Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Garden Visit: Avenues, Balls and Snowdrop Peeping

Lime Tree Avenue, Clumber Park
Part of the extraordinary 2 mile long Lime Tree Avenue at Clumber Park near Worksop
Once again I've found garden visiting is the perfect way to cheer up February, my least favourite month of the year.

I reprised part of last year's Snowdrops on Tour and added Clumber Park to my itinerary on Karen's recommendation. Just seeing Lime Tree Avenue, the longest in Europe with over 1,000 trees, ensured this part of my trip didn't disappoint.

Summerhouse and snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens
Our refuge from storm Imogen at Easton Walled Gardens

My trip started with storm Imogen flashing and rumbling a warning at me, and thankfully a swift escape north and eastwards meant I missed the worst of her ravages. Despite that, Naomi and I were mightily pleased Karen had arranged for us to take refuge in Easton Walled Gardens' summerhouse for a picnic before we toured the garden.

Kokedama (aka moss balls) used for a hanging display of snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens
As we were with Karen we were able to have a nose around doors which are usually kept closed, including the flower workshop.

Here Alexandra was busy getting arrangements ready for Easton's snowdrop event. I was particularly intrigued with these hanging snowdrop balls, created using a technique called Kokedama, from Japan.

It involves wrapping the plant in soil, followed by a layer of moss, then tying the bundle together ready for hanging, with string in this case.

If you'd like to make your own Kokedama, the link shows you how. When it feels light, soak the ball for 30 minutes (or until it feels heavy again) to keep the display looking fresh and more permanent.

A snowdrop tour around Easton Walled Gardens
Our garden guide was Easton's owner Ursula Cholmeley, which meant we could play Spot the dog again.
There were snowdrops and daffodils in combination, plus a 'giraffe' who wanted to see the snowdrops too.

We must have been in the calmer eye of the storm for our garden tour, because the drive up the A1 to Hodsock Priory in lashings of rain was horrendous. Luckily, the generous hospitality of the Buchanan family soon restored my jangled nerves.

An enticing clump of snowdrops - part of the collection rescued from Primrose Warburg's garden by John Grimshaw

Tuesday dawned fair and without a breath of wind; the perfect day for a spot of snowdrop peeping with Naomi, Karen and Alison. It was great to meet snowdrop expert John Grimshaw, listen to his insights and see which aspects of the garden caught his eye. Here's what caught mine...

Snowdrops and other winter garden delights at Hodsock Priory
Snowdrops and other winter garden delights. NB the snowdrops will be at their best for the next 10 days or so. 
Pictured snowdrop expert John Grimshaw tells the story of his day at Hodsock Priory over at his blog

This year marks the silver anniversary of the commencement of Hodsock Priory's snowdrop days, who were one of the first - if not the first - major snowdrop garden to start this popular activity.

George Buchanan (left in the picture) recounted it started with just one Sunday 25 years ago with a biscuit tin to collect entrance fees, a kettle, and much trepidation over whether anyone would come.

600 visitors gave them their answer and 'snowdrop day' now extends to 4 weeks. It was great to see the Buchanan family enjoying Tuesday's sunshine for their celebratory photo opportunity.

Some highlights of Clumber Park
Some of Clumber Park's highlights. I must return when the walled kitchen garden is open. 
Then I had a brief side trip on the way home to nearby Clumber Park. It's vast, which meant I only had time to trot round a small part of its 3,800 acres. It's well worth a visit despite the demolition of the huge country house which was once at its heart.

There's a pleasure garden with a collection of large specimen trees, a large serpentine lake which extends as far as the eye can see, and plenty of eyecatcher-style follies dotted around the grounds. There's a Grade I listed church too, which hints at the grandeur of previous times.

I can also heartily recommend the venison one pot stew I had for lunch. Charlecote Park's recipe looks the closest to the version I enjoyed.

Not bad for a couple of days spent 'oop north!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Plant Profiles: Snowdrops Update

Plant Profiles: self-sown snowdrops in my garden's gravel path
The snowdrops petals are opened wide, which means the temperature was above 10oC.
This allows the release of their scent and detection by foraging bees who won't fly below that temperature. 

It's time to update my Snowdrops Plant Profile, as there have been developments since last year. As you can see I have some snowdrops which have self-seeded themselves in the gravel path whilst I wasn't looking. They also deserve to join the ranks of Against the Odds, just like the wall-grown ones I found at Painswick Rococo Garden a few years ago.

I showed them to Naomi - she of snowdrop book and Snowdrops on Tour fame - as I wanted to know how long it takes to get from seed to flowering bulb. She peered at them and said:

From seed to flower, snowdrops take about 5 years. But many nivalis are clonal by preference – have you got yourself a hybrid? Are there other actual seedlings around? (Looks like nivalis to me but hard to tell from a pic!).

I confirmed it must be plain old Galanthus nivalis as there are several clumps just inches away. However, her remarks stuck with me and whilst I was out taking some more snowdrop photos in the front garden, I spotted this...


...can you see it bottom right - that double snowdrop amongst the singles?

I do have both in my garden, but none of them were planted in the same clump. So this must be a hybrid. Naomi's reply to my excited email clinched it:

Aha! J You know that Flore Pleno is infertile on the female side but it produces fertile pollen, right? 

I shall be keeping an eye on these to see what happens. As for my gravel-bound clump, I shall keep them there for a while. They're not in the way at the moment, and they're obviously quite happy where they are. Once they've bulked up, I'll have a think about where to move them to.

