Triumphator tulips popped in the circular bed to replace a huge Mahonia Japonica "Charity" are great - underplanted with a white rosebay willow herb - I will regret this!

Japanese guests on a garden design day!

Afternoon inspection of the garden reveals that the pink fir potatoes are up - just in time for predicted frost tonight, the lilies are unfurling in the parterre, agastache seeds sown two years ago have finally deigned to grow - obviously two cold winters have helped their dormancy. The angelica is looking wonderful, the cercis is just beginning to unfurl (too late once again for me to transplant this) and the lavendar "Hidcote" has finally discovered an area in the garden where it is content. All appears well - however the garden planted by a Japanese guest fairs less well.

A month after the tsunami I finally had contact with our last Japanese friend/guest. They are all safe but obviously so traumatised. It seems ironic that the "bright' bed she helped to plant back in August 2010 is looking a little stressed too. The hemerocallis are looking decidedly sulky, of the rudbeckia there are no signs and goodness knows if the moles have finished off the galtonia's. The cistus have an eery snapping sound when investigated and the heuchera's obviously didn't have their feet established well enough - ah well - new gardening opportunities. I'd like to make a link at the end of this Box Ball bed to the labyrinth - which yes, I am still thinking about planting with cosmos and in the mean time continue to clear and rake the parts that are meant to be crawled in readiness for inspiration. Photo of labyrinth to follow - any suggestions welcome - bearing in mind the proximity of the wellontonia, the dryness as a result of bordering farm buildings and the industry of moles this year.

Very chilly today so spending a necessary hour in the greenhouse with the dahlias and taking a few photos to help jog the maintenance diary for next year.

Apple Bough Cottage, new look

Finally, Apple Bough Cottage new look - love the teal. Cleared the clutter, toned down the stable stalls with lovely taupe paint. Now moving towards re-designing the herb garden after the ravages of the winter. The rosemary and sage plants, the curry plants and the rue all succumbed and as yet no sign of the woad. Shame as I am into felt-making big time and enjoying dyeing fabrics - watch this space for garden courses, could offer detoxes and fitness if we have active garden courses - now there is an idea!!