The ‘Sweet Shop’ that is RHS Hyde Hall


We started our exploration just east of the entrance, in the ‘Modern Country Garden’. This is a very structured ‘demonstration’ garden, with strong topiary shapes and plenty of pluming fluffy grasses.

As a birthday treat we took ourselves off to RHS Hyde Hall last weekend. There’s so much to see and explore in the gardens that I feel myself torn in multiple directions. Steve let’s me run around from area to area, indulging my enthusiasm, while he sedately follows an efficient route on a map!

It’s about a year since we last visited, but it felt like a lot had changed. A number areas are beginning to enter maturity, giving the site a more cohesive feel. Previously, I’d been blown away by the phenomenal variety of treasures growing in the Global Vegetable Garden. There were still plenty of new things to discover there, but the boundary hedge and exotic fruit bushes and trees surrounding the plot were more noticeable, making the area more intimate and protected.

This visit also revealed a completely new garden, quietly plotted and developed in an area of earthworks, threaded by paths and laced with a backbone of young trees. It is a Winter Garden, a celebration of the transformations caused by the coldness of winter and themed by the skeletonisation of leaves. It opened in winter 2018 and will draw me back this winter no doubt.

So I thought I’d share are some vignettes from our visit:


These dahlias weren’t in any flower borders, but rather in one of the raised beds in the ‘Global Vegetable Garden’. It may surprise you, but you can eat the tubers. Apparently dahlia crisps are rather nice too!


The Global Vegetable Garden is divided by geographical area. This is Quinoa (I’ve never seen it growing before) in one of the Americas beds.


The glorious glasshouse at the middle of the circular vegetable garden.


On-trend succulent table centres at the cafe, of course


The hot end of the spectrum in the ‘Herbaceous Borders’


A beautiful wind sculpture marks one end of the ‘Millennium Avenue’


There are various impressive planters about the formal areas. I really liked this salvia/dianthus combination.


The Dry Garden on a SW slope is buffeted by prevailing winds. These plants are tough!


A section of the Dry Garden showing the effectiveness of verbena, gaura and stipa. As we walked along the path scores of Painted Lady butterflies flew about us. Magic!


A favourite from the formal Rose Garden


The little courtyard garden between the Barn and upper pond is filled with rainbow coloured flowers


Here’s a close-up of one of the beds. Towering over the centre of each of these formal bed was Amicia zygomeris (sadly out-of-focus in the background of this photo). I rather fancy trying this next year, so I’ve made a note to find out how to grow it. Any advice?


Asters are starting to unfurl in the borders. I love this Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Violetta’, already covered with bees …


And this Bupleurum fructicosum (thanks Liz) looks like a tremendously useful plant


There were several patches of labels growing in gravel!


This time we discovered a new garden to explore: The Winter Garden. It opened in Winter 2018


The Winter Garden’s (all-weather) path has been landscaped to meander along a sheltered vale and is decorated with leaf sculptures (at different stages of skeletonisation). Copious large, wooden seats mark the bends of the route and lyrical information boards highlight aspects of the season.

Posted in Out and about, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Sweet Preserved Walnuts – Stealing a march on the squirrels


Since getting involved with the National Juglans Collection at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, I’ve become fascinated with all things walnut. For instance, did you know that:

  • In China, particularly Beijing, the nuts are traditionally used in finger or hand exercises (finger dexterity being linked with mental acuity).
  • The Greeks refer to walnuts as karyon, or “head,” probably because the shell resembles the human skull and the kernel bears a resemblance to the brain.
  • The Romans were rather more basic with their association, consecrating the walnut tree to Jupiter, and calling the nuts “glands of Jupiter” (condensed to juglans). This gave rise to the walnut’s scientific name, Juglans regia, literally, “royal nut of Jupiter.”
  • Again in China, large amounts of money can change hands to obtain or gamble on obtaining symmetrical pairs of nuts.
  • Walnuts are among the most nutritious of all nuts and contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  • Walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids (also known as ALA), which promote heart health, brain function and help lower blood pressure.
  • Walnut trees (particularly J. nigra) produce a growth inhibitor – juglone – that has a detrimental effect on other species of plant growing nearby. As early as Roman times Pliny noted the poisoning effect of walnut trees on “all” plants.

Apart from all of that though … as a kid I loved the sweet treats called Walnut Whips. (They are not as common nowadays and, as of a couple of years ago, may not even contain walnuts!!), so I was happy to discover in my research that there is such a thing as sweet walnut preserve.

Sweet walnut preserve is a popular, traditional product in places like Armenia and Iran, made with young green nuts, before the inner shell is developed and hard. But in the UK, while it doesn’t seem to be too hard to get hold of a jar of pickled walnuts in your local deli, it is impossible to get hold of sweet preserved green nuts. What’s a girl to do other than resorting to making her own?


Start by peeling the English walnuts

Picking the nuts at the right time for this experiment/recipe requires collecting the nuts in mid to late June. (You should be able to push a knitting needle or skewer through the whole thing without obstruction). June harvesting has the major advantage that the squirrels haven’t thought about raiding the trees yet, so there should be plenty to choose from (unless the crop was hit by late frosts).

