Daily Archives: August 3, 2012

Vivienne McGhee’s August Update

Val and Helen in their garden

Val and Helen in their garden

This is the season for garden visiting and so it has been for me in July. The range has been from a local HPS member’s garden to those of professional gardeners and a garden restoration project. Each garden displays the personality of the gardener and even where the structure is an inherited one, the planting is a significant clue.

I have had a trip to Ireland to visit aging relatives but also to visit gardens and buy plants. For a long time I have intended to visit Helen Dillon in Dublin. Helen is an HPS member and her garden can be seen at www.dillongarden.com. I was interested to see the canal in her garden as I had heard her talk of it and to see it in the context of a suburban garden with her choice of plants.

At Helen’s suggestion I visited Carmel Duignan near Bray. This is a sheltered garden near the sea with many half hardy plants. Carmel is a knowledgeable plants-woman and I came away with a bag of cuttings, now safely potted up. Then it was on to see June Blake in County Wicklow. I was interested to meet June as I have a pale yellow Aqueligia that has her name attached. It is a delightful plant and so far has come true from seed with me.

In Northern Ireland I was staying with my cousin Helen who is both an artist and a gardener. This is apparent in both the design and planting of her garden. She has created shelter, in an otherwise fairly exposed garden, by building walls that reflect the gentle curves of the local drumlin landscape. These are glacial landforms rather like inverted spoons. The planting colours and forms give the overall impression of brush strokes of paint in the borders, especially in the evening light. I was drawn to the “picture” time after time. It wasn’t just the way the garden was set in its landscape, the way it was framed by the walls, trees and sky or the chosen plants and their arrangement – it was a sum of the whole.

Thinking back over all the gardens I had seen during the week (and there were 3 others in addition to the ones mentioned above and another 2 this week) the least satisfying ones for me were those where the plants dominated over the place.

Now I am back at home and looking at my own garden with a more critical eye.

If you are interested in thinking further try www.thinkingardens.co.uk

Vivienne McGhee’s July Update

Crambe cordifolia

Crambe cordifolia

I need not have worried about the garden during my absence this month. There has been a lot of rain here in Worcestershire but with just enough sunshine and heat to encourage flower. As a result the plants are looking very healthy and there are some stars. The first is Crambe cordifolia. I have two plants, one of which has not flowered for 3 years. I had intended to dig out that plant and discard it but just didn’t get round to it…. and it has flowered this year, not to its expected height of 2.5 metres but to 1.5 metres and 2 weeks ahead of my other plant. This is in full flower as I write this on 1 July – a frothy mass of foamy flowers –stunning. I have staked the individual flower spikes so it has survived the recent winds.

The second “treasure” at the moment is Pilosella x stoloniflora ‘Phil Clark’. I mentioned it in my December 2011 blog and it is a very attractive burnt orange colour with neat foliage. It has been flowering for weeks now with many more to come. So thank you again to the member who gave it to me.

We had an enjoyable and interesting time in Scotland at the weekend organised by the Scottish and Northern Borders Group. At the evening lectures we heard about the joys of growing peonies as well as all those damp loving gems such as primula and blue Himalayan poppies that I can only dream about – but certainly cannot grow. During the two days we visited 6 gardens, each with different interesting layout and plants.

Then we had the Summer Gardens Day on 30 June, organised by the Hertfordshire Group. Despite the weather forecast for heavy showers we did not have rain. The gardens included two immaculately managed suburban gardens belonging to members. The planting combinations were inspiring so I have lots of ideas for changes to my own garden. The “experience of the day” was a visit to “The Barn” garden of Tom Stuart-Smith at Serge Hill and that of his sister Kate. What a privilege and a treat! I could not give an adequate description in this blog. Both gardens were beautiful – you will have to visit for yourself when they are open through the National Garden Scheme.

Vivienne gave kind permission to add her news items here for our group, all of her other posts are here: http://www.hardy-plant.org.uk/blog/

Pilosella x stoloniflora ‘Phil Clark’

Pilosella x stoloniflora ‘Phil Clark’