2018 - A good year?

Is 2018 - a good year to remember, or not? Maybe not for some reasons, but, politics aside, ignoring natural and man-made disasters, bad tempers and bad news in general, here is the good news round up of 2018 in the small corner of the world occupied by Arthur Road Landscapes.

Cherry Tree Hill Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

A new year, a new day and a new camera on the beautiful island of Barbados. Not too much in the way or horticulture here but when the landscape looks like this who needs a garden?

Hunte's Gardens Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

But of course I couldn’t resist another visit to Hunte’s Gardens.

The Palm House Kew Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Having cleverly avoided the Beast from the East, but running full pelt into the Mini-beast, I made a beeline for the Palm House at Kew for a bit of warmth and humidity.

Bluebells Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The cold winter and the sudden arrival of a very warm, but late, spring (who knew what was to come?) meant a very good year for bluebells. This little woodland of oak and ash was discovered by my parents in deepest Berkshire.

Chelsea 2018 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

May means Chelsea. This was my favourite garden, by Sarah Price. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but definitely mine, I’m just waiting for a commission for somewhere in the Med…

Wisteria Lukeland Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

At the end of May I visited Lukesland on the edge of Dartmoor. Spring was a little later here so this Wisteria was still in its full glory.

Oxeye daisies Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

June sees the climax of our native wild flowers. Driving around Surrey I love the road side verges covered primarily in ox-eye daisies. Parts of the M25 are quite spectacular, something to enjoy whilst sitting out a traffic jam. It’s quite tricky finding somewhere to park and photograph them (I haven’t stopped to take any photos on the M25 I hasten to add).

Losely Park Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The heat wave started around the middle of June I seem to remember. I went to Loseley Park before the weather began to take its toll and the White Garden here was looking splendid. Of course the thing about white gardens is that they’re not completely white.

The Homewood 5 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

July and August seem to have been swallowed up in a blaze of sweltering heat and guilt about using a hosepipe (sorry/not sorry) but at the end of summer I went to The Homewood in Surrey. I hadn’t expected much of the garden but even I was charmed by the heather, Scots pines and rhododendrons.

Lime trees Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

A very busy autumn meant little time for visiting gardens but I did manage to get the odd half hour or so on Wimbledon Common. Being outside in bright sunshine whenever possible is my way of dealing with short days and long dark nights.

Twickenham courtyard 11 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

This is beginning to sound like I haven’t done much work in 2018. Well it’s been a funny old year, a mixture of feast and famine. This sweet little courtyard in Twickenham was completed early in the year. The owners are bird mad so hopefully this spring will see a few new residents in the bird boxes.

Wimbledon back garden 6 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

A large back garden project which has taken a couple of years, was finally planted in October. There’s not too much to see plant-wise at the moment but I’m looking forward to seeing it develop next year.

Maybe not a vintage year but not a bad one either.

Like these photos? Follow me on Instagram.

The evolution of a garden

I first met M&S in May 2012. They had been living in the converted dairy for about 18 months before starting to focus on the garden. They wanted a modern country garden but without roses, delphiniums or pinks, and their most immediate priority was to create a visual barrier between the garden and the passing dogwalkers.

Evolution of a garden 1 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

I first met M&S in May 2012. They had been living in the converted dairy for about 18 months before starting to focus on the garden. They wanted a modern country garden but without roses, delphiniums or pinks, and their most immediate priority was to create a visual barrier between the garden and the passing dogwalkers.

Evolution of a garden 2 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The design took about nine months to finalise and then it was a further three months or so before the contractor started work.

What originally looked like a field turned out to be a thin layer of so-so turf, by now more than knee high, over the broken up hard standing of the milking parlour. And under the rubble lay several huge blocks of concrete and a couple of underground chambers. Several diggers and grab lorries later, plus tonnes of new topsoil and by June 2013 the garden was almost ready for planting.

Evolution of a garden 3 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Most of the planting was done in July 2013, but not before a massive weeding job was done on the new borders (the result of not mowing for the best part of two years, and being next to a field).  The plants looked pathetically small when they went in. The fact that it was a mini heatwave meant the hose was on a lot on the first few weeks.

Evolution of a garden 4 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

By August though some of the perennials were really going for it. The hedge of Calamagrostis, planted to help keep the neighbouring dog walkers at bay, was being stubbornly slow to put on any height.

