Norfolk Holiday

Day 1:

Left Paxton on time. I did notice a bag on the coach with plants in it and we hadn’t even started our journey!

We arrived at Ellicar Gardens on time.  The natural swimming pool was much admired and some wished that they could have had a swim. The water lilies were delightful. The prairie planting was not to everyone’s liking but the overall effect was pleasing.

The cakes were very good. There were plants for sale but no one succumbed to temptation. In the tea room there was a video on the four favourite garden implements and at least one person found the information helpful.

We then continued our journey to Haconby. The traffic through Grantham was slow and were late arriving at Chapel Street. The garden was an absolute delight and I think we all agreed that it was a pity that we did not have longer there. Unfortunately the owner had recently died but his daughter kindly  arranged the visit. She was very knowledgeable. There were numerous interesting plants to admire.

We arrived late at West Acre and went straight in for tea and cakes. The cafe had recently been upgraded and was delightful.  A selection of cakes was presented on a cake stand and they were delicious. Then most people made a beeline to the nursery where there were some lovely plants for sale at very reasonable prices. I bought a couple of peonies which were on my wish list and some phlox to add to my growing collection. Then there was time to walk around the walled garden. On getting on the coach for the final leg of our journey on day one there was a good collection of plants on board!

We then arrived late at UEA and after unpacking our things it was straight into dinner.

The consensus view was that we had had a good first day. I managed to write up everyone’s comments on each of the gardens by bedtime.

Day 2:

We woke up to bright blue skies and a welcome breeze. We had a prompt start at 9 am and arrived at Chestnut Farm by 10:15 am.  We were welcomed by owners who had been there for over fifty years. We were all given a map of garden on the back of which was a list of plants looking their best. Half of the group were invited to have coffee first but many got distracted by the plant sales and had to be encouraged to go round to the tea room. The garden was beautiful and there were a number of unusual trees and shrubs (including Calycanthus) and rambling roses reaching up to the sky. The cottage style planting was lovely; an Anemone rivularis in the Fountain Garden was much admired. The cakes served with coffee and tea were delicious.

We then travelled for about an hour to reach East Ruston Old Vicarage. We had lunch and Anthony Gray, one of the owners welcomed us. We had all afternoon to explore the garden. There were welcome areas of shade and seats to take  a well earned rest whilst exploring the extensive gardens. The other owner Graham Robeson drove by the coach as we were preparing to leave, in his wonderful vintage car.

I spent the evening demonstrating to members how to navigate the website and to email me images. Unfortunately, many people had difficulty connecting to ‘The Cloud’. 

Day 3:

It was another lovely day weather wise with a pleasant breeze first thing. We departed on time from UEA for our first garden visit to High House Gardens, Shipdham. The delphiniums were in full bloom and the herbaceous borders were magnificent. The plant sale area was popular as there were some very good plants.

We then went to Creake Nursery. There was a rush to be the first to arrive and grab the best plants! There was a good selection of plants for sale and on my second walk round the nursery I spotted some of the older varieties of Phlox which I couldn’t resist. When we returned to the coach there was an array of plants on board!

Next stop was Holkham Hall for lunch and a visit to the walled gardens which we reached by an open – air tractor buggy. We passed the monument to Thomas William Coke who introduced crop rotation in the late 1700’s and the Ice House, a must ‘have’ for all large houses of that era. The walled garden is being restored. The derelict greenhouses were fascinating.

Our last stop at Dunbheagan was a delight; the garden was stunning and the refreshments delicious. The previous owner had named the house after the Dunvegan (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Bheagain), a small town on the Isle of Skye.

We returned a little later than planned to UEA. I was too tired to write up the comments on our visits for the day.

Day 4:

There has been no break in the hot weather.  Our first visit to Janet Sleep’s garden lived up to expectations. It was a true plantswoman’s garden with many interesting plants (and plants for sale).

On our way to Bressingham we stopped at another nursery, The Plantsman’s Preference which had a good selection of geraniums and grasses.

We started our visit to Bressingham with lunch and then had the whole afternoon to explore the gardens. The gardens in front of the Hall were open and apart from having to dodge the sprinklers well worth the time. Prior to our visit there had been some suggestion that Foggy Bottom would not be worth exploring, but everyone I spoke to on my way round the gardens was impressed by the planting and atmosphere there. I failed to find the fragrant garden on my way back from Foggy Bottom. On my way back to the coach I wandered round the Dell Garden; Pat Inman commented on the fact that there were not many Phlox but I actually lost count of how many I spotted on my way round the garden (10 and counting). I took my time exploring the Dell and thought that we were due back on the coach at 5 pm. Whoops! I spent the rest of the holiday living down my mistake!

