Running Around The Walled Garden at Knightshayes

It isn’t often that I have to have a stern word with myself about putting the brakes on while visiting a garden. But the joy I got from entering the walled garden at Knightshayes, the National Trust (NT) property in Devon, meant that I found myself forcing myself to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n otherwise I would have missed much of the beauty. At one point I was virtually jogging just to get to the next, exciting bit.

I had driven down to the West Country at sparrow-fart to avoid the traffic on the first Saturday of the UK school holidays; picking up the youngest of the Bees from Uni felt like the end of an era and I needed a garden visit to kill some time. I was in the cafe at Knightshayes (more of which later) by 10.15am, thinking how jolly clever I was to have missed the inevitable July-jams on the M5. On my approach to the property, I found myself in an alarmingly long queue which I thought was rather odd, it being early, and with most normal people heading towards the coast; thankfully I held my nerve and this turned out to be hundreds of folk going to the Mid-Devon Show which was in the grounds of Knightshayes but some distance from the actual house and garden.

Candy-floss, long-horned cattle and a ferris wheel beckoned but I know what I like and I like what I know.

Weirdly, I also thought  in visiting Knightshayes I was following the recommendation of a good friend, T, but when I sent her a pic saying, “so where am I?” and the answer came back, “haven’t a clue”, it transpired she had in fact recommended Tyntesfield.

And if you are thinking, with this level of confusion and disarray it is any wonder I manage to do achieve anything at all, I couldn’t agree more.

The National Trust has its detractors, but I am a fan: friendly staff, nice things in the shops, good food and coffee and they (with our help) look after some of this country’s gems. The garden shop at Knightshayes was without a doubt the best I have ever seen, and it was a small miracle I came away with nothing – only the thought of plants being squashed by four years of Uni detritus, guitars and Ikea bags full of bedding put me off. The NT shop was chock full of goodies though (which I didn’t pass on – I didn’t know I required steel straws until I got to the till where, incidentally, the lovely lady serving was offering free fudge) and the cafe was excellent for both coffee and lunch (gluten free quiche: the nicest I have tasted). Friendly staff, a coffee out-post next to the house itself, and an interesting story to tell, topped off by the best NT walled garden I have ever seen. And did I mention the second-hand book shop? What more could you ask for on a sunny day in July in Devon?

The pièce de résistance was, without a doubt, the magnificent walled garden. First though, a little about why Knightshayes is there in the first place:

Back in 1816 a group of Luddite protesters wrecked John Heathcoat’s lace-making factory in Loughborough, so incensed were they at the introduction of his ‘pillow and bobbin” lace-making machines. They demolished 55 lace frames with axes and hammers and set fire to the lace; within half an hour, the factory was lost and 200 men out of work. He refused compensation from the county to keep his business in the Midlands, and moved instead to Tiverton in Devon. Many of his workers followed him down to the West Country on foot, so trustful their employer would rise again and continue his success. In a speech at a public dinner in 1843, John recollected how he “came almost like a ship-wrecked mariner cast away upon your shores”. The people of Tiverton welcomed this successful businessman, which he repaid by building houses, schools and churches for the community, still distinguishable today by their grey-painted doors.

It was one of his ancestors who, in 1868 bought the Knightshayes estate which looks down on Tiverton and on his factory. The house standing then was demolished and, at the very peak of the Victorian country house building, Knightshayes as we see it today was built and extended as a solid expression of the family’s status and values. To this end, William Burges was employed as lead architect; most of the outside of Knightshayes is to his plans, but the family drew the line at his eccentric and bold (fantastical) interior plans (a Juliet balcony in the living room anyone?) and so the slightly less flamboyant interior designer John Dibblee Crace was brought in.

Knightshayes

I wasn’t even planning to look inside the Gothic Revival house, but the story of the last owner of the property (Sir John, the 3rd Baronet who died in 1972 and left Knightshayes to the National Trust) building a 9-hole golf course for his wife (the acclaimed golfer Joyce Wethered) on their (substantial) ‘front lawn’, plus a painter-decorator accidentally unearthing an original ceiling which the NT didn’t know was there, got me interested enough to have a wander, and I am glad I did.

 

Knightshayes

 

Knightshayes

 

Knightshayes

BUT, the main reason for visiting from my point of view, is the garden which the National Trust describe as

….an outstanding garden, whose plants represent one of the most varied and valuable botanical collections in our care.

