Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 3


Spring at the Pettifers garden in Oxfordshire owned and designed by Gina Price is a privilege to behold. Upon arriving, you have no idea the delightful spectacle that awaits you through the beautiful gate.



The front of Gina Price’s home gives only a minimal taste of what you’re about to see. Our tour group came in through the larger gates on the entry drive. 


This fantastic color was only mildly foretelling of the visual treat we were in for during this lovely visit.


Wouldn’t you LOVE for this to be your garage? I could have photographed just THIS for half the day, there were SO many fantastic details to take in and it was so neat and tidy!


Then you turn and take in the incredible old country home before you. Since 1984 Gina Price has been gardening here after her inspiration from learning about the “New Perennial Movement” that emphasized featuring grasses within the mixed border. Her interest in focusing on perennials rather than the tradition of roses and shrubs became the theme of the garden.


Keeping certain larger formally clipped, traditional shrubs for the effect of defining spaces served this garden very well!


I could not take my eyes off of the two urns placed on top of the pedestals filled with succulents in cracks and crevices. The blending of two seemingly distant trends in the garden of traditional, old world and the new ways of using practical sedum for color, texture and low maintenance beauty were magical!


The deep borders displayed voluptuous colors in both flowers and foliage and were incredibly well designed. Combining both old world planting style with 21st century ideas came together expertly.


Drifts of spring perennials and bulbs worked together in harmony. I would have loved to be able to see this garden in fall too!


Renowned for the formal parterre garden of clipped boxwood and yew, it also had a quite graceful, casual flair as well.


Far from the house, this portion of the garden featured more demure color. This clematis must really be a sight in summer!



Seating both intended for socializing, view gazing or solitary contemplation marked spots all over the property.


I love the artistic nature and placement of these smooth wooden chairs and the unusual shapes that reminded me of oxen yoke.


A broader shot that shows the lower part of the garden away from the house and the beautiful rolling hills and glowing rape seed growing in the distance make for an iconic view.


So many plants to photograph, so little time! 





Happy gardeners! 


Terrific backdrop for garden loving couples! 

Gina Price on the far right generously toured all of us through her exquisite landscape answering all of our questions before serving all of us proper tea and crisps.



Pettifers also enjoys having a very talented garden assistant on site who had a wonderfully encyclopedic memory for plants and the history behind the garden too. It was a pleasure chatting with her!




It was our good fortune to be visiting this garden in spring to catch it at the beginning of the growing season all fresh and lovely. What a garden!

Want your very own taste of the English countryside in spring? Click HERE for more information on the spring tours that are about to happen for 2017 and how to secure your own spot. GO-CLICK-NOW! 🙂 

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!

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Winter Gardening – Rhapsody in Hellebore

No matter whether you call them Lenten Rose, Winter Rose or Christmas Rose, these are NO delicate flowers that require tons of fawning and attention. Hellebores are THE perfect plants for sensational flowers in January and some will bloom all the way into spring! Hardy to zone 4 or 5, hellebores are also ideal for outdoor container combos or entry gardens where they can be enjoyed up close. It’s entirely possible to have many hellebore’s blooming in sequence from November to April, with a large assortment of bloom colors, styles and foliage textures.

Helleborus niger under glass

Helleborus niger under glass

Helleborus niger in the early morning light.

Helleborus niger in the early morning light.

If you think you can’t have winter flowering plants in your cold climate zone, you might think again. Independent garden centers like my go-to nursery Molbaks Garden and Home are bursting with magical early blooming hellebores like the ones from Skagit Gardens Gold Collection now. On a recent visit to this wonderful grower in the lovely city of Mt. Vernon Washington, the early hellebores were furiously being shipped out to nurseries all over the Northwest. The top two varieties at the moment being: ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef’ from the Gold Collection.

The large flowers on hellebores are also well suited to indoor arrangements for the holiday months and then planted outside to continue blooming as long as April and May. Arrange them in a basket or other decorative container with cones, boughs and ribbons for an eco-friendly display that provides long-lasting value in the garden too. Be sure to visit these links for additional detailed info on the care and design uses of ALL of the many Hellebore options available to start collecting!


The early season hellebores are long-lived, not fussy and a reliable source of interest for garden styles from modern to old-fashioned. The smaller scale cultivars make an undeniably hardy ground cover. Most of them have evergreen foliage that fit nicely into an area where other perennials share the space with well-drained soil, protection from wind and partial to full shade. It’s helpful too, to make sure you mulch them a bit to retain some consistent moisture in summer. As a huge bonus, they are also not a favorite meal of deer.
One short note on culture. Be sure to cut back old foliage in the early winter as you see them bud up. If there are any issues with diseased foliage in your zone, this will keep it at bay. You can also add a layer of charcoal, crushed lime or other small gritty mulch around the base of the plant and this will also help minimize any potential for disease as well. Helleborus niger


‘Josef’ Lemper blooms pure white, transitioning to a pale green

Also seen blooming at about the same time or slightly after in sequence is the ‘Ivory Prince’ hellebore and ‘Cinnamon Frost’ hellebores with all the same fabulous characteristics as their cousins above. Cinnamon Frost comes on subtle and rich at first with coloring that is a pale buff or butter shaded with a soft spice tone, until it turns a deep rich rose later. Very elegant indeed!

Rouge pink on the back side of the bud is exquisite

Rouge pink on the back side of the bud is exquisite


The world of the Hellebore is vast and too much to cover in just one post, but one that you definitely do not want to miss if you have the chance to grow them, is the incredible ‘Double Queen Mix’. This charming mix boasts a gorgeous range of colors. There are an exquisite number of fluffy, multi petaled options in hellebores to choose from these days!
Hellebore - Double Queen

Helleborus orientalis

Helleborus orientalis

Not to be outdone by those glorious flowers that we So desperately need in the drab, gray days of winter, the FOLIAGE! The range of amazing foliage options on the hellebore family of plants is staggering! From showy silvers, to finely cut to speckled and spotted, there is a favorite leaf for everyone. Here are a few of my favorites:

One word- STUNNING!

One word- STUNNING!

'Silver Dollar' hellebore

‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore

Oh the drama!

Oh the drama!

Gold Bears Foot hellebore

Gold Bearsfoot hellebore

A fall container combo with the Gold Bearsfoot hellebore.

A fall container combo with the Gold Bearsfoot hellebore.

This spectacular Bearsfoot hellebore has ruby red highlights!

This spectacular Bearsfoot hellebore has ruby red highlights!

Bearsfoot hellebore in late summer.

Bearsfoot hellebore in late summer

Bearsfoot or Stinking Hellebores waiting to burst open under a Witch Hazel

Hopefully you enjoyed a tour of this wee bit of Hellebore fabulosity. Your garden is most likely in need of some of these if not many, because who could really have enough color in winter, right? A great big THANK YOU to Skagit Gardens for having me up their way and letting me ogle the plants, take pictures and generally “ooh and ah” for the day. Mt. Vernon is also where you would find the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when it becomes a Horticultural version of Mecca for a few weeks each Spring.

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