If you call into Costa Coffee and pick up a free recycled coffee bean bag of used coffee grounds to use as a soil improver and you may find that you can give giant vegetable grower Kevin Fortey a run for his money. He has been using the coffee grounds this year and has noticed a significant improvement in the quality of his vegetables. The coffee grounds slow-release nitrogen, calcium and magnesium and add organic matter to the soil. They are also said to deter slugs and snails, but this has been questioned in the past. The grounds can also be added to your compost heap.
One of the ironies of Berchigranges is that there are so many wonderful places to sit down and enjoy your surroundings, but Thierry and Monique seldom (if ever) find the time to do so. They are well aware of this and acknowledge it with a pair of seatless chair backs positioned at one of the loveliest views which they have called ‘The Dream of a Gardener’.
Thierry uses the natural materials that surround Berchigranges in so many different and creative ways – I was very envious of the wealth of stone and wood so near at hand, but also awestruck by the amount of work that has been necessary to turn these raw materials into so many lovely things – from the Hobbit-like tool store and potting shed, to the inviting summer dining area, the Andy Goldsworthy style curving stone wall and the minimalist Wood Garden made entirely from a single fallen tree. Even the natural landscape has been subtly manipulated – an area of wood was thinned and cleared of the understorey to reveal the bare rocks – where they now have successfully introduced moss to create a moss garden.
Logs are used to form terraces and create walls that give the garden structure and blend harmoniously with the planting. Buildings take many forms from the Safari-like viewing platform to the circular building that would not look out of place in a Parisian Park. It is all hugely inspiring.
Light does wonderful things to the planting at Berchigranges – grasses in the Prickly Garden soften the impression of this area where thistle-type plants are dominant, a huge stand of Thalictrum album ‘Splendide’ gains extra drama backed by the tall stand of forestry just outside the garden and a group of Gentiana lutea is silhouetted against a slab of granite in the Rock Garden.
The aesthetics of the garden are outstanding including the working areas that have been beautifully arranged: the shop, the nursery, and the potting bench are all a joy to behold.
And of course there are the plants – amongst the many that caught my eye – Rosa macrantha ‘Raubritter’ was perfection, swathes of corydalis show how well this plant responds to damp conditions and the cob and wood wall of the potting shed provided a perfect backdrop for a gorgeous blue nepeta.
Berchigranges is definitely in my Top Ten gardens – visit it if you can. If you missed Part 1 it’s here.
Last year I begged a few seedheads of a dark flowered poppy from a friend in Devon and scattered the ripe seed liberally around the garden. They must have loved the weather this spring and have grown enormous and there are some wonderful variations. It will be interesting to see whether they repeat the performance in the future – I find they tend to revert to something more anaemic – but in the meantime I’m loving the drama of these flowers.