Continuing this series of thoughts and rambles about gardening that I started in 2018. I did not create the column until September last year so hopefully I will be able to record the whole year of 2019.
Sunday 20th January, 2019
I think I will fancy something warm to start with on Monday 14th January 2019. So it will not be the Prawn Cocktail but instead Baked field mushrooms with Welsh rarebit topping. Followed by a main course of Duck leg with plum and orange sauce. I just wonder if I will still have an appetite after all that. Just in case please may I have the Homemade Stick Toffee Pudding served with vanilla ice cream. Coffee and shortbread to follow. Always best to have a good appetite before shopping for food and ordering a meal. The choice of meal was taken at the December meeting of Christleton Gardening Club. An evening when I realised during the quiz of the many aspects I do not know about gardening. The meal at Eaton Gold Club in Waverton was the venue for the January get together of the Gardening Club. Some thirty members enjoyed the evening. The next meeting at Christleton Methodist Hall is on 11th February when Sue Clarke will give a talk about Margery Fish. A well-known gardener and author who died in 1969.
On reflection perhaps I should not have chosen Duck because of what I am about to talk about in my first Ramble Down the Garden for 2019. The delight of having a garden is not just the plants you can grow but the creatures that come to visit. It amused me to read the other day that a study has found that bees prefer middle-class gardens as they usually contain a greater variety of flowers. There is a kind of contentment in seeing bees going from flower to flower in your garden wondering how far they have come and what the honey produced from the nectar in your garden will taste like. I could, however, do without wasps who made three nests in my garden last summer. Squirrels are an entertaining visitor. As soon as they see you they move so quickly scampering across the lawn and straight up the nearest tree. Unlike the squirrels in Grosvenor Park in Chester who are so tame that they will come and pick a nut out of your hand. Even if you do not have a nut they will come and investigate if you put your hand to the ground. Mating ducks add excitement to the garden in the Spring and even more fun if they stay to nest and lay eggs.
The most welcome visitors must be the garden birds. Although the numbers and the range of birds has changed so much over the 42 years I have been at Stoneydale. I recall the house sparrows that used to nest in the eaves of the house. The numerous collared doves that used to walk around on the drive. Now gone although can be seen in other parts of the village. The gardener’s pet bird must be the robin. As soon as you have started to break up the surface of the soil he shows up. Wander off for a few moments and return and he is plucking a worm from the ground you have been working on or he is standing cheekily on the handle of your spade. At this time of the year the birds will appreciate you feeding them as they will at other times. As the song says “Show them you care And you’ll be glad if you do“ If the feeding place is close to the house they will reward you with their endless activities. It surprises me how short a time a bird will tarry when eating but assume that this is just an inbuilt instinct to aid survival. I have an acer near my bird table which the tits like to congregate in and then fly for the food and back. I understand that there is a contention at present as to whether you get what you pay for when buying bird seed. I must admit I have never paid an extortionate price for seed. No objections from the birds but making sure your bird table is clean and seed or nuts are free from mould is important. Also provide water for drinking and bathing. One bird I do not want to feed in my the garden is the heron. If you think making it impossible for them to wade into your pond will save your fish, think again. I have seen a heron eye my pond from a nearby fence, then take off, swoop down to the water, take a tench and then rise up again and fly away. Nets may work in some circumstances but I have seen koi dead beneath a net speared by a heron but the bird was unable to get the fish through the net.
We have not no real winter weather as yet and the garden is already bursting into life. There is even a penstomen in flower. Plus the flowers that should be in flower or coming into flower. The hellebores and the snowdrops. You can remove the old leaves of hellibores so the new flowers are more visible. Do not be afraid to experiment with bulbs. The books might say the bulb season has passed but you can still buy reasonably bulbs from specialists and it is so much easier to see where you might have space for them as the daffodils and tulips are all showing their growth. You will have your plant gardening failures. We all do. Try to learn by investigating what might have gone wrong and have another go. It‘s not too early to weed and it might just make it easier when the earth warms up and the weeds try to take over. Make sure you know your weeds. When in doubt let the supposed weed grow for a little more until you are quite sure it is not a prized plant.
It is a good time of the year to study seed catalogues if only to dream what you could grow if you had the space. I think I would like to grow more dahlias this year plus increase the number and types of primula in the garden. Start think about pruning your roses, wisteria and apple trees. Tidy up the beds by cutting down old stems of perennial plants. Right time to plant bare rooted roses, trees and shrubs. That is enough to keep you busy till next time.