Whilst some members chose to watch the football the rest of us did the quiz after dinner. Thank you to Diane and Brenda for organising this.

Day 5:

It is to the credit of our driver Rob, that not only was all our luggage safely stored in the hold, but the majority of our plants which occupied one half of the hold. Sue’s recommendation to use sturdy bags rather than crates worked well.

The highlight of the day was our visit to the delightful garden at Bank House, Marshland St James, where we were also treated to delicious cakes.

The gardens at Doddington Hall were a disappointment but the old trees, some of which pre-dated the Hall were impressive.

We arrived back at Paxton Hall just before 6 pm. The coach was quickly unloaded and we all made our way home.

Images to be loaded later.

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.

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.

New Look Website May 2018

Following a few hitches, I have recently updated the website. I have changed the appearance; the front page shows a photograph of one of the borders at Newby Hall, and the other is the plant of the month.

As previously promised I have added two new links under the page / tab ‘resources’. The first is to the National Garden Scheme of open gardens, under the yellow book scheme within a 50mile radius of Leeds (click here for link). They are listed by month and date. There are direct links to the garden entries on the NGS website.  The second is a link to plant nurseries (click here for link), and again there are direct links to the relevant websites. Any comments and / or suggestions about this list are welcome. The ‘Link’ resource has been updated to include a link to plant fairs (click here for link)

The link to previous newsletters has been moved from the top menu to the events report page /tab (click here for link). I have added a new page / tab ‘Plant of the Month’ to the top menu (click here for link). This month I focus on Astrantias (click here for link). This is very much a personal choice and I have increased my knowledge of the plants that I have included, but I should welcome member’s contributions and / or suggestions, either by email (see contacts page for details, (click here for link) or by leaving a comment on the relevant page.

In various articles and blogs you will see links to the relevant page or post on this website, and to other websites (see paragraph above). I hope members find this useful.

The committee has decided that we will not be publishing newsletters in the future. We hope that members will contribute by posting comments or contributing articles and / or images which I will then post on the website.

This month one of our committee members, Maggie Sugden has emailed me a photo of Abutilon (Vitifolium) x Suntense, which I have highlighted on the front page under the members’ corner (click here for link).

Abutilon (Vitifolium) x Suntense
(Image courtesy of Maggie Sugden)

Our new committee member, Pat Hunter wrote a report of Sally Gregson’s talk on Epimediums. This is available on the front page (click here for link) or under the ‘Events Report’ page / tab (click here for link).

I have written a blog on my experience of helping to put together the display for the recent Harrogate Spring Flower Show. Click here for link.

I should welcome contributions from members about plants that are looking good in their gardens. Please email a photo and short description (contact details page / tab, click here for link).

The committee hope that the website becomes a useful resource for all members. We have also agreed to send out an email to members to alert them to new content on the website.

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group

Reflections from Harrogate Spring Show 2018

Rather belatedly I report on my reflections of helping to assemble the display for this year’s display. Firstly, we were at a disadvantage at having a larger than normal circular stand. Last autumn we had a 3m circular stand (area 7m2, circumference 9.4m), but this time we had a 3.5m circular stand (area 9.6m2, circumference 11m). That meant we needed a lot of plants!

We decided to build a path feature across the stand and had a central urn underplanted with Beesia calthifolia. There were some choice pieces of old wood which enhanced the planting scheme.

We were able to deliver many of the plants on the Monday evening but the main work took place on Tuesday with an early start @ 8am, working almost non-stop until 6pm. The team completed the central area (about 3m) before the end of the day. What we had not calculated was that in the 6 hours allowed on Wednesday we still had nearly a half of the display to put together, the challenge being to arrange enough plants around the circumference. We over-run but the judges let us finish.

We had over one hundred plant species and Sue Gary, our chairman was kept busy labelling the plants. Despite her endeavours a few were missed before judging, but this was rectified by the time the show opened on Thursday. Pat Inman, our show leader was busy advising on plant placement and rushing off to buy more plants as we didn’t have enough to fill the space.

The weather had not been good in the run-up to the show. We had had a long cold spell followed by a short spell of hot weather. Many of the plants were struggling. Members were very generous in lending plants.

The filling in was slightly easier as the stand was shallow and we again used bark, although the original intention was to use moss. We were loaned a quantity of moss but were not convinced that there would be enough, hence the change in plan. I am a keen walker and used to going over stiles, but getting on and off the stand became more difficult as the day went by. We managed to borrow a step ladder from the Alpine Society, but when they went home early (there were 20 people on the stand placing the pots) it was down to using a chair; being conscious of health and safety, I asked one of the team to hold the chair and lend me a shoulder to steady myself.

