Thursday, 22 September 2016

Hidcote Gardens - Rooms with views

Mid September, a time when the garden is starting to wind down and the garden visits for the year are slowing. I couldn't resist saying yes to the All Horts gathering at Hidcote though. It's a garden I've loved for many years. The last time I visited was shortly before I left Garden Organic and moved south, at that time we were lucky enough to go on a staff visit and get a tour from the, then Head Gardener Glyn Jones. Glyn has now left to make a mark on the historic gardens at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

My last visit was roughly 10 years ago, give or take, Hidcote had been a regular on my list of local gardens, one that I had taken Mum & Dad to visit. Sadly I don't think I have any pictures from back then but in my head the gardens were always sun baked and peaceful, my favourite border was always the famous red border, so even though I set out early in the morning in rainy gloom I was feeling optimistic for the forecast.

Lawrence Johnston was the originator of Hidcote, starting in 1907, his mother bought the manor house and he set about turning the surrounding fields into what is now an iconic garden in the Arts & Crafts style. The theme of the "Garden room" is not as new as the glossy magazines would have you believe, Plantsmen of the early 1900's had already started this trend of areas enclosed and themed with exits and entrances leading to wonderful vistas over surrounding countryside.

His influencers, such as Gertrude Jeykell & Alfred Parsons are now bywords for excellence in design. His peers and contemporaries were people such as Norah Lindsay & Vita Sackville West, known for her creation of Sissinghurst. Lawrence Johnston was a quiet man by all accounts far more at home creating his gardens than the life of a 1920's socialite, maybe that's why Hidcotes name is the one people remember rather than his? In the world of botany though this man was a giant! One of the unsung heroes of plant hunting, he went on plant hunting expeditions to Europe, Asia, Africa, China and South America. Each time bringing home a small gem for his gardens. He was also a great sponsor for other people, making it possible for Frank Kingdon Ward to travel in Burma, one of the people responsible for introducing countless Rhododendron species. W. T. Goethe & Edward Augustus Bowles travelled with him. Highly influential in every way, this quiet man bequeathed Hidcote to the National Trust in 1948 when he retired to his garden in France Serre de la Madone.

Back to present day!
Bearing in mind several points...
I haven't seen the garden in around 10 years
I never saw it this late in the season

The approach to the gardens has changed massively from what I remember, there is now a lovely new build (?) cafe and plant sales area. The signage around this area is pretty good I noticed as I rushed to try and catch up with the others. The entrance completely threw me out! Same gateway but now you enter through the entrance of the house itself, which is quite nice. I say this is a new thing but in reality I don't actually remember exactly how it used to be? I think it was through what is now a gift shop, anyway!

The first sight as you enter the garden is of a cute little parterre with an excellent choice as an alternative to box hedging, Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' planted up with summer bedding of Salvias and what I think are Bidens (I could be wrong on this, I was in a hurry) Rocky and I were almost an hour late, traffic, so we scurried to catch the end of the tour being kindly led by Sarah Davis the Assistant Head Gardener. Flying past the enormous Cedar of Lebanon I remembered the last tour I had been on before being surrounded by a fantastic scent of cherry pie! An entire bed of Heliotrope that even on this overcast day was able to envelope you with its mouth watering scent. I caught sight of our group, in the distance, and tried to negotiate the straightest path to them. This as it turned out included naughtily leaping some of the Trusts iron hurdles to gain access to the sacred Red Border where our group of intrepid gardeners were being treated to a private viewing! Quick introductions were made to those members I hadn't met before, hugs for those I had, a few pictures and then on to the plant house.

Talking mainly about the history and much needed restoration of the relatively recent addition (restoration?) of the wooden conservatory called the plant house. Sarah explained how only 10 or so years old it is already needing a lot of work to its wooden supports to keep it in good repair and the decision on how to fund this work is very much in the forefront of everyone's minds. Its such an important aspect to the garden not only in its history but also as a place to house and show some really gorgeous plants in their collection.

From there we moved to the long borders, an area I'm sure had only been recently planted up when I last visited, I wish I had managed to arrive on time. I could've asked more questions! They were just at the point of going from summer splendour into autumnal tumble. Still verdant with jewels of Asters shining through, just a hint of winter structure from the seed heads and exclamation points provided by the carefully manicured hedges.

