Monday, 29 August 2011

Dishing the Dirt on Denman's

Just at a time when my brain has been brimful of blogs to write I have been unable to do so because of some problem with my eyes adjusting to the new computer monitor.  The blogs are now stacked up in my consciousness but I can only allow myself limited screen time so my new Dullas Sockmovie, which I really want to work on, will have to wait.  In the meantime the dog-end of August has been considerably cheered by various meet-ups with my gardening blogger and twitter friends.  The first on a lovely warm sunny Sussex day, in the company of LazyTrollop and the highly organised Helen Reeley, at  a place I have driven past so many times but never visited - Denman's Gardens.

I should start by saying that I had no great expectations of gardens in late August it being that time of limbo when the garden is no longer in its salad days, all is a little blowsy and blown but not so far over as to make it Autumn interesting.  Then I remember that the last few gardens that have blown me away were Keith Wiley's Wildside, The Garden House and Sussex Prairies - all visited in August.

Denman's fulfilled my original idea of an August garden - for the most part pleasant without being incredibly pleasing.

A promising start as straight in from the entrance (a very reasonable £4.50) the first walled garden was a rich eruption of colour and texture

 A verbascum provided attractive architectural shape

and as I have noticed in so many gardens over recent years, wild fennel is a real winner and I have now introduced it in my own border.

After the gravel garden we spent some time wandering around the interestingly shaped lawns and borders.  All pleasing enough to the eye but nothing special, nothing really grabbed us with that kind of excitement that makes your heart beat a little faster.

Helen and LazyT spent some time vying for who could name the most plants.  It was even stevens most of the way but I think LazyT just pipped Helen at the post with a late spurt of eucomis..

A pond at the bottom of the garden felt a little drowned by the heavy overhanging trees, although this statue on the water margin made a charming composition.

After bad-mouthing hydrangeas on my last blog, we did find some attractive ones, their frothy tops picking up the dappled light through the trees along a shaded path.

Some of the borders were rather patchy and it wasn't always clear whether new planting was arriving to fill it.  However, we must hope that if new planting is to be, that it isn't all like this!

Really... yes it is that bad look at the close-up!

Sorry if you are growing the same in your garden - I would say it was just a matter of taste but as the three of us totally agreed it was awful it must just be wrong!

I hope I'm not coming over as too mealy-mouthed and overly negative here.  I have developed a much stronger view of what I do and don't like over the past few years of garden visiting but I wouldn't want to put people off Denman's. A sunny day, a garden and the company of fun friends is always going to be a fine thing and of course it always makes it more interesting to have a difference of opinion to discuss.

Perhaps more importantly than anything else, there is an excellent cafĂ© (Relais Routier recommended) with attractive indoor and outdoor seating area and a wide range of cakes of which Helen sampled three! 

PS. Apparently the Plant Centre there was voted 8th best in the country by the Telegraph (not sure when).  It WAS a small but interesting Plant Centre however a lot of the plant pots were full of weeds along with pot bound plants.  I almost ached to clean-up and re-pot some of the plants.  I know its late in the year but perhaps a Saturday job for a student just giving them  a bit of tlc?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens - Far Away in Time...

Perhaps the last weekend in July wasn't the best time to travel westwards along the congested south coast route, traffic turning what should have been a three hour drive into a six hour crawl.  Still, the promise of dining at our favourite fish restaurant The Riverside at West Bay, and the excitement of somewhere new to us, Hix at Lyme Regis, made the driving ordeal worth enduring. To work up an appetite for our fishy feasts we had planned a visit to Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens which has been on my "to do" list for decades. It would need to be good to live up to the expectations I had of it.. a lush exotic garden hidden in a valley leading down to the unending pebbled starkness of Chesil Beach - Far away in time *.

An entrance fee of £12.00 each leaves the Bedsock grumping - not a good start (although RHS members can get in for free in the more god-forsaken months of the year).  I wonder if we are out of touch with how much these things cost  although we frequently shell out a fortune for theatre tickets without too much complaint this still seems a lot to visit a garden.   It had better be good.

Near the entrance a fabulous Pterocarya fraxinifolia  (wing nut tree) watches over the gardens like the 'Tree of life' in Avatar.

We wander the way the white arrows are pointing and into the Victorian garden... oh dear Mrs... oh dear..

My hostas are still looking fabulous and healthy now that we have got rid of the mass snail dwelling which was the old wall.  These are how mine used to look by this time of year when they would be confined to an unseen corner of the garden... UGH!

A hideous planting scheme which I absolutely loathe.. it is SO wrong..

OHMIGOD! Who let the hydrangeas in?  Could they look more awful against the bright primary colours of agapanthus and crocosmia!

Perhaps I should have read the garden's website first for it's hint of impending doom....
The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world famous for it's Camellia groves and magnolias. Noted in Dorset for its Rhododendron and Hydrangea collections and the charming Victorian Garden.
Hydrangeas!!!!! Not my favourite**.. their charmless papery flowers the faded, washed out colours of old lady knickers caught in a colour run. 

We are beginning to feel ourselves slump... the previous day spent in the car, now the promised paradise  is beginning to give us all the pleasure of a municipal park... and it's complete with screaming children too!

[Rant: What is it with polyphloisboian*** children these days? They can't perform any activity unless it is accompanied by ear-splittingly loud bawling and yelling? Not just when in outdoor spaces but also whilst eating/running around in restaurants? We were mischievious, active, children escaping parental control to run free and wild in the surrounding countryside and beaches - but I don't believe I ever even had the lung power to scream in that kind of a way and nor did I want to. Not just out of respect for the peace and comfort of anyone else but because we enjoyed the gentle sounds of nature around us. I blame the parents.. and indeed, although the gardens were far from crowded you could hear the loud and bombastic voices of adults booming through the vegetation frightening off any birds or creatures that may have crossed our path.  Why didn't they all just go to Pizza Express if they wanted that level of noise pollution?]

So now I am in a grump.. although this is mainly because having not looked at the map of the gardens I believe that the disappointing Victorian Garden is all that there is.  We start to wander away from the white arrow trail, out of the trees and up to the top of the hill that protects the valley from the sea winds.  Things are on the up.. the steep climb is worth it for the fantastic views over Chesil beach which could not fail to raise our spirits..

And then back down into the 'real' part of the gardens where the exotic trees with peeling bark towering above lush vegetation remind me of walking in the Australian Blue Mountains.

There are still some hydrangeas but they are becoming less offensive as our attention is diverted by the beauty of individual trees

 If this isn't called a 'giraffe tree' then it certainly should be..

Tree ferns lining the gulley remind me of South Australia's temperate rainforest area at the Great National Otway Park - except for the red Japanese style bridge.  I can't decide whether this is a totally good or totally bad thing in this context.

This is the Jurassic coast and it is easy to imagine dinosaurs forcing their way through the enormous gunnera and ferns to this limpid watering hole

There is much more to the gardens and some rather nicer planting schemes than the first we encountered. We wandered there happily for several hours and ultimately felt that it was more than worth the £12.00 entrance fee.  Lose the hydrangeas and it would be very nearly perfect!

And our fish meals were even better than expected too so all-in-all a pretty good weekend away!

*In the same way it is impossible to drive past Portland Bill without the following bit of dialogue taking place:

"Is that Portland Bill?"
"It is Portland and don't call me Bill!"

it is also fundamental to the Chesil Beach experience to sing the words to the tune of  Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins.

**We did once see some attractive hydrangeas at Savill Garden, Windsor.

*** Look it up! I did.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A Spider's touch...

The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.

                                                   Alexander Pope

Someone is living in my nepenthes

I wonder who it can be?