Garden Journal 1.8.21

Hello, and thanks for visiting my garden journal – a place for recording my gardening activity and tracking moments in gardens. This week I recall positively glowing border flowers, I’ve been sniffing and snapping at Rousham, and I discuss mood and moments in observations.

Positively Glowing

There have been some ridiculously warm days over the last few weeks but since the full moon last weekend, hasn’t it all balanced out? It was all blazing sun and head-cooking workdays one moment, but then the weather turned and showers and storms seem to have become the norm for a while. Honestly, this year’s weather has been a real lottery!

The Rose Garden at Sulgrave Manor
Daisy clouds around the rose garden at Sulgrave Manor and Garden

Still, it has been and still is wonderful to witness the flowering phases of sun loving plants in the borders at Sulgrave Manor, such as the brilliant white Leucanthemums, golden Achilleas and of course the luminous pink Lychnis or rose campions. Marigolds also demand a mention and I’ve featured them in two beds at the Manor this year, the largest a raised circular bed in the herb garden. They’re interplanted with medium height sunflowers, some Tithonia (Mexican sunflowers) and a few Zinnias for good measure. Whilst the latter few have a way to grow yet, the marigolds have glowed and the bed has lit up pretty much like the fire pit I imagined. Now that makes a change…😉

A raised bed packed with bright orange pot marigolds at Sulgrave manor and garden, by Head Gardener Gary Webb
Pot marigolds on fire at Sulgrave Manor and Garden

Sniffing and Snapping

Moving on, it was a real treat last week to get a day out, a short day at least, to the atmospheric Rousham House and Garden just a dozen miles north of Oxford. I’ve visited once before and written about it, but it seemed like an age and it is such a stunning place – I thought why not!

Entrance to one of the walled garden areas at Rousham House & Garden, by Gary Webb of Gardening Ways
Not your average garden gate of course!

The website for Rousham proudly proclaims it as one of England’s most important gardens, where it “represents the first phase of English landscape design and remains almost as its designer, William Kent left it”. I can certainly say that it does feel like you’ve stepped back in time once you round the corner to see the house and parkland beyond – indeed I wouldn’t have looked out of place if I’d turned up in a jacket with tails, knee high boots and a tricorn hat. (Other items are essential too btw!)

As a garden it’s very much a tale of two halves, where on one hand there are large seventeenth century walled gardens divided by high walls and again by espaliered fruit and pergolas. It is one of those gardens that draws you gracefully through leafy tunnels, beside deep borders and under clipped yew topiary, to discover fruit and flowers and parterres – and a very tidy glasshouse too. These walled gardens alone are worth a visit just now with their superabundance of flowers to sniff and snap (snap with a camera that is!)

Stage set glasshouse at Rousham. Beautiful.

On the other hand there’s a very different ‘pleasure garden’ experience on offer between the expansive lawns of the house and the steady River Cherwell that snakes through the base of the valley below.

Touring the garden at Rousham with Ruth Webb or Mrs Ruthie Webb
My extraordinarily theatrical and informative tour guide for the day…

Commissioned in the early eighteenth century, and building on the design of Charles Bridgeman, William Kent was the guy who took this significantly sloping site to one of complete beauty. Kent sculpted this challenging hillside, laid paths and built characterful structures, incorporated terracing and skilfully manipulated water to some charming features. Furthermore, he planted with purpose and confidence to control and promote views, and to create some intimate and exquisite spaces. Whilst much time has passed since the original work, Rousham, thanks to careful and caring maintenance still possesses some of the most beautiful garden spaces that are to be found anywhere.

An eighteenth century garden roll by William Kent at Rousham Garden, photo by Gary Webb of Gardening Ways
Going with the flow…at Rousham

Even on the hottest July day of our visit, where strong patterns were cast throughout Rousham’s hillside garden and the shade was still warm, foot refreshing water was flowing through the rills and cool niches were to be found in the Praeneste. People were sat in silence reading books, strolling in the shade, and everywhere was tranquil and calm. I’m certain that the garden statues have borne witness to some raucous parties in days gone by, but on our day, and most other days in modern times I guess, it was relaxing and refreshing and exactly what the doctor ordered, as they say.

Observations

I would now like to list some of the flowering stars of the moment, but there are so many I’d be here all day! Therefore I’ll simply attempt to describe some of the moods and moments of the last few weeks in order to track the season’s progress. So here we go:

Grass had slowed considerably, but with the rain it now grows again, and meadow grasses that grew tall, only to lay down in the rain, are now shooting skyward once more – that’ll be interesting to scythe in the weeks to come. Indeed the wilder areas taunt me every time I pass, calling to my tidying nature but I’ll keep my blade stored away so the orchids have plenty of time to set seed.

Pink flowered Rosa Gertrude Jekyll by Gary Webb of Gardening Ways
Rosa Gertrude Jekyll in my garden at home, flowering later due to a late prune…

Mature tree foliage has darkened and hardened, yet new, brighter and lighter coloured growth shoots again from their tops. For me, this Lammas growth defiantly shrugs off the weather, bringing with it some much needed freshness, and it always acts as a reminder to summer prune the espaliered fruit.

The glasshouse is largely empty now following its very long period acting as incubator and protector for so many tender garden plants. Soon we’ll be able to carry out the staging and clean everything thoroughly, before the cycle will start again with all the opportunity it brings. I’m particularly looking forward to taking cuttings this year with a number of plants that need bulking up or raising for projects.

Beautiful yellow Elecampane flowers fading in the Tudor Villagers garden at Sulgrave Manor in Northants, By Gary Webb of Gardening Ways garden blog
Some Elecampane flowers going over in the Tudor Villagers Garden at Sulgrave Manor.

Finally, alongside the changing weather, is the feeling that summer’s end is already in sight. Many plants are enjoying their peak of course, and we’re certainly not done with the sunshine or warmth, but the garden is clearly moving on. Hedges have fuzzed out, crops are being harvested and displayed on Instagram, and many perennials are being sheared to encourage tidier new growth. In some ways it feels like the brakes need applying, like it’s all going-over so fast that I’m not able to soak it all up, but there are many flowers waiting in the wings for their turn, so there’s much yet to experience and savour.

Many thanks for reaching the end of another of my garden journals. I do hope you’re managing to enjoy some special garden moments either at home or whilst out exploring – the summer will soon be done so make the very most of it!

Kind regards
Gary Webb
Gardening Ways

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