Tempting Tulips

I have some very lovely mixed tulip pots planted up and ready for sale, the tulips are just opening or budded-and-very-soon-to-open. The pots can be set directly into garden beds to temporarily fill holes or slipped inside ornamental pots for some instant tulip glory.

 Pots arrayed on my deck

Pots arrayed on my deck

 Early Spring Combo with 'Exotic Emperor' starting to bloom slightly ahead of 'Apricot Beauty'

Early Spring Combo with 'Exotic Emperor' starting to bloom slightly ahead of 'Apricot Beauty'

 Close up of 'La Belle Epoque', Hyacinths and Muscari

Close up of 'La Belle Epoque', Hyacinths and Muscari

Pot sizes are 5 gal. and 10 gal., and they are stuffed full of lovely combinations (lists and photo collages of combos below). Several have one other early season bulb interplanted with the tulips: Muscari latifolium, Hyacinth 'Woodstock', 'Delft Blue' or 'Dark Dimensions', Tulipa praestans 'Shogun', Tulipa alba correulea oculata.

Prices range from $45-$95 and I will deliver! Unless you prefer to come by my place and make your selection in person.

I also have a good range of 1 gal. pots with single varieties that can be planted straight into the garden now, or into larger pots for seasonal displays. Drop me a note if this sounds like a more interesting option, and I can advise on varieties/colours available.

Variety Lists & Photo Collages

1.  Early Spring

Tulip 'Exotic Emperor'

Tulip 'Apricot Beauty'

early spring tulip mix

2.  Burnt Toffee

Tulip 'Black Hero'

Tulip 'Albert Heyn'

Tulip 'Apricot Beauty'

Tulip 'Ronaldo'

Burnt Toffee

3.  Venetian

Tulip 'Havran'

Tulip 'Irene Parrot'

Tulip 'Lasting Love'

Venetian tulip mix

4.  Linda's Special

Tulip 'Jan Reus'

Tulip 'Irene Parrot'

Tulip 'Muvota'

Tulip 'Chansonette'

Tulip praestans 'Shogun'

Linda's special tulip mix

5.  Dark Mix

Tulip 'Paul Scherer'

Tulip 'Havran'

Tulip 'Negrita'

Tulip 'Bleu Amiable'

Tulip 'Black Parrot'

dark tulip mix

6.  Mary Keen Mix

Tulip 'Queen of Night'

Tulip 'Orange Princess'

Tulip 'Purple Dream'

Tulip 'Red Shine'

Tulip 'West Point'

Tulip 'Abigail'

Mary Keen tulip mix

Sarah Raven Mix

Tulip 'La Belle Epoque'

Tulip 'Spring Green'

Tulip 'Blue Wow'

Sarah Raven tulip mix

The story behind the ladders

A New Gardening Venture – Hasegawa Tripod Ladders

During a recent trip to England, I attended an horticultural symposium at Great Dixter and then stayed on for an additional two weeks to work alongside the Dixter gardening staff and students as they prepared the garden for spring.

Pruning was one of the major jobs we were tasked with and, you guessed it, much of the pruning required ladder work. There was one very choice ladder to work on – an incredibly well-designed ladder made by a Japanese company called Hasegawa. You had to wait your turn to get your hands on the ladder because there was only the one of its kind and probably half a dozen people pruning something at any one time.

  Matt on a 10’ Hasegawa tripod, pruning the Ligustrum quihoui in the Long Border at Great Dixter

Matt on a 10’ Hasegawa tripod, pruning the Ligustrum quihoui in the Long Border at Great Dixter

I spent one afternoon pruning a climbing rose with the aid of the Hasegawa ladder and was so impressed by its comfort and stability that when I got back to Victoria I started looking for them. I was sure someone would have discovered them and brought them to Canada. Surprise, surprise, I could only find them in the U.S. – the closest location was in Portland, Oregon. Well, I was making a trip to Portland for a Hardy Plant Seminar, I decided I’d take my truck and bring some back with me.

