Atmospheric Flowers: Blue Asters

Masses of small blue, daisy-like flowers

Some plants don’t just add colour, mass and form to a border, they add atmosphere, nostalgia even. Take old-fashioned blue asters, for instance. Individually, the small, daisy-like flowers are on the raggedy side but their profusion packs a punch. If you can look at this picture without imagining a hum of pollinators foraging the flowers for nectar and pollen, you’re not getting out enough.

When I was a child, I used to know places nearby where asters like these grew wild. In those days, my eye didn’t appraise a plant for mildew or an ample coverage of foliage: I took pleasure in the blue daisies and assumed the grown ups (or Mother Nature) would take care of the rest. I poked a few stems through buttonholes to decorate my cardigan and called them Michaelmas daisies without understanding anything of the long history wrapped up in the name.  Continue reading

Six on Saturday: Trentham Gardens in Late September

Dark leaves, with bronze autumn colour and a white flower spike

1. Actea simplex showing burnished autumn colour

I didn’t really want to go to a garden, but I forced myself. Hours sitting in a traffic jam (more accurately, a series of traffic jams) had taken their toll and, although Trentham Gardens was not far out of my way, I wasn’t feeling it.

As I was wavering, I remembered once calling a friend, MVM, to get out of going to see some gardens as I was not feeling well. He said “You’ll be sorry! You’ll like it! There’ll be flowers!”. I went, and it was that day I got to know my sweetheart. The influence of the two of them, spreading as it does over time and space, was powerful enough for me steer my car away from the default path, up the M6, to invest in all the things we invest in when we visit a garden.  Continue reading

Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018

Model in white dress and flowery hat

Model with flowery hat at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

As we wound around Derbyshire’s beautiful but narrow Peak District roads towards our sneak preview of the Chatsworth Flower Show yesterday, knowing how limestone has shaped the environment, making the ground glitter in places, I thought of one of my favourite poems: W.H. Auden’s ‘In Praise Of Limestone’.

I love the poem’s conversational style, but its abrupt changes of tone and subject matter might not suit everyone. Just as we can only read a poem from within the landscape of our own mind, we can only ever experience a flower show from our own perspective. My idea of tasty flowers and planting schemes might not be yours.

Labrador dog in a show garden at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

‘The Great Outdoors’ by Phil Hurst won Chatsworth Gold…

This year’s Best in Show award, for example, went to an attractive display with a lot of interesting elements, including the characterful wooden arbour, bench and water feature. Continue reading

Mock Underwater Garden

When I saw the prompt for this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was ‘Easy!’. My life and experiences seem unlikely to me – as everyone’s would, if we only spared time to think about it. Photographically, I would have said I notice the unlikely. So why is it that looking through my pictures, I can’t find anything unlikely? Not really. [The truth is, everything is just as likely as it is unlikely, given the nature of the world and recent conjectures about it. Don’t blame me for the wooziness of that statement, blame the late, lamented Stephen Hawking.]

Container garden with mermaid under a shell arch

I seem to hear someone object “What’s unlikely about this? The mermaid isn’t real. Were she real, I’d hand it to you.”

OK, I know this isn’t really an underwater garden, just an impression of one in the corner of a real garden. A collection of containers, garden art, natural objects, plants, structures and vines have all been co-opted to create a garden vignette.  Continue reading

Suzie Cranston’s Birdhouse Garden

When Suzie Cranston’s world was rocked by the death of her son, Peck, a sign saying ‘Peace begins in the garden’ inspired her to create a garden that would celebrate his life.

Beautiful at any time of the year, my sweetheart and I often pause to admire it on walks through our quirky little neighbourhood, Fondren, in Jackson, Mississippi. More than twenty years after starting the garden, Suzie is eager for others to enjoy it as much as she does. She welcomes visitors with a broad smile, pointing out things they may have missed: flowers, garden art, a new birdhouse and, in particular, things that Peck would have loved, such as the tortoises which appear everywhere.  Continue reading