2013 Open Day preparations
It is the last week of February. It is cold and damp and utterly miserable. I look out of the window of my home office and almost cry at the state of the garden - a garden that is supposed to look fantastic in just over three month’s time for my NGS opening. But it is a morass of mud and bog. Whatever plants have survived the deluge of rain we’ve experienced the last year look extremely sad and forlorn and on the brink of committing suicide. The trees and shrubs are leafless. The lawn – what lawn?? The pots and containers bleak and empty and several horribly frosted. How the hell am I going to get the garden ready for the opening on 16th June?
But taking a wander down the garden, carefully avoiding slipping and sliding on the algae and mud-covered paving slabs, it is apparent there is life in the old garden yet. Bulbs have emerged with the virgin white of the snowdrops, both single and double, bobbing in the wind. Butter yellow aconites hug the ground still with their glossy ferny foliage catching the light in the dimmest corner of the garden. And the hellebores are a sight for sore eyes – they always make me smile to see them ignoring the inclement weather and showing off their many blooms (although they would do my knees a huge favour if only they would face upwards). Shrubs and trees have swelling buds, roses and climbers too, including the ones I’ve not yet got around to pruning. My hopes begin to rise.
But alliums (ornamental onions) and late flowering daffs and tulips have only pushed half way up to grind to a halt on feeling the temperature. My vision of 3 large galvanised planters planted with pink and lilac hyacinths and tulips under-planted with purple heucheras seem destined to remain as a figment of my imagination.... The bulbs have emerged but the heucheras are tatty and winter damaged, a long way from the glorious clumps I originally planted. Statues and garden ornaments clutter the place up as I try to redesign the planting around the garden. Pot upon pot of plants I’m growing on for sale get underfoot and the patio can no longer be seen for the sheer number of them. And as for seedlings, the thought of potting all those on almost drives me over edge.
Thankfully, though I have taken on half an allotment on the Washington Road site. The aim is to start a nursery bed for all my sale plants, intermingled with the various fruit bushes I have already planted. This will help in numerous ways – no more worrying about watering pots, healthier plants growing in the soil, no more cluttering up the front garden at home.
But back to the garden. Major work has taken place since the last opening. Trellis has gone up behind the pond to conceal the neighbour’s garden (a brilliant opportunity of planting some new climbers). The bottom summerhouse/workshop is being extended sideways to accommodate the ever growing antique tool collection and whilst it still looks like a building site down there, once done I can get on and totally replant the adjoining flowerbeds. These are in almost permanent shade and although I can get good foliar cover, flowers are a very few and far between. In defeat I’ve decided to concentrate instead on those plants that DO like it there – more acers, ferns and my ever-growing hellebore collection, a true woodland garden.
On the plus side though, the rotten weather has given me a chance to start baking cakes for the open day. Yes, I know, a lot of you say you can’t freeze cakes but I’ve never found a problem once defrosted and filled. I need approximately 15 cakes (I always fret of running out) and have managed to make 6 so far. Luckily Mum’s freezer is quite empty at the moment so I can store them in there – I just hope she doesn’t eat them before I need them! I’ve also managed to tidy up my NGS garden file (all terribly boring I know, but god does it make life easier to have a list of where you put all the signs up last time etc). I’m also trying to plan, believe it or not despite all the above woes, for 2014. Mum is opening her lovely award-winning garden for the last time this year (so for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, it will be well worth the visit - irritatingly her garden is absolutely immaculate at the moment despite her continual fretting that it isn’t). But will I have enough interest to ‘stand alone’ in 2014? I’ll find out next week at the annual NGS lunch. If I can, I’m sure I’ll be able to conjure up even more stress and worry for myself, trying to ensure the requisite ’40 minutes of interest’....
But back to this year. A rise in temperature and a few more days of dry weather for the soil, and I should be able to crack on with its preparations. The dormant perennials will hopefully show their faces so I don’t inadvertently plant on top of them as I normally do. And I’m sure I’ll make the same mistake I make every year of over-planting and then having to dig it all up again after the open day to try and rectify things.... Why do I have to have all these verdant plants that appear in the garden centres around this time...? Hedges to trim, lawns to re-sow and edge, pots and planters to be tidied, plants to be moved – if you don’t mind I’m going to stop my list there before I get too paranoid about everything still to be done! But it will happen and always does somehow and all the worry of the previous winter disappears once the garden blooms into life again in April.
A Gardener’s Christmas
Sitting here in mid November, with the temperature in the mid teens, roses and all sorts of other summer-flowering plants still flowering happily away, it does not seem possible Christmas is only just round the corner. But judging by the plethora of corny television adverts for various supermarkets and the invasion of tacky decorations in the garden centres, Christmas has already begun with a vengeance.
For gardeners, Christmas truly marks the end of the gardening year and the start of the new. Plans are devised, plant lists drawn up, seed and summer bulb orders placed. For the really keen gardener early sowing of begonias and pelargoniums begins now. But being a keen gardener doesn’t preclude one from ignoring Christmas, more incites ideas of how to bring the garden into the house with a festive feel and how to bring a festive feel to the outside of the house, in particular the front door and front garden with which to welcome visitors.
Homemade wreathes are always nicer and more welcoming than artificial plastic affairs (not that I can talk!). A simple wicker ring adorned with holly, ivy and some winter jasmine stems will keep going for at least two weeks, with the added bonus of the jasmine opening its buds slowly but surely over that time. Sarcococca (the winter box), with its delicious lily of the valley scent, is also a great addition. Brighten up your pots and containers with some artificial flowers – nothing too outrageous, maybe some stems of poinsettia or amaryllis flowers just to add some colour. A sprinkling of the ubiquitous ‘solar’ string lights will finish off the job nicely. These lights are also perfect for draping over specimen shrubs, especially holly, bay and conifers. And, if you must, plant some solar lanterns along your front path so Santa knows where to go…..
On the inside, again stems of evergreen shrubs mixed with berried twigs can be enhanced with either artificial flowers or Christmas baubles. A sprinkling of glitter or talcum powder can add a hint of snow or frost, scented candles can be inserted into the centre of the display, but make sure they are tall enough not to set light to the foliage. I also add dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and pomegranates on kebab sticks to add to the Christmassy scent. Sprayed seed heads look stunning too – try allium heads (just throw these at the Christmas tree and they will stay there most obediently until after the festive season), crocosmia, hydrangea, teasels and any of the cow parsley family. Displayed on their own in a vase they would easily satisfy the minimalist with their elegant style.
Mentioning trees… a sore point. I hate Christmas trees. Poor things, growing away quite happily and then felled and left to dry out in garden centres, only to be hauled around, wrapped in netting and taken into a centrally heated house to end their days. A parched skeleton and mounds of needles are all that is left of the poor things at the end of the year and then, to add insult to injury, they are put through a shredder. Get an artificial tree! They are easy to look after if you’re not too ambitious with size, they don’t suffer needle drop and these days are incredibly realistic. You can save yourself a tidy sum over the years with the exorbitant price of so-called fresh trees these days. ‘Twig’ trees are also fashionable, again for the minimalist, and there is a lovely one I glimpse through a window every year in St James Road. Elegant and simple, no fuss but still festive.
For the ‘Meal’ itself, allotmenteers and kitchen gardeners come into their own. Frost tinted Brussel sprouts mixed with sweet chestnuts, roast potatoes and carrots harvested and stored from earlier in the season, home-made red currant jelly and a host of other vegetables adorn the table, all ingested with a sense of pride of being ‘home-grown’. Free range chickens too but I’m not going to dwell on that – much too incestuous for my liking.
Then come the presents. Gardeners can save pounds by creating their own home-made Christmas presents from the garden or garden centre, with a little early planning. Dip fir cones into hot wax to create attractive, scented firelighters, plant up some early hyacinth and crocus bulbs, make some dried flower arrangements, small hampers made up of homemade produce such as jams and chutneys, packets of collected seeds in decorated small envelopes. All should be much appreciated especially if they have been made with love.
Contrarily buying a present for a keen gardener is much more complicated. Plants and bulbs are welcome but a hassle as they need to either be protected till the weather improves or are begging to be planted or potted on. Garden notebooks and journals – don’t people ever remember they’ve already given you one and they last for ages?? Hand creams and washes are nice but are normally in impractical packaging (who wants to struggle to open a tube when one’s hands are covered in dirt?) Books – a big no-no in this household with a collection of over 7,500+ garden books already in residence. If the books are any good the bet is the gardener has already got it – and watch out for the rush of ‘new’ gardening books that appear at this time of year, many of them are just a rehash of earlier publications. Garden vouchers and magazine subscriptions are very welcome as are anything that most people consider too mundane to give – plant labels, twine, supports, gloves. Also membership of various societies – the Cottage Garden Society for example produces four lovely magazines a year along with a seed swap and various other benefits, all for only £12.
Now that Scrooge has finished moaning about Christmas a few ideas for you to think about over the Christmas break. Look around the garden – the bare bones of winter reveal where additional evergreen structure is need. Don’t forget borders should be one third evergreen to two thirds deciduous / herbaceous. Hard prune roses and remove any intrusive or crossing branches in trees. And take note of any flowers that are out – they deserve some attention for shining at this time of year.
Have a lovely Christmas to all Shoreline readers and a happy new year.
An Annual Show
Let’s get the boring bit out of the way first. What is an annual? A plant that is sown from seed, germinates, grows, is pollinated and sets seed all within a year. So what is a tender perennial? Exactly what it sounds like – a perennial, ie a plant with an indefinite lifespan – which will not survive our wet / cold winters. And bedding? A generic term for both of the above.
