(The photo above isn't one I've taken, but it's from the Breezy Knees website. Just get a load of those borders!)
Here's a few more photos from our visit to Yorkshire's Breezy Knees Gardens, as promised.
Not only did the array of huge poppies look fabulous, but I learnt the importance of either staking them or - better still - surrounding their foliage with other plants that can offer support. Otherwise they flop as if the effort of keeping upright is just all too much faff.
So many poppies.
All the beds are well mulched with bark chippings, meaning staff don't water anything except new plants being added to borders. The mulch is essential as otherwise watering would be a non-stop job in the height of summer, wouldn't it?
Up close and personal with an Allium.
I did take other pictures but was having camera (or more accurately tablet) trouble, partly 'cause the sun was so strong I struggled to see the screen. So can't post photos of the many and varied iris we saw. Iris were everywhere, and like the poppies they come in a wide range of colours. I wrote down the varieties I especially liked - Iris Sibirica 'Melton Red Flare' and a dramatic velvety Iris 'Deep Black'. Stunners!
I'd love to go back to Breezy Knees, and particularly experience it throughout the four seasons. It's such a large site I reckon you could pack an awful lot of visitors in before it even felt remotely busy, though I bet it's a popular place on a Bank Holiday.
When I win the lottery ( ... I have these dreams, despite the fact I don't bother buying Lotto tickets ...) I'll buy a piece of land and divide it up into 'rooms', those spaces so beloved of garden designers. I'll have colour themes for my 'rooms'. Luminous swathes of all white flowers nestling in green foliage. A section with cool, silvery green leaved plants, restful on the eyes. Another section with foliage that's dramatically purple and ruby and bronze. A wide, generous herbaceous border with every colour of the rainbow to delight the senses. A formal herb garden. A sculpture trail. Oh, so many things you could do ... if you had the money and the space.
Just a final quick note: I did say in my previous post that the lack of labels in some cases made identifying plants difficult. I'd also add another tiny criticism of the site - whoever designed the beds does love a ruler and set square. Lots of right angles - straight paths and sharp corners. Some of the wide flower borders would benefit from having winding paths that meander lazily through them, or just are sited less rigidly around them. So corners to beds as softened, lines relaxed. It'd be more naturalistic and conducive to having that unhurried, relaxing stroll. But it's a small drawback when there're so many positives.
Anyone else visited these gardens, or are planning a visit?
I'm betting you've never heard of a place called Warthill. Neither had I before I was driven there yesterday. I'd never heard of a place called Breezy Knees Gardens either. It's advertised as 'The Flower Garden of Yorkshire' and is set in 20 acres not far from the city of York. There're deep, abundant herbaceous flower borders ablaze with colour, a rose garden, a conifer garden and a rock garden, a decorative fountain, a cafe and horticultural nursery, and lots more (including a sculpture of a pair of huge wellington boots and a version of Stonehenge made of greenery rather than stones.) If you're interested in expanding your knowledge of plants or simply love looking at one splendid flower or shrub after another you're going to love Breezy Knees. It was a gorgeously sunny day, and we strolled around to the sound of birdsong and saw dozens and dozens of fat bumble bees greedily feasting on the stunning flowers.
It's a great place for working out what you like and what you don't in terms of colours, shapes and textures, especially if - like me - you're a total novice when it comes to planning a successful flower border and creating something harmonious to the eye.
I know some fashionable types think alliums are yesterday's news, but I still admire their graceful stems and that mauve 'pom-pom' on top.
Every time I saw these I had to stroke them, like velvety bunnies ear. Must have some for my garden as they're so wonderfully tactile.
Pretty things everywhere you looked.
There were masses of poppies. White, pale pink, and of course the classic red.
Lots of beautiful, stately lupins too.
I took more photos so will pop them on the blog soon. I'd definitely recommend a trip to Breezy Knees. If you or a friend/relative have limited mobility the majority of the site's wheelchair accessible which is great. It's £6.50 for adults, £2.00 for children, and there's a small but good cafe and (clean and nicely maintained) loos. You can wander over to their website www.breezyknees.co.uk for more info. I can imagine most teenagers would be bored witless by it , but it's a grand day out for the rest of us.
