Monday, December 28, 2009

Virtual Garden Tour of Stourhead

Welcome to Tiny Tours- a little virtual something to help you through the doldrums of winter.
I'm starting our tours with Stourhead, in England, since it's one of my very favorite gardens. Not overly flashy, but extremely serene and peaceful.

The Gate into the Estate is quite beautiful in itself.

The stables were outrageous. Such lucky horses!

One of the first gardens you come to at Stourhead is the Walled Garden. There were many bright flowers and huge flocks of butterflies. Most of the garden is quite natural and green. This is one of the few places with riotous color.

The drive up to the house is lined with 600 year old chestnut trees.

I didn't have time to tour the house (next time). Thought the cattle out front were quite interesting. The statues on the roof were originally in the temple of Apollo, but they were vandalized so much, they were put up out of reach.

The route around the lake is 2 miles, but there is so much to see that it wasn't even a question of whether we would walk it all, but rather of how long it would take us.
This is the Palladian Bridge. It crosses a tiny bay in the lake. From the Pantheon, across the lake, it looks like the bridge crosses a river that empties into the lake. Nice little bit of visual trickery.

From the Palladian Bridge, you can get a view of the Temple of Apollo up on the hilltop.

The Pantheon is a photographer's dream. There are a number of places to photograph it on the route around the lake.

Here is the Grotto, seen from the lake side.

The River Maid sits behind a small bathing pool in the Grotto.

There are a number of ancient trees that prove the age of these gardens.

The Gothic Cottage was off limits when I was there because the slate roof was causing weight problems. They had scheduled to remove the slate and re roof in the original thatch. I imagine that project is complete now.

Wildlife was abundant. I was enchanted by this mama coot trying to coax her baby into the water.

The Temple of Apollo sits high above the lake. There is a fork in the path before you get to the temple which reflects life. You can go to the right and the way is steep and rocky, but you are rewarded by a visit to the temple and outstanding views of the lake. Or you can go left and the path is level and smooth, but there are no rewards. (PS the rocky, steep path was worth it.)

A view of the tiny island from the Temple of Apollo.

A churchyard at the end of the walk revealed some exquisite headstones, many so old you could no longer read the writing on them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's Blooming?

I can't find a single thing blooming outdoors after our deep freeze last week, so I'm posting pictures of my kitchen windowsill, which keeps my spirits up during the drearier days of winter.
Posted by Picasa

This is the sight that greats me each day when I step into the kitchen.

I got this orchid from my beloved brother who raises them and has greenhouses full of these exotic beauties. He lets me take home blooming plants as long as I bring them back before I kill them. The Gardenia next to it gives me a little tropical jolt when I give it a good sniff.

I love this green amaryllis. I'm one of those people who likes the oddball plants.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter Warriors and Spring Promises

Our deep freeze has thawed and temps are back to normal. Today is a balmy 55 degrees with no rain. I took this opportunity to wander through the garden and make note on what survived with gusto (warriors) and what is a piddly mound of mush (non-warriors).

Almost all of the conifers emerged unscathed. This little beauty is my favorite Cryptomeria called 'Little Diamond'.

Although most of the plant mushed out to a brown mess, the pulmonarias showed some serious constitution by popping out new growth instantly. You can't keep a good pulmonaria down.

This whole vignette is made up of warriors. The Hebe armstrongii in the forground didn't even shrug. The Euonymus and Eleagnus in the back are tough cookies. What suprized me was the golden cypress that was given to me with the promise that it would break my heart because it wasn't hardy here. is.

With the deepening winter also comes the promise of spring and I go out regularly hunting for little treasures. This is the bud of Ribes 'Elk River Red'. I can't wait for the ribes (flowering currant) to bloom, because the hummingbirds always show up with the currant flowers.

Last year our temperature didn't get as cold, but we had some serious wind which resulted in this Garrya Elliptica 'James Roof' getting dessicated so badly I had to cut it back by half. This year, even with the cold, it held up great because we didn't have the wind.

As I walked through the garden, I also noted that the tips of the Reticulata Iris and the Snowdrops are popping through the soil. This is the beginning of a daily pasttime called "Snout Hunting". Each time I see the snout of a spring treasure erupting from the earth, it brings a special thrill.

For all of you who have enquired about Molina, my office cat... She is doing very well, living on a shelf in my bathroom, where she feels safe from our wussy dog. She finally came out of the bathroom on her own a few days ago and yesterday she took a walk through the garden outside, accompanied by Foos, who she thought of as a great bother.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brrrrr.....It's Cold!

For the past few days, we have been getting very cold weather. Down to 10 degrees at night and never above freezing during the day. I took my office cat, Molina, home with me because it's too cold for her to be outside at night. So she's enjoying the warm nights in my house with 12 other cats that I can't bear to pitch out into the cold.

The cold has brought some serendipitous treats though, like the ice sculpture that our fountain created. Quite lovely.

So what do you do when it gets this cold? If you are lucky enough to have some snow with it, don't worry too much, the snow will insulate the plants. If it's dry, and no snow, you can do several things. Throwing sheets over tender shrubs will help keep desiccating winds from drying them out and causing further damage. A product on the market called "Wilt-Pruf" helps by coating the plant with a waxy substance that preserves moisture, but it needs to be applied before the freeze. Here at the Village Green, we have a "Survival of the Fittest" philosophy. If we lose a plant to the cold, we replace it with something equally interesting, but a bit hardier.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Poinsettia Care

'Tis the season for poinsettias and a little understanding can keep yours looking great well into the New Year.'s cold outside. And nothing feels the cold quite like a poinsettia. A good shock of cold air can defoliate your poinsettia in record time. Therefore when purchasing poinsettias, do not buy any that are sitting next to an outside door or in a draft. Purchase your poinsettia and get it right home. If you're running errands, get the poinsettia last. It will not appreciate sitting in a cold car. When you get it home. make sure it is placed out of the path of drafts.
Lighting is important. Your poinsettia will do best in bright, but not direct light.
Just like you and me, poinsettias like dry feet. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry and then make sure there is no water left standing in the saucer or pot wrapper. If you want to leave it in the pot wrapper, punch some holes in the bottom of it and place on a saucer. Leaving your plant sitting in water will spell certain death.
The red "flowers" are not flowers at all, but bracts (or modified leaves). The actual flowers are the little yellow things in the center. When choosing a poinsettia, choose one whose flowers (yellow thingys, remember) are not open fully. This is a less mature plant and it will last longer.
And not all poinsettias are red anymore. They now come in many shades of red, pink, white, yellow and orange and you can even find plants that have been dyed purple or blue or whatever. The bracts also come in several styles. There are rosette forms and marbled varieties.
The garden centers are bursting this time of year with all types and you should have no trouble finding your favorite and keeping happy for the Holidays.

Thabks to Gray's Garden Center, Eugene, Oregon, for allowing me to photgraph their poinsettias.