Monday, 30 March 2015

The Great Dixter Spring Plant Fair

A wet and very windy weekend for the Great Dixter Spring Plant Fair. In all honesty I arrived far too late on Sunday afternoon – by the time I’d had a quick peak around the garden to see what had grown since my last visit only three weeks ago, people were starting to think about packing up. I spent all my cash on The Walled Nursery’s stall (Emma had brought scented pelargoniums, amongst other things – any attempt at resistance was clearly going to be an exercise in futility), where I had the pleasure of making the real life acquaintance of a Twitter friend, Philippa Burrough of Ulting Wick near Maldon in Essex, who had come to lend a hand for the day. Philippa and her husband, incidentally supporters of the Great Dixter Trust, open the gardens at Ulting Wick under the National Gardens Scheme several times a year (the next open day being Friday 17 April – more details on the NGS website here). Emma seemed to be doing brisk trade even as the stalls were packing up around her, which was just as well. Back at the nursery, Monty had found it necessary to close due to the high winds, which always carries with it the danger of falling glass (for the latest on the progress of the renovations to the Victorian glasshouses at The Walled Nursery, click here to visit the website).

Emma from The Walled Nursery (left) and Philippa from Ulting Wick
It was also great to catch up briefly with Jill Anderson of (do pop across to her blog for some cracking garden writing and for details of her book, Planting Design Essentials) – Jill, her husband and I converged upon the wonderful pot display by the porch as I arrived. There’s always such a fabulous splash of colour here, with the different forms and textures of the plants and the play of light and shadow around the various containers; never the same on any two visits, I sometimes think it would be great to have time-lapse footage of this single view of the house and garden, especially for those who aren’t so fortunate to live close enough to make the pilgrimage on a regular basis.

A brief visit then, with lots of weather, but what with meeting friends, buying plants and soaking up a fabulous garden – who could ask for more?

The structure here is always impressive, whatever the weather

The phlox here is much further on than mine – I did divide it quite late

Things to plant with Arum mac. #1 – oriental hellebores

Things to plant with Arum mac. #2 – scilla

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Feathered friends

A jackdaw keeps a beady eye on what’s occurring down below
I always thought I was an autumn/winter person. Solitary by nature, it seemed appropriate that I’d gravitate toward a time of year that hardly anyone else appeared glad to see arrive – and it’s true that I feel much more at home in the cooler months. But...these last few days, it's like I've been mainlining spring; within moments of stepping outside, the heart is thumping, spine tingling, and all the while I’m breathing so deeply I wonder if I’ve grown a third lung. Must be the sap rising in me. That can happen when you hang around plants too much.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A good day at Great Dixter

If you’re a keen gardener, it’s not unreasonable for you to expect the plants in your care to flourish and thrive. After all the attention and effort you lavish upon them, it would be a bit galling if they were to turn up their toes and die. It does happen though, and even those of use who earn our living from gardening are not immune – no matter how sanguine I try to be in such situations, the walk to the bonfire with my latest vegetative cadaver is rarely undertaken with the jauntiest of steps. And so I was immensely encouraged to hear Fergus Garrett, Great Dixter’s head gardener, confess that much of his considerable wealth of knowledge regarding plant combinations has been acquired not, as you might imagine, from years of study and painstaking observation, but rather “the bitter experience of killing things”.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Ledge of Reason

I have Window Ledge Envy. Self diagnosed, I admit – I’m not even sure if the condition I’ve identified has a name, or even whether it might be recognised by the medical profession, but I appear to have been suffering from a chronic form of it for some time. I find myself in the houses of friends, gazing over their shoulders as they offer me a cup of tea, a veritable green-eyed monster in the face of the wealth of anterior casement shelvage that they appear to take for granted; that any normal person living in a house would take for granted; that anyone but the perverse creatures who built our house should expect to find on the roomward side of a window. It’s not that the builders of our modest Edwardian semi didn’t believe in window sills – every box sash has a reasonably generous one; on the outside. Which is great for window boxes, but hopeless for houseplants, overwintering tender things or seeds we want to get going in February and March, but fear to abandon to the capricious atmosphere of the unheated greenhouse.