  16’ ladder strapped onto my truck

16’ ladder strapped onto my truck

In spite of all the hassle, not to mention taxes and duties, I brought back four ladders. My gardening crew and I worked with them for a few months and were delighted with them – their wide, stable base; deep, comfortable steps and work platforms; clever adjustable 3rd leg; a chain that attaches the tripod leg to the main ladder frame so that it will never slip away; rubber ‘boots’ that cover the metal feet to allow for use on hard surfaces. Oh, and, incredible light weight because they are made of hollow aluminum, did I mention that? All of these features made our frequent work on ladders feel so much safer and secure, they quickly became a much valued and indispensable piece of gardening gear.

And so, the inevitable occurred: I thought, someone must sell them in Canada. I could sell them! I wrote to the fellow who sells them in the UK and he put me in touch with the folks at Hasegawa in Japan. And, as they say, the rest is history.

We now have a full selection of ladders stored at our warehouse in Richmond and several retail locations in and around Vancouver and Victoria. And a new warehouse has just been set up in Toronto. We have been selling the ladders to professional arborists and gardeners, garden designers, orchardists, hops growers, and all sorts of keen home gardeners.

The ladders are amazing, there’s nothing like them on the market here!

Susanne

Fabulous, Fanciful, February: Rose Pruning at Sissinghurst

Typically, much of my January and February is spent pruning deciduous shrubs and vines – particularly roses and hydrangeas, present in most of the gardens under our care. This week, however, there has been no pruning, all was on hold. Very unusually, we had a major snowfall, which has left me free to do other long-neglected tasks the past few days. One of them has been digging out photos taken at Sissinghurst on a sunny February day a couple of years ago. Before we get on to more rose pruning next week, I wanted to have another look at the intricate and impressive techniques I saw there, and figure out if we can incorporate some of them into our regimes.

This is one of those lost horticultural arts for me – I’ve never seen roses treated this way. I was astounded to see these beautifully sculptural shapes that almost look animated, as though they might dance right out of the beds.

The arched canes curve and swirl, stretched and tied to hazel ‘benders’ or ‘hoops’ positioned around the skirts of the shrubs. Or to four vertical poles placed around the varieties that have a stiffer growth habit, keeping their forms more upright and narrow.

To use this technique on your shrub roses, start by tying the long flexible canes from the outside of the plant, then as you move towards the middle, attach the inner canes to the stems already tied to the benders, creating an ever-mounding web. Any lateral shoots are shortened to a couple of inches to encourage flowering close to the main framework. Instead of shortening the long canes and thereby creating woody, leggy shrubs surrounded by bare ground, with all the flowers at the top, the roses at Sissinghurst (if you are so lucky to see them in full flowering madness in June) are fountains of flowers.

Climbers and ramblers grown on the walls and arbours throughout Sissinghurst are treated similarly. After removing the previous year’s flowering canes and some older woody stems (to encourage new shoots from the ground), the remaining stems are re-attached to the ancient brickwork, starting from the middle of the plant and working outwards, with the tip of each cane bent and tied onto invisible wires, or to the cane below, in swirling, curling patterns.

The technique is particularly striking in the White Garden, where Rosa mulliganii drapes and cascades over the metal arbour at the centre of the garden. In winter, the lace-like view through the newly-trained canes to the blue sky, tied in intricate curves and pincurls, is ever so beautiful.

This is horticultural finesse. And a technique that I will be trialling in adventurous gardens this year.

 

Sissinghurst Castle is an English garden in Kent created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930s, now a National Trust property.
More information here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sissinghurst_Castle_Garden

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden

Back to Great Dixter

At this time last year I had just returned from a second trip to England, exhausted but exhilarated from three weeks of intensive horticultural training and practical work experience at Great Dixter.

  with Fergus on my last day at Dixter

with Fergus on my last day at Dixter

I had visited Dixter for the very first time in September 2013 to attend a week-long horticultural symposium and it was so fantastic and the gardens so impressive in September (and promising to go on being so right through October), that I knew before the week was out that I had to come back again

  one of my favourite sections of the long border in September 2013

one of my favourite sections of the long border in September 2013

My return was in winter for a number of reasons: because I wanted to see the bare bones of the garden in order to better understand how the incredibly full plantings that I saw in September were physically achieved. And, at a quieter time of year in my own gardening business, it was easier for me to be away for a longer chunk of time.

  the long border on a sunny February day

the long border on a sunny February day

My first week was spent as a participant in the February symposium. This is a practical session held when the garden is closed to the public, with fewer participants and more hands-on practice, focused on pruning techniques and preparing beds for the coming year – as this is what the staff and students are working on as they prepare the garden for opening day at the beginning of April.

  discussions in the garden

discussions in the garden

  one of Fergus’ ‘mind maps’ detailing the work that needs to take place before opening day

one of Fergus’ ‘mind maps’ detailing the work that needs to take place before opening day

  symposium group in the long border

symposium group in the long border

Our group had lots of lessons and demonstrations of Fergus’ pruning techniques – hydrangeas, roses, honeysuckle, jasmine, spiraea, fuchsia, buddleia, cotinus, bamboo, on and on the list goes.

  pruning demonstration

pruning demonstration

  Maria pruning in the exotic garden

Maria pruning in the exotic garden

And then we were paired up and given our own assignments, receiving specific instructions about what we were to achieve.

  my first pruning assignment – spiraea

my first pruning assignment – spiraea

  ‘after’ successfully pruning the spiraea

‘after’ successfully pruning the spiraea

The subsequent two weeks of my trip were spent volunteering in the gardens with the Dixter staff and students. One of the major projects undertaken during my stay was the preparation of the beds in the orchard garden.

  ‘before’ in the orchard garden

‘before’ in the orchard garden

  working in the orchard garden

working in the orchard garden

  ‘after’ - the bare bones of the orchard garden, everything labelled and marked

‘after’ - the bare bones of the orchard garden, everything labelled and marked

  the orchard garden in July 2015

the orchard garden in July 2015

I am largely a self-taught gardener - for years I have culled what I needed to know from books and magazines, a short course here, a short course there, slowly but steadily directing my own horticultural education, every year gaining more skill, confidence and practical experience. But working and learning at Dixter proved to be the ideal demonstration and training ground, vastly increasing my understanding of how to achieve the results I wanted and adding quite a few new tricks to my repertoire. It’s a totally inspiring and exciting horticultural destination for all gardeners, whether to work, study or just marvel at the beauty.

The symposia are just one of a number of educational programs on offer at Dixter - they are an action-packed week, each day full to overflowing with lectures and slideshows mixed with practical time spent in the gardens, examining and discussing the details of border design, plant selection, maintenance and planting strategies and techniques. Details here: http://www.greatdixter.co.uk/learning/symposia/

A Week at Great Dixter

As much as I enjoyed my garden visits during my first week in the UK, the most thrilling part of my trip was definitely the second week spent at Great Dixter. I attended a week-long horticultural symposium led by the very-talented and dynamic Fergus Garrett - head gardener at Dixter for over 20 years, and master of the intensive, long-season succession gardening showcased there. It was a last-minute addition to my trip and I truly had no idea what to expect never having been to Great Dixter; but it was fantastic! The most practical and exciting horticultural education I’ve had.

  A view of the house from the orchard garden, September 2013

A view of the house from the orchard garden, September 2013

Great Dixter was the home of Christopher Lloyd, horticulturalist and garden writer. He lived at Dixter for most of his life, working with plants and developing the gardens and his unique planting style – adventurous, colourful, exuberant. Christopher Lloyd died in 2006 but Dixter continues to be open to the public as a charitable trust, under Fergus’ guidance. Its mandate is not only to preserve the Lloyds’ historic home and gardens, but to continue to garden in the distinctive style of Christopher Lloyd, while also using the gardens to educate gardeners in traditional gardening skills, plantsmanship and estate management.

  My symposium group and our first meeting in the garden with Fergus

My symposium group and our first meeting in the garden with Fergus

The symposiums offer a rare horticultural opportunity for professional and keen amateur gardeners to immerse themselves in the ‘how-to’ of such a unique garden and to have a chance to learn from Fergus – he’s a great teacher. The agenda for the week is wide-ranging: to learn and practice traditional techniques first-hand in the gardens, to discuss and explore aspects of complex and sophisticated border design, plant selection and maintenance, and to tour other nearby world-class gardens – in our case, Sissinghurst, Gravetye Manor, and the RHS Trial Grounds at Wisley to have a look at the famed Dahlia trials.

  Fergus discussing the planting in the long border

Fergus discussing the planting in the long border

Over the course of the week we covered a huge variety of topics – succession planting and extending the season, designing with plants, the best-performing plants, meadow gardening, creating exotic gardens. Each day was full to overflowing – lectures and slideshows were mixed with practical time spent in the gardens, examining and discussing the details of planting combinations and techniques, and long lists of plant names.
And, I should say, the garden was incredible in September, still full of flowers at a time of year when one might expect things to be getting a little dull. The pictures say it all.

The symposium group was together from morning ‘til night – we ate all our meals together, were joined at lunch and dinner (lovely meals, by the way) by guests with a specialty in which we might be interested (dahlia growers, former head gardener from Sissinghurst to discuss rose pruning) and by staff, students and volunteers. It was a full-on, immersive experience – all gardening, all the time. Amazing!

British Garden Tours

BRITISH GARDEN TOURS – September 2013

Almost two years later, it’s the August long weekend, and I’m finally catching up on some long-postponed tasks. One of which is sharing some of my recent garden-related travel experiences and photos. First stop, London, England. I had six days in London, each day I went to a different garden.

The Garden Museum

  The museum is located in an ancient church, St. Mary-at-Lambeth.

The museum is located in an ancient church, St. Mary-at-Lambeth.

The impetus for my journey was a lecture by Dan Pearson and Piet Oudolf at The Garden Museum in early September that I desperately wanted to attend - two of my favourite design influences in one room at the same time, discussing their approaches and practices - as well as a retrospective of Dan Pearson’s work. They didn’t let me down, it was a great discussion, enlightening and entertaining, great photos, thrilling to be there amongst so many keen gardeners.

The rest of this trip was built around the lecture – I decided to focus on some of the famous gardens in and around London that are often mentioned in my British gardening magazines but that I had never visited in person: Wisley, Kew, Chelsea Physic, Great Dixter, Beth Chatto. I had also planned to tour some Piet Oudolf gardens during the second of my two weeks in England, but this was eclipsed by the opportunity to spend the whole of my second week at Great Dixter…more on that in my next entry.

Dan designed a lovely, peaceful garden that was installed in the courtyard of the Garden Museum at Lambeth Palace – it was a welcome refuge from the mad busy-ness and noisiness of London's streets.

  The planting aimed to capture the atmosphere of a deciduous Japanese woodland.

The planting aimed to capture the atmosphere of a deciduous Japanese woodland.

  And was inspired by his work in the Hokkaido woodland at Tokachi Millenium Forest.

And was inspired by his work in the Hokkaido woodland at Tokachi Millenium Forest.

  Lambeth Palace Road and the River Thames are just steps away.

Lambeth Palace Road and the River Thames are just steps away.

RHS Wisley
The big draw for me here was a chance to see the Piet Oudolf planting – we see so many beautiful and incredibly impressive photos in the press and in books, I was really excited to experience one in person. The borders at Wisley were designed to be a more naturalistic and contemporary version of traditional perennial borders, but, sadly, it proved to be a bit of a let-down. There was not much in flower in early September - I had hoped that this garden would be at its peak at the end of the summer – and parts of it were collapsing, apparently, according to another visitor, because it wasn’t being watered.

