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 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

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:

Pilosella x stoloniflora ‘Phil Clark’
Pilosella x stoloniflora ‘Phil Clark’

Seed Distribution

Last year we had a magnificent response to our request for seed donations. The 2012 seed list brought in many new types of seed, including plants that are often hard to find. Please continue to send in your donations, especially since there is concern that seed may be in short supply owing to the late season and poor weather conditions in parts of England. Members who have not previously offered seed could look to see what plants they would like to share and then follow the instructions below.

The Seed Distribution’s success depends on members both giving and taking seed.

  1. Collect, name dry and clean your seed (in that order). Take care identifying and labelling seed. Store seed in a dry and cool environment, e.g. a plastic container at the bottom of the fridge.
  2. Put your seed into labelled packets. If you do not have suitable packets available, packets can be obtained free of charge from Joe Sime (address below).
  3. Write out an alphabetical list of seed you are sending, making sure that the name on the list is the same as the seed and that your name and address are on the list.
  4. Please send seed (however small the amount) to S.J. Sime, Park Cottage, Penley, Wrexham, LL130LS to arrive by 31 October 2012. Seed that arrives after 31 October will not be wasted but will be included in Distributor’s Choice.

In fact Joe will accept seed at any time of year. A more detailed account of how to collect and clean seed is provided in the HPS July 2011 Newsletter and on the HPS Website. Sue Pinsent will be Seed Distribution Manager for the 2013 Seed Distribution but the rest of the team and the system will remain unchanged. We are looking forward to a successful run of the 2013 Seed Distribution with your seed donations.

Barbara Matthewman

Seed Distribution Coordinator

National HPS Seed Distribution:

Ashridge House and Gardens Opening in August 2012

I am emailing information about the opening of Ashridge House and the Grade II* gardens for guided tours during August and hope  it  may be of interest to members of the Hardy Plants Society.  Whilst the house and gardens are open for tours during August, the gardens continue to be open at weekends for general visits until the end of September. You may already know that they are the finest surviving example of the work of Humphry Repton who set out his vision of 15 separate gardens as Pleasure Grounds  to complement the newly built mansion in 1813. 
The  sparkling white thousand foot long Grade I mansion, with its splendid ornate interiors, houses paintings dating from the early 17th Century and includes the Christopher Tower Collection of oils on canvas, miniatures and watercolours, some by renowned painters such as Sir Joshua Reynolds. There are sculptures and modern paintings too and, in the restored 19th Century stables, there is a new exciting exhibition telling the story of Ashridge from its monastic beginnings in 1283 through the Dissolution,  when it became a royal home to Henry VIII’s children,  to a grand 18th and 19th Century aristocratic estate and finally on into the 21st Century as one of the world’s leading business schools. It is a wonderful pictorial journey including drawings and maps of the most recent exciting archaeological finds from Tudor times.
The gardens, as well as containing Humphry Repton’s Pleasure Grounds, include an arboretum, a moat, skating pond, an italianate garden and a 400 metre Wellngtonia avenue, lined on two inner sides with a 390 metre rhododendron walk, all dating from the mid to late 19th Century.
I know that many local societies and organisations do not normally meet in August but I hope you will be able to circulate the information by email and, if you would like to arrange a group visit to the gardens or the house beyond August, please get in touch wtih Mick Thompson, Gardens Manager on 01442 841042 or email
Thank you so much and we do hope to see you.
Ann Mallinson
for Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust
Reg. Charity 311096.

Daisy Roots at the Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show: Nursery rooting for drought success

A nursery based in Hertfordshire is exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time with a garden that thrives in drought conditions.

Created by Anne Godfrey of Daisy Roots she said: “Although we’re having a hose pipe ban I wanted to show it was still possible to have a beautiful garden.”

The exhibition from the Hertford based nursery features 60 species of plants including salvia and verbascum.

Environment Agency figures show the Anglia region as the driest in England.

Ms Godfrey said: “Plants have spent millennia adapting to various conditions, creating a whole range of plants to cope with drought conditions for us.

“Plants with a waxy coating, silver leaves so they reflect the sunlight back so they don’t get too hot, or tiny leaves so they have less surface areas to lose water from.”

Ms Godfrey said it had long been her ambition to exhibit her nursery at Chelsea.

“Being at Chelsea was on my bucket list. Up until we arrived and started putting plants in place it was all very stressful, but I’m pleased with what we’ve done,” she said.

“So far the whole Chelsea experience has been good. It’s amazing looking around and seeing the best horticulture in the whole world.

“We’ve had the judges round, but as long as I’m happy and the public like it when the show opens that’s all that matters.”

Judging will be revealed when the world-famous flower show opens to the public on Tuesday.