Monthly Archives: June 2013

Visit to Moverons

On 6th of June Wickham Bishops Horticultural Club enjoyed a visit to Moverons in Brightlingsea, an NGS (Yellow Book) garden. We were blessed with a glorious day, sunny but not too hot. The season is very delayed this year, so the plants were a couple of weeks behind, and the foliage still had that freshness of early summer. It was more like late May than early June.

We rendezvoused in front of the tea barn for a short introduction by Lesley Orrock, the owner. When she and her then husband moved to the farmhouse in 1994, the house was dilapidated and the gardens overgrown. They had to make the house habitable, so it was three years before Lesley was able to turn her attention to the garden. In the meantime, in anticipation, she studied garden design. This has obviously paid off handsomely because the garden is a joy, not just in terms of overall design, but in plant combinations. The first task that Lesley did was isolating the garden from the depredations of rabbits with rabbit fencing and a native hedge. The garden was overgrown with brambles and gargantuan rosebay willowherb, which needed to be cleared before the gardens were laid out. There was a storyboard covering this in the barn, but I didn’t have time to look.

I felt envious of the pottager situated in the main yard, which used to be the farm yard. It looked to be the perfect size for a kitchen garden, fenced off, with herbs along the boundary fence. The vegetables, like everyone’s this year, were a little behind. The wall on one side must give it a favourable microclimate.

I resisted the trolley of plants for sale, but it was tough as there were some tempting gems.

The first part of the garden we visited was the courtyard garden. This has a formal parterre framework of box hedges enclosing a boisterous spill of herbs like purple sage with less formal planting round the walls, giving it a relaxed feel. On one side there is a pergola with a white wisteria and seating.

I was particularly taken with the architectural structure of some of the foliage plants like the ferns, and the colour and texture contrast of a purple heuchera and miniature London Pride. The latter was used extensively as edging, and, in flower, gave a lovely foamy informality to the edge. I loved the jumble of different textures.

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We then wandered through a wooded area to a seating area overlooking the estuary. A marsh harrier did a few aerobatics for us before vanishing behind some trees. I was thrilled as this was the first one I’ve seen.

When Lesley first moved in, they built a tennis court, but this has now been redeveloped by Lesley and her partner Payne Gunfield into a tranquil space with a reflection pool and rill. This is where they sometimes have musical evenings, and a raised deck commands good views over the estuary.

Reflection Garden

Reflection Garden

The garden is home to several sculptures such as this peacock.

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The Rosa banksiae which grows against the house was magnificent. I was rather alarmed at how large it is, though, because I have this in my garden, against a fence, and my garden is tiny. I will need to do some prudent pruning, methinks.

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The laburnum was also in flower, as was a large red horse chestnut and various other mature shrubs and trees, which melded together into a pleasing whole. The pond was particularly attractive with naturalistic planting surrounding it. The surface shimmered like quicksilver.

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I was really smitten with this secret sitting area carved out of a felled tree, sculptural, attractive and functional. I can imagine sitting here on a tranquil evening with a glass of wine, perhaps, listening to the birdsong. The aquilegia in this area were particularly pretty.

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Aquilegia were a much repeated theme throughout the gardens at this time of year, mainly being this dark violet colour. They complemented the wine coloured astrantia beautifully.

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This bed caught my attention, with the euphorbia Fireglow (I presume) lit up by the sun against the backdrop of the cotinus. A wonderful combination.

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The mature trees frame the views of the estuary. Again the E. Fireglow pops out at you, and doesn’t pull the eye away from the view, but merely punctuates it.
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Other highlights were the architectural seedheads of the Fritilaria imperialis, a drift of doronicum in the shade of the trees, the roses, in full bloom, some belting out perfume, and the most stunning tree paeony.

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The paeony flowers were the size of side plates, yet dainty, each a goblet of white and purple, some with a pink flush as they first open. This pink was echoed on one side by an extravagant underplanting of rose cow parsley (Pimpinella major rosea) whose delicacy contrasted and emphasised the massive paeony flowers. On another side of the bush, the fresh green fronds of an underplanting of ferns complemented the paeony foliage, making the paeony seem to float on a sea of green. Enchanting.

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I am sure I overlooked many treasures in this garden. This is a garden for sitting in quiet contemplation and appreciation. I will definitely have to go back.

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Photography Exhibition 22nd – 23rd June

It’s our photography club’s exhibition on Saturday 22nd June and Sunday 23rd June, at the United Reform Church in Great Totham North. Chapel Road, CM9 8DA, 10am -5pm Saturday, 2pm – 5pm Sunday. I thought I’d post a preview of my photos here.

Roasties
Roasties

Fruit Salad
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Mackerel
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Tamarillo
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Exoric Fruit
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Bluebell
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Wisteria Around the Gate at Wickham Place Farm _ Painterly effect.
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Wisteria at Wickham Place Farm
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Paeony at Wickham Place Farm
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Courgettes
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The wisteria at Wickham Place Farm have been excellent this year and I was lucky enough to spend a day there with the camera.

All rights reserved on these photographs. You may not copy, use or distribute these without my express permission

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Review: The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don

The Jewel Garden

This is more than a book about a garden, it’s a book about love and steadfastness in the face of adversity.

I’ve admired Monty Don since his garden-to-kitchen series “Fork to Fork”, and possibly before that – my memory fails me. Unknown to him, I’ve always been grateful to him for, quite by chance, giving the beanpole tripods for clematis that I’d erected in a garden I was working in some “street cred” or should that be “garden cred” by doing the same on Gardeners’ World that very same week.

I envied him his house at Long Meadow because it seems so romantic, but now I know the pain endured before he and Sarah his wife bought that property, I don’t think I’d want to swap places.

I was under the impression that television, like writing, earns loadsamoney, but on reading this book, have discovered that, like writing, it does not, and that there were times when the Dons struggled like most families in Britain – and fared worse than many because of the intermittent and random nature of television and writing.

This insight gave an added poignancy to the story of the Jewel Garden. I’ve watched Gardeners’ World and assumed that the “jewel” aspect was just because of the bright, jewel-like planting, but actually there is much more to it than that.

This is an honest piece of work, which means there are times when the pain Monty Don suffered and Sarah endured in the early years resonates with the sympathetic reader. I was intrigued to learn that, like me, Monty Don feels a stab of grief over the mowing down of verge-side Queen Anne’s Lace, and he, like me, feels that melancholic pang as Midsummer’s Night passes and the year starts to ebb even before it has come to fruition.

I loved the photographs. One or two are fascinating; Monty might feel embarrassed about the posed photo on the ladder but I think it’s charming. There’s one of Sarah Don, radiating warmth and love, deep in thought, while Monty looks very tired. There are some exquisite photos of flowers, some perhaps a little too saturated for my personal taste, but this is about jewels. I particularly liked the Miscanthus photos – my kind of picture, those. And the misty photos of Long Meadows in the early morning golden hour are magical and romantic.

There are passages by Sarah interspersed with Monty’s diary excerpts and his narrative, and seeing two aspects of one story works very well. This is indicated in the book by different fonts.

I am so pleased I got this book and would recommend it to anyone who would like to know a little bit more about the man behind the TV personality. It’s a beautiful book, it’s a brave book, and I loved it.

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