Annuals, if sown at the right time, can provide colour from Spring through to the first frosts. They are invaluable in a garden that wants to look good for more than just the few summer months we seem to get these days. They can be grown in either of two ways – in seed trays / pots or direct into the garden. The first method would include, for those with infinite patience, fibrous begonias, nicotianas, anthirrhinums, cleome, lobelia etc. However, to my mind with the low prices of so-called bedding plants these days, it is far easier to buy a tray of them ready grown. The second method would be to sow direct where they are to flower. This would include cornflowers, nigella and other meadow-style flowers. In order to differentiate between weeds and annuals, either sow in rows and then thin out or in a specially prepared area. Odds are there will be some weeds inbetween the required plants but they should make themselves abundantly apparent when a yellow flower appears…. I have nurtured many an ‘unusual and unidentifiable’ plant for several months before it slaps me in the face with a yellow daisy-style flower that almost certainly goes over before I have a chance to pull it out, setting seed all over the garden. The key to a really good display with annuals is to overplant. They don’t need to survive more than a year so packing them tight together does them no harm, only enhances the overall picture.
Tender perennials can be kept over winter in the right situation – a greenhouse or cool conservatory. Again, they are so cheap these days it is far easier to buy anew each year than fret over mildewed, weedy, half dead looking plants that may or may not re-perform the following year. The easiest method, again if time and patience are in abundance, is to take cuttings and grow them on over winter. Plants such as pelargoniums, fuchsias and salvias are more than happy to oblige.
Another variable of annuals are bulbs and corms. Gladioli, Gloxinias, Achimenes, tuberous begonias, Acidanthera murielae (formerly known as Gladiolus murielae) – a beautifully scented, late flowering tender bulb with white gladioli-type blooms blotched with purple. (Normally sold by East Ashling Nursery at the Emsworth Show). However, they are not necessarily hardy despite our maritime proximity or planting them at a deep depth. Again, they are incredibly cheap to buy anew each year but if you do wish to dig them up after flowering, make sure they have been well-fed with a liquid feed throughout the growing season in order to plump up the bulbs ready for a repeat performance. No point at all in keeping unfed bulbs. They will not give a good show – just like tulips. And don’t forget – the larger the bulbs, especially with Acidantheras, the better the display. Dahlias are another story, the best bet being to take cuttings in early spring. Lifting the tubers, hanging them upside down to dry and then trying to store them in a moist but almost dry compost for several months can lead to disappointment when they fail to shoot in the early spring. Underground storage, ie leaving them in situ, with a heavy mulch over can work but again, a very wet winter combined with the emergence of slugs in the early Spring ready to munch on any new shoots, can be disheartening. Buy anew, plant in pots till the new shoots emerge and plant them out when they have a fighting chance against pests and diseases is much more preferable.
There are plenty of gardens around Emsworth in which to see stunning displays of annuals either in the gardens themselves or in containers. At the bottom of Westbourne Avenue is a front garden given over to sub-tropical plants enhanced by multiflorous annuals consisting of dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, rudbeckias and pelargoniums. A vibrant mix of Dixteresque colours, it works because of its brazenness and close planting. Along Victoria Road a whole back garden is given over to dahlias in all their varieties. Admittedly not very attractively grown with the required stakes visible, they do produce the most amazing flowers that are shown at the annual Show. Another display of dahlias is down Record Road, this time grown in the borders around an immaculate lawn, a background with which to show them off. A mixed display of annuals brightens the front garden of a semi in Bath Road, with the added bonus of sophisticated planters to further brighten the picture. Garland Avenue has a display of tuberous begonias in a square wood edged bed. Each year it is covered in flowers from June through to the first frosts. Bridge Road also has a vibrant show of begonias in shades of orange and yellow – stunning.
Guerrilla gardening down Bath Road has produced some vibrant nasturtiums which I’m sure will perpetuate for years to come. However I would like to know why those just sown or strewn around don’t get blackfly when those sown in pots and carefully nurtured attract them like bees round a honeypot.
Hanging baskets are of course the epitome of summer bedding and there appears to be some very talented gardeners around producing specimen baskets worthy of a prize. Over-planting and early planting seems to be the key to success followed by daily, if not twice daily, watering and weekly feeding. Two jobs I fail to complete for any plant in a container in my garden. Mine get fresh compost each year (if they’re lucky) and a good water once a week coming upto garden opening time and then that’s it. Which is probably why mine never look brilliant! But for those with the determination and keenness, daily administrations pays off. Cold Harbour Farm Road, Christopher Way, Westbourne Avenue – all have lovely examples including some full of tuberous begonias which make me green with envy as they absolutely hate me and refuse to grow. So on seeing these vibrant, tumbling examples apparently grown effortlessly, it is rather galling!
So instead of sitting in your armchair contemplating seed catalogues and making up orders, peruse them instead with a view to buying either plug plants or trays in the early spring instead. Almost guaranteed success, no potting or planting up required, maybe just a warm windowsill, greenhouse or conservatory, to keep them warm until the weather is amenable to planting them out.
Christmas 2013 article
The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping, chimneys are beginning to spiral smoke and your neighbours are hibernating till next Spring. Just because Winter is here doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see in the garden though (or do come to that...!).
Yes, perennials are looking straggly with their dead stems , mushy leaves and brown flowers but a quick whizz around the garden with some secateurs and a compost bag will work wonders not only for the plants but for the appearance of the garden. If you have the time and the strength (I’m beginning to seriously regret suggesting mulching flowerbeds to my garden clients) a mulch of stable manure all around will not only make the garden look more respectable and attractive but help, come Spring, the plants it is covering. And it will suppress those particularly persistent annual weeds such as groundsel. Don’t dig it in – let the worms do the work for you!
If you were clever enough at the time of planting up your garden you will have a nice solid backdrop of evergreen shrubs to give it structure during the bleak winter months. However, most people get carried away with flowering perennials and annuals and overlook shrubs until it becomes clear in winter there’s nothing to see in the garden! A few topiaried box in containers carefully placed in the borders will help or, if you have the room now, they are perfectly happy to be planted out in these conditions. Containers of so-called ‘winter flowering pansies’ should be put aside till Spring – they aren’t so stupid as to try and grow through the coldest part of the year! And as for those hideous coloured heathers – don’t get me started. Suffice to say, enough rain and the colour is washed off!
It is this time of year that the winter stalwarts of pyracantha, mahonia, euonymous and hollies have their time in the spotlight. With berries of all colours ranging from reds, oranges, yellows through to the white of symphoricarpus (although you would have be quite brave to plant this horrifically suckering plant) and black of the ivies and fatsias. Rose hips too glisten in the winter dew from the huge round hips of Rosa rugosa through to the daintier urn-shape hips of the wild roses - virginiana, canina and glauca. It seems unfortunate that nature has produced such a hideous colour combination of fuchsia pink flowered rugosa rose Frau Dagmar Hastrup and its scarlet hips; the ‘Alba’ variety seems much kinder on the eyes to those of a sensitive nature! And for the truly adventurous, grow a Callicarpa with it’s violent mauve berries that look more like beads than anything living.
But it is not only berries that give interest, it is foliage too. The extra prickly Holly ferox, aka the Hedgehog holly for obvious reasons, has beautiful shiny leaves. The variegated varieties in various hues of green and white and green and yellow provide a ray of light to dark corners. And you get a double-impact from them if you have a male and female holly in your garden with the production of bright shiny berries. Aucuba japonica variegata too adds ‘sunshine’ to dingy corners although it has a horrible habit of die-back , some very good examples of which can be seen in the entrance to West Dean gardens! The variegated foliage of euonymus, eleagnus and daphne add a quiet statement to the overall picture.
Some brave souls actually flower during the winter. Lonicera fragrantissima, the winter flowering honeysuckle, is a large rather sprawly shrub whose deficiencies are outweighed by the overwhelming scent of its insignificant white flowers. Corylopsis pauciflora, the winter hazel, produces lily of the valley scented yellow flowers on its bare branches. Best planted in a woodland garden it leaves a bit to be desired during the growing season with its bland leaves... Sarcococca, the winter box, is another stalwart guaranteed to be in flower over Christmas. A lovely plant to have in the porch in a container where its sweet scent greets your visitors as they arrive. Shade and drought tolerant, this is one of my top plants to have in a garden. And if it likes you it will happily but gently sucker around its base so you can dig up plants to give to your friends at Christmas too.
Trees can add interest too from the beautiful rich red peeling bark of Acer griseum and Prunus serrula , the twisted stems of the contorted hazel, Corylus contorta and the silver stems of silver birches – particularly Betula utilis jacquemontii. As an owner of a Prunus serrula it is only it’s bark that is appealing and an Acer griseum would give far more year-round interest.
Finally a note on Christmas decorations. As you can see from above, there are plenty of contenders for stunning table displays to be found in the garden. Maybe a bunch or two of shop bought flowers to brighten it up or, as I do, pierce kumquats, pomegranates and crab apples with a wooden skewer and stick these into an arrangement. Not only do they look fun but they give off a wonderful Christmassy fruit smell. They also last well – and if you run out of ideas for a pudding you can always eat them! Mum always picks Euonymus alata stems with their stunning pink and orange flowers. This common spindle tree is found all over the place around here but do check before you go helping yourself out of someone’s hedge! Old Mans Beard, the wild clematis, is fun for decoration too with its fluffy seed heads. Allium heads can be used if picked early enough before they turn to mush. A quick spray of hairspray to ‘set’ them and then another spray of gold paint and they are worthy of adorning the Christmas tree. The common winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum has its uses if not in flower in time for Christmas day. Pick some stems a day or so before, put them in water and they will flower within a very short time with the help of central heating.
