Every year I do a pictorial Advent Calendar online – here are the 24 images I’ve been dropping one by one into the gaping maws of Facebook and Twitter this month. It’s a sample of the plants and gardens I’ve been privileged to see and/or play in this year. It was very hard to choose just 24 images – I could have given you pictures of 24 birds, or 24 hardy perennials, or 24 types of tree bark… but I tried to make it a wide range to please most people most of the time. If you haven’t seen any of these yet think of it as an Advent Calendar received so late that you are obliged to eat all 24 of its chocolates in one sitting, I hope it doesn’t give you indigestion.
Cambridge Botanic Garden. My first visit (it’s an awfully long way from the Cotswolds) last February, to meet up with other members of the AllHorts Facebook group. It’s not a huge place but there’s a really good winter garden, glasshouses and a great tree collection, plenty to see at any time of year.
The Alpine House at RHS Wisley. Wisley is huge and diverse, but this has to be my favourite bit (and it doesn’t steam my lens up like the tropical glasshouse does). Treasures from the alpine collection are laid out for our delectation all year round, but I especially love the early spring flowers: so many tiny Narcissus, Cyclamen and Crocus species and always a few things I’ve never even heard of. This again was taken in February, when I went on a guided tour with the team from the Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Is there anything better than a spring walk through beech woods? Here is the delicious new foliage of copper beech in the nature reserve near Bruern, Oxfordshire.
Back in May we had a very quick look around the gardens at NT Knightshayes in Devon. With only one hour to look round there was no time for noting variety names, but I did like this Rhododendron’s apple-blossomy colours daintily shared between branches and grass.
June saw us in Crete, part of the time in the notoriously windy seaside resort of Plakias. Having been brought up near Exmoor I’ve always been fond of wind-pruned trees.
A glorious, still day in June – just right for damselflies laying their eggs in the pond. I was a volunteer at Hidcote while studying horticulture, years ago, and have enjoyed watching the garden come to life again in recent years after a major injection of funds and work.
Another good thing about beech woods: bluebells! I spent a lovely day wandering around the grounds of NT The Vyne in Hampshire with my oldest friend. Luckily she likes taking photos of flowers too, so we were able to chat and dawdle to our hearts’ content.
For some reason it seemed that the road verges of the Cotswolds were extra floriferous this year. I had to stop on my way home from work at The Cotswold Wildlife Park one evening to take photos of thistles; there was a party going on in each one.
I go to quite a lot of evening lectures and events at the Oxford Botanic Garden. In the summer if I have time I have a little walk around Christ Church Meadow, next to the garden. When I peered through the fence which separates them I was rewarded with this view of the Paulownia tomentosa picking up the colour of the alliums in the foreground.
My front garden is a bit messy, it’s where I like to let self-seeders do their thing. My favourite hollyhock this year was this lovely dark one – I hope it made plenty of seed.
Kiftsgate Garden is not far from my house and yet I haven’t visited it very often. There is plenty of gorgeous, romantic planting in this garden – it’s in the pipeline for a future blog post. And more visits.
Every now and then I cross over the Cotswold Hills to Fibrex Nurseries in Pebworth. They are famous for their National Collection of Pelargonium, but also have a vast range of ivies and ferns and the most astoundingly buxom begonias. This is (we think) Begonia ‘Ray Peters’ – I was so excited by the flowers I forgot to note the names at the time…
I first “met” Philippa Burrough of Ulting Wick on Twitter and love her garden – especially her flamboyant summer displays of tender perennials, annuals, dahlias… I need to visit it in the spring next because she’s a dab hand with tulips too.
On holiday I usually end up walking a few hundred yards behind my family because I’m taking pictures of plants and planting again… I’ll speed up if offered an ice cream though.
This is a cheerful bit of roadside planting in Croyde, North Devon; wish I could say the VW campervan was ours.
Beth Chatto’s gravel garden, Essex. This is where you must go if you want to learn about putting the right plant in the right place.
Another National Trust property, Standen. There’s a lot going on in the garden at the moment, but this Sanguisorba caught my eye in the evening sunshine.
On our way to a Sussex B&B one October evening I made Chris stop the car so that I could run back and take a photo of this intriguing grassy track and its lovely cleft rail fence.
Over the past year I’ve been working part time at The Cotswold Wildlife Park, where there’s a lot of adventurous gardening going on. Here is the exotic Nymphaea caerulea – outside for the summer in the heated pond in the walled garden.
In October Chris and I visited West Dean Gardens, we stayed quite late and as the dusk deepened we walked between these fabulous borders in the walled garden. To me the colours sing all the more when the sun has almost gone.
You may have seen other photos of Brightlingsea in one of my previous posts – here’s one that I couldn’t squeeze in at the time. It makes me very happy when towns have exuberant and well cared-for municipal planting
In the summer I was lucky to get a tour of Pettifers, a beautiful garden in Oxfordshire, from the gardener, Polly. Lots of interesting planting to be found here, masterminded by owner, Gina Price. It’ll be the subject of a future blog post…
It’s a classic combination but hard to beat as a symbol of high summer. This poppy was glowing in a Cotswolds wheat field back in late July.
I’ve babysat Bob Browns’s nursery at Cotswold Garden Flowers in Badsey a few times this season, and always take my camera of course. It’s a chance to learn a few more plants as I explore the sales areas and stock beds between customers.
And finally, here’s my favourite Dahlia at the moment. It’s Dahlia ‘Black Jack’ , big but so sturdy it hardly needs any support, so great for growing in large pots. I think it would make a great Christmas decoration, sparkling with raindrops.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas – or whichever winter holiday you choose to celebrate – and wish you all a happy and healthy New Year. Thanks for reading!