Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Garden and Chicken Update

A garden after the rain is as beautiful to me as one in dazzling sunshine.  Each bloom is ever more noticeable and the drops of rain that delicately cling to petals, leaves, bracts and stems add a gloss and sparkle comparable to the finest diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.  Epimedium x warleyense is no exception and is dazzling right now.  Amongst the amethyst Anemones and deep plum Fritilaries this plant really adds a beautiful and delicate contrast.  It was given to me at least two years ago by a very good friend and is most certainly a new favourite now that it has flowered.

Elsewhere in the garden there is a frenzy of growth.  The once bare garden, mainly made up of herbaceous perennials, is now filled to the brim with lush growth.  The majority of the Daffodils and Snowdrops are over only to be replaced with Tulips, Hellebores, Forget-me-nots, Pulmonaria, Euphorbia and Fritillaries.  The Alliums appear to be rushing to throw up their large flower spikes and the Angelica is not far behind.  It feels as though Summer is not far away at all now.  I wonder what effect the hard winter had on the garden as most plants are flowering stronger than before.  On top of this it appears that plants have broadcast seed far and wide and I will have quite a task on my hands weeding what’s not wanted, although I think most of the seedlings will be saved and grown on.

On the allotment things are also looking promising.  Most of the cutting garden is planted and the Peonies are coming in to growth.  The late-planted bargain Daffodils are also poking their heads and flower buds above ground and should flower shortly.  I had little hope for these but they appear as stubborn and determined as I am.  The alliums (Onions, Shallots and Garlic) and early potatoes will all be grateful for the rain and I’m hoping to see lots of verdant growth shortly.  I’m hoping to plant the second early potatoes on the weekend, although I’m almost certain they will be late to go in as I am so far behind with sowing the rest of the vegetable seeds.
One thing I am part succeeding with at the moment, however, is the chickens.  I say part-succeeding as following their initial squabbles and racist tendencies I had to rejig the flock slightly and this resulted in me keeping the Araucana pullet in my bathroom as an emergency measure.   It has been interesting at times but she has really grown to become incredibly tame.  I plan to keep her in a separate run close by to the other girls in the hope that they will one day accept her back in to the flock.  Despite all of this the girls are now laying well and I’ve since received my first white and blue/green eggs (the picture doesn’t do the colour justice).

Spring is most certainly here.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Alliums and Angry Birds

Just as Spring casts a promising nod in the direction of my garden it appears that once more other “things” emerge from their hiding places, becoming priorities, scuppering plans I had already made or embarked upon.  One day I will hope to take much enjoyment from actually completing a task as opposed to continually battling with it whilst being gazumped by other necessities all the while.  Suffice to say that right now the vegetable beds aren’t ready, the chickens have been at war, a back garden overhaul has not happened and I’m behind on my writing and various other blogging commitments.  Oh, well!

So far today two gigantic pieces of incredibly dense and sugary Victoria sandwich, which would ordinarily be enough to put most people in to a diabetic coma, a beautifully rich pot of tea and a terrible episode of ‘You’ve Been Framed’, have not quite worked their magic to lift the spirits at all.  I’m sure this will pass like most moods but I have an incredible need to get going and work on the things that are important to me.  Yet despite all of this my mind is elsewhere as if I’m in a deep and heavy fog.  On many levels it is the things out of my control that continually add to this feeling.  I’m in a transition in my work life, which is incredibly positive for me, yet it is also incredibly restricting right now and in about a month or so I will be going part-time to concentrate more on writing and other bits and bobs that I need to attend to.  Right now it feels like a long way away and it’s holding me back.   I need the time now – not then. 

Alliums and angry birds are just two examples in a very long list of things that simply point out this lack of time, lack of means and general inability to get things done as well as I would like.  The Alliums I started to dry at the end of last year just ended up rotting away nicely on my garden table.  I had set them aside to create a mixture of Christmas decorations, dry flower displays and to obviously save the seed.  None of this happened but although not a terrible disaster it just adds to the list of nearly complete tasks that seem to follow me and compounds my general dissatisfaction.  The self sown Allium seedlings (pictured above) are a result of the resting seed heads and act as a messy reminder.  Despite not actually being a garden problem they act as an irritant to my otherwise organised brain and add another job to the list of things to do.

