WYHPS Holiday to Norfolk 2018

Day 1  Saturday 30 June 2018:

Ellicar Gardens, Nottinghamshire: 

Ellicar Gardens is a young, vibrant family garden set in 5 acres. Owners Will and Sarah Murch have set about creating a naturalistic garden that is rich and diverse in wildlife and plants.

With sweeping borders and flower gardens spilling into wildflower meadows, within a framework of young specimen trees and shrubs, the garden is as beautiful in winter as in the height of summer.

Borders overflow with colour, dance with butterflies and hum bees. The garden is a haven for birds and alive with birdsong.

At the heart of the garden is the beautiful Natural Swimming Pool – a sky mirror, watery retreat and magnet for wildlife.

‘Beautiful pond area with a mass of waterlilies. Loved the large archways with Clematis Etoile Violette’, Denise.

‘The pond area was amazing – especially the pink and white water lilies ; impressed with water boatman’.

‘I loved the idea of the swimming pond. Chatting to the man, he said they only cost £80,000 to install’, Wendy.

‘The hedges were full of birds and the borders full of butterflies and pollinating beetles.I’d have liked to try the natural swimming pool / pond. Enticing water and impressive water lilies’

‘The talk on the four favourite garden implements –  some captured on video was a really useful piece of gardening advice / guidance’.

‘The naturalist style was really impressive, the combining of all the wild, trees, flowers, with the more formal flowers’.

‘Beautiful pond area and waterlilies; arranging the large metal arches added a formal touch to a lovely garden. Very good coffee and cakes.’

‘Loved the livestock; particularly the chicks’.

‘Goats, pigs, horses, geese, bantams and dozens of tiny chicks, scurrying about. Wonderful garden and home for children and wildlife. Could move in’.

‘If only Sue had told us to pack our swimsuits! Best ornamental pond and combined swimming pool I’ve ever seen, and with waterlilies’.

21 Chapel St, Haconby (NGS), Lincolnshire: 

Cottage garden behind 300year old cottage planted to provide colour throughout the year. In spring there are snowdrops, primroses, hellebores and many different spring flowering bulbs. Through the year, colour is provided by bulbs and herbaceous plants and in autumn there are asters, dahlias, salvias and many of the autumn flowering yellow daises.

‘A treat of a traditional cottage garden with amazing plants – Aeoniums, Geranium ‘Summer Skies’, Clematis in profusion, Erigeron, a bit of everything and all the better for it’. 

‘Beautiful cottage garden, so many plants. Dainty clematis and many succulents’.

‘Huge number of species kept in this much loved garden. Very brave owner. lots of small exquisite groupings of ‘to die for’ plants and a Galanthus keeping bed / collection’.

‘They had a whole patch in the veggie garden full of snowdrops in pots buried in the ground. It is covered by netting to stop the birds pulling out the labels. Had lots of different succulents in pots’.

‘Wonderful clumps of mature ferns, some many choice plants!’

‘Delightful true cottage garden. Wonderful collection of clematis (old varieties); loved the harebells / Tulbaghia / Erigeron and large clump of Eryngium in full flower. Picture window in tearoom – lovely. Spoilt by shortness of visit’.

‘Amazing collection of plants in a comparatively small garden. Needed more time to appreciate properly’.

‘Loved the clematis and mauve Convolvulus mauritanicus’, Denise.

‘Wonderful garden. So many pockets of superb planting. Going back in September’.

‘Lovely stems of Dierama growing out of the gravel. Veg patch full of all sorts of interest. Some beautiful clematis’.

‘Beautiful garden, lots of unusual plants – obviously a lot of love has gone into this garden. Came many years ago to see the owner’s snowdrop collection – he was a lovely man full of fun!’

‘Super garden, from the large Lobelia tupa to the tiny Anomatheca. A joy’.

‘A dream of a garden with so many drought resistant plants. Could have spent much longer enjoying them. Pity no plants for sale’.

‘Lovely village garden and with many interesting plants. Loved the Hosta ‘Dark Star”.

West Acre, King’s Lynn:  

Specialist Plant Nursery and display gardens set in unusual D-shaped walled garden of an old Norfolk manor house, now owned by the sculptor Antony Gormley.  This nursery is a treasure trove for plant lovers and the extensive display gardens have year round interest and beauty.

Plants very good and reasonably priced. Teas and cakes excellent. Well stocked garden with interesting selection’.

Very helpful nursery staff, no question too much trouble for them to find you the answer’.

‘Fabulous nursery, unusual plants, reasonably priced, Pity not nearer home. All staff very obliging with plants and refreshments. Lovely garden, cakes and plants, good choice’.

‘Fantastic choice of many (unusual) plants – but not enough time to see them all!’

Great choice of plants at very good prices. We could have easily spent more time here. Excellent tea and cakes!’

‘I’ve been looking forward to this nursery and I haven’t been disappointed!’

‘Superb tea room and cakes, and especially good plant nursery. Recommended’.

‘Gorgeous plants, could have spent a fortune!’

‘Wonderful plants’.

‘A great nursery, tea room a delight, very enjoyable’.

‘Wonderful tea and plants. Garden not so exciting. Cheap and interesting nursery; great foxgloves, hardy geraniums etc.’.

