Great Dixter Plant Fair and the Walled Nursery

We recently visited the Great Dixter Plant Fair for the first time. So keen to get the pick of the plants we turned up two hours before it started, but we were able to wonder around the stalls as they were setting up and buy a couple of boxes full of plants from the Dixter Nursery before we returned officially.

We mostly spent our time browsing Beth Chatto’s stall, I was instantly drawn to the delicate and dainty anenomes and the selection of perennials. We also made purchases from Invicta Nursery; three cardoons and three bronze fennels and a Tansy, in total we took home a boot full plants to try out for the new borders. *Some of which are still yet to be planted out some months after the visit…shame*

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Really impressed by the French stall with over thirty types of rhubarb!

*Southborough based photographer, Craig Prentis, coincidentally was there on the same day and made some excellent portraits of people there, which you can see on his Instagram here.*

Here are some pictures from the fair and the wander around Dixter’s gardens…

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The following weekend being blessed again with warm sunshine, we visited the Walled Nursery in Hawkhurst which boasts the best surviving collection of Victorian glasshouses. Thirteen in total; a Carnation House, Cold Frame, Cucumber House, Fernery, Hothouse, Melon House, Peach Case, Tomato House and a ¾ span Vinery.

They were designed and built by Foster and Pearson Ltd of Nottingham, who were renowned for their horticultural buildings and commissioned on several occasions by Queen Victoria.

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Sadly now they are in a state of disrepair, most with peeling paint and missing glass so they were inaccessible when we visited. One glass house remains open with a huge range of succulents which was originally the Melon House.

The estate was formerly known as Tongswood had been owned by Charles Gunther from 1903; who was the Director of OXO and High Sheriff of Kent. Today the main house is occupied by St Ronan’s School but you can find extensive information about the history of the site here.

They are currently raising money to be able to continue the restoration work and have recently opened a café within one of the glasshouses. It does feel like a place with huge potential; even in its delipidated state it is still a sight to see, perhaps even more romantic.

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This was originally the Melon House, where in the first half of the house the original trellis can be seen where the plants would grow up and the melons would hang off inside nets like in the image from 1880 below.

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After buying a car load of plants the previous weekend at Great Dixter, Nick and I thought we ought to reel in the plant buying, purchasing only three Kent Pride irises.

Since this visit to Dixter, we have been back twice at different stages of spring/summer to experience the garden, pick up a few more plants and have the obligatory custard tart. Post coming soon of Dixter in the springtime!

Magic Hour at Southborough Allotments

Isn’t it strange, when you are on holiday, you still wake up at the same time as if you were going to work? In addition, I have been suffering with a bad cold for days which was not conducive to sleeping in. I had found myself waking up at some ungodly hour last Saturday morning and conceded that sleep was not going to happen. I decided to get up and experience photographing in what is known as the magic hour – the time just after sunrise (in my case) or sunset.

Looking out at the last few dahlias still going in the garden, I picked two in full flower (and a few nigella flowers on the way) and brought them inside to photograph before the sun rose.

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Sadly our garden at the moment was not going to offer the range of blooms and autumnal colour I was after. So I layered up and headed down to our local allotments, knowing that there are always a few beds full of impressive dahlias.

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The magic hour certainly lived up to its name. I headed home even before the dog walkers were out. I already felt better.

All images and text copyright Castles on the Ground, 2016

 

Postcards from Perth (Part 2)

I caught up with my friend Laura, set designer and illustrator (see her beautiful hand painted stationary here) during my stay in Perth. Laura’s illustrations recently feature botanical motifs so I invited her to come along with me to view some of the earliest illustrations of native flora in Kings Park held at the State Library.

I was searching for the earliest illustrations in the collection and came across three albums by Albert John Hall, an amateur botanical artist who first came to Western Australia from England in 1895. The illustrations were made over the period from 1918 to 1930 and are presented in Victorian postcard albums with accompanying notes detailing the specimen’s name, location and date.

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The Kangaroo Paw, a native species to the south-west, is featured in the West Australian coat of arms, flanking the royal crown.

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Looking through the volumes of illustrations, the style and level of detail fluctuated, it left me wondering if other artists had contributed to the albums.

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Kings Park, is located on Mt Eliza which overlooks the Swan River and the city centre which is less than a mile away. Not many cities have their botanical park in such close proximity to the CBD; it is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, home to high numbers of unique species of native flora over a 400 hectare site. That is 1.5 square miles for those who are imperially minded.