And mistletoe – there are so many clumps growing in trees around Emsworth I hardly know where to start. Looking out of my bedroom window I can see at least four clumps – unfortunately all in neighbours gardens. And there is a tree in Christopher Way that is literally covered in the stuff every winter. Despite efforts to grow it myself by crushing a berry against a cut apple tree stem, it has yet to take although they do say that once you concede defeat, it will miraculously appear a year or so later!
Happy Christmas to all my readers and let’s hope we have a good (better) gardening year in 2014.
Climbing the property ladder
There are many plants that take advantage of man-made structures such as houses – the opportunists such as the climbers that grab hold of drain pipes to twine their way upwards and the suckers with their adventitious roots clinging on to the mortar and brick to heave their way skywards. Then there are those deliberately supported on wires and vine eyes and wall mounted trellis, the specially bred climbers which require tying in on a regular basis. Then there are the self-supporters, wall shrubs, which absorb the heat radiated from the house to strengthen their growth outwards and upwards. And not forgetting the really adventurous – those climbers that cling onto and up trees before swinging outwards towards the walls and clambering over the roofs unaided.... rambling rose ‘Kiftsgate’ and ‘Rambling Rector’ are perfect examples.
Emsworth has a wide range of such plants on its properties. Wall shrubs include carefully pruned Cotoneaster horizontalis and Pyracantha species making a lovely winter show of berries at the top of New Brighton Road and along Bridge Footpath. Garrya eliptica seems popular around here too but only as a free-standing shrub rather than a wall shrub. Although boring when not in flower, the lovely silken tassles that appear in early winter take it to another level entirely. Magnolia grandiflora also seems to be grown more as a specimen tree than a wall shrub which I suppose is understandable when you have seen it growing against a wall of a large country house, its dinner plate size cream flowers perfectly balanced against such grand proportions. A lovely standard example is up Westbourne Avenue. Also included in wall shrubs is winter jasmine, which if grown well (which I’m unable to do) look stunning – the eastern end of Victoria Road has a lovely one which is always in flower during the dark days of winter.
Wisteria seems to be a thriving favourite everywhere but seems to prefer southern or western facing aspects. My plant, east-facing, puts on plenty of growth but never flowers. However, that may also be because I bought it as a seedling which are notorious for not flowering – be warned! And don’t forget there are two types of wisteria – the Japanese variety which flowers on the naked stems (and occasionally after the leaves have been produced) and the Chinese variety that flowers once the leaves are out. And if you still can’t work out the difference the Chinese variety twines anti clockwise whilst the Japanese variety twines clockwise!! Also available in some lovely colours such as white and almost black purple.
Scented flowers are very popular too with jasmines, plain, golden and variegated varieties adorning porches to greet visitors with their sweet aura. Climbing roses with their beautiful flowers, often repeat flowering, and their very particular aroma. Sweet smelling Trachelospernum along Warblington Road is a real gem with both evergreen foliage and a jasmine-like scent. And the variegated variety will give all year interest but does tend to rather hide the white flowers when they come. It’s a shame that the perennial sweetpea doesn’t have its close relations luscious scent but it is quite a scraggy plant and better suited scrambling over shrubs.
Clematis, the gardener’s stalwart, are popular too. Down Church Path in particular are a couple planted in tiny planting pockets hewn from concrete. One can only presume their deep roots have gone under the foundations and discovered the soil way below in order to thrive as they do. The rampant montanas look stunning in Spring when in flower but rather straggly after, requiring a fairly hard prune to keep them ship shape. And evergreen armandii too likes a good prune after flowering – if anything this is even more untidy than the montanas when left to its own devices. The rest of the clematis family are quite happy to be left unpruned if so desired and this will not affect their flowering potential, just result in larger plants. And don’t forget the dainty winter flowering cirrhosa varieties with their cream and maroon drooping flowers – an excellent example of which can be found down the eastern end of Western Parade.
For summer interest and autumn colour there are the Parthenocissus and Vitis cognetiaes – a glorious, if rather rampant, display of reds, yellows and burgundies in early autumn. They will take advantage of outside supports such as drains and gutters so a close eye needs to be kept on them – unless you want to end up like that house on the corner in East Ashling that was but COMPLETELY covered in Boston Ivy for several years!
Less common climbers worth mentioning are Billardiera longiflora, a lovely evergreen with purple or white berries after the rather inconspicuous flowers, Aconitum hemsleyanum, a truly beautiful plant with dark blue aconitum flowers and the distinctive leaves but climbing/sprawling and Pileostegia viburnoides – as its name implies this is a Viburnum lookalike with white flowers, dark glossy evergreen leaves that climbs by means of suckers. It does however need an acid soil so give it an ericaceous feed every couple of months to keep it healthy. Passion flowers are quite widespread with new hardy varieties appearing on the scene such as the gorgeous ‘Amethyst’. The only trouble with them is that they do tend to seed themselves around and can be quite difficult to extricate – but more than made up for with their flowers, large fruits and evergreen leaves.
For those with no front garden within which to plant a climber, there are of course a huge variety of mangers, baskets and containers to hang from the wall. The only danger here of course is that watering and feeding becomes vital in summer – and don’t forget our light fingered friends when freshly planted, they are so easy to just pull out and steal. Think about covering with large open netting – this not only prevents that but also protects from the birds and squirrels. The birds in particular seem to like the coir liners used in containers for their nests and, sneaky as they are, they tend to start by pinching the coir from the bottom of the container so you don’t discover it until you next go to water and soil spills everywhere from underneath!
Emsworth presents a lovely floral picture in summer with the baskets and climbers out in profusion. Add in the containers displayed by the various cafes and shops and we really could be a contender in Britain in Bloom.... if only we had some more adventurous planting from HBC.....
I’ve always felt a front garden is a good indication of what the house owner is going to be like. With three dogs to walk each day I get to pass a lot of houses and it always interests me to see what people have done to their front gardens.
There are those with vast expanses of herringbone brick , parked up with cars/vans/ caravans/ motorhomes and resembling a garage forecourt. All they are missing are the price signs on the windscreens. I dread to think how many square metres of Emsworth are laid down to this terribly bleak material but whoever lays it must be making a fortune.
Then there are those with pea shingle or gravel, the surplus regularly spilling over onto the pavements to catch out the unwary pedestrian. And why do they want shingle when we live on the coast? Haven’t we enough of the wretched stuff? Bath Road is a particularly nasty example of this and, to my mind, totally unnecessary as they have ample parking outside their properties.
Then again you get the garden lovers. Beautifully planted and enhanced front gardens almost calling the casual spectator in for a further look. Some artfully combine gravel with flowerbeds and pots, others give over their whole front garden to nature, giving lovely colourful displays both in summer and winter. Along Bath Road and Bridge Footpath they have also included seating areas within them so the owner can relax and admire the lovely view, and turn passersby green with envy!
Along the sea front on Western Parade it is mainly hedging - privet and euonymus and griselinia – nice and highly scented when it flowers if not pruned too hard on a regular basis. One house has two front boundaries – one a pretty pink escallonia hedge, still protected by wind netting, and a further inner boundary of upright sleepers resembling groynes, giving the owners an added degree of privacy from the many passersby that like to look over the garden ‘fence’. Post and rail fencing offers a tunnel for the sea wind to pass through whilst salt and wind hardy plants such as Rosa rugosa and phormiums add ornamentation. Unfortunately not all roses are salt-hardy and the pretty climbing noisette roses growing over the sea wall by Nore Barn Wood were horribly salt-burnt earlier this year.
Along Westbourne Avenue is a gorgeous example of a pleached lime hedge, neatly pruned and as interesting to look at in winter as when it is covered in leaves in the summer. It would appear the neighbouring property once had these too but they have lapsed with the necessary annual pruning and are beginning to revert to trees, which is a shame.
New Brighton Road offers more interesting examples of front gardens. From the rather smart black railings along the front of the new retirement home complex at the bottom (unfortunately blighted with rubbish from the litter louts) to the lovely red tinged leaves of a photinia hedge halfway up. An escallonia hedge at the junction of New Brighton Road and Horndean Road always cheers me up with its pretty pink flowers. It’s a shame escallonia is not planted more often for hedging purposes. A picket fence halfway along half conceals the most wonderful cottage garden, enticing people to stop and have a further look, especially when in full summer bloom.
In addition to hedges homes are also bound by a mix of other materials such as walls and fences – brick, flint, a mixture of both, knapped flint, some with climbers languorously trailing over in summer inciting the bystander to get up on tip toes to see in further. Fencing comes in all shapes and colours from the hideous ‘orange’ tinted slats to the more attractive shaped and trellised varieties. Some have hedging in addition to the walls, giving a neat contrast (when carefully pruned) of organic and mineral materials. Ivy inevitably creeps in along with the ubiquitous sycamore and hawthorn seedling deposited by our feathered friends. These can add a natural touch to a formal setting, softening the edges as if to say you might try and beat me but you never will. Ivy on a wall always looks smart but tends to lose its appeal when its mature shapeless leaves form on the top. However, it does provide food and cover for many birds and insects so could be excused on those grounds!
Inner Emsworth has a different problem, with limited fronts. However there are is a nice range of pots and planters outside some with chain adornment to prevent light fingers purloining them – the hostas in Queen Street in lovely stone pots have always caught my eye.
But I have saved my pet hate till last. I don’t really know what to call them politely – I call them f*** off gates.... Those huge, tall solid wooden gates adorned only by an entryphone and automatic opening systems. These people obviously don’t relish visitors and protect their ‘castles’ extremely vigilantly. I find them totally intimidating and when presented with such an entrance, daunted and unwilling to go any further, even if it just to deliver a newsletter! If you want that much privacy why not move out into the rural areas? With several you can’t even see the house let alone the front garden – a total war-like barricade against their neighbours and visitors. But each to their own. I am sure they have very good reasons for having them...
