Out of my potting shed to visit – Holme Pierrepont Hall

I’ve spent too much time online looking at snowdrop gardens – and wishing I had a helicopter to whizz me from Scotland to Cornwall.
They are all so tempting. But work, family commitments and lack of funds mean the grand tour will have to wait. 

When a friend told me about a garden that’s practically on my doorstep- Holme Pierrepont Hall, in Nottingham- I hardly had time to grab my coat. I was out of my  pottingshed  like a rocket.

 


Walls and a gazebo in the formal East Garden were built in the 17th century.

The south wall was demolished in the Georgian period to create parkland around the side of the house. The East Garden was abandoned after the First World War, and reclaimed  in the 1970s.


There are some glorious planting combinations. Silver stems of Rubus Golden Vale stand out against the dark yew background, with snowdrops as  groundcover. Everywhere there’s yew and box hedges and topiary.


My favourite view of the house. Dating back to the 1500s, the brickwork is some of the earliest in the county.


There’s some wonderfully gnarled trees in the garden. It’s still very much a family home- as well as a wedding and conference venue. We smiled at the evidence of children everywhere. There were swings in many trees and a home made zip wire in the woods. 


We followed direction arrows through the walled gardens and found these old espalier fruit trees. I love the way they refuse to die. Each one sports  a single vigorous branch.


I can spend any amount of time admiring old garden walls. We mulled over the different courses of bricks. Layers of history with a tale to tell.


The arrows took us to a recently cleared wood.  I decided that following a snowdrop-edged woodland path makes me very happy indeed. 


I took about 100 photos in the wood. It has such a peaceful  atmosphere. Almost like a secret garden. 


We followed the arrows back to the house and wandered through this  doorway, which leads to a pretty enclosed walled courtyard. We bought  tickets for a tour around the house which meant we could look through the windows down onto the parterre. Photos  can’t be taken in the house, which is understandable. It is a family home, after all. But I asked permission to take photos through the windows, which was allowed.


Looking down on the box parterre which is filled with lavender, pulmonaria and spring bulbs. The  boundary wall of the garden, and the house wall have a sort of unusual covered cloister walkway which contained potted camellia plants. 


There’s a good view of the church from the first floor windows.

This stonework being used as a bench looks like it came from the top of a Roman pillar. I wonder…..


We had  another walk round the East Garden before heading for home. This Prunus mume Beni-chidori was looking spectacular underplanted with snowdrops. The scent, reminiscent of fruit salad,  wafts around the whole garden. Quite strong for such a tiny flower.

Holme Pierrepont Hall  is open Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays in February and March 2-5pm. Also Sundays in April -apart from Easter Sunday. There’s a special Shakespeare in the Garden performance  on Thursday 15th June. 
I’m glad I’ve found Holme Pierrepont Hall -especially as it’s only 25 minutes drive from home. It makes me wonder how many other places are right on my doorstep, just waiting to be discovered. Perhaps I don’t need that helicopter after all. 

Have you “found” any gardens right on your doorstep? 

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#wordlesswednesday -spring has arrived in my potting shed

Potted bulbs planted in October have burst into bloom this week. The scent is just wonderful!


 Delph Blue hyacinthstete-a-tete mini daffodils white Carnegie Hyacinths, and creamy white Jacob hellebore. On the other side of the table, out of sight, is my seed sowing station. It’s lovely to be enveloped in spring scents. Much nicer than (the usual) lawnmower engine oil and compost! 

Have your spring flowers burst into bloom yet, or are you still waiting for that wonderful moment? 

Out of my pottingshed- again …..

Regular readers will know, I live a peaceful life. I’m happiest in my potting shed. I work as a garden designer so most days are spent with plants. It doesn’t sound exciting, but it suits my nature, and I’m happy.


I’m always surprised when opportunities come along- taking me out of my comfort zone. I’m even more surprised at myself when I say yes!

Two years ago, out of the blue, a producer from  BBC local radio phoned  and asked me to talk about  work. I’d designed some school gardens and was working with a charity to create  a garden for disabled children.

A week later I found myself at the studios of BBC Radio Leicester, chatting on the Ben Jackson afternoon show. There were a few moments of panic when I learned it would be live- and I’d have to talk for an hour. But luckily- being radio- no one could see my knees shaking.

Despite feeling like a fish out of water, and going completely blank, I survived the ordeal. And then I was really amazed when they asked me to join the gardeners question time team on Radio Leicester’s Down to Earth programme. I am more of a listener than a talker, but it’s a lot of fun. There’s laughter and support from the more experienced members on the team.