Day 2 Sunday 1 July 2018:

Chestnut Farm (NGS), Holt: 

Mature three acre garden with a lifetimes collection of plants, including many unusual ones. In Spring over 90 different varieties of Snowdrops, and large drifts of crocus, together with seasonal flowering shrubs and bulbs. Later the colourful borders come into their own, including Cornus capitata and kousa and many other flowering trees and shrubs. Creating a new woodland garden for 2018.

‘Such an absolute pleasure; wonderful people – so welcoming’. Ruth C

Peaceful garden. Welcoming and very knowledgeable owners. Have a whole list of shade plants I didn’t know and roses’.

‘Wonderful woodland, unusual trees and shrubs. Rambling roses up huge trees. Also herbaceous plants in the cottage style. Delightful areas with more formal hedging around scented plants. Beautiful setting’.

Incredible owner John took the camera / video person all round the garden and gave superb descriptions of his ‘choice plants’ – so knowledgeable and enthusiastic’.

‘Loved  the flowering Cornus kousa. Interesting to see them flourishing in shade. Impressed with the summerhouse garden; full of colour. Denise’.

‘Saw and smelt what my Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ should be like. Took some tips from the owner’.

‘Superb collection of shrubs and trees, some not often seen. Lovely refreshments’.

‘Plantsman’s garden with flowering and fruiting trees. Thought I’d never see Davidia fruiting. Wonderful Calycanthus’.

”Lovely garden and plants’.

‘I saw three (not ships) but Tulips – on a TREE!!!’

‘Fantastic Aanemone rivularis – cool white blue backed buttercup, spires of Verbascum chaixii (and album) everywhere, good trees, the biggest Spotty Dotty I have ever seen and elegant Arisaema triphyllum (last seen in the foothills of the Himalayas)’.

East Ruston Old Vicarage: 

When the present owners first came to the Old Vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas.  This was no bad thing because it afforded them the opportunity to vent their creativity. They have developed a 32 acre iconic garden. Each separate garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings and this was all done without outside help.

Throughout the garden you will see many rare and unusual plants growing. The owners endeavour to propagate these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. Many of these are difficult or slow to increase, hence their rarity, so if you see a plant growing in the garden that you would like do ask, as there may be some tucked away for you to purchase as a souvenir.

The garden lies 1½ miles from the North Sea in an exposed prairie landscape containing large arable fields. Many of the wildlife habitats for birds and mammals had long been swept away. The owners have endeavoured throughout the garden to replace some of these by the planting of mixed hedgerows, banks, wildflower areas and ponds.

The soil here is of excellent quality being a light sandy loam with a neutral pH. Due to the maritime influence the garden suffers less in the way of serious frost damage and they have planted large shelter belts of Pinus radiata, the Monterey Pine, Alnus cordata, the Italian Alder, Holm Oak and Eucalyptus. This enhances the garden’s unique microclimate which enables them to grow such a huge range of plants.

‘Amazing gardens, thoroughly enjoyed the water garden and walled garden’.

‘Wonderful! Every plant possible is there. Loved the long vistas framing a distant church, a lighthouse or simply a view’.

‘Wow! Wow! Wow!!!’

‘Incredible variety of unusual plants some of which would be too tender to grow elsewhere such as Acacia baileyana and Echiums…. Fabulous’.

‘Lovely to see the many roses, clematis and especially delphiniums. Every different area covered with unusual well co-ordinated planting especially the fantastic pots of annuals and half hardy perennials. Loved the architecture of the fruit cage! ‘

‘Amazing garden, so meticulously planned; something to enjoy round every corner and many plants to puzzle over too. So much floral colour’.

‘So amazing! You could visit every week and see something new. Wows around every corner’.

‘Wonderful garden – loved the Jubilee Garden’.

‘Wonderful garden, so much colour. A vista at every turn’.

‘Wonderful to return to my favourite garden, it was fantastic – colour blending was fantastic’.

‘East Ruston’s planting of pots is absolutely superb’.

‘A marvellous achievement of planting and planning for just two men. Fantastic’.

‘A very theatrical garden overflowing with stunning plants; the pots in particular showed what can be done with much warner conditions than we are used to!’

‘Incredible garden with much to enjoy. Good plant centre too’.


Day 3 Monday 2 July 2018:

High House Gardens, Shipdham (NGS), Thetford: 

3 acre plantsman’s garden developed and maintained by the current owners, over the last 40 years. Garden consists of colour themed herbaceous borders with an extensive range of perennials, box edged rose and shrub borders, woodland garden, pond and bog area, orchard and small arboretum. Plus large vegetable garden.  Small attached nursery stocking plants propagated from the garden.

‘Amazing what can be achieved and maintained by two people (one of whom works part-time). Such a lovely tranquil garden’.

‘Stunning garden. Wonderful delphiniums’.

‘Great variety of moods in the garden – and a well – ordered plant sales area too. Enjoyable start to the week’.

‘Very good nursery and cheap plants’.

‘Blue and yellow themed gravel area looking great in this hot dry season’.

‘Lovely garden, stunning delphiniums, loved the pond and waterlilies’.

‘Magnificent herbaceous borders’.

‘Lovely country garden. Relaxed style with some fabulous plants as well’.

‘Peaceful country garden, full of the scents of summer. Amazing they have time to maintain the nursery area as well as the garden; great selection of their own plants’.

‘Much bigger garden than expected. Wonderful delphiniums and lavenders full of bees and butterflies’.

