Mar 13, 2008

On Saturday morning Aaron and I picked Mark up from Heathrow airport. He said he breezed through customs in less than a minute. Go figure, huh. Mark and I went through the Professional Gardener Training Program together at Longwood Gardens. Once we got back to Great Dixter Mark kept looking around in awe. (A few people have asked me questions about Great Dixter and I feel though I can explain what it is to a certain degree, I would like to send you to their website. This will do justice to what Great Dixter is and what it stands for. Here is the link: )

And now a few words from Mark: Great Dixter is absolutely stunning- both the gardens and the house. I have been here five days and I am still having 'wow' moments. Despite all of the pictures I have seen and all of the descriptions I have heard, I still was not prepared for how amazing it is here. Whenever I need inspiration, I simply look up at the house and count the chimneys! I am thrilled to be here and look forward to the coming months. On Sunday I took Mark on the footpaths to show him the surrounding countryside. I purchased a Collin's Wildflower Guide while at Wisley, so we took that on our walk and started keying out flowers on the way around. Right now in the coppiced woodland (more on this great idea later) the wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are carpeting the ground. The English bluebell is not far behind with it's foliage creeping through the forest floor. We came across this plant on the side of a dirt road. It's a native Orchid and we are not sure which one yet. There are a few early blooming Orchids here so we are keeping an eye on it to see the bloom. A back roads sign that brought images of feral children to mind. It started to rain, again, while out walking but caught sight of not one but a double rainbow forming. I could see the beginning and ending of both rainbows but couldn't get it in the photograph. The one was alot brighter than the other and they only lasted a few minutes.
On Monday there was a study day with Fergus talking about Succession Planting in the Mixed Border. It was in Yeomans Hall in the house. Many notes were taken and diagrams drawn in my notebooks. It was a great talk, with amazing slides, in the sense that it helped me understand what to expect with the Long Border in the coming months. It gave detailed ideas on how to really maximize the use of your garden space. This is through the use of different perennials and bedding plants, self-sowers, and climbers.
Fergus talked about Pea sticks to grow climbers up. These are younger branches of Carpinus betula (something that won't root into the soil) that are used to build a structure for the plants to grow through and look almost similar to a shrub. I built this one earlier in the week while working with him in the Long Border. It was built for different types of Clematis sp. some perennial peas too. The one built below was to get the vine to grow up into the tree. I learned about the importance of succesion with plants such as Allium neopolitano and Begonia grandis. When one is active above ground, the other is dormant below and then they switch while never leaving an empty space in the garden bed. Here tulips that are planted in the border are pulled out once they start to go, they are dried on racks to go dormant, are counted and then stored to be used again the next year in a different area. Many great things were learned and Fergus was such a great speaker. The talk and the slides kept many smiles on the faces of the gardeners who participated. The ominous Gunnera manicata awakening from it's winter sleep. The leaves of this plant are huge and extremely tall. Once fully emerged I will show the scale of this monstrous plant.I wanted to say that I have gotten some emails from friends sharing stories about plants they are growing and what is happening back home. A good friend of mine, Joseph,
wrote to tell me about the excitement of the first Galanthus coming up in his backyard in Harlem. He was excited to see the Monkey Puzzle tree I wrote about since he had planted some in his backyard. Since he has Southern Magnolia already flourishing there he figured why not try the Monkey Puzzle. There are alot of microclimates in urban environments where you can sometimes grow things that normally you wouldn't be able too. This email came at a good time because I will be doing my first interview soon with a gardener who is gardening in a microclimate in London. It's a beautiful garden, a great gardener, and if you do have any questions or curiosties please let me know. I will gladly ask her.

And now, since it is dark and cold out, a few of us will be sitting next to the fire with some food and special cider.......... (there is a gardener here who knows the recipe of the cider......... i promise to interview them too to get that recipe...................:)