The only slight drawback was the not-too-brilliant labeling of plants in the borders. It could be frustrating if you wanted to make notes for future ref. So you probably want to take lots of photos and get your plant A to Z book out at home in the evening in order to play amateur sleuth and identify them. Either that or end your visit with a wander around their horticultural nursery where all the plants were clearly labeled and make your notes then. If you have a few quid to spend you can go home with an array of plants too, just to make your day complete.
It feels (temporarily at least) that summer's here already. Today it's been baking hot since around half nine. What bliss! With all the horrendous things happening in the world right now, especially the desperately sad events in Manchester it's important to celebrate the day to day stuff that makes life good. Family, friends, a hot sunny day, time spent in the garden. As you can see from the photo above I'm gone a bit overboard with the tomatoes.
I sowed lots of seeds last year, you see, and virtually none of 'em survived to give me delicious toms. So this time around I sowed more than I needed, thinking some wouldn't germinate. But of course they all have, and now I need to get a wiggle on re-potting them into Grow Bags and large tubs.
A friend's husband kindly donated some other plants for my back garden. Michaelmas daisies, a splendid foxglove, a dogwood shrub that'll hopefully flourish in a damp, shady corner where so many other plants would wither and die. Plus a clump of perennial sunflowers. I've planted various things in the back garden now - some verbenas and borage, Swan River daisies (which look very bedraggled) and some Echinops grown from seed too. I've got my work cut out keeping everything watered, especially the thirsty courgettes and tomatoes, and probably spent over half an hour watering yesterday evening. Not exactly a chore though when the evenings are so light and warm.
I doubt you'll be able to make them out on this photo, but I eeeked! with delight when I saw teeny tiny yellow squash growing on what I'd assumed were regular courgette plants. If they get to any size these squash should look like futuristic yellow UFOs.
I've planted these broad beans three to a tub, supporting them with bamboo sticks and string so the wind doesn't damage them.
This area of the back garden's actually got plants in it now, so I'll take more photos later on today. I've also been moving mini thyme seedlings, planting them in cracks between paving slabs and bricks. I'm uncertain whether the delicate little things will survive the move, but if they do the thyme should soften those harsh stone edges. I just pushed a small amount of potting compost in a gap between two bricks or slabs, then bedded a thyme seedling into it, and watered generously. I'd photograph my efforts, but you can barely see the seedlings as yet.
Hope you're enjoying your dose of sunshine, and let's all be extra kind to each other in these hard times.
I ate way too much yesterday (all butter cookies and a large bar of milk choccie) which isn't good for the waistline. So today, thankfully, the weather was good and I could get outside and work some calories off. Last year when I moved into my house I made an initial tentative start on the back garden, but it was daunting. I didn't know what I was doing or where to begin, and soon retreated leaving the garden virtually un-worked on. I concentrated instead on covering the terrace with containers, and then had a good go at the front garden which felt more manageable.
However every time I looked out of the kitchen or conservatory windows and was faced with membrane covered with gravel and pebbles, I felt dis-spirited. So dreary and un-cared for. So empty of greenery and wildlife.
This year something's changed and I feel able to tackle it. Maybe it's from having seen a vast improvement in the front garden after all my efforts there. I've given up trying to draw elaborate plans on bits of paper, and instead just dived in. Creating flower beds where I think they ought to be, and not worrying if my idea of a garden doesn't match someone else's idea of a stylish outdoor space.
The photo above shows the view from the paved area (terrace, patio, call it what you will). There're a couple of stone steps down to a short brick path, and on the left is a very modest sized area that was fully covered with membrane and topped with gravel. To the right is a similarly sized area topped with membrane covered with pebbles.
The gravel's gotta go, but I'm gradually creating paths between flower beds using the pebbles. They're a pleasing colour, and you get that nice crunchy sound underfoot. I've dug up endless bits of broken paving slabs, but also unearthed three large, heavy paving slabs that I didn't even try and move. So you can see them in the photo and they ain't shifting. Whether they were laid by a previous resident as a patio, or whether they're a cover for a water pipe that apparently runs under these gardens I don't know. But as I say, they are a non-moveable fixture.
I've re-used bricks taken up from the front garden to edge beds, and - yes, I know - my lines are as straight as a dog's hind leg! I've planted some borage, though it's a bit of trial and error as to whether they'll be happy in that position. It might be too shady for them and the soil too wet. We'll see how they fare. (I've popped several borage plants in the front garden, and I think they'll be better suited in that position. However, if things don't thrive I can sow more seeds next year and try again. Thankfully seeds are cheap and you get masses in a packet.)
