Tag Archives: Gardening

Autumn Pruning – some Questions and Answers

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Plews Weekend Blog

Our regular blog has moved back to the website – or more precisely moved onto the new website!

you can find it here –

http://plewsgardendesign.co.uk/autumn-pruning-questions-answers/

We’re still sorting out a few wrinkles but  you shouldnt have any problems still following the blog; if you do please drop us an email and we’ll do our best to sort it.

To celebrate our new website, there’ll be a special offer in the October monthly e-newsletter; you can sign up and find out what it is on the website: http://plewsgardendesign.co.uk

Your feedback is appreciated

Marie, Nathan and all the Team at Plews Garden Design

Resolving Your Gardening Issues

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

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Harvest festival and your garden

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gypsophilla

Harvest festivals are traditionally celebrated around the time of the Harvest Moon which is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. It’s an important time in the garden as well as on the farms.

Harvest festivals are thanksgiving festivals, a way of showing gratitude to one’s God or gods for a good store of food to keep the people fed through the lean winter months. Historically, Harvest festival was also an opportunity for the Landowner to give a feast for his workers in recognition of their hard work over the growing season. The first new ale would be drunk and loaves of bread made with the freshly gathered and milled wheat.

So why is the autumn equinox important to your plants? The Harvest Moon usually falls as a full moon at the end of September, but occasionally falls at the beginning of October. It’s at this point in the year that the day and night length are equal. The plants in your garden and allotment will notice the difference as they respond to day length.

chrysanthemum

Well actually, it’s not quite that simple, not all plants decide to hibernate once the nights become longer than the days; whether we’re having an Indian Summer or an early hoar frost makes a difference too. So, without dumbing down as you’re an intelligent bunch of readers, let’s have a brief botanical explanation as to why the plants in your garden start behaving differently now we’ve reached the autumnal equinox.

It’s important for a plant’s existence that it knows not to lets its seed germinate during winter, when hard frosts would be likely to kill the emerging seedling. Nor would it be productive to flower when there are no pollinating insects around. Neither is a good plan for survival of the species! There are both internal plant factors, such as the production of particular hormones and external factors that affect plant growth. It is the two major external factors that we’re looking at, and they are, as you’ve probably guessed, light and temperature.

white tulips

Generally speaking, most plants require a certain temperature in order for the seed to germinate and for the plant to grow. Which is why many plants lie dormant or semi-dormant over the winter months. Some plant species require a period of cold to encourage germination of the seed; for example, Tulips. When these plants are grown where the winter is not cold enough, Florida for example, they can be artificially chilled so as to stimulate flowering in the spring.

Photoperiodism, or plants’ response to day length, has been constant over millennia, and it is only recently, over the past couple of hundred years or so, that humans have been successfully able to interfere with the process artificially. Flowering plants are especially sensitive to photoperiodic stimulus; for example, have you ever forced Hyacinth bulbs for Christmas by putting them in a cool dark cellar then bringing them in to the warmth and light to flower?

There are three main grouping of flowering plants in relation to day length and their growth and flowering. Assuming that the plant is sufficiently mature and ready to flower, the day length becomes crucial for many of our favourite garden flowers.

Hyacinths

Short day plants, Chrysanthemum, for example, react to the day length being shorter than a specified time; or put another way, when the hours of darkness are longer than the hours of daylight. So these plants tend to flower later in the season, during late summer and autumn.

Long day plants, such as Gypsophilla, tend to be spring and summer flowering plant; they respond to the day length being longer than a specified amount of time. However, day neutral plants, for example, Viburnum, are unaffected by the length of daylight hours and will flower when they are mature enough to do so.

So this is why the Autumn Equinox, as illuminated by the Harvest Moon, is a crucial turning point in the gardening year.

The cover illustration for our newest eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design” shows Demeter, who was the Greek goddess of the harvest and fertility and one of the aspects of the Triple Goddess, or Earth Mother, Gaia. An appropriate subject for a book about crops and harvest and food in your garden and allotment, we thought.

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Plews Potting Shed – Information for You

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We’re moving this gardening blog onto our new Plews website very shortly. You should be able to find us ok, as we’re hoping to have an automatic re-direct. But we’ll add the link on here as soon the new site is live.

We’ll be celebrating when it’s all done, and we’ll be posting up an offer for you, Gentle Reader as well.

