Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Eye of the Garden.

A pool is the eye of the garden in whose candid depths is mirrored its advancing grace.
 -Louise Bebe Wilder

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Arty Farty

Beetle on Cornus flowers based on photo taken at RHS Rosemoor, June 2010.

All quiet on the blogging front from me at the moment I am afraid. I have managed to escape Tumbledown Farm for a short time and have spent the last week in sunny Devon. I have visited some pretty inspirational gardens and must confess to being completely blown away by Keith Wiley's gardens (watch this space for photos coming soon!). I have managed to go a whole week without the internet -shock, horror! It was a bit of a shock to the system at first, but I survived! It did have some funny side effects mind you, one of which led to me playing around with my photographs a little more than usual. I have put a couple of the arty farty results here!

I am alas another year older today... sob! It has been a quiet affair with me drowning my sorrows in plants. I always find a bit of HRT (Horticultural Retail Therapy) gets me through the difficult times. Although I shall not be saying no to a glass of wine later ;o)

So I am still roaming the country for a few more days, indeed I think I can hear The Cotswold's calling to me now. Lots of garden visits will follow soon, I promise!

RO xxx

Alium christophii detail.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Prances with Goats: June at Tumbledown Farm.

 Old garden bench near the orchard.

Time has got his running shoes on again and I'm damned if I can keep up! The month of greenery and growth has been and gone, swallowing parts of the garden with it. I failed miserably to provide an update on events at Tumbledown Farm last month. Kiddings and flower shows are largely to blame. The rain is coming down again this evening, the wind is howling and Aged P No. 1 has put the heating on so I best retire to my armchair and tell you what has been happening in darkest Lincolnshire. 

 Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)

Of May I must just mention one thing from the garden that I did not get to share with you: the bird cherry tree (Prunus padus). Ours is a monster. It stretches towards the sky like a flailing octopus with tendrils over 30ft long. For much of the year it is a fairly insignificant creature, but in May it awakens and is smothered in delicate white flowers which, on a warm day have a deliciously sweet almond smell. This has to be one of my favourite spring trees and makes such a refreshing change from the usual fluffy pink cherry blossom in so many gardens at this time of year. 

The other thing May was full of was this...

Delphi just after she was born being cleaned up by her mum Dianna.

Back in April I introduced you to the quads. Well since then we have had several kiddings, some went pretty smoothly like little Delphi's pictured above, others did not. We have had eleven babies in total this year but sadly two died the evening before I went to the Malvern Spring Show during a very difficult kidding involving a second set of quads. Little Max and Rosemary, the kids who survived have already found new homes on a smallholding in Kent with their mother Ruby. Since Aged P No. 1's operation back in April we have been struggling to cope with the number of goats in the herd and so sadly Ruby, Jorga another of our milkers and the two kids have set off to pastures new. The coming and going of animals is all part of having a smallholding, but there are always moments of sadness when you have to say goodbye to old friends, but losing babies that have barely had a chance at life is utterly heart breaking.


As a working smallholding we cannot keep every kid that is born in the herd. We are however lucky enough to have animals that are of a standard that can find good homes reasonably easily. We have six babies left now. Pixie one of the original quads, and one of my favourites (sniff sniff) left us a couple of weeks ago to start a fantastic new life on a smallholding in Cornwall with a show herd. I know she has a super new home, but I do miss the little girl, she was always the first to give me kiss in the morning and loved to sit on my lap for a tickle. She is happy though and has sent me a letter and some photo's already telling me all about her new surroundings and friends. Dahlia her sister will stay at Tumbledown and be part the herd. Her brother Delovelyson will also stay at Tumbledown as a stud male, he has a few weeks grace left to play with the other babies before he will have to be moved over to live with the big boys. 

Dee Dee, Delphi and Delovelyson.

The babies have all been bottle fed since they were about a week old. This has meant a tremendous amount of work making sure that they have had bottles three or four times a day every day. When they were tiny this was quite a pleasurable task, they would sit on my lap and take their bottles with little fuss. Now however is a different story. They have grown. They each have their own cheeky little personalities, and get rather impatient that I cannot feed all six of them at once. This usually results in me getting nibbled and jumped on and nutted in the shins until it is their turn to get a bottle. Delovelyson is the worst. He is a hair puller. Oooch! We have had words about his behaviour, which he has ignored. 

Hold onto your ears! Babies running in the paddock.

Once they have had their milk they all become happy little beasts again and give me kisses and come for a fuss and a tickle behind the ears. Posing for the camera however is not something they like to do. They are eternal fidgets. They do not stay still for a moment. Getting a non-blurry picture of them is nigh on impossible. Well actually I freely admit it, I have given up trying to even take pictures of them now. Letting this lot near my hair is bad enough, letting them near my camera requires a large cup of camomile tea beforehand and something even stronger afterwards.
Stilton, Ruler of the Universe.

