Wordless Wednesday – A grass worth having

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Pennisetum macrourum: Backlit and starting to fray, but still beautiful

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Posted in Plants, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Honfleur and the window displays

Last week we had our windows replaced and luckily the weather wasn’t too cold or wet, otherwise the dog and I would have been quite miserable, huddled in the one useable room. To prepare for the job, it took me a lot longer than I thought it would clear the windowsills of stuff and plants.

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It turns out that I have far more house plants than I would have guessed, for instance I counted seven orchids in there, three Jade plants, eight aeonium zwartkop, various succulents and cacti etc. Suffice it to say that I like my windows dressed, preferably with green vegetation.

That put me in mind of a series of photographs that I took on a short break to Honfleur in Normandy at the end of August. Honfleur is stuffed to the teeth with charm, picturesque views, harbours, churchs, tourists and fish restaurants. Plus hundreds of small boutique shops. It was the window displays in these shops that caught my eye. They were, by turns, quirky, compulsive, collective, eye-catching and interesting. In fact I’d consider stealing some of their ideas now that the new windows are in. (There might be alternative views to take into account I suppose). Anyhow, for fun, I present to you a selection of these delightful french displays:

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Classic patisserie

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Yummy macarons

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Flavoured marine salts

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This is Normandy after all!

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I love this one … La Cure Gourmande

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Ummm … preserved beetles and bugs. (I think this was an antique furniture shop)

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Cheese, including hearts

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Massive, table-sized nougats and heaps of glacéd fruits

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Madeleines and chocolate

Mostly food admittedly, but that seems to naturally lead to fanciful groupings. I only went inside one of these shops to buy something. Any guesses?

Posted in Out and about, Whimsy, Food | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Beauty on the inside

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Looking out from the sheltering branches of peachy-tinged virburnum leaves

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Looking up at the sculptural London Plane seed balls and leaves

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Looking out at the backlit leaves (half frost-burnt) of Acer osakazuki

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Looking at the rainbow festooned maple

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Looking at the wonderful semi-transparent patterns on Quercus rubra

Posted in autumn, Trees, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

In a Vase on Monday – For a few hours only

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Cathy at Rambling In The Garden has been inspiring people to fill a vase each Monday for the last four years and, to celebrate this milestone, the 4th anniversary mission was for particpants to use a ‘container’ not usually associated with displaying flowers. I am so looking forward to seeing all the wacky ideas that others have had for today’s IAVOM!

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Most years when I clear away the old flowering stems of cephalaria gigantea I save sections of the wider stems to make new tubes for the bug hotel, because they are conveniently sturdy, hollow and narrow. When I cut them to length I’ve noticed that there is an internal membrane sealing the tube at each leaf axil (like bamboo) and so if you cut the stem just below a set of leaves you essentially get a test tube. The length of this tube obviously depends on where the next set of leaves are, but is typically ~30cm. Clumped together the stems look interesting, a bit like basalt columns (she says dreamily): lots of individual cells for the flowers to be poked into. So that is what I decided to use today.

Great plan, until I tried pouring water in the top of the tubes and saw it dribble steadily out of the bottom, through the porous membrane and lenticels in the stem at the leaf axil.  Undeterred, I considered using only dried materials, but where is the fun in that when there are still a few flowers around outside.

Hence, my arrangement is very temporary, probably here for a few hours only, or I might pop it in a large glass of water after the photos. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

Cobaea scandens, Tagetes Golden Gem, Cotoneaster, Golden Feverfew, Fuchsia magellanica, Miscanthus sinensis, Pennisetum thunbergii, Nigella damascena

and cephalaria gigantea stems, raffia and twine

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Don’t forget to link across to Cathy’s to see the rest of the ideas.

Posted in Crafts, Flowers | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow, Suffolk

I started a draft for this post back in August, immediately after visiting Fullers Mill Gardens for the first time. However, since I’d recently written about a couple of other water gardens I though it better to wait a bit and maybe return to the garden in a different season to get a more rounded feel for it before having another go. Well, I’ve not managed to make it back yet, but sadly the creator of these beautiful gardens, Bernard Tickner, died last week and so it seemed like a good time to share some photos of his slice of heaven on earth.

The gardens cover seven acres and run along the banks of the river Lark. A key feature of the gardens, both historically and visually, is the wonderfully romantic Mill Pond.

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Mill Pond, complete with swan

The mill that stood here was once one of many fulling mills along the river. However, at the start of Bernard Tickner’s adventure here, the mill pond was overrun with brambles and fallen trees and partially eroded by the Culford stream. After much remedial work the pond was cleared and rebuilt as a tranquil oasis in the centre of the plot, with quaint, rickety, wooden bridges connecting it to other areas and lush, wild planting around the edge. Thick stands of phlox and campanula are juxtaposed with golden fuchsia, rodgersia, yucca and euphorbia stygiana.

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Layout of the Fullers Mill gardens

The Top Garden is the first area that you come across and it seems to emerge gradually from the surrounding forest. It is naturally fairly shady and has dry, poor soil conditions. It is heavily planted with various bulbs and lilies, but I can’t say that I was particularly enamoured with it. There were too many short paths and small beds. In fact, I don’t seem to have taken any photos there to speak of, except of astrantias, which are always lovely:

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Once you get to the weir by the Mill house (private) …

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Looking down the Lark from the weir: private gardens to the right, Low Garden to the left

and cross the river Lark, things get much more interesting. There are a number of distinct zones with paths that lead to views of the nature reserve beyond and more wooden bridges to wander over as your fancy takes you.

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The Low Garden is a network of island beds, bounded by rivers and streams.