We moved through to the Kitchen Gardens which had changed beyond all recognition for me, my last visit this area wasn't open to the public. It was an area like most gardens have, a graveyard of old pots, scruffy plants and dead machinery. Now fully in use as a Kitchen garden with a late crop of runner beans handily planted to the side of the path a quick taste test ensued.... they were lovely!

At this point our lovely guide took her leave and we headed for the cafe. I wont bore you with the details of what I ate but it was lots and it was lovely. We chatted and caught up with one another then headed over to Kiftsgate, this is where it gets funny...

We posed for our usual "All Horts" picture, as ever ably taken by Gerald, by the gates. We even looked at the signs with opening times and admission prices before ambling through the gates and up the long driveway. We perused the plant sales area and enthused over the Salvias when a deep baying ensued.

Release the hounds!

Hush puppy!

Introducing the resident Basset hound!

Somehow each and every one of us had failed to notice the massive signs at the entrance saying CLOSED ...oops!

Rocky singing the rusty gate song... F sharp?

So having failed in our mission we beat a hasty retreat back to the cafe at Hidcote to renew ourselves, chat a bit more, then myself and a few intrepid others went back to revisit areas of the garden we had missed on our whistle stop tour.

On reflection, the elements that make Hidcote, Hidcote are all there, no matter the season. The thought that was put into its vistas, the quiet areas, even the wonderful paving that changes throughout the garden to reflect the theme. Hidcote is undergoing some major renovations, replanting, but the ethos that Lawrence Johnston built the garden to is evident at every turn. 

"Plant only the best forms of any plant"

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Orchard revisited (Repost from 2013)

Originally posted on our Landshare Blog and several other places, heres a look at the Orchard Amy and myself planted way back when! I was SO proud of everyones efforts and all the years of preparation that brought us to this point, I still am and im sure the Orchard is now producing twice this amount 3 years on....

Bumper Apple Harvest

This September we had the biggest harvest of Apples from our new Orchard to date. The Apples & other fruit trees have been planted over the course of 3 years, the last trees being planted in the spring of 2012.
They grow on a very testing site, exposed to the wind and on heavy clay soil. The fruit trees have had a tough start, but a little bit of tender care and the damp summer of 2012 meant they got their roots in properly, and are now starting to perform as they should. Undeniably it’s been a good year for fruit all round, even our small Vegetable garden Orchard has produced fruit and these trees were only planted in the spring of this year.
One of our volunteers has taken on responsibility for the large Orchard almost entirely and over the course of winter 2012 – 2013 he would come down to see me and tell me about how the pruning was coming along, retie any trees that had come loose, repair rabbit guards etc.

Apple blossom in spring

In the spring he mowed, keeping the grass low improved the air circulation around the trees and took out competition for moisture and nutrients. The spring show of blossom, although later than normal was incredible. There is nothing more beautiful than standing surrounded by fruit trees in full flower. The scent on a still day can make your mouth water!
Finally in mid August, our volunteer, Peter started coming back from the Orchard laden with boxes of Apples. At first it was a trickle, then a veritable flood of Apples. Once the kitchen had their fill and they had made Apple pie, Apple crumble, Apple juice and of course offering up our Apples au natural, we started to offer them for sale in our shop …. And still the Apples kept coming! It was beginning to feel a bit like a scene from the Magicians Nephew with crates of Apples stacked waist high and Peter warning me there was more to come, much more.
apple harvest 2013
Some of the young trees laden with fruit.

At this point we had to get inventive as we had way more fruit than we could ever deal with so we contacted a local business, Biddenden Vineyards and consulted with a lovely chap called Julien, who offered us the solution of juicing our Apples. So a date was set for collection and a collaboration of the Rangers team and the Veg garden saw a bright Thursday morning in late September, and an army of Volunteers set off for the orchard with our hastily assembled Apple crates. Less than 2 hours later with big smiles the Orchard had been virtually picked clean.
apples sept 2013
A happy team of volunteers

We had estimated having about ½ a ton, we had underestimated, on final weight we had just under a ton of fabulous Apples. These were sent off for pressing and within 3 days we had our very own bottles of Apple juice. This means we can carry on enjoying the fruits of our labour, if you’ll excuse the pun, right into next year. Well, I say that, that’s if there’s any left as we’re selling it in our shop, and by all reports it flying out the door!
apple juice 2013
Me, and a lot of fruit juice!