‘Delightful garden where I acquired yet another dahlia (D. ‘Totally Tangerine’) for my collection’.

‘What a wonderful surprise this garden was, the plants were gorgeous and so couldn’t resist a lovely purple/blue phlox’.

‘Lovely garden in a lovely setting’.

‘Delightful garden with clouds of campanulas and delphiniums creating a blue haze. The pond was full of dragonflies and damselflies, and good nursery plants’.

Creake Plant Centre, Fakenham: 

Stocking a wide range of shrubs, herbaceous and climbers.  Specialities include Hellebores, Old Roses & Salvias. (Please note the website is under construction.

‘Wondeful nursery, good selection for Hardy Planters’.

‘Just too quick (45 minutes) !! Trevor is well and forgotten back op’.

‘Needed longer; good selection of plants’.

‘A sweetie shop!’

‘I would like to thank our patient driver; he has had a difficult job getting us to these places. The nursery was excellent and added shops of wicker and pots etc. were interesting extras’.

‘Lots of plants, excellent choices. The coach is beginning to look very pretty’.

‘Great nursery, purchased a Hydrangea I have been wanting. Convolvulus sabatius very popular!’

Holkham Hall: 

The 6 acres of walled garden which was originally laid out by Samuel Wyatt during the late 1700s has recently been restored.

The entrance to the garden is through Italian iron-work gates which were brought from Venice in 1908 and this opens into one of the seven sections, known as ‘rooms’. The walls within the garden act as a windbreak and reflect the sun to create a gentle microclimate. In Victorian times the garden would have provided a constant and varied supply of food and decoration to the hall, ranging from vegetables and flowers to a wide variety of both common and exotic fruits.

There is a spectacular stand of large Victorian greenhouses which have been renovated back to their original splendour with the help of English Heritage. There are also sunken greenhouses designed to be at a lower level to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.

In the ‘Arena of Plants’ there is a variety of blooms and range of colour and scents, with seating provided to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

A working area, the vegetable garden, provides sufficient produce for the family’s kitchen, for entertaining and any surplus food is used at The Victoria Inn. There is also a vineyard.

At the far end of the garden, one ‘room’ has been laid to lawn with surrounding flower beds and has been designated for weddings and other events.

‘Impressive layout of gardens’.

‘Loved the open – air buggy ride! You would not want to work in the walled garden on such a hot day; pity the young gardeners!’

‘Too hot to do it justice. Can’t remember much from my last visit aged 7 years’.

‘A welcome lunch and fun ride to the walled gardens and back. Well worth the visit; the greenhouses are amazing. Good to see the resurrection but I like the deteriorating old greenhouses’.

‘Best sausage rolls EVER!!’

‘Roses in walled garden stunning especially in this hot summer. Agree about old greenhouses’.

‘On our bucket list for longer visit to Hall’.

Dunbheagan (NGS), Westfield: 

Relax and enjoy walking among extensive borders and island beds – a riot of colour all Summer aiming for the WOW factor. Includes unique ‘heaven and hell’ and a vibrant hot border. Vast collection of rare, unusual and more recognisable plants in this ever changing plantsman’s garden. Sculptures by Toby Winterbourn.

‘Stunning……..beautiful garden’.

‘After a tiring day this garden was a lift for the spirits. The description in the yellow book was correct. A wow factor at every turn. Different moods all the way through the garden. Owners very friendly and welcoming  Tea delicious with scones,  jam, clotted cream and strawberries with a wide selection of cakes. Perfect end to the day’.

‘First encounter with a Wallema Pine – beautiful!’

‘Such a helpful owner and lovely scones’.

‘Loved the gravel garden full of little gems. Gorgeous rose and clematis arches. Beautifully maintained’.

‘WOW welcoming, original and wonderful’.

‘Exuberant planting!’

‘Fabulous planting with pathways through and between beds. I loved the ‘Heaven and Hell’ idea’.

‘Nice people, good refreshments and a garden to die for – especially the rockery’.

‘From seeing the front garden on arrival the back garden was a wonderful surprise  full of beautiful and interesting plants’.

‘Beautiful garden. I was feeling jaded but its freshness restored me!’

‘Lovely garden and such nice owners. Especially liked the gravel beds’.

Day 4 Tuesday 3 July 2018:

The Harralds, Gissing: 

Garden belonging to Dr Janet Sleep, a regular contributor to the HPS journal. (Click here to read her article on ‘Living with Drought’ which appeared in  the HPS journal ‘The Hardy Plant’ published in autumn 2017).

‘Knowledgeable, helpful owner. a lovely plantswoman’s garden’.

‘Fabulous garden and very interesting plants also for sale. Clever planting but of course she is a Hardy Planter’.

‘Such a lovely gardener and so generous with her knowledge’.

‘Want to go back with my brother. Lots of great ideas and varying conditions’.

‘A garden in which to feel completely at ease, no frills, lovely planting, charming lady’.

‘Great colour combinations’.

‘Lovely refreshments, plenty to see’.

‘So much to learn from the garden and from Janet. Liked all the self – seeders which gave such a natural feel amongst structure and planting’.

‘A plantswoman’s garden. Many interesting specimens. Very enjoyable talking to the owner’.

‘Such relaxed, interesting planting. Delightful setting. Lovely obelisks with roses and clematis pairings. Lots of creative ideas to borrow! Always great to buy a plant from the garden as a memory’.

