Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Another frost, followed by wet and windy days this week. Summer - both the one just gone and the next one I'm already looking forward to - feels a long way away. I'm already thinking nostalgically of our late September holiday in Cornwall. I didn't blog about it at the time because it was a blissful week free from the internet and even a mobile signal.
Although Cornwall is a massive gardening destination, this time I only visited two of the many gorgeous gardens in the county. Much of our time was spent walking the clifftop paths of the northern coast, marvelling at the views and the golden beaches that match anything I've seen in Australia; and admiring the fact that anything at all can grow there, in rocky soil and perpetually buffeted by Atlantic winds. And yet, tough plants thrive - like the sea thrift pictured above, and miles of gorse and heathers that flank the coastal path network with an impenetrable blanket of vegetation. It was right-plant-right-place in all its natural glory.
It also explains why most of the great Cornish gardens are located on the more benign south coast, where it's so lush that it's hard to imagine a plant in the wrong place. I'm sorry that I didn't get to Tremenheere, as scooped by the Galloping Gardener, but that will be top of the list for next time. I stuck to the big cliched ones: Heligan and The Eden project. Partly out of duty and partly due to time available - and I felt like I couldn't miss them out again.
Heligan did not disappoint (even husband, whose garden visits I have to ration in order not to peak his enthusiasm, liked this one). The story of Tim Smit's restoration is an inspiring one and the results are quite enchanting, even on the drizzliest of days (hence v. disappointing photos, none here). Somehow it made the tree fern gulleys more atmospheric. But the vegetable and the cut flower gardens were the parts I would like to take home with me. Or rather, be able to live in one of the gardener's cottages surrounded by it all.
The Eden Project is another story. Again, a fantastic achievement by Mr Smit and a wonderful thing that people come to see plants and maybe take something back home from their holidays other than buckets and spades. But as a plant geek, I missed the labelling that most botanic gardens are so fanatical about and I felt that the slick organisation, from parking, to pathways and signposting was a bit School of Ikea - not really encouraging visitors to explore and ramble and form their own opinions. I really like some of the exterior landscaping, particularly the meadows which featured the lonely coneflower above, and the mixed borders of shrubs and perennials outside those biomes. And as for them domes, apart from my camera being unable to cope with the steamy humidity inside them, they did vaguely impress me. But give me Kew's Palm House any day.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
It's definitely autumn. My garden isn't great for autumn colour but this bunch I put together represents the final floral fourish and it kind of heartened me that even at the end October there are still a few reasons to be cheerful. Namely, in my tiny plot at least, japanese anemones, sedums, clematis viticella and monkshood, plus the still-blooming summer throwbacks, sunflowers, lavender and nasturtiums. Last year, the October flower selection looked like this. The monkshood is in fact so divinely purple, it deserves a picture all of its own. Such an intense colour at this time of year.
And of course there are still bulbs to plant. Our local community bulb planting event in the burial ground today was a little thin on the ground with volunteers, but we still got in upwards of about 150 daffodils and tulips. And newcomers came with bulbs they want to watch from the local pub - which sums up urban community gardening quite neatly.
But still, reverting to my half-empty setting, I can't help but indulge in a little mournfulness about taking down the bean canes and cutting back spent plants and shrubs. Thank god for mulch, kind of makes things look all tucked up and cosy for the winter.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Gnarled, beaten oak trees, herds of deer, beautiful sun-bleached grassy plains, clear-running streams. No clouds today, and the sun, clean, sharp and October-low on the horizon. I don't know if it was the lucky combination of calendar numbers everyone was talking about, but it did feel like the gods were having a good day; a beautiful afternoon in Richmond Park.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
It seems only moments ago that I was swooning at snowdrops and buying summer flowering bulbs at the first show of the year back in February. But now I really have to come to terms with the fact that it's the end of the season and time for the RHS Autumn Harvest Show in Pimlico. I took advantage of a sneak preview of the show this morning, before the crowds arrived.
At this time of year, the flowers are bold, dramatic and voluptuous, like a bouffant, buxom, chiffon-negligeed seventies starlet. The last big blooms of the year like to go out in style. The first thing to stop me in my tracks was this mauve colchicum with petals like tissue paper. Then the chrysanthemums made me smile - they really need dusting down and a bit of an image makeover. With our love of all things vintage, they must be due for a high fashion revival that goes beyond wallpapers and curtain fabrics. This pompom yellow Chrysanth 'Misty Cream' is fabulously retro.