These breeze blocks will look much better when I do my DIY version of pebble-dash on them, but in the meantime they'll make a home for these leggy sunflowers which were desperate to escape their pots. I've tied some bamboo sticks into a simple frame to help support the sunflowers, and planted nasturtiums round their base. With a bit of luck the nasturtiums will entwine around the sunflower stems to added height and colour. At least that's the theory.
All in all a good day's work, and maybe a few calories worked off in the process. A long walk tomorrow and a yoga class will help burn off some more. This week I need to move courgette and tomato plants into large tubs and Grow Bags, plus plant out broad beans seedlings that're shooting up after sunny days on the conservatory windowsill.
I also need to google how to care for an Aloe Vera houseplant, as my plant's looking very sorry for itself and far from healthy. Reckon I've over watered it which I bet is a common complaint. Anyone else have luck keeping Aloe Vera plants? If so, what's the secret?
The back of the house is where the more practical greenery is,, the sort that ends up on your dinner plate. In the conservatory and on the terrace (I know 'terrace' sounds pretentious but I don't like calling it a 'patio', so maybe call it a yard?) are pots of courgettes, broad beans, tomatoes, various herbs and more, all waiting to be planted in the ground or in Grow Bags or large tubs.
Meanwhile the front garden's not had so much work on it lately. Quite a few things are growing that I put in last year, more in hope than expectation. Foxgloves and hollyhocks are pushing upwards, and this one very pretty, unidentified as yet flower.
It's nestled in a corner next to the dill. So delicate but what vibrant colours.
A few California Poppies are starting to appear, along with an odd cornflower peeking up. I need to keep adding bags of organic matter to these beds in order to build up the goodness in 'em. Hopefully in years to come there'll be a sea of flowers each spring and summer. I don't want to go for that council-flowerbed approach of one flower here, another carefully placed four inches away, another four inches away. You know the effect, neat but a trifle dull. I want romantic drifts of flowers buzzing with bees. I love hearing 'proper' gardeners - the Monty Don sort - talk about planting flower borders. How there's a rhythm to them, how the colour in one part picks up the colour in another, how the height and shape and texture of different plants are given consideration to create a harmonious effect. I don't expect to reach that level, but I can dream, can't I?
This photo looks anything but romantic. Yup, they're breeze blocks, and this brutalist grey construction is a bit of a state at the moment. You see, I'd love a few handsome stone sinks as planters. One with herbs, another with Alpines. Only sinks are expensive. Hence the DIY version. I've started pebble-dashing it, and fingers crossed it'll look good once it's completed and planted up. This one's in a slightly shaded position by the fence, so I can't put Mediterranean herbs here, but it's effectively a raised bed so there's a lot that'll flourish in it.
If it's a successful construction I'll build another couple in the front garden which gets the mid afternoon through to early evening sun, and can be a right little suntrap on a good day. As I'm gardening on a budget I'm re-using breeze blocks that were left in the garden when I moved in, so these 'sinks' will cost me nothing besides a few tub of grouting and my time. I look forward to showing you 'before' and 'after' photos of my handiwork.
Okay, let's start this Monday off on a good footing. Check if plants want watering, riffle through the seed tin to see what still needs sowing, check the bird feeders are topped up. Oh, I'd better wash the dishes and hoover too. Can't ignore the household chores for ever ...
I've amassed quite a collection of ceramic planters. Various colours and sizes, and all remarkably damage-free (considerably how clumsy I can be). But are they the best thing to trust your veggies, herbs etc to? Of course they look handsome, and can add some pops of colour to a paved area, but I've decided that for pure practicality plastic is better.
Mainly because the ceramic planter enables potting compost to dry out more quickly than plastic. The compromise I've reached is that plants are potted in plastic, then that's tucked into a ceramic planter. Prettier and practical, don't ya know.
If you plant directly into the ceramic planter then it's a good idea to line it first. An empty potting compost bag is ideal for this. Chop it up and wrap around the inner sides of the planter. Doesn't affect drainage, but does create a useful barrier between the compost and the clay pot.