‘What a range of plants to drool over. Real HPS garden – all sorts of good varieties and combinations – brilliant clematis and pleasant divisions sections – ferns particularly good’.

The Plantsman’s Preference:

Independent nursery stocking a range of unusual perennials and grasses.

‘Wonderful selection of geraniums!’

‘Lots of special plants reasonably priced and well laid out’.

‘A treasure trove for plant hunters!’

‘Excellent nursery with some quite unusual plants’.

‘Good to see specialist nursery growing all their own stock and knowledgeable owners’.

Bressingham Gardens, Diss: 

Six distinct gardens totalling over 17 acres of world class gardens including ‘The Dell’ garden, famous for the array of islands beds developed by Alan Bloom, and ‘Foggy Bottom’ garden with it’s noted collection of conifers developed by his son Adrian Bloom.

The founder of Blooms Nurseries, Alan Bloom (1906- 2005), began developing a garden in front of BressinghamHall in 1953, devoted to a new concept of using perennials, the nursery’s speciality, in Island Beds. Six acres and nearly 5000 different species and cultivars were taken in and planted by 1962, when the gardens were first opened on a regular basis to the public.

Returning from four years abroad (including two years in the U.S.A.) in 1962, Adrian Bloom began developing more gardens, starting his own, Foggy Bottom Garden in 1967 devoted to conifers, heathers, trees and shrubs.

In 2000, additional gardens were added by Adrian, linking them up to create a more diverse attraction to visitors, and joining the gardens together to create a Foggy Bottom Trail, leading from the entrance near the Steam Museum to the furthest and lowest end of Foggy Bottom. Today, although changes are still constant, the newer gardens are maturing; new planting designs and plants are being tried. Heritage and novelty exist together with the number of distinct varieties now in the region of 8000.

Bressingham Hall, near the entrance to the gardens, plays a historic role and has an iconic presence. It was Alan Bloom’s home for 50 years and that of the Bloom family. It has now been fully re furbished and is available for use as holiday lets and for wedding and other group stays.

There is also a plant nursery on site. Click here for link.

‘Outstanding, especially Foggy Bottom. Pricey plants!!!’


‘Wonderful to finally see this iconic garden on a glorious day and blue skies’.

‘The trees, the forrest of flowers stand out in my mind’.

‘Wonderful visit. Well maintained to a high standard, especially Foggy Bottom’.

‘Fun dodging the sprinklers!’

‘Discovered Kniphofia thomsonii var. thomsonii!’

‘Amazing how well kept everything is with lots of watering! Loved Foggy Bottom’.

‘Foggy Bottom my favourite – so tranquil and stunning mature planting creating special vistas – early planning shows much skill and foresight’. Denise.

‘A lovely setting to see all the plants looking very colourful in the island beds. My highlight was the carousel ride’.

‘Enjoyed the train ride but it didn’t take us round the edge of the gardens as we’d hoped, but past the rather sad derelict greenhouses and polytunnels on the Bressingham Estate’.

‘Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden was my favourite. Gorgeous island beds of wonderful colours – purples, oranges, lilacs, yellow, blues….. and so many names that were new to me’.

‘The visit to Bressingham proved a pleasant experience – the Dell garden very colourful and Foggy Bottom immaculately manicured’.

‘Lovely to see these gardens ‘in the flesh’ at last. All helpfully labelled and very colourful. The carousel and an ice cream – perfect end to another sunny afternoon!’

‘Foggy Bottom looked lovely in spite of the drought. The famous island beds were stunning’.

Day 5 Wednesday 4 July 2018:

Bank House, Marshland St James (NGS), Cambridgeshire: 

An exuberant and established 2 acre garden. Range of growing conditions from damp shade to dry gravel: veg and fruit areas, ornamental grass garden, bog garden, new pond, formal lawn, mixed borders, patios, terraces and variety of secret spaces. Year-round interest but especially a range of primulas, irises and roses peaking May-July. Grasses and dahlias in August. An oasis in the Fens!

‘Has the wow factor, a secret garden with amazing plants’.

‘Words fail me!! I loved it. So welcoming, loved dogs too’.

‘Standing under the 200 year old weeping willow and gazing up at the majestic tangle of branches – awesome’.

‘Healthy glowing delphiniums’.

‘Wonderful tidy and decorative potager’.

‘A heavenly garden perfect for the house. Lots of areas and paths, roses to clematis; not enough time’.

‘Amazing use of natural materials – myriad of ideas around every bend. These gardeners have triumphed in difficult gardening conditions – 15 feet below sea level and winter flooding’.

‘Some very unusual plants – lovely Catananche caerulea’.

‘Lovely ‘secret areas’ and winding paths leaving to wonderful plants – not long enough time to appreciate everything!’

‘Lovely garden with lots of surprises as you wander round. Wonderful plants; could have stayed all day’.

‘Lovely relaxing garden with interesting planting, could have stayed there longer!’

‘What a wonderful garden, many different parts with very interesting plants as well’.

‘A really tranquil spot, we could have stayed much longer! Amazing weeping ash tree’.

‘A garden that matched the old cottage. They offered a ‘cooked lunch’ next time, so we could stay on longer. Sold out of eggs though! Shame’.

