Tostat and Winchcombe…

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Rain sparkling on Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ this morning, Tostat, July 2017

The mega-lightening and thunder show last night over Tostat finally brought to an end our 4th or 5th mini-canicule or heatwave that we have had since early May- and at long last, a decent downpour has revived the garden which has been hanging on by it’s fingernails.  The ground is well soaked, though, honestly, it will not have penetrated that far considering the general overall super-dryness, but I am not complaining at all.  The green levels in the garden have been refreshed, and everything looks as if it has been through a carwash.

I am waiting for my book delivery before I review the summer-dryness situation properly.  I need some inspiration to break the thinking habits I reckon.

But today is grey and overcast, which actually means that the garden gets a chance to absorb the rain and use it, as opposed to sticking it’s tin hat on again against the beating sun.  And we had a quite a few days like this in England in June, after we had survived the two blisteringly hot days.  Wandering around Gloucestershire and Winchcombe with our friends, some lovely little moments were to be had.

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Winchcombe, Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’, June 2017

Helping Jill to water a friend’s garden, was a delight rather than a chore.  A real plantsperson, the garden-maker had a stack of treats to see, for example, this stunning Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’ that I have read about but never actually seen before.

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Beautiful ‘borrowed landscape’ enlarges this small, but lovely, garden, Winchcombe, June 2017

An enchantingly delicate, double white Geranium pratense, which I think is ‘Double Jewel’, also grew there, not a shouty plant at all, but very pretty.  Unlikely to do well with me, but I can admire it all the same.

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Geranium ‘Double Jewel’, Winchcombe, June 2017

And it wasn’t all about rarity.  This lovely combination below is achievable easily with very ordinary plants which work beautifully together- a spot of rigorous pulling out now and then needed for the lychnis probably, but that’s all.

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Opium poppies, an abundant white dahlia and good old Lychnis coronaria- simple but very effective, Winchcombe, June 2017

I had forgotten how good hollyhocks are.  Gloucestershire seemed to be full to bursting with them in all colours, but I really loved this vibrant red just outside the church in Winchcombe, which is really worth a visit by the way if you are passing.

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Knockout hollyhocks just growing in a pavement crack, Winchcombe, June 2017

This black Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’ was to be seen in various gardens, including Kiftsgate Court.  It is a newish variety, but is absolutely gorgeous, with healthy and vigorous foliage and these stunning spidery flowers- and looks as if it should be easy as anything.  I am searching for seed as we speak, there is more available in the US, so it may have to be bought there.  Just discovered that our local perennials nursery has it- good for Bernard Lacrouts!

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Fabulous Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017

Also gorgeous was the statuesque Cephalaria gigantea, which was a frequent player in Gloucestershire gardens.  It’s height, nearly 2m, and go-with-anything cream pincushion flowers, also the airy structure which on the whole seemed to take wind and rain in it’s stride, all these factors make it a lovely plant to try.  I have already bought seed from Chiltern Seeds.

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Cephalaria gigantea, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
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Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’, Bourton House Garden, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey

Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ seemed to be the go-to yellow rose for many gardeners.  Who can blame them?  It is a cheerful, buoyant rose that seems to be pretty trouble-free, and, according to David Austin, it has been voted the world’s favourite rose.

A complex Dahlia this one, which I think is ‘Night Butterfly’, so it isn’t usually what I would go for, but mixing in with the Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and offset by the creamy-yellow Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum ( I think!) I thought the combination was lovely, bringing vividness to a shadier spot.

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Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’, Winchcombe, June 2017

I was so thrilled last week when I found, goodness knows how I hadn’t noticed it before, a surprise gladiolus growing in the very newest bit of border that I started this year.  I am not a huge gladdie fan, but the colour of this one looked very promising and I couldn’t have chosen it better, if I had chosen it!  But this morning, decapitated by the rain ( so you see, the obvious staking had not happened), it is reclining in a jug in the kitchen- ah well.

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My surprise gladiolus, beheaded by the rain, Tostat, July 2017

 

 

Kiftsgate Court Gardens…a delightful tapestry

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The White Sunk Garden, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017

It was a blazing hot afternoon when we visited Kiftsgate Court Garden, almost across the road from Hidcote.  So hot that an ambulance was called for one elderly visitor, and the tea room was full of hot, exhausted people.  The sun was so brilliant that it was almost impossible to photograph some areas of the garden!