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Culford Stream beyond the Mill Pond, with damselflies (bottom) and waterlilies

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Sunny, architectural Telekia (I think) marking/hiding the boundary fence at The Point, Low Garden

The beds used here are larger and better matched to the topography and feel less twee than in the Top Garden. Gravel covers not just the paths, but various beds, suiting plantings of seaside/ dry garden flowers, such as dianthus carthusianorum and sea kale or eryngiums punching through grouped masses of lychnis coronaria alba. The feeling is much more homogeneous and naturalistic.

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Allium seedheads, dianthus carthusianorum, grasses and Crambe maritima

I loved these free flowing arrangements, but in the open sunny patches you couldn’t help but be stopped in your tracks by the sight of various lilies, including the giant lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum). Bernard was particularly fond of lilies and euphorbia and the garden reflects that.

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Bright beds, like this, are used to highlight lilies

 

On the other side of the Mill pond is an area labelled the Quandaries. It was my favourite. The area is on a gentle hillside and is a sun trap. It is stuffed full of gorgeous, hot combinations. Take a look at these:

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Best view: from the Outer Quandary garden across the Strip to the Lake

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I love this combination and will be trying it myself. Interestingly, Bernard Tickner was colour blind, so put much more emphasis on plant forms than colour.

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Yes, this includes variegated ground elder!!!! But doesn’t it look great?

Great textual combinations along the Culford stream.

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Mediterranean planting including indigofera, berkheya and lilies.

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Bernard Tickner was 93yrs old when he died, but he seems to have lived a full life, firstly working as a head brewer and production director for Greene King, but more importantly to this post, as a local wildlife campaigner, co-founder of the Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve and the developer (over a 60 year period) of Fullers Mill Gardens. In 2013 Bernard entrusted his gardens to the horticultural charity Perennial to safeguard its long-term future as a garden open to visitors. During his 93rd year he was awarded an MBE and managed to secure an additional 77 acres of land to extend the Lackford nature reserve and facilities. He was involved and interested until the end. Lackford Lakes and Fullers Mill Garden is an impressive legacy to leave behind.

 

Posted in Out and about | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – The beauty of oak stumps and sunshine

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Posted in autumn, Wimpole Hall | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

October Wildlife Report: A 5-minute spa line-up

When we added the bubbling rock fountain to our pebbled ‘beach’ area in the garden a couple of years ago, we had no idea how attractive it would be to the bird population as a bathing and drinking locale. In fact, it now pulls in greater numbers and variety of birds than any of the other water features that we have dotted around (two raised/pedestal bird baths and a water cascade into a small pool). This might be because it is furthest from the house (marginally). It is also furthest from tree cover and is more exposed. On the plus side this means that cats etc. are easy to see, but it also makes it vunerable to raptor predation as well. We do see signs of this type of predation, but not very often.

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Bubbling rock fountain in the left hand pebbled area

The rock is popular with both large and small birds. Larger birds seem to enjoy hopping, from rock to rock, to approach the water. At first, it was common garden and social species that visited the fountain (pigeons, robins, doves, blackbirds, tits),

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Blackbird making a splash

but now it is also more timid examples (wrens, warblers, woodpeckers).

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Green woodpecker stops by for a drink

Over the last year the ‘spa’ has been used by at least three species of birds that I’d not seen in the garden before: garden warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap (see below). This makes me even more excited for our ongoing large pond project for the end of the garden.

Anyway, the other day I went out to photograph some magpies near the rocks. They disappeared pretty quickly and so I sat down on the patio to check the photos. Gradually I registered that there were a lot of small birds tweeting and flying between the central damson trees. Over a 4-minute period they started to visit the fountain and this is what I recorded …

13th October 10:56am          Female Blackcap (the first one I’ve seen in the garden!!!)

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Female Blackcap takes the waters

10:57am          Male Blackcap takes over (again a first ‘spot’)

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Male Blackcap follows suit

10:58am         Male Blackcap defends his bathing rights against a chaffinch

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Outraged at being disturbed

10:58am         Song Thrush jumps up for a drink while the rock is empty

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A Song Thrush grabs the chance of some water

10:58am         Blackbird hops into the subsequent gap for a quick one

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Blackbird stops for a drink

10:59am         Blackcap returns and just beats the Great Tit to the spa

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Don’t even think it!

10:59am         Male and female Blackcaps on fountain (No, he didn’t share)

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I am having too much fun. Go away.

10:59am         Male Blackcap totally committed to the wash (lol)

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This is the life!

And a few days later, the afternoon 5 minute line-up for baths at the spa started with a Great Tit, followed by a Coal Tit, then a Blackbird and next a Goldcrest. Then two Goldcrests appeared together and since they are so cute, here they are:

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Goldcrests on fountain

The final appearance was by a tiny, nervous-looking wren, who didn’t take long to decide that the pool cascade near the fir tree was safer and adjorned there instead.

Still rather nervous though!

Birds have dominated my wildlife observations in the garden this month, but their antics have made me laugh. The numbers of butterflies and bees around has shrunk dramatically throughout October. There is still the odd Red Admiral around, sampling the damson juices or basking on the ivy, but that is about it on the butterfly front. Bumblebees are most likely to be seen on the remaining dahlias and salvias. Quite often they seem to be asleep. Frost burnt a lot of plants here last Sunday night and is likely to finish them off this weekend, if the forecast is correct.

I am linking these birdy, bath-time shenanigans to Tina’s (mygardenersays) monthly garden Wildlife meme. Texas is still enjoying beautiful weather, so she has plenty to share. Do take a look.

Posted in autumn, birds, Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments