Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Grafton Cottage, An Iconic English Cottage Garden

Come with me on a walk through a traditional cottage garden in England. I took these photographs last summer when I visited Grafton Cottage. Ethne Clarke could be writing about Grafton when she says,
A cottage garden is above all things a place of uncontrived beauty, easily enjoyed, where labour is well-rewarded and quiet pleasures satisfied.                                    Ethne Clarke, English Country Gardens
Grafton Cottage is owned by Margaret and Peter Hargreaves. I found Peter a charming and welcoming host and Margaret a knowledgeable and passionate plantswoman. I discovered their garden in the National Garden Scheme's The Yellow Book 2014. The National Garden Scheme has been opening gardens to raise money for charity since 1927.  Margaret's and Peter's charity was Alzheimers Research UK, a worthy cause indeed, and I was glad to be in England for one of their openings. This is how the Scheme describes their garden paradise ...

'Step into an English cottage garden and roam around the winding paths clothed with highly scented flowers, old fashioned roses, dianthus, sweet peas, phlox, lilies. The stately delphiniums form a backdrop to the herbaceous borders, over 100 clematis including 30 from the viticella collection. Wander through trellises and amongst campanula, achillea, viola and many more unusual perennials. Textured plants, artemisia, atrepex, heuchera form the basis of colour themed borders. Use of cottage garden annuals add to the tranquility.'

Grafton Cottage
I stepped into their English cottage garden through a white picket gate.

I roamed around winding paths, through rustic arbors, among the wonderful profusion of cottage garden plantings.

The blue delphiniums were particularly striking ...

I was interested in the variety of materials used to make paths: various types of bricks and stone, as well as grass, evident as you scroll through these pictures.

They set up the garage as a pleasant tea room where delicious homemade cream teas were served. Also, there were cottage garden plants for sale. How I wished I could bring some home to America!

Herbaceous border along the side wall of the garage.

A serene place to sit and maybe enjoy a cup of tea.
I love how the Japanese painted fern is tucked into the plantings at the base of the arbor.

Goats beard, delphiniums, roses.
Clematis and perennial geranium

There was a small vegetable plot ...

I loved the natural materials used for plant supports in the kitchen garden.

A water feature along the path to the back door.

There were surprises around every bend, including  a topiary corner ...

... and sedum planted atop a stone wall.                        

On a little brick patio, there was a delightful grouping of colorful annuals.

Grafton Cottage has been featured in Gardens Illustrated, local newspapers and on ITV. But nothing could be better than a visit to the garden in June. I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Pamela x

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Horseshoe Garden

The horseshoe garden, at the foot of the deck, began as a small round flowerbed some ten years ago. I made the original bed using a no-dig method, layering newspaper, compost, peatmoss, and top soil.  I placed a water fountain in the middle and planted catmint, daylilies, and mums for three season blooms. Later I added primula and sweet William.

The original round flower bed at the foot of the deck.

On a garden tour I saw a plant I had to have. One of the gardens we visited featured the beautiful gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides. When I saw the plant for sale at our local flea market, a few weeks later, I bought two. I planted one in the main cottage garden and one in the round bed. The bees and butterflies loved it.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

Gooseneck loosestrife is not invasive like its cousin, purple loosestrife, but never-the-less it is very aggressive. My new plant loved the compost-rich composition of the round bed and eventually it crowded out everything else planted there.

Two years ago, I moved the catmint into the cottage garden. The mum died, leaving the daylilies, primula and sweet William.  Subsequent years, I became tired of pulling out loosestrife each spring from around these remaining plants. I found it impossible to remove gooseneck loosestrife's deep strong roots, so just pulled off the tops.  Last spring, I had enough. When the loosestrife appeared, I saw it was even more pervasive and decided to remove it and rework the bed. I took away the rock surrounding the bed, placed the daylilies, primula and sweet William on one side in pots, and called my helper, Mike, who has a backhoe. It took Mike and two other men, plus the backhoe, several hours to remove all those roots.

They took out three wheelbarrow loads of the offending plants plus roots. I put the vegetation in black garbage bags, which H.H. placed in a sunny spot at the edge of the top field. I wanted to be sure the plants would die and not spread through the corn field.

Now I could begin from scratch and this was the perfect opportunity to expand the area. Again using the lasagna method, I built a new bed taking it all the way up to the porch trellis. This solved another problem: The path between the round bed and the deck was too narrow for a lawnmower, and the foundation bed was too small for the clematis and grape.

The path between the round bed and deck was attractive but impractical.
I made the new garden as wide as the deck, surrounding it with rocks. (Gardening in the Poconos means an abundance of rocks.) It looks square in the picture, but actually it is more curved like a horseshoe. H.H. named it The Horseshoe Garden.

The left side of the horseshoe garden is in dappled shade and the right side has part sun, with full sun in the top right corner. I listed plants for each of these conditions, focusing on native plants. I split up the sweet William and planted it along the front edge, placing the primroses at the back. I put the daylilies on the right side where they would get more sun. I added native plants: hydrangea, ladies mantle, giant blue lobelia, and bearded iris. Also, I planted a hosta and a hellebore. A friend gave me some rose campion from her garden.

