Posts Tagged ‘Garden House talks’
Posted by editor on Sunday, 27 January 2013
Val Bourne is an award-winning garden writer, photographer and lecturer. She gardens on the wind-swept Cotswolds at Spring Cottage – high above Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, her third of an acre garden is managed without using chemicals – something Val has always believed in. She is a hands-on gardener and a committed plantaholic.
Meet Val at The Garden House on Saturday 2 March and learn how to succeed at vegetable growing, including what varieties to sow and when. Her Ten-Minute Garden Diaries (published September 2011) distill thirty years experience of gardening and they explain to gardeners when to tackle important jobs.
Val has been gardening naturally for thirty years or more and wrote about her previous Oxfordshire garden in her award-winning book The Natural Gardener published by Frances Lincoln in 2004. It explains how a plant-packed garden functions successfully without chemical intervention and the purpose behind the book was to encourage others to become green gardeners too. Her latest book The Winter Garden was published in October 2006 by Cassell Illustrated and it describes how to make your garden shine in winter. Colour in The Garden, published in September 2011 by Merrell, is a practical guide to blending plants.
Val writes for The Daily Telegraph, Saga Magazine, The Oxford Times, the Hardy Plant Society Journal and many other magazines. www.valbourne.co.uk
Posted by editor on Tuesday, 30 October 2012
The next best thing to being in the garden is looking at pictures of gardens. Sue Woods’ wonderful talk on Artists and Gardens introduced us to many familiar and less familiar paintings, as well as photographic records of artists and their gardens. Sue restricted herself to 19th and 20th century examples in England and France, and even so it was packed evening.
William Morris’s first garden at the Red House
Beginning in the mid-Victorian era, we looked at William Morris, John Ruskin and JMW Turner. In contrast to the ornate and controlled bedding style of the time, Morris’s first garden at the Red House in Kent was romantic and informal: the roses, trellises, and dripping fruits fed into his beautiful and enduring designs for fabric and wallpaper. Colour theory was developed at the same time and heavily influenced Gertrude Jekyll’s gardening style. Her garden and Lutyens-designed house, Munstead Wood in Surrey, is not open to the public but is being restored and Sue was lucky enough to visit it and showed us some photos she had taken of its famous long herbaceous borders. Like Morris, Jekyll believed in blending the edges of a garden into the surrounding landscape and using local crafts, makers, and materials.
William Morris wallpaper design
Then we crossed the Channel for a splurge of Impressionist light and colour. As well as working in a looser and more informal way, these painters elevated domestic life as a suitable subject for art, which included intimate family groups, houses, and gardens. Sue touched on the influence of Japanese prints at that time, with their flattened surfaces and decorative use of colour. We heard of Monet’s wish to catch “the passing moments” of light and weather and flowers which is a beautiful way to describe the continuing pleasures of a garden.
Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden at St Ives
Returning to England, we looked at the work and influence of the ‘Bloomsberries’ and ended with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and finally Derek Jarman, whose sculptural works use gardens and landscapes as a setting and a frame. I am sure Sue could have chosen many more examples of paintings and artists, but we were spoiled for choice anyway. I came away from an enlivening evening with so many vivid and inspiring pictures in my head, just the thing as we are heading into the darker and more dreary months of the year.
Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage at Dungeness
Words: our thanks to Julia Widdows
Posted by editor on Friday, 12 October 2012
With the rain pattering (what’s new?) on the roof of the Garden House, Ed Ikin described “green gardening” at Nymans, the National Trust garden he heads near Handcross, West Sussex. Many of the methods he has established to ensure as much sustainability as possible are on a grand scale, but there were plenty of worthwhile tips for more modest gardens.
Nymans is not a garden set in the aspic of its heyday, but continues to develop the work of its originators. It is blessed with a perfect soil Ph, and many different growing areas from shady woods to sheltered, well-drained and frost-free beds, so that the gardeners can experiment with new schemes when the old plantings of trees and woody shrubs get past their best. Unfortunately, having tempted us with photos of a newly-cleared border and tender trees wrapped up for the winter, Ed had no pictures of the transformation to show us!
