#wordlesswednesday – Garden Table Flowers

I love a jam jar of flowers on the garden table- as much as indoors. I am trying to have breakfast, lunch and tea outdoors every day- while the sunshine lasts. So I set our old wooden bench with a red checked table cloth and sling cheap bed quilts over the rickety old chairs. Instant transformation! I hope you are all enjoying your summer and getting to spend time in the garden.

Have you got any favourite places you like to sit in the garden? Mine is under this stately beech tree, in the middle of our back garden lawn. It’s always a nice shady spot. A good place to sit and read. Or just survey the garden.

Art in the garden- a visit to Cathy’s glorious plot.

When Cathy Lyon-Green wanted a garden room – she set to and built it herself. "Building really is as simple as laying one brick on top of another- and checking the levels regularly." And the result is stunning- a pink painted summerhouse with grey windows and pretty pantile roof. It's the perfect place to sit and survey Cathy's extraordinary garden.

Readers might recognise Cathy's name from the popular meme In a Vase on Monday and Rambling in the Garden blog. I've enjoyed joining in with the meme for about a year, so when I saw Cathy's garden would be open for the National Garden Scheme for the first time, I couldn't resist a visit. Mum and I were in for a real treat. Everything about Cathy's garden is out of the ordinary. There's a surprise around every corner. Quite honestly, I got out my notebook and started writing down ideas for my own plot. We loved these photo canvasses which brighten up the garden walls.

We spotted these pretty metal plant supports with jewel-like flowers.

Simple ideas are often best, and we loved finding little painted stones around the garden. Some said, empathy – peace, and love. Mum and I pondered what our stones might say. Mum said "giving," and "caring." Mine would say "sharing," and "loyalty." Doesn't it make you think.

You never know what you are going to find next in Cathy's garden. Nestled against the shed wall we found this character. Mum and I had an argument as to whether it was a male or a female of the species. We both agreed it was friendly though.

We thought this beautiful metal sculpture reminded us of wild flowers and cow parsley in particular.

These two birds on top of the garden wall made us laugh. Are they pigeons or crows? We couldn't decide. Just about everything in the garden sparks a debate. It's all a talking point.

I am always looking for new ideas- especially if they save money. So I loved this idea for a cane- topper. It's a painted wooden cube. So simple, but is a brilliant way to protect eyes, and make a statement. The cubes were in bright fuchsia pink and purple shades. They looked gorgeous contrasting with the lime green leaves, and popping up through the cottage garden flowers.

I might copy this idea on my cut flower and veg plot. The plant supports would also be a good idea to hold up the netting over the cabbages etc.

For once, Mum and I were in total agreement on something. This message.

It's always lovely to see items saved and re-purposed in the garden. We loved this little stained glass window set into one of the garden walls.

We found plenty of places to sit and relax in the garden. This cosy seat is enveloped in a pink planting scheme of astrantia, geranium and alliums. We loved the little green checked cushions which were a feature on all benches and seats throughout the garden.

And finally, after much backtracking and going round the garden several times to make sure we hadn't missed anything, we found the terrace in front of the garden room that Cathy describes as her sitooterie.

"I have always 'made' things, and if something is needed, I will want to make it if at all possible. I built my first low brick wall about 40 years ago, but my great interest in bricklaying was well and truly kick-started when we were constructing the extension in 1998 and I have created many more opportunities to continue bricklaying since then. The opportunity for the sitooterie came about when we dismantled the original greenhouse that was on the site. "

I asked Cathy how long it had taken her to create the garden. "We didn't really do anything in the garden except cut the grass until about 2000, then gradually we began reducing the grass by creating beds over the next few years, before coming to a standstill when work well and truly got in the way. Listening to my heart instead of my head and retiring in 2011 was when I was able to focus on the garden as a whole and consolidate or improve on what had been done up until then. There was still no overall plan, and many of the best ideas were created as a response to something that just wasn't working, or something that would otherwise have been a waste- such as the shrub border which came about because our neighbour was filling a skip with topsoil!"

We can report back that the home-made cakes were all delicious and Cathy's helpers Janet and Chris made us feel very welcome. We sat for quite a long time, making mental notes of all the planting combinations we loved and all the little touches that made this such an inspirational garden. Driving home, we kept saying to each other "and did you notice that……," and "what about that……." But neither of us could say how big the garden was because it was so deceptive. The little paths twist and turn through shady fern- filled corners and out into a stream- filled glade. We looked on the NGS website when we got home and it stated- one third of an acre. The blurb also says 'Plant-lovers garden, full of surprises." Mum and I nodded our heads in agreement!

Cathy's garden, East View Cottages, Tamworth, Warwickshire, will be open again for the Yellow Book NGS towards end of June next summer. Cathy had a good turn out for her first ever open gardens. 155 people in total over two days. Click on the highlighted words for more information.

#wordlesswednesday At Pensthorpe, Norfolk

I'm still trying to identify this fluffy bee. Spotted in the glorious wildlife garden at Pensthorpe.

The plant is a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. Recommended on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list.

Echinacea fact file:

Common name: hedgehog plant, coneflower

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Echinacea. Clump forming, rhizomatous perennials with simple, pinnately-lobed leaves. Long-stemmed daisy-like flowers with prominent conical centre.

Height: 0.5-1.5m with a spread of 0.1-0.5m There are some low-growing varieties such as Kim's Knee High (60cm). See RHS info link here.

Grows in: Full sun, tolerates some shade.

Aspect: Prefers south facing. Can cope with sheltered or exposed conditions. Any really well-drained soil.

Propagate: From seed. Available from Chiltern Seeds. Or divisions in spring.

Recommended: Elton Knight, Magnus, Ruby Giant, Pallida (drooping petals), White Swan, Green Envy and Green Jewel (lime). I haven't found the orange, yellow and apricot-coloured hybrids to be very long-lived.

Tips: Avoid damp spots for planting and don't heavily mulch over the crown in the winter. Add plenty of grit when planting to improve drainage. The cold weather doesn't seem to bother them, it's the mild, prolonged wet spells that kills them.

Anyone know the name of my bee?

A peek at my week. What I’ve seen- where I’ve been

Took Mum to Norfolk to see East Ruston Old Vicarage. A feast for the eyes. Loved this sunny wild flower meadow.


Got lots of container planting inspiration. Much scribbling down of names and taking of photos went on. Just look at the size of that brugmansia! You can see why it is called angel’s trumpets. The scent is out of this world. It’s underplanted with yellow argyranthemum, purple verbena, and lobelia. There’s even a grey-leaved melianthus squeezed in. Such an enticing entrance to an archway. 


Every second word we used had “exotic” in front of it! Loved this avenue of cannas planted with blue verbena bonariensis and orange tagetes. 

Saw two sumptuous deep red dahlias. Sadly no labels so we don’t know the names. I’m searching books though, so will post an update when I know for certain. 


I grow this tender purple-leaved Aeonium plant in the greenhouse at home. I might set it outdoors for the summer, now I’ve seen how lovely it looks. 

Also have this blue-tinged echeveria in a pot in my greenhouse. And I’ve got this Stewart Garden low planter which looks like stone, but is actually plastic. Much lighter to carry in and out of the greenhouse. 


Should NOT  have looked at the plant sales area. Fell in love with these two dahlias. Can’t wait to get home to plant them in my cut flower patch. 


Here’s a quick look at the barn we stayed in. It gets a five star rating from us. More information to follow. 


Do get in touch and let me know what you have been up to this week. It’s been sunny and hot in Norfolk and I’m expecting to arrive home to a lot of weeding and dead heading on the plot! 

A Peek at my week. What I’ve seen, where I’ve been….

What I’ve Seen:

This glorious sunset from the lane where I live. We can see these trees from our field gate. 



VISITED  some fabulous gardens at Smeeton Westerby near Market Harborough, open in aid of GEMS Charity. GEMS was founded in June 2012 by Sally and Andy Anderson after they had accompanied four close friends on weekly visits to the Osbourne Chemotherapy Suite at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
  Inspired by the hard work and dedication of the nurses, and the courage of their four friends, they set out to raise funds to make patients and supporters more comfortable during their treatment. The  funds have been used to buy specialist treatment chairs and refurbishing the waiting room. 

This is the view from one of the open gardens, Highfields. Green undulating countryside in the distance. 


Chocolate box thatched cottage, overlooking the allotments in the village. Full of colourful plants including this wine-coloured hollyhock. 


Mooched around the allotments. Got lots of ideas for companion planting.


Mum and I sat in this pretty summerhouse, enjoying the peaceful scene.




Sat on a bench encircled by water, under a shady tree. Heavenly.


Saw this beautiful late summer-flowering Clematis recta. A floppy, sprawling variety which looks good amongst perennials and wild flowers. Bees love it too.


Laughed at this cheerful sight. Even the scarecrows in Smeeton Westerby are posh. This one is wearing Le Chameau welly boots!


Back home to spot two fledgling tawny owls in the wild garden. Made our day to find them in the cherry trees around the horseshoe pond. Watched them until dusk as they bumbled from one branch to another, flexing unfamiliar wings.  

More info on GEMS charity at www.gemscharity.com  

Donate online at virginmoneygiving.com

Email: gemscharity@gmail.com. 0116 279 3814 

#wordlesswednesday  Frilled. 


Cut flowers from my garden today. Carnations, sweet peas, dahlias and alstroemerias. Have a listen at 2.08.20 on the timeline for the gardeners’ phone in programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056qg0d. Regular readers will know that I joined the BBC’s Down to Earth programme about a year ago. The programme has been running for 50 years. I’m not a natural speaker. Much happier listening to be honest. But I’ve been given this opportunity to encourage others to grow flowers, food, fruit. So I push myself out of my comfort zone. Today I did my second weekday gardeners’ phonin programme. Sadly there was only one caller – right at the end. So if I sound a bit nervous, that is the reason why. A whole hour to fill is rather a daunting  prospect! Somehow, I survived. But I feel as if I’ve lost a stone in weight! 


Brownfield Metamorphosis at Hampton Court Flower Show

We are all captivated by projects such as the High Line in New York  where  former industrial spaces are transformed into havens for wildlife.
Martyn Wilson’s garden at Hampton Court this year is all about nature taking over. Rubble and decay is replaced by trees and self-seeded plants amongst the rusting monolithic steel structures. 

“Inspiration came from places such as the High Line in New York and the Landschaft Park in Druisburg, Germany, and also the regeneration of the former MG Rover site in Longbridge, Birmingham.  The High Line is an example of a successful project, turning  a derelict brownfield site into a thriving contemporary space. The  public is invited into what was a forbidden and dangerous space.  

“For the Hampton Court garden, sculpted  steel and  concrete blocks form the structure. I wanted to soften the urban features by introducing grasses, ferns, perennials, self-seeded annuals and shrubs such as buddleja.” 


In amongst the silver birches – multi-stemmed Betula pendula are Buddleja davidii Wisteria Lane and white-stemmed Rubus cockburnianus. The perennial plant list features golden Achillea Walther Funcke, Terracota and softer yellow moonshine. 


Herbs thyme, fennel and origanum  mix in with verbena bonariensis, scabious, leucanthmums and umbellifers.  Grasses such as the quaking grass Briza media mingle with Deschampsia cespitosa and flexuosa and Festuca amethystina. 


Annuals featured in the garden are Dauca carota Dara, Californian poppies, eschscholzia Sun Shades and Red Chief, poppy Peshawar White and albiflora, and poppy rhoeas.


Wild flower orange Hawkweed, Pilosella aurantiaca- also known as fox and cubs- stands out against the crushed concrete scree and monolithic steel structures which were designed by Ledbury-based sculptor Simon Probyn.



Martyn Wilson’s garden shows a new approach to weaving our industrial heritage into new landscapes for the benefit of wildlife and people. He wants us to see the beauty in these spaces-  not just walk on by without a second thought. 

For me, I understood his “beauty in decay and regeneration,” theme. With some show gardens, the ideas behind them can be puzzling to say the least. But this one was obvious. A new approach which celebrates the relics of our past, to create flower-filled spaces for wildlife, insects and people. 




The garden, which was awarded a gold medal, was sponsored by St Modwen Properties PLC and raises awareness for UCARE  urology cancer charity  www.ucare-oxford.org.uk.

