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Autumn – our most colourful time?

I remember on my first ever trip to the US (in August/September 1992) loving the blue/violet and yellow colour scheme of roadside wildflowers, whilst driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, and then seeing similar mixes all the way up to Massachusetts. There must be a good reason why so many autumn perennials flower in either one or the other – to do with some combination of light wavelength and bee eyesight. Anyways – the combination is a very effective complementary one. Here is Rudbeckia triloba with Aster puniceus and Verbena bonariensis. The rudbeckia is a short-lived perennial; mine has sharper ray florets than the form usually available here. I got the seed from Prairie Moon in Wisconsin. The Aster I have had for years, the seed I collected originally from a swamp in the Catskills. It is a terrific seeder, but not a root spreader – a very good late summer soft blue. Continue Reading →

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Garden in the Woods

Last week I spent a day doing some filming with Duncan Heather and Elspeth Briscoe for a MyGardenSchool  online course on perennials I will be tutoring next year. Duncan is principal of the Oxford College of Garden Design and a noted garden designer. So, interesting to have a look around at a leading garden designer’s own patch of mature garden. Continue Reading →

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Petunias and democracy – Travels in Kyrgyrzstan

Bishkek is my first experience of the former Soviet Union (USSR), words drained of real meaning to a younger generation, but for any of us who grew up and were politically aware before 1989 a major part of our consciousness of the world – but now all that seemingly indestructible grey concrete has turned to dust. I’m here for a botanical tour of north-east Kyrgyzstan, the most mountainous and remote of the former USSR’s ‘Soviet Socialist Republics’, up against China’s own remote province of Xinjiang. Amazing to be in a country which was once almost totally closed to outsiders, and about which we knew almost nothing. Now it is developing for tourists, but it feels like virgin territory for visitors. It is a botanical paradise. Continue Reading →

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Privacy, greed and gardens

There are no photographs heading this post, because there are NO PHOTOGRAPHS. The whole point of this post is that there aren’t any.

Some years ago I was interviewing a garden design colleague, a well-known one, who was complaining bitterly about how he was increasingly finding that clients would not let him have ‘his’ gardens photographed for publication. Continue Reading →

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Looking south over the walled garden over loch Ewe.

This is one of those really famous gardens, but in such a remote location that you don’t just drop in. Fifty miles from the nearest supermarket, inform my hosts, as if this is now the definition of distance from civilization or maybe survival. Inverewe on the north-west coast of Scotland is famous as a ‘sub-tropical’ garden, which is nonsense, but it is an illustration that with a bit of shelter, the climate here is amazingly west-coast mild, rarely that cold, and never hot – ideal for New Zealand flora and good for a lot of Himalayan foothill stuff. The contrast with the surrounding barren treeless scenery is extraordinary and gives the place its magic. Continue Reading →

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