Heavenly Blue

the ipomoea heavenly blue is in full flower this September
There can’t be a more aptly named flower than Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ – the morning glory. I’ve written about how much I love it previously on the blog – I find the pure blue of the fragile flowers heart-stoppingly beautiful. Most years the plants seem to have a death wish, but this year, for once, they are thriving. Admittedly it’s the smallest plant that is currently flowering it socks off, while the 10ft tall plant has just had the occasional flower so far, but there are hundreds of buds, so I am willing it to come into full flower before the autumnal winds arrive and tear the leaves to shreds. I think there are a couple of reasons why I’ve had more success than usual (other than the weather) – firstly I sowed 3 seeds per small coir pot and once they were growing strongly, potted them on (including pot) into a 20cm coir pot. Secondly, I kept them in the greenhouse until mid July before moving them outside, where I potted them on (again with coir pot) into a slightly larger terracotta pot. This meant that they had no root disturbance and they have certainly shown their appreciation of this treatment. I’m generally far less indulgent of my plants, but in this case the flowers are my reward.overall view of the ipomoea plant

Gardening on a Grand Scale at Bowood

looking down at the gardens at BoxwoodIt’s been a while since I last visited Bowood House and they have been very busy doing interesting things in the garden over intervening years. Under the guidance of garden designer Rosie Abel Smith, head gardener David Glass and his team have been softening some of the edges around the house. The glorious Italianate Terrace remains as wonderful as ever, but now the façade of the house has been embellished with shrubs and climbers, while around the corner the softening process continues on the Lower Terrace which now has a 70ft long and 8ft deep herbaceous border where lawn previously ran up to the wall.

The Italianate Terrace at Bowood

Top : Italianate Terrace, lower right : Lower Terrace herbaceous border

Border detail of Lower Terrace at Bowood

Border detail of Lower Terrace

I like the effect – look outwards and you see the perfection of the Capability Brown landscape with its sinuous lake and mature parkland – look inwards and you see a magnificent house rising from a froth of flowers.cooler colours in the border at BowoodNew too is the restoration and replanting of the private walled gardens where the external walls contain four one-acre walled squares. Previously they were fairly utilitarian and closed to visitors, but now they are in the process of being stylishly replanted to be both productive and ornamental and can be visited by appointment. There are cutting borders to supply the house and the hotel on the estate, a glorious ‘hot’ herbaceous border where the rich colours sing out against the high brick wall, a productive potager, trained fruit trees, and a wonderful wildflower meadow.

a pathway runs through the walled garden at Boxwood

Pathway within the Private Walled Gardens

close up of rose in Hot border at Bowood

The Hot Border The Wildflower Garden

The Wildflower Garden at Bowood

The Wildflower Garden

Families know Bowood best for its amazing adventure playground and rhododendron lovers visit its sixty acres of woods when bluebells carpet the ground beneath the vibrant rhododendrons, but visiting it in late summer made me realise that it really is a garden for all seasons which is probably why it won the Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year Award this year.

Blight is Back

Regular readers of this blog will know that never a year goes by that I don’t say ‘I’m never going to plant outdoor tomatoes again’ – but somehow I can’t resist finding a space for the leftover plants – and each year, just as they are looking at their magnificent best, along comes the blight. On Friday they were fine, then after the bank holiday deluge they started to show the first signs with a few blackened leaves and stems. Rather than leave them to rot, I harvested the lot. There’s a limit to how many green tomatoes I want to eat and in the hope that I can ripen some, I’m trying a little experiment. Vinegar is supposed to have anti-fungal properties, so I soaked them for an hour in a strong cider vinegar solution. I will now put some in a cardboard box with a ripe banana and see if the ethylene it contains can ripen the tomatoes. I’ve never seen the vinegar suggestion and it may have no effect, but its worth a try. I will let you know if it works. Meanwhile it’s fried green tomatoes for supper.

Tomatoes on vine before blight

Before blight

tomatoes after blight

After blight

A Walk on the Wildside

Keith Whiley is a remarkable man. I first saw his work at The Garden House in Buckland Monachorum where he began his experiments with reshaping the land to recreate the natural plant habitats that he has observed around the world.  His methods have not been without controversy, partly because they are so labour intensive and partly because his approach is so uncompromising.  So when he had the opportunity to buy and develop his own piece of land ten years ago it was the perfect opportunity for him to stretch his ideas and theories to the limit – without the need to please anyone else.  What he has done is astonishing – starting with a flat 4 acre field planted with cider apples, working alone with a hired digger, he has gouged out small-scale canyons, created hills and valleys and turned a piece of south-facing pasture into a  landscape that includes north-facing slopes, sun-soaked scree and a series of lush natural ponds. In the process of doing all this earthmoving, he has  rather miraculously increased the surface area so that it now covers 6 acres.
another lush field looking verdant
The adjoining fields show the local terrain
view across lush green field
A small copse of cider apples have been retained to recall the garden’s history

view of unplanted canyonsview across canyons with pools

Keith’s as yet unplanted ‘canyons’

It is still very much a work in progress, but as each habitat is completed to Keith’s satisfaction, he and his artist wife Ros add the plants.  The variety is extraordinary – from cool and calm wooded acer glade to a magnificently floriferous interpretation of South African veldt, everywhere it is evident that there is a master plantsman – and woman – at work.

mixed planting with grasses

South African style planting – Keith is not a purist about using only South African plants – it is the effect he wishes to create
mediterannean planting

Planting on mounds creates the impression of maturity in quite young trees

modern planting with grasses

Mediterranean planting elsewhere in the garden

planting on mounds with pondsA series of ponds lead into one another, giving the impression of a stream
Up until recently Wildside has been open occasionally, but it  is now closed at least until the end of 2015 while the Whileys house is built on the site (they have been living in a temporary cabin for the past ten years) – and they decide what they want to do with the garden and nursery in the future. Earning a living seems to be of little interest beyond funding the ongoing work in the garden and keeping the wolf from the door, although they are now selling their plants at Alpine Garden Society Plant Fairs which has proved far more profitable than opening the nursery and garden for the occasional customer. I will be writing an extended feature about Wildside in a future issue of the excellent Hole & Corner magazine and will let you know when it is published.

Dianella (very) caerulea

the amazing blue berries of Dianella caerulea
This blue flax lily is useful in a very dry spot at the foot of a wall where it usually remains pretty inconspicuous amongst its showier companions, but this year’s conditions must really suit it because it has produced these fabulous, intensely blue berries. Some sources report that they are edible, but I’m certainly not going to try them!