Natural Inspiration

millefleurs tapestryWith a couple of hours to spare in London I took myself off to the V&A Museum in pursuit of examples of plants being used in art. In the Tapestry Room I immersed myself in the details of medieval hunting scenes where plants weave (!) their way through the action and there is also a beautiful example of a millefleurs tapestry. I identified pinks, daisies, campions and possibly butterwort, but would love to spend time with an expert who could talk me through the different restored William Morris hangingplants on tapestry a hare

But I was particularly taken by a pair of preliminary sketches by Philip Webb that accompany a newly restored William Morris hanging, featuring a fox and a hare, each with flowers in the foreground. I kept returning to them for another look.

The route to the Tapestry Room is through the magnificent bling of the Jewellery Galleries and here too there are plants to be found and admired.bright floral jewellery horticultural jewels poppy jewellery
One way and another it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to fill a couple of hours.

The Artless Charm of a true Cottage Garden

The Artless Charm of a true Cottage Garden

cottage garden dahliasWhile I’m as beguiled as the next person by pretty cottage garden style planting that you see at the flower shows, the real deal is so much more joyous. I’ve recently visited my 88 year old friend Deryck whose exuberant garden is about as far as you can get from designer chic. He came to gardening in his mid 70s when his much loved wife Betty died and he didn’t want her garden to fall into neglect. Goodness knows what he would have achieved if he had been a gardener rather than a farmer for most of his life. His dahlias are enormous and his corn is close to as high as an elephant’s eye – in plantsmanship and energy he is an example to us all.charming cottage gardenyellow dahlias against blue skyman gardening

Perch Hill

Perch Hill

in its Autumn Glory

I find myself in the grip of various emotions when I visit Perch Hill – awestruck by the consistency with which it looks stunning throughout the seasons, admiring at the endless innovation in plant varieties and plain envious of Sarah’s energy and inspiration in creating a fabulous garden that has been the inspiration behind an internationally recognised and successful brand, and her many books on both gardening and food.bishop of llandaff dahlia pink speckled dahliamixed dahlias

The garden was open recently in aid of our local hospice on a perfect September day, so I took the opportunity to have a wander round. Dahlias of every shape and size were at their colourful best and the central arches in the Cutting Garden were hanging with interesting looking gourds, including some that looked rather like semi-deflated and yellow gourd pretty gourd

There was also a row of bright everlasting daisies, also sometimes called strawflowers. They aren’t on offer in her catalogue, so I suspect she is trialling them – they have been very unfashionable for some years, so they are probably ripe for rediscovery.strawflowers

Tea and cake in the Glasshouse was enjoyed amongst Sarah’s flower arrangements.glasshouse display sarah's flower arrangement

What’s new from Thompson & Morgan

What’s new from Thompson & Morgan

I’ve recently been to a press preview of new varieties from the Ipswich seed company and have whittled down the many to the few that I found most interesting.  Top of my list is the Wasabi Rocket with leaves that really do have the tang of wasabi.  I will be making the first sowing this weekend.  I also got a top tip from Colin Randall, their vegetable guru, who really does know his onions, potatoes, tomatoes – in fact any vegetable.  If flea beetle is a problem, sow vulnerable plants in containers at least 30cm tall – this is higher than fleabeetles can jump.Colin Randall giving tips and Thompson and Morgan

Pea Terrain and Mange Tout Sweet Horizon are also interesting new late varieties – they are very mildew resistant and I was told that if I sow them this weekend I could be picking peas and mangetout in autumn right up to November.

home grown at T and M peppery wasabi rocket leaves

When it comes to flowers and foliage plants, there was no shortage of colour, but my tastes are usually for subtle shades.  There’s a lovely new soft yellow cosmos called  Xanthos and a delicate colour-changing Argyranthemum Honey-Bees Light Pink with flowers that slowly fade to pink and a striking hardy begonia called Garden Angels.Argyranthemum Honey-Bees begonia called Garden Angels  new soft yellow cosmos

I have mixed feelings about petunias – I love their fragrance and some of the soft-hued varieties, but I find them quite hard work to keep looking good over a long period – this probably says more about me than the petunias – but whatever the reason I generally don’t grow them.  For those who do though I thought Indian Summer and mustardy-coloured Dijon were both really attractive and I’ve included a photo of  Night Sky because it is so weird – it looks like a careless decorator has splattered it with paint.Indian Summer Petuniamustardy-coloured Dijon Petunia Night Sky looks like it has splattered it with paint