Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with Carex Tours 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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 
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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.

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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.

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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!🙂

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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!

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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! :-) 
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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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This particular statue was fabulous coming and going!🙂

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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.

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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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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?

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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.

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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.

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AM Snow and PM Spring in the Garden Today

Other than the sounds of snow thawing and water draining out of the unbelievably soggy lawn, you would never know that I woke up to snow this morning at 7:30am. It was a winter wonderland. Not an altogether happy one on my part, having just come back from a month away, where it was 70 in Philadelphia for 2 weeks and then 80 in Houston for almost another week. But, considering it is March in my beloved Seattle ‘Burbs, I know better than to whine. Much.🙂

Here are some pics from the garden today. Clearly, my Euphorbia’s of ALL flavors are glorious in their Pre-Easter nodding fashion. The Hebe’s  and Heuchera are pulling their weight too, and my winter container designs are quite striking in the early spring sun. I’m not sure how much of a hurry I may be in to trade them in just yet. Enjoy!

String Gardens and Terrariums Win Crowds at Philly Flower Show

This jaded, cynical designer has a short attention span for the same old same old. I am frequently yearning to see something new and inspirational in the world of gardening. So, one of the things I look for when I spend time at a large garden show like the Philadelphia Flower Show is a creative new discovery. I was fortunate to have stumbled on more than one AND HOW, at this show!

The “String Garden” or “Kokedama” was one of the hottest  trends that I saw at the show. To be accurate, anything you could hang with a plant and a string was HOT!

One fantastic vendor, City Planter is a very popular urban garden store in Philadelphia. They had a funky booth selling this latest whimsical trend among many others that made them a hot destination at this impressive 10 acre sized show.

The City Planter shop featured these stylish string gardens for customers to see right out at eye level. Essentially, these are a moss ball with a simple single plant featured on top and wrapped to hold together with fishing line or wire then simply suspended with a strand of string. I’ve seen them hung from jute twine, wire or a waxed twine as well.

Plants options in the string gardens were varied to accommodate your light and moisture requirements, from succulents and herbs to ferns and polka-dot plants. If you would like to see a demonstration of how these are made, this post has some great directions.

String Gardens were originally brought to us by Dutch artist Fedor Van der Valk. You can read more about the artist and see some fantastic photos of his creative suspended gardens in 2 articles from Garden Design Magazine written by Claire Lui. The first article posted in January of this year and then highlights posted again here in March 2012.

I was impressed at how varied the options were in the plants that they were offering in the string gardens. String Gardens are a fun and creative option for a plant craft to try that won’t cost a fortune. Imagine the possibilities of plants that you could try!

This popular show shop also offered some of the most sophisticated little glass terrariums I’ve ever seen. A rectangular glass box with an opening at the top for planting and a tiny hole in back to hang from a nail. They had added some decorative rock in showy layers, some ornamental moss and a few air plants, voila! Any beginning gardener could easily keep this alive and in style too.

Also among the fashionable offerings from City Planter were the extremely popular Moss Rocks by David Spain, as seen on Martha Stewart recently. Irregularly shaped, small ceramic rock shapes, glazed in trendy colors, sport a little tuffet of moss on top like a miniature crew cut. These charming, colorful living sculptures are an adorable little bit of Zen for your desk, counter top and coffee table.

Chive.com offered a beautiful and sophisticated booth featuring simple design that shows off the beauty of the flower. Hanging vases on a string were a very popular item as well as the ceramic 60’s style throwback hanging vases.

Cloches were also everywhere at the show, next to Terrariums these were one of the trends at the show that would draw the most passionate response that I would over hear from attendees. Cloches are easy to create and change a look on a table top in moments on a whim.

This lovely little cloche display was on only a small part of the charming and popular shop at the Philly Flower Show set up by Jerry Fritz and his team from Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, Pennsylvania.

Possibly one of my favorite finds at the whole Philly Flower Show however was the booth from Twig Terrariums. They not only had the String Gardens but the Terrariums and Miniatures were literally the ONLY ones in the whole market/vendor portion of the show and they were simply WOW!