So this year I gathered a couple of dozen nuts in the first few days of July. OK, I admit that this was late and that I had forgotten all about walnuts until then. As a consequence I had to throw a few tough nuts away.

Then I had to find a recipe. Eventually I selected this one by Jason Menayan because it is easy to follow and detailed. I didn’t end up using pickling lime, although I did order some online. However, since I have never bottled anything before I ended up confused about concentrations. Then I read about possible cases of botulism from misuse and I decided it was safest not to bother with it. Consequently my finished glacé walnuts may be a little softer than a traditional preserve.


The peeled walnuts are soaked in cold, fresh water for nine days. I rinsed twice daily.


Gradually the walnuts darken


After nine days, you cook the walnuts, once in water and then in syrup

The other difference here to Jason’s recipe is that, being in England, I’ve used English or Persian walnuts (J. regia) not Black walnuts (J. nigra).

I am not able to compare my preserve with anything else, but that wasn’t really the point and six weeks after completion I have just tried a couple walnuts and I can say that they are good. I suppose that they are similar in taste and texture to marrons glacés.


They are very nice in fact and I can see that they would go wonderfully with cheese as an appetizer and certainly imagine some topping creamy vanilla ice cream, with a little of their syrup, as great stylish dessert.

Sounds like I must plan a dinner party. What fun!

Posted in Food, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday – Bat-faced cuphea: A perfect plant for a monastery!


Last week I discovered this startling, cute plant when we visited Cimiez monastery and gardens, just north of Nice.


It looked like a Cuphea, so I googled that and matched it to Cuphea llavea, otherwise know as the Bat-faced cuphea


I couldn’t see it myself, until I coloured up a grey, long-eared bat for fun!

Posted in Flowers, Whimsy, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wildlife Wednesday – Funny faces and anthropomorphised gestures

Muntjac laughing, having eaten an apple

Green woodpecker licking his lips after a good drink

Rabbit hoping no-one saw him

Swallowtail moth at its most inscrutable

Baby newt learning camouflage

Again with the innocence!

Posted in The home garden, Wildlife, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , ,

Wordless Wednesday – A Fragrant Welcome


A wonderfully scented honeysuckle tumbles over our gate, sparkling in the morning light and perfuming the evening air.


Who can resist?


It reminds me of summer holidays walking around the country lanes with my Grandma near Portsmouth ♥ 


Posted in Bees, Flowers, Wildflowers, Wordless | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Six on Saturday – Better than survivors


Just down the road at Cambridge Botanical Gardens they were registering potentially record breaking temperatures of 38.7 deg C on Thursday. It was hot. I went in to work to water the borders early and called it a day at 11:30am, when the walled garden became an oven.  Today we are rejoicing in a steady rain and basking in more typical 20 deg C of heat. Well, I am. I am sure that everyone who has headed off for their summer staycation in the UK this weekend is unhappy.

So let’s look at a few things that are coping magnificently with this varied weather for Six on Saturday with Mr Propagator:

1) Blue Lace Flower


The Blue Lace Flower, Didiscus caeruleus (syn. Trachymene coerulea)

This is the first time that I’ve grown this annual. It hails from Australia and is a pretty lilac-blue umbellifer. It stands about 50-60cm tall. I bought the seeds of Didiscus ‘Blue Lace’ from Mr Fothergill’s, but I see that Higgledy Garden Shop has a mix showing pale pinks, apricots and creams, which looks really sweet. That’s for next year perhaps.

2) A demure gladiola


Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’

There is something immensely appealing about this crimson gladiola: Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’. I think it is the shy, downward tilt of the flowers, possibly the pollen-stained petals, it’s a bit ‘angels with dirty faces’. I look forward to seeing them each year. Shame I can’t get them to bulk up though.

3) Heliopsis ‘Summer Nights’


Heliopsis ‘Summer Nights’

A great yellow daisy for the back of a border. The golden flowers stand out wonderfully against their wiry, dark purple stems and leaves.

4) Pickerel Weed


Pickerel Weed, (Pontederia cordata)

I planted up a basket of this for the new pond last year and ended up splitting it a couple of months later. It is vigorous grower, but luckily the pond is big enough to take it so far. It is statuesque, with weapon-shaped leaves and these attractive, silky, pale blue flower spikes.

5) Rose ‘Queen of Sweden’


Rose ‘Queen of Sweden’

Rose ‘Queen of Sweden’ is another of the roses we chose for the new border. It is compact, but growing on very strongly. It started to come into flower this week with wonderful, cup-shaped blooms in apricot-pink shades (as shown here). The flowers will apparently fade to a pure pink as they age and spread.

6) White Agapanthus


Agapanthus ‘Alba’

I’ve fallen in love with this beautiful, elegant agapanthus, which was picked up in an end-of-season bargain box (beyond the tills so I had to return to the paypoint!). I’ve moved its pot to stand against the patio’s copper beech hedge to get maximum enjoyment from it. I definitely need more of these for next year!

That’s my Six. It’s still raining steadily, so no watering required for a day or two. Hurray!

What’s are you enjoying in your garden?

Posted in Flowers, Six on Saturday | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Dark side of the Sun


Bumblebee in sunflower’s corona

Posted in Bees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment