A Walk in the Garden at Follers Manor

Follers-ChairsOn this cool spring day in New England, I invite you to travel with me to a garden which overlooks the village of Alfriston in the Cuckmere Valley located in the eastern portion of the South Downs in Great Britain. I had the great fortune to visit this garden in the summer of '13. It was one of many lovely gardens which I saw that trip. It is an exceptional garden. Designed by the noted Landscape Architect, Ian Kitson, and owned by Anne & Geoff Shaw it is a garden which has been sculpted out of the hillside. It has a maturity which belies its youth. Follers More FieldsThe Shaw's purchased the rundown house in 2006 and renovated it. The garden was developed and planted through 2012 when a copse of trees was added for the Queen's Jubilee. Don't you just love the Brits? They so embrace a celebration. The Shaws had two directives for the architect. One was to make the garden wildlife friendly and the other was that it should be colorful. The final garden, if a garden is ever final, is so much more than those two components. Follers-open fieldThe approach is breathtaking. The walk from the parking area, down the lane to the drive was on an incline but there was no watching one's feet.  Rolling fields laced with wildflowers framed the view of the valley along the lane.Follers-Scenic view Trees and shrubs frame the view from the lower part of the garden. Follers path to the gardenOnce through the small courtyard and down a series of steps, much of the garden is revealed. Follers-sunk patioA nautilus shaped sunken patio with a limestone base is one of the focal points of the garden. Seated in this garden, the breeze is reduced but the view is not. Follers-sitting areaThis is a patio with sections which contain quiet, gentle spots for conversation, cakes, and company. Follers sinuous sedumsThe sinuous walls are made of flint and the top of the wall is planted with sedums and sempervivums. Follers-sunken patioLow growing campanula was in bloom at the time of our visit and it formed purple puddles surrounding the seating area. There is much to see both up close and in the distance. Follers Manor HouseFollowing the curve of the patio a lower natural pool invites one down the path to yet another seating area which looks back toward the house and the pond. Follers-Chairs fieldI would bet that the lounge chairs are often turned around to take in the view of the valley. Who could resist? On one side of the pond garden there is a meadow garden. Follers-DaisiesAlmost every garden I saw on this trip included a meadow garden. They are all the rage and they are a wildlife magnet. Bees and butterflies joined us on our walk through this garden and many of our group paused to sit on this inviting bench. There is a walkway winding through the daisies but it is cleverly hidden by the flowers and meadow grasses. Follers-Lower Garden On the other side of the naturalistic pond, herbaceous borders lead the way to the bottom of the property. This bench provides yet another opportunity to sit and enjoy the shady beauty of the lower garden. Follers-veggiesAt the bottom of the garden, the view is once more revealed just over the raised vegetable beds. To feed the gardens, there are, of course, composting bins.Follers-Compost BinsTucked off in the corner these were filled to overflowing.
Follers shady walk backThe garden paths loop around the garden from top to bottom so there is never a need to retrace one's steps although it was necessary to do so in order to truly appreciate the paths, plantings and views throughout this space.
Follers right pond viewThe picture above is of the right side of the pond garden. This is a garden for strolling, sitting and enjoying the views. It was not easy to leave it. Follers waterlilyMany thanks to Anne and Geoff Shaw for opening their garden to us. It is on the NGS register and is open to the public certain days of the year. You can check here for more information on open dates. I do hope you have the opportunity to someday see this garden on your own. 


The Forgotten Spring

Snow-EranthusOn Monday, March 30, 2015, it is snowing yet again and this March morning has all the steel gray warmth of an early January day. I did miss most of the snow of this remarkable winter but upon returning to New England in mid-March I have been privileged to witness the effects of the many snow storms of 2015. Deep snowThere is still a foot of snow on the ground in many places and the driveway has five foot piles of snow from the plow. The temperatures are quite chilly with the current temp of around 32F. There will be no raking in March. There will most probably be no garden cleanup until well into April. The days are getting much longer though and the sun is quite warm despite the cool air temperatures. The evidence that spring has arrived is here but it is slim evidence. Much of the garden is still covered but those southerly exposures are clear. Snow-recedingThe snow is receding ever so slowly leaving in its wake, sticks, mud, packed leaves and even a flower or two. Why didn't I plant five hundred crocus in this area in the back? Nature gives us the best cues if we care to look for them. I do have some Eranthis hyemalis aka winter aconite, blooming in the back and it really only takes a glimpse of this bright yellow to lighten one's spirit. I am marking the calendar right now to order some bulbs for fall planting. Next spring when the snow recedes, a bright carpet of gold will take its place. Snow-single aconiteGold and maybe some orange. I feel better already.    

Where The Rosemary Grows

Prostrate rosemaryI am feeling a little guilty. Well a lot guilty actually. New England is experiencing record snowfall this winter. It is the winter of the endless storms. Some people pick up and go to Florida to escape the harsh New England winters. My Mom actually loves Florida and she is there right now but I love a place with a cooler climate. A climate in winter where temperatures are usually between 40F and 70F. A climate where, if you owned a plot of land, you could actually garden all year long. Since the EM can telecommute and my skills are limited to the New England gardening cycle, we decided to pack up and head for Sonoma, CA. We have enjoyed this area on several previous visits. Most of those visits were in December and we visited two summers ago in July when the rolling hills of Sonoma were  brown. Now, in February, they are vivid green. Jaxson Keys vineyardThe grape vines traverse the landscape adding perfect geometry to flowing fields. Rosemary and BeeBack home, the icicles reach from roof to ground. Here the rosemary thrives and flowers and bees dance in their blossoms. Camellias and HelleboresThe camellias and hellebores are also providing a dance floor for the bees right along with the daffodils. Healdsburg daffodils I love New England. It is home and this winter it has been harsh. With any luck, I will get to experience spring twice this year. As I said, I am feeling a little guilty. 

Juno-Great Expectations

Deer damageThe garden has become a playground for white tailed deer. They sneak in after dark and scamper around nibbling the Rhododendrons. There is not just one hoof print. There are many. They must know that the hunters have left after sitting or stalking their elusive daytime presence. They obviously know that there are no longer dogs here. They are taking advantage. Yak Rhodie damageYou can see the tips of the frayed Rhodies. They rarely touch the boxwoods or the hellebores. They love arborvitae. I am left today worrying about them just a bit as the big storm bears down on New England. Where will they spend the next, snowy twenty four hours. In spite of the damage they cause, I will worry about their comfort. It is snowing lightly this Monday afternoon. A downy woodpecker is having a bit of a meal at the suet hanging from the hook in the garden. He seems unconcerned with the impending storm. Earlier today the roads were busy and the grocery store was bursting with shoppers. There is nothing like a snow forecast to improve the bottom line at the local grocer's. The atmosphere is tense with anticipation. Goats and yard stick I have set the yard stick out in the goat yard which is covered already with three inches of snow. It is tilted slightly since the ground is frozen in this spot. I wonder if I will be able to see it tomorrow at this time of day? Stay safe where ever you may be. 

Yard stick

UPDATE: Goats under snow-Here is the yard stick after the storm. Almost two feet of snow. 

Blog Giveaway-Bee Happy-Gifts for the Nature Lover

Mason Bee HouseOkay, there is not a bee in sight in my garden here in the northwest corner of Rhode Island but that doesn't mean I am not thinking of them along with the birds and the butterflies and the flowers they love. The butterflies are also long gone but the birds are flitting about the cotoneaster and the bird feeders. Butterfly ShelterI do have many bird houses about the garden and I have mason bees. They like to drill holes in the eaves of the house and the shed to lay their eggs. I really would rather they pick somewhere else to get this task accomplished. As a gardener and a nature lover I do sometimes receive gifts for birthdays and holidays which are meant to reflect my love of both. They are always appreciated. Any of these shelters from Gardener's Supply would be welcome in my garden. They are attractive as well as havens for some of the wildlife here.
Bamboo bird houseI was recently asked by Gardener's Supply to participate in one of their product giveaways.They sent me three wonderful, organic looking bamboo items. A bird house, a butterfly shelter and a mason bee house. All are offered on the Gardener's Supply website and they can be purchased together or separately there. Do you have mason bees? They are workhorses in the pollination department and many of the species are native to the United States. You can learn more about them here or here. I don't mind them when they are buzzing about the small, round openings they have created in my rafters. They are solitary creatures. I would prefer them to make their homes elsewhere. I have seen them burrow into the east facing wood and the west facing wood and some holes are under an overhang while others are just slightly recessed in a fascia board. With the help of Gardener's Supply, I am giving away some of the mason bee houses right here, right now. Bee house and stone wallTo enter, leave a comment below about the bees in your garden.  Winners will receive one of these bamboo mason bee houses shipped directly from Gardener's Supply. You have almost a whole week to leave a comment but you must live in the USA and you must be over 18. Winners will be chosen at random on December 23rd. Make sure you leave your email address when you share a comment so that I may contact you.


Note: Gardener's Supply sent me the three bamboo shelters at no cost to me and they will provide the winning prizes. Many thanks to them. I would also like to note that I have purchased directly from them on many occasions and they deliver with great customer support.


Odds and Ends

Witch hazelThe grass is still green here...when it is visible. We have had two rather small snow events and right now there is no snow left on the garden. The witch hazel is 'last man standing' so to speak. This native, Hamamelis virginiana, has a very long bloom span. It takes little notice of the cold and continues to add a bit of brightness to the dulling landscape. I have been puttering a bit outside. Last week I planted garlic and raked the final drops from the oak trees. I also pulled all but two containers inside. CordylineMost of them I empty, sort and stack. There are a few I drag into the barn and put them under lights where they remain all winter. Two large cordylines are in there and a few more pots, two with dormant Eucomis in them. These plants would be expensive to replace and they do survive, if not thrive with this treatment. Since last week was Thanksgiving I hunted for material for an arrangement for the table and one for the wall in the bathroom. Thanksgiving arrangement 2014

I managed to pull together assorted greenery and purple beautyberries but there was no real focal point so I purchased white alstroemeria. These flowers may come from a far away field but they do last quite a long time in an arrangement. I cheated with them just a bit. Alstro closeupI am working at 'Slow Flowers'. I promise to write about that subject in the near future. For now, enjoy the small treasures you find in the garden. They might be overlooked in the summer when color is abundant.

First Snow- November 14, 2014-A Very Short Post

Black & White Parrotia
All I can say is that it is way too early for snow. As you can see, there are still leaves on this Parrotia persica. The snow will melt fast and it is pretty but it is too soon. Bunny in snow
I was also gifted with this rabbit this morning. There were two actually and since there are no dogs here now (a very sad state of affairs) they are becoming quite a regular sight. As for the snow, it is the poor man's fertilizer. Witch hazel snow
I will enjoy its short stay. The rabbits may wear out their welcome though. 

October Glow

Japanese red mapleThere are few things glowing in the garden in late October. The Japanese maples are the last of the trees to share their radiant colors and they are just in time for Halloween. This small red maple is planted along the drive under the canopy of a white pine grove. Its name has long been forgotten. Red and yellow mapleThe name of this yellow Acer palmatum "Omurayama' is one I happen to remember for some unknown reason. These maples sit in relative anonymity during the summer months although they both have remarkable textural interest for those who pay attention to such things. In the fall, they complement one another as you can see. Bulb PlantingBehind the fishpond bench shiny tulip bulbs have been planted for spring entertainment. This is a parrot tulip called 'Rococo'. It is described as 'cardinal red with purple and green feathering'. Very appropriate for a parrot tulip. Glow mossJust in front of the bench, between the flat field stones of the patio, there is a quiet cover of moss which is as inviting as a Persian carpet. It is a bit too chilly to walk barefoot on that moss now that cool weather has descended but sitting on the bench, contemplating the scene, is quite meditative. Maiden grassThe grasses by the pond are shining in the lower angle of sunlight creating a sharp vertical element next to the velvet carpet. A short distance away, the purple beautyberry stands out among the shrubs in the back border. Purple BeautyberryThis one is Callicarpa japonica. There are several species and cultivars available and this shrub can now be found in many gardens. That purple, well, it is quite royal I think. The berries of this shrub do not persist throughout the winter but they do add needed drama at the end of the season. Here in Rhode Island the days are getting shorter and the angle of the sun is much lower in the sky. The chipmunks are very busy running to and fro to their stone wall which frames the garden. There are just a few acorns this year and they are busy claiming them for their stash. There are still chores to be done but I feel like hibernating already.  The next big drama could very well be the first snowfall. I hope there is something in between purple berries and white snow. The garden always makes me wait and see for myself. 

Frost Finale

Frosty fieldFrost signals a seasonal finale. The exuberance of the garden is gone and the gardener is left with subtleties. The small blooms and berries of fall would be overlooked in the abundance of the summer garden but late in the season, after the frost, their significance increases. Who would even notice the tiny purple flowers which develop on the mint plant if they were to appear among the peonies, roses and delphiniums?   Gazebo in fall lightColor has shifted from outrageous orange to warm bronze and copper. The bright foliage of the maples is now underfoot. Scuffling through this debris brings the scent of childhood and the memories of raking the bounty into a plan view of a child's home. Doors, windows, kitchen and living room all made flat on the ground with neat rows of raked leaves. How powerful is the scent of fall? Aconitifolium mapleIt is transporting. Mom and I walked through the leaves in her yard yesterday and reminisced on those long ago days of childhood. She has seen 91 autumns, a feat many of us will never achieve but one to which we can aspire if only to gain a bit more knowledge of the garden and the seasonal cycles. This season has been one of bounty. Tomatoes-lastThe last of the tomatoes are in the trug and the vegetable garden is holding some late season treasures. Fall tomatoes are not perfect but their tang is as appreciated as that of the very first tomato. Swiss chard, kale, brussel sprouts all shrug off the first frosts of the season.The last flower and the last fruit of this season's garden is close at hand and all are treasured along with the knowledge gained from the passing of yet another season.