Bourton House Garden…wonderful plants but somehow…

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Borrowed landscape, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

In our whirlwind tour of gardens in the Cotswolds, Shropshire/Herefordshire and Sussex/Kent, we covered many miles in a comparatively short time.  By the time we got to our third garden on Day 2, we had a ‘nose’ for what we liked and didn’t, and our opinions were strengthening.  On the face of it, Bourton House Garden should have been a winner.  It has a beautiful position overlooking fields and a rolling landscape that probably has hardly changed in the 300 years since this gracious, part sixteenth, part eighteenth century house was built.   And, some to-die-for planting could be seen.  Here are some of the plants that grabbed my attention…

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Abutilon ‘Ashford Red’, Bourton House Garden, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey

Abutilon ‘Ashford Red’ wove its way through the hot colours in some of the borders- what a gorgeous colour and spectacular presence this plant has- I adored it.  Not hardy sadly, but I am on the hunt for one, it is not to be resisted.

This Abelia floribunda, which I think is the correct identification, is a bit of a rarity.  Tenderness may be the reason, but this cerise-pink sharpness ran through several border areas with emerald green foliage at a very handy 1.5m or so, height and width.  It is a sumptuous plant, from Mexico originally, and needing a fair bit of water and a protected situation, and no frost.  Which rules it out for me really, but to be totally admired.

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Abelia grandiflora, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

This was a real charmer, Trifolium pannonicum, just around 0.5m tall and weaving in and out of the borders, a bit like a clover on drugs, but very pretty and apparently easy, so I may well give this a try if I can get seed.

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Trifolium pannonicum Hungarian clover, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

I have puzzled over this plant!  Looks like a cross between a Honka Dahlia and a Leucanthemum, but no hard and fast identification yet…any ideas?  Very pretty and quite striking especially as a splash of white in amongst darker plants.  Probably only about 0.5m tall max…Chloris, thank you, says Argyrantheum frutescens

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Argyrantheum frutescens, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

An ambitious planting of Echium pininana had been a tad disrupted by super-hot temperatures and a windy day, but the remains were very impressive all the same.

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Echium pininana, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

There was a lovely shade house with some very unusual plants to be seen.  I have had a go at identifying all three of these plants, but I am not there yet.  Here they are, as mystery plants.  Top left plant has tiny leaflets growing in the centre of those beautiful leaves, top right has what look like cream berries growing in bunches under the leaves and the bottom one, doing a good impression of Deinanthe, has strange red-tinted bladders which can just be seen in amongst the leaves.

And the mystery is partially solved, thank you Chloris- the bottom plant is the very extraordinary Amisia zygomeris

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Podyphyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

Cutting to the chase, so there were some very lovely borders.  And some beautiful topiary and a faultless knot garden.  But the trouble was- total horticultural perfection does not a garden make.  It felt as if it had been made by computer or a robot without a human hand in sight.  This was not just me going off in a mood, we all four of us pretty much expressed the same sentiment when we exchanged thoughts half way round.  Somehow, it had no soul, no spirit about it. It really did leave us cold.  So, personally, I would carry on to Snowshill Manor if you are in the vicinity.  Of which more later.

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The Parterre topiary.  Yes, well.  Bourton House Garden, June 2017
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Immaculately planted shady border, Bourton House Garden, June 2017
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The Knot Garden, but why, oh why, the blue herons?, Bourton House Garden, June 2017

Summer-dry or what…

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Abutilon pictum, Tostat, July 2017

Ok.  This is now the third summer in a row that exceptionally dry conditions have prevailed.  Not continuously, but in killer sections of exceptional heat and dryness rolling through from April until now, and showing no signs of abating.  In between conditions normalise a little, but the accumulating dryness builds over time.  So today, I was really thrilled to find a second hand copy of ‘Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry of the San Francisco Bay Area’ edited by Nora Harlow and published by East Bay Municipal Utility District in 2005.

This book really triggered much of the current landscaping and garden thinking of the Bay Area, and was influential, winning the American Horticultural Society’s Book Award in that year.  So, despite paying more for the postage than the book itself, I am really looking forward to learning more about an area that could be really inspirational for me gardening in Tostat.

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Bupleurum fruticosum, Tostat, July 2017

Despite all, there are moments of loveliness- once your eye has adjusted to looking past the things that bug you! I grew Bupleurum fruticosum from seed about 7 years ago, and whilst not a looker in the conventional sense, the massed flower heads look fabulous at eye height and attract masses of insects. Now mature plants, they offer real presence in the garden as other plants go over, and I value their strong evergreen presence.

Echinacea purpurea is just coming through.  It is fair to say that this period, though super-dry, is also an inbetween moment in the garden anyway.  There is a pause that naturally happens in the summer, and we are in it.  But, Echinacea and Rudbeckia are arriving soon, thank goodness.

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Echinacea purpurea, Tostat, July 2017

This is the first year the Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ has flowered- last year, bulb strength was being built with leaf production- but now we have flower spikes and leaves- a great display, but with us, it’s got to be grown in a pot so you can manage the watering levels required.  They are thirsty when in the middle of flowerspike production and it’s true, you want the spikes to last as they are quite magnificent.

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Eucomis Sparkling Burgundy, Tostat, July 2017

Abutilon ‘Pictum’ just at the top of the page, is another shrub that does best in a pot, not so much from the water point of view, but more from the over-wintering needed.  ‘Pictum’ like all the Abutilons with the wider-open bell-shaped flowers, needs not to be frost-nipped, so I lug it under cover in the winter, just to give it enough protection to make it.  ‘Mesopotamicum’ and an unknown orange abutilon are just that bit tougher, the toughness give-away being the more shrouded, longer-line flowers as below.  Personally, I am lusting after ‘Ashford Red’, of which more later…

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Unknown orange abutilon suffering a bit last summer, Tostat, July 2016

And the slightly mad- not-to everyone’s-taste Lilium ‘Flore Pleno’ is carrying on regardless.  And I love it for it’s slightly shambolic Rita-Hayworth quality.  It cheers me up.

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Lilium ‘Flore Pleno’, Tostat, July 2017