During the winter the new tree, a Sorbus aria Lutescens had gone in, plus a new hedge of beech whips. The grass hedge was still low though and the dog walkers enjoyed the view of the garden for a bit longer.

Evolution of a garden 5 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

By April the hundreds of bulbs planted in the autumn were starting to appear, giving a shot of bright colour. The red ones were supposed to be tall but turned out to be comically short compared to the Queen of the Night and Ballerina tulips. The perennials have bulked up a bit through the autumn and are starting to put on a growth spurt.

Evolution of a garden 6 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The first perennials in flower are the Euphorbias and Salvias, punctuated by lots of Alliums. The neighbour's builder wasn't impressed that everything seemed to be blue.

Evolution of a garden 7 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

By June 2014 the Salvias are still going strong and the Penstemons, Cenolophium and Sanguisorba are broadening the colour palette.

Evolution of a garden 8 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

This garden really takes off in July. Although it faces north there are no tall buildings nearby and most of the trees are on the northern boundary so the whole garden is in sun almost all day. The tall perennials and grasses grow straight up and only a few need staking after heavy rain. The colours are very rich, just what M&S wanted. The bees love the mix of Echinaceas, Verbena and Agastache. And finally the Calamagrostis hedge is tall enough and dense enough to block the view of the dog walkers.

Evolution of a garden 9 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

It's still looking really good in August 2014 with the late summer flowers from Echinacea, Gaura and Sedum with the grass Anemanthele filling out.

Evolution of a garden 10 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

From August into autumn there's a gradual fading of colour in the garden. But even on a wet November day the structure of the plants is still good, making the garden interesting even in rubbish weather.

Evolution of a garden 11 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The structure of most of the plants holds out until January 2015 and this is how the garden looked before the big cut down. In early spring we mulched the garden, partly to improve the still fairly heavy clay and also to help keep some of the weeds at bay. The former was more successful than the latter.

Evolution of a garden 12 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The display in July 2015 was even more spectacular than the previous year. 

Evolution of a garden 13 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

By July 2016 most of the perennials have reached maturity. We are starting to notice one or two problems though. The lovely blue Agastache has given up the ghost after a winter of very heavy rain. And two patches in the garden are causing some problems, one because it seems to get inexplicably wet and the other has no apparent cause. In the latter some of the Cenolophium and Calamagrostis have died. Yet both are doing well just a few yards away. We've replanted both areas since, with mixed results. It's still a work in progress but Japanese Anemones seem to tbe managing quite well.

Evolution of a garden 14 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

And here we are in July 2017. We have already divided some of the Rudbeckias and Calamagrostis to plant elsewhere in the garden. Some years the Euphorbias are splendid, some years they just die. The Anemanthele, a short-lived grass, has pretty much had it. Some have been replaced but this autumn the gaps could be filled by the successful Veronicastrum virginicum. The Salvias have had a bit of a time with slugs and snails and the weeds are unrelenting. But finally the beech hedge has formed an almost solid screen between the garden and the field.

In the years between making a start on the garden and now the clients have built a new garage, converted the old garage into another room, built a kitchen garden, filled in a ditch, had a baby and adopted two hedgehogs. I'm still hopeful the pond that was part of the original design but postponed indefinitely might be on the cards again. 

Gardens,are always changing, making them unbelievably infuriating at times but also marvellously challenging and rewarding.

Return to the Hungry Cyclist's Garden

It's a treat to go back to a garden you've fallen in love with and see it anew in a different season.

Hungry Cyclist autumn border Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg
Hungry Cyclist Asters Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Last time I was in The Hungry Cyclist's garden it was, literally, blazing June with many of the flowering perennials at their peak

Hungry Cyclist Persicaria Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Now at the end of September its the turn of later flowering plants, fruit and trees.

Hungry Cyclist by the mill race Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The low light early in the morning (8am rather than 5.30) filters through the wilting flowers and grasses, highlighting the dew and cobwebs.

Hungry Cyclist cobweb Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The stalwarts of late summer include Sedums and Persicarias, whilst Lavander and Perovskia are just about hanging on to their faded blue stems.