Stilton is not that impressed with the babies. He likes to keep his distance. This usually involves him sitting up one of the apple trees and looking on in disgust from a comfortable distance. He frequently gives me filthy looks as if to say "Why on earth are you playing with those things Mum?"

Asparagus pea in the veg plot.

The veg plot has been a little neglected this year. I have found it a struggle to keep on top of everything with having to cope with all the kiddings and caring for mum after her operation. Her recovery has not gone well after the knee replacement. In fact she has been told that she is not recovering as she should. She has very little use of the leg, far less it seems than she did before the operation. After several frustrating visits to the hospital we are STILL waiting to see her consultant who has been off sick for over a month now. In the meantime we have to deal with the fact that mum cannot walk, and nobody seems to be able to help her which has left us feeling very worn out and disheartened.

Broad bean in flower.

The broad beans have been full of flowers and bees and the peas have been absolute stars. I went out the other afternoon and picked my first crop of peas in a shower of rain. I returned indoors with a basket full of fresh peas and herbs for a fresh summer salad and it was utterly delicious. All the more so for the rain!

My favourite! Peas :o)

 Sage in the herb bed.

The herb bed has been doing tremendously well; everything I planted last year seems to have thrived, everything that is except for the rosemary, which died. I never seem to have any luck with rosemary, in recent years it just seems to keel over at the first sign of cold weather. Is it just me? Or is rosemary far less hardy than it used to be?

  Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum').

The bronze fennel is looking particularly lovely at the moment. It is one of my favourite herbs, not just for taste but in looks too. I love it in the herb garden but have enjoyed growing it in flower borders in the past. When I lived in Wiltshire I used to grow Allium christophii up through it, which was a combination I adored. One new herb I am trying this year, which I am very taken with, is Salvia 'Golden Delicious'. Those that know me well enough know that I have a 'thing' for salvia's. Salvia 'Golden Delicious' has very bright golden foliage and has traditionally been used as a bedding plant that produces vivid red flowers in the autumn. This little gem however is staying in my herb bed. I wondered with a name like 'Golden Delicious' whether it was possible that it could taste like an apple and when I nipped off a leaf and took a nibble I was amazed. This plant really does taste of apples. It is fantastic in salads. It has completely won me over... I love it!

Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in the herb bed.

Titch inspecting the herb bed.

Other new things I am trying out this year are asparagus peas (Lotus tetragobolonus), which have the most beautiful red flowers and tree spinach (Chenopodium giganteum). The asparagus peas are a very old vegetable thought to date back to the 1590's or earlier. They produce unusual small pods that are supposed to taste like a cross between peas and asparagus. The young leaves of the tree spinach can be used in salads and the older ones treated as ordinary spinach. I was drawn to the beautiful magenta centres of the leaves, they are very striking and I am all for a bit of jazz on the veg plot!

Tree spinach (Chenopodium giganteum).


Fruit seems to be doing well this year. There are large numbers of blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries, and raspberries forming. My small rhubarb plant that I put in last year is going strong and looks ready to offer up its first stems. The apple trees are bearing lots of tiny apples and the kiwi is smothered in hundreds of tiny kiwis. So fingers crossed there are going to be some very tasty fruit salads and puddings this year! 


I fear I am starting to ramble already. There is much to see in the garden at the moment. We are currently on Liriodendron watch as it looks like just maybe (fingers crossed) that it is going to flower for the first time. Something we have waited a VERY long time for. Yes I really am that excited about a tree flowering! I haven't got time to show you everything in the garden. I've picked out a few favourites to share with you.

Bee on Geranium phaeum 'Sambor'.

Under the shade of the old greengage tree are great swathes of hardy geranium phaeum 'Sambor' and 'Lilly Lovell'. These are two of my absolute favourite hardy geraniums and look just beautiful with the dappled afternoon sun on them. They provide some marvellous early colour and the bees love them, even if hanging onto them is a finely tuned balancing act! Other favourites with the both the bees and myself are the real garden staples, foxgloves and lavender.


Lavender 'Victory'

Paeonia lactiflora

I'm anyone's for a peony! They only last but a fleeting moment, but oh they are so beautiful...I could go on but for your benefit I will stop myself. This year I have grown rather fond of schizanthus. They have provided an exceedingly pretty faced presence in the flower border and have not failed to make me smile whenever I have passed by.


Last of the garden flowers for June that I just really can't get enough of is Abutilon vitifolium 'Violacae'. It is simply divine I could look at it for hours! 

Abutilon vitifolium 'Violacae'

Leo in an apple tree.

Sorrel in the hay meadow.

So that is just about it for this month. The hay meadow is starting to grow tall. Stilton and I went for a stroll in it earlier in the week. It was full of insects buzzing around and pheasants flying off in fright as they heard us coming. The cow parsley was flowering and the grass swayed in the breeze. It was a blissful afternoons escape.

