Agave flowering, Cinque Terre, Vernazza, 25th July, 2015

I read that the inhabitants of the gorgeous Cinque Terre towns are complaining about too many tourists. Well it was pouring down when we visited in the summer. Vernazza had the attraction of several flowering agave, its last flush of life a glorious one. There were several around town, a splash of yellow against an angry sky.


Sorbus hupehensis – let’s call it Lazarus

My rowan tree in the back garden was a seedling from one of my father-in-law’s trees that I planted over thirty years ago. With its pink berries it survives well into winter when my red berried variety is stripped bare by all the blackbirds in the neighbourhood.

A year ago it was dead, deceased, done. I very nearly chopped it down. Now, like Lazarus, it has risen again, soaring above my apple tree, a climbing frame for “Clematis Winter Beauty”. Never give up the ghost. Give them a season.

As to names, I haven’t a clue truthfully. There’s a new variety on sale called “Pink Pagoda” with clusters of berries like a grapevine. But it doesn’t rise from the dead.

Rudbeckias in variety

Rudbeckias are for me the flowers of autumn though admittedly dahlias give them a fair run for the money. The flower celebrates autumn sunshine and deputises when clouds get in the way.

The two images below were taken in Annecy on July 20th on our travels. The town hardly needed any brightening up but I have never seen such a varied collection.

Now follows a series of varieties, some grown from seed, some perennial:

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle” Breezy Knees, 5th September 2015 

 Viette’s Little Suzy’, Breezy Knees, 5th September 2015 

Rudbeckia “Irish Eyes”, Audley End House, 27th September 2015

Rudbeckia “Capuchino”, Clumber Park, 22nd September 2015
Rudbeckia “Marmalade”, Clumber Park, 22nd September 2015  
And the most prolific of the lot, Rubeckia “City Garden”, again from Breezy Knees (of which more shortly) 5th September 2015

Audley End House Apple Festival, 27th September 2015

We were all eating old apples today, or rather, old varieties at Audley End House and gardens near Saffron Walden. They seem very much in vogue now after decades when our taste buds were blockaded by the bland “Golden Delicious” or gums shredded by the redoubtable “Granny Smith”. Gradually new varieties have been introduced to our supermarkets. There is nothing, however, to compare with traditional varieties.


There was an interesting display of the varieties available to taste.

The walled kitchen garden with its apple and pear trees traditionally grown in fans and espaliers were inspirational for such as me with my one rather untidy if bountiful tree.

My own favourite? Egremont Russet.


Daphne Perfume Princess, dismal failure x 2

Gardening is all about learning from failures. Here are two I photographed on 31st July this year ….

The “world’s most fragrant shrub” proclaimed the seller so I bought two. The one above seemed healthy but is now worse than that below and almost defunct. Two deceased plants and £12 plus £5 postage lost. I can’t be bothered to return the remnants to “Gardening Express” to satisfy their terms and conditions so an expensive experience and I will not buy from the company again. I did, by the way, plant and water the plants properly. Not properly enough.

Clumber House, Nottinghamshire.

Clumber Park is featuring an outside exhibition of the old Clumber House, the home of the Dukes of Newcastle. It was demolished in 1938, an act of destruction repeated all over Britain at a time of high death duties and taxation. Sadly and perhaps overwhelmingly the owner had tired of the property and the expense of maintaining such a large household at a time of increased austerity. The first two photographs were taken from the display boards.

The house was sold for £70,000 and the contents raised £60,000. The substantial parkland was purchased by the National Trust in 1948.  

And should you be considering a visit, this is what it looked like on Wednesday, 23rd September 2015. Lovely stables, lovely church, lovely Virginia Creeper, no mansion. It is nevertheless a wonderful place for walks and cycling, maintained with love by the National Trust.

Gardening in the Canary Islands, April 2015

We traveled to three of the Canary Islands during April this year. I marveled at just how easy it is to maintain an attractive garden given the maintained weather they enjoy: with warmth, without frost, minimal rain and rich volcanic soil. The following images were taken in the Valley of a Thousand Palms, Haria, Lanzarote.

Sculpture, cacti and succulents survive with a minimal of care – a gardener’s dream one might imagine.

The whitewashed, low-rise buildings of Lanzarote and a thousand or so palm trees.

Of all the plants that morning, the Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns, Christ plant, Christ thorn) stood out. Very attractive and garden gloves compulsory.

Topiary at Brodsworth Hall, Doncaster, 20th September 2015

Brodsworth Hall has very neat grounds, manicured in parts. This stands in contrast to the interior of the house which is preserved in the faded grandeur of its last occupants, a time of austerity and an aged owner. In the formal part of the garden, traditional beds of annuals are grown in beds with finely cut edges, whilst the strong Araucaria araucana, an assortment of fine conifers and finely mown grass add a stillness to the scene, a salve on such a perfect Autumn morning.

But it is the sculptured box and yew that take the eye, each plant a chiselled tablet or ball.

The warm stone of the building has recently been restored and, although drawn shutters give a certain blank look, the straight lines of the construction are complemented by those of the topiary.

The small bed, replicated on each corner of the house, was only planted two years ago.