This Harvest and Autumn Equinox weekend will see the Plews Blog still here, so until then, why not click on this link to one of our  ‘how to’ videos  and enjoy a Harvest Festival picture of the Earth Mother , Gaia, from the front cover of  Plews Autumn Almanac. We hope you keep following, reading and viewing us as we’ll still be following you.

Marie, Nathan and the Plews Team

Plews Garden Design – Resolving Your Gardening Issues with Inspirational Ideas and Flexible Solutions
In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Spring flowering bulbs

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bulbs laid out ready to plant

bulbs laid out ready to plant

Although it is possible to have bulbous plants flowering in your garden nearly all year, most of us in the UK and USA treat spring as the most important season for a flowering bulb display. Although they flower in the spring, these bulbs need to be planted in the autumn; so now is the time to be planning and purchasing your spring flowering bulbs.

At Plews we don’t generally plant too many bulbs at one go. Planting hundreds in one day is a chore we leave to those who have park displays to organise. However, we do offer bulb planning and planting as part of our service to regular clients, as well as part of an overall garden or planting design. Designing and planting containers whether for seasonal variation or for a special occasion is one of those tasks which is pleasant to add into a regular maintenance schedule.

Rather than dashing into spring bulb buying and then regretting the result next year, make yourself a coffee and

“Take the time to plan before you buy. Some questions you may like to ask yourself: are you planting in borders, containers, naturalising in grass? How many containers and how big are they? If in the borders, let’s be practical, consider how many bulbs you have the time to plant. Oh yes, and is there currently room in the border where you’d like to plant or do you still have late flowering Helenium and dahlias in full bloom?

Let’s find some answers. If your borders are still full and looking lovely, then congratulate yourself on a having a fine late display of colour. Make a note to look for and buy later flowering tulips and narcissus (daffodils). These could be planted when your Heleniums have gone over and still flower when they should next year. Another option is to buy the early flowering varieties you covet but plant them in pots. A further choice is to accept that they are likely to flower a bit later as you’ve planted them later.”

(Extract from Plews eBook “In Your Autumn Garden”)

Tulip 'dolls minuet'

Tulip ‘dolls minuet’

As for planting, the rule of thumb is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. This could be time consuming if you’re going to measure each one! The rough guide we use at Plews is that for larger bulbs, for example, Tulip, Daffodil and Hyacinth, we make a hole about 6-8” or 15-20cm deep. For smaller bulbs, for example, Crocus, Muscari, Bluebell, we make the hole about 4-5” or 10-12cm deep.

So, what are some of the more popular spring flowering bulbs? Some of Plews favourite spring flowering bulbs are:

Narcissus 'jetfire'

Narcissus ‘jetfire’

For vibrant displays:

Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Narcissus ‘jet fire’ – a mix of to give you a brightly coloured display to liven up your mornings from February to April;

Bright red Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ has variegated foliage so extends the interest beyond flowering time; looks good in pots and borders.

Hyacinth 'Delft blue'

Hyacinth ‘Delft blue’

For softer shades:

Tulipa ‘dolls minuet’ has soft crimson red petals, with the subtle markings of the viridiflora tulip group;

Hyacinth ‘delft blue’ has the added pleasure of a delicate scent; plant it near a door so you can enjoy the perfume.

daffodils and pansies in patio container

daffodils and pansies in patio container

Remember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels don’t dig them up. If you’re planting in pots, we’ve found that adding shallow rooted winter bedding over the top of the spring bulbs generally works. The flowers in your winter display should keep going until your spring bulbs flower; how organised is that!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Apples – a bumper harvest expected for 2013

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apples lord lambourne

apples lord lambourne

The poor weather of 2012, particularly the wet summer, was disastrous for the apple harvest. This year looks like being a bumper apple crop.

apple orchard Brogdale

apple orchard Brogdale

So why is there such a difference? Apples evolved in central Asia, probably around Kazakhstan. In order to flower and fruit really well they need to be grown in a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters.

The wild apple cultivar still growing in central Asia, Malus sieversii has recently been shown to be the ancestor of all modern apples. Unlike most domesticated cultivars, the leaves turn red in the autumn before they fall.

apple blossom

apple blossom

The hard winter followed by a late spring and a long warm summer has given the apples and other deciduous fruit the conditions they like to produce good fruits and plenty of them, although most are cropping later due to the late spring.

