Brodsworth Hall Gardens in the Frost

The restrictions on travel are, to say the least, inhibiting so it is a source of solace that we can visit Brodsworth Hall Gardens at weekends.

Brodsworth Hall, its jaw dropping topiary in evidence

We had the place to ourselves this morning as a hard frost crusted the ground.

The formal gardens

We have seen the gardens transformed over the years. For those who enjoy the closely cropped shape of nature tamed this is topiary heaven.

Looking down on the rockery and target lawn.


Mrs Renwick’s Sunnyside Garden, Grenada

Trips from cruise ships can be a formulaic exercise, fun but, well, formulaic. Our January 2020 visit to Jean Renwick’s garden on the fertile island of Grenada in the Southern Caribbean was certainly slickly organised as a convoy of minibuses sped up the hillside, avoiding those earlier minibuses speeding down. The drivers chatted together as we clambered out to be greeted by giant tortoises and Jean’s son, ‘Randy by name, randy by nature.’

Arriving at Sunnyside Garden, Jean Renwick looking down from her balcony.
Randy from his Facebook page.
Entertainment for the visitors on arrival.
Randy Renwick greets visitors with a lively history of the garden. His hand might just be discerned if you follow the eyes.

The garden was first landscaped in the early 1990s and wrecked by a hurricane in 2004. The reliable rainfall, summer temperatures and rich volcanic soil are the aces in the pack. Everything grows profusely so initial planting and subsequent recovery were easier than in a less agreeable climate. But Mrs Renwick had the perfect eye and determination. She told us how in the early days she had smuggled, er imported, plants and seeds to the island. The result is a lush paradise.

The garden tour is well organised.
Lush plants and a backdrop to die for.
The local branch of the RHS meets on the formal lawn or the cooler veranda.
Fish also love to devour insects.

Our guide explained the medicinal qualities of the plants; annato or lipstick plant, the seeds used to rouge the lips of little girls and, as we discovered for ourselves, visitors; and citrus fruits, palm trees and a myriad plants we can dream of.

Our guide certainly knew his onions. It was a comprehensive tour.

Again formulaically perhaps but the climax of the visit was a drink of rum punch on the veranda and welcome indeed. Though as pleasurable was a little glance at Jean’s delightful home. More precious was an opportunity to chat to the lady herself and congratulate her on a garden that surpassed expectations and the cruise formula.

Veranda, again taken from the garden’s Facebook pages.
A collage of snaps from inside the house.

And finally …

Jean Renwick in her garden.

Happy New Year

May 2021 be much, much better than 2020. That won’t be difficult. Luckily we do have a garden. Keep well dear readers.

A Christmas stroll with the family through Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s Winter Illuminations. Socially distanced and cold.

Clumber Park Historic Bridge

 We walk around the lake at Clumber Park twice a week. During the Covid restrictions the four mile trip has been a mainstay. But this is a post about the beautiful 250 year old, historic bridge that was vandalised in March 2018. Usually we walk in a clockwise direction which means that by the time we cross the bridge we are about half a mile from the estate courtyard, cafes and toilets. This means coffee, cake or lunch awaits or, more mundanely, car and journey home. Goodness me, we even have two favourite ducks we feed there, cross breeds with domestic escapees I suspect judging by their size. But back to the vandalism where criminals drove a stolen car in a determined and successful attempt to ruin this landmark and route over the lake. Luckily after fund raising and great expense their destruction has been erased, reconstructed and a rare beauty emerges, all the more gorgeous because we now realise the treasures we have, not to mention being spared the extra effort of navigating our way around the upper lake. It’s good to know craftspeople still survive and that suitable stone is still able to be quarried  – from very near us as it happens. I’d rather dwell on the positives though I include a photograph to show the task the constructors faced immediately after the incident. Unfortunately no bodies were discovered in the burnt out vehicle or lake.

Harlow Carr’s Rudbeckia Trial

 My wife’s favourite flower is the Rudbeckia. Well, certainly for autumn though I’ll punt for the dahlia. It cannot be denied that the burst of beaming yellow dominates  the border in September and October. They look sensational. The photographs were taken on 31st August at RHS Harlow Carr from their trial of varieties grown from seed. They intend to leave them to see how many of the annuals survive the winter. Sadly I note that Thompson and Morgan have sold out of their mixed seed. Chiltern Seeds have their own mix however.

Meconopsis ‘Mop Head’

 The blue poppy is the great Houdini in my garden because it has perfected a disappearing act. I’m in the process of completely redesigning the front garden, eliminating the island bed and widening a border to compensate. Scrabbling around for specimens to relocate I have been disappointed to discover two varieties have just disappeared without trace. Still, two specimens are left and ‘Mop Head’ was the earliest and though it has died down now there’s life there yet for another year. Meconopsis are short lived plants however and, to make matters worse, ‘Mop Head’ produces little seed. (I must divide it up in Spring!)  It is a classy looking variety however with very large upright flowers and it flowers earlier than most. The photograph was taken on the 11th May. A couple of years ago we saw the trial of blue poppies at RHS Harlow Carr. I noted the name and was not surprised when I discovered it had the coveted AGM. However ‘Mop Head’ has been around for years. In the 1980s Liz Young acquired the seed from an exchange scheme with members of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, naming it in 2007, the first link being to the Meconopsis Group. I’d recommend both groups. I’m a member of the first.