Within the wider estate, there is a Formal and Woodland garden, a Douglas Fir Walk, herbaceous borders by the terrace in front of the house, a dry (paved) garden, a lovely pond in the Pool Garden and an Arboretum.

Knightshayes

 

Knightshayes

 

Knightshayes

But it is the Kitchen Garden, fully restored by the NT in 2001 which really caught my eye, and where I needed to stop myself from running around it like a small kid, high on coca cola and too much ice-cream.

It is a triumph! Covering an area of just over four acres, (four acres!) on a south-facing slope, it was probably designed by Burges (in 1870) and it was a clear statement of the family’s wealth in both production and display. Many of the plants are very helpfully named (which adds several stars to any garden visit in my book), and I believe there is a staff these days of six full-time gardeners and three trainees who work across the entire garden and parkland. On top of that there are perhaps as many as 50 volunteers and my goodness, what a great job they all do. The day I went I only saw one gardener and there were times when, due to the vastness of the place plus the lure of the ferris wheel, I could have been on my own.

Knighthayes entrance to walled garden

 

Knightshayes walled garden

 

Knightshayes sunflowers

 

Knightshayes rhubarb forcers

 

I was very taken by  what I call the ‘business-end’ of the garden, where much of the unglamorous work gets done and where I found these rhubarb forcers, lined up like Chinese warriors, members of the Terracotta Army who have gone on their holidays to Devon.

Knightshayes

I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Tiverton neck of the woods: a beautiful area of England, and boasting what could well be my favourite ever NT garden.

Knightshayes

 

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Annie Bee xxx

Jinny Blom’s Garden at Temple Guiting Manor

You might know what a huge fan I am of the National Garden Scheme where anyone can simply pitch up at any of the 3500 or so private gardens in England and Wales which open annually.

Today, pootling back from a wonderful trip to visit my cousin in Powys (and via Baileys Home, where I am always amazed at just how enticing wooden dolly pegs and balls of string can look and where I dare you to escape without spending a small fortune on things you probably had no idea you needed) I managed to catch Jinny Blom’s garden at Temple Guiting Manor. Oh what a delight! What an exquisite selection of plants! What a gorgeous setting! And how kind of the owner to allow us mortals to traipse about, taking photos and seeing whether we can reproduce such wonders in our own gardens.

Jinny Blom worked on the garden design at Temple Guiting Manor for over a decade, starting in 2001 and describes it as, “one of the happiest projects I have had the pleasure to work on”. I have long been a fan, and can’t recommend her book, “The Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach To Garden Design” highly enough.

The Windrush Valley is a beautiful neck of the UK woods, and the site of the Grade I listed manor house is mentioned in the Domesday Book. As you will see below, the stone there is that warm end of the Cotswold spectrum – much prettier than than the greyer colour you find further south. Temple Guiting itself is charming: wooded, windy lanes, wild hedgerows. The manor is now a collection of beautifully restored barns and outhouses, all surrounded and encompassing Jinny Blom’s understated, edited and curated palette of suitable planting. If you are in the area, the owner has bought the converted village post office, just a short walk from his estate: Temple Guiting Pantry is worth a visit if you are after a charming spot for lunch and a small selection of goodies and local produce.

The weather was rather grey (June has so far been cold and drizzly with the occasional burst of biblical rain, which we need after such a dry winter)  so my photos don’t do the garden and the subtle colours much justice. My take-away plant (not literally, but I have bought three packets of seed since returning to Bee HQ) is Valeriana officinalis which was everywhere and obviously self-seeds anywhere you might want it.

I will leave the photos to speak for themselves. Definitely a garden to put on your list if it is open again next year and the venue is available to hire for weddings.

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

Jinny Blom @ Temple Guiting

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Annie Bee xxx

Vita Sackville-West’s Columns for The Observer

I went to a very informative Gardening Club talk last week by Andrew Mikolajski entitled “The March Of The Women”.

I had heard of most of the female gardeners/garden designers/horticulturalists who Andrew spoke about (Gertrude Jekyll, Ellen Willmott, Vita Sackville-West, Margery Fish, Rosemary Verey and Beth Chatto); some were new to me (Norah Lindsay, Sylvia Crowe, Martha Schwartz and Isabelle Green all of whom from memory are from the other side of the pond) but what I came home thinking was it was time to get my three Vita Sackville-West “Observer” books down from the spare room bookshelves and start dipping into them more regularly.