Angry birds on the other hand, and no I’m not referring to the game I’m often found playing when bored, refers to my chickens who have not taken at all well to their new flock-mates.  In fact, I have been on a steep learning curve in to the violent and often barbaric nature of these otherwise perceived peaceful and friendly creatures.  It appears that on top of their propensity for violence my original girls are both racist to the core and intolerant to any form of diversity on their patch.  Both white birds and birds with fluffy heads are most certainly figures of hate, taking the brunt of their prejudice, and they have not taken a blind bit of notice to my equality and diversity talk.  Despite this Sophia LaHen, one of my younger newcomers, named by the Twitter clan, has been accepted in to the newly formed flock and is laying beautiful porcelain white eggs. 

Things can only get better from here on in.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

'Cloche and Grow' Competition: Win an AcryliCloche® Low Barn Garden Cloche

With compliments of Ryan's Garden and PoshCloche 'Cloche and Grow' Competition.  Five Fantastic Prizes to Give Away.

Win AcryliCloche® Low Barn Garden Cloche 75cm and End Pack plus All entries get a 10% discount code

To enter for your chance to win the above AcryliCloche® prize simply click here and fill out the entry form.

Benefits of AcryliCloche® Garden Cloches
  • No assembly required, you do not need cloche clips
  • Each garden cloche is available in a variety of lengths and styles to suit your gardening requirements
  • AcryliCloche® garden cloches have a 5 Year guarantee against UV damage - use all year round.
  • Easy to water - Simply water over the cloches
  • Wind stable
  • Strong rigid garden cloches. Will not collapse under snow
  • AcryliCloche® garden cloches are 17 times stronger than glass
  • Made to last in the UK
  • Most seed trays will fit under barn cloches (check your measurements first)
  • Extend your rows by adding more cloches.

Prize Details
AcryliCloche® Low Barn Style Garden Cloche. Use as a vegetable cloche in your garden, raised bed or flower border to protect and nurture newly sown seeds, seedlings and small plants. Particularly useful for early season planting when frost may still be a problem or when you want to protect against damage by pests.
All dimensions are approximate. Each AcryliCloche® Garden Cloche is hand made so slight variations will occur. Dimensions relate to a single garden cloche Made from 3mm thick acrylic
Width Base 27cm (10 1/2 inches). Height Apex, 20cm (8 Inches). Length 75cm (29 1/2 inches)
Competition details. 'Cloche and Grow' competition will run from 1st March - 30th April 2011. Winner will be notified by email so please ensure you follow the instructions in the email we send you so that we can validate your email address. Prizes will be dispatched within two weeks of competition closing date.
Rules. Competition is open to UK residents only. Prizes will only be sent to UK PostClodes. Winners will be picked at random. Prizes can not be exchanged for cash or other items.Judges decision is final.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Hestercombe – a game of two halves, both of which were almost lost

Lady Bracknell might have said that to lose one garden ‘is unfortunate’. To almost ‘lose two looks like carelessness!’  But, it is the lot of landed estates that fortunes rise and fall, memories fade and gardens as living but fragile works of art are often the victims.

And so it was that by the 1950’s an 18th century landscape garden, designed by a former owner, Coplestone Warre Bampfylde, was long lost in the wooded combe behind Hestercombe House. And in front of the House, arguably one of the best gardens resulting from that fruitful Edwardian partnership of Jekyll and Lutyens was fading fast, its significance apparent to just a few interested and knowledgeable garden visitors.
It is to Somerset County Council’s credit that they stepped forward to save the Edwardian Garden. And to the credit of Philip White, Chief Executive of Hestercombe Gardens Trust, that having realised the significance of overgrown fragments, he initially bankrolled and then masterminded the resurrection of the 18th century landscape garden. A Heritage Lottery Fund award has helped Hestercombe to sing out now. And sing it does!

