Category Archives: Reviews

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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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 »
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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.

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Petworth: a Landscape by Capability Brown

September 9th, 2018 | 18 Comments »
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On a sunny day, what could be more agreeable than strolling through a landscape designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown? Earlier this week, two friends and I took advantage of the fine weather to do just this when we visited Petworth House in Sussex. The landscape there is one of the finest surviving examples of Brown's work. Walking through the 700-acre park, the surroundings appear to be totally natural, but in reality Brown shaped each part of the land with his customary flair.   [caption id="attachment_6709" align="aligncenter" width="4272"] This view from the

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A Victorian Garden

June 17th, 2018 | 15 Comments »
Baptisia is growing in my garden. Seeing this combo makes me want to add some orange poppies.
Yesterday I spoke at the Colby-Curtis Museum in Stanstead, Quebec, home to the Stanstead Historical Society. The museum is a local treasure, housed in a classical revival-style villa built in 1859 called Carrollcroft.   [caption id="attachment_6429" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] The house, its gardens and adjacent stable and carriage house, tell the story of the Colby family, a prominent local family of American origin. The family donated the house and its contents to the Stanstead Historical Society in 1992. Exhibitions provide insight into the social and cultural history of the county which borders Vermont.[/caption]   The current

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Malverleys: A Garden of Contrasts

November 27th, 2017 | 17 Comments »
Vivid colours appear in the hot border. Contrasts are more subtle in the cool-toned border but are still  dynamic and inventive.
Winter is almost here in Quebec, which means that not much is going on in the garden at Glen Villa. So instead of moaning about that, I'm remembering one of the gardens I visited in England last May. Malverleys is a large private estate, rarely open to the public, so the small group of gardeners who were on the tour I was hosting was fortunate to be able to visit. We were doubly fortunate to tour the garden in the company of Mat Reese, the head gardener. Anyone who subscribes to Gardens Illustrated, or

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Michiko’s Garden

September 10th, 2017 | 4 Comments »
Striations in the rock suggest ripples in a stream.
Last week I visited a very special garden, where rock outcroppings enhanced with shade-loving plants create an atmosphere of deep serenity.   [caption id="attachment_5589" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] Polystichum, or Christmas fern, is found in shady woodlands throughout Quebec. Note the small patch of tiarella cordifolia, another indigenous plant, at the top of the photo.[/caption]   Developed over the last fifteen years by designer Michiko Gagnon, the garden is at the end of a cul-de-sac in Quebec's Eastern Townships, not far from the U.S. border. It's an idyllic setting, with an old farmhouse that she and

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Metis International Garden Festival

August 22nd, 2017 | 6 Comments »
The optical illusion never fails to delight.
  Recently I visited the International Garden Festival at Metis, Quebec. I've attended the Festival many times since it first opened in 2000, but in previous years I've gone with adults. This year was special -- I went with two teenage granddaughters.   [caption id="attachment_5512" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] The festival gardens are adjacent to the St. Lawrence River in a part of Quebec that offers much to explore.[/caption]   Playsages, the theme for this year's Festival, was a good fit for the three of us. The word is a mash-up of languages, blending

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An Exchange of Views

June 23rd, 2017 | 9 Comments »
Topiary at Allt-y-bela was stunning.
What happens when two opinionated garden makers visit the garden of a Chelsea award-winning garden designer? Last month, Anne Wareham, Charles Hawes and I visited Allt-y-bela, the home of Arne Maynard, an author and prominent UK garden designer.  We spent several hours wandering around the impressive garden, located in Monmouthshire, Wales; Anne and I spent even more time several weeks later exchanging ideas and responses to what we had seen. Along with running her own garden, Veddw,  (in case you missed my review of Veddw, you can read it here), Anne edits the internationally

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Gardeners (and Gardens) to Remember

June 7th, 2017 | 14 Comments »
This garden by James Alexander Sinclair showed the relationship between sound and motion. Water gurgled and spouted in response to sound waves. Very ingenious.
I'm home again at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, after touring gardens in England. In ten days, the small group I was hosting visited 17 gardens, each special in its own way. Add in the Chelsea Flower Show and pre-tour visits to three other gardens and you can imagine the result: more photos and memories than a dozen blog posts can handle. Let me mention a few highlights. (More blog posts will come once I catch my breath and begin to assimilate all I saw.) The Chelsea Flower Show

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Veddw House Garden

May 22nd, 2017 | 18 Comments »
These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny --
 about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.
  I'm in England now, about to start on a ten-day garden tour. With my co-host Julia Guest of Travel Concepts in Vancouver, I will take a small group of women to the southwest of England.  But before hitting the road, let me whet your appetite with a review of an extraordinary garden I visited pre-tour. Veddw is the garden of Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. Located in Wales, just across the border from England in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Veddw pays homage to its surroundings in ways that show respect

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