Her weekly columns withThe Observerwere published over the course of fifteen years, from 1946 – 1961 and many of them are available in three books: “In Your Garden”, ” In Your Garden Again” and “More For Your Garden”. There are lots of reasons I like them. They are reproduced in a monthly Jan-Dec format so you can read what she wrote this exact  same week in, say, 1954, giving you an insight into the weather, the way we gardened back then and her thoughts on horticultural matters which are still very relevant today. Each of the three books has charming additions to the newspaper columns. In the first volume for example, we find her views on a visit she made to Hidcote Manor, which was originally printed in The Journal of the RHS in 1949; there are also her thoughts on some 20 flowers which caught her particular fancy (from Abutilon Megapotamicum ~ the “curious Brazilian with the formidable name” – to Zinnias ~ which “look as though they have been cut out of bits of cardboard ingeniously glued together into the semblance of a flower”).

One of the most fascinating things, which she was not allowed to publish in the original “Observer” columns, was a list of nurserymen, seedsmen and purveyors of plants and horticultural paraphernalia. In her Foreword to the first volume, she says

…neither The Observer nor any other journal could have allowed the ‘free advertisement’ of publishing the names and addresses. It led to a formidable increase in my correspondence; I think two thousand enquiries arising out of one article was the record….I trust and believe I answered them all. If anyone was overlooked, I take this opportunity of offering an apology.

A few of the recommended firms she mentions are still with us today: R.C.Notcutt of Woodbridge, Suffolk, (“lilacs a speciality”) is now a large, nationwide garden centre; Thompson & Morgan, Sutton & Sons and Unwins are all still successful distributors of seeds and sundries. One which caught my eye under, ‘Fruit Trees – and Fruit In General’ was Laxton Bros, 63H, High Street, Bedford, which is now (thank you Google Maps) a Tesco Express. Vita’s recommendation for where to buy ‘Uncommon Vegetables’ is one Mrs Kathleen Hunter of Wheal Frances, Callestick, Truro, Cornwall. I wonder who lives there now. Interestingly Kathleen’s catalogue from the mid-50s shows up on Amazon, although it is currently unavailable. I wonder whether any of Mrs Hunter’s ancestors are still in the horticultural trade.

Vita wrote across many genres: poetry, biography, criticism, travel as well as fiction. Whether you are familiar with her output or not, her garden writing is often amusing, always informative, openly honest, and normally with an eye on the reader’s budget. Profligate, she was not.

So here is an example (apropos of nothing) which I read just this morning. From March 27th, 1955, she says of Phlox,

Some people love the scent of phlox: to me, it suggests pigsties, not that I dislike pigsties, being country-born, and well accustomed to them.

Vita was born at Knole, and whilst I don’t doubt for one minute she had come across pigsties, her description of being ‘country born’ is perhaps not your or my version.

Knole  is in fact a country pile situated within Knole Park, a 1,000-acre park located immediately to the south-east of Sevenoaks in west Kent, some 25 miles from her beloved Sissinghurst. The house apparently ranks in the top five of England’s largest houses occupying a total of four acres. The House: four acres. Yes, you read that correctly. She was born there in 1892, grew up there, and here recounts a legend that it is a calendar house:

….its seven courtyards correspond to the days of the week, its fifty-two staircases to the weeks of the year, its three hundred and sixty-five rooms to the days of the year, but ‘I do not know that anyone has ever troubled to verify it.’

Knole, Sevenoaks

With a new film due out in the UK in July, which concentrates on Vita’s love affair with Virginia Woolf, an increased spotlight will no doubt once again be on her, her writing, her fascinating life, as well her garden in Sissinghurst. For me, the short snippets of gardening expertise in these three books are beautifully written and charming. We are lucky to have them.

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Annie Bee xxx

The Unveiling of the Turf Stack

The White, Green and Grey Garden is looking as if it has been in place for many years, but in fact is only 20 months old. I couldn’t be happier with it, although it is an ever-changing thing which can always be tinkered with and improved. I cast a beady eye over it most days, planning and scheming and am never 100% happy with what I see…. not least if a rogue has self-seeded which is not in the prescribed colour scheme.

One unsolicited, uninvited pink poppy…..

Last month I decided to take a look at my turf stack, which we made from all the grass we had to remove in order to make both beds. A turf stack is supposed to be laid grass-facing-grass in a stack of neat sandwiches. As you can see from the picture below, on the weekend we did the turf-removal, we were so shattered after using the machine to take it all up it I was happy to have it in any kind of system at all, so it was pretty much slung together willy-nilly in a straight-ish line.

