Walking staycation from North to South Downs

Masked up and socially distanced Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral was followed by a blessing from a bearded canon on the spot that once housed Thomas A Beckett’s shrine.   The beginning of a pilgrimage to Santiago.  A short week in August to line us up on France for next time.  For now, Canterbury to Newhaven…

Seasonal plant allure from Beth Chatto Gardens

Nothing can beat an outing with a new  customer to look at a garden.  It’s the best way to get their bounce-off  reaction to planting combinations and their sense of delight or displeasure to colours, textures and overall form and shape.  A project I am working on at the moment is a small town garden,…

Go and Sow with these 10 Top Tips

I have vowed that this is the year when I will make my garden dance.   It is a silver lining to have time and I would like to share what I know with you. 1.  The sowing wheel is brilliant it tells you when you can sow, depth of planting seeds and spaces between…

Two castles: two gardens: a view or two

The double tall beeches make a tunnel along which the visitor travels on the top of a levee above the surrounding landscape.  This is  the driveway to Drummond Castle, near Criefff in Perthshire.  We swooped in like bats and burst out at the far end by a tower house settled on a rock, commanding the…

Exploring the best gardens in England: Doddington Place

I had an idea to go and volunteer labour  in gardens of whimsy and interest to soak up history,  horticultural  skills and the genius loci.    Doddington Place was my first choice.  I was welcomed  by the owner and the head gardener and enfolded into the garden for a few days,  becoming  part of the…

Chaumont International Garden Festival v. RHS flower shows

“Have issue.  You were so adamant that you wouldn’t go to Chelsea again.  Discuss, please”. This text came through the day I was at this year’s Flower Show and looked like a   an essay question. The best way to answer it  is probably to   compare  Chelsea Flower Show  with the Chaumont sur Loire…

We are lectured by Tom Stuart Smith

Early in the month Tom Stuart Smith gave a lecture at Great Braxted in Essex and we gardening types were lured from our potting sheds. There was the usual charitable angle with the National Garden Scheme and Horatio’s Garden vying either for or funds or our attention in the most charming way. I had no…

Behind Walls at the Charterhouse

I was looking for a place called the Charterhouse. Getting in, even finding it made me feel like a Minpin trying to crack a walnut. Lurking behind a big brick wall in the Clerkenwall Road – the one door in was firmly locked. How was I to arrive? Wasted time pacing up and down in…

Galloping plant knowledge at Bressingham Gardens

It was mildly provoking to be sent this image of a tree by a holidaying husband.  The tree itself was not annoying, the request to ID it was.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that in a countdown of hours I would be gathering wisps of knowledge from the acknowledged world expert on…

Shapes and textures matter to Beth Chatto

The gravel garden at Beth Chatto is inspired by a wadi or dry river bed.  I know this because Dan Pearson told us last week at Essex University where he delivered a lecture for the Beth Chatto Education Trust.  The reference is clearly drawn with  banks and eddies of planting, separated by a wide gravel…