The Natural Garden Coach

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Beautiful Bibury and Awkward Hill

Victoria's Awkward Hill cottage in Bibury

Ah, the wonderful things that happen when one blogs and travels. Through garden blogging and a few Garden Bloggers Flings, I met Victoria Summerly, author of Tales of Awkward Hill blog and a forthcoming book about the gardens of Gloucestershire. I had the good fortune to travel to England this month, so I contacted Victoria and suggested a meet up and perhaps a garden viewing or two. Luckily for me we decided to first go to her relatively new home in the beautiful little village of Bibury.

The back terrace

Victoria moved from London to what was described by the nineteenth-century designer William Morris as the "most beautiful village in England" - Bibury. Bibury is an old village, and the mostly seventeenth-century homes, churches, school, and businesses are built of lovely Cotswold stone. The amount of work Victoria has already accomplished in her garden is astounding. Take a look at a few of these photos to confirm!

Part of the back and the side garden

I can't wait to see the garden in a more mature state. The side garden will remain wilder than the back garden and Victoria has plans to put in a really interesting pond there.

View from the back terrace

The entrance to the side garden

A shady nook. I just love the hostas in pots, the trough, and the tin birds that she picked up at the San Francisco Fling. (I have some similar ones I bought there as well.)

The beginnings of our walk

After enjoying the weather and her gardens for a little while, Victoria suggested we take a walk around Bibury, and of course I said yes. We headed up what I thought was a path but what was actually a street. Wouldn't you like to live on a street where every front yard had blooming roses and other interesting plants?

A view towards the village

Soon we were heading into countryside where wildflowers were blooming...


...and sheep and lambs were bleating.

A flower bedecked bridge!

The river Coln runs through Bibury and at one time there were two mills operating here - the Bibury Mill and the Arlington Mill. This little bridge is near the old Bibury mill and Bibury Court Hotel.

Arlington Row cottages

The Arlington Row cottages are quite famous (especially with the tourists!). They were originally built in 1380 to store wool, and then transformed into cottages for the weavers in the seventeenth century. Victoria's home is way up at the top of this hill (thus, where the "awkward hill" name comes in).

The gardens near the trout farm

We decided to go the long way back instead of climbing the steep hill. On the way we came to the most beautiful trout farm I've ever seen! Actually, I've never seen a trout farm before but I doubt I'll ever see one that had been landscaped like this again! The trout farm is near the old Arlington mill, which is now a private residence. (Many years ago, my husband and I stayed one night in Bibury and saw the mill when it was a museum. It was very interesting.)

Victoria and Rufus and Awkward Hill cottage

Eventually we made our way back to Victoria's home and then decided to head out for more adventures. We went to one of the largest and coolest nurseries I've ever seen (in Burford) and then checked out Misarden Park Gardens - lovely! But that will have to wait for another blog post.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

¡Viva Muchos Colores!

The home of Lucinda Hutson

Let's celebrate the start of June, which I consider the start of summer, with a look at one of the most interesting small gardens I've seen in a long time. And the house as well! I had the privilege of touring the home and gardens of the very generous Lucinda Hutson, author of the new book, ¡Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures. Lucinda is also the author of that great cookbook, The Herb Garden Cookbook, sadly now out of print. I have to say, I'm really enjoying reading the Tequila book - it's part travelogue, part history, part cookbook, and all very interesting! Don't you love the color of her house? Well, there's more color in store here!

Bird friendly seating area in front yard

From the street, you can't really tell that Lucinda has a couple of cozy seating areas right in the front.

Second seating area in front. The tree in the background is a gingko, unusual for Austin.

The front garden has an interesting combination of plants: daylilies, 'Peter's Purple' monarda, datura, kumquat, zinnias, chard, tomatoes and eggplant in containers, last of the winter pansies, coleus, ajuga, violets, bronze fennel, and even a heart-shaped wax myrtle shrub. The plants provide privacy from the street and though there are lots of them, it's very calm in these hidden oases. But wait till you go through the side gate...

Side entrance to the back gardens

A giant concrete fish and mermaids on the gate signal you're about to enter a magical world. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take a decent photo of the pond and waterfall that are behind the beautiful limestone wall. But I think you can tell it's there by the fish and mermaid motifs.