I think a nice ceramic planter would be a most welcome birthday present for a gardener in your life. Longer lasting than a box of choccies and - unless you're buying one of the whopping big uns - not that expensive. Actually, that's a good question to ask - what's a good present for a gardener? Exotic seeds or a fruit tree? A hard working hand salve? What would you like to receive?
Yesterday and today have been beautiful days. Lovely and warm with deep blue skies. When it's like this and there're trees in blossom and daisies on every grass verge it's too nice to lurk indoors. My mini-greenhouse (aka the cheap cloche from Wilko) is full of plants, with a box of handsome borage plants in front of it. And yes, that is an Ikea CD box you've spotted. I plan to fill that up with cut & come again crops of salad leaves in the next few days. I've already got pea shoots and mixed leaves in smaller containers, but if I want salad for lunch each day I'll have to sow more.
A couple of my courgette plants are looking a bit feeble, though I can't work out why. Under watering or over watering probably, those are my usual mistakes. But the various tomato plants are looking vigorous enough. I've just been browsing YouTube for gardening videos (yeah, my life's so rock 'n' roll ...) and found this brilliant one by the fab Alys Fowler. It's full of practical info about how to get stronger, healthier and more productive tomato plants and definitely worth a watch. The link to copy & paste into your browser is:
There're also a couple of short films about attracting bees to the garden and reviving any ailing bees you find with sugar dissolved in water. Aly Fowler's book 'The Thrifty Gardener' is probably my fave gardening book as I love her organic principles and practical yet still inspiring approach.
Hope you're getting some sunshine too, and that it's a sign of a good summer to come.
It was too darn chilly to venture outside for any length of time yesterday - yes, I know I'm a wuss - so I stayed in and re-potted flourishing seedlings into bigger pots, and sorted out more seeds to plant. Every window sill's covered in plant pots now, and I've had to raid the kitchen for saucers and dishes to place under them.
Today was a little milder, so I did get a couple of hours of digging and clearing done. I unearthed more rubbish from under the membrane and limestone. Plastic children's toy coins, broken glass, rusted screws, a plastic bag and half a concrete fence post. Yup, more concrete buried in the garden. There's no end to it. If there wasn't a chance of another frost in the next fortnight or so I'd start planting things out just in order to get some greenery in place. But I'll wait until around the last week of May, and probably splurge on some trays of cheap bedding plants for instant impact.
What's nice to see is that once a patch of ground is dug the birds - sparrows mainly - hop around searching for worms, and hopefully finding a little feast here and there.
By the way, if you're after cheap Grow Bags or Tub & Hanging Basket compost then nip along to Lidl quick-smart. At £1.29 for a 27 litres Grow Bag or Tub compost at £1.49 for 20 litres they're total bargains and good quality too.
No, this is not a photo of fly tipping. It's my back garden, and believe it or not I'm starting to make progress. I know that's not how it looks, but several days digging, ruining my nails in the process, and carting around bags of gravel and chunks of limestone are beginning to pay off. I've dug up yet more bits of broken glass, sweet and crisp wrappers, plus - inexplicably - several paving slabs. Cos that's what you do with unwanted paving slabs, isn't it? Bury them in the back garden. Sheesh!
At the bottom left of the garden is a lilac tree. Very pretty at this time of year, but it means that corner of the garden is extremely dry. The soil's thin and stony, and - if it was fabric - I'd say it was threadbare. Everywhere else the soil is incredibly wet and claggy and sticky-clay. It's practically a bog garden in parts. Hopefully the shrubs I'll plant will be tolerant of these conditions and will hide the ugly fence too.
The corner under the dry shade of the lilac tree will have to be my woodland area. It seems funny to have such wildly different conditions within such a small area of land, but so be it. Certain plants will have to stay in containers in order to keep their feet dry and for them to stand in the sun - namely herbs - while I'll hopefully gradually improve the overall soil quality of the borders I'm carving out by making them into raised beds. Building 'em up with compost and organic matter.
I'm taking photos of the mess now out there in order to have those 'before' and 'after' photos, so I can keep track of my progress. For those days when I feel like I'm not getting anywhere. In a few years times - fingers crossed - it'll be a green & pleasant land at No. 42. Bees and butterflies a plenty. I can't wait!
Moved from a garden-less city flat in the South West to a Yorkshire village in 2016. I now have a garden ... of sorts.