Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt.2


The entry drive across the “moat” in front of the castle.

Broughton Castle is a moated and fortified manor house near Banbury in North Oxfordshire. Set in parkland and built of the rich local Hornton ironstone, it was selected by Simon Jenkins as one of only twenty to be awarded five stars in his book England’s Thousand Best Houses.

The core of the house was built in 1306 and the gatehouse in the early fifteenth century, but most of what you see today dates from the 1550’s. It was a centre of opposition to Charles I and was besieged and damaged after the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.

Broughton Castle is home to the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. The ownership of the Castle has remained in the same family since 1447.
(Courtesy of

af5bf619f6640f561035a3b9f027f91fIf the name Fiennes rings a bell, you are correct. Yes, THOSE Fiennes. Ralph Fiennes, born Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is an English actor. A noted Shakespeare interpreter, he first achieved success onstage at the Royal National Theatre. You may know him from his movies The English Patient, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter just to name a few. Ralph’s brother Joseph Fiennes Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is an English film and stage actor known for his portrayals of William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, for which he was nominated for numerous awards.

The history of this home is fascinating and touring this cavernous space was wonderful taste of another era. When we visited with CarexTours in spring, the gardens were just waking up for the season, so learning about the home itself was a wonderful way to spend our day and tied everything together for us, antiquity and horticulture.

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

The private family church is the first thing to greet you before you get to the gate house. This church dates all the way back to the estates beginnings somewhere between it’s original beginnings in the 1300-1400’s. For the age of the building, it is in incredible condition both inside and out and provided rich information with a cemetery full of the family headstones as well as incredible architecture.

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016Crossing the moat at the gate house was meant to be intimidating, but our fun group was not going to give in! Carolyn Mullet, one of our tour experts stopped all of her ducklings for a group photo in this huge passage way.Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Can you imagine a day when these giant intricate doors would have been closed more than open?
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016

Back in the glory days of this castle, you best never forget who is in charge here as you pass through the entry at the gate house.
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016
As you pass through the gate house into the gravel court entry, there is a barn/car park/cafe building where we were served a fabulous lunch and had way TOO much fun playing with and photographing this incredibly well maintained wisteria.
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016
Broughton Castle, CarexTours 2016The view toward the castle from our lunch spot inside was magical.
The beauty herself- Broughton Castle!
After lunch we had to wait a bit for our interior tour so we walked off some of lunch and took in more of the exterior details.
A gorgeous front door to be sure, yet so small relative to the size of this place!
I bet you don’t see these in YOUR neighborhood!
Once inside, we were free to roam the incredible great room.
It was COLD inside the castle!!
The ceiling details throughout the entire castle were incredible!!
The fluted wood paneling on the walls in the dining room were exquisite!
Every window well in the house had lovely displays of all kinds. The view to the garden as we headed upstairs was a treat!
The upstairs hallway was a warm and bright treat after coming up a cold, dark stairwell.
In the Master bedroom, there was a peek-a-boo window that looked down into the mini-private chapel below.
In one of the ladies chambers, an epic relief over the fireplace. Who needs more art……..?
And then you look up at that ceiling!
The wallpaper in the bedroom extended into what would have been the “dressing room”. It was all hand painted and the close up detail was incredible!
We climbed all the way to the VERY top of the castle to a once secret room that was used for planning strategy for war and all manner of intrigue.
Which also means being THAT far up above it all, we also got the chance to climb out onto a hidden rooftop to take in the amazing views!
From a garden tourist perspective, the undisputed crown jewel on this property is of course this epic walled knot garden as seen from above.
Back downstairs and into a room FULL of history. This was a fantastic space that was used as a detailed encyclopedia holding the family history.
Maybe it’s because I’m so short, but I just couldn’t keep my camera off of the incredible ceilings in every space!
Imagine how regal you feel coming through THIS entryway into the less formal yet no less intricate and elegant living room.
Those DETAILS are unbelievable!
A welcoming and cozy room for such a grand castle!
Woodworking artisans had some serious job security working in this home for a long time!
Out into the garden! Though still emerging for spring, you could see how incredible this garden will be in summer.
Peek-a-boo view into the walled garden.
Garden close-ups and researching plants with our phones all over the expansive landscape were a common theme.
Happy CarexTour attendees!
GIANT moss basket filled with honeysuckle getting ready to bloom!
Beautiful Centaurea beginning to bloom for spring!
And rugosa roses just peeking out too!
This feminine little flower was emerging up through the barberry, I’m not quite sure what it was though. It looked resembled Lily of the Valley, but didn’t have the classic foliage to go with it. If you recognize it, leave a comment and I’ll add the plant ID to this one.
The blue tones of Monkshood are shooting up toward the sky as the temperatures warm up.
The lichen on the low border walls is SO decorative!
And back out into the English countryside to visit another garden on our tour for part three. Stay tuned, we heading to the elegant Pettifers!!

Check out CarexTours here for more information on upcoming trips to gardens like this!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt.1


Broughton Grange, Carex Tours 2016

Carolyn Mullet is a top-level landscape designer based in Maryland and I was the BLESSED photographer she invited along to document her tour through England earlier this year via her tour company Carex Garden Tours. This blog is one in a series that will take YOU along with us on a visual tour of what we saw in the gardens and a glimpse into the fun that was had by the group along the way. So join me and our fun group for visits to some of the world’s top British gardens as well as the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show!

Our first stop on the tour was Broughton Grange Gardens  where we were all SO excited to get going we could hardly wait for that big old gate to open!




Once we were through the gate it was like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. We were all ready for adventure and did we ever get it! Though it was a cool and mildly damp morning as you would expect the english countryside to be, not one of us intrepid garden enthusiasts would be deterred.


Immediately in the garden, there was a lovely tea and biscuit ready and waiting for us while we learned about this wonderfully complicated garden and all of its many facets that we were about to explore!
Here is an excerpt from Broughton Grange that describes a bit about the gardens:

Prior to purchase by the present owner in 1992, Broughton Grange was owned for 200 years by the Morrell family. The gardens are beautifully set in 350 acres of parkland, farmland and open meadow, with planting that owes its origins to the Victorian era. In the early 20th century and under the ownership of Lady Ottoline and Philip Morrell, figures such as Bertrand Russell and Lytton Strachey were entertained on the estate. Although not ultimately fond of Broughton, Lady Ottoline wrote to Russell “I think the country looks very charming, very secluded; the trees and air and stillness are so delightful”. Broughton Grange now represents one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain.
The gardens’ development accelerated in 2001, when leading landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith was commissioned to transform a six acre south facing field into a walled garden. This impressive new garden, walled on two sides only, features three individually themed terraces and has been designed in strong relation to the surrounding rural landscape. Since the late 1990s, other parts of the gardens have been beautifully developed and from 2003 onwards, a significant arboretum has been planted. Further development of the arboretum will remain an ongoing project over the coming years. The tree collection at Broughton includes a wide range of interesting species and cultivars, covering an area of approximately 80 acres.
Over the past decade, the gardens have received a large amount of media attention and have opened for visitors since 2004 under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). Overall, this diverse and interesting horticultural collection demonstrates all the potential for being a landscape of much significance in the future.


The gardens greet you immediately with a small but wonderful little jewel of a nursery that begs you to examine all of those wonderful plants you may not get to see back home!


Emerging hosta meet you as you pass through the first gate into the upper part of the formal walled garden. This peek gives you an idea of what’s ahead.


Foliage on these espaliered trees tells you that we are here just as spring is really springing and its beginning to warm up in this handsome landscape.


I find it very important to make a point of always looking back and see what lay behind you in the garden as you meander. It’s often quite as revealing as what lay further along the garden walk!


