Whatever gave me the idea of starting what I hope will be a series of ramblings with a gardening theme I do not know. It could have been the visit to the Methodist Church Hall on Monday 10th September, 2018 to join the Christleton Gardening Club for the new season running from 2018 to July 2019. On payment of my subscription for the very reasonable amount of twelve pounds I received my orange coloured membership card numbered 9 which sets out the programme from now until next July. The meetings are held on the second Monday of each month starting at 7.30pm. Before introducing the speaker for the evening, Ann Harrison from Whitchurch, who spoke about shrubs for all year round colour, Judith Ferns mentioned that the Gardening Club would welcome new members. I had at that point visions of producing a Wanted Poster for the website a bit like those in the old cowboy films which don't seem to be so fashionable now. Instead of Clint going after a rough looking gunslinger I thought of a rather more gentle and relaxed individual. To date I have found that gardeners are usually very kind and can I say down to earth people.
If it was not the meeting that prompted me to start writing it might have been the kindness of Ann Wilkinson who had brought me some plants from her garden that evening. As she handed me the two sacks of plants she remarked that I might already have some of them in my garden in which case just dispose of them. I cannot say that I have every really thrown a plant away. Mind you that is not quite correct as I believe that another name for a weed is just a plant in the wrong place and I plead guilty to having thrown a lot of weeds away over the years. There was one plant in the collection that I already had but I was pleased to find garden space. The plant was *Alchemilla Mollis*, also known as Lady's Mantle. And that leads me nicely into my first rambling
Thursday 13th September, 2018
For a period of some 30 years I knew a lady who lived tucked away on a mountain near Prestatyn. She was a dealer in old books and used to call regularly with finds that she had made and which I was able to buy from her and offer in my shop at 25 Watergate Street, Chester. Her name was Dulcie Wilde-Rice, an intelligent, kind, effusive, engaging lady who always wore fresh flowers in her hair every day. One day she came after one of her visits to Eaton Hall where she had been undertaking a valuation or inventory of some antiquarian books in the Duke of Westminster's library. She must have charmed a gardener at Eaton Hall as she had quite a number of *Alchemilla Mollis* plants in the back of her car for me. Up until then I had never come across this attractive plant with yellow flowers. Having such a good local pedigree they were duly planted and have since prospered well and seeded themselves both to useful places and other locations that are rather tiresome. I have come to an age when trying to remember names can now be an embarrassment. And Latin plant names are no exception. Does that really matter when you can look at a plant and it brings back memories of someone or somewhere? So whenever I see *Alchemilla Mollis* I spare a sweet thought for the delightful Dulcie with a dahlia in her hair.
She died in 2002.
This question will stay safely in the garden and not stray as far as the church I promise. I have not grown dahlias in my garden for many years which I realise now was a great mistake. It was the front cover of the Gardeners' World Magazine for April 2017 that illustrated the Bishop of Auckland dahlia. Inside was an offer of plants for this very rich flowered variety. After their arrival I potted them up and grew on before planting out in the garden. They were a great success with blooms that were a beautiful rich red colour. When I dug up the plants in October they had produced reasonable sized tubers. These I stored in compost in a dry cold greenhouse overwinter. I started the tubers off early in 2018 and took a few cuttings. So this summer I have had a slightly larger display of the Bishop of Auckland. On a visit to Gordale Nurseries on the Wirral in Spring 2018 I purchased a pack of the Bishop of Llandaff tubers. This is a name I had seen and heard of for many years as a recommended dahlia to grow. It also flowered well in two containers this summer so I was able to compare the Bishop of Auckland with the Bishop of Llandaff. Which Bishop was the best? Well for me Auckland won on the flower colour but Llandaff won on the colour of the foliage. So no outright winner. Which probably is just as well as I see that there are a lot more Bishops waiting to be grown. The Bishops of Cambridge, Canterbury, Dover, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leicester, Oxford and York are in the queue. They are not all red but include the colours of yellow, mauve and white. Looks like a colourful congregation is a divine possibility.
Bishop of Auckland
Bishop of Llandaff
I understand that in recent weeks a BBC television crew arrived in Sandrock Road in Christleton to film an edition of Garden Rescue. Produced for the BBC by Spun Gold TV. The presenters of this easy to watch programme are the popular 51 year old Charlie Dimmock that you may remember becoming a household name on Ground Force. With her on Garden Rescue are the Rich brothers, Harry and David. They came to fame through their award winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Each show follows a fixed format staring with the three studying photographs in an upstairs studio of the garden which the owner would like rescued. Here you get their original thoughts and comments with the amount of money the owner is prepared to pay. The amount usually can range from about two to five thousand pounds. This is to cover the cost of garden materials and plants. All the other costs including labour are payed by the programme makers. Then the three presenters then visit the garden and you realise how well they must get on together as the teasing, banter and quips emerge. This taunting continues throughout the show which makes it entertaining. The boys usually retreat inside of the house to gather ideas from the style and furnishings to indicate what kind of a garden would meets the owners’ tastes, Meanwhile Charlie is in the garden talking to the lucky owners about what they would like. You are then whisked away back to the studio where Charlie creates her design for the garden using the old fashioned way of paper, drawing and painting with watercolours. The brothers are more high tech using a computer to produce their finished plan for a new garden.
Back to the garden and the owners are presented with the two very different plans for the garden displayed on an artists easel. Bit of a time warp here as the presenters are wearing the same clothes as when they first visited the property, supposedly some weeks before. So no doubt there was a previous visit that we do not see. No worries. Now comes the a chance to take part yourself. Trying to guess which garden plan the owners will choose. You must remember this is not the plan you would necessarily choose for yourself. You have clues from the decor of the house, the reactions of the owners when they saw the plans and what they said. I find I have guessed correctly more times than not but sometimes think I get caught out by the very colourful art works produced by Charlie that seems sometimes to entice the owner. If they do choose Charlie’s design I do hope they get to keep the watercolour duly autographed.
Talking about autographs I purchased a copy of Enjoy Your Garden: Gardening for Everyone by Charlie Dimmock last year at a local charity shop. The title page is inscribed ‘To Heather Have a great summer of gardening! Love Charlie Dimmock x’ Charity shops are a great source for gardening books. Gardening books really never go out of date although the illustrations have greatly improved over the years. Gardening magazines are the same. Just get out last years issue for this month or even get a later one out so you are even further ahead in planning.
Back to Garden Rescue and the team of hardworking gardeners move in to turn the chosen plan into reality. Whichever plan is chosen all three of the experts chip in to help the creation. Garden design is a fascinating subject and it is very likely that you might just pick up an idea or thought for your own garden. On completion to the garden the owners are guided from the house, heads down and eyes shut. The losing designer secretes themselves behind a corner in earshot as the winning designer tells the owners to open their eyes. This for me the highlight of the programme as one gets pleasure from seeing their utter surprise and delight in seeing their new garden. A magical moment.
What happens after the whole production team leaves I do not know. As far as I know there have not been any programmes to revisit some of the gardens years later like we see on some other programmes such as Location Location. What I do know is that the garden will not halt at that moment they opened their eyes. It will need care, attention and continual maintenance. Nature does not stand still. It wants its own way and your garden is just a patch of land where you are trying to constantly trying to tame and control it to your own desires. It is a battle worth fighting and winning as it will reward you in so many ways and give you a lifelong interest.
As for Charlie's inscription in the book for Heather. Isn't that all we gardeners look forward to - A Great Summer of Gardening!
The photograph above is of a lovely acer palmatum dissectum in my garden showing some wonderful autumnal colours on 8th November, 2018. It is a special time of the year for some amazing colours in your garden but you have to make the most of them when you can as I suspect the hight winds forecast for the end of the week will play havoc.
If you have just a hint of a liking for gardening I would recommend that you join the Christleton Gardening Club. Meetings are held monthly in the Methodist Hall, Christleton. On 12th November Mike Cook will be giving advice on growing and propagating bulbs.