Jay just about fits on my bird table
Mother managing to get away for some peace and quiet
Over the years I have had ducks make a nest and lay a clutch of eggs a few times. After hatching mother and young spend two days on my pond enjoying all the facilities I have provided including a plank to aid them getting out of the water. On the third day mother goes missing for well over an hour. I am sure this is a reconnaissance flight for after she returns she gathers her family of little ones together and leads them out of the garden down the drive, onto Pepper Street with cars passing by. Turning left she proceeds down the road past Windmill Lane until she gets to the church lychgate where she does a left turn into the churchyard. Yes, I have been following making sure all have kept to the pavement. The hazardous journey will end when they all reach the Pit.
In addition to monthly meetings at the Methodist Hall, Christleton Gardening Club have garden visits carefully chosen and arranged by Jim and Judith Ferns. The first outing for 2019 was a visit to the village of Wrenbury which lies east of Nantwich. Some eighteen members made the journey on a gloriously warm and sunny 14th May. The route there is along winding country lanes with bank sides covered in white cow parsley. As we passed Cholmondely Castle entrance I noticed a lodge in process of being thatched. Our destination was Wren’s Nest where Sue Clarke has a National Collection of Geranium sylvaticum and renardii. I was just a bit early in the year to see these in flower but there were plenty of other perennials and shrubs to admire. Like some of the other members I bought some plants from Sue and her husband. These have now found a new home in Christleton. Sue had given a talk to the Garden Club earlier this year about her garden. I think it was Sue who gave me the idea of buying a labelling machine for my garden plants. I have devised a system of making a label for plants that I buy consisting of the plant name followed by the month, year and two letter code for where I acquired it. So some labels now read 0519WN. The WN standing for Wren’s Nest. I did notice that Sue was displaying in her garden office two silver and one bronze medal cards won at RHS Tatton Park Show.
It was just a short walk to our second garden of the day at Oakfield Villa owned by Carolyn Kennedy. A lovely enclosed cottage garden which offered some very welcome shade as it was turning out to be a very hot day. This did not, however stop Jess the dog giving as a very friendly and warm welcome. The garden contained a lovely trained yellow Laburnum which made be quite jealous. The other yellow flower that caught my eye was a tree peony. I have one myself flowering at present some three feet tall but Carolyn’s specimen was towering at some seven feet or more. The members gathered under the pergola and in other parts of the garden for biscuits and a very welcome drink of tea or coffee. A very pleasant day out and a big thank you to both of your hosts. And to Jess who made us feel most welcome.
Where else would you rather be?
Sue Clarke and her husband at Wren's Nest
Border with Aquilegea
Trained Wistaria and Roses
Just what is around the corner?
I understand that it is 3 years since the village of Willaston in the Wirral last had an open gardens event and the last day of June 2019 proved to be excellent choice to repeat the occasion. The high temperature of the previous day when Christleton Fete was held had abated to produce just a lovely warm sunny day. Perfect weather to attempt to see 15 gardens and allotments in 5 hours. Our first visit was to Windmill Cottage, Mill Lane, about half a mile from the village. A long deep and well planted colourful herbaceous bed welcomed us with the towering Willaston Mill behind. The meandering grass track led us to a large garden, the air filled with the perfume of a large variety of rambling roses. In the vegetable garden we found Jim and Judith Ferns who organise the Christleton Garden Club. They knew the garden and owner from previous visits so any questions such as what is that plant called brought a quick reply. Gardening can be fun and Elaine who owns the garden obviously has a sense of humour with all kinds of unusual features around the that made you smile.
Deep herbaceous border with classic backdrop
Greenhouse and perfumes roses
Lots of fun
Guardian of the veg patch
Garden seat and obelisks
There is an excellent car park in Willaston close to the centre of the village and near there was a garden at number 6 Buckley Court that greatly impressed me. Made from a blank canvas over the course of the last 5 years. Every inch of the garden was used to great effect. Beautifully maintained the herbaceous borders, seating area and another area for potting and storage were an inspiring example of what can be done. The owner had some unusual planters and some 20 planted with Agapanthus. We were a bit early to see these in flower but there there were plenty of other lovely plants to admire.