‘Real country garden – relaxed and flowery, good flowers – Catananche, day lilies, sweet williams, Digitalis. Lovely places to sit for tea and cakes’.

‘A very good garden and top of my list I think. Interesting plants, a well – stocked sales area and a pleasant, chatty hostess’.

Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire: 

Extensive gardens covering an area of 5 acres which have, in recent years, been restored, nurtured and developed to fulfil their potential.


‘The Hall itself very interesting. Very good tree specimens especially Castanea (very old) and Paulownia tomentosa (in full flower). Thank you everyone for being so friendly and welcoming, I’ve really enjoyed the week’. Josie.

‘Enormous Paulownia in full flower. Should make more of mature, ? ‘king’ trees’.

‘Garden gives impression of lack of effective direction. Owner away a lot?’

‘Is the garden there specifically for the sculptures!’

‘Disappointing garden but nice lunch’.

‘Loved the large Paulownia – otherwise a bit of a letdown’.

‘Not impressed, garden needs help!! Beautiful house, enjoyed my lunch’.

‘Gardens disappointing but Hall very interesting – especially the tapestries’.

‘Gardens not as the brochure reads; plenty of trees and views but the planting was disappointing. The pair of sculptured swans was the best of it for me’.

‘Picturesque house, good eateries and the best Catalpa tree I have ever seen in the grounds’.

‘Two lovely stops for the last day. The first garden was beautiful and the owners welcoming. The lady very good at propagating and letting us have her hard work at cheap prices. Doddington made a good lunch stop and afternoon tea and the trees were old and happy with flowers on the Foxglove and Tulip trees’.

‘NOTE:  Perhaps we missed the Paulownia but we did see a TRULY spectacular Catalpa’.

‘Doddington Hall looked a lovely house although I didn’t go inside, and some of the trees were very impressive. Walled garden disappointing especially as it’s only 10 years since they had lottery money to completely renew it’.

‘Too hot to really enjoy it but significant trees including a Catalpa in full blossom’.

‘Anyone for weeding? Such a shame that we ended with a poor recommendation – not Sue’s fault – goosegrass and willow herb flowering well!’

Images to follow.

Plant of the Month and more……

I have nearly completed the third article in the series ‘Plant of the Month’. In July I will focus on border phlox. When I decided on the topic I naively thought that it would be a short article; little did I realise until I started to research the subject, that the history of phlox breeding stretches over 150 years. The names of some of the early plantsmen keep recurring, whether it be peonies, phlox or helenium (the topic for August).

In each of the articles I have referred to the present RHS Plant Finder to confirm the correct name and whether the species or cultivar has an Award of Garden Merit (AGM). If there has been a discrepancy between the RHS listing and the HPS image label, I have deferred to the RHS listing.

My starting point for writing is always the numerous books adorning my shelves, and then I start an internet search. In my professional life I used the internet on a regular basis to update my knowledge, but always took a critical approach when appraising information. I hope to maintain this stance when writing these articles. There are some informative North American sites and published articles in the gardening sections of national newspapers and garden magazines.

However, a certain amount of scepticism is essential. An entry in the ‘Biographies in Ornamental Horticulture’ describes Roy Lancaster as follows: ‘British woody plant expert affiliated with Hillier Nursery. He has named many woody and herbaceous cultivars.’ This compares with half a page dedicated to Margery Fish and other distinguished plantsmen and gardeners.

I am always reminded on my walks that many of our favourite garden plants originate from wild species. I regularly walk the dog around the field just down from my house. For many years the grass has been left uncut. First to make an impressive appearance are the buttercups (Ranunculus repens). They flower about a week later than those in one of the nearby fields but this may be due to the fact that there is more shade. There are cowslips (Primula veris) and yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and many different grasses.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

I recently spotted a common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) with a spire of pale pink, two lipped flowers lined and blotched with dark purple and with narrow dark spotted leaves. I spent some time photographing the flowers one evening, with the dog in tow. I am sure he thought I had lost the plot as I tried to get a close-up image that was in focus.






As a result of researching the ‘Plant of the Month’ I have become more discerning when buying plants. Last weekend I decided to visit some nurseries. I shop in Otley on a regular basis and have passed the entrance to ‘Courtyard Planters’ many times but have never explored what lies behind the passageway. I was impressed by the choice and quality of plants available. The herbaceous plants are raised from stock plants at the nursery on East Busk Lane. I treated myself to three ‘regal’ phlox and ‘Otley Purple’ which were bred by Fred Simpson, who lived and worked in Otley.

I then decided to venture eastward to York and beyond. Apart from the usual slow traffic on the A64, I think after 20 years of living in West Yorkshire I have now ‘sussed’ the road system around York. A few years ago I visited Cow Close Cottage (NGS) and they had a notice to say that they had sourced many of their plants from RV Roger near Pickering. It is a traditional nursery which sells open ground perennials between November and March each year. They also sell containerised plants. They had a good selection of plants and I bought another phlox and a peony.

On the way back I made a slight detour to visit Stillingfleet Lodge. The nursery is well stocked with perennials all propagated on site; they specialise in Geraniums and Pulmonaria, but there were many other genus on sale. There were some good phlox and peonies. Surrounding the house there are themed cottage gardens. I liked the information boards which highlighted what was in flower. I stopped off in the cafe to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake before heading back home.