Sweet William Dianthus barbatus

When I purchased a new plant I placed it in its pot in the horseshoe bed and left it there for a few days until I was sure it was the right place...

Sweet William along the front edge.
Mophead Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Perfection'
Lady's mantle Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller'
Giant Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria
Iris Iris germanica 

Finally, I added snapdragons that H.H. had grown from seed. They were my best bloomers, blooming through the first frosts.

 I snaked a soaker hose around the plants and covered it with a layer of mulch.

I am still growing gooseneck loosestrife in the cottage garden area where the soil is less rich, so it has not been so invasive. When I give my beds a top dressing of compost in the spring, I am careful to avoid this aggressive grower.

Gooseneck loosestrife in the cottage garden.

Did you make any big changes in 2014 or plan one for 2015? I'm pleased with the Horseshoe Garden and look forward to following its progress as the plants fill out. 

The finished Horseshoe Garden welcomes you to our home.

Happy Gardening! Happy 2015!
Pamela x

Sign in the Horseshoe Garden

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Garden Year in Review

End of July 2014
“Every garden has the potential for perfection because it will never be finished, because the elements that make it a garden … are in constant flux and you can never step into the same garden twice.” --  Frank Ronan

My 2014 garden peaked at the end of July, late but lovely, with an abundance of cleome that I planted to replace the diseased purple cone flowers.  The cleome, meant to be a stopgap while waiting for the newly planted bee balm to fill out, will undoubtedly reseed itself everywhere -- a good thing as the bee balm succumbed to powdery mildew, so I yanked it out. I enjoyed several gardening successes (such as the cleome) and some disappointments (like the bee balm) but all-in-all it was a great gardening year.

The year began with the customary seed starting. I sowed trays of annuals and vegetables in the house, eventually moving them to the potting shed, then into the garden after the last frost date. All thrived, especially the snapdragons. It was an excellent year for snapdragons.

I organize my seeds according to the date they need sowing
Snapdragon Antirrhinum 'Cinderella Mix'

As soon as the ground was no longer frozen, I began my biggest project for 2014, reworking the small round bed at the foot of the deck. Gooseneck loosestrife had crowded out other plants, therefore it had to go.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

I took the opportunity to expand the flowerbed and to plant native plants - non-aggressive ones, of course.  The resulting new Horseshoe Garden is the topic of my next posting. It is too early to say if the horseshoe bed is a success as a whole, but the snapdragons I planted at the front edge were stunning and I intend to grow them from seed again next year.

Horseshoe garden in the spring

Spring was late, and so very welcome!...

The spring cottage garden was pretty with foxgloves and peonies.

I lost roses to the harsh winter. The yellow Knockout was the only prolific survivor, but Japanese beetles consumed most of the blooms. Roses are such a challenge in this area.

With the late-July peaking of the cottage garden, the pond came into its own. The water stayed very clear all season, because of the cool weather. Also, we shaded the pond with a beautiful lotus plant. I love those big, umbrella leaves. Hopefully, it will flower next year if we are successful with its overwintering.

Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera

The cottage garden, which my grandson calls 'Octupus's Garden,' provided winning blooms for the West End Fair. I won several first place ribbons for flowers, produce and displays.

The kitchen garden produced vegetables through to December

On the down side, powdery mildew was rampant, infecting several blooms and vegetables.

Phlox and Beebalm were infected with powdery mildew

I did not see many monarch butterflies in my garden this year, although I planted more milkweed. I do hope 2015 will see their return.

A rare visitor.

New for 2014 were the miniature gardens my grandson and I created. We plan more for next year.

New for 2015 and some challenges:

In addition to more fairy gardens, there will be new spring flowers, as I planted 200+ bulbs. Daffodils will greet you on each side of the path to the front door. Hopefully, there will be tulips and crocuses in the entry garden -- if the squirrels didn't get all of them. Also, I planted alliums in the cottage garden.

There will be daffodils each side of the path next spring.

There are a couple of challenges: 

First, we now have a large, ugly, whole-house generator in the stone garden. I am so happy to have the generator for when/if another hurricane hits and knocks the power out, but I need to find some way to disguise it. Maybe plantings, picket fencing or pots of flowers? There's not much space there, so I don't yet know what I'm going to do. 

Secondly, a skunk knocked over the 'naked lady' (as my grandchildren called the statue) in the shade garden and it smashed into small pieces. I'm fairly certain it was a skunk because some creature had pushed over a large pumpkin I placed nearby and the pumpkin had a hole in it shaped like holes a skunk makes. Also, the lawn nearby was covered with skunk holes. The challenge is to find a focal point that's not too expensive and creates a similar mood. I'm looking.

The 'naked lady' has graced the shade garden from its beginning

Not a perfect gardening season, but pretty close to it. And to use the mantra of all gardeners, 'There's always next year.' I think you understand when I say I credit my garden with helping me survive a very difficulty year fraught with sickness and loss. I love my garden. I am indeed blessed to have it.
'What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
-- Ezra Pound

Happy New Year my friends,
Pamela x


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