Michigan is usually the USA’s third biggest producer of apples and is likely to harvest 30 million bushels of apples this year, exceeding its 20 million average. This compares to 2012’s apple harvest of 2.7 million bushels.

step over apples

step over apples

The UK Bramley apple harvest is expected to reach approximately 67,000 tons in 2013, a 14% increase on 2012. Admittedly this is still not as high as earlier years although this is due to reduced orchard acreage rather than weather or climatic conditions.

bramley apples

bramley apples

The following facts are extracts from our new eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design”:-

“Apple seeds contain a cyanide compound. However, the tiny amount of poison is locked inside the hard seed coat and as the seed generally passes through your digestive system intact you‘ll be fine. But it’s probably not a good idea to make a habit of eating apple seeds.

In Norse mythology, Idun, the goddess of spring and rebirth grew magic apples that gave the gods immortality. The only problem with this is that apples as we know them probably didn’t arrive in Scandinavia until the late Middle Ages.

ripe apples

ripe apples

Etymologically speaking, the word ‘apple’ is rooted in the Indo-European languages,; appropriately so given where the fruit originated. The Romance languages, including Latin, originally used the Greek based word ‘malum’; the botanical Latin is ‘malus’. With the rise of Christian as the official religion of the Roman Empire from the 4th century AD and its symbolic importance of the apple, the word ‘pomum’ began to be used, meaning ‘the fruit of fruits’.

25% of an apple’s weight is air – which is why they float in water making apple bobbing a fun game at Hallowe’en.”

English apples

English apples

Enjoy your daily apple!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

step over cider apple

step over cider apple

Lawns – is the Grass always Greener over the fence?

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Lawns have been around in Europe for some thousand years, although not always a recognisable lawn in the contemporary sense. Early lawns were really the grasslands which surrounded castles, giving a clear view of approaching visitors and enemies. They were also common meadow on which sheep and cattle were grazed. This was true until the eighteenth century when a cheap labour force enabled rich landowners to create and maintain lawns using men with scythes.

Lawns became popular with a wider range of society after the invention of lawnmowers in England in 1830 by Edwin Budding. They were originally manpowered, push mowers; although petrol mowers followed fairly soon after in the1890s. Mowers became universally available after the First World War and so the tradition of an English lawn was born.

Worcester Lawn Mower Advert 1956 Illustration by Pete Hawley

Worcester Lawn Mower Advert 1956 Illustration by Pete Hawley

The Second World War saw many lawns, large and small, dug up to produce food crops. But the great British lawn bounced back when peace was declared, with new technologies such as the hover mower being introduced in the 1960s and the more recent programmable robot mowers. Traditional mowers are still around; check out the Lawnmower Society and the Lawnmower Museum or try your hand at some lawnmower racing

However, not all grass is as green as it looks. There are issues with productive farmland being used to produce turf for the domestic and sports markets rather than using the land for food crops. It’s not just the turf that is taken up and transported away; about one inch of topsoil comes away with it; that top soil then needs replacing.

So if your lawn needs repairing or replacing what choices do you have? You could choose a ‘regular’ turf or grass seed lawn. If you need a good sized area for children to play on this is the traditional option, but you may like to consider artificial turf.

Artificial turf, first used on sports pitches, can be useful in at least some parts of a family garden. Think of it as an alternative to bark mulch in a play area or under a trampoline where the real grass would normally die off. With good preparation of the sub surface, it can conform to safety standards, particularly in relation to children falling off play equipment.

artificial turf in garden

artificial turf in garden

Many dog owners also find it a useful alternative to a paved area, and we have laid it for a client for this reason; a mid range rather than a luxury quality turf was used.

Mixed with well planted borders it can make an attractive and easy maintenance garden. You will need to rake leaves off in the autumn, and raise the ‘pile’ a few times over the year, but it is still an option worth considering for many busy families. For example, no lawn to mow and mower to maintain; the children can play on the surface more quickly after the rain as mud is not an issue.

daisies in lawn

daisies in lawn

But you may prefer a grassy sward in your garden. Starting a lawn from seed is cheaper and there is more choice in the type of grass available; you can choose a combination of grass varieties that will most suit your needs. For example, you can get mixes that are hard-wearing or do better in shade. You can also make it more wildlife-friendly by adding clover. Clover is a member of the pea family and its roots fix atmospheric nitrogen, or fertilising the soil in a way that helps grass grow. This is best added after the grass has started to germinate and grow. In fact many wild flower seeds can be added in this way, so if you want a lawn full of daisies for making daisy chains you can have one. This is a more practical option for many small gardens than a full wildflower meadow with paths cut through it.