On Sunday I decided to go back east to visit Breezy Knees. This garden is situated in the middle of arable farming land. In the mid 1990’s the owners planted a belt of trees to provide some shelter. As the trees matured they started to develop the garden. It first opened in 2006 and has been gradually developed over the intervening years. Now covering 20 acres it is one of the largest gardens in the North of England with over 6,000 different varieties of plants. There are a number of ‘garden rooms’. Most are planted to provide interest throughout the year. I was impressed by the ‘Phlox and Daylily Garden’. There were between 30 and 40 different species of peonies; unfortunately they had suffered from the heavy downpour the previous evening. The June and Cottage gardens were looking good, as was the raised garden with an amazing display of Alstroemeria. The labelling throughout the garden was good. There is a well stocked nursery; the plants are bought in as plug-plants and grown on but are well tended. One of the staff was working in the nursery checking the plants and removing damaged stems.

I had intended to visit Newby Hall this month but have not had the time. I  visited the garden once many years ago when I had dogs number one and two (now sadly no longer) in tow. On checking the website I note that dogs are no longer welcome in the garden, so number three dog will have to stay at home. That is probably a relief to both of us as I am always vigilant with a dog in tow, and probably much to his relief as I stop yet again to take a photograph!

I have published a page titled ‘WYHPS Holiday to Norfolk’. Click here for the link. I will be doing live updates on the holiday on a daily basis and to encourage active participation from members I suggest that the topic is: ‘What image sums up today’s gardens?’ followed by a short description (in one or two sentences). I will upload images emailed to me on a regular basis and include them in the ‘live report’.

Finally, I have now edited all the images on the website so that with ‘one click’ the images open and enlarge in a new tab / page.  This means that you do not have to press the ‘go back’ arrow, but you will need to remember to close the windows!

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group.

Evening Garden Visits Summer 2018

The first visit of the summer season was to ‘The Old Post Office’, Kettlesing, on Friday 4 May.

This coincided with the second day of the Tour de Yorkshire, which was going through Ilkley in the late afternoon. Despite this everyone appeared to arrive on time. Andrew and Angela Durance used to run a nursery but have now retired. They now spend time their time visiting places where the plants they propagated for years came from. It was a hot, balmy evening and the garden was looking good.

The stream-side garden is surrounded on the side away from the house by a wooded area.

There were a number of different species of trillium and erythronium which were thriving in the shade.

The azaleas and other spring-flowering shrubs were in full bloom.

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Ruth Baumberg is an excellent photographer and has sent me three images of this garden.

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The second visit was to ‘Ridgefield Cottage Nursery’, Knaresborough, on Thursday 14 June.

Jo & Tony Pickering bought the property 25 years ago. The site had been a nursery for over 100 years, growing conifers, wallflowers and fruit trees. The mound planted orchard was a method of growing fruit trees on piles of rubble and soil to raise their roots above the wet clay. The new herbaceous plants and shrubs are in circular beds under the ancient fruit trees. As the fruit trees have died or blown over, they have been replaced by specimen trees including Acers, Cercis Forest Pansy, Liquidamber and Cornus Norman Haddon to name a few.

The circular beds are edged by large stones, which Tony acquired through his job, which includes building gardens.

The weather was kind to us and once again the sun shone. We were welcomed with a glass of wine and canapés, and some delicious home-made cakes.

Jo runs a nursery and is well known to our members as she has had a regular plant stall at our biennial conference and lends plants for the Harrogate Flower Shows. Needless to say many members visited the nursery and bought plants.

The final visit of the summer season was to Home Farm, East Carlton, on Friday 10 August.

The weather was glorious for our last evening visit to Home Farm,  and the garden was a sheer delight. Sarah Crowson started to develop the garden 4 years ago when her sons had left home. The front garden was quite formal with a pleasant planting scheme. The walled garden at the rear of the house was delightful, full of surprises with a lovely colour pallet, and some beautiful specimen plants, and repeat planting. In addition there were some lovely pots around the house.

Sarah is in the process of developing the field / orchard. We were closely observed by the two Alpacas in the adjacent field. Many of the group were envious of her wonderful potting shed.

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The refreshments which included delicious cakes and a glass of wine or tea /coffee, rounded off a very successful evening visit to a beautiful and evolving garden.

Plant of the Month June 2018: Peonies

The peony is a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae. They are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America. They are amongst the most popular of all perennial plants, with their large blooms which are fragrant, and the added bonus of hardiness. Their flowering period is from early May to the end of June. I always think that they herald the start of summer. The stimulus for the emergence of new growth in February is the increase in day length, which is in contrast to irises which respond to increasing warmth.

Peonies are grown for their great range of colours and flower types, their fragrance, and relative freedom from pests and diseases. From the turn of the year, when the bronzy-red new shoots emerge in the company of snowdrops and winter aconites, through to the interesting seed pods and coloured leaves of autumn, peonies are indispensable in the garden.

They are named after Paeon, physician to the Greek gods. The old European species, P. officinalis, introduced here by the Romans, was used for its medicinal properties, which included a cure for jaundice, kidney pains, epilepsy, prevention of nightmares and the treatment of depression. In the 18th century, peony roots were recommended for weak hearts or stomachs.

Peonies have been grown in the UK since the fifteenth century and are a firm favourite in the English garden. P. officinalis and P. officinalis ‘Rubra Plena’ AGM, have been cottage garden favourites since the 17th century. Some will happily live for 60-100 years; each year getting stronger and flowering more profusely.

