Category Archives: Plants

Garden Centres and Garden Reviews

September 24th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Gardening in Canada can be frustrating. The range of plants available through nurseries or garden centres is minuscule compared with the number available in England. And seeing so many wonderful cultivars that won’t survive in my Quebec garden makes me envious of England’s more temperate climate.

Still, for anyone who loves plants, a visit to a garden centre is always a treat. The group I was hosting on my final garden tour spent a few happy hours wandering around the Burford Garden Company, an Oxfordshire-based enterprise. At this time of year the stock of perennials is low but there were still four Anemones to choose from — Queen Charlotte, Hadspen Abundance, Whirlwind, and Dreaming Swan. At the best of times I’d be lucky to find one or two, and none of those available at Burford.

A table of cyclamen made a nice display, and at £3.50 (Cdn $6 or US$5) for a 10.5 cm pot, the price was right. Plus there were eight or nine colours to choose from.

 

P1030799

 

Several displays of clipped boxwood caught my eye, and made my wallet wish I could magically transport the plants to Glen Villa, my home garden.

 

untitled shoot-1282

 

Prices for the boxwood balls went from £30 (Cdn $50 or US $40) for the smallest to £175 (Cdn $300, US$230) for the largest. The boxwood cones ranged from £35 (Cdn$60, US$45) to £195 (Cdn$330, US$255).

 

cones (1 of 1)

 

There were some hidden bargains. The largest cone in the photo above was priced at £195, the smallest at £125, while the mid-sized  cone was only £85 (Cdn $145). I’d pay that much for something much, much smaller — if it was available at all.  Paul Gilmour, the man in charge of plants, explained the price disparity, saying that most of their boxwood are imported from Belgium and that exchange rates vary, as do individual prices depending on the quantity the company buys.

Roses were in short supply but scenting the air was a Gertrude Jekyll rose in full bloom.

 

P1030796

 

Wandering through the plants, I spotted one that I happily left for another buyer. I don’t need a topiary deer — I have far too many of the real thing!

 

P1030798
This little guy can be yours for only £2150.

 

I’m back in Canada now, enjoying some beautiful autumn weather. Over the next weeks (months?), I’ll be reviewing many of the gardens we visited on this final tour. They included public and private gardens, large and small gardens, historic and contemporary gardens. Some were designed and maintained by the garden owner alone, some were designed by professionals and had large gardening staffs.

On each of the tours I’ve hosted, tour go-ers have been asked to rate their favourite five gardens. This is hard to do when the gardens themselves are so different. Which garden is ‘best?’ What criteria can apply fairly to all?

So here’s a challenge. What is the best garden you’ve visited this year?

Anne Wareham, editor of the on-line journal ThinkinGardens, is asking for reviews.

“A small competition everyone – be a star and write me a piece about the best garden you’ve visited this year.

Remember – this is thinkingardens. I don’t want any ‘lovelies’ or long winded description and tour of a garden. I want to hear about what touched you, what the spark of excitement was about it, what stayed with you after you left. How brilliantly the maker has responded to context, limitations, challenges and inspiration. Any size garden. And I want to hear also about the downsides – no garden is perfect and I won’t believe you if you try to tell me it is.

I don’t want to hear more than necessary about plants.

And I’d like to learn something from your piece. To see a new perspective, an aspect of garden making I’d never imagined. A way of looking or seeing that opens my eyes.

Let’s be clear – this is not going to tell us which are the best gardens in the world. That is not the point nor is it possible.

Between 800 and 1000 words, on a Word document with pictures inserted, so I can see where they go, but big files of them sent additionally by WeTransfer. Send via email.  Deadline 1st November 2018

I will publish the three best pieces.”

I plan to send a review… and I hope many readers will, too. First, of course, I have to decide which garden I will choose.  Does my own garden count?

 

 

Oudolf at Pensthorpe

September 16th, 2018 | 10 Comments »
P1020753
Over the last half dozen years or so,  I've visited several gardens in England designed by the Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf. These include Bury Court in Hampshire, Scampston Hall's Walled Garden in Yorkshire and Hauser & Wirth in Somerset. Because I've seen and enjoyed these gardens, I was eager to see Oudolf's Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk. (A review of Scampston Hall's Walled Garden is here.) Pensthorpe was Oudolf's first commission in the U.K. Planted in 2000 and up-dated in 2008, the Millennium Garden is part of a larger natural reserve.

Read More...

Ends and Beginnings

September 3rd, 2018 | 6 Comments »
Spirea japonica 'Crispa'
I head to England today, where I'll be hosting my final garden tour. I'm sad about this ending, but at the same time, I'm happy to remember the people and places that have formed such a rewarding part of my life. And as I keep reminding myself, ends are also beginning. Before leaving for England, I took a walk around  the garden at Glen Villa to see what's in bloom and to assess what needs to be done when I return. Generally, things are looking pretty good.   [caption id="attachment_6668" align="aligncenter" width="4272"] The deer

Read More...

Mushrooms

September 2nd, 2018 | 9 Comments »
untitled (1 of 5)
This is a bumper year for mushrooms. On a short stretch of path in the woods, I spotted six different types. I didn't pick any or examine them carefully, and without noting the specifics of their gills and stalks, I can't identify them with certainty. Mushroom identification is tricky in the best of cases, and without being sure what each is, I definitely won't eat them. But the differences in colour and shape are interesting.   [caption id="attachment_6660" align="aligncenter" width="1543"] Is this one of the edible puffballs?  Maybe, maybe not.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_6661" align="aligncenter" width="1444"]

Read More...

The Middle of August

August 13th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
The Big Meadow
In the middle of August the garden at Glen Villa is just beginning to emerge from an unusually long dry spell. A few days ago we had rain -- buckets of it that washed out our driveway and threw a section of bank into Lake Massawippi. (We repaired the driveway; the lake itself may take care of the landslide.) Before the rain, plants were wilting badly. The leaves on a catalpa tree we planted years ago first drooped, then began to curl up and turn brown; thankfully they are now starting to recover.

Read More...

Midsummer Medley

July 23rd, 2018 | 14 Comments »
nepeta (1 of 1)
Mid-July is truly the middle of summer in North Hatley, Quebec, when both the flowers in the garden at Glen Villa and the wildflowers in the fields strut their stuff. The Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' at The Aqueduct is still blooming, a month after it began. The Eremurus 'Cleopatra' that provided such a wonderful vertical accent has faded now, but its candles remained lit for several weeks. Only in the last few days  have they been extinguished.     Nearby, a clematis (Clematis 'Inspiration') with the same colour tonality as the

Read More...

Five Good Things and a Bad

June 25th, 2018 | 12 Comments »
Seeing the trees from a distance was like seeing a beacon of light, pulling you into a magic place.
As June shines its way towards July, I'm outside soaking it in and enjoying the garden at Glen Villa. There are too many happy-making things to show in a single post, so today I'm focusing on only four. First come the hawthorn trees. We planted them more than 15 years ago and they have proved a mixed blessing, blooming well in some years, not so well in others. This year they were spectacular.     [caption id="attachment_6453" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Seeing the trees from a distance was like seeing a cloud of light,

Read More...

Crabapples in Bloom!

June 4th, 2018 | 20 Comments »
May 24, 2018
In just over a year, the Crabapple Allée, aka the Avenue, has gone from dream to dirt, to bloom and gone. We started with this, a dull bare field.   [caption id="attachment_6400" align="aligncenter" width="4272"] I took this photo on April 24, 2017, when I became serious about planting a long allée of trees,. The walk through the trees is part of a larger project I'm still working on.[/caption]   Four months later, The Avenue was beginning to take shape.   [caption id="attachment_6399" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] August 8, 2017[/caption]   By mid-November, the

Read More...

What’s in a Name?

June 1st, 2018 | 4 Comments »
cardamine diphylla (1 of 1)
I saw this wildflower in the woods last week and was surprised to learn its botanical name, Cardamine diphylla.     I was surprised because only a week or so ago, I looked up the name of another plant, now growing in damp areas in the garden and in the fields at Glen Villa. Its botanical name is Cardamine pratensis.   [caption id="attachment_6380" align="aligncenter" width="3264"] Lady's smock or milkmaids is growing beside the Glen Villa pond. It has bloomed for several weeks.[/caption]   What is the relationship between the two Cardamines? Are

Read More...

Terracing the China Terrace

May 29th, 2018 | 15 Comments »
terraces (1 of 1)
One of the first projects I undertook at Glen Villa was the China Terrace, a contemporary folly that honours an old resort hotel that once stood on the property. I first wrote about it as a conceptual garden. Following that, I wrote about it sporadically, focusing on the changes I made --  the bed that shook off its annuals in favour of a moss quilt,   [caption id="attachment_1565" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Moss forms a quilt on an old iron frame bed.[/caption]   and the staircase leading to the imaginary second and third story that changed, from

Read More...