In the meantime, I need to pot on my special collection from last year into something a bit larger and permanent looking. I dithered and left them in their original pots as I was worried about them hybridising if I planted them out in the garden. Thank goodness Anna's recent post reassured me I can keep them happy in pots.

I've also found this fantastic website which has lots of cultivation notes (including how to grow them in pots) and other information about Galanthus. I particularly like the snippet in the growing from seed section on the role of ants in seed dispersal.


Here are more snowdrops from my front side garden. As you can see some of them have hopped 'over the fence' into the public land next door :)

Now, did they clone themselves and the clump creep under the fence, or are they self-sown (or ant-sown) from seed? Are there more hybrids lurking in there? I shall have to inspect them carefully...

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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Painting the Modern Garden: More than Monet and Lilies

Painting of Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911 by Joaquin Sorolla at the Painting the Modern Garden exhibition at the Royal Academy
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911 by Joaquin Sorolla
An insight into how flowers inspired Tiffany's jewellery and stained glass work.

I promised I'd say more about the wonderful Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy...

...there is so much to see and think about - more than just Monet and water lilies - and far too much for one blog post. Here are some of my absolute favourites in the hope you'll be tempted to make your own visit.

The paintings featured are selected from the 1860s to the 1920s - roughly the span of Monet's life. For me they helped fill one of the gaps in last year's Painting Paradise exhibition; the extension of the garden from the royal palaces and stately homes featured there and out into the world of ordinary people like you and me.

Painting of Claude Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil 1873 by Renoir
Claude Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil, 1873 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
This was the first painting that caught my eye - one of the artist at work, which has the picture Monet was painting exhibited alongside. This was his first garden and not a water lily in sight.

Painting the Modern Garden show catalogue
The exhibition's featured time period also coincided with an explosion of interest in horticulture. It was a hot topic and benefited from the Victorian need for scientific exploration and personal development.

Scientific monographs were published on many of the garden plants we enjoy today and read avidly by the artist-gardeners featured in the exhibition.

Lots of new hybrids were released onto the market and exhibited in key shows across Europe at that time. Imagine seeing a cactus dahlia for the first time, or the chrysanthemums featured opposite.

This was my favourite painting, but I couldn't photograph it on the day due to restrictions. I'm pleased to see it on the cover of the show's catalogue - one way of seeing the exhibition if you can't get to London.

Emil Nolde's colourful paintings at the Royal Academy's Painting the Modern Garden exhibition

We've seen already how much gardening and flowers informed the artists of that time via my Muse Day post earlier this week. Here another one - Emil Nolde - who admitted how much they inspired him: "The colour of the flowers drew me magically to them, and suddenly I was painting".

Pisarro's and Monet's plum tree paintings at the Royal Academy's Painting the Modern Garden exhibition
They may have discussed their art and gardens a lot, but it didn't prevent different styles.
Here's Pisarro's (left, 1877) and Monet's (right, 1879) approach to plum trees in blossom

It wasn't only gardens and gardening which inspired the artists featured. I saw in the exhibition how much they talked to each other. There were lots of visits to each other's gardens and an active correspondence across the artistic community. Despite seeing how the explosion in new hybrids stimulated artistic interest, I was surprised how much William Robinson's approach to gardening also featured as an influence. It struck me well before I found a copy of his The Wild Garden on display.

Gardens in Reverie - 2 of Edouard Vuillard's paintings
In the Gardens of Reverie room, looking at paintings by Edouard Vuillard
Woman  Reading on a Bench (left) and Woman Seated in an Armchair (right), 1898

Another strong theme was the garden as a sanctuary, and a place for relaxation or reverie. I found the same effect at the show too, as did some of my fellow attendees. This was shown particularly in Monet's later paintings at Giverny. He remained there during WW1, with the war booming all around him. His garden became a place of mental healing during that time and stimulated his frenzied outpouring of huge paintings of the garden.

Some of Monet's darker WW1 era paintings


... and of course that outpouring gave us those water lilies. I've always loved these paintings, but I never really appreciated until now just how huge they are. They fill your view and make you feel you're looking over Monet's shoulder at what he saw at the exact scale. Not bad for paintings classed as Impressionist.

One of Monet's huge water lily paintings painted after WW1
Water Lilies, after 1918 - 200.7 x 426.7 cm


The exhibition is open until 20th April 2016. Can't get to London? You can tour the exhibition from the comfort of a cinema in April (UK), or May (international release). I see Vue are advertising their screenings already.


Pisarro's kitchen garden painting
It wasn't all about flowers - kitchen gardens (and sheds) featured too.
This is Pisarro's Kitchen Gardens at L'Hermitage, Pontoise, 1874


You may also like


Two of the Friday Benches I've featured on my photography blog: View of a Garden and Willow and Water Lilies.

The Royal Academy's website has some wonderful short films of three of the gardens featured in the exhibition, with curator Ann Dumas as your guide. They're the gardens of three of the artists featured prominently: Pierre Bonnard, Henri le Sidaner and Claude Monet.

The website also has an interesting article (and great pictures) on how Monet created his garden at Giverny. For me, this was one of the most fascinating parts of the exhibition, with plans and letters revealing it wasn't a smooth process. Water lilies were regarded with suspicion by the local farmers who worried this unfamiliar plant would poison their livestock.

Also, explore six of the artist-gardeners featured in the exhibition, plus a discussion of the exhibition via Guardian Gardens' Sow, Grow, Repeat podcast.

Good luck to Wendy from Rooftop Veg Plot who's taking part in the RA's Contemporary Urban Gardening event on 27th February.
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