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!




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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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.

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What Really Worked – My Favorite New Plant This Year

I suppose I should have amended that title to include “New to ME This Year” because many of you will say “What? – I’ve had that one for years!” It’s not really a new plant on the market at all. Its been around a while. But, I just haven’t warmed up to STOKESIA ‘Peachie’s Pick’ (or the Stokes Aster), until now.

Stokesia and Headshot
I think it was the foliage pairing that did it. And me being the “Fine Foliage” girl that I am, well…ya know! The fat lavender blooms looks so great with that soft coral edge of the Acalypha wilkesiana that it just made me fall in love. What a fantastic bloomer it’s turned out to be in late summer.

Here is some information to learn more about that fabulous Stokesia.

Now for more eye candy from other wonderful garden designers on what their favorite new plant was this season. Be sure to click on their links too and learn more!









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Winter Math in the Landscape

December  2011 Foliage and Blooms (Some edited) 001 copy

January in the landscape is about math. Yes, you read that correctly, I wrote math. Not like the kind of garden math in The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. And not in the lovely “Fractaliscious” way either. I mean in the more relatively mundane, yet none the less important way that we’re all calculating what happened in the garden and what’s about to happen.

The addition is normally where I start in the dark days of winter. Right after the holidays, I’m already thinking, plotting, and strategizing my purchases. I want more shrubs this year, I added lots of trees last year, so shrubs are next….adding. How many packets of seeds do I want to order this year? How many yards of compost do I want to spread this spring? Some of my tools are getting old and in need of replacement or maybe I’ll FINALLY buy one of the tools I’ve had my eye on for SO long…adding.

February 2011 Seeds 001

The subtraction is at the forefront too. That perennial I have loved for ten years but have grown bored with, is SO yesterday, subtract. The super sale plant that was 50% doesn’t look like it’s going to make it…subtract. I bought and planted 24 tomatoes last year and 22 of them got tomato blight…subtracting. The matching pair of containers sitting at my front door are no longer a pair now that one has succumbed to a crack, subtracting (and maybe adding too.)

It’s too early for division yet. But soon…🙂

FINE FOLIAGE due out in March of 2013


Garden Designers Roundtable – Finer Points of Details in the Garden

As the sign of the Virgo, my detail-oriented nature is ruled by the mind. Virgos are always analyzing everything, with a penchant for working with very precise and detailed designs on a more focused scale than many signs. I notice everything- when it comes to the garden. In that way, I’m the classic definition of a Virgo, the love of fine points, minutiae, particulars, specifics and technicalities.

I think that’s one reason why I love photographing the garden so much. To me it’s really all about the details. It allows another type of focus that you don’t get when you’re purely experiencing the garden with touch, smell, taste and sounds.

Today, I’ve rounded up a group of fabulous recent pictures that help you understand how I see the details at this late summer/early autumn season. ENJOY!

The angle of the evening light coming through this Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Quickfire’ is exquisite.

A singular Coreopsis ‘Big Bang Solar Cluster’ nestled in this ‘Cirrus’ Artemisia with a bit of ‘Rainbow’ Leucothoe is magical.

Blink and you would miss them!

Tree jewelry? Now THAT’S detailed!!

Taking advantage of the reflection!

The almost clockwise swirrel of the petals on this Echinacea are mesmerizing!

Such architecture in a seed head!

Magnificent view, and magnificent rose right under my nose!

Rhythm in the grasses……

An unexpected giggle that catches you by surprise is always a treat.

This container design shows it’s jaunty nature with it’s offset beret of Acorus grass planted askew and Mexican Feather Grass below that mimics the fun.
Also notice how the Poppy seed pods imitate the bumps on the container at the same level too.

A true detail after my own heart. I’m dying to make one of these someday.

Not only a monochromatic color combination, one of my favorite things, but a textural contrast too- BONUS!

This picture represents the realization that this color combination illustrates ALL of the favorite colors of my living room decor. Now THAT is detailed.🙂

Be sure to visit the other Lords and Ladies of the Garden Designers Roundtable for September to see how they interpret the details.🙂

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

“Fine Foliage” Book Preview Debuts in Fine Form

Lush, rich, textured, bold, detailed, soft, feathery, spiky, romantic, elegant, sophisticated, dazzling, artistic, and dramatic are just a few of the many adjectives for the leaf. Or was that the needle? Or the blade? Or the branch? Foliage has a multitude of facets that I could NEVER be tired of it. I find it more technically alluring than most flowers. I think that’s the A-type in me though. It’s just the rich diversity of combinations that seems to be a design an itch I can never fully scratch.

In order to scratch that itch just a bit, I am thrilled present Fine Foliage published by our beloved St. Lynns Press.

The book that I am so proud to Co-Author with Karen Chapman of Le Jardinet is packed with the most stunning photography by our Principal Photographer, Ashley DeLatour of One thousand Words Photography. Our goal is to give you a book that you want to curl up with in winter and drool over pictures that give you ideas to day- dream over and a tool to use in spring to help you choose how to make that dream a reality.

When we first sat down and brainstormed this book, one of the very first thoughts that I had was to be able to explain “Why This Works” on every one of our 60 colorful combinations. I wanted to take the dreamy, artistic photos and make them an achievable risk for any level of gardener to take when armed with enough good information. We’ve taken extreme care to cover many areas of the country in different Hardiness Zones as well as design esthetics. As well as including annuals, perennials , shrubs and trees too in a simple and sophisticated format.