Now on Wednesday there is a programme on BBC I that might amuse you if you like gardening. The Apprentice. Yes I know you either love it or hate it. But on 14th November the teams must set up their own urban gardening business, carrying on jobs across London. Don't think you will pick up any gardening tips but judging on some recent episodes I am sure you will get a good laugh from the arguing, shouting and confusion. Doubt if there will be any green fingers. But very likely some dirty ham-fisted ones.
It is coming up to the end of 2018 so I suppose an end of year assessment of how my garden thrived is a subject for analysis even though this column only started in September.
The year started with more hope and expectations for my garden than usual as a lot had changed at the end of 2017. For a start I had cut down a 7 foot high yew hedge that had probably been here since the Edwardian era. It seemed like a courageous decision getting rid of something I had lived with for 40 years but it was starting to get a bit thin in places. After consulting with Peter who helps me with the garden each Monday he gave me the short answer of "No". The question I put to him was “Would you miss trimming the yew hedge each year?”. So down the hedge came. The trunks were cut up and taken away by a neighbour who wanted to keep warm this winter. The rest was burnt on site or taken to the tip. The effect on the garden has been amazing opening up the front to the back garden with pleasing views I had tried to imagine but which turned out to be even better than I expected.
I had booked a landscape gardener some months beforehand and he arrived at the end of October 2017 and spent two weeks here building an indian stone patio and path plus a long meandering gravel path that split a very deep flower bed in two. So 2018 started with lots of ideas and great hope for what was like a new garden. Seven trees were cut down by Dee Fencing. These I had planted as 6 inch specimens some 35 years ago. I can confirm that there is really no such thing as a dwarf conifer. I had been hooked on dwarf conifers in the early 1980’s thanks to Adrian Bloom from Bressingham Gardens. Like many I had fallen in love with his Foggy Bottom. I planted a lot of dwarf conifers but over the years many of them have been cut down as they just got too big and I had planted them too close together. So I did not have the expertise and vision of Capability Brown but mind you I was not dealing with gardens of such magnitude that he created.
The one thing that gardeners will not forget this year was the summer drought that went on for weeks. Well established plants stood a chance of surviving but new plants were in danger of dying. Watering became a chore each evening. So many parts of the garden designed for a summer display did not quite live up to expectations. It was a lesson to us all to catch and save as much rainwater as we can. I have made some changes to store more rainwater but really you can never have enough. Another item you cannot have enough of is garden compost. I have about 9 compost bins of various sizes and types including one of the new Hot Bins. It does work but it does need time and care and certainly is not as easy as piling weeds and garden rubbish into a normal bin. The small brown council food bin is now just used to transport food waste down the garden.
Autumn came and the leaves started to fall off the trees but I found it a good year for my acers which put on an excellent show of colour. And thanks to my getting rid of many trees the amount of leaves to be picked up was still considerable but a lot less than in previous years. Autumn is the time to plant bulbs. When Spring arrives you always wish you had planted more bulbs. Although I planted some bulbs in October and the start of November I found that there were some great offers that I could not resist for tulip bulbs going on well into December. Still plenty of good varieties available from specialist suppliers at a fraction of the cost that they were two months previously.
Winter is now here. Many plants have been brought in to a cold greenhouse for some added protection. A time to cease the energetic gardening jobs and go into a calm reflective mode. Thinking and planning for next year. What to do differently and what new things to try. As for ideas I would most strongly recommend the Pinterest web site. It is full of photographs of gardens, plants, designs and links to how to do almost anything you dream of. Wishing you a Happy Christmas and lots of fun and enjoyment from your garden in 2019.
Cutting the old yew hedge down
Bertie in charge of the bonfire
Delivery of Indian stone
Cutting stone to size
Cypressus Leylandii planted at 6 inches tall in 1981
Dee Fencing at work
Chopping up tree branches
First year for the new flower bed
Cobweb Sempervivum - well worth growing
Tithonia grown from seed for the first time
Hedge fire in Pepper Street - Summer drought
Jam and Jerusalem - Rose to mark 100 years of the Women's Institute
Fremontodendron - amazing climber
Good autumn colours from the Acer
Primula vialii in flower in November