Glowing hillsides of rape seed are a flowing blanket of sunshine in the distance on this gray day. In the foreground, the structured and angular water feature is made for exploring the garden. Walkways and steps are in just the perfect spots to invite you to puddle jump across for another view of the garden.



The large water feature houses hungry koi. Across from the spectacular pond, there is a stand of espaliered trees. This time in a full circle, enveloping you as you stand at the wall that leads out to another section of the garden. 20160517-cs_img_0202

The rill viewed from down low with a garden that is full of deceptively casual perennials may seem scattered about in haphazard fashion, but are skillfully snuggled up on both sides.


The rill spills down into the lower portion of the garden. If you follow the flow back up, this shot takes you to the greenhouse still full with plants waiting for their turn in the sunshine.


Looking across the waterway from a bugs eye view gives you a great idea of what it felt like to pass through the walled garden via this crown of trees. 

One of the features that this garden is well-known for is this delicate, undulating boxwood hedge. The very last of the tulips bloom triumphantly within the random pattern of sheared boxwood. As we look down the path and through the tall hedge that borders the young arboretum filled with hundreds of incredible trees, I’m confident that it’s going to be quite the incredible sight for generations to come when those trees are large enough to have a presence.


Impeccably pruned shrubs anchor the garden in a way that only a proper English garden can demonstrate. In the distance, you can see the larger shrubs lovingly pruned to perfection, another one of this gardens treasures.


Spring veggies were literally being planted the day we visited. And we all loved those classy metal plant supports, hard to capture for me though!🙂


Can you envision how long these peony/poppy supports have been in use? These are going to be monster sized blooms on the oriental poppy’s, no wonder they need support!


The sun came out long enough for our tour mate from Italy to put on sunglasses while she sketched and took notes of this meticulously kept garden. Oh happy day! :-) 


THIS is where you know that serious plantsman, horticulturists and the like have been lovingly designing and refining a garden for years. When perennials, shrubs, trees, edibles and annuals all appear to mingle together effortlessly, yet it takes years and years of skill and effort to make it look SO easy. This is the sure sign.


When I am giving my clients Personal Garden Coaching advice, one thing we talk about frequently is that adding a bench or seating in an area that no one will ever sit on is wasted effort and money. This bench IS getting used! The elegant piece is placed to view the garden from many angles and this shot gives you a very small peek to the garden and young arboretum in the distance.


This beech tunnel must be a cool and calming place to hide on hot summer days!


Garden art was integral to this garden in MANY forms!!!


The owners of Broughton Grange built this fanciful tree house for their grandchildren.


Well placed statuary gave the gardens a sense of “place” as well as providing focal points for the eye to rest in such an expansive space.


Emerging spring perennials graced the traditional double borders nearest the house.


This particular statue was fabulous coming and going!🙂


The formal garden just below the house featured beautiful blue obelisks that draw your eye up and out of the garden to the field beyond effortlessly.


Wrapping up our tour brought us around to the back side of the house and up toward the side of the garden leading us on up to our bus for the next stop. Stay tuned….we visit Broughton Castle next!

Like this post? Sign up to receive posts in your email by signing up with the button on the right!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hiring a Personal Garden Coach!

August 2008 garden 003 copyEnthusiasm for gardening is easy to acquire every single spring when you begin to see the first little plants start to line the front of the grocery store entryway. St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon you, here put this super cute clover on your desk at work and watch it…die.😦 Easter is coming and there are those fragrant, gorgeous Easter Lilly’s at every turn. YES!! Let’s get one of those for the kitchen window and enjoy the blooms…until it dies. See a theme here?

IMG_7208But its SPRING! You simply feel compelled to head to the Big BOX store and buy a flat cart load full of soil, mulches, fertilizers and dozens and dozens of plants. You eagerly roll up to the cash register pay for your loot and take it home. Now what? PLANT! We’re weekend warriors, we can DO this! Dump those bags of soil out, plant that one over there, that one the other side and zippity-doo-dah, you are very nearly the definition of a PRO-Gardener. You sprayed the fertilizer of green liquid just like the commercial, sat down, had a cold adult beverage and admired your handiwork while you called your friends and invited them over for a barbecue to admire your horticultural feats.