Hungry Cyclist autumn border Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The fruit trees are fully laden, the changing leaves are drifting towards earth and a deep mist hangs across the valley after a night of heavy rain.

Hungry Cyclist apples Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

It's tempting at this time of year to get into tidy-up mode. But if you do it now you face a long winter of stasis

Hungry Cyclist Lavandula Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

This is when you might be glad of a little more structure in the garden, like these rough square beds, creating views across the garden.

Hungry Cyclist square borders Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

At the other end of the day the light is softer.

Hungry Cyclist evening Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Early evenings in autumn are a real pleasure in good weather, a good time to enjoy the view.

Hungry Cyclist Lodge Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

And the fruits of nature.

Hungry Cyclist walnuts Arthur Road Landscaoes.jpg

The Hungry Cyclist/Gardener.

Hungry Cyclist Tom Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

A big thanks to Tom, Chris, Desna, Nicola, Rob, Sarah and Susannah for a fab week. And finally, the real star of the garden - Mirabelle

Hungry Cyclist Mirabelle Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The Hungry Cyclist - www.thehungrycyclist.com

The best long-flowering plants

At the height of summer some gardens are beginning to run out of steam. I'm always on the look-out for flowers that have staying power and these are some of my favourites.

Verbena bonariensis Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Verbena bonariensis is one of the most requested plants by my clients, even if they don't know its name. It flowers on tall wiry stems from June until mid-autumn and will only lose its structure after a heavy frost. It doesn't live long but as any gardener will tell you Vb self sows with complete abandon, almost to the point of being really annoying. Give it lots of sun and almost any soil except really heavy clay. Vb's little brother Verbena lollipop grows well in a pot if you're strapped for space.

Looks good with Echinacea purpurea, Helenium Waldtraut and Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster.

Anthemis tinctoria EC Buxton Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Anthemis tinctoria starts a bit earlier in the year. Most, like A.t. Sauce Hollandaise or EC Buxton, prefer light and free draining soils and should be cut back hard after flowering. They make good cut flowers if you can bear to take them out of the garden.

Looks good with Geranium Rozanne, Knautia macedonica and Verbascum chaixii.

Aster x frikartii Monch Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

One of the stars of the late summer garden Aster x frikartii Monch starts flowering in July and will go ontil mid-autumn. Loved by insects, this plant likes fertile soil with some moisture to produce its best efforts although it will survive most conditions.

Looks good with Euphorbia characais Humpty Dumpty, Penstemon Alice Hindley and Rudbeckia fulgida var, sullivantii Goldsturm.

Penstemon Garnet Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Penstemon Garnet is my go-to plant for a reliable red flower that doesn't get powdery mildew and lasts more than one summer. Like many plants in this list it likes full sun and fertile soil. I've had some disasters with heavy clay soil. It is not 100% frost-proof so whilst I dead-head it through the summer I don't cut it back fully until early spring. Confusingly this is also callled Penstemon Andenken an Friedrich Hahn and you will often see both names on the label. Most Penstemons are equally long-flowering and other favourites of mine include the deep purple P. Raven and the light blue P. Alice Hindley.

Looks good with Centranthus ruber Alba, Pennisetum Red Buttons and Salvia sylvestris Dear Anja.

Potentilla Gibson's Scarlet Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Another great red flower, Potentilla Gibson's Scarlet is at the fire-engine end of the spectrum. It's great for the front of the border but give it plenty of room as the flower stems reach out further than you would think if planting early in the year. Full sun and well-drained soil will keep the plant happy.

Looks good with Geum Princess Julian, Agapanthus Black Pantha and Gaura lindheimeri Siskyou Pink.

Rudbeckia fulgida var Deamii Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

If you can only have one of these plants in your garden this is the one I'd go for. Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii Goldsturm flowers from July until late autumn and continue to look good through the winter if the weather is not too wet and windy. And, even better, it loves heavy clay soils, perfect for London.

Looks good with Helenium Moerheim Beauty, Verbena bonariensis and Phormium Yellow Wave.

Rosa Iceber Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Rosa Iceberg can be grown as a shrub but as it is pretty vigorous I think it's better as a climber. It produces a magnificent flush in June and if you dead-head properly it will continue to flower on and off until December. It doesn't have a strong scent but is usually pretty healthy. Like most roses is is as happy as Larry in clay soil.

Looks good on its own.