Finally a quick note about the storm the other night, there were some casualties, relatively minor ones compared to how bad things could have been. A few small trees have gone down in the garden and wider estate, causing very little collateral damage. The worst thing to happen to the Vegetable garden was that we lost both sets of the south ends of the polytunnel doors, the wind had, despite our best efforts, ripped the locks off the doors, snapped the reams of baling twine we had wrapped around the handles for extra security, pulled the anchor points clean out of the ground and then proceed to thrash the doors back and forth till they cried mercy. Thankfully it appears that’s the worst it did and it shouldn’t take too long to replace them with something bigger, better and more resilient.

Lou – Senior Vegetable Gardener

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Buddlija, more than just davidii

I knew about davidii, most people do
Then I learnt about globosa, seen less frequently
Recently I learnt about weyeriana, which I had assumed to be globosa, turns out its a cross.
What I hadnt realised is exactly how many species of Buddlija (or Buddleia or any of the spellings you learnt!) there actually are until I tried to find an ident on this chap

It was found in the most bizzare of settings, we hadnt seen anything other than alpines since the day before. The altitude was such that even the hardyiest of shrubbery had given up about a 100 Metres below us. We were walking up to our last mountain pass of my Peru trek and had reached around 3400 Metres or so. There was a small group of huts with a circular drystone wall off to one side, investigation showed it was being used to grow crops such as Maize and Brassicas mainly and off to one side there was this shrub.
In the pic below the settlement can be seen off to the bottom right
I remember thinking as I took the pic of it that maybe it was a Buddleja or even viburnum? Then a ridiculously busy couple of months of travelling, visiting gardens & people & life in general ensued before I could revist my Peru snaps and rediscover it.
Today I tweeted the pics looking for a positive ID & some clever folks said Buddleja, one chap has kindly put me onto a contact who may be able to help, I thought I'd have a quick look myself. After all there cant be that many options....
Turns out theres a few more than I expected...


Picture credits for above to plant

So how many are we actually talking about here?

7 genera
121 species

I had honestly thought 20 or 30, tops!
So I search "high altitude Buddleja"
I get this from Wikipedia
Buddleja loricata is a hardy evergreen shrub endemic to South Africa and Mozambique, where it grows on mountain slopes at elevations above 1,800 m. The shrub has only recently been introduced to cultivation in Europe.
Its definately not this...

Ok so how many in Peru, thats assuming its a native species?
Turns out there are 61 species that are classed as native to North and South America....oh...
Well globosa is a native but the leaves are all wrong plus the flower although roundish is a far brighter orange than any globosa I know of, they tend to be on the yellow side.
Theres an amazing one called Buddleja speciosissima which had I seen it I would never have suspected was a Buddleja!
So considering the flower is round(ish) whats within the Globosae series

First we have Buddleja araucana. Up until 2 minutes ago I would have assumed this was globosa, this is one of the reasons I like writing this blog I learn stuff in the process! Apparently they are easily confused and I'm now questioning my ident on every single globosa I've ever seen... Or thought I've seen...
Buddleja araucana By Buddlejagarden - Digital camera, June 3013 in my garden
Also known as Buddleja napii, it was introduced to England in 1925, by Harold Comber, as a form of globosa (which makes me feel slightly better). The major difference between the 2 is leaf size, globosa larger, and the leaves of globosa are less hairy. Also flower size, globosa tend to be larger. Not a huge help when viewed seperately but neither is a contender for our mystery plant, so onwards!

Our next possible contender is....
Buddleja aromatica,  this is a tough one, there is very little information on the web and no (that I can find) pictures. Theres a challenge if anyone wants to take it!
Syn's are B. andina, B. monocephela or B. tiraquiensis. 
Apparently the only known specimen held in the UK died but even despite this sketchy information I can rule this one out completely. Why? It has white flowers, how very considerate.