Sumner McLendon's 007Now its a month later, your plants are either dead or they look really sad. What? No one at the Big BOX store told you that those were actually not hardy OUTSIDE in your area? They may have also failed to mention that those pretty little flowers you were SO excited about are chock full of disease that will kill them quickly and the store knowingly sold them anyway? OUCH! They didn’t mention when you were shopping that you were buying “Potting Soil” for your perennial beds when you really needed a compost mix? The fertilizer you bought and sprayed all over everything with abandon not only isn’t organic for your edibles but you used 6X the recommended amount and now they have all turned black?

What happened? You went out with all of the very BEST intentions, but once again, you feel like you failed because it all turned out wrong. How come it doesn’t look like the magazines or all of the pictures on Pinterest? It’s NOT your fault!

It’s because you need a “Horticultural Hand-Holder”! Seriously, you’ve heard of people using Career Coaches, Nutritionists to help with a diet, or a Fitness Coach right? How about a Personal Shopper? Personal Chef? Dog Trainer? The bottom line is that we are all busy and you simply can’t be expected to have the time or inclination to be an expert at everything. And just like anything else, learning about YOUR garden takes time. Why not take the step to hire a Personal Garden Coach? Don’t be intimidated, just dive in, the beauty is that YOU set the pace. Once per month, once per season, twice a year, it all depends on what goals you have in mind for your landscape and what YOU intend to get out of it.

Head Shot IMG_6512
Here is what you need to know about working with a Personal Garden Coach:

  1. A Personal Garden Coach has the goal of saving you MONEY, TIME and, LABOR. By making informed decisions when you are shopping for plants, and hard-goods likes soils, fertilizers and tools. We have tried them ALL and made the mistakes for you. WE know who good vendors are, we know what products are worth spending a little bit extra on and even more important, we can help you save where it makes sense to save. By doing it right the first time, you aren’t wasting valuable time that you can be using to ENJOY your landscape.
  2. We want to see you succeed and eventually not need us anymore!
  3. A Personal Garden Coach wants you to find the PASSION in plants and gardening, not the drudgery.
  4. A Personal Garden Coach is on the journey with you, there WILL be mishaps. A plant WILL fail, a storm will happen at the wrong time, animals WILL cause problems. But, learning how to handle those issues as they happen is part of learning.
  5. A Personal Garden Coach is there to cheer you on to try NEW things that you might not have considered before. Want to create a fantasy miniature garden? Why not?
  6. A Personal Garden Coach is also the FIRM hand of reason. You want to begin collecting $1000 Koi fish? Maybe we should try our hand at building a self enclosed fountain first?
  7. A Personal Garden Coach is going to help you decide on your best options for that new Hot Tub and Patio you have always wanted- need a subcontractor, a Personal Garden Coach is going to help you find one.
  8. Feeling the need to Prune? A Personal Garden Coach is going to teach you how to properly to avoid situations like this one.
  9. Is your dream to have a sustainable vegetable garden and homestead for chickens? A Personal Garden Coach can help with that too!
  10. Got a fruit orchard and need help learning what to do with it all? A Personal Garden Coach is your foodie growing and preserving ally!

See? You CAN do this, don’t just settle for bland when your garden and landscape can be your proudest achievement without nearly as much expense and personal inner turmoil as you might have thought.

Enjoy this post?
Please do me the honor of sharing it with friends. And if you are on Facebook, you can find LOTS of neat info every day right here too! 

Who is the BIGGEST Sexiest Tease in the Garden?

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

If November is about the slowing down and putting the landscape to bed for a few months, and December is about focusing on our indoor garden, then January is surely about the long, hazy dream of what a landscape COULD be with catalogs and wish lists, but what is February? February is the TEASE. The spell you can’t break. The sexy, lusty, take you right to the edge TEASE.

