Category Archives: Grasses & Sedges

Tuesday View

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Raining heavily this morning and so, after a two-week pause, I’ve the leisure of time to contribute again to Cathy’s ‘Tuesday View’ meme at Words and Herbs.

Unfortunately the Asphodeline lutea more or less came and went during my time away from the garden. When I arrived back there were still some spikes looking good, but I didn’t get my camera out fast enough. Lazy, lazy … and the same lazy gardener is late again cutting the grass.

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Also making an appearance – some rather nice yellow irises and a newly planted Achillea ‘Moonshine’. I’m bound to lose the latter after a couple of years, so must make sure I propagate it next spring to keep it going in the garden. Did you know that it was one of the 5 plants that the late, great Alan Bloom was most proud of introducing? The rose just off centre right is the first to flower properly in the border, ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’.

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Berries of Asphodeline lutea

Now there are only the bright green berries and a few small yellow starry flowers of the asphodel left. I do enjoy their effect in the Long Border, so a bit sad, but there’s always next year.

The roses had a frosting in early May, and lost quite a few buds, so they are really only just coming back into their own. Moss rose, ‘William Lobb’ was the exception. We call this the ‘monster’ rose at Chatillon. I keep cutting it back after flowering, but it persists in sending up long ungainly shoots for next year’s flowers.

Unfortunately it blooms at the same time as a bright orange hemerocallis that I inherited when we moved into the garden. The hemerocallis are definitely scheduled for removal this autumn because another year with the colour clash is going to give me a headache!

I wish I liked hemerocallis more. They do really well here, with the heat and the clay soil, but I have an aversion to their rather heavy flowers. Must work on changing that … Learn to love what loves you!

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Mossy little buds of ‘William Lobb’ – the one known as ‘Old Velvet Moss’. It’s an incredibly healthy rose – just a tad over-vigorous!

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‘William Lobb’ never behaved as badly in a previous garden where I had it planted. A much more dignified tall shrub.

Looking in the opposite direction down the border, I hope you can make out at the very far end against the wall Rose ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’?

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The peachy blooms of Ghislaine are in the top left corner of the photo.

The rose is not actually in the border itself, but growing against the garden wall. Last year, with all our rain at rose time, it was a washout. Fabulous show this season to make up for it.

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I missed my chance to cut the four hazels in the Long Border back this February and, as a result, the herbaceous plants towards the front of the border are far more shaded out than I would like. Even the philadelphus planted on the bank have been rather over-shadowed by the hazels and we can’t really see their flowers properly.

I’ve coppiced the four hazels in the Long Border once, three years ago, when I first dug and planted the border. Since they are too big this year, I think it might be worth reducing that to every 2 years – or perhaps stagger the coppicing? Cut back 2 hazels one year, another 2 the next?

If you gardened here, with all our fierce heat in the summer, you’d understand my reluctance to do such a regular coppice! (Never mind the fact that all that cutting and dragging is pretty heavy work.)

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I also seem to have lost some rather nice Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ divisions that went into the ground last spring. I’ve no idea what happened – how can large clumps of plants just disappear? Anyway – there we are! That’s gardening life. I’m more philosophical than I used to be!

Enough of the problems – there is one rather pretty feature that appeals to me this week. The curling flower stems (still in bud) of Veronicastrum virginicum are looking quite charming with the grass Calamagrostis ‘America’.

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Hopefully you can make out the tempting pleated spikes of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ foliage rising up behind and amongst Artemesia ‘Lambrook Silver’? I’m quite enjoying the spikiness of the border.

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Go over and have a look at everyone’s Tuesday views at Cathy’s Words and Herbs. And many thanks to Cathy for graciously hosting this lovely meme that gives us a reason to record one area of our garden every Tuesday – and exchange (virtually) plant ideas and tips!

Scottish inspiration 1: Cambo Gardens

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The Walled Garden at Cambo House

You’d think that living in France would be inspiration enough for someone creating a garden, wouldn’t you? Not so. Little did I know, when I started making this garden, that I’d have to do without the following: horticultural grit, decent propagating containers, vermiculite, perlite, interesting herbaceous perennials – oh, and interesting shrubs.

Of course, I can (like anyone else) shop online for the plants that are missing in my life, but it’s not quite the same thing as picking up a special something on a day out, is it?

But the most serious gap in my gardening life is garden inspiration.

Consequently, when at home in Scotland once or twice a year (as I am at the moment), I often try to cram it all in. The rigid seed trays go into my hand luggage for the return journey (horticultural grit is a step too far), and sometimes I clock up the miles ogling fantastic gardens.

On Saturday 23 July we visited a garden in Fife, just south of St Andrews, that I’ve long wanted to see. Cambo Gardens at Kingsbarns.