To me it is the practical combined with the natural front gardens that are the most welcoming. The visitor entering through a gate or along a path, greeted with a colourful display of plants and shrubs, the owner with a small space of hard landscaping set aside for the car, and the postman a prettily decorated porch to approach with his mail. They are welcoming in every way and as Emsworth has a supposedly ‘welcoming’ population, it would be nice if more people could cultivate their front gardens rather than hard landscape them over, with all the accompanied anti-environmental problems they create.
It’s surprising how many ‘escapees’ there are along the hedgerows and pavements of Emsworth. In contrast to nature invading our cultivated gardens with so-called ‘weeds’, we are inadvertently invading the natural habitats with our cultivated varieties.
A front garden in Bath Road has a delightful bright pink bergenia escaping under the front hedge whilst further along a variegated Vinca major slowly but surely encroaches on the verge. A particularly lovely Vinca, Vinca oxyloba, has taken over the entrance to Lumley Mill on both sides and is now creeping towards the adjacent stream with its star-like lavender flowers speckled against its evergreen foliage.
Bergenias too, obviously dug up from someone’s garden and dumped, have rooted by the stream in the Lumley Lane ditch by the horses. Why they have rooted so easily into the poor soil when I struggle year after year to get them to grow, is beyond me but they are incredibly happy and expanding regularly. Also in the ditch opposite is a huge clump of Crocosmia, its orange flowers a total surprise during late summer. Hardy pink geraniums – suspiciously like Wargrave’s Pink, dominate the verge between the mill and the cottages. But the most stunning sight is in Spring when the aptly named wallflowers appear, having self-seeded into the walls of the old cottages. In shades of dark red, orange and yellow contrasting against the old brick wall, they really are a sight worth walking to to see.
The footpath between Horndean Road and New Brighton Road is awash with garden exiles – Kerria japonica, or Bacherlor’s buttons, variegated arum and the Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria Formosa. The bright yellow flowers of the Kerria add a welcome brightness to the dark footpath whilst the mauve racemes of the Leycesteria add a more sombre note. The variegated arum, Lords and Ladies, is a wonderful plant with its marbled, glossy foliage followed by white flower spikes and then the glossy red berries in late summer. Much more exciting than its common native.
New Brighton Road and Hollybank Lane host snowdrops, narcissus and cyclamen along the pavement. Some possibly native but others, especially the narcissus, not. But all intermingling to give a colourful Spring picture. The native sweet violets in their shades of mauve are contrasted with a cultivated pink variety on the Havant Road towards Southbourne, make a pretty picture against the drab grass verge.
Some ‘escapees’ are planned with house owner’s ‘adopting’ the verge outside their house to make it more attractive (especially this year when the Council seem to have forgotten all about mowing the verges in Emsworth).... Clovelly Road, New Brighton Road, Bridge Road and Lumley Road all offer attractive examples of herbaceous and natural planting schemes, brightening up the walks of those who pass by on a daily basis. Bulbs too such as snowdrops and crocus appear in Spring along Warblington Road and Christopher Way, along with blue anemones in Hollybank Lane.
Slipper Way appears to be part cultivated on the pond side and part natural. The natural wild flowers at the beginning of the lane being particularly attractive and include mauve linaria and pink valerian, awash with bees during their flowering period. Further down are Buddleja globosa, a picture of honey-scented orange balls in summer back dropped against its handsome dark green leaves. (Don’t forget this is not a ‘normal’ buddleja that you cut back each year. This one flowers on the previous year’s wood so pruning annually would mean no flowers, a gentle ‘thinning’ each year will suffice). A phormium nearly completely concealed in summer by the native grasses but showing its variegated colours in winter when its competition dies back, and lavatera with its pretty pink flowers that continue nearly all year round.
Conversely, natives invade the cultivated gardens, some more welcome than others. Linaria is pretty but a horrid self-seeder which will soon overtake a garden if not controlled. Centranthus ruber in various shades of brick red, pink and white (the white being the most attractive and well behaved of the three). Dainty Violas (did you know violas are the only plant who can smother and eventually eliminate ground elder?). Blue Alkanet in Spring, horribly prickly to the touch with its fine spiky hairs covering the rough leaves. Deep rooted it is a difficult one to get rid of but the borage-like flowers are attractive to both humans and wildlife when in bloom. Ranunculus is another thug with its perenating stems sending runners all over the garden. Fine if you like yellow flowers but a total bore if you don’t . They tend to prefer to damp soil though so those with dry, well-drained soil don’t seem to suffer as much. River Avens, a member of the geum family, is a pretty one with orange and pink tinted flowers in early Spring. Quite well behaved one can see why various varieties have been bred from the original. The final thug to mention of course is Petasites japonica, better known as winter-sweet. Its deliciously scented flowers appear first on short stems in the middle of winter, its honey-like fragrance wafting into the air. Then the leaves appear. Big, round, green leaves that will dominate a flower bed and run throughout a garden. Introduced by the Victorians as an ‘ornamental’ it is one of those plants that many people believe should be annihilated along with the infamous Japanese knotweed (which I’ve noticed along the footpath running behind Queen Street....).
So it seems that we are sharing our plants with nature while nature shares with us. It seems a shame it’s all a bit one-sided with us ‘weeding’ out nature’s natural plantings when they could, with a little care of course, co-exist quite happily with our own planting ideas. After all a weed IS only a plant growing the wrong place.....
Emsworths foreign garden visitors
Coming back from France recently, where I noticed a lot of English plants, it occurred to me that we too have a large number of foreigners in our gardens. Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, South Africans, Spanish and Algerians are all to be found in Emsworth. Some permanent ex-pats, some fleeting tourists, springing up in all sorts of different areas from the North to the sea shore itself, happily growing on sites one would initially think totally unsuitable for such alien souls.
Starting in the North of Emsworth, along Southleigh Road, just by the roundabout, is a garden full of sunshine and colour with mass plantings of South African gazanias and South American yellow cannas. Dying down completely in winter, the cannas emerge late Spring with their architectural paddle-like leaves, followed by the almost iris-like yellow flowers whilst the gazanias admittedly require a little more protection in very cold times.
In Elderfield Close, just down the road, are colonies of the tiny Mexican daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus. Pretty and floriferous all year round it can err on being invasive without a close eye. Pittosporum tobira from Down Under is found in Wickor Way, its beautiful clusters of white flowers scenting the air around. Incidentally, this is also to be found as mass foliage planting at the Gunwharf Quays development but unfortunately they are pruned on too regular a basis for them to flower. Further South, Westbourne Avenue has a fine display of our foreign friends – a huge American agave has flourished at the top end for many years, Chinese Albizia julibrissin (the Silk tree) survives – and unbelievably flowers – on a regular basis surrounded by exotic looking Chinese bananas and gingers. Also a lovely example of the Japanese evergreen Sophora whose golden bell flowers brighten up our dull winter days. Aussie Callistemon citrinus is found nearby, a fabulous specimen set off on its own in the middle of a lawn, the red bottlebrush flowers a delight in summer months.
Washington Road in mid Emsworth, alongside the entrance to the allotments, sports a very large and flashy Campsis radicans growing over a fence. This woody climber hails from Mexico and is commonly known as the Trumpet flower, its stunning orangey red large flowers appearing from late summer to the start of winter, cheering up the allotment holders as they arrive to tend their plots.
Havant Road hosts a couple of unusual visitors. First, from Algeria, the rather tatty looking Iris unguicularis who suddenly becomes the star attraction of the pavement in late winter with its mass of low growing lilac flowers, appearing amongst the foliage as large, scented amethyst gems. Further West, peeping almost shyly over the fence, is a fabulous clump of Clerodendrum bungei. This Chinese, suckering plant has beautiful clusters of pinky mauve flowers from mid summer onwards at the top of its giant stems. Easily propagated by division although it does seem to require the warmth of a South facing wall or fence.
Nearer to the sea in Bath Road and Beacon Square are yet more foreign visitors. The giant Solanum laciniatum, the Kangaroo Apple hailing, as if you need telling, from Australia, is to be found behind a beech hedge. Luxuriant green foliage that grows at a rate of almost a foot a fortnight, followed by lilac potato-like flowers culminating, at the end of the season in red tomato-style fruits. Very easy from seed although it can be perennial if it puts its mind to it. Bath Road plays host to the Canary Island’s Echium pininana, the towering blue foxglove style plants that tower over the fence of a garden at the Sailing Club end. Many people envy these and try growing them but it would appear that North of the roundabout, they are to be treated as tender perennials, digging up and over-wintering the initial year’s growth before replanting to flower in the second year. Unfortunately they are biennial so require yearly sowing for an annual show but it is most certainly worth the effort for the wonderful display they give.
Further to the East, in Russet Gardens, is a beautiful display of the South African agapanthus. Strappy green leaves followed by the tall blue allium-like flowerheads, here in this garden, attractively supported by metal spirals. Although mainly self-supporting, they do have a tendency to lurch towards the sun.
It seems a shame that the lovely adventurous planting on the Warblington roundabout we had several years ago (Ricinus communis (the castor oil plant), cannas and all sorts of other tropical plants) appears to have been a once-off. Not that we would want to go down the French route – some of their roundabouts are a sight to behold with miniature castles, follies, wicker cyclists and the like. I think that may be just a bit too much for us! We’re now back to the boring ‘park’ bedding – a totally uninspiring and unsuitable welcome to a place such as Emsworth with its vast array of foreign garden visitors.
Form and foliage
What a boring title! But form and foliage are the backbone of every good garden and this time of year is perfect for seeing where it works and where it doesn’t.
With the lack of herbaceous perennials, evergreens now come to the fore. It is clear to see how they add winter interest to a garden when everything else is hiding below ground. The garden design rule is two thirds herbaceous to one third evergreen, something many people ignore, preferring the emphasis to be on summer flowers. They are the losers though, as evergreens give a garden structure during the bare months, in some gardens to stunning effect. They also provide in turn a good background to the stars of summer, the flowers.