For areas which are not subject to heavy wear, an herb lawn is also a non-mow option that can still be walked over and sat upon. You don’t even have to deadhead the flowers if you don’t want to. Non-flowering species such as lawn chamomile are perfect for a sunny spot, and scented when crushed underfoot. Creeping Thymes and creeping Mint lawns are other possible. There are a surprising number of plants which are suitable for both sunny and shady lawn areas.

lawn chamomile

lawn chamomile

There are many factors to consider before deciding which option best suits your needs for a lawn or non-lawn. For example, there are the practical, the economic, the biodiverse or environmental and the aesthetic.

I don’t think a thousand years of lawns are going to disappear just yet, but I do think they are in for a change.

Nathan Waterfield, Partner, Plews Garden Design

 Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

This blog was based on a chapter in our latest Gardening Almanac eBook –
“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” 

how to use a grass lawn

how to use a grass lawn

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – the Plews view

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RHS Hampton Court - Long Water

RHS Hampton Court – Long Water

We thought a roundup of some of the gardens and exhibits that caught our eyes, amused us, inspired us and educated us from our visit this week might just be the sort light entertainment that you’d enjoy.

sanguisorbia and curved bench

sanguisorbia and curved bench

This year the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court has been given a different layout, with three main zones – Grow, Escape, Inspire – and the various Show Gardens, trade stands and demonstrations fit into these.

eryngium and allium

eryngium and allium

Naturally, the inclination is to wander and to back track, and at Hampton Court there is plenty of room to do that, and to stop for a coffee, an ice cream or a Pimms by the Long Water, which divides up the show areas.

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

The Long Water is the canal excavated during Charles II’s reign in 1662 as part of the refurbishment of the gardens. The idea was to bring the English palace gardens up to the modern and innovative standard of the Versailles gardens; Charles was in many ways a forward thinking monarch, and had spent much of his exile during the Commonwealth years in France, so it is no surprise that he was a lover of Le Notre’s French style of gardening.

bees enjoying the show

bees enjoying the show

The Inspire section contained most of the show gardens. Many of the gardens had water as part of their design,  but we had two favourites. We loved the shape of the corten steel rill in the Cool Garden and found the ability to walk right into the middle of a landscape of reflective water in the Valley Garden extremely cooling. (Yes, we did go on a warm day!)

valley garden

valley garden

There were plenty of hot colours to contrast with the cooling water, and not only in the gardens. Congratulations need to be given to an old friend’s son, Graeme of Outdoor Creations, who constructed the Best in Show garden in the the Low Cost, High Impact section. Loved the hot orange wall in this garden.

Derek and Graeme

Derek and Graeme

The overall Best in Show winner was the Ecover garden. We liked their clever placing of the ‘window’ to make use of the views beyond the garden. It’s a trick that garden designers often use, although we don’t all have a royal palace in the distance.

Ecover garden

Ecover garden

We found the Butterfly dome and Bee garden in the Escape zone; fascinating.

in the butterfly dome

in the butterfly dome

In the Grow zone on the far side of the Long Water we found the Plant Heritage Marquee; you may have read about them in other blogs of mine.Plant Heritage is the world’s leading plant conservation charity and its members include people like yours truly, but also gardens and individuals who give their time and garden space to hold ‘National Collections’ of one or more plant genus (that means group of plants that are related, to the non-botanists amongst you).  This year is their thirty-fifth anniversary.

Plant Heritage

Plant Heritage

Flowers get everywhere at the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court Flower Show, as you’d expect;

Lily 'gizmo'

Lily ‘gizmo’

but be careful if you stay still for too long…

floral mini

floral mini

These irises really caught our attention; they’re not real, but a water feature created by Neil from Dragonswood Forge whose work we adore.

Iris

Iris

We’re back to water again; but that’s not surprising, the large RHS London Flowers Shows – Chelsea and Hampton Court are both set on the banks of the River Thames. At Hampton Court the Long Water provides a means of separating show areas, but more importantly provides a long, sociable stretch where you can sit and discuss the gardens and just watch the rest of the world go by for a time.

