Ipheion uniflorum ‘Charlotte Bishop’, first bloom of winter/spring, 30th October 2015

The first bloom of spring is always welcome particularly when it appears at the end of October. I have seven Ipheions or “spring starflowers” at the last count, “Charlotte Bishop” being the earliest flowering this year. She is grown outdoors on our south facing patio. I seem to recall “Wisley Blue” being first last year. 

Not to be isolated her neighbour is Cyclamen cilicium, a variety I find hard to distinguish from Cyclamen hederifolium, flowering at the same time. The cilicium is in the pot below, hederifolium below that and fighting for its life amongst the falling leaves.

A bit of a disappointment with my autumn flowering Crocus Speciosus Conqueror as the recent rains have crushed their resistance. I planted them too late. One or two are upright however.

Holme Lacy House, Herefordshire, 2nd June, 2011

Warner Leisure have built up a sensational collection of country house hotels. The 16th century Holme Lacy House in the distinctly rural county of Herefordshire is one of their finest. The gardens are spread over 20 acres and mostly defined by the faithful recreation of a very formal period of garden design, very precisely laid out with only perhaps a little relaxation over the yew hedge where the gardeners seem to have over-imbibed on cider. Grade 11 listing for the gardens is added to Grade1 for the house itself.


From what I remember, this walled garden was newly planted for 2011. We are due to revisit the house in the spring. It will be interesting to see how much progress has been made.


Portmeirion: Fake and Fabulous, 23rd August, 2011

Built between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion was designed by architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. The village is built in the Italian manner, a fanciful creation envisaged from the outset as a tourist destination and first opened to the public in 1926,  It enjoys an enviable situation with views across the Dwyryd estuary taking in Snowdon on a good day. But it was its base for the cult series “The Prisoner” that proved the lifeblood for the many thousands of tourists who visit there each year.

Will I return? Well, it’s four years since my one and only visit to Portmeirion and I have returned to this lovely area of North Wales every year since then without visiting the place. The surrounding countryside is so ravishing that I can forgo the luxury of Williams-Ellis’ creation. And Italy is pretty fabulous in Italy and I visit there most every year.

My Back Garden in Full Spring Bloom, 2004

Discovering old photographs is fun, even one taken from behind glass. Here is our garden in glorious colour. For the life of me I am unable to remember what has happened to most of the plants in the pots. One of the maples has died, some of the dwarf shrubs are discarded, though the fountain and trees remain. Sadly I planted a holly where the flowering current is much to the detriment of it and the hedge behind. I detest the beast.


Monte-Carlo’s Japanese Gardens and Other Winners

Amidst the riches of Monte Carlo there is a free jewel. But first, the glitter, Moscow number plates, yachts and man who would be a millionaire:

The high life and high apartments are not necessarily to my liking but the Japanese Gardens designed by landscape architect Yasuo Beppu and, in this expensive and bustling principality, notably free to enter. They offer a quiet reflective space in which to count one’s winnings or mourn losses. There is a photograph of Princess Grace at the entrance, commencing the project in 1964,  photographed rather badly by me but, hey, not every princess looks so stylish wielding a spade.

And down by the beach the waters were clear and warm and full of lucky Russian holidaymakers. And fish.

Rufford Abbey (demolished) & Thorseby Hall (saved)

Within my lifetime Britain has lost some treasured old houses. Two contrasting fortunes then from Nottinghamshire. First, Rufford Abbey, the greater part of which, excluding the ancient abbey itself, was demolished in 1956.

And today it is a premier destination for those seeking a prime day out, it being maintained almost impeccably by the local council. It possesses a marvelous park and gardens, full of statues, one of which I featured on Thursday.

Still it has a certain charm and a most excellent Savile Restaurant, named after the original residents. Nearby Thoresby Hall has survived intact as the jewel in the crown of Warner Leisure Hotels. Thanks to them I can show the interior of the library and the “Blue Dining Room”.

The Oil Cast Warrior, Rufford Park, Nottinghamshire, October 22nd 2015

There are two seven foot Oil Cast Warriors in existence, sculptured by Oklahoma born artist, Jay O’Meilia. They commemorate the American oil workers who contributed so much to the war effort in the 1940s when the United Kingdom was desperately short of oil due to the remorseless attacks on Allied shipping by the German submarines. One bronze statue is in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the second in Rufford Park, Nottinghamshire.

By the end of the war more than 3.5 million barrels of crude oil had been pumped from the soil of Nottinghamshire by 42 “roughnecks” from the USA together with British crews. One derrickman, Herman Douthit, fell to his death from a rig and was buried with full military honours. These men contributed as much to the war effort as did the soldiers who fought and died. Oil was the life blood of war.

The story is almost a forgotten one and I admit it was new to me. But look at the detail in the sculpture, the cigarette packet in the breast pocket, the spanner wielded as it were a rifle, the rugged face, and authentic overalls used by the men. And were one not to know the story behind the sculpture, the striking impression it leaves compels attention.


Nostell Priory on a Perfect Autumn Day, 20th October 2015

No days are more precious than late October ones when the sun shines and all is well with the world. I won’t mention Keats’ warnings about feeling that days will never cease. Nostell Priory was our very own this morning. First off was this display in the café that was due to be taken down seeing as their apple festival was over.

Autumn trees look best when the sun shines. 


One day I am going to write a book, “Gates What I Have Known”.

And behind the gate, the herbaceous beds were fantastic for this time of year.