Visiting Sombrun

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One of the lovely old wrought iron fences and gates, with (?) Clematis Dr Ruppel getting going, Sombrun, May 2017

I love visiting gardens.  Old friends, new friends, places that I have never been and old favourites are all alike in that I just love seeing gardens, other people’s ways of using their space, and inhabiting their world for a short time.  And when you meet people who have tackled, and are still tackling, an impressive amount of space, with open areas, courtyards, woodlands and open meadows- it is quite humbling.  In Sombrun, a village about 30 minutes from us, a couple have done just that.  These are not flowery people or the gardener who might have a trough of alpines on display- this couple wanted a ‘green garden’ and so have set about their big space with the eyes of landscape designers rather than gardeners.

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Using the woodland but adding the definition of the clipped stairway alongside the actual steps, Sombrun, May 2017

With mature woodland on almost three sides, they have chosen to melt the garden into the borrowed landscape in all sorts of clever ways.  I loved this faux hedging staircase alongside the actual steps, which shows so well that just a little formality can bring a disparate woodland scene together.

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The angular, zigzagged hedge snakes up the hill away from the rear courtyard, Sombrun, May 2017

But there are areas where the dense privacy of a really good hedge was needed.  And so, working its way up the hill is a long, zigzagged hedge of beech, which embraces the newer tree planting in the angles of the zigzag.

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Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’ in another crook of the opposite beech hedge, Sombrun, May 2017

And now and then, there is a flash of colour, like the Mutabilis rose snuggled into a crook of the beech hedge.   Another bold choice was to create tiered sweeps of hedging taking you away from the courtyard to the start of the hill, I love Eleagnus x ebbingei for its silvery look and slightly stiff shaping, and it was a great choice to make this statement.

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Eleagnus ebbingei tiered hedging looking very silvery, Sombrun, May 2017

To soften the hedging emphasis, the grass is allowed to be longer, to support buttercups and other wild flowers, with mown areas where a passageway is needed.  This made for a relaxed feel in amongst the big formal strokes.  And green it is- I loved the faux crowns of Phormium sprouting through the spreading conifers.

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A hedging archway, with spreading groups of conifer crowned by the upright Phormiums, Sombrun, May 2017

One mixed border runs close by the side of the house, where clipped shapes and big, spreading shrubs are supported by perennials- this area used to be a woodland, but the removal of the trees opened up light and air for the house- you can still see the tree stumps through the grass.

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A mixed border close to the house, Sombrun, May 2017

Pencil cypresses draw the eye up and out of the rear courtyard, past the pretty cart- as if the farmer had just pulled up there.  The swimming pool can just be seen because of the cover, with a large cream Cistus flowering at the far side.

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The rear courtyard, Sombrun, May 2017

I was running round the garden as a big, cold storm piled in- so my last stop was to get closer to the pink clematis twisting through the old iron fencing at the front of the house. There were lots of photographs that never got taken!

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The bright pink of Clematis ‘Dr Ruppel’ (?), Sombrun, May 2017

Pointless pottering…why it matters

I have often said, when asked ‘What were you up to today?’, this:  ‘Oh you know, pointless pottering in the garden.’  I really have to stop saying that.  There is no such thing.  Firstly, it’s when you wander round that you really notice things, and very often, it is only by breaking the routines of how and where you potter, that you actually see the bigger picture.  I think this is particularly true of me, because I am more than bit of a self-confessed plantaholic.  This means that I am often only looking at the performance and behaviour of one particular plant at a time.  Interestingly, this is how I photograph the garden too. Plant by plant.  There is a side aspect to this, that I have a camera that is not that great at bigger, wider shots, but in truth, I could do this differently than I do.  Habit, you see.

So, today, I am widening the lens just a little, living dangerously and showing you more than one plant at a time.  Combinations came to mind today, those serendipitous moments when you have introduced a new element, or in my language, stuffed another plant in, and the picture is really changed and developed.

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Acanthus mollis behind, Leycesteria Formosa ‘Golden lanterns’ just opening up on the left, and a handful of doughty, unknown cream tulips- and one fly looking for stardom, Tostat, April 2106

I could swear these tulips have moved.  I know they are very robust because I planted a cheap packet of them easily eight years ago, and they may be down to this small clump and one other, but they always turn up.  And now that the Acanthus has really taken hold, the other morning on a light, grey day was just the perfect time to catch them in a photograph with no glare.  But the tulips were definitely further left to start with.

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Narcissus ‘Thalia’ in front of unknown blue Iris, 4 unknown cream peony double tulips, frothy Cenolophium denudatum, tiny glimpse of Ranunculus ficaria’Brazen Hussy’ and the box hedge replacement, Eleagnus x ebbingei dusty brown new foliage, Tostat, April 2016

In a similar cream/green combination, the addition of Narcissus ‘Thalia’ has changed this mini-scene for me.  It extends the cream and green away from the unknown, another doughty tulip returner, and as the Cenolophium is now in is third year, it too is making more of an early impact.  The frothy new foliage is a great contrast with the almost cardboard-coloured new foliage of the replacement hedge.  That was a torture, ripping out the mouldering remains of the box last August, but I think the Eleagnus will give us different vistas through the year and I am quite excited to see how well it does.

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Narcissus ‘Thalia’, Tostat, April 2016

This Narcissus is so delicate and pretty.  Mind you, I was lying down to take this photograph as it is quite small in stature.  Note to self: buy some more and find a way of raising them up for next year.

And, whilst pottering, I looked down into the centre of the new Helleborus foetidus foliage.  And, I know that I am trying to broaden my looking, but, it is exquisite close-up and like a mysterious world unto itself.

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New foliage on Helleborus foetidus, Tostat, April 2016

So, here is what I am looking forward to in about 5 weeks, a great drift of Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’ punctured later by the tall columns of Liatris scariosa ‘Alba’ which brings some definition when the Anthemis takes a breather.  And that’s a bit more of a vista.  So, now that I have noticed my monoist (is there such a word?!) tendencies, I will try and broaden the angle a bit. If nothing else, I can then remind myself that the whole is more than a sum of its parts.

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Anthemis ‘Hollandaise Sauce’ in drift, Tostat, June 2015