Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Dragons Claws and Hellebores: The Old Rectory Gardens, Sudborough.

Chionodoxa forbesii "Pink Giant"

This week I have been contemplating how immensely therapeutic I find gardening. It is such an uplifting past time. It is one of the few hobbies that allows you the opportunity to be as creative as your heart desires and if it doesn't work well there's always next year. I love the combination of creativity with growth, the constant changing of the seasons and plants in the garden, it is never static there is always something to do, see, nurture, squish, snip, tie back or make you smile. It's terribly comforting.

Mums op went well last week, but I must admit I was worried about it. She is a notoriously bad patient and her allergy to morphine was problematic to say the least. Getting out into the garden really helped to clear away the week's stresses.  On Sunday I opted for an extra dollop of garden therapy and escaped in the car for a couple of hours to The Old Rectory Gardens at Sudborough, Northamptonshire. As I pulled into the small village of Sudborough the sun was shining, a white bantam hen was scratching about on the grass next to an old-fashioned red telephone box in front of a thatched cottage. It could not have been more of an English Sunday afternoon if it had tried, I could even smell the roast beef and horseradish sauce on the breeze.

 Front driveway planted with flowering currents, Daphnes, spring bulbs and Hellebores.

 Daphne mezareum "Rubra" under planted with hellebores, snowdrops, ferns and violets.

Although some might say that it is still a little early to go wandering around gardens, I found plenty to enjoy on this glorious spring afternoon. I was a little surprised to find that I was the only visitor to the garden. It was however a delight to have the garden to myself. To wander around and explore at my leisure and sit and listen to the chorus of bird song without being disturbed or feeling that I needed to make way for someone else made for a deliciously indulgent visit. 

Tree Peony Emerging.

Tree Peony

The garden was bursting into life. I was particularly excited to see that there were a large number of both herbaceous and tree peonies. Although it is far too early for them to be flowering yet, their shoots are just starting to open. I was really taken with these tree peonies whose new shoots reminded me of brightly coloured dragons claws.

Tree Peony
As I have discovered over the last few months the great thing about visiting a garden before it has exploded into a green jungle of foliage is that you can study its structure and shape more closely, you get a better sense of the real bones of the garden. I have been finding this particularly interesting in terms of thinking about how I would love to develop Tumbledown and to be able to see other gardens with their clothes off so to speak sets the mind racing!

The Rose Garden was bare save for some rather lovely Chionodoxa forbesii "Pink Giant" and box but its simple structure and fountain still made it an attractive feature in the garden. I would love to see it later in the summer when it is in full bloom.

 The Rose Garden

The hellebores at The Old Rectory were HEAVENLY. Oh I know I am gushing, but they were a veritable symphony of colour! There were areas dotted all over the garden brimming with them, tall elegant ladies bobbing their heads demurely in the afternoon sun. I have no idea why but for some reason hellebores remind me of 1940's women with their long sensible skirts and splash of glamorous lipstick.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Helleborus sp.

Hellebores in snowdrops.

Helleborus "Black Ace"

Helleborus "Hillie" hybrid double

Acer griseum

Chionodoxa was bursting through the borders all over the place, small and bright and hopeful. 
I loved it in this bed below with the green fern foliage, ivy, snowdrops, and Arum italicum.

Chionodoxa forbesii

Archway to the Potager

The Potager Garden designed by Rosemary Verey.

The Old Rectory is also home to a rather fine Potager garden designed by Rosemary Verey.
It is not planted out yet so its skeleton is laid bare for all to see.

Urn in the Potager.

I discovered at the very bottom of the garden there was one of my very favourite things. A swing seat. Yes I am a big kid. Had you really not worked that out by now? How happy was I that I had it all to myself? VERY! The bottom of the garden is given over to a pond and woodland area planted with large numbers of narcissus. The Harper's brook cuts across the end of the garden and on the far side lies open fields and farmland. Don't you just hate people that only review lovely gardens, idyllic places that you can get lost in for hours? Well as I sat on the swing seat gently rocking back and forth, watching pied wagtails on the lawn, sunlight dancing off the brook and listening to the birds singing excited spring songs to each other in the trees I was only mildly disappointed that I did not see a pair of fluffy bunnies skipping off into the distance together in the far field. Now seriously, this is a great garden, it's early spring and its got me hooked already. I shall be back in May to see the standard white wisteria and peonies in flower, you just try stopping me. I am SO pleased to have discovered this garden!

 Harper's Brook

Monday, 15 March 2010

A Quiet Week.

Just a quick note from me to let you know that it is probably going to be a little quiet from Tumbledown Farm for the next week or so. Some of you may know that much of my time recently has been spent looking after my beloved Aged P No. 1 (mum) who has been having mobility problems after a bad fall last year that badly damaged her "good" knee. Since having surgery on it last year I have been busy ferrying her back and forth to physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. This week she is having her "bad" knee replaced, so I am afraid I will have little time for blogging between running back and forth between the hospital and looking after Tumbledown and the goats for her. 

Thank you so much to everyone for all the wonderful comments and messages you have sent me recently I have loved reading them all. I hope to be back with you on blogging form A.S.A.P.

RO xx

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

March at Tumbledown.

It must be about time for an update on what has been happening at Tumbledown Farm. We have been blessed with blue skies and good weather this month. It has been a welcome relief from the cold winter that seems to have been dragging its heels for months.

Stilton and I have been contemplating what to do with the front garden. So far this has mostly involved sitting under the trees in the dappled sunshine watching the branches sway in the breeze.

The snowdrops in the old apple orchard have at last come to life. Now a white carpet lies beneath the trees in their mossy jackets.

Even the girls have ventured outside this week to enjoy the sunshine. Some are starting to look quite heavily pregnant although kidding does not start until next month.

Things are begining to stir in the greenhouse at last. Stilton, Tumbledowns No. 1 garden supervisor carefully watches my every move. He usually takes up residence on his Lloyd Loom chair in the greenhouse. I learnt some time ago that it is essential for a greenhouse to have somewhere for the garden supervisor to sit. Otherwise they will without doubt sit in the potting tray and the best part of a morning can be lost trying to persuade them to move.

I've been busy laying new bark paths in the veg plot, where I have had not one but two supervisors. Leo just glares at me from afar. Stilton on the other hand likes to inspect every last thing, even the quality of the weed matting...

In the evenings I often go for a stroll along the banks of the river at the end of the lane. Despite having a somewhat bleak aspect, the flat Fenlands are brimming with wildlife. On my stroll last night I saw swans, ducks, moorhens, reed buntings carefully clinging to the reeds whilst keeping half an eye on me and a barn owl hovering low over the reeds at the edge of the river. It feels hideously lonely here at times, but there is something immensely enjoyable about being able to walk out of the door and hear the smallholding around me filled with bird song or to watch an owl hunting just a few metres from me.