Simon Probyn http://www.simonprobyn.co.uk    sculptures

The Pot Company http://www.thepotcompany.com

Easymix http://www.easymixconcrete.com

Smiths of Bletchington http://www.smithsbletchington.co.uk

Louis Masai- London-based artist outdoor murals for the hoardings http://www.louismasai.com

hortus Loci plants http://www.hortusloci.co.uk

Cotswold gardening School http://www.cotswoldgardeningschool.co.uk

Keyscapes Ltd http://www.keyscapes-easigrass.co.uk

If you visited Hampton Court  this year, or watched the television coverage, which gardens caught your eye? Have any of you visited the High Line garden? It’s on my must-visit list. Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment. 

#wordlesswednesday- RHS Hampton Court

I wish you could smell these Malmaison carnations. They are old fashioned glorious! 


More like a rose than a carnation, these historic flowers were displayed by Jim Marshall at RHS Hampton Court this week. They rightly  won Gold and Best in Show in the plant heritage section of the floral marquee.


They remind me of buttonholes, Floris soap, and country house glasshouses. Such a romantic clove-like scent, and a story of rescue and revival. The Malmaison carnation originated in France as a chance seedling. It was named Souvenir de la Malmaison after the rose grown in the Empress Josephine’s garden and quickly became fashionable. Nurserymen started to breed new forms in a sumptuous range of colours. Favourites of English country houses until the Second World War,  they gradually died out due to disease and labour intensive requirements. Malmaison carnations are prone to damping off disease and red spider and need constant renewal by cuttings and layering. 

Grower Jim Marshall has made it his life’s work to save the carnation and now uses micro-propagation to improve vigour and disease resistance. Plant supplies for sale are still in relatively short supply and favourite colours soon sell out. They are a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort for the beautiful colours and unforgettable scent.

For more information contact Plant Heritage,  jim@malmaisons.plus.com. 01473822400 Hullwood Barn, Bolton Lane,Shelley, Ipswich IP75RE. 

In a Vase on Monday 

I’m cheating this week- as I’m on a train to London to visit the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. So I haven’t even got a jam jar with me. But, as always, I’ve picked a bunch of flowers from home to keep me company on my journey. There’s a comfort in a reminder from home.


The scent of my sweetpeas is an antidote to diesel fumes and the ever -louder tannoy announcements. I enjoyed wandering around the veg plot at dawn picking  these flowers.
This year I’m growing a variety of new and heritage varieties. My favourites are High Scent, Albutt Blue and Mrs Collier white. I love the small flowered heirloom type. They seem to have the strongest scent. Here’s a slideshow from my garden this morning.

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I wish you could smell the sweet peas. It’s the scent of summer. As always i’m grateful to Cathy from Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme. Go and have a look at what Cathy’s growing and showcasing in a Vase this week.
Meanwhile…. I’ve made it to Hampton Court. What a trek! ….here’s a taster of the gardens …..



#wordlesswednesday- wild geraniums on the march.

Wild geraniums billow in the long grass on the lane outside my house. Back lit, they look like mini- stained glass windows. This pretty white seedling turned up on its own- probably a hybrid with one of my garden plants. I am thanking the bees for this little beauty. 


The common name, cranesbill, comes from the shape of the seedhead which resembles the long tapering beak of a bird. Meadow cranesbill, or Geranium pratense, comes in a range of colours from white to deep blue. I love the violet-blue veins and the dark plum anthers. The flowers glisten in the sun as if they’ve been coated in sugar.


A favourite of mine is this pale violet flower with delicate silver veins. I ought to be getting on with my work, but I spend more time than I should just gazing at these beauties, comparing their hues and pondering on the wonders of nature.


And luckily for me, these gorgeous plants have drifted in through the front gate and settled in the garden- all along the path to my front door. It’s a wonderful welcome home- and I haven’t done a thing to create it. It’s happened all on its own. Isn’t nature grand. 

I’ve found a beautiful violet form called Beth Chatto  on the RHS website. Click on the highlighted word to find out more. Geraniums can be grown from seed. Flowers appear from June to September and plants grow to about 70cm in sun or slight shade. Perfect for grass meadows- or you can plant in drifts in amongst shrubs and perennials. Highlighted in the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list. Bees and butterflies will certainly thank you for planting geraniums.