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February 2012

January 2012

Of Gnomes and Dragons - 45 Waterhouse Lane, Chelmsford, England


DSC_0472This week's Flight of Fancy takes us to the town of Chelmsford, Essex, England. In June of 2011 the garden at 45 Waterhouse Lane was visited by twenty plus avid American gardeners. The busy street in front of the house was a challenge to negotiate for those of us used to looking to our left for oncoming traffic. With the help of one of our own, we all managed a safe crossing to the saucy salmon colored home situated between two lovely but less distinctive dwellings. DSC_0534In addition to the color, the front garden of our destination home also stood apart from its neighbors with carefully pruned boxwood shrubs. This might lead one to suspect a very traditional clipped garden in the back of the house. One would be wrong with this assumption.DSC_0475The walkway into the back garden is to the left of the home and is bordered on one side by a fence whose presence was minimized with carefully placed containers filled to the brim with white cosmos. I didn't really see the fence for the flowers and the trees. On the right side of the walkway the wall of the house was used as a foil for three container plantings shown in the first picture - a minimalist painting quite pleasing to the eye. If there had been nothing beyond the gate, my senses were already quite satisfied. Still, the walkway enticed one into the garden beyond where our group was greeted by the Richmond family. DSC_0530Peter and Julie (Julie is missing from the above picture) moved into this home in 1983 bringing with them no gardening experience. They have learned a thing or two since then and have cut their teeth right along with their two sons, Luke and Harry. They were right there in the garden with their Mom and Dad obviously enjoying the group and they seemed to be willing garden enthusiasts in their own right which is a lot to be said for anyone let alone for teen aged boys.DSC_0486 The back garden gave the illusion of size as the space was divided into very individual areas yet it could not have been a hundred feet deep and less than that wide. There were at least three distinct seating areas and numerous container gardens. 45 Waterhouse Lane-1Each space transitioned from one to another quite smoothly, sometimes with a change in paving and always with surprises along the way. I took the path along the back wall of the house. All space was well utilized in this small garden and the wall was no exception. DSC_0528
It contained numerous gardening tools and even a fanciful gnome. Who tied that bunch of fresh lavender he is holding? DSC_0501  I would love to hear the story behind the addition of each of these items to the lattice work. DSC_0532An arbor separated a shady garden from the sunlit gravel garden overseen by a graceful muse adorned with a swaying grass gown. Tucked around the corner to the right of the statue, the sound of water beckoned. This water garden has nautilus shells, fish and a shallow edge which allows the birds to use it as their own private bath. We observed several birds doing just that.DSC_0491Beyond the pond sunlight pooled, lighting the gray garden. DSC_0516Transition, not only from one theme to another but also from shade to sun and back again does make a garden seem much larger than its actual square footage. I particularly liked the shape of the fence in this garden area pictured above. DSC_0507Holding court in this garden in June was the Oriental poppy 'Patty's Plum' looking luscious and perfect.The most difficult part of visiting a small garden, even when it feels large, is negotiating it with two dozen others and getting some pictures which can show its individual and unique beauty. DSC_0498Peter and Julia give great attention to every detail of their garden. I saw no stray seedlings, weeds or stones although I am sure there were a few when we left, certainly by chance and not intent. This garden was obviously borne from a loving commitment to gardening and shared passion. I found it to be intrinsically English. Copious amounts of plants, containers, secret scenes and inviting sitting areas were all designed with artistic, creativity but they also contain components not found in American gardens. We would see gnomes and statuary but rarely these decorative chimney flues.DSC_0482I would love to find a chimney flue such as this one and I would not waste it on a roof either. DSC_0483
Many thanks to the Richmonds for their wonderful hospitality and obvious joy in sharing their garden with our group.     


The Queen's Tears

IMG_6286The third Tuesday of every month from September to June is Garden Club night and this past week our Garden Club invited Rick Peckham of Peckham's Greenhouses in Little Compton, RI to speak to us about houseplants. January is a time of indoor gardening in RI since the landscape is usually frozen and white.  Rick is a fifth generation plantsman full of plant wisdom, personal experiences with plants (he said he has killed many), and he is a very nice guy. His greenhouses are packed with treasures. He brought many with him and some special, less common plants were among the group. He spoke eloquently and knowledgeably about the plants and my ears always perk up when I hear 'This plant thrives on neglect'. Billgergia nutansSo it was that I came to covet the plant whose common name, The Queen's Tears, evokes a bit of sadness. No queen should cry, after all. This plant's botanical name is Billbergia nutans and it is part of the Bromeliaceae family. Billbergia flowerThe common name refers to the fact that when the plant is in flower the flowers exude a bit of nectar which falls when the plant is moved. This plant is in flower and it does look quite regal but I have yet to see any tears. DSC_0021Native to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Billbergia is an epiphyte attaching itself to trees and gathering moisture and nutrients from the air around it. DSC_0022There is little moisture in the air inside my home in the middle of winter but Rick assured me that this plant needs little attention. It is adapted to the light levels of a rain forest although the light levels are low here in New England in winter even in the brightest of spots. I am not sure if it was the pink bracts which attracted me or the navy blue striping on the edges of the flower petals offset by the pollen on the anthers. The flowers are small and must be seen up close to be fully appreciated. I am hoping it lives up to its reputation as a vigorous, easy to grow houseplant. As an added bonus, this plant produces many offshoots which can be passed on to other gardening enthusiasts. Only time will tell but for now, this plant is helping to stave off the winter blues.  It is a nice addition to the other plants wintering on the table by the window.  DSC_0027Do you have any plants which help you avoid the nature deficit of the winter months?


Where Chickens Reign Supreme

ClematisAlmost two months ago I posted about a rather famous garden with a rather famous garden blogger,  Susan Harris, of Garden Rant fame. I had the pleasure of visiting Susan's garden while visiting with another famous garden blogger/author. The week's Flight's of Fancy - Armchair Travels takes us to the garden of my hostess, a multi-talented person who has become a friend, a travel companion and a confidant. This garden has been seen by many of us in pictures but we have only seen a portion of the garden. We all do edit our garden through our pictures, picking just the best to show. I find that it is difficult to show any garden as a whole with still shots. Imagine my delight when I found so many interesting garden spaces which I cannot ever remember seeing in this blogger's pictures. The gardens surrounding this home are well planned and just plain pretty if pretty can be plain. Attention to detail is seen at every turn. The approach to this home is along a winding, sloping drive bordered by woods on the right and a field on the left with hawthornes flanking the drive. IMG_5462In November, the red berries were in opulent profusion and the appreciative birds were seen enjoying these jewels. The field is kept neat and tidy by a neighbor who hays it during the season.Top of the HouseThe top of the house comes into view first and the reveal is slow, anticipation building for what is to come. MtThis blogger has a few chickens but in addition she also has a cat, a pig, some dogs and many vegetables. Well, yes, the pig is not alive but I don't remember seeing it before. There are always treasures to be found if one looks closely. The front garden was a surprise to me. Matching your foliage with your chairsThe entrance to any home should be approachable and inviting. This entrance has a nice wide walkway of brick with a color coordinated and dog friendly entrance. The front chair matches the fall color on the maples, the azaelas are re-bloomers, the hellebores are immense and the view from the front step is expansive.Mist in the meadowYou may remember seeing this view but now I can place it in this landscape as a view from the red chair on the front step. Another surprising feature of this garden is the garden seating. Trip to Robin'sI have seen at least one of these sets of chairs but the others were a surprise. I am fairly sure that this gardener rarely sits for very long in any of these seats but they are all inviting, all placed in wonderful spots and all ready for a warm body or two as the size would indicate(the chair/bench, not the body). Mt1The vegetable garden is classic and even in November it is yielding flowers, foliage and vegetables. The fencing and welcoming gate with arbor are the perfect complement to the traditional architecture of this home. This gardener is a serious cook and greens were picked for the wonderful meals I enjoyed here. You may have identified this gardener by now but here are a few more traditional views I have seen on her blog.
Classic Chicken CoopFirst, The Chicken Castle and next the chairs which we see most often facing the woods. Serenity gardenI call this the Serenity Spot but my dear friend probably has another name for this special place. One of the great perks of garden blogging is the unexpected pleasure of developing friendships with others who have similar interests. If you don't recognize the beautiful haven featured here, it belongs to Robin of Bumblebee blog. Sophie, Robin, SarahThank you so much, Robin, for a wonderful visit.