But the problem is that it schizophrenically sings two songs. From the first you are torn. Do you do this?

or this?
And sandwiched between them is possibly the ugliest looking Victorian house you are ever likely to see and to which you do not have access since it is occupied by the Somerset Fire brigade HQ!

Our gaggle of garden designers, (perhaps the collective name should be a shriek), headed first for the pleasure garden. Well we are essentially frivolous beings!
You first perceive it from a Victorian Terrace. This is commonly considered to amount to a third garden, but we all agreed that it constituted rather an incomplete one. The sole purpose for this terrace now is to allow the visitor, (who doesn’t after all have access to the house as the owners would), to perceive from above the triumph of Lutyens’ geometry and Jekyll’s planting or whatever was the balance of responsibilities between them!
Twin rills run away from either side of the house. A pergola links these two rills at their furthest point, ensuring that while you are allowed distant views of Taunton vale, all green fields and distant bluish hills, your gaze doesn’t quite escape to them. The square flat picture frame achieved is filled with the St Andrews flag style Grand Plat, which combines paving, grass and Jekyll signature planting to provide those in the house above with a view down over the ultimate patterned carpet.
Know it though you might, the charms of this landscape are undeniable. And its designers being what they were, there is a wealth of detail to discuss which we will not burden you with now and hope to cover in a couple of later posts. 

Suffice it to say that we moved trillingly between the niche water features, the rills, the pillars and the oval windows which let in charming vignettes of the surrounding countryside. No one can exclaim and warble quite as affectedly as a group of garden designers and we did it to excess! Curiously in three visits there, the sun has always shone at some point. It’s that old ‘Golden Edwardian Afternoon’ effect.
There was however one aspect that didn’t quite gel. From the far side of the Edwardian layout you can look through the upper part of a door and you are immediately thrust into the world of the 18th century landscape. It’s a ‘through the looking glass’ moment. In fact this older world can be accessed in a variety of ways. None of them especially convince. 
But once there it is, however calculatingly, a relaxed landscape, making the Luytens garden seem in comparison fussily decorative and lightweight. Here we are definitely thinking big picture – acres rather than feet. A circuitous route takes you at varying heights through a landscape of streams, waterfalls and lakes, banks of laurel and clusters of trees, vistas and a variety of temples and other follies. The architectural elements move you forward and often reward you with seats and views.

It has definite sylvan charm but doesn’t have the stature of say Stourhead, though Bamfylde was quite a buddy of Hoare. Of course its recent resurrection means that many trees are understandably etiolated saplings. One senses too that many of the buildings are either so heavily restored or totally rebuilt that it doesn’t have the old world glamour of Rousham.  
But there are some big moments. The first sight of the big waterfall is a look see and there is a beautiful moment on the far side when your focal points from one position are at least two temples, an urn and a waterfall and you are yourself beside the witch hut. Quite beautiful is the surprise on going round the back of a temple which may disappoint front ways on. Its location is the star. You look across miles of rolling countryside. Glorious! 
Equally fine is the return to the house where sheets of water and ribbons of streams gleam like silver far below you in the westerly late afternoon sun.
As you return to the car park you emerge from the 18th century, walk past the Victorian mansion and the Edwardian pleasure garden. There is no decent avenue leading up to the house. You never feel what it would be like to live there. And you realize that no one has ever really had the chance to tackle and integrate the whole thing. 

This is a problem which any number of multi gardens have to deal with. Maybe we have seen too many grand estates, but what we would like is to be all in one century, country or style, or else in quite a lot all cunningly fitted together. Certainly not these two independent striding limbs.

Today's post is written by Lesley and Robert of - The Hegarty Webber Partnership.  If you would like to read more about their garden visits or fantastic garden design please take a minute or two to follow the link to their website.
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