Mermaid hangout

Lucinda utilizes ordinary objects in uncommon ways. Note the sanseveria mimicking seaweed. The copper trough was an insert to a window box. And take a look at this table made out of a beautiful blue container.

Glass-covered pot as a coffee table. Is that mermaid also a bottle opener?

Lucinda told me a funny story about this table. Recently she found the glass neatly placed alongside the container and the starfish that was under the glass was missing all its arms. Your neighborhood raccoons at work.

Haitian tin art work 

Just to the right of the side entrance, the house is graced with some cool art work. As you move past the pond and mermaid seating area, you come to the greenhouse. But first, check out this window you walk past...

Corn tiled window

I never thought of tiling a window frame but it now makes complete sense to me.

Greenhouse to the left

What I really like about Lucinda's greenhouse is how it doesn't look like a greenhouse! She has covered the outside in rough cedar (juniper) branches so it blends right in. This is the start of her herb collection. Just to the right is a raised bed.

Limestone-edged raised herb garden

The raised bed is large and commands the most sunlight. It's filled to the brim with an array of herbs from Mexico, Asia, the Mediterranean, and one other part of the world that I can't remember. I'm assuming the purple structure used to be a garage but is now used for storage. Can you see the small chairs to the right hanging on the wall? Lucinda says you can't find those anymore in Mexico. Between the orange part of the house and the purple structure is a gate to yet another world...

Deck and studio

Now we're in the back-back, where Lucinda's to-die-for writing studio is located. I wish I'd taken a photo of the inside of it. Lovely smooth cedar walls... And the deck has a nice large table for al fresco meals. But there's still more. Walk to the left of the studio into ...

You're almost to the cantina

... the cantina area. This area is more informal with a picnic table and flagstone patio and more tropical-looking plants.

La Lucinda Cantina

And what's this?

Is this an outhouse??

It may look like an outhouse but it's not. This is an outdoor shower! Just what I could use after some serious gardening.

View from the cantina area towards the house

Walk back towards the house as there's more to see.

Opened door to the house with Mexican tin ornaments

Tiled stairs to the house

As you go through the back door, you see these beautiful tiled stairs to the house proper.

Folk art room

And to the left of the stairs is Lucinda's former studio, now being converted into a room filled with Mexican folk art. Can you see the tin ceiling?

Muchas gracias to Lucinda for welcoming me into her home at a rather early hour on a Sunday morning! And for welcoming me to the extension of her home - her garden. I hope you're inspired to look for ways to bring more color to your landscape, as I am. Hmm, wonder what the neighbors would think if I painted the house turquoise??

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for May 2014

'Indian Spring' hollyhock

Can it be Garden Bloggers Bloom Day already? And am I really writing a post for it (I usually forget or don't have time)? Yes, here's a short GBBD post for May. It's short because earlier this month I wrote a post catching up on what's blooming around my yard, and most of those plants are still blooming. But here are a few other plants that have recently put in a star turn. These 'Indian Spring' hollyhocks for one.

'Indian Spring' hollyhock in a deep pink

I like the hollyhocks that have single rather than double blooms. I think they have a more old-fashioned, cottage garden look. This variety, a freebie from Renee's Garden, is an antique strain. As you can see in the first photo, antique sometimes means the plants are not resistant to pests such as the leaf miner. I'll try to take care of that soon so I can hopefully get another set of blooms. (I'll pick off affected leaves and spray some neem oil as a preventative.)

'French Gold' bean blooms

A few of the veggies are trying to bloom. I say trying because most of my warm-weather veggies are struggling with this crazy spring weather (it's 41F as I write this!). But the green beans, or should I say yellow beans, are starting to bloom. I can't wait to try this haricot vert variety, also from Renee's Garden. Provided I can get to them first before the birds do!

'Red Cascade' miniature climbing rose

This crazy climbing rose - 'Red Cascade' - is due for a trimming back this year. First I have to let it bloom its heart out. As you can see, it has no trouble doing that.

View from back patio

A few other things I didn't show in my previous post include the stick verbena, flowering tobacco, and rose campion. The rose campion, those bright pops of magenta in the photo, was an experiment, so it was planted rather willy-nilly. Next year I will try to ensure they're planted in good spots.

Rose campion

Rose campion is really hard to photograph. In the shade it has a deep magenta color but wait for the sun and then it's neon magenta. I think the nicest thing about it, besides the fact that they need very little care, is its soft gray leaves.