Geranium Rozanne Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Winner of the RHS Flower of the Decade competition Geranium Rozanne doesn't really get into its stride for a month after most of the other blue Geraniums like G. Orion or G. Johnson's Blue. But once it does get going there is no stopping it, most I know go on until November and they don't need dead-heading. It will even grow in quite a bit of shade but for the best results plant in full sun in almost any soil except that which is waterlogged.

Looks good with Persicaria amplexicaulis Firetail, Phlomis russeliana and Salvia nemoraosa Caradonna.

Echinacea purpurea Magnus Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The poster flower for the millenial trend of prairie planting Echinacea purpurea will probably outlast many others that don't like the general dampness of our climate. Strikingly architectural, even after the colour has faded, they are a favourite of gardeners and pollinating insects alike. It can take a few years to bulk up so it's not a plant to be impatient with. It likes full sun and well-drained but not dry soil - not picky at all - but worth it. This one is E.p. Magnus Superior but there are many different varieties and colours. I've not had much luck with the orange ones but E.p. White Swan is a reliable and good-looking culltivar.

Looks good with Gaura lindheimeri Whirling Butterflies, Sedum spectabile Autumn Joy and Calamagrostis brachytricha.

Erigeron karvinskianus Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

And finally, Erigeron karvinskianus, sometimes called E.k. Profusion or Mexican Fleabane. This is the plant you will see self-sown in the paving at National Trust properties. It flowers ceaselessly from May until November and does not need dead-heading; the newly emergent flowers are white, fading to pink as they age. It's great at the front of the border, keeping weeds at bay with its carpeting growth, and I like to plant it in pots. It's fairly unfussy about the conditions it grows in making really good value for money and it's self-sowing habit means it's quite difficult to kill!

Looks good with Olea europea, Stipa tenuissima and Sisyrinchium striatum.

Polesden Lacey

There's been a house at Polesden Lacey, on the edge of the Surrey Hills, since 1336.  The gardens, however, owe most of their present form to Edwardian society hostess Margaret Greville.

Polesden Lacey 1 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

As usual, short of time, I didn't go into the house.  The exterior is attractive and provides a lovely backdrop to the extensive gardens.

Polesden Lacey 2 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The gardens are amongst the most popular of the National Trust's properties and considerable effort has gone into keeping them in good condition. Many of the plants were labelled - handy at times.

Polesden Lacey 3 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The star of the garden, in late July at least, are the long borders.

Polesden Lacey 4 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

I didn't pace them out but I reckon it would take Usain Bolt a good 12 seconds to run them at full speed.

Polesden Lacey 5 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Highlights of the late summer borders are the statueque Kniphofia Tawney King, Verbascum bombiferum and various Phloxes, Achilleas and Salvias.

Polesden Lacey 6 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Next to the Long Borders is the Rose Garden. Not quite my cup of tea, and at this time of year the roses are fading, but it is on an epic scale. I did like the pergola tunnels of running the full length of the walled garden.

Polesden Lacey 7 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

Round the corner is the Cutting Garden. Although there was an extensive cutting garden in Margeret Greville's time, it was a bit futher away from the house than it is now.

Polesden Lacey 8 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The richness of the Dahlias and other flowers such as Verbena bonariensis tell you we are moving into late summer.  Like all good working gardens, there is a gardener's bothy.

Polesden Lacey 9 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

This one seemed to be more for show than work though.

Polesden Lacey 10 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

I stumbled across the meadow almost by accident. Paths have been mowed through the wild flowers and ornamental trees are planted seemingly randomly throughout.

Polesden Lacey 11 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

One of these was Acer griseum, also known as the Paperbark Maple - for obvious reasons.

Polesden Lacey 12 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The hunt for a loo took me past a second hand bookshop (no time for that) into the woods and finally back for one last look at the Long Border.

Polesden Lacey 13 Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

I would have stayed for tea and cake but I had a meeting with a new puppy which was slightly more appealing. However, I have had coffee and cake there before, quite good from memory, even though the queue was overly long.

Although the carpark was full and it was the school holidays, the grounds are so large it never felt crowded and at times I was lone in parts of the gardens. Fab. I think of the National Trust gardens I've seen this is second only to Hidcote.

Polesden Lacey - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesden-lacey