On reflection, every year, my favourite aspect of the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court is this one…

on reflection

on reflection

Marie Shallcross

Plews Garden Design  – Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions


“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of Gardening Almanacs is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords

stipa gigantea

stipa gigantea

Garden Visits: Hampton Court Palace Garden

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roses in the old vegetable garden

roses in the old vegetable garden

Wimbledon may be nearly over, but we can look forward to another busy week in south west London as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) holds one of the world’s largest flower shows at the Royal Palace of Hampton Court, on the banks of the Thames.

pond gardens, Hampton Court Palace

pond gardens, Hampton Court Palace

The RHS Show is held in the grounds rather than the gardens, and it is an event that we thoroughly enjoy. But as we spend all day at the show, there’s no time to see the Palace and gardens, so last September, we visited the gardens. Here we share some of the delights of this historic garden with you.

Hampton Court vine

Hampton Court vine with grapes ready to pick

The Great Vine was originally planted in 1768 by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who is probably better known for his restructuring of many formal gardens into sweeping landscapes on estates across the country.

The Privy Garden Hampton Court Palace

The Privy Garden Hampton Court Palace

The Privy Garden is a re-creation of the 1702 design for William and Mary. The formal rhythms and use of much evergreen topiary makes it a quite a contemporary space, and offers ideas that could be transposed into an easy maintenance twenty-first century garden.

Hampton Court Palace from the Privy Garden

Hampton Court Palace from the Privy Garden

Hampton Court’s Maze dates from 1690; it’s supposed to take about twenty minutes to reach the centre – I think Nathan took a short cut though.

Hampton Court maze

Hampton Court maze

The Exotic Garden was developed for many botanical species that were brought to Hampton Court Palace for the monarchs William and Mary. Their collection had over 2000 specimens, grown in large pots which were relatively easy to move between their summer home in the exotic garden and their winter home in the orangery.

the exotic garden, Hampton Court

the exotic garden, Hampton Court

The plants needed winter protection as most would not tolerate a British winter, but could still be on display. The Hampton Court Lower Orangery Gardens is a unique restoration and very much a living history display of botanical and social importance.

lemon tree in the exotic garden

lemon tree in the exotic garden

The great fountain gardens are visible if you visit the RHS Flower Show. When you walk across the Long Water to get from one section of the show to the other, look towards the Palace.

great fountain gardens

great fountain gardens

We’re looking forward to visiting the Flower Show next week and being inspired by gardens; promise we’ll share some of our favourite gardens and plants with you from this year’s RHS extravaganza.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of gardening almanacs is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords

In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration

In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration

Strawberries and Wimbledon

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strawberries in strawberry pot

strawberries in strawberry pot

Summertime brings major tennis tournaments for us to watch whilst eating the fruit of our labours in the garden; strawberries, raspberries, salads. In Britain we host Wimbledon for a couple of weeks in June and July.

One of the delights of a summer garden has to be picking your own strawberries and eating them straight away, sweet and still warm from the sun. Strawberries do well in containers, and in small areas; special strawberry pots with holes around the sides or hanging baskets both maximise space and are often easier to keep slug free. These could be kept outside or kept in a cool greenhouse for an earlier crop.

Kent growers supply virtually all the 8000 punnets of strawberries that tennis watchers eat daily throughout Wimbledon fortnight. Yes, you did read that right, nearly 8000 punnets of strawberries a day. On the positive side, they are local fruit, Wimbledon being in the South West of Greater London (or in Surrey, or London Borough of Merton, boundaries sometimes being in question) so it rubs geographical shoulders with The Garden of England.

strawberry flowers

strawberry flowers

Strawberries were eaten by the Greeks and Romans. This wasn’t the cultivated ‘garden’ strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) that we know today, but a much smaller fruit, the wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Although they’re both members of the rose family, the garden strawberry is a hybrid. It was first bred in Brittany, France in the 1750s, and then further developed in America; its parents are from both South America and North America. Nowadays, Kentish strawberries at Wimbledon are world famous, so it’s turned into a very cosmopolitan fruit!

