Thursday 24 June 2021

Mid-summer Moments in our Garden

Phygelius aequalis-Cape Fuschia Dactylorhiza Fuchsii-Common Spotted Orchid  Zantedeschia aethiopica-Arum Lily
Summer is rushing along too quickly - it is hard to believe that we in the northern hemisphere have already had the longest day of the year. 
Apparently the sun rose at 3.38am last Monday morning in the Shetland Isles, currently they are experiencing hardly any  darkness. 
A few years ago we visited TromsØ in Norway during mid-summer, and because it lies within the Artic Circle it doesn't experience any night-time darkness for several weeks. 
I had only ever seen the sun fall rapidly before vanishing beyond the horizon, so to watch it fall, turn, and rise again was to witness one of earth's magical moments.  

Although the garden is growing like Topsy it has been getting very dry and parched so we were grateful to have had a couple of wet days recently. 

The mermaid has hidden herself away from view, she is secreted amongst the irises.

We have made ourselves a picnic and are heading off into Wales to visit a garden that has been the subject of an intricate historical and horticultural puzzle.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Kiftsgate Court Gardens

A garden created by three generations of female gardeners. It straddles the top of a Cotswold escarpment, and then runs down into a valley with views across to the Vale of Evesham.

This stunning white Coopers Burmese rose - R. Laevigata 'Cooperi'  reaches up to the top of the property. 

In 1920 the gardens at Kiftsgate consisted of a paved formal garden at the back of the property surrounded by a field and wooded banks leading down into the valley. The then new owner, Heather Muir, decided to change the layout of the garden with help and inspiration from her lifelong friend Lawrence Johnston.

She decided that the garden would be developed organically, rather than planned on paper. 
It has a distinctly feminine feel almost in direct contrast to the more masculine lines employed by Johnston in his own garden at 
Hidcote Manor. 
During the 1930s the steep banks were tackled and the steps to the lower garden were put in place along with a delightful summerhouse taking advantage of views to the west. 
Having spent 30years establishing the garden Heather was succeeded by her daughter, Diany Binny, who was then succeeded by her daughter, Anne Chambers. Anne has continued to develop the garden over the past 33 years - between them all they have nurtured Kiftsgate for over 100 years.  
Anne established this contemporary black water garden on what had once been the tennis court. She continues the family tradition of seeking out new and interesting plants to compliment the colour schemes established by her grandmother when she originally laid it out.
I love the elevations in this garden with their expansive views, but maintaining a garden like this is hard work and not for the faint hearted. 

Crinodendron hookeranum - Lantern tree - native to Chile 

The garden has plenty of Nepeta Walker's Low - catmint plants scattered throughout the borders. I mention this because I too purchased a large number of the same plant a few weeks ago, mainly as a deterrent to our deer, who are not supposed to like them. However, with its spires of lavender-blue flowers amid fragrant grey-green foliage, Nepeta makes a perfect foil for other flowers in the border, and importantly is loved by bees. 

Monday 7 June 2021

"The Orchard"

A short riverside stroll, a quick cycle ride or a gentle punt along the River Cam takes you away from the hustle of Cambridge to "The Orchard" in Grantchester; an oasis of calm, that has been an essential part of Cambridge life for over 120 years. The history of "The Orchard" began in 1897 when a group of Cambridge students asked the landlady of Orchard House if they could take tea in the orchard rather than on the front lawn as was their custom. The practice soon became the norm and the place grew in popularity with students. The next phase in the history of "The Orchard" began when the poet Rupert Brooke took up lodgings in the house in 1909. A very popular graduate student within the university community, Brooke attracted an illustrious following. 

Amongst them was........ 

Virginia Woolf - Writer

John Maynard Keynes - Economist - painting by Duncan Grant.
E M Forster - Writer, Essayist, Librettist - painting by Dora Carrington
Bertrand Russell - Polymath, Philosopher

Augustus John - Painter - shown with Tallulah Bankhead - an American actress from a prominent Alabama political family. Her grandfather & uncle both served as US Senators, and her father was Speaker of the House of Representatives. She supported liberal causes, including the budding civil rights movement.

Ludwig Wittgenstein - Philosopher...... 
Collectively they were known as The Grantchester Group. 
Rupert Brooke later lodged in the neighbouring house, "The Old Vicarage", which he immortalised in his poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. He wrote the poem whilst in Cafe des Westens, Berlin, during May 1912. He was feeling homesick for England, and nostalgic for his old life back in Grantchester. 
The poem ends with the lines:
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
Commissioned into the Royal Naval Division he took part in the disastrous Antwerp expedition in October 1914. In February 1915, he set sail for the Dardanelles. On board ship he developed septicaemia as a result of a mosquito bite, and died, aged 27years on 23rd April 1915 aboard a hospital ship off the Greek island of Skyros. His final resting place is in an olive grove on the island. 
"If I should die, think only this of me,
That there's some corner of a foreign field
that is for ever England".

The Old Vicarage acknowledges Rupert Brooke's time spent at the house with a statue of him on a plinth in the courtyard. The house is now owned by Jeffrey Archer - Politician, Author.

As we enjoyed cream teas beneath shady apple trees; children ran around playing hide-and-seek, an artist painted at her easel, we were aware of "The Orchards" notable past - a palpable atmosphere, akin to "standing on the shoulders of giants". 

The first 8 images courtesy wiki

Friday 4 June 2021

The Bank Holiday

We visited some old haunts over the last Bank-Holiday weekend, but by far the biggest treat for us was being able to spend time with both of our sons and their families - it felt as if the good old days were back. We walked the Hicca Way, a route that follows the River Hiz Valley in Hertfordshire. The name of the walk is taken from the Saxon Hicca Tribe who occupied the land around the river, at what is now Hitchin. Here King Offa of Mercia created an important religious settlement in 792AD.  When Danish invaders settled just north of the area the Saxons were forced to pay a regular 'Danegeld' tax to save their land from attack. The tax is thought to have been bread rather than silver.

There was an over-the-top profusion of buttercups in the meadows, everything was looking extremely lush, very green, and very golden. I do hope that this also bodes well for the farmers and their crops this year too. The air was filled with the scent of wild flowers along with bird songs and insect chirps. We even heard the iconic sound of our first Cuckoo this year and then watched as it flew across the meadows. When walking with our youngest son there are not many birds or bird songs that escape his attention.
Germander Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys - with its clumps of bright blue flowers, Germander Speedwell is said to be a good luck charm for travellers.
Hawthorn blossom - May blossom - Crataegus monogyna - these bushes will have a bountiful crop of red berries which will hopefully help to fortify our hedgerow birds during the winter months. 
The River Hiz travels along for 10 more miles until it meets up with the River Ivel. The land it flows through is known as 'common land' where cows, sheep, and horses graze freely. 
This small tributary will eventually become part of the River Ouse which drains into the North Sea near Kings Lynn in Norfolk. 
Time for lunch - food with our sons and their families is always a tasty treat, and then we are heading off to somewhere that we have never visited before.