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A week after photographing the illustrations and maps at the library with Laura, my family and I went to Kings Park for our final get together before returning to the U.K. These are the views from the edge of the park towards the city and Swan River leading out towards Fremantle…

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For thousands of years Kings Park was known to the Indigenous people as Mooro Katta or Kaarta Gar-up and was, and is, an important ceremonial and cultural site. In 1831 it was set aside for ‘public purposes’, initially it had been called ‘Perth Park’ but in 1901 it became ‘Kings Park’ to mark the accession of King Edward VII to the British throne.

In my childhood, we would picnic as a family in the park on birthdays or other celebrations (our crammed limousine took us there on prom night). On the day I visited, despite being winter, the park was heaving with tourists, or perhaps avid Pokémon-Go fans. Perth’s characteristic sunshine and blue skies lit up the more ethereal elements of the landscape like these native paper daisies.

paperdaisy-dipbode8256img_9136-editYou can just make out the charred looking silhouette of a black Kangaroo’s Paw (Macropidia fuliginosa) angling out of the drift of paper daisies in the image above.

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Sadly I didn’t have enough time to fully explore the park, concentrating mainly on the periphery before heading back to my sister’s to pack and fly out that evening. Even within this small area there is a massive contrast between the representative landscapes of different West Australian regions that are planted out sympathetically at the park.

The Giant Boab tree below was gifted to the park in 2008 by the Gija people, the traditional land owners in the Kimberley region where the trees grow. It made an epic journey of almost 2000 miles to arrive at its new home.

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These vignettes of the plants of the Mulga region show the Australian landscape can be ethereal, romantic and delicate and at the same time equipped to withstand the harsh environment and poor conditions.

If you are lucky enough to visit the botanical park, allow yourself at least a couple of days to do it justice. The park shows the beauty of our native flora; slowly I think people are starting to use these plants in their gardens now they can experience them in all their splendour here at Kings Park.

 

Arundel

Nick and I had originally been slightly over ambitious planning to visit Petworth House with a quick detour through Arundel on the way. A very slow moving tractor on the journey meant that Petworth House had to be jettisoned and we spent the afternoon in Arundel instead.

We really knew little about Arundel prior to our visit except that poem by Philip Larkin and its reputation for inspirational (if not affordable) antique shops. And a rather grand castle.

How lovely is Arundel? A real working high street, lined with bunting and full of independent traders, a riverside arts festival and good food. Kim’s Bookshop is particularly worthy of a visit. With stacks of mid-century titles heavy on illustration and graphic design and, to my personal delight, a wide range of cookery and photography books. We grabbed some lunch at Pallant of Arundel and devoured it sitting on a park bench in front of the castle gate. Then set about searching for treasure.

Which is how we spent most of the day, with our last visit being to the magnificent Spencer Swaffer Antiques. If you had the money you could spend a small fortune in this shop – I never knew how badly I wanted a collection of French enamel jugs, 19th century carpet bowls and a marble glazed ceramic canister!

The space is rather disorientating with objects, furniture, artwork and mirrors adorning every square inch of each room, stairwell and landing. At the rear of the shop is a walled garden that was bathed in sunshine. You step out into a sunken courtyard with plants of towering height Phormium, Miscanthus, Euportorium and Rudbeckia and then a series of smaller former spaces with box hedging, rose adorned arches and legions of dark stemmed dahlias.

Plenty of ideas to take back to our embryonic garden (albeit on a more modest scale)…

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Postcards from Perth (Part 1)

I have been back in my home town this month spending time with family and catching up with friends. Winter in Perth is usually much like summer in England, sunny and not too cold, although this year it has been hotter in the UK and Perth has had one of its wettest winters in thirty years.

Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world and after living in the UK for seven years now it really feels like it! Although, the solitary feeling when wandering in the landscape is a good thing, I have missed the newspapers, the BBC and being able to walk to the cornershop when you run out of milk.

A place I love to visit is Bells Rapids, about a ten minute drive from my sister’s place. The wet winter it has meant the Avon river is much more rapid than usual.

Bells Rapids flows west from the Avon River in the Avon Valley and winds through National Parks to the east. Just before Bells (as the locals refer to it) the river becomes the Swan River, which continues all the way past Perth’s CBD and then flows in to the Indian Ocean at Fremantle. Every year it is used for a white water rafting race, the Avon Descent, which brings in hundreds of competitors in canoes and kayaks to complete the 124 kilometre race.

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The quality of the light is so changeable at this time of year, it can go from a brooding sky to the brightest blue within minutes. The photographs above and below were taken within less than half an hour of each other.