Despite that, it has been gently rotting down for the 20 months under plastic and black weed control fabric. I have looked at it a couple of times over that period, but didn’t feel it was well-rotted enough to risk putting back onto the garden; the thought of reintroducing creeping buttercup and other nasties back into the garden made me very cautious indeed so I had to call on some often elusive patience…. This time though (mid-June 2018), despite it being rather dry under there (no doubt I should have soaked it prior to putting it under its duvet) it looked very promising.

Turf stack

Our kittens, Huck and Hero, guarding the turf stack,  Autumn 2016

Luckily for me my nephew was staying for a few days; he plays rugby for Wales, so quite literally can’t be any fitter or stronger and was happy to lend a helping hand, so we unwrapped the entire stack to see what we were dealing with. I was slightly nervous of vermin/snakes etc, but other than a huge number of ants (which had built some impressive nests, but equally had helped to break the turves down), quite a few worms (there no doubt would have been more if it had been damper) plus 3 rather startled toads, there was nothing to worry about. The other bonus was that, due to the inclusion of some very woody roots (that area of the garden had, some decades ago, been home to an orchard, where I am told the local village children would sometimes come and play), there were also a few very impressive pockets of mycorrhizal fungi, which look like very thin white veins and are very good for soil health. I believe it aids plants in taking up beneficial nutrients. There is more info on it here.

Micorrhizal

Joe gallantly helped wheelbarrow the first third of the stack before he had to leave, but that got me started, and many hours later the entire stack had been redistributed into the cutting garden, and back onto the two borders, from whence it came. There were probably between 25 and 30 wheelbarrow-loads in total. Recycling at its best.

Turf stack removal

Some of it looked good enough to eat – rather like a luxurious chocolate cake.

Black gold. Compost. Loam from a turf stack

I could practically hear the garden singing as I laid it on in a very thick mulch. The birds absolutely loved chucking it everywhere and eating the ants and fat ant eggs, and I felt like a bountiful patron. Amazingly when I originally drew up the plans for the White, Green and Grey Garden, I had thought seriously about putting all the turf in a skip. Thank goodness I came to my senses.

When turves break down, you end up with loam, which is essentially a perfect mixture of clay, sand and silt:

loam
ləʊm/
noun
a fertile soil of clay and sand containing humus.
GEOLOGY :a soil with roughly equal proportions of sand, silt, and clay.

A week or so later, the birds are still throwing it off the raised beds which make up the cutting garden, joyfully searching for any overlooked goodies. The toads have re-homed themselves somewhere, and the Dahlias, Cosmos, Sweet Peas, Asters and Dianthus in the cutting beds all look like they have had an injection of nourishment.

Where the stack had been, I was left with an area of unsightly bare soil. Why not use it to create a small bed for over-flow plants, experiments and sowing biennials?

bare soil after the turf stack was removed

I already had some weed membrane, so off I went to B&Q to buy the treated wood and the bark, and – while I was at it – black paint for the shed.

The interesting thing about painting something like a shed or barn black is how it seems to help the object “disappear”; you start to only see the green plants and blue sky, rather than the shed itself. I am thrilled with this new area.

Here is a recent photo of the white garden:

White, green and grey garden

Now, what’s next …….

 

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Annie Bee xxx

A Spring Walk in Highgrove ~ February 2018

Bee HQ seems to sit squarely in what feels like the epicentre of a huge number of great gardens and houses one can visit. We are  surrounded by beautiful, notable gardens as well as a lot of NGS gardens open to the public which might otherwise not be seen.

So nipping over into Gloucestershire to take a guided tour of Highgrove’s garden seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I booked two tickets for a Guided Spring Walk. I will add right now that Mr Bee who was due to accompany me (a staunch Republican, and my sometime Undergardener) decided to stay at home and weed the borders. I am kidding of course: chance would be a fine thing. He bailed on me, but I set off knowing I would be able to spend far more in the garden shop without him.

 

Highgrove house and garden

The 90 minute drive west was delightful, taking in the changing nature of the Cotswold stone colours as I headed towards Tetbury. I even drove past the Waitrose where local customers threw bread rolls at Camilla P-B, back in the day when she had been outed as The Other Woman. I would have spent longer in Tetbury as it looked charming, but I was following strict instructions from Highgrove regarding the  timing of my arrival, and finding Highgrove itself was easier said than done, due to the complete lack of signage (for security reasons I assume).