Each little world was depicting actions and characters not only in a terrarium environment, but in a completely new, contemporary light. I have truly never seen anything like it. It was enchanting to say the least. I’m not sure the pictures do it justice. Yes, I LOVED them THAT much.🙂 If you want to read a great book about Terrariums, this one is beautiful!

Small wonders were abundant at this ginormous show in the unusually warm spring of 2012. Even this old designer found out that there really ARE new things out there that still make this gardener’s heart flutter.🙂

Slug and Snail Attack Plan 101

If you live in a marginally moist environment as we do here in the Pacific Northwest, you no doubt have Slugs and you might have Snails too. Here is an outline for the plan that I’ve devised for conquering them!

The first few things you need to think about:

  1. Get ’em early!
  2. Be consistent!
  3. Use pet safe products!
  4. A great link for some Slug and Snail basics here.

Applying your slug and snail product early in the growing season is key. Get the baby ones before they mature and multiply!

Sluggo is the product that I use here at home. (I’m not being paid or compensated in any way to promote this or any item.) This is one of few snail and slug control products not based on metaldehyde. The active ingredient is a 1% Iron Phosphate that organically breaks down in the soil into fertilizer. It can safely be used around domestic animals and wildlife. This product is also labeled for use in vegetable gardens.

Use your favorite pet safe slug and snail product early in the season. Ring the lawn, because one of the favorite egg laying spots is here so they can make a quick get away into the garden beds unseen by hungry birds. You want to get the babies when they hatch to be proactive in your efforts rather than after the damage is done!

Also, sprinkle the little pellets IN ground covers, rockeries, paths and any moist hiding place. Hide them where they live NOT where they feed. A slug or a snail will commonly climb up into a woody shrub as the sun comes out and come back out as soon as it cools down. Place your product any place where it’s cool and moist or at the base of the shrubs and under the ornamental grasses.

Remember this has a yummy scented bait! Slugs can smell for an impressive distance. If you bait where you DON”T want them to munch, you might kill a few of the bad guys, but you will also invite a bunch of your neighbors slugs to feast on your plants after the bait is gone.

If you want to create a barrier that you CAN safely put around Slug and Snail buffet locations, use a product made of Diatomaceous Earth. I use this brand, because it’s easy for me to find in a small quantity and it lasts forever.


Concern is a crawling insect killer that harnesses the power of diatomaceous earth (85%). Made from the finely ground fossils of prehistoric fresh water diatoms, this product kills cockroaches, ants, silverfish, fleas and slugs. A long-lasting control, it sprinkles into cracks and crevices where bugs hide. Insects cannot develop resistance as there is no build-up of chemical immunity. Insects dies within 48 hours of contact. OMRI-listed and compliant for use in organic gardening.

This product is finer than flour! So stay up wind of it and as it can be a lung irritant avoid inhaling. However, I have found this really easy, safe and convenient way to apply it:

I use these little squeeze bottles, labeled “BUG DEATH”, to get the powder down in the cracks and crevices of leaves and rocks and around the base of plants. This is the equivalent of them trying to crawl through ground glass- I love it!

However as I said above the key is consistency. If it gets rainy right away, you will have to re-apply soon after to be effective. I usually pick a day every week during the moist part of the growing season and patrol the landscape with my little powder, which is also great for Earwigs too!

Even living near MANY ponds and wetlands, I have successfully reduced the populations to more than tolerable levels in about 3 years. Now I only need to be applying when I have little trouble spots.

Good luck and happy slug hunting!


The Edible Front Yard- Ivette Soler

When I think of eating produce that I can grow in my front yard, I can almost hear the cries of the neighborhood Lawn Nazi’s now. Grousing not so subtly when passing by for inspection, “What about the green carpet of tweezed by hand, weed free, edged to perfection, pride of ownership that defines your island of possession and weekly proof of conquering nature?”