What evergreens am I talking about? There are the bog standard eleagnus, euonymus, conifers and box but there are also our Australian visitors, the cordylines and phormiums. These architectural plants come in a multitude of hues and collections of the more well-behaved varieties are very attractive. There is a row of variegated cordylines, just coming into flower rather bizarrely, in Victoria Road, interplanted with a contrasting two-tone euonymus. A collection of large phormiums in various shades, cordylines, yuccas and palms in Woodland Avenue is stunning and well-looked after with all the dead leaves, which can make a display rather tatty, removed. Fatsias are also statuesque evergreens with white umbels of flowers at this time of year. There is a nicely pruned one, again at the end of Woodland Avenue and also in Westbourne Avenue, where the owners have chopped it down to make it more bushy. I am so pleased to have any growth at all on mine that I tend not to prune it and therefore end up with a very leggy affair.
There are a lot of flowering evergreen shrubs around at the moment too. Mahonias in all shapes and sizes adding a lily of the valley scent to the surrounding air. I am trying out the new Mahonia bracteata with its feathery leaves but it has yet to flower. Choisya ternata, the Mexican orange blossom, is also flowering although the sweet scented flowers are somewhat overpowered by the Tom cat smell of the leaves….. But note the difference in leaf shape and colour with the varieties Aztec Pearl and Goldfingers. There is a nice row of these in Garland Avenue. Daphnes, both variegated and plain, are out with stunners along Bath Road, Warblington Avenue and Victoria Road. A previous plant of the month, Coronilla glauca, adds its scent in the form of yellow flowers against a glaucous green background. This plant is often sold as a climber but does best left alone as a shrub.
There are some evergreen climbers around too: the horribly rampant Clematis armandii which I like in other people’s gardens but not my own (its dead leaves are too leathery to be useful and a pain to pick up); Clematis cirrhosa with its delicate fern like leaves and creamy scented bell flowers. Again rampant but quite happy to be cut back to size. Be warned it suckers too as I just discovered this afternoon when cutting it back…. Pileostegia viburnoides, which I grow over my front fence is just finishing flowering now, its flowers similar to that of Viburnum tinus and gently scented. Hydrangea seemania, in contrast to its relation Hydrangea petiolaris, is an evergreen climbing hydrangea with lovely rust-coloured stems creeping up the wall. Not quite as hardy but proving rampant in a garden I planted it in to cover up a garage wall. As it is not only growing upwards but along the ground I’m hoping to take rooted cuttings to pot up for my plant sales this year. Its leaves aren’t as leathery either and it is a discovery I’m really pleased with.
However, I think the golden rule with evergreen shrubs is to keep them well-pruned. A neatly pruned shrub not only looks better but adds a formality to a garden, taking the attention away from any dead herbaceous foliage and focussing the eye. Wickor Way has several gardens with attractively pruned shrubs, particularly the two gardens either side of the entrance to Wickor Close. Their evergreens are trimmed to perfection but enhanced in summer with summer bedding. I am always wary of pruning conifers in case they suffer die-back but these examples prove that, with the right variety, no harm is done. A selection of toparied box are in a front garden of New Brighton Road is attractive and box balls are always a good standby to fill any gaps in the garden. Unfortunately with the arrival of box blight they are under threat but good alternatives are yew and lonicera and the dwarf euonymus. I find the latter very easy to grow in any position and they are very compliant when it comes to pruning to size and shape.
Penultimately and not evergreen but of good winter-interest are berries. They proliferate everywhere in the form of Pyracantha, Berberis, holly and yew whilst bright purple berries hang off the bare branches of Callicarpa (a lovely shrub which can be seen in full ‘berry’ down Nore Barn Avenue). Electric blue berries form on Viburnam davidii, highlighted by the dark green leathery evergreen leaves, also make a welcome diversion from red and orange. I particularly like the mixed Pyracantha planting outside Seagull Court with its shades of red, orange and yellow all merging together.
Lastly, I find it amazing that the less hardy and exotic evergreen plants survive through winter. Trachycarpus, olives, oleanders, Cytisus battandieri – many of which feature in a garden on the corner of Wickor Way and New Brighton Road. But they too provide structure and form ensuring a garden is not a bare expanse of dormant perennials or bare earth. Whether it is our maritime climate or just that they are planted in sheltered positions, these exotica seem to thrive around Emsworth. We should think ourselves lucky we have such a variety of plants to choose from with which to enhance our winter gardens.
Pots and containers
Apart from summer bedding there can’t be anything else more controversial than garden pots and containers. Our tastes vary wildly from those who love terracotta to terracotta coloured plastic (which are hugely improved if painted with a very weak solution of white emulsion to give them an aged appearance), glazed planters, patterned ceramic planters, metal planters, stone planters, lead planters and novelty planters.
Don’t forget the usefulness of planters and containers – not only can you grow bedding in them but shrubs, trees and perennials for permanent plantings. They enable the garden owner to grow plants maybe they are unable to grow in the ground such as azaleas and rhododendrons, pieris and camellias that require an ericaceous soil. Small trees such as acers look stunning when displayed in the centre of a front garden as a showpiece whilst there are some lovely spring flowering azaleas in Beach Road. Using the correct compost (one of the John Innes ones – don’t ask me which one, I’m useless on the science side of soils and chemicals) together with a top dressing or mulch will ensure watering is kept to a minimum and only an annual feed or change of compost is then necessary, even just scraping out an inch or two of the old compost and replacing once a year will help enormously.
There is an elegant pair of matching stone planters either side of a front door in Record Road and a pair of lead effect planters outside the old Belcher Frost house at the top of Bridgfoot Path planted with conifers. (But do note if you are unable to remove the price off a planter, ensure the label faces away from the street!) Specimen grasses, cordylines and phormiums decorate the fronts of many of Park Crescent’s houses making an eye catching display when grown alone. One house has added attractive copper ‘fish’ on stems to theirs to simulate a ‘sea-scene’. A specimen Hibiscus in Washington Road is attractively mulched with fir cones and a number of specimen standard trees are planted in stone containers in front and to the side of a house in North Street. How they survive the pilferers I don’t know but can only presume they are too heavy to lift!
Glazed planters are ideal for matching with contrasting plants. Fuchsia pink hyacinths in Park Crescent and matching blue hyacinths in Victoria Road, in early Spring look brilliant against the blue glazed planters. Just don’t mix and match too much or a collection could become more of an eyesore than a colour composed floral painting.
Also there are those with a Dixteresque collection of assorted containers spilling out almost into the road way - I fall into that category but without Christopher Lloyd’s finesse. But don’t forget, if they are all neat and tidy and contain perfect specimens they will look impressive but a motley assortment of pots and containers with dead/dying bedding in just looks tatty.
Bedding can play an important role and there is a pair of incredibly grand decorative stone urns planted with bedding in the front garden of a house in Victoria Road. A small enamel pail in Washington Road looks pretty and totally in keeping with the terraced house, planted with a small conifer, primulas and pansies. Black painted milk churns at the top end of Westbourne Avenue add a novelty touch as do the collection of old, planted drains halfway down the Havant Road. A row of antique chimney pots lined up under a verandah in Beach Road look lovely with a collection of ivy and violas planted in the top. (Don’t forget to make life easier for yourself by finding a black plastic pot that fits snugly into these type of planters to avoid having to fill the whole container with compost. This also makes it easier to switch from winter to summer bedding.) A disused wheelbarrow filled with wallflowers sits proudly in the middle of a lawn in New Brighton Road. And on the far extreme is the bungalow in Beach Road with its entire side fence covered in planters filled with summer bedding. A feast for the eyes or an eyesore depending on your point of view, but either way very impressive although I don’t envy them the watering.
A ‘nasty’ habit in front of some of the larger Emsworth houses is small terracotta colour plastic pots filled with mismatched coloured polyanthus. Not only do they look hideous and unloved but the size of pot is totally out of proportion with the house. Be brave, big house = big planters! Some of the houses in Beach Road have wooden and white painted Versailles planters with standard shrubs that look both smart and casual at the same time and totally in keeping with the style of the property and can be ‘prettied’ up with annual bedding for added colour.
However, I save my pet hate till last. Imitation standard bays and those appalling artificial box balls. The box balls were bad enough but they’ve now bought out mauve ‘heather’ balls too which are equally revolting. Would a heather really grow as a perfect sphere? I very much doubt it. But artificial standard trees – why??? Bay trees are so easy to look after with only a modicum of pruning needed during the year. Mulched with bark or gravel, or even underplanted with herbs to make a mini herb garden, they are smart, elegant and classy. But artificial ones? They fade in the sun to the most unattractive turquoise colour, a colour never found in nature, just to highlight their artificiality. Complete laziness is the only reason I can think of for the use of these (they seem to proliferate in the Warblington Road area for some reason), people who can’t even be bothered to buy a pot, a standard tree, some compost and a mulch for the top. It’s not as though they even need much watering if any!
But to counteract that moan, there is the ubiquitous emblem of Emsworth encapsulated in the plastic or stone (I can’t get near enough to see) large white painted swan in the garden at the bottom of Bridgefoot Path. Planted with bedding, it sums up the spirit of the village in one and always brings a smile to my face when I pass it. Visitors also seem enchanted by it with the frequent sight of them taking a photo of it. Who says Emsworth is snobby? We can have a sense of humour too thank you very much!
Secret gardens of Emsworth
There are so many lovely gardens surrounding us in the village it is a shame that Emsworth no longer holds an open gardens event like Westbourne. However, glimpses of some can be seen over walls and through gates and fences, tantalising tasters of what would could come if invited in.
