Plant of the Month: April

Spring has most definitely arrived. The days are longer, steadily getting warmer and you can already catch in the air the whiff of the odd early bird BBQ!

Garden centres are stocking up as the ground becomes warm enough to get out and start planting.

My plant of the month for April has to be:


Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’

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So here we are…

April 2016 and Spring is steadily trotting along, soon to be in full gallop. I’m not a betting person to be honest but with it being the Grand National this weekend I’d thought I’d give it a nod and slip in a gardening pun to start!

Hard to believe that this time last year I was counting down the hours until the RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Garden Build was to begin. Instead this year, with my press day ticket at the ready, I shall be a mere spectator. Continue reading

The Weir Garden, Swainshill, Hereford 30/10/15

With Autumn now in full swing and the end of this year fast approaching, Mum and I decided to sneak in another trip to one of the National Trusts gardens; The Weir Garden in Herefordshire.

Created in the 1920’s by Roger Parr the south facing garden covers 10 acres which allows for a wide variety of plants and, combined with the riverside, attracts a wide variety of wildlife as well as boasting beautiful views across the River Wye and unspoilt Herefordshire countryside.  Parr left the estate to the National Trust in 1959.

The name ‘The Weir Garden’ is somewhat deceiving as there is no longer a weir present at all, although it is believed one had existed a mere half a mile down stream supposed to hold back the river to create a suitable and popular fishing area. However an Act of Parliament in 1696 did away with all weirs along the River Wye to allow it to become freely navigable to one and all.


Euonymus europaeus.

Common Spindle

Perfect for bringing excitement to any Autumn /Winter border is the common spindle with its incredible fuchsia pink seed pods which open to reveal deep orange seeds inside. Will grow in sun or partial shade in any well-drained soil. Particularly found naturally growing in woodlands and hedgerows. 


The great concrete wall along the river was built in 1929 by Parr as a defence against erosion, creating a grand walkway with a fabulous view over the river. A little further downstream Parr also built a large concrete enforced boathouse which stands as one of the few to this day which remains along the River Wye.

Despite November but only a day or so away there was still plenty for the eye to behold; from old seed heads still standing tall, the majestic weeping willow over the river and many grand old trees burning with autumn colour the most wonderful and marvellous to see were the huge box and yew topiary balls dotted about randomly. For the main part the garden is a fairly steep slope which I discovered in Project 3 is not the easiest thing to design on. These great Buxus and Taxus baccata topiary balls instantly and easily create a beautifully surreal landscape.


Slightly away from the main garden is a delightful walled garden which is thought to have been created sometime between 1867 and 1887 where it appears for the first time on a Ordnance Survey. The glasshouses seen today were built by well known glasshouse manufactures Foster and Pearson during the 1920’s.


The cutting border, although undoubtedly past its peek, was still bursting with colour and fabulous happy flowers such a Coreopsis, Dahlia’s and Verbena bonariensis. At the end of this gorgeous border was any gardeners winter haven, and the envy of my mother, a potting shed full of all the essential tools and pots.

Back outside at the foot of the wide vegetable beds, full of fantastically bright rainbow chard, was an ever popular increasing sight of a huge bug hotel with a very thoughtfully placed instruction board. Bug hotels are so easy to create and incredibly rewarding. Wildlife is essential to a living garden and it takes merely a few steps to embrace it and give those creepy crawlies a little helping hand.

All in all Mum and I had the most pleasant of days visiting The Weir Garden. It isn’t the largest National Trust sight by far but well worth the journey over to enjoy and peruse through its wonderfully tranquil grounds.


For more information on The Weir Garden click below:

The Weir National Trust Visitor Information


7/8/15 Gardener’s World. The Lost Gardens of Heligan…the Lost Gardens of Baron Hill.

Catching up with last weeks Gardener’s World in which they featured the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall (which went straight onto my ‘Must see!’ list) I was reminded of a trip to Anglesey I took a couple of years ago. Hidden away in Beaumaris I got to explore what remained of Baron Hill Estate.

Baron Hill Estate


As the story so regularly goes, War spelled the ultimate demise of both these once grand and splendorous estates of Heligan and Baron Hill. The difference here however that fortunately for Heligan, thanks to a devastating hurricane that hit in 1990 which should have finally consigned it to the history books, parts of the garden which had been lost were revealed and captured the imagination of Sir Tim Smit KBE who set about restoring the gardens to their former glory.

Baron Hill unfortunately has not been so lucky as of yet.

On entering Beaumaris it is as though you are entering a forgotten forest. Tall trees and wild shrubs loom over the road and old stone wall’s running closely down the sides. The dark stone walls grow high and suddenly a small bridge appears and quickly fades away in the rear-view mirror before you’ve registered you passed under it. On parking the car in town we walked back up the road. The bridge is in fact what appears to remain of the once grand drive of the Baron Hill Estate.

During WWII it is said Polish soldiers who were unhappy with the freezing conditions of the mansion began a fire which ripped through the building leaving only the shell remaining. Hints of the grandness and beauty of the rooms are held within the many built in fireplaces and occasional plaster work which clings defiantly to the inside walls.

Nature, as is natures way, has reclaimed the surrounding gardens and has long been working on returning the remains of the main building back to dust.

Extravagant garden structures and the skeletal remains of glasshouses are seemingly randomly dotted about steadily disappearing from the world, disconnected from their purpose and place in the long lost design of the grounds.

The once grandiose frontage has taken on a new beauty, one which has suffered greatly yet stood her ground and grown old as gracefully as would be expected.  One can only hold out hope Baron Hill will be saved one day soon. Had I of won the lottery, buying a ticket after my visit, I’d certainly of endeavoured to. Alas I am still here scrimping and scraping and dreaming.



Day 3: get said friend to build the framework.

After hiring a long wheelbased transit van on day 2 we had managed to get all the wood and ply on site ready to create the framework of the garden. I had never driven anything as big as that van and had to endure many winces from my passenger, which was unnecessary as my driving caused not a single scratch I am proud and glad to report!


So with the materials and tools on hand the days job was simple; build the framework so I could then fill it in. Easy peasy…so I took the role of supervisor.




Day 2: Get a friend in who enjoys digging.

I designed the garden with very little hard landscaping within it so as to a) make the build as straight foreward and simple as possible, b) to keep costs to a minimum but most importantly c) because the concept did not require it.

My idea for this garden was that it feel like the sort of wild haven one might stumble across within a clearing in a valley of woods far away from the bussle of everyday life.

Due to this the hiring of a contract landscaper wasn’t necessary. However with such a limited number of days, due to my jobs, creating the garden single handedly was simply not going to happen. Fortunately, I found a handy helper in the shape of my friend Elv, of E.Robinson Carpentry who has been absolutely wonderful to work with and invaluable to the project.

Now, we had been warned that the ground at Malvern was completely solid so my plan had been to build up, essentially creating a large raised bed. Elv had other ideas and despite several warnings was adiment he wanted to dig down, so we went and bought the man a shovel…and then a pick axe.