Bee on cow parsley.

Grass in hay meadow.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Chelsea: The Show Gardens.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the Chelsea Flower Show last Tuesday. It was the first time I have ever been to the show and it was quite an experience! The coverage of Chelsea has been very good this year so I will not bore you with pages and pages about the gardens. I did not have one overriding favourite although there were several gardens that appealed to me. I have included a few snaps of the show gardens that sung to me the most. 

  Astrantia in The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith (complete with the film crew that just wouldn't bugger off!)

Tom Stuart-Smiths garden was very beautiful, well it would have been if it had not been continually full of film crews every time I fought my way to the front of the crowds to view it. It was a garden that conveyed calmness and serenity. It consisted of a small grove of Betula nigra on one side of the garden with two hedges of cloud-pruned Buxus sempervirens. Fresh spring woodland planting including grasses, euphorbias, Cenolophium denudatum, and blue Iris sibirica was used under the trees and around the pool. It was soft, sensual and delightfully unassuming, my only real problem with it was, more or a niggling worry about what the garden would be like when the spring flowers had died back? I was a little concerned that this was very much a one hit wonder, beautiful for a fleeting moment and then rather dull for the rest of the year.

The Kebony Naturally Norway Garden designed by Darren Saines was another very calm, peaceful garden. It was designed to reflect the natural beauty of Norway with the goal of being contemporary, durable and environmentally friendly.

 Peony in the Kebony Naturally Norway Garden.

It contained a huge 40 year old stunted pine tree set in larvikitt rock at its centre. I was particularly drawn to the glass installation in the pavilion in this garden and loved the use of colour and the way it was echoed in the planting such as the Aquilegia 'Black Barlow', and Meconopsis betinicifolia.

The Kebony Naturally Norway Garden.

 The L'Occitane Garden by James Towllis

Another garden to incorporate a large tree at its heart was the L'Occitane garden designed by James Towllis.  The garden recreates a little bit of Provence beautifully. It has incorporated herbs and flowers found in the the products of the natural beauty company into the garden. I trotted up to the garden to find a very jolly rather excited gentlemen in a hat explaining that they had rescued the enormous olive tree at the bottom right of the photo above from a building site and that they had it shipped over here especially for the garden, they thought it must have been at least 300 years old. The gnarled old tree looked very much at home in the garden which was as pretty as a picture. I must admit I was rather fond of this garden, it made me happy, just like the jolly chap in the hat who turned out to be the owner of L'Occitane (no wonder he was jolly)! I also thought the garden provided some welcome inspiration for gardening on a slope when almost every other garden in the show was flat.

The L'Occitane Garden by James Towllis.

One of the gardens I was looking forward to seeing before I arrived at Chelsea was Mark Gregory's garden for The Childrens Society. It was designed as a garden for teenagers to spend time and unwind with friends and family. When I saw the garden it certainly looked like a very sharp, well constructed place to hang out but it did not really do much for me, but hey I am not a teenager! Although I do very much admire the concept of designing a garden around young peoples happiness.

The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn. 

The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden was designed on the theme of Voltaire's Candide by Thomas Hoblyn. It was if I am honest a rather strange affair. It had some wonderfully bold and exotic planting, which I rather liked and thought was more adventurous than many of the other gardens. However for me and many others viewing it the garden was just too gaudy. There were too many sculptures of naked women or bits of naked women and overall it came across as excessively busy -so sadly hot it was not! 

 The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn. 

The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

 Verbascum bombyciferum 'Polarsummer' in The Daily Telegraph Garden.

Andy Sturgeon's Mediterranean inspired gravel garden for The Daily Telegraph took best in show and understandably so. It was a dream to observe, full of tantalising colour combinations and textures that drew you in and made you want to walk up and down running your hands through the Stipa tenuissima

 The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

His use of Corston Steel screens created a dramatic focal point which was cleverly tied into the garden with three large containers planted with the rust coloured Iris 'Action Front.'

 The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

 Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

I was looking forward to the mossy one! Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara was however not quite what I was expecting. It was for me far too cluttered. I had hoped for more simplicity from this Japanese garden. There were some beautiful elements to it but alas for me all to many of them, there was so much going on I struggled to know where to focus in on. It was a pretty and very colourful jumble (I have followed Anne Wareham on Twitter talking about "Plant Zoo's" and when I looked at this garden I could not help but think of just that).

Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

I loved the moss, the cobbles, the Acer's but hated the Brachyscome 'Royal Blue' dotted all over the garden it really did not work for me. I was not entirely sure about the dicentra in the walls either...

Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

The Tourism Malaysia Garden designed by David Cubero and James Wong.

Finally the garden I most wanted to climb into, sit in and relax in was this cool and leafy number by David Cubero and James Wong designed for Tourism Malaysia. It looked like the perfect place to escape the sun and Chelsea crowds. A real bit of tropical magic.