Sadly the only rule for visitors is you are not allowed to take a mobile or a camera into the property. So this is all from memory, my note-taking and sketches, although there is a very nice book about the gardens if you feel the need to read up. It felt very peculiar not to be able to take photos, but the huge sign on arrival,

“YOU ARE NOW ENTERING AN OLD-FASHIONED ESTABLISHMENT”

left one in no doubt that this was a largely digital-free zone. To be wandering around, using one’s eye and memory (and notebook) felt like a challenge in this day and age.

The security wasn’t as tight as I had imagined, which makes me think HRH probably wasn’t in residence. The pot-holes which are currently blighting the UK winter roads continued up the drive, and there was rather a relaxed and unassuming feel to the entire operation they run there. It is fairly low-key and disarmingly informal. It struck me that for the Prince, Highgrove is the equivalent of us mere mortals having a weekend caravan, a she-shed, or (at most) a holiday cottage for the odd weekend get-away. The house itself (my guess  is it has maybe 10-12 bedrooms) is not as big as you might imagine; mind you, when your normal residencies are a series of castles and palaces, arriving there must feel a bit like going camping for Mr & Mrs Mountbatten-Windsor.

Having said that, there are 12 gardeners  in total, and the property extends to a huge acreage, much of it farmland. And whilst billed as “old-fashioned”, HRH has always been way ahead of the game on ecological/sustainability matters (more of which, including the reed-bed sewage system! you can read about here) , and if he does still talk to his plants (one of the Bees, when asked what he knew about Prince Charles said, “he talks to plants and has flappy ears”), the garden is a very good advert for doing just that. It is 100% organic and looks very good on it. My guess is we saw a fraction of the whole garden on the tour, but we certainly got a good feel for it, and were allowed surprisingly near the house. We were too polite to peer in the windows however tempted we were: how British!

So what did I take note of? Despite it being smaller than I thought (and I have read the book), it is by normal standards pretty big, so everything is done on a large-scale. No single bags of compost or mulch for His Royal Highness from Tetbury B&Q. So for example, while you or I might think planting 80 snowdrop bulbs in one go an industrial project worthy of note in the local paper, just last year alone 40,000 were planted at Highgrove, and heavens, they looked magnificent, mingling in with the cyclamen.

Mid-February is perhaps not the most popular time to visit, but (as you might remember) I have a deep fascination with structure, and winter is the best time to appreciate it. The other bonus was that it was certainly “peak snowdrop” ~ they couldn’t have been prettier. In a week or two, the daffs will be out, but too much yellow in a garden, even in the spring, makes me nervous. What was not in evidence in late winter was the famous wild-flower meadow, which I would absolutely love to see in full swing. Apparently the Guild of Scythe Cutters come and in and give it its most important cut. I can’t say they would probably be available to come and do my wild-flower meadow cutting (such as it is).

I noticed that much of the hedging, particularly in the less formal areas of the garden (further away from the house) is mixed, so there is a lovely tapestry of native species, intermingling  ~  it’s very pretty, and importantly, good for wildlife. Another idea I liked very much is the way several ‘windows’ have been cut out of the formal yew hedges, allowing visual vistas to open up. Also, one small stretch of hedging was laid out in a ‘crinkle-cranke’ manner, thereby allowing some attractive planting in the curves.

Daphnes: it seems there is no such thing as too many and the scent was good, despite it being a bitterly cold day. Some are evergreen which gets a very big tick from me. The national collection of Hostas are at Highgrove; again, nothing to see in Feb, but I imagine they are lovely, running throughout the various ‘garden rooms’.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is taken very seriously in the garden. Little homemade fences, willow hoops to keep the riff-raff to the paths, logs used to edge drives, were things you and I  could also do. Using historically, architecturally important stonework which has been lying about for centuries to make a beautiful wall might well be beyond us, as might be the other myriad of structures such as the thatched tree-house, which wasn’t that much smaller than my first house I bought in Kent in 1986…. Presumably as well, there is plenty of material lying around for jobs like staking – no green plastic plant supports for our future King.

Using foraged pine-cones to mulch around a shrub in a pot looks charming. Interestingly, there is an amazing collection of  terracotta urns, some of them HUGE, and I was surprised they were left out over winter; our guide explained that they are filled with wood-chips, which acts as an insulator apparently. A good tip.

I was very interested to know whether there have been issues with Box Blight. We have it at Bee HQ, and my master-plan to ignore it, hope for the best, treat with fungicide (which may be helping, but it is unlikely), and occasionally raise a prayer to the Goddess of Gardening (Dionysus?) does appear to work. At Highgrove they have taken a somewhat more targeted approach: they have ripped out the box parterre completely and have replanted with Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Rocket’, which has slightly larger, darker green leaves than box but looks very good to me. Interestingly the Box further afield, and used as part of the mixed hedging, looked perfectly healthy.