Kiftsgate really plays a very different tune to Hidcote.  it is an almost phantasmagorical mixture of planting, sumptuous colours, not a spot of earth to be seen as the planting is so luxuriant, and roses that seem to be taking speed they are so large.  The exuberance of it comes as almost a visual shock after the care and restraint of Hidcote.  And Kiftsgate chances its arm with some wilder areas and two contemporary areas, for which it is to be commended.  A garden is nothing if not a growing, changing environment, and whilst historical preservation is needed at times, fossilisation is not the best course. Many of the roses date back to the original plantings made by Heather Muir when she started to create the garden in the ’20s- some of the pink roses were a delightful antique pink, quite different from the more sugary pinks that have been commonplace in rose development.

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Beautiful unknown rose with giant blooms, and a lovely violet tinge, Kiftsgate Court Garden, June 2017
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Rosa Himalyan Musk almost finished, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
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Another unusual ruffled Rose, but unknown, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
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Rosa Mundi, Kiftsgate, June 2017

Of course, there is the famous original Kiftsgate rose, splaying itself magnificently down a long Rose Border and lunging into any trees it can latch onto.  At 20 metres high and about 25 metres wide, this giant display hints at why I have to be so vigilant to reign it in in my garden!  Heather Muir bought this rose in the 1930s from the famous nurseryman, E.A. Bunyard as a Moschata, but Graham Stuart Thomas identified it as an exceptionally vigorous form of Rosa filipes in the late ’40s and the rose was then named after Kiftsgate Court.

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Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’, Tostat, May 2017

The Yellow Border is a gorgeous blast of colour, using blue and orange to counterpoint the yellow.  Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ was a repeating theme, spiked by fabulous deep azure delphiniums in the bright sunshine.

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Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ and those stunning delphiniums, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey

The New Water Garden was added by the grand-daughter of Heather Muir, Anne Chambers and her husband in the late 90s.  Making use of an ex-tennis court, they created a cool, modern dark pool, encircled by the existing mature yew hedge, and the sculptor Simon Allison designed a simple, but magical sculpture of copper philodendron leaves, which drips water atmospherically every few minutes. It was an especially powerful experience to sit quietly listening to the music of the water gently falling in the hot sunshine.

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The New Water Garden, Kiftsgate, June 2017
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The New water Garden, detail, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey

One of the surprises of Kiftsgate’s location is realising that you are at height above the Vale of Evesham as you descend the terraced hillside towards the Lower Garden. Heather Muir terraced the hillside with the help of Italian gardeners in the 30s, building her little summerhouse to her own design, and her daughter, Dianny Binny, created the semi-circular swimming pool, which adds such dramatic interest to the Lower Garden. The Lower Garden comes to an abrupt finish looking across a view which creates a tremendous false perspective as the ha-ha leads the eye to believe that you are at height. But when you look over the ha-ha, you can see that you are only about a metre above the ground.  Brilliant landscaping.

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The ha-ha, false perspective and semi-circular swimming pool at the edge of the Lower Garden, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017

I think that there is only one false note in the whole glorious thing.  And that is the newest ingredient in the Garden, the Mound.  A young, but will-be-magnificent avenue of tulip trees leads to an impressive, elegant sculpture by Pete Moorhouse, using a leaf design and Islamic lettering to create a filigree effect.  Lovely.  But not lovely was the Mound itself, with a lumpy chevron pattern in coloured gravel and four potted olive trees.  A bit like an aircraft landing site to my mind.

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The Mound..mmm…Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
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Detail of the Pete Moorhouse sculpture, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017 photo credit: Colin Massey
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View through the Orchard, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017
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The Wild Garden, Kiftsgate Court, June 2017

But, stay with the mood of the sculpture, and follow the path into the wild Garden and the Orchard, two more newer additions, and very peaceful and restful indeed.  I loved Kiftsgate with a real warmth, not least because it is a garden made by three generations of women, but also because it has been made with such warmth and abundance, and care.  And you can feel that in the mood and the spirit of the place.