Surely Blueberry shrubs could be acceptable. They’re so pretty in Fall! Especially if I bake them a pie right? What about some Rhubarb? That can’t hurt if I have some strawberries growing underneath. Then they can have a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie! I could even have hanging baskets of berries growing on the porch. Certainly, the Lawn Inspector Generals can’t have a problem with that, right?

Simple- Strawberries and Lobelia!

Now, with the support of “The Germinatrix”- Ivette Soler and her brand new book called “The Edible Front Yard”, I have her chutzpah and encouragement to go for it! Ivette has written an entertaining and might I say, down right persuasive book for me to have the guts to stand up and plant my veggies, right here in my own front yard! Lawn Nazi’s be warned. I will not tolerate your irrational tyranny any longer.

With Ivette’s brand of witty and passionate support, her book is lighting the way to create a front yard landscape that is elegant AND tasteful, in the best possible way! The forward in her book is written by Fritz Haeg, the author of “Edible Estates”. Fritz challenges us to be brave, go forth and conquer our fear of the neighbors downward glances and make the display of your edibles beautiful!

Photos Worth 1000 Healthy Calories

Ivette has gathered hundreds gorgeous of photos of gardens and plants in this book that help tell the story of distinctive and beautiful edible plants. Photographer Ann Summa gets the bulk of credit, but there are also photos from edible gardening experts and designers from many varying locations. They give great example of aesthetic’s and variety of styles and ideas to springboard your integration of edibles into the face forward side of your landscape.

Style Advice for Star Quality Veggie-scapes


The “Rules For Front Yard Edibles” on page 15, gives four guidelines to follow so that your edibles to rise to the occasion. The performance AND the beauty necessary for making the most of the design and devourables is paramount. Ivette puts great weight on Beauty, Style, Regional Appropriateness, and your Home’s Architectural Style. Those are points that really ring bell’s with the neighbors and HOA so that they know you’re not going to be creating an eyesore.

The book is chock full of suggestions for ways to add edibles to your landscape that follow the four guidelines. Plus a whole slew of plant suggestions and even design renderings that you can copy in your own garden!

Fired up doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about tackling this Edible Front Yard revolution! This book also has a great section on the Reality Check needed before you really get going such as, Climate, Boundaries, Grading, Structures, and Sunlight or lack of it. There are even some suggestions for shade edibles!

Red Sails Lettuce, Lemon Thyme, Hellebore, Jasmine and more!

My FAVORITE Page

Of course it would be imprudent for me not to mention the VERY BEST part of the book – THANK YOU, Ivette and Timber Press, the column on page 131 about Garden Coaches!!!! YES WE CAN be of great help to a gardener who wants to embark on this great new gardening adventure in eating. Saving you Money, Time and Labor is my specialty!

The How-to’s

The chapters and sections that cover the removal and reuse of the lawn, working with existing trees and plants, making the most of hardscaping, and maintenance of your newly designed Edible Front Yard are fantastic! Ivette has written them with a green hand and responsible attitude for todays new gardeners. Setting an example for the neighbors and young passers-by is a truly noble ideal in this day and age. Worms, Compost Tea, Organic Pest Control methods are all topics that we need to be preaching from the top of the compost bin and Ivette has set in motion a beautiful means of doing just that!

Eating out of your Edible Front Yard will not a be considered a subversive act anymore. Even Martha is talking about it! The Mayor of San Francisco has also turned a public space into a fruit and veggie bearing garden for all to enjoy.  This can begin to transform a community, create great relationships with spectators and promote biodiversity that goes beyond lawn and Lobelia. Not to mention the financial and physical benefits of growing your own produce and staying in shape while you do it.

I WILL reflect my own style with veggies in the front yard and I WILL be removing some lawn chores from my routine this Spring while I add some produce curb-appeal! Thanks Ivette!🙂

*Leave me a FABULOUS comment for a free book give away of “The edible front Yard Garden” – drawing on March 1st!!