So who are these “Foliage-a-Holics” in Fine Foliage? I will quote Karen Chapman from her own blog here because I can’t write this any better🙂 “I’m a container garden and landscape designer, serious plant-aholic, garden writer and public speaker for all things gardening. In other words I’m usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I’m truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.”

As for me, I would say that if you have read any of my posts you might have a fairly good idea for who I am The Personal Garden Coach, but here is the thumbnail: I’m a container designer, garden coach, garden writer, speaker and foliage-a-holic who loves to teach and see the light bulb go on when a gardener suddenly “get’s it”. I adore the entire Horticulture Industry and revel in helping others feel the same passion that I do about plants.

We have been so fortunate and honored to have the support of such respected authors  “Fine Foliage is a visual treat that will inspire you with dazzling combinations for containers and gardens. This is a great user-friendly design resource as Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz explain why each combination works, bringing artistic design within easy reach of all gardeners”. – Debra Prinzing, author of the 50-Mile Bouquet  This just makes it all the sweeter.

So where can YOU buy the book you ask?🙂 St. Lynn’s Press have listed the release date for Fine Foliage as March 1st 2013, but it will be available in time for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, Seattle in February. At the show you’ll have the opportunity to hear Karen and I present a fun seminar based on our love of designing with foliage which will be followed by a book signing.

If you simply can’t wait until February and want to save a few $$’s then be sure to pre-order Fine Foliage through these fine booksellers.


Barnes & Noble – coming soon!

Powell’s Books

Indie Bound

For the daily action though, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We will endeavor to post THE most luscious and yummy photos and information that we can muster to hold you until your copy is available!

Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Ideas for Adding Texture to Your Landscape

Texture is my thing. Let me say that again LOUDER so there is no doubt in your mind. TEXTURE IS MY THING!! I adore it in the garden almost above all else. I see it everywhere, it dominates my design sensibilities in every conceivable way. The fact that I tend to see almost everything through the lens of a camera whether I’m holding one or not helps me to focus my design esthetics so that I see textural vignettes everywhere.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Since all of us at The Garden Designer’s Roundtable are tackling this topic for June, you are sure to get some seriously great tips and techniques on the actual step by step of adding texture into your landscape. As is my way, I am not going to do the expected, but rather, I will give you a pictorial of what adding texture to your landscape means to me through a collection of photos. I feel strongly about learning visually on this topic, reading the actual variables is handy, but sometimes you have to just see it to know and understand it.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden

I am also sprinkling in some EXCELLENT links for you to go and visit as well as referring you to my fellow Lords and Ladies of the Roundtable and their collective expertise.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Here is the first link that I stumbled onto the other day while doing a bit of research. This is one of the very best explanations of Adding Visual Texture to the Garden that I have ever read. Writer Doug Skelton, lays out the principles of adding texture expertly.

  1. Form
  2. Space
  3. Color
  4. Balance
  5. Man-Made
  6. Combinations

FORM – Bellevue Botanical Garden

SPACE- Bellevue Botanical Garden

Margaret roach explains “underplanting” here with great expertise, but even more, look at that TEXTURE!

From Margaret Roach’s Blog Post “10 Thoughts on Successful Underplanting” from

This beautiful and simple post from LIVE PRONTO! shows the appreciation of taking a walk to admire the textures and breathe it in a bit after a long day at work.

BALANCE- Bellevue Botanical Garden


I love the glass ground cover in this link!

One of the assignments I give my clients when I am Coaching is to have them take a photo of the anything in the landscape and look at it solely in black and white. This is a fabulous exercise for designing with texture in particular because it forces the eye to look at the shapes, balance and details in a completely new way.

Adding structural plants is a focus in this blog post called “Rooting For Ideas”, very well done by Designer/Blogger Don Statham in a post about “Texture in the Garden”.

Sometimes adding visual texture to a landscape can mean adding focal points that might be rare and unusual collectors plants or literal texture too!

Distinctive and Unique

I love the idea that sometimes you need a seemingly basic plant that has a high degree of textural interest simply to set a backdrop for pure drama in the garden.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

At other times the focus can be very macro on the texture of one plant in particular as blogger Matt Mattus explains in this post from his blog “Growing with Plants” about Pulsatilla and his love of the texture when they have those fluffy seed heads.

In this shot, the take-away is the literal texture and impact of the subject matter on the container and how it’s so balanced with the amount of detail on the foliage of a fairly common Caladium. Also, note the balance of the tone in colors here as well, if the pot was the same pattern in another color, this might not work at all. This combination takes both pieces to new heights. is getting a lot of Buzz lately for their take on the “Idea Book” that people have fallen in love with lately- check out this post about adding lushness to the garden with layers, by Amy Renea.

And simply because I love these shots and ALL the texture they conjure, my beloved coleus cannot be ignored.

I love this post from “Not Another Gardening Blog”. This blogger does a masterful job of defining texture as it applies to the winter garden.

The many other talented Designers of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable await your visit, they have been working hard on their “Texture” posts for you to enjoy- so GO- ENJOY!! I left the links for you below:

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA