Just a few details from the winter garden – Harlow Carr Gardens

We visited, on impulse, RHS Harlow Gardens today due to the bright if cold weather. To be frank there was not a lot of colour in conventional terms. There were however one or two beauties. How about this clematis, the seeds of which caught the early morning sun. I’m not sure of the variety but we used to have Clematis tangutica that came into its own in the early winter.


Or Cortaderia selloana, the once popular but now neglected Pampas Grass. It was high summer all right. Towering over our heads the plumes of this life enhancing, if space inhibiting, grass were extraordinary. My father-in-law grew this plant to perfection until, as he burned down the stubble after the flowering and seed head period, he singed the next door neighbour’s fence.

Later on in the day, or rather night, there was to be a lighting display, Harlow Carr bowing down to populism.  I’m sure it will be illuminating and they were set up in the best possible taste.

Back to real plants. The barks of cherry and birch. The gardeners had been out buffing up the Prunus for all they were worth. A gloss and polish like that can’t be natural. The birch is matt white. Where was my Parker fountain pen when I needed it? Such beauty. The bark not the handwriting.

Naturally I had to visit the alpine house where, genuine surprise here, there was not the variety of colour I’ve come to expect. So I’ll miss out the ipheions because I have them in flower in the open soil – did you hear that Harlow Carr? And go straight to this gem with tiny red flowers. Saxifraga gokka. It flowers in late autumn and I know from a friend that rabbits ignore it completely. So why grow it under glass? Because it is lovely with its bright blooms bursting from interesting lobed foliage. Unsullied by frost’s little fingers.

The sun was bright indeed even if it was perishing. Everywhere was nicely spruced up however. They also provide seats for old men. Very much appreciated.

And to round off our excursion how about this for an all in one treat for the garden visitors? A house with all the trimmings, even a tap. Very nice, yes? Great visit ….. apart from the “Galaxy Wind Spinner / Wind Sculpture in burnished gold finish” I was persuaded to purchase about which much more later when I’ve set it up.

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From little acorns – Sherwood Forest’s Major Oak

There comes a time when we all need a little support and the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest requires more than most. Mind you, the old fellow, if such he is, has a broad waistline of some 33 feet, weighs in at 22 tons and spreads his impressive arms to embrace 92 feet and thereby exclude all competitors. And one further statistic. He is no less than 1150 years of venerable age. If there was a Robin Hood, and Nottinghamshire’s tourist trade fervently believes there was, he stood under these very limbs.

Here’s another ancient specimen, windswept today, spreading his girth to match. There are many old trees in the forest, some having given up the ghost, others somewhat impossibly sprouting live branches from seemingly dead material. There are also young, lively specimens in one of England’s most impressive ancient forests.

The forest is constantly reinvigorating itself. When the silvery birch have been and gone, the acorns and squirrels do their work.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 19th November 2017

Apart from the parking fee, there are few nicer places to visit on a bright, cold morning than the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Well, I say cold but sitting on the balcony having a milky coffee there was warmth in the sun and as we embarked on a long walk we generated heat well enough.

Anthony Caro’s “Promenade” (1996) looked stunning in the autumn light and set amongst the trees.
The view from the balcony was also lovely. On the stairs to the cafe was an exhibition by Ed Kluz: “Sheer Folly – Fanciful Buildings of Britain”. All the works were for sale and it passed my mind for a split second to … I settled for a photograph of “The Dunmore Pineaple”.

Tony Cragg’s work crazily complemented the Yorkshire landscape.

However Joan Miró’s 1974 piece, “Tête”, would be my choice to grace the front lawn.

Or Barbara Hepworth’s “Square with Two Circles”(1963).

Lynn Chadwick’s “Little Girl” (1987) looks pretty grown up to me. She seemed a little lonely. An angular beauty.

The parkland itself is one of the sights of Britain.

Believe it or not, this is an exhibit. David Nash, “Seventy One Steps”. We saw it seven years ago when it was being constructed. Very fitting for a sculpture park in inspiring surroundings.

 We’ve got to have a Henry Moore. Or three. “Upright Motives No 1” and “Glenkiln Cross No 2” & “7” (1955-6).
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 And finally a Garden Centre, Alfredo Jaar’s “The Garden of Good and Evil”. I resisted the temptation to get out the secateurs.

York Museum Gardens by Night or Day

We are due to visit York in December to walk around the museum gardens at night with our grandchildren so we had a little recce. We had had the coldest night of the year and I needed to scrape the ice off the car. Most of our plants have somehow escaped the ravages thankfully but this post is about the lovely autumnal colour in the museum gardens. Hydrangeas are sensational at this time of the year so I snapped one I liked against a brick wall.

 Of course, we were able to see the preparations for the night spectacular. As I mentioned to Jan, it’s much better to see the gardens in daylight when it’s free. Maybe the kids will be happy with the photos.

And I’ll throw in the calf we saw in the University grounds.

Clumber Park Yesterday

Clumber Park looked a delight in the pale sunshine.  Four miles, or thereabouts, and my Sony A6300 at hand. We ended by popping into the Walled Garden and Conservatory, hence the chrysanthemums and odd scrap of colour. To rephrase Miranda: “O brave new world, That has such plants in it!”

Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)

My knowledge of wild plants and native trees is lamentable so I have had to look up just what this striking tree or shrub is. I have always wondered but never got round to it. The Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) may be common enough and native to the United Kingdom but it has uncommonly handsome berries and autumn colour. The lucent berries seem wired into the national electricity grid. As November takes us ever nearer winter there is still beauty to behold in our woodlands.

Our old pond and a graveyard for plants

Before the grandchildren came along I had inherited a fiberglass circular pond that I established some 25 years ago. This photograph dates back to something like 2000. The camellia suggests the time of year. I had a few fish in there but it was not deep enough for Koi. I had intended digging a much deeper pool though I never got round to doing it. I also had a few maples, a beautiful if fragile plant in my hands. With one exception they are gone now, as are the hostas, the spiraea, the dwarf conifers. Indeed even the camellia though I did see a shoot funnily enough when I was picking apples from the site last month. The golden Berberis is still there, the stones are under the new shed, the chairs are due, at last, to be recycled and I suspect many of the pots are in bits inside other pots. Sadly all the fish are dead after a drought whilst we were on holiday. And the pool went when Rose arrived on the scene and she is a teenager next month. Judging by today’s post, my gardening has been an unmitigated disaster. It’s disheartening to look back though the fountain is easier to maintain.

Brodsworth Hall: woodlands, topiary and spring bedding

We use the nearby Brodsworth Hall as our local park. It’s a well maintained, inspiring place to visit. Yesterday the woodland looked almost swept by hand, the fallen leaves carpeting the earth, beneath which we know are naturalized bulbs ready to burst out in Spring. Very peaceful.

The orderly nature of the garden may be determined by this view from the folly and looking down on the house and gardens. Lovers of topiary should get out the sat nav.

The summer and spring bedding is a thing of joy. There are no omelettes without broken eggs however and, as the woman on the reception desk told us, thousands of plants and bulbs have just been planted.  Alliums, polyanthus and myosotis were mentioned. Lots of wire netting for the rabbits.

Flowering Dogwood in Autumn

My variety of Cornus is variegated, stunning in autumn, and has never flowered. I have certainly had it for more than ten years and it is, I believe, a red flowered variety though I wouldn’t bet the house on it. I live in hope for those elusive flowers. But back to this very morning. I’ll forgive it anything with leaves like these, despite a loss of some foliage in the past fortnight.