Yesterday, while wandering around the magnificent walled garden at Cambo Estate near St Andrews in Fife, I came upon a drift of beautiful pale pink musk mallows (Malva moschata). I bought a packet of musk mallow seeds earlier this year and am looking forward to growing them in the spring. Mine are white with just a touch of pink in the middle, but I wouldn’t mind some of these lovely pale pink ones as well.
Three years ago I tried growing courgettes for the first time. I bought a packet of seeds, put two seeds in the ground, and two plants grew up which produced about 80 courgettes between them. I was amazed by the success and keen to try again the following year. Unfortunately, on my second attempt slugs ate the plants before they could bear fruit, and the same thing happened the year after.
This year, hopeful of beating the slugs, I tried planting a couple of seeds in pots instead. Only one of them came up, but it began growing into a healthy-looking plant. By the time it was big enough to start fruiting, I transplanted it into a space next to where some lettuces had been growing well with no sign of slug damage.
There are now several courgettes growing happily on the plant and today I harvested my first one of the season. It formed part of a vegetable pasta dish which, if I’d thought of it soon enough, I’d have photographed to add to this post.
Today’s choice of photo was inspired by the book mentioned in my previous post. The garden shown below is Glenwhan, a beautiful retreat in the quiet area of Galloway, on Scotland’s south-west coast. To my mind, a peaceful garden features a predominance of green, enlivened with small splashes of colour. There’s something soothing about green foliage, in its vast array of shades and textures. Benefiting from a relatively warm, wet climate, Glenwhan is a haven of lush, restful greenery: a refreshingly peaceful garden.
When I finished reading ‘Peaceful gardens’ I felt a sense of disappointment. I turned the page thinking there was more to come, only to find I had reached the end. I got this book out of the library, but have enjoyed it so much I’d like to buy a copy to read again.
‘Peaceful gardens’ is what might be described as a coffee table book, full of lovely photos with detailed captions, interspersed with more general text about gardening. Although the front cover is not terribly appealing, the illustrations inside are quite the reverse.
The author, Stephanie Donaldson, was Gardens Editor for Country Living magazine for many years, and has written a number of other gardening books. Although clearly a knowledgeable gardener, her writing style is easily accessible to novice gardeners like myself. I’ve often been put off gardening books by too much jargon and technical detail; ‘Peaceful gardens’, by contrast, introduces ideas and tips about gardening almost without the reader noticing they’re being instructed. That’s my sort of gardening lesson.
The book is divided into three main sections: ‘peaceful shapes and spaces’, ‘tranquillity for the senses’ and ‘scent and sound’, all beautifully illustrated with photographs giving clear examples of what’s being described in the text. There are ideas and suggestions for rural and urban gardens, although the book struck me as being more heavily weighted towards rural or semi-rural gardens that might have space for a variety of features in versatile areas. The text is well worth reading, and nicely written, but even if all you did was look at the pictures you could easily find inspiration and joy in its contents.
Each year, at the start of spring, I have an urge to do something in the garden. I want to see things growing after the long winter months, but my enthusiasm often wanes rather quickly when tasks seem too daunting or the weather’s not conducive to pottering around outside. Perhaps this year ‘Peaceful gardens’ will provide the impetus I need to fulfil some of my gardening dreams in the months to come.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was a landscape gardener and architect, born in the north of England in 1716. His nickname, Capability, is said to have come from his frequent observations that areas of land had ‘great capabilities’.
He became an expert at creating works of art out of large areas of parkland, moving great mounds of soil and diverting rivers to achieve the look he was after. His aim was always to make something that looked natural, but was also beautiful and practical.
In August 2016 Royal Mail brought out a series of eight stamps to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown’s birth, and I have the two second class designs. The first of these features Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, birthplace and ancestral home of wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
When he redesigned the parkland at Blenheim Palace in the 1760s, Capability Brown engineered a great lake by damming the small River Glyme. The river flowed under an enormous bridge (said to contain over 30 rooms), built some years earlier by architect, Sir John Vanbrugh. The bridge was an impressive piece of engineering, but it looked out of place with a small river trickling under it. Brown fixed the incongruity by designing the lake to make it look as if the bridge had been built specifically to cross a wide expanse of water. The bridge and lake feature in the foreground of the Blenheim stamp, with the Palace in the background.
The second stamp features Longleat, home of the Marquesses of Bath. Located in the English county of Wiltshire, Longleat is a stately home set in 1000 acres of parkland. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and is perhaps best known for its safari park. The safari park was opened in 1966 and was the first such park outside Africa to house a variety of African animals.
It was the 1st Marquess of Bath, Thomas Thynne, who asked Capability Brown to redesign the formal gardens into something more natural-looking, with tree-peppered grassland and grand driveways. As he did with dozens of other gardens, Capability Brown produced a landscape that perfectly flattered the architecture it surrounded.
Both Blenheim Palace and Longleat are open to the public, as are around 30 other gardens designed by Capability Brown throughout England.