Some of the information that follows comes from a wonderful piece that Stephen Lacey wrote about Cambo in The Telegraph way back in 2012. Do follow my link and read the original if you are interested in learning more about Cambo.

The estate has been owned by the Erskine family for three centuries, although the original house burnt down in 1878. The existing house is austere in the best Scottish sandstone tradition.

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Cambo House from the rear, on the paths that lead to the Walled Garden

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The front of the house, near the visitors’ car park

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To the rear again …

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What I would give to have an echium of this stature in front of my house …

The Cambo estate has become Scotland’s answer to ‘galanthomania’, because you can walk the woodland paths in February and drink in a wave of snowdrops to equal those further south in England. I can only drool these days …

Catherine Erskine began the snowdrop festival in 2003 and since then a number of other Scottish gardens have joined in to make Scotland’s own snowdrop trail. Have a look at www.discoverscottishgardens.org for more information.

Apparently when Catherine  arrived at the house in 1976 with her husband, Sir Peter Erskine, she didn’t exactly see eye to eye with the head gardener in post at the time. She suggested adding herbaceous plantings in the top corner of the old walled garden and was denied the liberty – this was the only place the wretched man could grow onions.

Fortunately Catherine found a more sympathetic head gardener in the shape of Elliot Forsyth who came to Cambo in 2001. When I read today that Forsyth’s wife is a landscape painter and he himself is an admirer of Piet Oudolf, I understood Cambo’s transformation from the days when herbaceous perennials were denied access …

I’m concentrating on the Walled Garden in this post because it set me on fire. Only a short walk through the gardened woods behind the house and into another world.

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A kind of greeting on the other side of the Walled Garden door … here we have modern chaos of the nicest kind, rather than Victorian order.

Yes,  there are many of the features you would expect to find in a Victorian or Edwardian walled garden.

The long pathways lacing the various elements of this two and a half acre site together.

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A peaceful horticultural oasis of lawn at the garden’s heart …

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There are the old greenhouses – one straddles a stream that runs through the centre of the garden.

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It is not schadenfreude to admit relief at the sight of box blight damage … if we suffer, we feel relief that others are soldiering on in spite of it.

The stream ornamented with a small gazebo and bridge in a vaguely Chinese style …

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Box-edged herbaceous borders in a more classical style …

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Some terrific plant surprises … stupendous Veratrum seed heads rising against the classic box hedges …

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… and treasures like this foxglove (which I believe to be Digitalis parviflora).

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And the usual vegetables you’d expect to find in an old Scottish walled garden … although they are teamed with some rather odd bedfellows. The potager (below) was ‘resting’ in 2016 because it is currently being revamped. It gives you some clues as to how the rest of your visit will go. This is not your standard walled garden.

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The remaining planting uses a very modern prairie style in a limited plant palette – its creators have let rip in the most exciting way. I cannot begin to name all of the grasses, although Stipa gigantea, Stipa tenuissima, Miscanthus and Calamagrostis are prominent.

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Associating with this backbone to striking effect are Achillea, bronze fennel, Agastache, Salvia, Veronicastrum, Veronica, Monarda, Eupatorium and Eryngium … in huge variety.  And lots and lots of Sanguisorba – in reds, whites, pinks. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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Best of all – this is minimal maintenance. Forsyth (quoted by Stephen Lacey) says: ‘In February we cut them [the grasses and perennials] to near ground level with a strimmer, then drive over them with a mower on a high setting. The pulverised stems then get topped with bark. Any weeds get a wipe with glyphosate. We don’t do any staking or feeding, as we want plants to grow with low nitrogen levels as they would in a real meadow.’

Personally, I haven’t seen anything this beautiful since Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden. And I developed a serious love affair with Trifolium rubens

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And cemented my already fond regard for Heleniums …

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As well as Veronicastrum

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And Sanguisorba … and Eupatorium … I never knew there were so many beautiful species and cultivars.

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The only plant I saw at Cambo which would be doomed at Châtillon were the Eryngiums. So sad …

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I looked and looked and took too many photographs. My overall feelings were the following:

1. Wow – I’m in a time warp! These roses and perennials were flowering 6 weeks ago at home!
2. This is what I’m trying to do at home … and maybe it will work …

That’s a good garden, when you want to rush home and get digging/weeding.

The only criticism I’d level is lack of labelling on the many roses. These are planted underneath the old fruit trees in the Walled Garden (possibly in too much shade) and against the surrounding walls.

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In fact everywhere that the garden has been divided into smaller rooms, roses feature in the divisions.

The gardens are open from 9pm until 5pm every day and entry is £5.50 for adults. There’s a good cafe, handily positioned right next to the small plant centre, which offers the specialties of the garden, propagated on site.

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If I meet you there next year, don’t show me your purchases. You’ll only make me jealous because I can’t fit them in my hand luggage.

This is only the first part of my Scottish inspirations … there are at least three more in the pipeline.

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