In the mid-19th century a trio of French nurserymen, Jacques Calot, Auguste Dessert and Felix Crousse, and an Englishman, James Kelway, started cross-breeding P. officinalis and the wild Chinese species, P. lactiflora, and created a whole new race of hybrids with big powder puff flowers. In 1856, Calot introduced P.lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ AGM, a double peony with creamy white flowers which are sweetly scented.

Peony breeding was subsequently carried out by Kelways of Somerset between 1880 and 1920, and the nursery is still going strong today, and they exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Show. Click here for a link to their website.

They were followed by another Frenchman, Victor Lemoine, who in 1906 bred the famous pink double P. lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ AGM. Today, the Dutch grow this in vast numbers for the cut-flower market.

Many peonies are fragrant; in some the scent is light, and in others the scent is only released after the flowers have been cut and placed in a vase. Scent also depends on the time of day, and a warm position. Good scented varieties include P. ‘Claire de Lune’ and P. lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’ .

P. lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’ AGM, which has white flowers with flecks of crimson near the centre, also has a good scent.

As interest in peonies grew, more wild species were introduced into English gardens. These include from the Caucasus, P. mlokosewitschii AGM, otherwise known as ‘Molly the Witch’. It has pale single lemon-sherbet coloured flowers over bronze-grey foliage.

It flowers early in late April, but not so early as P. tenuifolia, a beautiful species, also from the Caucasus, with fine thread-like foliage and blood red single flowers. P. ‘Early Windflower’, a cross between two species, (P. emodi x P. veitchii) emerges early, with intricately dissected foliage of deep, burnished bronze. It has single white blooms with a central boss of gold.

There are somewhere between 35 and 50 different species of peony belonging to the genus Paeonia. However, most of these botanical species grow wild in Asia, southern Europe, or western North America and very few are culivated and sold commercially; these include P. veitchii, P. mlokosewitschii, P.officinalis, and P. tenuifolia.

P. lactiflora is an herbaceous peony, which is native to central and eastern Asia and Northern China where it has been cultivated for about 1,600 years. There are at least 3,000 registered cultivars of P. lactiflora. Most of the peonies sold commercially are either cultivars of P. lactiflora, or else hybrids, with some of its genes. Historically, most varieties of peony sold were cultivars of P. lactiflora but often do not have strong enough stems to hold the large blossoms upright and need staking.

During the 1920’s Professor Saunders, working in New York, began crossing different species peonies which grow in the wild from the Mediterranean, up through Turkey, Iran into Russia and across from northern India into China and down into Japan. The flowers are almost always single.

The resulting hybrids carry the best characteristics of their wild relatives; they are hardy, early to flower and have beautiful foliage. The colour range of the flowers is broader than that of P. lactiflora, which is limited to white, red and pink. Hybrid peonies flowers can very dark red through to the palest pink and pure white, as well as soft creamy yellow through to coral and apricot. The leaves are often large, bright green and glossy.

The flowers are usually carried on strong thick stems, which means the blooms will not fall over, and do not require staking. P. lactiflora ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ has red single flowers, which last up to ten days. As the flowers age, the petals get bigger and fade to deep pink. P. lactiflora × officinalis ‘Red Charm’ has double red flowers that are long-lasting. The blooms form a domed ball of serrated petals within large guard petals and are held on stiff stems. P. ‘Avant Garde’ has single pink flowers.

Tree peonies (P. rockii) have woody stems that lose their leaves in autumn, but the woody stems stay intact.  They tend to bloom earlier and with larger flowers than the herbaceous peony. Tree peonies are long-lived, hardy deciduous shrubs provided they are grown in a suitable spot. P. delavayi var. delavayi f. lutea is a yellow tree peony.

Until recently the only peonies to produce yellow flowers were those of woody tree peonies, such as P. lutea, or the fleetingly beautiful herbaceous peony P. mlokosewitschii AGM. The successful crossing of tree and herbaceous peonies by a Japanese plant breeder, Mr Toichi Itoh, produced intersectional (Itoh) hybrids, truly yellow, double-flowered herbaceous peonies. He started work in 1948, and crossed the white herbaceous P.lactiflora ‘Kakoden’ and yellow hybrid tree peony, Paeonia x lemoinei. After thousands of crosses he raised just 36 yellow seedlings which bloomed in 1964, with double, yellow blooms. Dr Itoh never saw his achievement as be died in 1956. His hybrids were in danger of disappearing until Louis Smirnow introduced them into North America. In 1974 six were introduced with names like ‘Yellow Crown’ and ‘Yellow Emperor’.

Another well-known intersectional peony is P.‘Bartzella’. Intersectionals grow like herbaceous peonies, short and mounding, but they also have short woody, tree peony-like stems. These plants have the lovely leaf form of the tree peonies but die to the ground in the winter like herbaceous peonies. They are valued because they are available in colours that traditional peonies do not produce, in particular, more intense shades of yellow, peach, and coral such as P. ‘Copper Kettle’.