It’s the itch you just can’t scratch, the pleasure behind desire. You nearly break into a sweat at the faintest whiff of daphne perfume. The thrust of a brand new tropical plant in front of you that you simply must have because it nearly makes you forget your own name. The subtle mention of when we might get a glimpse of skin-baring (or fleece shedding) sun sends thrills up your spine.

The sensual act of browsing the garden tool aisles has you imagine your skill and prowess using them is nearly enough to send you over the edge. And as you gently brush up against watering tools and seed packets or sexy bulbs swollen and ready for planting, it’s almost too much to take. Yes, February is the ultimate spring tease all right, nature is a powerful summons.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

Your seeds might be started inside, under the hot, horticultural, sexy glow of electric stimulation. Or maybe you are just playing it cool, having been burned by the tease before and not being able to fully complete the act before a late cold snap yanked you back to your senses.

Yes, you KNOW exactly what I mean. In February we achingly want to be outside, it’s almost an inner panic, a dizziness that only working in the soil will satisfy. But the cold, rain and snow has us locked up behind our computers, wantonly ogling others fertile blooms and foliage in warmer locales where they are already harvesting the rewards.

I am certainly NOT immune to this. I too have been exquisitely frustrated and come close to reaching out for the long distance satisfaction of a warmer climate landscape. In fact, I am maintaining my “grounds-keeping” (wink wink nudge nudge) just in case such an occasion pops us where I can hop on a plane at a moments notice to indulge my cravings. I am NOT above flirting with the idea of leering at a landscape in Santa Barbara or the Spanish Riviera to fulfill my gardening appetites and refine my gluttony for the fine bouquet of warmer air.

There is a palpable attraction to jumping on a plane to a landscape where there are bees buzzing over HOT flower sex, stigmas, pistils, receptacles, ovules…Oh my! But there is a point when it just feels wrong. It’s like I am breaking a sacred bond with late winters essence. When my credit card and my self-respect simply have to say, enough is enough.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

I have to embrace what I have here at home. No, really! Until I can cultivate my horticultural design thirsts in less expensive and more meaningful ways. I can appreciate those mouth-watering, handsome landscapes that make me swoon feverishly from my corner of the country for a wee bit longer. I will learn how NOT to give in to the luscious gluttony of plants that I can’t have and landscapes that I will never come to know physically. I will resist the temptation of flying out-of-town to have a fling with another climate. I will refuse delivery on the notion that I MUST escape my day-to-day gray and I will maintain what respect I have left for my commitment to rain-wear and fleece.

The urges and wantonness that February propels us toward are soon going to be satisfied by March. It’s only a little longer and surely, I can keep my urges under control until then, right? RIGHT?! OK, I realize now that what I really want February to do is to take it slow. To gradually, deliberately move in a way that makes me tingle with each and every bud taking its sweet time to emerge – NOT TOO FAST now! We don’t want to rush things. I’m going to savor every single wet, spring kiss. I’m going to be aware and appreciative of every moment and of the enchantment of it, for real this time. If it has to be an un-hurried build-up to the mind bending explosion of outdoor excitement in July and August, then so be it, I relent.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

The best thing I can do right now is relax and to give in to the tease, to enjoy the craving. I don’t want to rush with too much fervor right past the delicate dance of the early spring. This weakness in my self-control could ruin my appetite for later. Isn’t Mother Natures role in this whole thing to bring us the aphrodisiac, the splendid appetizers before the feast? Maybe curled up in front of the fire, basking in the arousal of a plant catalog is just the sort of titillation we all need to get by, at least for a few more weeks right?

We can do this. I may need to invest in some more Cinnamon Whiskey – but we can do this, after all, we’re ALL Hort-heads of one sort or another. Whether we like to admit it publicly or not- we all WANT it. But, now is the time for calm, for dignified behavior, for waging the war on lust.

So, bring it on February – wait a minute its March next week? Ha! I’m heading out-of-town for a plant show!!