What else went down in my notes? The use of what I call Crinkly Ivy (possibly Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’); slinging down a handful of alpine grit on the soil to mark where perennials will come up (in this case, Delphiniums); and finally, as I am thinking very seriously about keeping bees, Highgrove’s decision to keep Welsh Black Bees (which hail from Anglesey), which are apparently rather more hardy and resilient than other species – I will have to do some research into that. HRH’s chooks looked flippin’ delighted to be living at Highgrove, and their coop was as upmarket as you would expect from the next in line to the throne.

And what of my shopping trip? The little shop had a few lovely things, and I stocked up on plenty of delights I don’t need but which caught my eye, including an attractive little double-flowered Primula, which will look nice when it blooms. The cafe was excellent and the gluten free fare was delicious.

All in all, another very successful Annie Bee Gardening Adventure, and a few lovely ideas and memories to take home.

NB: all profits from Highgrove go to Prince Charles’s charitable foundation; even the most rampant Republicans should be happy to hear that.

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Annie Bee xx

The Making of the White Garden ~ 5. Adding Grey

There have been many takes on colour-schemed gardens. But white gardens are perhaps the most difficult to pull off – or at least I think so! Often thought of as simply the colour of light, white is most often used in gardens to dot light around, highlighting other colours and brightening up darker areas. Technically it is an achromatic colour ~ that is a colour without a hue. Used en masse white works best against dark, enclosing hedges (of Yew or Buxus perhaps, or in my case, beech). Interestingly Vita Sackville-West referred to her famous (the most famous?) white garden at Sissinghurst both her “pale garden” as well as a “green, grey, white and silver garden”. Whether white is a colour or not, in terms of plants, there are many shades of white and it does to be fairly open-minded. Pale creams, pale yellows, pink tinges, the blue flowers of a Hosta – are they welcome?

On Gardeners’ World this week, Mat Reece, Head Gardener at the 10-acre private garden Malverleys in Hampshire said that when an unwanted colour pops up in their white garden, it is like having a nasty mark on a pristine white shirt. I have ended up moving a few creamy-yellow Wallflowers which were frankly too coloured. The odd rogue self-seeded scarlet poppies have also been given very short shrift.

I have found that it is A) hard to stick with white, pure white and nothing but the white and B) softer and more interesting with other colours allowed to act as a foil to the white. Grey (and silver) and green are the most obvious choices  and these seem to add depth to the two borders – so which grey plants have I included in this first summer?

I have found that Senicio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ (which I grew from seed in vast quantities) has proved invaluable. I have also enjoyed using Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ (so-called because Miss Ellen Willmott, apparently never went anywhere without a pocketful of seeds of that particular Eryngium which she would liberally throw about in other people’s borders). The evergreen dwarf shrub, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is also a key grey plant in my scheme. The felty Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ will make an appearance next year and I will also add some Hostas which have a grey leaf (this year I just went for Hosta ‘Francee fortunei which is green and white) – well,  I say grey, but they technically have a blue-ish tinge. Hosta ‘Babbling Brook’ would do nicely.

The photos below show the cineraria; Eryngium, Stachys, Hosta and Artemisia.

Cineraria

 

 

 

 

 

I planted several pots with white Lilium regale, underplanted with cineraria, ready to dot them around the borders as some of the other annuals start to die back or look scruffy. Already, here towards the end of July, my White Ensign  sweet peas, which have been spectacular (lovely long stems so very good for cutting) are beginning to go over and will leave unsightly gaps in August before the white Asters and Anemones start their moment in the sun.

Sun? We haven’t had much of that of late, but one lives in hope. I am known for fussing about lack of anything – rain, sunshine, chocolate….. As a gardener, lack of rain seems worse to me than lack of sun, but both end up driving me mad!

Do let me know if you have any favourite white or grey plants. A fellow blogger who I enjoy reading, Jenny Williams, suggested the following white plants, which work well for her: Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’;  Hesperis matronalis (Sweet Rocket) ‘White’; the Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ and Narcissus ‘Thalia’, all of which I will try out as the garden develops.

In fact, as the weather is rubbish and a storm is due to blow in this afternoon I might as well go to the Garden Centre right now.

Happy gardening, friends.

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Annie Bee xx