'Monsieur Jules Elie' peony

Okay, I wrote about this peony, 'Monsieur Jules Elie', in my last post. But what a charmer it is this year. I still can't believe I've had almost a dozen blooms from it this year, its third year. I'm a proud momma.

You can see what else is blooming around the world today by visiting Carol's blog, May Dreams Gardens.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring has sprung and is almost done!


Well, where to begin? The months of March and April flew by, signifying a busy time for me. Naturally, since it was spring, there was lots to do in the garden. But I've been busy in other ways, not least of which is retiring from the corporate world (knock on wood)!! I've been busy trying to get back into shape, traveling a little, garden coaching, writing a few articles for Louisiana Gardener, helping to get the farmers market started for the season, purging things from the attic, and wondering in general how I managed to have a full-time job and still do all those same things (minus the getting in shape)!

'Painted Lady' sweet peas

Lots of things have been happening in my yard these couple months so I thought I'd catch you up on a few plants. I'm trying yet another new-to-me sweet pea this year, 'Painted Lady'. It's an old heirloom plant dating back to 1737. It's the first named sweet pea cultivar. It is not a floriferous or tall as others I've grown, but maybe it needs some more time.

One of the raised beds. It's filled mostly with cottage garden-type plants. White irises are on the left, 'Painted Lady' sweet pea is growing up the tuteur.

April Beauty daffodil, aka Twin Sisters

All the daffodils finished blooming some time ago but then all of a sudden April Beauty pops open some lovely yet diminutive blooms. I had totally forgotten I'd even planted them.

Gulf Coast penstemon

This penstemon is new for me this year. Seems to be a good bee attracting plant.

'Belinda's Dream' rose (with a yellow iris in the background)

It's now rose season, actually almost past the first flush of blooms here.

The garden on the side of the backyard with 'Belinda's Dream' rose (pink), Majesty rose (red), and yellow iris.

Unnamed yellow iris

I have too many of these yellow bearded iris. They're nice, but I want more variety (and a clear yellow one). I brought the original roots, blue and yellow ones, with me when we moved here nine years ago. For some reason the yellow ones are starting to predominate so I will be giving some of those away soon.

'Sombreuil' climbing rose

Unknown penstemon; any guesses?

This white penstemon with light purple stripes was supposed to be a scarlet penstemon. Hmm, not very scarlet. I got it at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's plant sale last fall. I have another penstemon about to start blooming, maybe that's the scarlet one!

Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’

This is the easiest and nicest yucca - purple yucca. I brought it back with me from the Garden Bloggers Fling in Seattle in 2011. I leave it out all winter and I barely remember to water it. Get one if you can.

Pure Blonde liriope

So what do you think about this liriope? Pure Blonde is supposed to have white leaves when cut back. Sure enough, at least for a little while. I have this in a little bit of shade so I think that's delaying the greening up. I will reserve judgement on this till I have it longer (this was a gift from Southern Living).

Some of my container veggies

Always experimenting, I've got some veggies going in pots. Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and chard. They look pretty now but we'll see what summer will bring!

'Fireworks' clematis

Baptisia australis

Here's another plant I picked up at a blogger fling - Baptisia australis, a native with some fabulous color. I got this at the Asheville fling in 2012 and it finally decided to bloom this year. I can't wait for it to hit its "leap" stage next year (as in "sleep, creep, leap").

Little Women rose

I am also loving this rose, Little Women. It's only lightly fragrant but it is a real trooper with no diseases.

Little Women rose, white iris, 'Darcy Bussell' rose, and tada... 'Monsieur Jules Elie' peony

I saved the most exciting (to me) plant for last, 'Monsieur Jules Elie' peony, a peony that debuted in 1888. This is supposed to be one of the peonies that does well in the South. This is its third year (its "leap" year) and it has lots of buds. Of course, the fact that we had prolonged periods of cold this winter may explain why it's doing so well (most peonies need a period of chilling). But this has made me want to plant more of them. Oh my.

'Monsieur Jules Elie' peony

So that's a wrap of some of the latest goings on in my garden. Soon the poppies, larkspur, and daylilies will be blooming. I hope to blog about those before they're gone and summer has its stranglehold on us!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.