AGS Events: Kent Garden Safari 2013
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 25 April 2013, 19:18. Go to bottom of this page.
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This year we are opening a group of our gardens under the auspices of the National Gardens Scheme, as the EAST KENT WEEKEND GROUP. Six gardens are open over the weekend of 13 & 14th April; full details in the NGS Yellow Book, or Kent Yellow leaflet.
I have written about several of the gardens before; they vary greatly, and several have very good collections of alpines, as well as many other plants. I thought I would just pick out Peter Jacob and Margaret Wilson's garden at Walmer on the east coast; Peter will be well known for his great interest in Daphnes and choice small alpines for exhibition; Margaret is very artistic and has made a garden with a delightful use of colour and plants of all sorts - a great combination of talents which results in a garden of unusual fascination for the plantlover. They haven't opened through the NGS before, and may be a little apprehensive, so we wish them well, hope they will have some good help, and most of all enjoy sharing their garden with, what we have always found to be, friendly and interested visitors. With other things we are doing for the AGS in Kent we hope that we may gain some new interest in our Groups, and in the idea of growing alpines both in the garden and for display. Watch this space.
I know you have done this for a few years now and I think it's a great idea. The link-up with the NGS could be developed in other areas, since they get a good through-put of visitors. Are all your gardeners AGS people or just nice gardens with a few alpines highlighted?
Caroline - nice of you to comment. I agree there could be opportunities for other AGS Gardens to open under the NGS (probably quite a few do already but it won't be obvious). This is something we mentioned to the NGS when we were considering opening in this way.
There are six gardens opening; four in particular have strong plantings of alpines, although many other plants too. Three are relatively large, but three are much smaller and similar in size to very many other alpine gardens that I have seen. The link with the NGS seems an excellent one to me (and we have opened our garden in this way for over 25 years and met many fascinating people). It will be very interesting to see how it goes this year in comparison with the past, and it certainly removes a lot of the effort that we have previously put into advertising. On the other hand it was more clear in the past that we were opening specifically for the AGS, so we will need to work on this more.
Since our Kent Garden Safari is coming up this next weekend I thought I would mention it again and show a few pictures of one of the gardens. These are from Paul Powis' garden at Old Wive's Lees, a garden I know well, and that was made by his wife Rosemary who ran our Alpine Group for very many years (pictures of the garden in the summer are shown on the Gardens thread in 2011).
It is a late year and many plants that would have normally begun flowering have not yet started but there are plenty of interesting plants to see: in a shallow bed just next to the conservatory is the best plant of Helichrysum coralloides that I have ever seen, and which certainly teaches me to be more adventurous and not coddle this plant so much. Cardamine quinquefolia is flowering well in the shade of deciduous shrubs, forming good groundcover with primroses and Eranthis. A small pond in the middle of the garden is perhaps one of the most important features, and very simply planted with grasses and a few other plants, cyclamen self-seeding in the gravel path.
Even in a very small garden like this there are many different aspects and corners and hellebores and ferns do well in a more shady area (along with a nice trough planted with dwarf rhododendrons). The second picture shows a view across the garden from the house, with that wonderful diversity which marks out the gardens of many members of the AGS, and other Alpine Societies (the tree in the middle of the garden is Cornus kousa, which can hardly be bettered for its grace and interest throughout the year). The front garden carries many of the alpines in a very well constructed rock garden sloping up to the front of the house (constructed by the way by Paul under careful supervision from Rosemary!). Because the top of the rock garden is in the rainshadow of the house it gives the chance to try some really interesting plants outside, including in the top right of the picture Lewisia cotyledon - and this flowering beautifully last year and is self-seeding.
A small crevice trough next to the front door shows the benefit of a cool but light situation for saxifrages. on the opposite side of the steps are some good clumps of stronger varieties mixed with phlox, cyclamen (a strong interest of Rosemary's) and other bulbs. Daffodils this year are really only just beginning.
And yet snowdrops are still flowering! This clump of the yellow 'Primrose Warburg' is going over now, but extraordinarily late. I have Rosemary to thank for my own interest in snowdrops, as it was she who first gave my three or four varieties maybe fifteen or more years ago. The final picture is a little plant of Primula elatior subsp. leucophylla growing in the trough with rhododendrons - the sort of plant that epitomises the 'alpine gardener's garden' and so nice to see as spring gets underway...
Come and join us if you are in Kent next weekend - Paul's garden is just one of six that we are opening around East Kent, all made with that same fascination and interest in plants, even if not all full of alpines.
Well the lawn has been mown, the edges cut, at least the parts of the garden you can see have been weeded, and the long expected rain has yet to materialise. This is the first day of our East Kent Garden Safari in 2013 after a long cold spring - what expectations will we have of visitors? Let's just take a look at the garden before they arrive because quite a few plants are flowering and it will be interesting to compare with the other gardens once the weekend is over. Near the house the shrubby early Prunus x blireana is in full flower, an excellent plant later on for its bronze-purple foliage too; underneath it is a large bush of Daphne odora just beginning to open its buds. In a bulb bed in the middle of the lawn Anemone blanda has self-sown widely, including through a carpet of Daphne arbuscula; this latter grows very well but for some reason is shy to flower - perhaps it needs more warmth or more root restriction, and it does flower well under glass. A potful of early tulips brighten the steps, but can no way compare with the wonderful use of tulips that I remember visiting Helen Dillon's garden in Dublin, which would certainly be exciting to emulate.
Few alpines have really begun flowering yet but everywhere there are buds of pulsatillas and signs of growth, and in a more normal season a lot more colour would be obvious. Cyclamen pseudibericum is beginning (with a nice paler seedling too) and the reliable Saxifraga apiculata 'Alba' is flowering extremely well on a raised bed. The mix of foliage on the sand bed always fascinates.
The long forecast rain did appear on Saturday afternoon and put a dampener on our hopes of many visitors. But it only takes a few enthusiastic people to lift the spirits, and fortunately there were a few of these. We wait to see what better weather and balmy temperatures might bring on Sunday - at the very least we will have done our best to make the weekend a success.
(I must say our efforts do seem pretty feeble when I read on the SRGC Forum of over 800 exhibits at the Hexham Show! What an event. I wonder how many visitors saw these wonderful plants? Is gardening with alpines a thing of the past? On the other hand we probably have nearly that number of alpines in the garden, and this is one of the marvels of even a small garden with these plants, and they give a huge amount of pleasure, even if never catching the magnificence of the Shows).
We had a terrible night and morning of rain here in NE Scotland, Tim - but it's lovely here now - bright, windy and sunny and mild, too.
I've been wondering how it's been today for the Kent Garden visits - I do hope it's been dry and that numbers have been sufficient to boost the spirits of the garden owners after all their preparations.
Thank you Maggi - it's good of you to send your support from way up north! As you will see today turned out much better, and I haven't heard from everyone else yet but hope they enjoyed the day.
So, Sunday - a warm breeze and sun, the temperature in the shade nearly 20°C - this is spring at last! As if to show willing the very first flower on Pulsatilla grandis opened; the smallest Trillium of all, hibbersonii, has three of its delicate pink flowers, and the curious blooms of the Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, nestle at the centre of the rosette of leaves. Visitors may have to look closely to find these, but that is always a sign of the true enthusiast! We have had a steady flow of people through the day and amongst them a few, but an encouraging few, with quite a strong interest in alpines. We can only hope that this will be converted into new members for our Group and the Society in time, and it must often be the case that stimulating serious interest from just a few new gardeners leads to further interest by word of mouth.
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