Here’s  a link to a recent programme. Whizz past the news to 06.00 on the timeline:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04qg2v6

I’m telling you this to encourage you to ring up your local radio station and tell them about YOUR work- whatever it is. They have space to fill- every day! And they want to hear from you. It doesn’t have to be work. It can be a hobby. Or you might want to promote an event, or perhaps open gardens. It’s an opportunity you might not have thought about. And a little gentle encouragement might be all you need…..

Be brave- and remember, If I can do it, so can you. And you never know where it might lead. This week I went along to the Garden Press Event in London to report on the latest plants, seeds and growing techniques. I’ll share a link to the programme when it’s out on the BBC website. And more photos next time.

Ring up- and  please let me know how you get on.


I love  blue hyacinths, planted last October, and scenting the potting shed today


I’ve propped up the Carnegie white hyacinths with hazel twigs

Pottingshed shed window. I have to really tear myself away from my garden.

Thanks for reading.

#Snowdrop love, at Easton Walled Gardens

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In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing my photos of Britain’s most romantic garden renovation project.  Easton Walled Gardens.

There was once a magnificent mansion at the top of this flight of stone steps. The orangery windows looked over the glorious gardens below.

Franklin D Roosevelt, visiting the gardens on his honeymoon tour, described them as “A dream of Nirvana- almost too good to be true.” Sadly, the house  was demolished in 1951 and the gardens slowly abandoned. The gatehouse only survived when the bulldozer broke down. The gardens were lost under brambles and tree saplings.

Strolling around today, there’s a feeling of walking in the footsteps of those who lived and worked there in its heyday.

A stone bridge has been restored and leads to the great yew tunnel- which survived the neglect and abandonment.


Sheets of snowdrops lay dormant under the brambles. Just waiting to bloom again. There’s a fairytale feel to the place.  A Sleeping Beauty garden, lost and re-discovered.


And really, only love could have saved this garden. Ursula Cholmeley,  whose family lived at Easton for 400 years, has poured love, energy, passion, and time into the renovation project.  Work, started in 2001, continues today. And it’s a triumph. The “lost gardens of Easton” have been rescued and revived.


What’s your most romantic garden?  How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day?

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Easton Walled Gardens   just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire, is open until 19th February for snowdrops.

Buy Snowdrops from Easton by post

Events calendar
Courses/ workshops at Easton
Sweet peas at Easton

#snowdrops. Out of Hibernation-for Hodsock Press Day 

img_9173All winter I’ve found a kind of sanctuary in the potting shed. There’s a deep peaceful silence. A protection from the cold. A place to think. I can plot the progress of the seasons from the pottingshed window. Just now I can see gaunt willows bordering the pond. They look like charcoal drawings. I think of my farming ancestors who would have lopped the willows to make sheepfolds at this time of year.


I’m fascinated by old farming almanacs. My grandmother used to read them and occasionally I’d hear talk of Imbolc and Candlemas, mentioned in the first week of February. Imbolc meaning lambs milk or the start of the lambing season. And Brigantia, the Celtic female deity of light, St Brigid in the Christian tradition, calling  us to celebrate the sun – halfway on its advance from winter solstice to the spring equinox.

I map the progress of winter through the pottingshed  windows, watching the angle of the sunlight as it hits the huge table where I work.

Suddenly there’s a day -usually in the second week of February – when I notice the light has returned to the garden.  There’s a shaft of sunlight that shines through the side window like a wake up signal for spring. A kind of sundial for the seasons.


It’s a signal for me to reconnect with the world and leave the pottingshed behind.


So I make my annual pilgrimage to Hodsock Priory- accompanied by my Mum, as always.  And it is a place of pure magic. I stand in wonder under a 500 year old oak- the same age as the  brick tower gatehouse.

We call Hodsock the Chelsea of the snowdrop season. This is the first of many gardens Mum and I will visit over the coming weeks. We are lucky, and grateful, to be invited to the annual press day and enjoy a guided tour of the garden.


The woodland walk makes the heart sing.  Pyramid-pruned beech trees flank each side of the path. Such a simple idea, and it works, adding interest without being too formal.


Pools of colour from the Cyclamen Coum look  as bright as stained glass windows in the sunshine.


This Garrya Elliptica wrapped around the corner of the house always puts on a stunning display. It has every right to be called the silk tassel bush. We all decide it’s the best we have seen.

Wintersweet   or Chimonanthus Praecox. Glorious Scent  is as much a special feature of the garden as snowdrops. I particularly love  the winter honeysuckle walk. Lonicera Fragrantissima has  such tiny, almost translucent flowers  A delicious treat for the senses.


We take a new tour around the house and underground tunnels, and emerge in the dry moat. This is a view of  the house I haven’t  seen before.