Next in the globosae series is....
Buddleja cordobensis, again not a lot of web based info on this suspect! There is a real gap in our knowledge here. If anyone wants to sponsor me to go find examples etc. I'd be up for the challenge... just saying...
So what is known?
First described in 1874 by August Grisebach there are no known examples growing in the UK. Its habitat is described as the dry hillsides of Argentina (around 700 to 1,500 M). Its thought to be closely related to B. aromatica & B.araucana
Due to its native location and the altitude it has been found at I'm going relatively confidently rule this one out.... notice the qualifier "relatively"...
Also, theres this...
B. cordobensis
It kind of makes your mind up when you see an actual picture....

The last contender we've already mentioned and ruled out which is globosa itself.

So what of the other series?
Thrysoides - are mainly endemic to Brazil, some very rare.
Oblongae - consists of one plant, Buddleja oblonga, which is also native to Brazilian wetlands, unlikely just by habitat alone.
Stachyoides - cestriflora is rare and confined to BrazilB. grandiflora ruled out due to location and flower colour (yellow). B. hatsbatchii, longiflora speciosissima & misionum out due to rarity and location. Buddleja stachyoides could have been a contender but the pictures and description ruled it out. Buddleja tubiflora looks all wrong.
Anchoenses - another series with one member, Buddleja anchoensis, is all wrong, wrong flower, wrong leaf etc...
Buddleja anchoensis (Photo by Peter Podaras)
This list could become a real bore if I was to go through every one of the next 50 or so plants and trust me I did!
Glomeratae has 7 members
Brachiatae has 7 members
Lanatae has a frugal 4
Scordiodesis even smaller with just 2

None of which fit the bill for my unknown variety!

Buddleja (= Leeuwenberg’s Section: Buddleja) has 3 members...
On reading this I wondered who exactly Leeuwenberg was, im sure your'e thinking the same.... or maybe its just me? Anyway I went and found out. Turns out he is a botanist who is responsible for doing a lot of work on the classification of Buddlija's amongst other plants. Anthonius Josephus Maria "Toon" Leeuwenberg so far as I can asertain is one of those rare botanist chaps who didnt die a hundred years ago, the last reference I can find to him dates to 2010 so its entirely possible he's still alive and kicking... somewhere...

Verticillatae has just 2 members

and so we reach the catagory that showed some promise as far as my mystery Buddlija! (which is fortunate as its the last catagory in our native South American series)
Cordatae - a Latin adjective meaning heart-shaped
Buddleja bullata although ticking the elevation and location boxes falls down on the flower colour description and leaf shape.
Buddleja cardanesii I couldnt find a picture for this but by going just on its description can be ruled out. Although the elevation makes it a possible the location, Cochabamba in Bolivia, rules it out. Everything else makes it a contender though. Also it has a few close cousins, which may later prove when DNA testing gets round to it, to be seperated just by location and a small difference in leaf shape. B. soratae &  B. multiceps
Specimen from Peru
The above image is of B. multiceps and was collected in Peru, based on this I doubt its our contender.

 Buddleja cordata kindly rules itself out on first sight as it has lovely creamy white flowers.
 Buddleja euryphylla, Buddleja ibarrensis, Buddleja lojensis, Buddleja longifolia, Buddleja megalocephala, Buddleja nitida, Buddleja parviflora, Buddleja pichinchensi, Buddleja rufescens, Buddleja skutchii are all ruled out due to Lacation, altitude or flower colour, leaf shape etc.

This leaves us with B.incana, B.montana and B.vexansI shall let you decide if you think they are worthy of further consideration because i prefer the one below as the favourite..

So we come to what i think is our strongest contender!
Saving the best till last I bring you Buddleja coriacea 

Buddleja coriacea (Photo by Noel Kingsbury)

If you can help in any way naming my example I would be delighted to hear from you!
If you'd like to send me on a field trip to gather more data on this much understudied Genus i'd be over the moon! What? Well if you dont ask you don't get *Huge Grin*
I hope this has at least been interesting and opened your eyes to the massive diversity within this Genus, it certainly has mine. Thanks for taking the time to read.

I used several websites for reference which are posted as links below

And most useful on this occasion...