Incorporating water-gathering techniques from the Netherlands, rechargeable tools from France, and waste digesters from Sweden, the regime at Nymans is certainly eclectic. Most of it based on proven scientific evidence. However, Ed is not opposed to doing what he does because he also finds it “just works for us”. He talked about comfrey tea, green manures, and the soil food web with its essential mix of beneficial fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and (good) nematodes.
We went over the ideal proportions for making a hot compost (2 parts woody to 1 part green stuff, and moist but not wet) and reminded that this can be achieved in just a metre-square compost bay, especially if you have two bays for turning. The trick is to save up and store woody and green compost separately and only mix when you have enough to raise temperatures quickly. (Owners of tiny Brighton gardens sighed regretfully at this point!) Ed also showed us the results of an experiment with petunias to restrict watering without harming the plants. It may not seem relevant this past summer, but watering in the evening only, using only 25% of the usual amount, gave a slightly smaller plant but profuse flowers. He showed that plants in borders also adapt to being watered at increasingly wide intervals by bolstering their root systems and even, incredibly, above ground, narrowing leaf blades and shortening gaps between buds.
Ed said that Nymans, with its late summer plantings, would still be good to look at for the next few weeks. There is plenty of information available about the sustainable gardening practised there, though not all visitors are interested in this aspect and will expect to find an attractive, tidy, filly-functioning National Trust garden on show, irrespective of the methods used to achieve this. But if you see a gardener wandering round with a backpack spray, remember that it is likely to be comfrey tea, not a toxic, environmentally – unfriendly mix.
Our very own Garden House compost bins…
Words: our thanks to Julia Widdows
Photo of Nymans’ compost bins: VDuBourdieu©2011
Posted by editor on Monday, 26 March 2012
A hugely inspiring and very relaxed talk by Fergus Garrett took place at the Garden House on the strangely warm evening of 23rd March. This was about as far as you could get from a formal talk followed by Q & A in a conference room or village hall. We began with a drink, while the palest of spring flowers around us in the garden lit up the dusk, then moved inside to share a gorgeous meal as Fergus talked and showed slides of plants, plants, and yet more plants!
Many of the photos were taken at Great Dixter, where Fergus is director, having taken on the mantle of Christopher Lloyd after his death in 2006. Others were of striking plant associations and gardens from all over the world. Some were of the same small areas as the seasons progressed, showing how forms and colours changed as clever successive planting moved on with a mix of annual bedding and perennial framework. The bleached and frosted colours of late autumn and winter were particularly impressive. This style of gardening needs good planning and intensive input, but Fergus was keen to show the experimental side of Great Dixter, the importance of observing, reviewing and changing things in a garden to keep it fresh, in the spirit of its idiosyncratic creator, but not preserved in aspic.
We were surprised to discover that Fergus was originally a local boy, and once worked for Brighton Parks Department before moving on and up, through National Trust gardens and the South of France, before being head-(gardener)-hunted by Christo. Both shared a love of bold colours, which Fergus jokingly put down to his early Parks experience. We were treated to a shot of a pile of Christo’s shriekingly colourful polo shirts, and heard that he yearned for a black-and-yellow wasp-striped number. We also learned of his love of tucking new plants into odd corners and crevices to “see how they did”; and the important role of self-seeders in the garden at Dixter, letting things place themselves and fight it out, and culling if necessary. All this was very heartening to hear.
Fergus is supremely knowledgeable and without hesitation reeled off the names of numerous plants, many of which were new to me, though often species cousins of more familiar garden plants. I scribbled notes in the semi-darkness and was amazed to find them readable next day. Well, sort of. Some of his favourite plants included: the architectural Ferula communis (a giant fennel that does not seed around like its relative foeniculum), Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’, Echium rusicum, Agave attenuata (swan-necked agave), and loose-formed plants which thread their way through others, such as Erigeron annuus, Ammi visnaga, Tagetes patula ‘Cinnabar’, and Campanula patula. Not forgetting the little daisy which is everywhere at Great Dixter, Erigeron karvinskianus.
We came away impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of a very famous gardener, and in such a friendly and intimate setting – altogether an unforgettable evening.
Words: Julia Widdows; photo of Deborah, Fergus and Bridgette: Dulcie Lee