Of the different types of peonies, intersectional peonies have the best characteristics of all. The flowers and foliage are in perfect proportion to one another, taking the best from each of the parents, the tree (woody) and herbaceous peony. They bloom same time as herbaceous peonies from early to late June, but because they have so many buds they in bloom for longer, for up to 3 weeks or more. The flowers are big, and generally semi-double. The blooms are sterile, but the large furry empty seedpods, are very attractive. At night each flower closes up for protection helping it to last longer. A bloom can last as long as 5 days, with many lower side buds. Overall an intersectional peony can be in flower for up to 4 weeks, some 2 weeks longer than other types of peonies.

Peony flower forms are usually measured in rows of petals.

Single flowers have a single or possibly two rows of petals, often 5-12 petals total with a ring of golden stamens surrounding thick carpels. An example is P. cambessedesii AGM, also known as the Majorcan peony.

Semi-double flowers have three or more rows of petals, sometimes irregularly shaped petaloids/stamens mixed with petaloids, sometimes distinct stamen-and-carpel centre, such as the red P. lactiflora ‘Buckeye Belle’ an American hybrid, first bred in 1956 and currently a favourite with garden designers.

The ‘Lotus Form’ is a semi-double with curved, cupped petals creating a lotus-shaped bloom such as P. ‘Coral Charm’ AGM.

The Japanese Form’ is a semi-double have outer ‘guard’ petals but the majority of the stamens have been converted into narrow stamenoids which are petal-like. The stamen often retain their golden colour. The name of ‘Japanese’ is somewhat misleading as the varieties of this class are not necessarily of Japanese origin; but are admired by the Japanese.

An example of a Japanese peony is P. lactiflora ‘Lotus Queen’. with the stamens morphed into a large cluster of stamenoids, or very thin petals.

In the late 1940s, Dutch breeders introduced a peony that was half way between the double and the single, the so-called ‘anemone-flowered’ peony. In this, the stamens in the centre ruffle themselves up into semi-petals, often of a different colour to the surrounding proper petals. P. lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’ AGM is one of the best of this kind, with bright pink petals curling round a froth of cream in the centre.

Double flowers have lots of petals and form a ‘powder-puff’ or domed crown. The ‘Rose Form’ is a double that opens on a flat plane like an old-fashioned rose, such as P. lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’ AGM.

The ‘bomb double’, is considered a type of double. Typically, the centre segments form a nice, round ball, sitting on top of a lower ring of ‘guard’ petals, which are sometimes of a different colour, (the word ‘bomb’ probably comes from ‘bombe’ which is the name of a round, frozen desert popular after World War I). P. lactiflora × officinalis ‘Red Charm’ is an example of this flower form. Doubles last longer in flower than singles but are more difficult to stake and keep the right way up in a rainstorm.

Peonies also provide colour in late summer and early autumn as the leaves start to turn colour. Usually by late August, they change from green to soft green and yellow, then red and finally shrivelling to brown. The widest range of autumn colours can be found on herbaceous peonies. The intersectional varieties (such as P. ‘Morning Lilac’) providing a strong, dignified show of orange, red, green and purple foliage whilst the remainder of the garden is in decline. After they have changed colour the foliage curls up and withers to a dull brown. They are a useful over wintering place for good insects such as ladybirds. However, this can make plants to susceptible to peony wilt.

Peonies will grow in most soils as long as they are not wet, including clay soils. They require a sunny or partially shaded site. Most herbaceous peonies grow to about 80-90cm tall and about 60-80cm wide. They take time to mature over 3-5 years.

Peonies are wildlife friendly and resistant to attack from slugs and snails, and rabbits. Ants are sometimes seen on the flower buds, but they are not harmful and disappear as the buds start to open.

Species herbaceous and tree peonies are self-fertile and, in the absence of other peony species, will produce seed true to type. They will, however, easily cross with other peonies and so unless the species is isolated, hybrids may well occur. Cultivars and hybrids, are usually sterile. Peony seeds need to be exposed to two chilling periods with a warm spell between them. The seeds are doubly dormant; this means the root emerges after the first chilling period but the stem and leaves only appear after the second winter. The seedlings can take up to five years to reach flowering size.

Propagation is by careful division of root stock in autumn. It is best to plant bare-rooted peonies with at least 3-5 ‘eyes’ or buds in autumn, planting them with the crown no more that 2.5-5cm below the surface. Most tree peonies especially named cultivars, are grafted on herbaceous peony rootstock. The graft union should be about 15cm below the soil level. Deep planting encourages the grafted plant to form its own roots, which reduces suckering from the herbaceous rootstock and prevents the rootstock becoming dominant.

Many peonies need staking in early spring before growth is too far advanced. Peonies will survive the harshest English winter (they are hardy to about -20C) and actually flower better following a cold winter.

The HPS publishes a booklet ‘Peonies’ by Gail Harland. Click here for link.

The National Collection of Paeonia (pre-1900 and early post-1900 P. lactiflora cvs.) is held by Mrs M Baber, c/o Plant Heritage, Gloucestershire.

Page image: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’ AGM
(Image courtesy of HPS image library)

How to email images

Thank you to those who have emailed me images. To improve the appearance on the website here are a few tips on how to get the best images if using you a smart phone.

Select the HDR setting if possible.

When emailing the image select ‘actual size’ or’ large’ – the file might be quite big but I can then save it at the correct size for the website, and it should work better,

Keep sending me photos and I will post them on the member’s corner.  I have created a new page when you scroll down the front page. Click here for the link.

If you have any queries please email me.

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group.