Spring Blossom at Thoresby Hall, April 19th 2011

The last day of 2014. Despite a temptation to choose the best of a great year, here is a pick-me-up for those suffering from cold or flu. The year 2011. It is the middle of April in Thorsby Park, Nottinghamshire. Well and truly Spring.

The miraculous white blossom trees leading to Thoresby Hall.
Perhaps the oldest oak tree on the estate. There is still a stirring of green on the old man.
White lamb for a perfect Spring day.
Sheep by the River Meden.

Spring is in the air. Have a great New Year’s Eve   … and beyond.


Winter Aconites and Witch Hazel at Nostell Priory, December 29th 2014

 Last year we noticed that, following work on constructing a children’s play area in the woodland at Nostell Priory, winter aconites  (Eranthis) had seeded in the churned up soil and made a welcome splash of colour. Well they are back in some abundance, thriving in the very moist soil.

It may still be 2014 but the first flowers of spring are upon us.
The Obelisk Lodge is at the far end of the meadow that will look so lush with wild flowers in high summer. Today it looked for all the world like the arctic tundra. The lodge was still inhabited until the late 1950s. Astonishing because the living accommodation is tiny.

Nostell Priory itself.

Hamamelis were planted a year or so back in the estate. (Somewhere I have photographs of them…) One has burst into flower before even the old leaves have been discarded.
Ducks on the iced lower lake.

Chatsworth House in the snow, 28th December 2014

A very cold day today but so bright. Ice cascaded from the roof, breaking four pots. a small cloche and cutting the life from a number of plants I had been hoping to feature here. For therapy we travelled to nearby Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
One of the premier houses in England, Chatsworth looked fabulous in the snow, the shadow from the huge fountain making its diagonal path across the untouched white.

The Derbyshire countryside and in the distance St Peter’ s Church and Edensor Village

The Emperor Fountain named after Tsar Nicholas 1. He never actually visited the estate to see Joseph Paxton’s impressive and record breaking construction.

Deborah Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, sculptured wonderfully by Angela Conner. The late Duchess was very much loved. It is very largely due to her work and imagination that the estate and house live on in their present majestic state.
I did not snowball Prince Charles, honest! A purely natural phenomena and very funny.
Giant American Redwood.

Such an interesting close-up.

Sir Joseph Paxton completed the Great Conservatory in 1840, a construction so large that Queen Victoria drove through it in her carriage. The First World War was its downfall, with maintenance and manpower impossible to continue. It was demolished in 1920 leaving only part of its outer shell to house what is now a maze. Interestingly, one may still enter one of  the tunnels underneath, built for the underground rail wagons to transport coal for heating.


A snow blossom tree with steam rising due to the bright sunshine.

Glasshouses old and new.
Capability Brown’s “natural” backdrop.

The Cascade completed in 1708. There was still a faint trickle of water.

The Dukes of Devonshires’ family motto “Cavendo Tutus”, the giant urns and giant window casements have been recently restored in gold leaf, but just as eye-catching is the cleaned stonework.

The Gardens of Villa Taranto, 18th August 2009

Snow still covers our garden so I shall defer my exploration of current winter blooms and return to the shores of Lake Maggiore. The gardens of Villa Taranto commenced in 1931 when a Scottish sea captain, Neil McEacharn, purchased the villa and set about a transformation of an already gloriously located lakeside terrain into one of the world’s finest gardens.

Upon entering the gardens one sees the Putti Fountain catches the eye but as shown below, the giant leaves of the Colocasia antiquorum lend the scene an architectural glory.

The stunning flat pads of the giant lily, Victoria cruziana, grace the glasshouse. The seeds arrived from, of all places, Stckholm, in 1956. From South America via Scandinavia.

From memory this is a view from the mausoleum, a photograph of which I could have sworn I had taken. For now, dear bowser, please wait for a post about the very wet visit we made in 2014. It is plain to see the gardeners have replicated my lawn mowing skills.

Were I to win a lottery I rarely participate in I might purchase this little corner of paradise. The former home of Captain McEacharn the house is somewhat incongruous being in the style of Normandy and is some sort of local government residence now.

The terraced gardens take the breath away they are so breath-taking. (To repeat myself.)

The Borromean Island of Isola Madre, 18th August 2009

Our garden is submerged in snow today so forgive the retreat to sunnier climes. The warmth and sun of Lake Maggiore seem a dream. We were there for a fortnight in August but the rain was incessant. So it’s back to 2009.

The largest example of a Kashmir Cypress in Europe. After 200 years a storm in 2006 toppled it though efforts have been made to replant the old fellow, offering support in his old age.

 “Madame Bovary” author Gustave Flaubert described Isola Madre as “the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world’.