Exemplary work space
Gardeners will know that there is a perfect window of time to see a particular part of the garden. Plants go over and if you know what you are doing you plan for this and have other flowers to replace them. This is, I think one of the most difficult things to achieve in a flower garden. When we got to Joe’s Dairy in Mill Lane there was a big surprise. Two large herbaceous beds beautifully planted with repeated patches of the same colour. When you see a Chelsea show garden it is in some ways rather false and unachievable to us lesser mortals. Made to look at its very best for that one week. But looking at Joe’s Dairy garden perhaps there is a slight chance that it can be achieved. We were there on the right day and saw it at its very best. This was only the front garden. The rest of the garden extended round three sides of the house. Lots of interesting hard landscaping ideas and a delicious collection of hostas.
Roses, salvias, dahlias and more
Lovely mixed border
Reminder of the past
Another hosta display idea
Hostas and dahlias
The Old Hall in Hadlow Road has a large garden that you could easily get lost in. All kinds of different interesting areas including a large vegetable fruit and vegetable garden. The heavily laden branches of gooseberries were just ready for picking. Then you could sit in the large arbour with the white rambling rose cascading over it to top and tail the fruit. Signs of topiary as headed for the shaded lawn area just preparing us for what was to come later. Lots of lovely winding paths lead us through arches and shady woodland paths. Then in front of the Old Hall some amazing large pieces of unusually shaped topiary which I understand were inspired from the insignia of a previous owner of this great house.
Begonias in troughs
Greenhouse and vegetable garden
White rose arbour
Idea way to display hostas
One of the lawn entrances
Next door we found Greenacres with a lawn surrounded by herbaceous beds with a heavily netted pond which makes me think that the dreaded herons have arrived in Willaston. The pots on the patio were all planted up with white flowers. A single colour and most certainly white can often give a more relaxing feel to a garden.
At a bungalow in Wallcroft we met a gentleman who loved his koi carp. A remark he made me think. “When you have a large garden you are working in it so hard that you never have time to sit down and really enjoy it”. Certainly food for thought. He is happy now with a small tidy garden and a koi pond. He has a space under cover along side of the pond where he can sit, meditate and enjoy the fish. He had removed two thirds of the grating he often has over the pond so that we could see the fish. But his grandchildren usually like to lie face down on the grating and get an even closer look at the multicoloured koi carp.
Onto the last garden in Hadlow Terrace which just made you realise how small gardens are often are when you buy a new house now. This one had a great depth. In the old days probably used to grow vegetables but now divided up into rooms that you travelled through. With flower beds, interesting places to sit and a garden office. Most noticeable was a collection of well established Bay Trees in large planters.
No we did not see all the gardens but did enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the Village Hall. Thank you to all the welcoming owners who opened up their gardens for all to see. I hope the event raised a good amount of money for the village. I did hear that the last such event raised enough to buy a new boiler. Cannot be bad as every day is not as warm and sunny as 30th June, 2019. I hope the photographs I took might just give you some ideas to try in your garden.
Rose covered arch
Blast from the past
Scrophularia sambucifolia at Stoneydale
Warrington firm that sells bulbs
Filming NEC Cottage Garden
Gardener's World NEC 2019
NEC Garden Show Fruit Garden
Adam Frost on stage
Great music to garden by
Aliums and more
Mark Lane on stage with the magazine editor Lucy Hall
How many times I must have driven down the A54 past The Fishpool Inn and before I reached the crossroads at Forest Road I had passed Sandymere, the home of Sir John Timpson. So well known for his shops serving shoe care, keys, signs and more plus recently the Barbershop.
Although the gardens are open to visitors on certain days in the year Christleton Garden Club had an escorted tour, with the Head Gardner, of the 16 acres of garden. All kindly arranged by Jim and Judith Ferns. We were each given a booklet titled The History of Sandymere Gardens which provided lots of interesting information. This was something for later as we had a lot of garden to that afternoon on Monday 17th June, 2019.
I hope that few photographs will give you some idea of this magnificent garden which has developed over the years since John and his wife Alex moved to Sandymere in 1987. There were so many great features in the garden but the ones that stood out for me were the lake with boathouse, the upper lake and the amazing rill that snaked through the garden and the hostas. The garden is still being developed so I recommend a visit on one of the open days which raises money for charity.
Wall of water
Header tank for rill
Formal Garden Pond
Rill in front of the house
Start of the Rill
White Astilbe and Lavender
Metal Iris Panel
Hosta leaves modelled in lead
Christleton Gardening Club Members
Mrs Dodd's Garden - In Memory
Pets Rest in Peace
Rill Stepping Stone
No charge for the many hours it takes building and maintaining the website but there are a number of other costs including hosting, domain registration and additional software which all add up. Just you starting your Amazon shopping by clicking on the banner above will help a lot. Thank you.