Breezy Knees Gardens, York, 5th September 2015

One of the best maintained and stocked gardens in the North of England lies five miles outside York at the delightfully named Warthill. Breezy Knees Gardens was opened in 1999 by Colin and Marylen Parker. Its roots as a farm are easy to see as one enters via the cafe and tramps through the fields along a path though flat land, bordered by rabbit resistant perennials to the fenced in area that is the the home to the fourteen acres of gardens. One of my favourite writers on gardens, John Grimshaw, head gardener at Colesbourne Park, complained in 2012 about the “square-line fetish” of the garden’s construction. I noted this but truly the vast number of perennials in fabulous condition is the overwhelmingly positive  Indeed the lay-out greatly improves identification of plants, particularly as they are all clearly labelled up. Tomorrow I shall identify some of the plants that took my eye but for now fill your boots and enjoy the straight lines.


Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’

Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’ is one of a number of heavily marketed, named varieties to be seen in garden centres. I tend to buy my plants in flower as then I know what I am getting. Hellebores are magical plants in winter, flowering when all else, or nearly all else, is gloom, “Christmas Carol” is the most upright of our Christmas Roses. I chose it for that reason. No drooping beauty this. Look at the plant this morning before the rain, when the first flower of the year is as resplendent as a daffodil in Spring. The flower has a pink tinge as it ages, not its finest quality in my opinion.

Castle Howard at Christmas, 27th November 2015

It is only eight or so years ago that Castle Howard set out to attract more visitors for Christmas. This year their decorations were tasteful and complemented the stately rooms. Today’s weather forecast was wrong. This beautiful area of north Yorkshire was sunny and mild. Inside a mix of the grand and the domestic. A cinnamon scone and coffee. It felt like Christmas.

Madeira’s Jardim Botanical Gardens, April 1st 2015

Jardim Botanico gardens sit some two miles from Funchal, up a steep hill that necessitated us taking a bus, though on previous occasions we have used a taxi for a modest sum. Laid out in 1881 and moving to its present site in 1960, the gardens are a principal draw for tourists and worth the entrance fee. One walks steadily downhill from the entrance to where the universally friendly taxi drivers await. Despite our return ticket for the bus we took a taxi. Madeira is a place of spectacular heights. Somewhere I have pictures of our levada walks of past years to prove we have a head for heights.

Arriving early in the morning, the café was deserted.

A frog!

Our boat.

We can’t grow these at home.


Galanthophile Diaries

Here’s an excellent Facebook page for those who love snowdrops: Galanthophile Diaries.
I discovered it while researching my new acquisitions, one of which is featured on the screenshot. It is full of info and some stunning images. I don’t subscribe to Facebook myself despite the obvious temptations. When I used to write about animation I was besieged a little by enthusiasts and decided to wear a hard hat and take a back seat in this blog. Facebook diaries like this may make me reconsider perhaps. Whatever, some of my own snowdrops are becoming a little more conspicuous and there is a race to be in flower led by one of my own little seedlings. We’ll see. In the meantime visit Galanthophile Diaries and dream a while.

Autumn Display of Perennials at Lakeland Horticultural Society, Holehird Gardens, 22nd September 2014

We visited Holehird a week ago but a combination of rain and a ruined camera meant that I failed to make the necessary clicks. However here is a series of photographs I took of the September display last year. I’d been on a writing assignment for HF Holidays. The photographs were taken on our last day. They feature the inner walled garden.

Whatever the weather, volunteers come from many miles around to give generously of their time. Indeed last weekend when floods and storms hit the Cumbrian fells there were still amateur gardeners toiling away in the 17 acres.

The gardens are free to visit though the society depends on donations. In their hillside setting overlooking Windermere a journey there is an essential part of the Lakes experience.

Cleethorpes, 19th November 2015

Time was when the East Coast resort of Cleethorpes was a little tatty and, whereas I’m definitely not keen on amusement arcades, the seafront has been cleaned up very nicely and, as our nearest seaside town, it takes less than one hour to be parked and embracing the sea air. One end is still tat, the other welcoming and landscaped.

“Oliver’s” where we had afternoon coffee having enjoyed lunch with our family at “Marples”. Both are well recommended.

Strange as it may seem, the sea is not always visible here in the Humber Estuary.

The Humber Estuary is ne of the top three sites in England for birds, the mud flats teeming with birds of all sorts.

Here I tested my long range zoom on my brand spanking new Panasonic Lumix TMC TZ70, purchased because attempting to use my previous Sony compact in the Lake District last week ruined the damn thing so it is impractical to pay for a repair. Anyway enough of my problems. The bird below is a Dunlin viewed from the 30x zoom.

Not sure what this bird is but it’s part of the landscaping.

Below is the less attractive end of Cleethorpes. The final two images look across the estuary towards Spurn Point.

Computer Images

My son-in-law works in London in some high-flying IT post for one of the city corporations. In his free time he writes complicated programs that when rendered create stunning images like these. I have no idea what practical use they are but as completely original artefacts they lighten the gloom of early winter.

Walkers Garden Centre, Doncaster, 16th November 2015

We are fortunate in living near one of the finest garden centres in the United Kingdom. I recollect buying expensive conifers from the founder, Lawrence Walker, when we first moved to South Yorkshire from Lancashire some thirty five years ago. There was always some blue grafted specimen on the bench outside his greenhouses. Today Walkers Garden Centre is an increasingly stylish place with shops and a fabulous cafe to complement the plants that are always in top condition, the nursery run to perfection by Lawrence and Vera’s daughter, Elaine.  But it is the show gardens that feature here, the design of which was by Graham Bodle, Elaine’s son and Gold Medal winner from Chelsea. However the first photographs are from Lawrence’s original gardens.

Taking eight acres of what used to be quarry land and then rose beds for the “Walkers Roses” of old, Graham has created a park full of detail, from the reed bed below to the pond with my shadow prominent in the winter’s low sun.

Here we move to the outside eating area where one might dine well, enjoy the view and listen to the roar of the aircraft landing or taking off from the adjacent Robin Hood Airport. And what a joy it is to see specimen conifers celebrated so spectacularly.

Her son  

Puente de las flores (Flower Bridge), Valencia, 19th August 2015

Opened in 2002, Valencia’s Flower Bridge, Puente de las flores, was a delight on a hot day with its beautifully tended 27,000 flowers. We followed the now dry river bed of the Turia Gardens, a nine kilometres walk under a seemingly endless series of 17 bridges. There was a tad too much concrete for me in the self-styled urban garden and it was so hot as to be oppressive. Were it possible to have retained some flow of water when the engineers endeavoured to safeguard the city from flooding I would have been happier. But then I’m no engineer and the floods of 1957 were devastating necessitating the diversion of the river.

Valencia was not a crowded city, quite a break after Madrid or Barcelona, and its developing City of Arts and Sciences was spectacular in part. Personally I preferred the old city with fine architectural buildings and fine municipal plantings and trees. 

I did like this tilting landscape seen from across the Turia Gardens.