We managed to achieve a display that allowed views through the plants from different angles. Rob Hardy, of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, came by on a couple of occasions and complimented us on our efforts. We followed his advice on placing the labels a little lower in the plants.

The team (Brian, John, Joyce, Pat on Tuesday) and Robbie who stepped in at the last minute on Wednesday, were kept busy. At the last committee meeting we agreed that we needed more help on both days; there is the hard graft of building the display, but the labelling and ‘titivating’ of the plants is also key to our success.

When I left on Wednesday afternoon I was ‘fit to drop’ as were the rest of the team. The team’s efforts were rewarded by being awarded a Silver Gilt, and given the size of the display and the time allowed to assemble it, that was quite an achievement (the group has had previous displays at Chelsea RHS show and had longer to put them together).

When I arrived on Sunday to do my stint at stewarding I was impressed by our display; the plants looked so much better and the overall appearance on approaching the stand made all our efforts worthwhile. Those who came by the stand admired the display and the plants.

Then came the breakdown. The team of five Sue, Peter, Kate, Judy and myself worked hard for 3 hours to disassemble the display, and ensure that the plants were returned to their rightful owners. Lesson learnt: more help required!

Personally, I learn so much about the plants, and enjoy being part of the team. We will be at the Autumn Show this year but with a smaller display.

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group

Welcome to the updated website February 2018

Many thanks to Brian Hackett, our vice chair, for his input to the new website over the last year. Due to his other commitments, including those to the national society, he has passed the reins to me.

The website is still a ‘work in progress’ and I welcome the views of members as to what they would like to be able to access via the site, and my aim is that it becomes a useful resource.

There is a plethora of information on the internet, but sometimes it is quite useful to have direct links to other useful sites all in one place.

On the Home page there is information on upcoming events, and reports of recent meetings.

The top menu has links to the programme of lectures and garden visits, past newsletters, event reports (past lectures and garden visits), blogs (Sue Gray our chair, contributes to ‘In the Chairman’s Garden’ and I have started a new blog ‘cj’s musings’.

There are also links to other websites including the national Hardy Plant Society website , The National Garden Scheme and the RHS .

Initially I should like to trial a link to local gardens open under the yellow book scheme (ngs), and to feature a ‘Plant of the Month’ and contributions from members would be very welcome.

Other thoughts are that it might be useful for newer members to have links to, or a list of, local nurseries.

The newsletter has ‘lapsed’ due to Judi Barton’s work and other commitments. However, if the website is ‘populated’ by useful and interesting information, it should be possible to produce a biannual newsletter (primarily available electronically or by print on request).

I should be grateful if you would reply to these suggestions via the ‘comments’ section or via email to , please insert in the subject ‘WYHPS website’.

Welcome and ‘good gardening’,

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group






In the Chairman’s Garden

As summer fades in the memory and autumn is becoming more of a reality, there are still plants in the garden giving their all; in some cases they have been doing this for quite some time. Many of you are aware that I don’t really ‘do’ yellow in the summer garden and am a fairly recent convert to orange.

Until this year the only Helenium I had was ‘Moorheim Beauty’ AGM which, I must confess, has been poor this year.  However, I have added a few more this year, most noticeable of which has been ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ AGM.  What a revelation it has been, and how aptly named, starting to flower in June and still going well, with more to come, at the end of September.

Another plant that has been absolutely outstanding is Diascia personata, again flowering for months.  Unfortunately the picture does not accurately portray the vivid, almost shocking, pink colouration, but it has been a real ‘eye-catcher’.  I am particularly thrilled as this plant, and its sister on the other side of the bed, are both from cuttings taken last year.  My original plant has not thrived, perhaps because it is in the wrong place, and has gone steadily backwards, so I am pinning my hopes on these babies, and some more cuttings I have taken.

Amongst the plants to come in to flower more recently are two Asters (yes, these are still Asters) Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ AGM and Aster amellus ‘Rudolph Goethe’.  The latter is in its second year with me and has bulked up well, having been bought for the princely sum of 70p from The Old Bridge Nursery in Ilkley – offshoot of Reighton Nursery .  Very slightly darker in colour than ‘Monch’, ‘Rudolf Goethe’ certainly rivals, if not outdoes, ‘Monch’ for sheer impact and floriferousness.

The sure sign that autumn is approaching is the change in leaf colour on some trees and shrubs.  For my money, and you may well disagree, the best red foliage of all is on Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ AGM.  I have to say that mine is not as compact as it once was, but has taken almost ten years to get to about 5’ in height.  It is a stunning colour already, and will only get brighter in the next week or two; it quite takes my breath away whenever I look at it.

Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ AGM

So, those are my ‘stand-out’ plants at the end of September which I need to keep in my memory as we head towards the leaner months to come.