Spring Containers

Using plants for spring containers.

After a winter of black grass, milky snowdrops and white double daisies, we have changed the planting in this terracotta pot for the technicolour flowers of spring. Blue anemones and muscari perfectly complement golden tulips. The colours are linked together in this spring container: golden tulips match the faces of the little viola and the whole is framed by white in the tulips and daisies.

Spring Container at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0878

This pot is placed in the corner of the little meadows outside the history room.

Osmanthus burkwoodii IMG_0885

Behind, the hedge Osmanthus burkwoodii is in flower. In between squally wintry showers, the sun is strong enough to bring out the scent from the small white flowers dotted along the stems. This shrub is fairly slow growing but will eventually make a dense evergreen hedge. Osmanthus hedges should be clipped immediately after flowering.

Tulips at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0879

Here’s a close up of the tulips. The purple white tall tulip is Tulipa ‘Blueberry Ripple.’ We have grown this for a few years (always from new bulbs each spring.) It is particularly good for pot work.

The golden apricot tulip is Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun.’ Usefully, it starts to flower just before the main tulip season. It’s distinctive feature is that it is multi-headed, so the flowers in the bottom left hand corner of the picture join to one stem. Those that were left in large containers for a second year didn’t manage to make big enough bulbs so they only have one flower.

Anemone blanda IMG_0882

Anemone blanda is, perhaps, a surprising choice for a pot but it has proved to be excellent. The clean blue-violet petals (for the botanically minded they are actually sepals) surround the yellow stamens which makes them very satisfying to look at. (Hence the latin name; blanda = charming.) Peeping out from their foliage is the double daisy Bellis perennis which has been in the pot for some time, flowering all the way from February to April without complaining.

Fritillary meleagris IMG_0881

Nestling into the foliage near the bottom of the pot is fritillaria meleagris. We have trouble with this beauty but are trying to get it established in the meadow along the river. Lily beetle, pheasants and slugs all like the taste. We grow a few in pots each year and then transplant them after flowering to the river meadow (also known as the ‘soggy meadow’ because it floods regularly.) We haven’t had great success but here’s a white form that survived this year so I am going to persevere.

white fritillary at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0890

Look at how elegantly the narrow leaves frame the flower; they swirl around the flower like a courtier doffing his cap.

Speaking of elegance, I wanted to include this picture of some of our very old daffodils in this meadow.

Narcissus barrii cv at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0892

We split the bulbs last year (after flowering but before they died right back) and have been rewarded with ten times the number of flowers this year.

Back to the pot, this scheme doesn’t need a huge container to work. Here are the same flowers, with a change of tulips (Tulipa ‘Apricot Beauty’), in much smaller pots outside the tearoom.

Spring containers at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0901

In this arrangement, the muscari are more prominent. This is Muscari latifolium (which could be loosely interpreted as a ‘musky grape hyacinth with broad leaves.’) Like Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ it flowers at a very useful time; after the big hyacinths but before the main tulip season. In the pickery we have combined it with the acid green flowers of Smyrnium perfoliatum (this time the latin means ‘pierced leaf’ – you can see that the stem appears to go straight through the leaf)

Smyrnium perfoliatum in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0888

Here is Smyrnium on its own in the cottage garden sheltering under Rosa ‘Cottage Garden’ while we get on with jobs in the sunshine. It’s the epitome of the bright green new growth of spring.

Smyrnium perfoliatum at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0897

A September Walk

At dawn this morning, mist hung in the paddocks and parkland around our little village. A white haze appeared above the trees and slowly golden rays began to slant through the branches.

September light at Easton

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to follow the light as it hit the gardens, so I took the dogs (all four of them) and we started in the Pickery. Or we would have done. If Binky the dachshund hadn’t spotted Sue and her daughter, Laura, in the village. Binky is deeply in love with our neighbours and as the light came just right, I realised I was a dog short. Binky’s squeaky bark echoed from the village. This high pitched bark means she is overwhelmed to find someone she loves, who, in her opinion, has nothing better to do than be her best friend. So, I went back (twice) to retrieve the errant sausage dog and ‘persuade’ her to join us.

With all four dogs safely secure in the Pickery, I could focus on the flowers and take some pictures.

dahlias at Easton Walled Gardens

In the long narrow bed alongside the path through the Pickery, the dahlias looked perfect with drops of dew hanging from candy coloured flowers.

Opposite the dahlias are our two cutflower beds. The plants are raised from seed every year and this is the best time to appreciate the colours of late flowering annuals. Here you can see a profusion of Nicotianas, Cosmos, Amaranths, Zinnia and Clary. In the foreground tawny rudbeckias and a single deep pink Cleome has crept into the shot.

The Pickery in September at Easton Walled Gardens

On the other side of this grass path are our sweet pea beds. The sweet peas have stopped flowering and have run to seed. The pods have their own beauty while they hang on bleached stems. They will soon be harvested by us to be sown next year or go into packets for selling to visitors as part of the 65 varieties we offer in our  online shop.

Sweet pea pods at Easton Walled Gardens

Out of the pickery; ‘come on dogs, we are going to the Cottage Garden’.

The Pickery in Autumn Easton Walled Gardens

(Binky still wants to go back to Sue…)

In the cottage garden the three sister’s bed of beans, courgettes and corn on the cob looks wonderful but the greenhouse is a bit damp: we will need to get the airflow moving to prevent the mildew getting any worse. It’s a hard choice for greenhouse grown plants. Do we maximise warmth over airflow or spray over organic produce? There hardly seems any point to growing your own if it is covered with chemicals.

Greenhouse Easton Walled Gardens

Inside the air is very still but the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

in the greenhouse at Easton Walled Gardens

We head out now, under the tall peach house wall and into the wider garden. Here the terraces are filled with seedheads where the goldfinches are chattering and feeding. Over 100 finches have spent the last few days feeding on the knapweed which makes me very proud as you rarely saw a single goldfinch here 10 years ago.

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The giraffes watch over us as we pass through the cedar meadow.

Giraffe at Easton Walled Gardens

We swing back across the lawns and stop at the White Space Garden to see how the colour is holding up. There have been white flowers here for six months solid. The Eleagnus in the centre holds all the different shapes and hues together in this scheme. The silvery leaves absorb any friction between plant forms. It’s very satisfying to see this come together as it was ten years in the planning (nothing happens fast around here)

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The day is getting on, so there is no time to visit the long borders, roses and orchard now. The dogs have had a good run so we head back towards the gate out of the garden. Guess who is there first? Can we go and see Sue again now, please??

Binky at the gate