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The softness of the fountain grass, pennisetum setaceum, contrasts with the harsh landscape and they become illuminated when the sun hits them at the right angle.

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The stump of a native grass tree (xanthorrhoea pressii, or balga; its Indigenous name) and the bark of an old dead jarrah tree (eucalyptus marginata).

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My niece enthusiastically encouraged me to jump over the mud and rock pools to get closer the edge of the water, only slightly twisting my ankle several times.

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Pennisetum sataceum with a scrambling annual herb (fumaria capreolata) in flower.

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I used to think the west Australian landscape was not very attractive; harsh, dry and drained of colour but I recently have started to see it differently. Particularly at dusk, the soft light transforms the landscape and the colour palette changes completely, from burnt oranges, browns and deep azure blue skies to muted grey, brown, mauve and cream.

The landscape back home in Kent is so predominantly green, coming back to Perth has made me appreciate the colour differences and has heightened my awareness of smaller details. Looking more carefully you start to notice examples of the unique flora, like the burnt reddish black tips of native herb flowers and the masses of tiny, bright orange orchid like flowers amongst the grasses.

 

 

 

 

Rye in the sunshine…

Rye is one of my favourite places to visit on a day trip. Originally an important Cinque Port but left marooned on the Marsh when the sea suddenly disappeared sometime in the 13th century, never to return again. It’s picture postcard perfect; beloved of a BBC filming crew, winding cobbled streets, a good mix of Georgian, Victorian and Medieval architecture and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

We went for a final catch up with my in-laws before I fly out to Australia on Sunday. I was keen to soak up the Englishness and get some gifts for my family.

There are a few shops I like to frequent – it’s always good for kitchenalia and cookery ephemera. The vintage and antique shops are well curated with a good understanding of what’s currently in demand – but priced accordingly for the tourists who flock down to Rye on the E F Benson trail. No bargains today!

Here are some pictures from the day.

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Admiring the flash of India Yellow in their sitting room.

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I have got my eye on this house!

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This is where I like to get my stationary from.

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Inside Rye Pottery studio.

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This shop has a bit of a A.G. Hendy’s Homestore in Hastings feel about it. It had a huge selection of antique french confit pots. Van Gogh painted his sunflowers in these pots.

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Sunflowers, 1888, National Gallery

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These are the two we took away.

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A detail of the Italian stationary we bought.

The next post will be from Perth, Western Australia. Nick is staying at home and getting on with the renovation so I will be excited to see what will have changed. He has been told go easy on the Netflix.

 

A garden in the English summer

Yesterday we visited Perch Hill cuttings garden, the garden of Sarah Raven in Brightling, East Sussex. Sarah Raven has written several books on gardening and cooking and runs courses at Perch Hill in a beautiful barn overlooking the hillside (which you can see later in the post). Raven uses bold and bright colour combinations in her gardens which in theory sound discordant but in reality work well and give the garden a sense of energy.

Following an intense drive down winding one track roads with high hedgerows, we arrived without having to reverse up-hill to let other motorists past. Crisis over.

Earlier in the year I had sown seed and planted dahlia tubers from Sarah Raven, which are now in flower, but not as impressive as the blooms at Perch Hill.

The garden is only open to the public on 7 occasions this year, so I was quite excited to experience it and get some ideas for plant combinations for our garden.

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The garden has several gardens (cuttings garden, kitchen garden, ornamental kitchen garden, rose and herb garden, meadow…you get the idea) but it felt more intimate than most National Trust Gardens. I liked the height and how you feel like you could be lost in the garden.

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IMG_8059I was expecting the dahlias to be impressive and they did not disappoint. The dahlias I planted are roughly one third of the height of the ones here and I have only had 2 flowers! Next year, I need to hone my dahlia rearing skills in the garden.

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I loved this grass panicum elegans ‘frosted explosion’ and how it softly floats around the dahlias. This is on my list for our garden.

Through the cutting garden to the track that leads to the herb and rose garden and the Barn…

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As we arrived the rain started…And I set about quickly photographing all the containers to collect ideas.

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When the rain got too heavy we had a tea break inside the barn. I liked the large wreath that was hung in the peak of the ceiling.

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The rain left me with a good opportunity to get a clear shot of the rose and herb garden. Then a quick wander through the ornamental garden then back through the cutting garden and the meadow and back home. I had to plant my dahlias out.

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All text and photographs are copyright by Castles on the Ground, 2016.