I obviously hope you enjoy browsing through the postings on here - do feel free to leave comments as it's always good to see who's visiting and to hear about other people's experiences - after all you never stop learning do you?

If you've any gardening questions or you live in Brittany and are looking for some gardening help - be it design work, planting or general gardening or you simply would like some advice, please don't hesitate to CONTACT ME or call me on 0033 661 77 23 89 (from UK) or 0661 77 23 89 (from France).

Happy gardening!

Monday 22 April 2013

Passion, Plants and Patronage - a voyage of discovery....

The title of this book says it all - a definite "must have" book for anyone interested in gardening or garden history - would make a lovely gift or a treat for yourself!  You really won't be disappointed.

A beautifully written and illustrated account of the enormous impact made by the generations of one family on some of Britain's best known (and some not so well known) gardens and estates over the course of 300 years.  Some of the places included in this book are Kew, Cardiff Castle, Highcliffe in Dorest, Dumfries House.... I could go on but will leave you to discover the rest! 

The Bute family's influence on landscapes and gardens across the UK - not to mention art and architecture - is astounding and the book takes the reader from Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, off the south west coast of Scotland, on a journey of discovery from the early 1700's to the present day.

As a gardener, the insight into horticultural practices so early on was a real eye opener - to say they were adventurous was an understatement!  In the early 1700's - "holly berries, hornbeam seeds, yew berries, beech mast and a peck of English Acorns to be sown in the tree nurseries " at Mount Stuart.  During a visit to Kew Gardens in 1766  it was noted that there were Proteas from South Africa covered with overlapping oilcloths and a banana tree in fruit.  Other mentions were made of grafted Cedars and Lime trees!

In reading through this book I discovered all sorts of interesting information - did you know that Kew as it stands today is actually an amalgamation of 2 Royal Estates in 1802 - consisting of Kew to the east and Richmond Lodge on the west bordering the River Thames? Each of the respective Royal owners had a longstanding dislike of the other - so it was ironic that these two estates be divided by Lover's Lane which was then a public road - (Holly Walk as it is know today follows roughly the same course).

The chapter on Cardiff Castle was fascinating - if you've had a chance to visit Cardiff  you may have enjoyed a little visit to "Pettigrew Tea Rooms" - these are located at West Lodge near to Bute Park Aboretum, not far from Cardiff Castle.  The Tea Rooms named after Andrew Pettigrew who originally came from Dumfries House to take over the care of the Castle grounds in 1873.  The reputation of the grounds grew, following a series of articles written in garden journals.  What Pettigrew acheived was incredible given that much of the land was nothing but marsh.  In 1899, the Gardener's Magazine explained the enormous task that Pettigrew had in organising the transportation of thousands of cart-loads of soil from various building sites throughout Cardiff to bring the ground level well above the water table... without the aid of trucks or mechnical diggers of course!  By 1901, two years before Pettigrew died,  the network of driveways, the excavation of the Friary site, formal avenues of Lime Trees and the framework of today's tree planting had all been put in place.  We have much to appreciate today when visiting some of these amazing places!

I hope this will inspire you to go out and purchase a copy -  currently available at Amazon UK with free home delivery.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Bee aware....

You read a lot about how we need to provide more for all the bees in our gardens and with the continued cold spring we've experienced this year , it has made me think even more carefully about what we should be planting to provide an adequate source of pollen for all types of bees and butterflies as some have already come out of hibernation here! (Brave!) 

Over the last few weeks I've seen a variety of different bees in the garden including Honey Bee and various Bumble Bees plus Peacock, Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Brimstone Butterflies too.  Many of the plants I've taken photos of are great pollen providers early in the season and reasonably easy to grow too.

There are plenty of wildflowers in our woodland area - the Primroses have spread like mad over the past few years as we've cleared more areas...

There are also wide margins of wild planting - including, at this time of year plenty of little yellow Celandine.

Another of my Spring favorites are the little Anenome Blanda that have only been out properly these last 10 days - a great early flowering plant for providing plenty of pollen for insects - easily accessed with its open flowering form.

Every garden has to make space for one of my favorite Viburnums - the perfume of the blooms which are just starting to emerge is incredible!  Viburnum x burkwoodii loves a sheltered spot with some sun.
This is the early flowering Lonicera fragrantissima - again the perfume is amazing - flowers on bare stems - the leaves follow... ideal shrub for planting a later flowering clematis up through... giving all year round interest.

Talking of Clematis - the two I've photographed here are not fully out, but definitely worth condsidering  - this one is Clematis macropetela "Jan Lindmark" - a small bell-shaped nodding double flowered clematis with beautiful seed heads to follow.

The other which is a new one - Clematis macropetala "Octopus" is fantastic and out rather early consideirng the weather and that it is supposed to bloom April/May!

I'm afraid I couldn't resist putting a few more photos of the Hellebores this year - it's been a particularly good year for them - so many different colours and markings - many which have cross pollinated with others. 

Forsythia is also out late this year but a real favorite for pollinating insects!

This Comfrey plant was smothered in bees the other day - once this is over, the leaves make a great plant feed or addition to the compost heap!

These two different photos of Erysimum are also invaluable for bees and insects alike.

This particular variety is Erysimum linifolium "Variegatum" and like other varities fully hardy.
This Ribes sanguinium (Flowering Currant) was taken as a cutting a few years back - it certainly adds plenty of vibrant colour to the mixed border at this time of year.

Pulmonaria is great for most pollinating insects and being one of the earliest flowering perennials in the garden, also providing good ground cover, I couldn't leave this one out!

Rosemary is another must for the early flowering garden... planted up against a sunny wall, it has been in flower for the past 3-4 weeks and on sunny days smothered with bees!

This early flowering Camelia was in our garden when we arrived - it normally flowers early - it's open form is great for bees and provides a shelter for the birds as well! My guess is it is japonica Adophe Adusson... any thoughts?!

Seeing raised temperatures on the forecast for next weekend at 20 degrees I will await with baited breath - that said do remember the difficult plight of may of the insects, bees and butterflies in the garden who play such an important role in the garden - we'd be lost without them - so  we maybe need to give them more consideration...

" Bees work for man, and yet they never bruise Their Master's flower, but leave it having done, As fair as ever and as fit to use; So both the flower doth stay and honey run." George Herbert

The Bee Garden
If you want to read more on the subject of planting to help bees - try "The Bee Garden" by Maureen Little - this is full of helpful information and some great photos too

A mystery bird!?? Any thoughts?

I'm wondering if anyone out there can identify this little bird spotted in our garden today... it looks similar to a Dunnock but the head colouring is totally different - I've been right through my bird books and am at a loss as to what it is!  If you've any ideas I'd love to know.... below is a photo of it along with a Chaffinch to give an idea of size.