Plants to savour at Felley Priory

Felley Priory in North Nottinghamshire is just off the M1 motorway and we pass there at least every fortnight.  It has a lovely cafe and garden centre, plus the most amazing gardens packed out with plants in immaculate condition and presided over by gardeners who know their stuff. I always end up buying something. Not the following however, plants for my wish list, and yours perhaps.

The Japanese flowering apricot,  Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ is first, a stunning sight this early, still in winter. Its deep pink blossom stands out like a beacon among the muted colours.

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’
Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’

 Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Spanish Spider’ was only a young specimen and a comparatively unknown variety. I’m not sure about the similarity to Iberian spiders but I do feel even those suffering from arachnophobia would like this particular arthropod.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Spanish Spider’
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Spanish Spider’

Two snowdrop clumps that captured my attention are ones I have in our garden if not in such quantity. One, ‘Edith’, is new to me.

Galanthus ‘Trumps’

Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’

Galanthus ‘Edith’

 Finally there is always the fine house and topiary to admire.

Doddington Hall: Crocus Heaven

Doddington Hall has just got better and better. They must realise it too for they are open all week. Crocus heaven? so why have I commenced with a Japanese Pink Pussy Willow, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’? My wife liked it. I liked it. I ordered it.

Doddington has the most wonderful cafe. We got there at 10.30am, the cafe having only opened at 10.00. The restaurant was full, the cafe full and we just snatched a table in the cycle cafe. There’s also a recently extended farm shop. I digress. Here’s the main course.

Crocuses galore, of varying colours too. All the natural forms in profusion, bees mad for them. Crocus Thomasianus as I have never seen them before.

The Sweet Chestnuts are ancient, blissfully swathed in bulbs right through to early summer.

The combination of late winter or early spring flowers is a remarkable thing.

I also have, of course, to feature one of the the witch-hazels. I noticed they had added new varieties. This specimen was huge.

And in case any reader has not visited, here is the house itself, completed in 1600 and occupied by the same family ever since.

RHS Harlow Carr in Colour: Sunglasses Required

RHS Harlow Carr is our local garden must see. Whatever the season and, indeed, if one considers the Alpine House, whatever the weather, there’s something to yearn for. Today it is the colours.

Crimson is for Helleborus × ‘Anna’s Red’. So rich, so upright, so resplendent in the winter sun that graced us today. So badly named, for surely this is crimson, not red, with that hint of purple and the yellowish stamens. Photographed here with a backdrop of green cornus stems. I want one.

Orange is for Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’. The stems do have red in there as well though, oh dear, was this an eye-stopper today with  everyone pausing to take a photo, to the point that I found it difficult to dodge their shadows from the low winter sun. Shopping list.

Pink is for Erica carnea ‘December Red’. So pink and purple as the flowers age. And it’s February. When I first commenced gardening heathers were very popular along with dwarf conifers.  I’m not so keen these days with two exceptions ….

Purple is for Erica carnea ‘Nathalie’. Oh boy what a lovely purple,red. The variety is courtesy  Kurt Kramer from Edewecht, Germany and is developed from the Scottish ‘Myretoun Ruby’, a variety I used to love before I fell out of love and needed the space. ‘Nathalie’ has turned my head.

Violet is for Crocus thomasii. And there are one or two other varieties there adding to the splendour. We have it on our front lawn in increasing abundance if not as abundant as here. When the sun shines there’s nothing nicer, even Nathalie. It seeds itself everywhere, disappearing when one cuts the lawn or hoes the earth. To return.


Gold is for the shot before my battery ran out unexpectedly. Never buy cheap batteries on ebay. Yellows, golds, oranges. A mixture of aconites, Hamamelis and cornus. The focus is all a mess, not that it matters.

Green is for Galanthus ‘Edith’. I’m very fickle. Now I love Edith. The sparse information on this gorgeous snowdrop does not mention the lime green inner markings that were so evident this afternoon. I must have this variety. There were so many varieties to choose but I chose you, Edith.

Turquoise is for the Bramall Learning Centre & Library. Have I mentioned my battery running out? Well not before I photographed this sensational modern building with my macro lens. When I come into money I’m going to get the architects to make me one to live in. Opened in 2010 it is everything I desire in a building save that it is not mine.

All the colours of the rainbow. The alpine house. Heaven should be so inviting. Feast your eyes on this. Sunglasses required.

Welford Park, Berkshire. Snowdrop heaven and Alison Hammond!

Alison Hammond was on television this morning, attempting to pronounce ‘horticulturalist’ and calling snowdrops ‘snowflakes’. She’s a city lady and good fun. We heard her infectious laugh at the other end of the woodlands. And her visit to the unbelievable Welford Park coincided with our own for the National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival. The first image is of Deborah Huxley, head gardener and wife of James Puxley, the owner. Alison is on the right and the production can be seen filming, the snowdrops to appear very much in the foreground as you will see when you watch the film itself. Deborah, by the way, is a natural on television, knowledgeable and enviably articulate.

I’m told the house itself features in ‘The Great British Bake Off’, a programme I’ve never seen though it tops the ratings. I did however taste the cake in the tearooms.

The density of planting and scale of the snowdrop drenched woodland was remarkable, and there were a few aconites thrown in for good measure.

As far as the eye can see….

Somewhat amazingly the sun shone

You have to look closely to see the drone here, the results of which raise the whole scale of the final film

Looking upstream towards the house. We saw trout in the water

And my favourite image

St Gregory’s Church behind the manor house

What it’s all about