A stunning front garden in Horndean Road, opposite the school, hosts a range of tender perennials, shrubs and hardy perennials, all manicured to perfection. Large pots of red salvia flank the front door whilst verbascums, rudbeckias, fennel, ricinus and roses along with other colourful plants crowd round an immaculate lawn. This garden very occasionally opens for the Friends of the Emsworth Memorial Garden and the back garden more than lives up to the front garden’s promise. Vibrant borders, full of tender perennials such as Echiums, more salvias (one of the owner’s favourite plants), dahlias and eryngium. Vegetables are grown with an enchanting trellised archway leading to the greenhouse, covered in beans and sweet peas. A shady garden to the rear offers more tender perennials in the form of Geranium madarense, a surprise choice for shade, but self seeding happily amongst the ferns. This is a garden that more than meets the National Garden Scheme’s criteria for opening but they value their privacy too much to do so, making a visit to their small Eden extra special for those invited in to see it.
Another secret garden is to be found in Lumley Road, around the corner from the Mill House. I have no idea which house it belongs to but it is like a step back in time to when Geoff Hamilton created his cottage garden. A narrow winding path is flanked on both sides by traditional English country garden plants such as roses, campunula, delphiniums and alchemilla, leading to a small wooden summerhouse at the far end. Full of colour from the spring bulbs through to autumn, I’ve yet to see anyone in it – even looking after it – a true secret garden!
Another ‘empty’ garden is Constant Spring. Beautifully landscaped with water ways, topiary and formal hedging glimpsed through the gates when open, this is a garden I have never seen anyone in. Despite the presence of what looks like a tree house and a trampoline near the main house, children are never heard in the garden. The pond at the far end of the garden cries out for youngsters paddling or messing around in a rowing boat. Unfortunately divided by the footpath that runs from Lumley Road through to Seagull Lane, the other half of the garden has just been renovated with the fallen trees and flood debris cleared to create an albeit rather public, woodland garden. Wired enclosures of leaf mould and stacks of logs hint at regular maintenance, but again, apart from a couple of ‘hired help’ lads with a digger, no-one else is ever seen. Spookily it reminds me a little of Miss Haversham and her lonely life.
Walking round the Mill Pond, glimpses can be seen of a couple of ‘new gardens’ in Bath Road. The large house on the corner toward the end of the road (the one with the rather precariously placed drive and garage – I’d hate to hit the wrong pedal reversing out of there!) was re-landscaped last year. Mature hornbeam hedging obscures the view from the road but a distant glimpse of the rear garden can be seen from the harbour wall. The ‘new’ house more or less opposite them was also landscaped last year but their main priority seems to be car parking. However they had a lovely planting of alliums, dark purple tulips and lavender earlier in the year bordering the pressed gravel driveway. I like pressed gravel – it doesn’t spill everywhere, it always looks tidy and it doesn’t need topping up! I mentioned in a previous article about shingle spreading out from driveways and unfortunately my driveway is now doing the same – albeit away from the shoreline. Pressed gravel is definitely an option I’m thinking of but with my plantaholic tendencies the downside would be that seedlings wouldn’t grow in it.
I always wonder with landscaped front gardens if the owners have had the back gardens done too. There are a couple of nicely designed gardens in the north of Emsworth in Woodlands Avenue, Westbourne Avenue and Wickor Way. Woodlands have raised wooden beds currently planted with annuals, Westbourne has toparied laurels marching along the front of the property while a Davidia involucrata (the handkerchief tree) occupies the centre, underplanted with hellebores. Wickor Way has gone tropical with oleanders, bananas, loquat, agapanthus and yuccas all flanked by a lovely hebe hedge which at first appearance one thinks is bamboo – although I think the owners designed this one themselves.
From the field behind Westbourne Avenue more glimpses of gardens can be seen with, it would appear, an emphasis on fruit trees and cages and children’s play areas with trampolines. Ornamental trees such as Acer platinoides Drummondii (the variegated Norwegian maple) and eucalyptus sore upwards whilst climbers such as Campsis radicans, the scarlet trumpet vine, roses in all shades and clematis tumble over the rear walls and fences. These are all mature, well-established gardens, and the views in are literally just peeks into private oasis’.
But with all this horticultural beauty round us, to have a village event with the gardens open as Westbourne and Bosham regularly do would surely attract a lot of visitors and raise money for the community. We are trying to showcase Emsworth for the Gardens in Bloom with our containers at the moment, it seems only right the gardens themselves should be showcased next.
Winter warmers and Spring sweeteners
Even in the darkest months of winter nature treats us to some highly scented pleasures. Walking along Long Copse Lane there is a lovely tall specimen of Mahonia intermedia ‘Charity’ outside the flats at the Emsworth end, with golden flowers emitting not only a lovely lily of the valley scent but making flower arrangers green with envy at their perfect formation. Mahonia aquifolium, a dwarf suckering variety pops out of the bottom of several hedges including my own, surprising the casual passerby with its lily of the valley type fragrance. Early flowering Lonicera fragrantissima, the shrubby honeysuckle, is another deceptive perfumier. Its tiny white flowers on the bare rather ungainly stems emit another sweet scent to catch out even the most nasally challenged passerby. Daphnes have an unmistakable scent. Walking the dogs I often catch the scent but struggle to find the plant – but eventually discover it in someone’s front garden. There are several varieties available including Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill of which there is a huge specimen plant in Warblington Road but the commonest appears to be Daphne odora Aureomarginata, a lovely variegated variety which is a lot cheaper (comparibly that is as they are expensive plants) than ‘Jacqueline Postill’, the pretty pink flowers deceptively small for the amount of scent they release into the winter air. There is also Daphne mezereum which I’ve grown but it is famous for dying out of the blue regardless of care and cultivation. It is pretty though with dark pink flowers on the bare stems before the rather sickly leaves appear in summer. Sarcococca, the winter sweet box is particularly useful in dry shade, again with lily of the valley scent wafting up the nostrils every time it is passed - a welcoming plant to grow in a container outside the front door.
Specimen plants such as phormium and cordylines come into their own in winter as do conifers – what can beat a sprinkling of snow on a pine tree to encapsulate the Christmas spirit. Twisted hazels coated with a frost and the glowing red, yellow and orange stems of Cornus in the weak winter sun further feed the Christmassy feel. (A good collection of coloured stemmed cornus are in the mass planting outside Tescos in Havant but don’t say I told you to purloin some cuttings from there!).
And for winter colour look no further than winter jasmine – best grown as a wall shrub, tied in, but can be grown as a hedge if well pruned as in Victoria Road. It also looks appealing growing through a privet hedge as seen at the top end of Seagull Lane. They are especially useful for cutting for the house – just take a few stems before they flower and they will open in a day or so to brighten up a room. A plethora of berry laden shrubs add a seasonal feel such as holly and pyracantha with their red and orange berries and the black berries of Fatsia japonica seem to be a popular treat for birds too.
Early Spring brings even more delights with some daffodils, such as King Alfred, and snowdrops flowering before Christmas. A bungalow in Victoria Road has a lovely display of early snowdrops followed by a beautiful range of hellebores. Drab front gardens are transformed with bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, probably planted years ago but regularly making an appearance to brighten them up. Pots and containers with bulbs give stunning displays such as in front of a bungalow in Wickor Way – a series of blue glazed pots planted with a mixture of bulbs and winter/early spring interest shrubs, surrounded by ground planted daffodils.
For a real must-see treat though head to Lumley Road. ‘El Rancho’ halfway up on the right hand side has a garden magazine cover picture of Cyclamen hederifolium, crocus, daffodils, wood anemones and snowdrops in their woodland front garden. It is the “Vogue” of the spring planting and seems to survive with only a modicum of care. On the corner of Rookery Close where the houses back onto Lumley Road are a couple more lovely early Spring borders with native primroses and blue pulmonaria giving a pretty picture to a strip of land most people wouldn’t bother with. Opposite Lumley Mill itself, in the orchard/orangery garden, is a charming collection of Fritillaria meleagris, the snakeshead lily, in shades of checked maroon as well as the pure white. Their nodding heads on tall slender stems lift them above the grass to give them an almost ethereal appearance. Just round the corner of Lumley Mill is an old wall with the loveliest self-seeded collection of wallflowers in shades of dark red and orange, a total surprise considering the conditions they are growing in but you do have the benefit of being able to scent their flowers without bending down. Arum lilies, aka Lords and Ladies,come to life too in early Spring but the most spectacular are the variegated leafed variety, Arum marmoratum. With the same white flowers as the communal garden variety, they too produce attractive stems of red berries after flowering but their variegated leaf adds a touch of class to the display – again these can be seen at Lumley Mill. The other side of Brook Meadow, just before the railway bridge, is a pretty clump of wild violets, their delicate scent only discernible on bending down. Another sight for flower-starved eyes in spring is at the very top corner of Westbourne Avenue where a drift of blue anemones and hyacinths can be glimpsed through the hedge. I’m presuming they are just very happy and have self-proliferated rather than being planted en-masse, such is their natural appearance.
And all this beauty before the so-called growing season even begins. It just goes to show that you can have interest in your gardens throughout the year from the hottest summer day to the coldest, bleakest winter one. All it takes is a little thought and planning in advance to reap the benefits of an interesting all-season garden. Take a walk around Emsworth and see what is in flower or scenting the air and if you don’t recognise the plant, knock at the door and ask what it is! If it’s growing locally it will grow for you too. Emsworth could become a mecca for floral aromatists if we all planted even just one winter flowering scented shrub.
Gardening for others
Since I started doing gardening work I’ve noticed how many different ways there are of doing things in the garden! Some people cut back plants now, others later, some like the soil to be dug, others mulched. Some people’s ‘weeds’ are other’s joys – and it can become rather confusing trying to remember who likes what and things done when!
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first started advertising for gardening work but my clients now range from people with very busy lives who want a tidy, orderly garden to come home to; widowers who have just discovered how much hard work is involved in maintaining a garden now that their wives are no longer there to do it; people who have come to that ‘certain age’ where gardening becomes more of an onus than a joy but who still have a keen interest; and people who just want to get their gardens in order again after several months (or in some cases years) of neglect.
The clients that scare me the most are those with several decades of gardening knowledge and who have looked after the same garden for almost the same amount of time. Although I’m qualified through the RHS, gardening is something you can never stop learning. I know how to look after plants I grow myself or have killed myself... I know the rules of pruning and soil maintenance. I try and steer clear of lawns other than mowing and edging as although I don’t have a problem using chemicals in the garden, I never find the time to use them myself and am therefore not an expert using them. But put me in front of a lady with a beautiful garden she can no longer manage entirely on her own, who is the fount of all knowledge horticultural and I am a quivering wreck. I can only suggest that something that she does is wrong could be done another way and hope for the best. I don’t do confrontation and luckily nature is nearly always forgiving if you prune something the wrong way or at the wrong time!
And then there are garden styles. One of my more mature gardens is seriously threatened by a 50ft leylandii and other tall tree hedge on one side which sucks all the goodness out of the soil adjacent, leaving the border struggling to survive. Fortunately his wife, before she died, beautifully planted the borders with shrubs that have now matured into lovely specimens, filling the borders with both foliage and colour. Little needs to be done to this garden, once I had got it back into order...., other than careful pruning and light weeding every fortnight and an annual mulch. Another small garden has been impeccably designed for low maintenance as the owner is very much a workaholic and has no time for it. Neat slate-mulched borders with a few inset specimen plants ensure the garden always looks neat and tidy, especially once the lawn has had its weekly cut. Other clients are wildlife friendly so dead-heading is left so the birds and insects can have their fill. The only downfall with these gardens is that they feed the birds who then digest the seeds/nuts and pass them out again only for them to seed all over the garden..... Annual grass is the worst culprit but I don’t know which particular bird is depositing that everywhere.
And then come the exciting gardens – gardens undergoing a complete revamp. I have two of these, one in the North of Emsworth where the house was bought with the garden totally overgrown, the bones of it barely visible. It had been partially tamed when I came onto the scene and we are busy landscaping the area with new flower beds and borders. The first bed to be done was north-facing but luckily I’m at my happiest with that aspect as I gardened in a north facing garden for many years in London. Then came the south-facing wall border which we’re planting with espalier apples and pears and under-planting with lavender and alliums – that all sounds very nice but I’ll have to wait till next year to see if it all comes together as I imagine it!
The other is a smaller garden, originally the show house on a small estate in the South East of Emsworth. The shrubs are now sixteen years old and seriously past their best. But with some judicial pruning and thinning, expunging the more decrepit and ‘opening’ it out, the garden has already changed substantially. But the owner wants an ‘easier’ garden to manage so I think most of the lawn will disappear and go over to gravel and sleepers with inset plants to break up the hardness. A nice project to look forward to.
It was along these lines that my mother transformed her garden ten years ago when she first came to Emsworth. Her exuberant planting of the borders around the perimeter have been lovely but very time consuming and high maintenance. We spent several weeks recently digging everything up and replanting more formally, with more shrubs, to give a garden, hopefully, of year round interest, that can be brightened up with annual plants as and when required. (She is now on the phone complaining that she has nothing to do!)
Other clients worry about their ‘plants’ and what will happen to them when they can truly no longer care for them. I’m very much the sort of gardener that apologises to plants if I inadvertently step on one or snip them by accident and I was surprised to find I’m not alone having that sort of relationship! After a couple of sessions, followed around by their beady eyes, they at last realise I’m not one of those gardeners who just cuts the top off weeds and pretends that they’re now sorted, I can be left to my own devices. It means I’m probably a lot slower than other gardeners but I take as much care over each individual plant as their owner would have done.
And then sadly, of course, comes the death of a client. Turning up to a garden recently I was informed by the neighbour that the lady had died the previous day. Not a particularly challenging garden to maintain being patio and one raised border, but a delight to work in on a hot summer’s day with the bees buzzing around. I shall miss both her and her garden.
Hedging your bets
It’s at this time of year that it’s nice to see all the birds flying in and out of the hedges around the village. My 220ft long privet hedge is a regular highway of sparrows, robins, blue tits and blackbirds. The noise the sparrows make when they get together is almost deafening. But as lovely a nature sanctuary as it is, the hedge is the bane of my gardening life. Belonging, in theory, to my neighbours, the onus of pruning it my side still lies with me. Each year I dread the weekend we have to set aside to prune it. Not only have I made things impossible in places by planting too near to it so many precious plants get stomped on during the ordeal (a lesson I quickly learnt but failed to rectify) but the mess of leaves and prunings is horrendous. On top of that pruning time usually comes three weeks before the garden opens so the burden of clearing up ‘properly’ is huge. But would I like to lose it? In one way yes to avoid all the hard work but it does provide a plain green foil to my flowerbeds whose impact would not be so great if against a fence, even a green painted one. And of course there’s the wildlife to consider.
What are the pros and cons of a hedge? The pros I have already listed above but also, if correctly planted at the start and then regularly maintained, a hedge should last for decades. The cons are they are not dog / animal proof and a further ‘fence’ of chickenwire is necessary to deter escapees – or incomers for that matter. If not looked after and pruned at least twice a year (in most cases) they become tatty and no pruning will ever reclaim the initial healthiness. Fences on the other hand give a ‘hard’ boundary, impervious to animals (except those true Houdini’s who find life immensely more satisfying outside their own garden), require little maintenance and look good all year round. But, wood being wood, despite regular treatments, they will eventually rot and the fence or posts will have to be replaced in time. A pain if you have patiently trained shrubs or climbers against them.
Looking around Emsworth on my various dog walks, there are a variety of hedge plants used with the most popular being the ubiquitous privet. The conifer hedges tend to tower over their neighbours, whether from intent or a fear of pruning in case of die-back I’m unsure but there are some superb conifer hedges around – New Brighton Road opposite Wickor Way is beautifully kept as is the rather imposing hedge running adjacent to the footpath from New Brighton Road and Bellevue Lane. An interesting hedge is in Garland Avenue where variegated laurel has been used. This plant, Aucuba japonica variegate, is notorious for die-back but the hedge looks good all year round, especially in winter with its gorgeous red berries. Another evergreen hedge in the process of getting going is also down Garland Avenue. Here they are using a mix of Choisya ternata and Choisya ternata ‘Aurea’ , the Mexican orange blossom, in alternate green and gold planting. It has yet to mature but I’m sure it will look lovely when it does. In Woodlands Avenue, the big house recently sold on the right hand side, has a mixed holly hedge planted in a raised brick bed across the front. For some reason, this hedge has never really taken. Maybe its lack of food / manure or maybe the planting conditions are too ‘squashed’ for it to fully expand but it has never been pruned since I moved down 14 years ago and it still looks the same as ever. Maybe the new owners will rectify things. In Wickor Way in the tropically planted front garden of one of the houses, there is a hebe hedge. With very fine leaves it almost looks as if isn’t a hebe at all, and admittedly I have yet to see it flower, but I am positive that is what it is. It has made phenomenal growth since planted two years ago and gives a soft effect rather than a too formal one.
Deciduous hedges to me seem a bit pointless as the reason for most hedges is privacy. I know I’m probably in a minority, using my garden during the winter months, but I want year-round seclusion thank you very much. On top of that the most common deciduous hedge is beech which just about manages to hang on to its old, withered leaves during winter. But come spring, when the new shoots are pushing through, it drops these to the ground making what used to be only an Autumn job of leaf collecting a Spring job as well. The plants that were used to screen off the house near the bottom of Bath Road were huge, root-balled plants which I worried wouldn’t take. But they have been well nurtured and are just about to come into leaf now, shredding their rags beforehand… But even so the hedge is see-through in winter reducing the owner’s privacy which I presume is what was wanted due to the large size of the shrubs planted.
Scraggy hedges abound though – including those on the recreation ground. Once brambles are left to proliferate the cause is lost. Digging them out of a mature hedge is nigh impossible as are the stray ash and holly seedlings that are attracted to this area. They then end up being pruned along with the hedge, turning a single specimen hedge into an untidy, multi specimen hedge. Ivy too can take over if not pulled out on a regular basis, ruining the look of what could be a lovely hedge but is simple enough to do if rather repetitive as the ivy’s vigour ensures you will never get all the roots out. Regular pruning – battering the hedge if necessary, ie making the hedge trapezium shaped so that the water, light and food can get to the base of it – will repay you over the years with a neat and tidy evergreen backdrop to either your house or your garden. Mulching the base with manure each spring will help retain moisture during the dry summer months and raking in some nitrogen-rich chicken pellets each spring will ensure fresh growth.
So hedge or fence? For me it will always be the hedge for its longevity and wildlife friendliness.
Indoors in Emsworth
At the risk of making everyone paranoid I have been looking in windows on my recent walks with the dogs and noticed a plethora of houseplants making an appearance. Gone are the days when there are sad spider plants and shrivelled up African Violets sitting on sills and in front porches, a more exotic range are now displaying their wares. I presume this is because of the increase in micropropagation of plants such as orchids – phalaenopsis and cymbidiums – making these once rare plants commonplace.