We find an inviting side door to the tower. Amazing to think this stone and brickwork has been here for 500 years.


Before setting off for home we find  Narcissus Cedric Morris along a bank in front of the house. Such a cheerful sight for mid February.

There’s a  plant sale at the entrance to the cafe. I treat myself to this beautiful hellebore, Harvington Yellow. I’m drawn to the  dark eye in the centre. Such a beauty.  I shall plant it in front of my pottingshed  to remind me of  our visit.


And on the pottingshed window to welcome me home- there’s a pot of snowdrops I bought at Hodsock last year. They are just the common Galanthus Nivalis. But I like them just as much as all the fancy  named varieties. They suit the humble setting.

Hodsock Priory is open every day until March 5th.

End of the Month View

Taking photos for the end of the month view was  bit of a struggle. We garden on a windswept ridge. A  wonderful viewing point  for the surrounding countryside. Disasterous for tender plants- and for taking photos. Everything was a blur as Storm Doris  hit the garden.

The snowdrops opened today, about a week earlier than last year. Temperatures for January varied between -6 degrees and 14 degrees. It’s caused many winter flowering plants to open early. I  just hope we don’t get a cold spell now to damage the flowers.


This is my “Hodsock Priory ” corner. I always buy a little pot of snowdrops at the open gardens we visit. It’s a nice reminder of a lovely day out. Mum and I are going to the famous snowdrop press day next week. We call it the Chelsea of the snowdrop season. For us it marks the end of our winter hibernation, and the start of lots of lovely snowdrop garden trips out.  Hodsock opens from 4th Feb to 5th March, 10am to 4pm. Click on the link for more information. The gardens are full of wonderful scented plants. A real treat for the senses. –

The Easton Walled Garden snowdrops are cheering up the pottingshed window. Easton, just off the A1 near Grantham, opens 11th to 19th Feb, 11am to 4pm. A wonderful place for a winter walk. I can highly  recomend the little cafe where there’s home made cake and tea. Mum and I have spent many happy hours there. And I was lucky enough to work for Easton  last winter, writing newspaper and magazine articles.  I had no trouble finding nice things to say about this historic garden and the renovation work that has saved it for future generations of visitors to enjoy. It’s such an inspiring place. 


These Elwesii snowdrops have been in flower since the beginning of January. They have long stems  and last well in water. I’ve been picking them for jam jar posies for the house.


Mum and I bought these cyclamen from Hodsock plant sales a few years ago. They seem really happy in the leafmould in the wild garden. We just buy one pot every time we visit. They soon build up into lovely display. So cheerful at this time of the year.


Finally, the yellow aconites have got going. I’ve been trying for years to get these to grow. They love a good mulch of leaf mould. 


I bought some hellebores from Ashwood Nurseries years ago. This one is a seedling from the original plants. It flowers from  mid January in a shady spot.


I’ve been picking  Phlomis fruiticosa foliage all winter for flower arrangements. The leaves look sugar frosted all year round. 


The star of the front garden in winter is this dogwood, Cornus Westonbirt. Brightens even the gloomiest day. 

Thanks to Helen for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what’s looking good in Helen’s end of the month view. 

A quick peek in my pottingshed tonight…..

Here’s a quick peek in my pottingshed tonight. I’ve been having a go at begonia leaf cuttings.


I’ve never done this before.  I had a look on the RHS website.  Then I placed the leaves on a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, cut through the main veins. I filled a seed tray with compost, topped with perlite. Laid the leaves on top, and pinned them down with my daughter’s hair grips -the only wire I had in the house. Sometimes you just have to improvise.


I put the seed tray in my Rainbow shallow trug and left it to soak up water.  I’m finding these trugs really useful in the pottingshed. I use them for collecting foliage for flower arrangements, and as a moveable potting station when I’m sowing seeds.

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My cuttings  were popped into a plastic bag and into my propagator. The best time to take leaf cuttings is in the summer. But when a friend gave me these leaves, I couldn’t turn down the chance to have a go. You never know- they might grow lots of  new little plants. Then I’ll pot them up into 7cm pots- and display them at the shaded end of my greenhouse. I’ve always loved the foliage of begonias. This might be the start of a new collection for me.


The RHS website says leaf cuttings can be taken from streptocarpus and eucomis as well as begonia masoniana and x Begonia Rex hybrids. I also found the National Begonia society handbook a useful source of information.

It was getting dark by the time I’d finished. I just had time to look at these snowdrops on the pottingshed window. They’ve burst into flower today. Such a cheerful sight on the last day of January.

Have you tried any new gardening techniques recently, or have any collections of favourite plants? I’d love to hear about them.

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