Addendum: Since visiting, the beautiful white rooster pictured in the first collage, the beloved T. Boone, has passed on to his next perch. He was a regal and beautiful cock. He will be missed.


Bloom Day - January 15, 2012

DSC_0003Bloom Day in January means inside blooms here in Rhode Island. The temperatures are in the single digits today after a mild week. I even picked carrots two days ago. Things change fast this time of year. There are a few plants blooming with the pink cyclamen shown above leading the pack for number of blooms. I love this little seasonal plant and I don't stress over its short life span here. There is not enough room on the shelves to nurse it after all the blooms have faded so into the compost it will go. It was a gift and one I love. DSC_0008I have a few paperwhites blooming and these have little fragrance. I know some do not like that scent but they rarely spend the time to pot them up. Really, if I am going to the trouble of forcing a  paperwhite, anticipating the scent of spring with each new inch of foliage, with buds forming full of the promise of sweet fragrance and then...nothing, the disappointment is great and hugely out of proportion to the act of plunking a few bulbs in pebbles in a pot. This could be a sign of cabin fever. I need to get out more.  DSC_0005Here is a Phalaenopsis orchid blooming. This is one I have had for a while which speaks to its ease of re-bloom. I need to pick up a few more of these. The flowering maple has a few flowers and while this is a dismal shot taken in less than ideal light conditions, I love these scarlet bells. DSC_0001This variety is a bit gangly and loose. I will cut it hard next spring when it goes outside to summer on the patio. Summer is a long way off but the sun is rising earlier and setting later and that is very welcome. Many thanks to Carol over at May Dreams for hosting yet another Bloom Day. 


A Ten Carrot Day

DSC_0003The garden in January is often covered in snow but not this year. While there is ice on the fish pond, mild weather has forced a few plants to throw flowers. Prunus budThe Prunus x 'Hally Jolivette' decided to entertain in December and the daffodils DSC_0010are showing green. The European ginger has retained its green leavesDSC_0004 and this little bulb is pushing up among the fallen maple leaves. DSC_0006Today my granddaughter, Hailey, wanted to walk in the garden and since there was no snow I noticed the carrot tops glowing green. DSC_0011I planted these carrots too late for fall harvest. I know they should be planted here in July but I ran out of time and just took a chance on sowing them later. They were planted about the second week of August.DSC_0013Today was a ten carrot day. They are small except for this one Hailey is holding. Hailey had great fun picking, washing and eating them. Is the love of gardening born in us or is it learned?     


Empty Nests

DSC_0006Every once in a while, I will find a bird's nest during the summer months but most often they are hidden among the foliage and reveal themselves long after they have been abandoned. I am no bird nest expert but observing those left is always interesting. The above nest looks like it was built after one too many glasses of wine. It is rough, twisted and coarse. What bird nested here? I cannot imagine any baby being comfortable in this nest but at least it was high off the ground away from predators. DSC_0007This next nest was barely three feet off the ground and while it is of quality workmanship with fine lines and soft nesting material I can't help but wonder if this was an inexperienced mother making the nest. DSC_0008Maybe she knew I don't own any cats but she should have seen Cooper and Tucker wandering around and they are bird dogs after all. Greeley, Cooper and TuckerHere they are playing with Greeley, the neighbor's brown lab. Cooper is the lighter of the two yellow labs. He is also very fast as you can see. Tucker may be on in years but Cooper chases everything that moves. Silly bird. DSC_0009Still, the nest was untouched so maybe she was smarter than I thought. Do any of you bird experts know which bird might have made nests like these?