Phaelonopsis orchids are everywhere – 2 beautiful window sills full in Brook Meadow and an extremely vivid fuchsia pink one in Christopher Way. Cymbidiums, the large strappy leaved orchids with the gorgeous trusses of flowers (the yellow ones are usually scented) can appear rather boring out of flower. But once those flower shoots show through in the early months of the year, the promise of a stunning display is on its way. A porch in Nore Barn Avenue has a lovely specimen. Easy to keep – just pop them in a shady place in the garden in May through October and so long as the original plant was in flower when bought, it will flower repeatedly year after year with a modicum of care.
Seasonal plants are very common. Schlumbergia, or the Christmas cactus also make a show with some wonderful specimens in porches. These are replaced by Rhipsalidopsis, or the Easter cactus in April. However, the Easter cactus is much more neurotic and will display any unhappiness in its care by dropping its leaves and flower buds alarmingly. The Christmas Poinsettia also makes a colourful display albeit without flowers. There is a truly magnificent plant in Victoria Road which has obviously been over-summered successfully for several years. Unfortunately this is rather difficult to do with various hours of darkness and light needed to be monitored to be successful so I can well understand most people adding them to the compost heap once the festivities are over.
Spring bulbs add a delicious scent to homes at this time of year – and earlier if forced bulbs are bought. Hyacinths, narcissus and crocus all make an appearance although crocus are the shortest lived flowering-wise. A delightful planting in the window of a house in Bellevue Lane has three hyacinth bulbs in a rustic triple planter but unfortunately the vagaries of quality of bulbs is apparent with the different growth rates of each. Cyclamen make a surprisingly common appearance in what I can only assume are very frugal homes – they require very cool temperatures to survive successfully. Amaryllis, the huge blowsy flowers of the massive sized bulb so often given as a Christmas present are beginning to flower now. Easy to grow in their first year, even for a novice, they give spectacular results with trumpet like flowers in shades of red, white and pink, often producing several flower stems that last for weeks. They can be grown on for another year, but again, due to their cheapness, it is far easier to start again each year with a forced bulb that is guaranteed to flower. A rarer bulb but one which I have grown for years despite huge neglect, is Haemanthus albiflos. A cluster of strap-like leaves are decorated with white bottlebrush-like flowers each Spring, the yellow stamens glistening above. There is a good example in Beach Road in a front porch.
Overwintering summer plants is common with all sorts of pelargoniums sitting on window sills and in porches. Some lovely pelargoniums in a porch on Western Parade have flowered throughout winter in their cosseted south facing position. Variegated forms in Woodland Avenue give all year interest and provided they are cut back hard in April will happily regrow to give pleasure outdoors in the summer months – and the prunings will root easily to give to friends and neighbours.
Cactus – yes I know people consider them very boring! – but I find them a fascinating genus of plants. Easy to keep, hardier than one might think, and floriferous . Yes, they do flower on a regular basis if watered on a regular basis! And the flowers are magnificent, often far larger than the supporting plant and deliciously scented. My Lady of the Night, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, always catches me by surprise – usually when letting the dogs out late at night when the whole conservatory is filled with an extremely strong sweet scent. A quick look round always results in the sight of an enormous white flower, the size of my outstretched hand, being seen on one of my many plants. Unfortunately by morning, the scent has gone and the flower is drooping – hence its common name. But once smelt and seen, always smitten. Collections of small cacti seem popular with displays in windows in Bath Road, North Street and Christopher Way although they do appear a little neglected and in need of repotting – the key to a cactus flowering . Repot annually despite the agony endured from its spines which can be alleviated by wrapping a folded sheet of newspaper around the plant before using the paper to lift it out of its pot and straight into its freshly prepared new one.
On a more exotic scale in several porches are tropical climbers – mandevilleas in particular in Victoria Road, their glossy evergreen leaves twining up their supports and highlighted by bright pink or red flowers during summer. Bougainvillea too make an appearance in Bosmere Gardens, their exotic flowers adding an unusual twist to our English climate. Accompanied by parlour palms, the Victorian stalwart, and clivias with their bright orange flowers, the porches are almost transformed into jungles.
Kitchen window sills are interesting with their collection of herbs ready for culinary usage. Basil, parsley, chives and mint jostle for position in many houses in Brook Gardens. And there is a spectacular chilli pepper plant in the front window of a Victoria Road house, literally dripping with glistening red fruits.
With the cheapness of house plants from supermarkets these days, it seems a shame to waste money on cut flowers which may, if lucky, last a week, when you can spend the same amount on a flowering houseplant, especially the orchids, whose flowers will last months. Common practice in Germany and Holland, hopefully this trait will cross the Channel resulting in more interesting windowsills for me to look at on my walks!
It is always interesting to see other people’s planting combinations – intended or otherwise! – and we are lucky enough to have in Emsworth several gardens with planned planting as well as those with naturally occurring or accidental permutations. Perennials, shrubs, trees and bedding are used to great effect all over the village and the following ideas are by far not all of them.
In Westbourne Avenue, North Emsworth, there is a rather lovely mix of yellow flowered Sisynchrium striatum and pink Centrathus ruber. Although at first this sounds like it might clash, they actually meld together really well and last for several months. They certainly caught my eye during the summer months walking the dogs past them. Shrub-wise, also in Westbourne Avenue, is a blue flowered Ceanothus, its gorgeous misty blue flowers highlighted by the backdrop of a purple leaved Berberis purpurea. Another Ceanothus features in a garden further up the road, this time basking against the dusty purple leaves of a Cotinus coggrygia. Although the Ceanothus flowers do not last long, while they do it is a staggeringly beautiful grouping. Another attractive amalgamation further down the same road is a white flowered Hibiscus syriacus whose red eye of the bloom contrasts beautifully with a red rose for late summer colour – although last year you did have to ‘squint’ out the hideous bi-coloured dahlia in the background.... (Just a query, did a lot of people have non-flowering Hibiscus last year? Several of the gardens I work in had plants that formed buds but never materialised into flowers. Perhaps it was the weather?) A lush tropical theme is to be found at the top of Westbourne Avenue opposite the green, instantly transporting you to the jungle – dark red leaved, orange flowered cannas framed by the large African orange marigolds –you half expect an exotic wild animal to materialise out of the foliage!
Round the corner in Wickor Way, is a clump of coral pink hollyhocks whose yellow ‘eye’ perfectly match the yellow paint of the bungalow. Presumably self-seeded I hope that this colour reoccurs next year for the owners. Another contrast of house ‘colour’ and planting is to be found in Slipper Road where a clump of tomato red alstroemerias perfectly match the red paint on the fascia boards. A coincidence I’m sure but charming all the same.
On the way into the village in North Street near the Railway Inn is an odd combination of blue – Johnson’s blue hardy geranium and Campanula poscharskyana. Badly maligned, the campanula gives colour almost 365 days a year and providing it is given a hard prune (just by pulling off its lanky stems) after the initial flush of flowers, will continue to flower its socks off. But the two blues together, even with slightly similar foliage is actually quite eye-catching and the perfect ground cover for its situation.
Yellow is not my favourite colour – even the pastel shades of Sisynchrium – but the vibrant planting of Lysimachia punctata and Leucanthemum (Shasta daisy) in a Selangor Avenue front garden is very appealing, the yellow eye of the Shasta contrasting against the pure yellow of the loosestrife. Again both of these plants can be rather invasive but this combination, which seem to have found a happy medium, seem to rub along very happily.
For late summer colour look no further than Bridge Road where one of the houses has a lovely display of the airy Verbena bonariensis, pink Japanese anemones and blue Aster Frikartii Monch . The latter being the best aster around by far, even its felted leaves are more elegant and it’s much more well behaved and stays in the same place unlike its common cousins. The Verbena will gently seed around and the anemones slowly creep their way about to prolong the display year after year. And if they do become too ‘friendly’ they are more than happy to be pulled up, separated, divided and passed onto others.
Down by Slipper Pond are some bedding delights to be found. The old B&B had a gorgeous selection of planting last summer with mauve lavender, pinks and white alyssum under-planting a variegated pink/white and green standard salix. Well-maintained, the display lasted nearly the whole summer. On the opposite side of the road, down the end of Slipper Road itself, is a double attraction with a lovely planting of a mauve lavender hedge bordering the front path, contrasting with the crimson bottle brushes of callistemon in one direction and a magenta pink rose if approaching from the boatyard.
And it’s not just flowers that combine well together but shrubs too – even conifers can be cleverly planted to give year round interest if the silver and greens are combined with some thought. New Brighton Road offers a variegated euonymus surrounded by plain old green fennel, the wispy fronds of the fennel perfectly offset by the solid leaves of the euonymus. A variegated Sasa bamboo down Lumley Road combines well with the strappy leaves of crocosmia and improves through the season when the orange flowers appear spotting the display with their stars.
Garden furniture and accessories too can combine well with a garden’s planting scheme. One of the houses overlooked from the main road, to the rear of Emsworth centre itself, has highlighted all the garden trimmings with a lovely shade of blue paint against which summer bedding looks most at home. And a town house backing onto Slipper Pond has a colourful selection of planting that perfectly matches the plastic Wendy house, adding an almost elegance to what could otherwise be just a gaudy piece of multicoloured child paraphernalia. Admittedly in winter the picture is slightly different!
As you can tell my walks with the dogs veered away from West Emsworth where I know there are many more beautiful planting combinations and it is not that I have ignored them, I just wasn’t around that way during the summer. But it does go to show that ideas can always be gleaned by looking over the garden fence – you don’t have to replicate them exactly, a new situation will highlight a combination in a completely different way and become personal to your own garden..
I used to write for the local paper 'The EMS' before it split into two different local papers - 'The EMS' and 'Shorelines'. I opted to continue writing for 'Shorelines' and these are a few of the articles that have been published over the last few years:
I am also now writing a bi-monthly garden column for 'The Scene' a local information magazine produced by my friend Emma and her husband.