The botanical gardens are often described as being in the English tradition. The weather and climate allow the Italian gardeners to be more English than the English.

White peacocks and golden pheasants add to the enchanted feel of the gardens.

Close-up photographs can cheat on the actual scale of a subject but my memory records this as a giant bloom.

Butterfly World, St Albans – 11th May 2013

 A seasonal treat and return to a very cold, if bright May day at the Butterfly World in Hertfordshire with some of the family.
Looking suitably colourful himself my grandson poses in front of the spring bulbs.

I’ve never minded ants in the garden and certainly have never poisoned them though a protective spray around the house has been needed on occasion. We found Ant World fascinating.

There are a number of designer gardens including this, the largest, simply dwarfing us.

It’s a good job they are safety matches.

Topsy-turvy and therefore beautifully designed.

A chip off the old block.

And of course there are the most fantastic butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House.
The centre will re-open on Monday 23rd March by which time if all goes well my daughter will added an extra recruit to the young explorers above.

My snowdrop for Christmas

 In an obscure part of the garden one snowdrop has been flowering for the past two weeks. I moved it to our sink garden and it has opened out quite beautifully. Two flowering scapes have developed from the single large bulb. May all your scapes flower this Christmas.

It has a purity about its form I find most attractive. It could well be a seedling for it is one alone.
It stands tall and proud. Of course, the earliness of its flowering is the key feature.

Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’ – The Christmas Snowdrop

I saw three ships come sailing in ……. My internet connection has been down for a full week, something that never hampered me once when I published my animation blog over the years. Thankfully the connection is back for Christmas Eve and so here is the first of a series of posts in which I shall track the development of my growing collection of snowdrops.

My new snowdrop, Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’, a name suggesting the arrival of Christmas for a snowdrop that has proven a reliable flower for the festive period. Comments on a solitary and very new plant are a tad risky but it has attractively rounded petals and will, I hope, thicken up in future years. I quite fancy a pot of these on our Christmas doorstep. I would have featured “Three Ships” tomorrow but another snowdrop has sneaked in.

The inner green is very evident as are the slug pellets, something I have been forced to use in my pots due to the invasion I am experiencing in this mild winter. The beasts have turned on my collection of cyclamen though I refuse to use pellets on the open soil.

The Palm House at Kew Gardens, London, August 2003

The Palm House at Kew Gardens is a special place. Construction commenced in 1844, the design and engineering owing much to the ship building industry. It was constructed from rolled wrought iron I-beams, originally designed for ship building. Decimus Burton was the commissioning architect and Richard Burton the engineer. Our visit is way back in August 2003 with our daughter and son-in-law.

The sheer bulk of the palm house is impressive, its ship-building heritage evident as some vast upturned hull of a ship.
Traditional park landscaping seen here in high summer.
Coconuts to you.
We took lots of photographs, straining our necks top get that elusive shot.

The white ironwork is something to behold, especially the spiral staircase.

Nymphaea ‘Leopardess’ with floating leaves as attractive as the flowers.

The still water and the vast, saucer-like leaves made this a screen saver for my computer at the time I seem to remember.

Hodsock Priory February 19 2001

 The blog is as much for personal record as public consumption so here are some historical memories of one of our annual trips to Hodsock Priory. This time we were accompanied by my parents-in-law.

Mum and Jan explore the cascading silver catkins of Garrya elliptica
Facilities for refreshments change over the years and go full circle. This was before the showy extension hall used for a couple of years which in its turn has reverted to a rather grand marquee. Interesting how times change. Where the tent stands here (and one may just see the old swimming pool) is the extension today.

My passion for pots began here. In the pot at the back is a pale blue hepatica. I purchased one from the plant stall that day. Hepaticas are among my favourite plants.

We all marvelled at the size of the snowdrops. Passions commence with such moments.

A calming part of the garden. The aconites are these days augmented by many other spring plants but variety does not always beat single focus plantings.

This is a treasured family photograph.

Happy days.

My wife used to photograph the teddy bear wherever we or her school children went. Kids used to love borrowing the teddy,  taking in their travel photographs to show teacher. He was a much travelled fellow. Mighty fine snowdrops too.

Hellebores vary in quality. This is a beauty.

 Iris histrioides “George”. And my father-in-law’s name was  ….. you’ve guessed it. We have the variety in some abundance. George was a fantastic gardener, his gardens always neat and tidy, putting my more “natural” creations to shame. His visits inspired many a spruce up!

Galanthus “Magnet” and an object of desire. Still one of the finest varieties around and, happily, in some numbers now in my own garden.

A fine sight to warm a winter’s day. White galanthus, purple and pink cyclamen coum.