Enjoy this post? Share it with a friend or visit me here on Facebook!

November Sun – Cold Color Celebration


Sunny November days in Seattle are a pure unadulterated bonus. Our gardening climate is alternately dazzling and maddening at the same time. The depth of gray in winter seems to last forever and the utterly outstanding glory of summer here fall at the opposite end of our horticultural universe for an exquisitely painful short period of time.

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
–   Emily Dickinson

We can grow such wide array of plants here that it makes many in other parts of the world green with envy. So, on a crystalline blue-sky day like today, it feels like we are COMMANDED to get outside and document its glory for everyone to see. I did just that in my robe and jammies this morning for you! If nothing else, it may just be to document it for us so that when we are nearly suicidal on the gray days in January and we want to hop a plane to Las Vegas, we remember why we live here.


Fatsia Japonica blooms

It occurred to me as I took this shot that the years of the heaviest Fatsia bloom, we’ve also had the hardest winter. Hmmmmm……..

We rely on many a Huechera for some November color here in the Northwest because we don’t really have too many flowers at all. So the WIDE variety of foliage colors are a very welcome sight here in gray land.


Note the Fuchsia near the bottom still doing her thing! I scared the (bleep) out of a poor local Hummingbird trying to get this shot. Ooops!


Another plant that “tolerates” our wet cold winter climate, is Phormium, or New Zealand Flax. You need to understand that I do say this somewhat tongue in cheek today. I lost about 27 of them a few years back after an ice storm. When the cold almost 2 inches of thick ice melted off of them, they actually looked fine until they succumbed to Crown Rot.
That was about 5 years ago now and I have recovered from my cynacism toward them, but only enough to have two. So, far. I just refuse to fall in love again and have my gardeners heart and wallet broken again.🙂

Having said that, I do have a torrid love affair with my Fatshedera. If I have to buy a new one every year, I’m cool with that. This variegated one was particularly lovely with cold weather color and the light of the morning coming through her.


“If I’m ever reborn, I want to be a gardener—
there’s too much to do for one lifetime!” 

–   Karl Foerster

Like this post? Come and visit me on Facebook too at The Personal Garden Coach!


A Summer Summary Garden Tour

Except for one freeze that lasted two days this last winter, here in the greater Seattle area you could safely say that ours was the winter that never happened. Consequently, between the release of Fine Foliage in the spring, my own business and my nursery work, there was no real need for me to update much of my garden for spring and summer this year, it was looking pretty darn good.

Then, in the waning days of August, I received a call from a magazine wanting to come and shoot in my teeny-tiny garden and my containers in 10 days! Scurry, scurry, scurry, rally the troops, plant, plant, plant, clean, clean, clean!

It turned out better than I ever imagined and we celebrated with an impromptu party on a lovely August evening that coincided with my birthday. It couldn’t have been a more perfect gift!

Now as autumn has placed its boot firmly in the rain and mud, this short burst of wild activity, color and enjoyment of the garden is now at its end and I trudge damply toward the clean up and pre-winterization of the garden and containers.

The one thing I did promise myself however, was that I would post a summer wrap-up of the finished (When is it ever finished?) garden for this season to share all of the hard work my friends and I put it in, in such a short time frame.

My special thanks go to Heather Little Bradley and Ryan LaPointe for their invaluable contributions in such a mad-cap few days!

Now, as it fades into the cool, low light of the shorter, wetter days of fall, I can move on to appreciating it in a whole new way. At least until chaos reigns again this spring. Plans are already brewing!🙂

Enjoy the wrap-up! Click on photos to enlarge.





































I hope this end of summer garden wrap-up tour inspired you to plan for spring and summer in your own garden for 2014. Unfortunately there are just too many plants here to list them all by name, but if you want any specifics, I am happy to oblige.

If you would like to look at more photos like these, join me on my Facebook page by clicking here.  We have fun there learning all kinds of stuff!