by Anne chambers
After one of our busiest, driest and sunniest Junes ever, July has started in the same way. We now haven’t had rain for over a month and even we are having to water as plants are looking stressed and fading fast. However, having said that, everything including the roses have flowered magnificently this year and it has been a stunning summer, so far….
I was particularly pleased that campanula patula has returned in force to the white sunk garden, it is such a dainty and pretty flower, a bit like a harebell, and was collected from a garden in Scotland by my mother years ago. It seeds freely but had almost disappeared but now has made a welcome return.
We had a wonderful day out when we visited Miserden where Tom and Nicholas Wills were presented this year’s Historic Houses and Christies Garden of the Year award. A delicious out door lunch was provided and it was good to see so many garden owners from Gloucestershire and further afield. The herbaceous borders at Miserden are tremendous, very long and wide and packed with perennials, and the whole estate is beautifully managed and kept to the highest standard.
We are again having the Oxford Sculptors Group Exhibition starting on Saturday 4th August and finishing on Wednesday 22nd August. Everyone seemed to much enjoy the array of sculptures last year and we will be having a completely new selection of artists and exhibits placed in the top area of the garden.
We are busy pruning deutzias and philadelphus and dead heading roses. It is far too dry to plant anything new so glad we managed to get in our salvias and dahlias before the real heat began. It seems likely rain will be with us soon but hoping not when I take the Garden Club of America to Scotland at the end of the month.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
We are now in our hectic period when we look forward to our Thursday and Friday closed days and we can catch our breath again. With torrential thunderstorms and hot sunshine the garden has being growing in front of our eyes. The tree peonies are now over but the herbaceous ones are looking lovely. For the first time the Coopers Burmese rose on the wall in the four squares has flowered really well, such a simple stunning white single flower with glossy green leaves. Many years ago we planted one on a north facing wall, a mistake as it obviously must have a sunny situation to perform well.
The cornus Pagoda in the wild flower meadow was a sight to behold and is growning far larger than I ever imagined. I rather wish I had planted it further back but I have no regrets on its place in the garden. I first saw it at a Chelsea flower show several years ago. Cornus are becoming one of my favourite families and there are now several good examples of different varieties all over the garden.
Another new sight this year are the iris white swan which I have put in the white sunk garden. Again I got this idea of a mass planting from Emma Keswick at Rockcliffe where she has used them in her white garden. The odd gladiolus byzantinus has sown itself amongst them but am not worried as it shows off the contrast of the very dazzling white of the iris with the cerise of the gladiolus.
We had a very good article in the RHS magazine this month by Mary Keen with photographs by Beki Bernstein. The last time the garden was featured was in April 1975 with an article by Elizabeth Coxhead titled Two women’s garden, little did they know then that there would be a third generation!
by Anne chambers
After such a horrid cold and wet April, May is just the opposite with wonderful warm sunny days and everything at last growing and flowering. It is such a beautiful time of year with so many shades of green and such a freshness to the garden.
We have just returned from Rome where we took our American ladies to look at gardens. Again the gardens were all looking fresh and green as they have had a lot of rain following an unusually cold winter. We had tremendous thunderstorms while we were there which rather bashed the roses and peonies. However Ninfa and Torrechia were still my favourite gardens, both very romantic with ruins covered in climbing roses and wisteria.
Earlier we visited Louisa Arbuthnott at Stone Cottage nursery and as always came away with an assortment of wonderful plants. Her garden was looking lovely crammed full of unusual plants, not an inch to spare as she is an avid collector.
The terracotta pots were planted with wallflowers from Sarah Raven this year mixed in with tulips and am pleased with the results. I mixed tulip red shine with wallflower red warrior and the combination has worked well and think I will repeat it again next year.
The camassias have really multiplied in the orchard and I have added some narcissus recurvus and the usual tulip Jan Reus both of which are in full flower and looking stunning. We pruned the apple and pear trees hard this winter so am hoping they will flower better next year.
Chelsea Flower show next week and we wait to see what catches our eye in the show gardens. Even more interesting to see what new plants are on show in the pavilion. Our really busy time about to begin but hopefully the garden under control and it will only get better as the weeks go by.