Strawberries are also seasonal; ie this is the time of year for strawberries in the UK; which is why the legend of King George V introducing the eating of strawberries and cream whilst watching tennis at Wimbledon is so popular. In 1907, George V, then Prince of Wales attended Wimbledon and did eat strawberries and cream. But it is perhaps more memorable a date for being the first time the Centre Court was protected by a tarpaulin. Typical British summer weather, then!

pink roses

pink roses

As for the tradition of eating strawberries and cream, according to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, it started with the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877. So why strawberries and cream in particular? Well, we’re back to seasonality. We may now be able to eat strawberries year round, transported from various parts of the globe; back in 1877 it was a different story. Although frozen meat was beginning to be transported by this time (mutton was first shipped from Argentina to France in 1877) it involved quantities of ice. The first refrigerator patent was licensed in Germany in 1877; but it took a while for this to become a reliable method of preserving food. Strawberries are more difficult to transport any distance, as soft fruit is easily bruised and it’s more difficult to freeze them without causing discolouration and loss of taste, for example.

So what is the connection between tennis and the Monarchy? Apart from strawberry eating that is. ‘Real’ or ‘royal’ tennis is so-called to distinguish it from ‘lawn’ tennis – which is the game played at Wimbledon. There are ‘royal tennis’ clubs in both Boston (home of the Tea Party) and Washington in the USA. It’s known as ‘court tennis’ in America, to distinguish it from lawn tennis.

Hampton Court Palace royal tennis court

Hampton Court Palace royal tennis court

In Britain, Hampton Court Palace has its own indoor Royal Tennis Court, the oldest surviving ‘real’ tennis court still in regular use in England. It was part of the original Palace as rebuilt for Cardinal Wolsey in the early sixteenth century; before he thought it politic to give it to his lord and master Henry VIII. Henry Tudor must have played ‘real’ or ‘royal’ tennis in this court; he was quite an athlete in his youth. The court was last refurbished in the reign of Charles I, another tennis loving monarch.

Hampton Court is also known for its maze, its vine; its haunted gallery and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show in July; but that’s another blog…

Marie, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

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strawberries in pot with birds

strawberries in pot with birds

Garden Visits: Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

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the ruined castle Armadale

the ruined castle Armadale

Planting inspiration from the historic Armadale Castle gardens on the Isle of Skye, where the Gulf Stream offers a mild climate and the chance to grow a wide variety of species, including many tender ones.

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

Armadale Castle is the home of Clan Donald Lands Trust in South Skye. We visited last summer, on a somewhat damp day. The ruined castle looks across to the mainland and formed the starting point of our walk through the gardens.

white peony

white peony

The yellow themed border with Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) and tall Elecampane (Inula), Achillea at middle height and low growing Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) was in its early flowering stages when we saw it. This was a good mix of plants, giving flowers from late April through to September, a range of heights that would change over the same period; and a variety of foliage colour and form. It’s the sort of mix that could look a mess unless you find a link between the different plants; here the link was, if I may sound artistic for a moment, that the flowers all had the same tone of yellow as their base, although the shades of yellow were different.

yellow flower border castle Armadale

yellow flower border castle Armadale

 

steps to the woodland walk

steps to the woodland walk

We decided it was a bit too wet to explore the woodland trials as fully as we would have liked, but we did have the opportunity to see the Museum of the Isles which had some fascinating displays and educated us about the Lordship of the Isles. The Raven on the Rock memorial outside the Museum is stunning and eerily lifelike when first viewed through a mist of rain.

Raven of the Rock memorial

Raven of the Rock memorial

The playful otter as a central feature to the pond was a welcome change from the more frequently found fish or small cherub. It is in keeping with the location of the gardens, and would look out of place in an urban garden; but the concept of adding a beautiful statue as the pond’s focal point, something which has meaning for the owner of the garden, is an idea worth considering.

pond with otter

pond with otter

As well as planting inspiration, we came away with two new herbaceous plants, Geranium ‘hocus pocus’ with dark highly serrated foliage and mid purple flowers and Centaurea Montana ‘Jordy’ a perennial cornflower with almost black flowers, both of which we’d seen in the castle gardens. There were quite a few different geraniums in the borders; they do well in the damp conditions being mildew resistant unlike some herbaceous perennials. A factor worth considering if you have a damp shady garden, as many of the varieties will tolerate shade. Many of them will also be happy in dry shade or even a south facing border; you just need to pick the right cultivar.

Geranium 'hocus pocus'

Geranium ‘hocus pocus’

The perennial cornflowers are more often found as blue flowering forms. They can be prone to mildew, and to flopping; the best way to get round this is to cut them hard back after the first flush of flowers just as they’re starting to flop. They will repay you by flowering again in only a few weeks; cutting the flowers to take into the house is another tactic to reduce the flopping tendency – and give you pretty flowers too.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

raindrops on Hosta leaf

raindrops on Hosta leaf