But there were unanticipated pleasures. I stumbled upon this as I was striding along on my way to the Oudolf garden. Completely stopped me in my tracks, I’d never seen such vast perennial borders.

  The late-blooming Long Borders were the most unexpected and impressive surprise at Wisley.

The late-blooming Long Borders were the most unexpected and impressive surprise at Wisley.

They led me up the grassy slope to this impressive Henry Moore sculpture. You can just make it out in the distance in the first photo – an incredible vista.

They led me up the grassy slope to this impressive Henry Moore sculpture. You can just make it out in the distance in the first photo – an incredible vista.

wisley-41-360x270.jpg

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

Kew Gardens is a botanical research and education institution, founded in 1840, and is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. I wasn’t sure what I would find here – I knew there were Victorian glasshouses, plant collections and an impressive arboretum, but I hadn’t anticipated the vast scale of the site. It was huge – 130 hectares – and it was an impossible challenge to get round it all in one day. I resorted to the train-ride as the afternoon progressed, so that I could at least say I’d seen most of the main areas. There were loads of big landscape vistas but very little in the way of traditional borders and planting displays.

  Full-to-busting with tropical plant specimens

Full-to-busting with tropical plant specimens

  Decorative ironwork staircase – which I did climb to get to the catwalk

Decorative ironwork staircase – which I did climb to get to the catwalk

  Some of the palms are more than 200 years old

Some of the palms are more than 200 years old

Chelsea Physic Gardens

Chelsea Physic Garden is a beautiful oasis in the heart of London, an amazing, enclosed, almost secret, green space to escape to. It was a private training ground for apothecaries for most of its existence - it only opened to the public in 1983 when it became a registered charity. It is the second oldest botanical garden in Britain, founded in 1673, and was an important centre of botany and plant exchange, particularly linked with medicinal plants.

  Wardian cases, rather like miniature greenhouses, were used to transport seedlings from overseas

Wardian cases, rather like miniature greenhouses, were used to transport seedlings from overseas

  massive old specimens, note the supports

massive old specimens, note the supports

  the trunk of the same tree; you can also see the thick canes of a climbing rose that grows up into it

the trunk of the same tree; you can also see the thick canes of a climbing rose that grows up into it

Dinner is served in the garden several evenings each summer and it’s an incredibly lovely setting. I, rather luckily, turned up on an open evening quite by chance and was able to enjoy dinner and sunset in the garden, as well as an extra long time to ramble round and explore the gardens.

Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester

Beth Chatto pioneered the “right plant, right place” philosophy of plant growing on her property, which she has described as an overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows. She developed her gardens exclusively according to soil conditions, climate, rainfall and local wildlife.

  The famous gravel garden, formerly a car park

The famous gravel garden, formerly a car park

Plants are carefully placed in the garden according to the growing conditions that they prefer, and are only watered during their first year in the garden – then they have to make a go of it on their own. The gravel garden, formerly a car park, was looking great, but the rest of the garden, particularly the woodland, was fairly quiet at this time of year. A bit of a disappointment after a fairly epic journey by tube, train and taxi. Thank goodness for the tea shop where I regained my composure before venturing round the garden and then a long browse through the extensive and wonderful nursery collection. Wished I could have taken plants home!

  The ponds

The ponds

Battersea Park, London

I had seen a beautiful photo spread in Gardens Illustrated of a newly-planted Old English Garden in Battersea Park, designed by Sarah Price. As I was staying immediately behind the park, I expected a lovely garden would be close at hand.

  This is one of the photos from GI

This is one of the photos from GI

But the beds were in a terribly sad state when I arrived in September. Overgrown, collapsing, boxwoods dying.

  boxwood blight?

boxwood blight?

I’m guessing no maintenance budget? Which goes to prove that a good designer is only as good as the person who takes care of the garden!