By ANNE CHAMBERS
What a contrast to last year when we had a wonderful warm Spring and everything full out by Easter. This year we are still waiting for the magnolias to flower (those that haven’t been frosted) and the daffodils are only just coming into flower. It has been cold and very wet and a dreadful start to our opening season. Things can only get better but I do think the garden is about three weeks behind normal.
We have had a testing winter and the final straw was when the sculpture in the new water garden collapsed under the weight of ice on the leaves and vanished into the bottom of the pond. It took several strong men to right it again and by a miracle it was intact and is now working once more. However the pond had to be drained for a second time and only just filled again in time for our opening.
We have been busy planting on the steep banks when it has been dry enough. Tom our gardener was tasked with clambering up and down the banks and we have put in over forty plants to fill the areas left bare by the fallen branches from the snow. Much more light is now penetrating this area and views to the lower garden are much more visible so we will wait to see how it all starts to mature.
After years of worrying about the condition of the grass at the end of the yellow border and having to re turf every two years, we have made a radical decision. False grass has been laid to solve this problem. Of course at the moment it looks very green compared to the existing grass but think by the summer it will have blended in well and hopefully will solve our problems!
Everything in the garden is just appearing but due to the cold has been very slow compared to normal. The chaenomeles hedge outside the Front Lodge which was planted by my mother is in full flower, it takes a lot of pruning each year but it is worth the effort and is covered in red flowers to cheer us all up!
I am told that next week the temperatures are going to rise so everything will be ready to burst out and Spring will truly have arrived.
by anne chambers
Just as we thought that Spring was about to arrive we have been hit by snow and gales from the East. I don’t remember such dramatic drifting on the road immediately outside our drive since my childhood in the Sixties. Drifts ten foot deep have completely blocked the road and the only way out is on foot or on the quad … and to think the garden opens in four weeks’ time on 1st April. I anticipate a lot of replanting of some of the more tender plants which remain tucked up under several layers of fleece in the nursery.
The snowdrops were wonderful this year and again it was lucky that this icy blast came once they were nearly over and galanthophiles were able to enjoy all those gardens that open especially at snowdrop time.
We escaped in February to warmer climes which was a wonderful recharge of our batteries and returned home full of energy to get ready for the coming season. However with the snow we are stuck in doors cleaning and packaging seeds and ordering new products for the shop. With luck and a thaw, we will be back outside next week helping the poor garden recover from this testing winter.
We stayed with our daughter Clare in Aberdeenshire last weekend where they have rented a cottage from the Scottish National Trust on the Crathes estate. We visited the garden there by chance two summers ago and it was fascinating to see it in mid-winter. They, like us, dig over and cut over all the borders and Clare could not believe the difference in the photos of the same area. It just shows how dramatically plants grow and how borders are transformed in a few short months.
We are looking forward to seeing our regular visitors on Easter Day and keeping fingers crossed that Spring will have arrived by then and the daffodils will be lightening up our lives.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
We had a wonderful Christmas with all the family and grandson Jack seemed to adore the lights on the Christmas tree! Over the weekend before Christmas the boys cleared the scrappy trees and the old fence at the end of the field where the new statue is located. Luckily it was dry and fairly mild so we were able to have an enormous bonfire which burnt for several days.
The second dump of snow after Christmas combined with the wind from storm Eleanor caused as much damage as the earlier snowfall and we are needing to have a large bonfire for all the branches and debris.
It is horrifying to see how much damage has been done but we are gradually clearing and the tree surgeons are on site sorting out all the broken limbs and branches.
Snowdrops are beginning to appear and the hamamelis is in full flower.
I will soon be pruning the very old rose Pax in the White Sunk garden and the Felicia roses as they are already showing their first buds. However the weather is unpredictable and having had a mild spell we are due some cold nights and stormy winds.
We have been assessing the banks now that we have lost so many shrubs and trees with the snow. The biggest sadness is the enormous arbutus unedo which must have been planted by my grandmother and was very statuesque against the skyline. There is a large area to re-plant below the Terrace and we are busy deciding what new plants to try on this dry area. As you look down the steep bank I feel it is important to have some height but am always conscious that whatever we put there must not get out of proportion in years to come and block out the view which has now been created. Before that, however, new timbers or sleepers will have to be installed so that fresh soil can go in to replace years of erosion.
We have Jack’s christening in ten days time at Ebrington church. A full house with all the godparents and relations to celebrate. It is the same church where Clare and David got married and also Clare christened all those years ago!