Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bed 1.....yellows, whites and blues.
A rampagous Gourd strapped to the rib of a polytunnel ....what will it become?
Bed 2.....blues, pinks and purples.

Bed 1.....yellows, whites and blues.
A rampagous Gourd strapped to the rib of a polytunnel ....what will it become?
Bed 2.....blues, pinks and purples.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Allium christophii.
May and June are relentless months for the gardener with dusty July forcing an extra gear and an even quicker turn of speed. Some one once said "you've got to move quick to stay in the same place" and it's no more appropriate than at this time of year in the garden. Gardeners with a few years under their belts could recognise these sentiments as well as knowing that each year throws up challenges different to that of the previous one. These last few weeks of June, with their rain, has added to our labours as we strive to keep the roses looking good (lots of rain on lots of petals makes mush!) as well as battling legions of slugs and snails.
The rain has made this year a good year for Astrantias, seen here on the Winter Walk with Geranium nodosum and an ancient Gooseberry.
After several seasons at Barnsley House, every year has been unique with both the first and last making me realise just how little I know. Head Gardener to Charles Verey was as unique a position as Head Gardener to my present employers, each offering challenges, satisfaction and the incidental opportunities to learn new skills that in turn afforded me career and personal development.

I came to Barnsley House having been 'blooded' by labouring in nurseries, a Nottinghamshire tree gang and being paid 'piece rate' the more trees you did the more you got paid (health and safety!) tree surgery in Frankfurt. I also had a wonderful three and a half year's in Fife and a year in an office in Dundee! All elements of my pre Barnsley House career; although unknowingly at the time, were useful preparation for the varied and ever-changing scenarios that have presented themselves to me as a Barnsley House gardener.


Despite this varied experience; arriving at Barnsley House was like the first day at a new school and no less daunting..."I was set down by the carrier's cart at the age of three (in my case thirty three) and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began" (Lee, L. 1959). New jobs, new challenges, new experiences can be petrifying; but for my father (a quietly competative individual) failure was all part of the learning process; it was always more important to have a go, take what you can from the experience and use this at the next attempt. Barnsley is a unique place, I can be bent double in the borders, looking at spread sheets in a management meeting or conducting a guided tour; my first guided tour was less than a year after the death of Mrs. Verey, no pressure! To be part of the team looking after the special garden that is Barnsley House, also now famous for being a highly desirable hotel, requires flexibility and a willingness to have a go. In the words of Samuel Beckett....


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Iris foetidissima under the Limes, veined flowers followed by bright orange seeds; also an impressive crown of dark green leaves that will look good through the worst of winters. A good self seeder.




Monday, 23 May 2016

The beginning of last week saw me chopping some of the Geraniums to the ground, fed up of having them peek early and then looking sad from late July, the only option a late cut back to reveal a gap that's hard to fill. My aim to postpone the flowering until slightly later, a little experiment.  After cutting back I placed a support frame or cloche over the  'reduced' plant for it to grow through, round and over. The cloches below were made by Ben, a couple of years ago, from Cornus alba and had a spell as Christmas decorations, hence the glitter!
Glam rock gardening.
Not far out of Winstone and heading west there's a turning to the right, 'Miserden'. The road ribbons down and bright green meadows tightly grazed by sheep sweep steeply back upwards. Woods of Hazel, Oak , Ash and Beech surround these meadows, it's very alpine. On reaching the bottom this hidden valley engulfs the traveller as more delights in the form of  white carpets of Ramsons and walls with their raggy laggings of moss line the ascent up and out through woods.
Miserden Nursery
My destination was Miserden Nursery, where Julie Dolphin and her husband Steve Richardson have just taken over as the proprietors. A uniquely situated nursery with a collection of stunning greenhouses and a wide selection of good quality plants ranging from old favorites to the more unusual. With an exceptional array of hardy Geraniums, tender Pelargoniums (a good time to buy with Summer in sight) as well as bedding, climbers, Roses and Ferns. I came away with some Lobelia 'Cambridge Blue' for the Village Pub planters and a real find.... a Ribes speciosum! We lost our Fuchsia Flowered Currant some years ago so I'm more than happy to have found a specimen to bring back to Barnsley, just need to select a spot for it!
Malus transitoria with Cow Parsley on the edge of the 'Wilderness'.
It was nice to catch up last week with John and Katie Kosta of Huron Valley Travel and to show them and their group round once again, look forward to seeing you again next year. Also good to see Michael B. Gordon last week when he visited with a group, a Barnsley House regular over the years, hope you have fun at Chelsea.









Friday, 13 May 2016

Ten years ago Pimlico, for one month, was my home. I loved it.....pints in the Fox and Hounds and Parakeets squawking overhead in the London Planes of the Chelsea Hospital! Barnsley House, in 2006,  had one of the large gardens at Chelsea Flower Show where Joff, another BH gardener, and I were involved in the planting and build. It was a fantastic time and a silver awarded too; but intense and the dash out of London via a mad Saturday evening on Shepherds Bush High Street capped it all. It was late when we got back to Barnsley and raining heavilly as I drove along the Welsh Way towards Ready Token. The lane was awash running with water and either side was a breaking wave of foaming, frothy Cow Parsley brushing the car as it navigated the bends and potholes. I had been spoilt by a month's exposure to planting and plants of the highest standards; but this native, herby lushness took my breath away forcing me to slow down and coast.


It is, once again, Chelsea time; but more importantly time to celebrate and admire Cow Parsley as it upholsters verges and woodland fringes with it's billowing, lacy umbels of tiny white flowers. At Barnsley House it holds court in the Wilderness, underpinning the blossoms in the trees; especially 'May' blossom, it is also pleasing to see it punctuate the 'quiet' corners such as under the Walnut where it softens the mood and prevents an 'over worked' look.


Cow Parsley and Geraneum phaeum 'Lily Lovell' by the Potaher well.

This Saturday (14th May)  is Barnsley Village Festival day and the team have been tirelessly working; even weeding out the odd Cow Parsley.  We have had plenty of rain and although there's always work to be done I'm very happy with how the garden is looking; especially Pond Garden, Laburnum Walk and the Broad Border. This lush late spring growth once described by Charles Verey as "verdant; but not overweight", perfectly phrased, is now at it's height throughout Barmsley.
Cow Parsley in the Wilderness "verdant; but not overweight".

If given the chance would I do Chelsea again?
....course I would!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

A couple of garden scenes at the moment....
The Broad Border lit  up with Smyrnium perfoliatum (Golden Alexanders) often mistook for a Euphorbia; but a  member of the carrot family and a biennial, or at best short lived perennial; luckily it's a prolific self seeder at Barnsley.
In front of the previous scene the gold section of the Broad Border, starry 'West Point' Tulips' as well as remnants of 'Fringed Elegance', a crystalline edged Tulip from a few years ago, Golden Box and sky blue Forget-me-Nots.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016



Sheltering, under a Juniper, a gardener captures the graupel!
................'Graupel'. Thank you to Catherine for introducing a new word to me. It's of German derivation and refers to the snow pellets of last week. Known also as 'Grail', this particular phenomenon is when snowflakes encounter super cooled water droplets that coat the flake transforming it into  graupel or 'grail'. Getting technical, with the met office, "Soft hail- ice particles that grow by the accretion of super cooled liquid particles".
Ending with a warmer picture taken today...lovely May.