-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the great Apple tree search

So often I find myself embroiled in a hunt for some obscure object. This time it's a variety of heritage apple tree.

Last weekend, I took Mum to the RHS's show gardens at Wisley and it turned out to be their annual "Apple Day". They had tastings of lots of different varieties of apples that they grow - they have over 700 varieties of Apple tree alone in their orchard, and that's only a small part of the garden! Anyway, I am not normally a fan of eating fresh apples, having had one too many bad experiences of floury horrible tasting ones. But, I made an exception at this event as I was curious.

Thank goodness I did as I'd no idea how different each variety would taste. Out of the 30 or so varieties we got to taste, I discovered two that I really love. Of course, neither are commercially available in shops which means I have to grow my own... hence, the great Apple tree search begins.

Now, luckily, we actually have a head start because I discovered when I got home that one of them, Egremont Russet, is the variety we planted at the allotment a few months ago. I picked it at the time because it seemed the most obscure of all the varieties at the gardening centre, having no idea what it tasted like... I'm so glad I like it! (otherwise I would have just used it for cooking & given to the birds).

But, the other variety, my favourite, is far more elusive. It's a cultivar called "Puckrupp Pippin" which looks dreadful both whole and cut up. Here's a picture:

Wisley RHS garden Sat 22nd Oct 2005 010

But looks are deceptive, as it tasted amazingly creamy and I liked it so much that it's sparked this search.

I've managed to find a UK supplier and placed an order for delivery in September 2006. It takes so long because they graft the trees to order. Apparently apple trees planted from seed don't 'come true' to the variety of the original apple the seed came from. The only way to get a copy is to graft a cutting onto the rootstock of another apple tree. They do this in January and then they're ready to be planted out in September.

So, the problem is solved for London for the short term, but I would love to find an Australian supplier so that we could have a tree at Amherst too. So far no luck, but I've emailed a few heritage orchards in Australia so fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

ideas from October roadtrip

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I've been away. Last week I got back from two weeks holiday driving round Northwest England with Mum. While away, we visited many historic homes and gardens, including Blackwell - a famous Arts & Crafts house I’ve been desperate to see ever since I heard of it. Besides being a fun trip it’s given me lots of inspiration for Amherst, especially for the garden. Here's a selection:

Blackwell in Lakes District

scan of fireplace alcove IMGP2720

fireplace tiling with bold colours and just a few patterned tiles for contrast...

...and high mantles

scanned fireplace in white room scanned barrel ceiling

interesting shelves around mantles and alcoves

this is while it was being restored but it shows clearly the lovely barrel shaped ceilings

Blackwell is a turn of the century Arts & Crafts home, designed by MH Baillie Scott. It was only restored and opened to the public a few years ago and still has almost all it’s original woodwork, tiles and stained glass. It has a wonderful feel to it and is quite distinct to Standen although they share a similar heritage. It’s the first time I’ve been inside a house that looked like a stereotypical Arts & Crafts design from picture books. It felt very liveable even with the sparse furnishings as everything was in the perfect proportions. My favourite parts in every room were the fireplaces; each was different and had an adjoining inglenook, often larger on one side and almost always with windows. Unfortunately they wouldn't let me take pictures inside but there's some photos at the main site and a good article about it with more photos here.

Levens Hall near Milnthorpe

Levens Hall topiary Levens Hall orchard

reminder of how effective it can be to have a short hedge of box around island beds

pink border plant Levens Hall pond overflow

wonderful pale pink flower with beanlike seedheads, staked waist high in an autumn border

boring but practical...having an overflow drain at the side of garden ponds

Levens Hall has reputedly the world’s best (and oldest) topiary garden. It was fascinating, but perhaps the biggest learning for me was to avoid topiary! Not because it looks bad – on the contrary, I discovered it can create an Alice-in-Wonderland type atmosphere done en-masse and was surprised how much fun it was to walk in. But, it takes decades to establish and maintaining it is clearly an impossible amount of work; I just can’t see myself managing to do justice to anything but the simplest piece. You can see more pictures from our visit here.

The Courts Garden

Courts Garden lily pond berries in Temple Border at Courts Garden

Incorporating a formal marsh-like border around a pond

Having lots of berries for Autumn colour

grass border at Courts garden box planting in orchard at Courts Garden

Using grasses to create a shimmering walkway

Planting hedging shrubs at the base of fruit trees, so they can be sculpted into a ‘collar’

Courts Garden holly hedge

Using holly for hedging and sculpting hedges into more organic flowing shapes

The Courts Garden is a National Trust garden about a half hours drive outside Bath. To see the full set of photos from our visit there, click here.

Hollytree Cottage B&B

sorbus tree at Hollytree cottage autumn foliage near Hollytree cottage

Sorbus tree; planted on an angle to create an arch effect

Planting climbers with bright autumn colour to fall over a low wall near a gate


holly tree at Hidcote Old Garden at Hidcote

Letting a variegated holly bush grow into a tree

Borders so deep they’re almost squares, which you can walk around on all sides

sage at Hidcote toad lily at Hidcote

Wonderful varieties of sage, like Boutin with flowers like felt

Toad lilies (or tricyrtis to give them their proper name), which grew waist high

snowberries at Hidcote


To see the full set of photos from this visit to Hidcote, click here… Hidcote truly is one of the most inspiring gardens I’ve visited and even in not-great weather it’s still wonderful. But, to see it in full glory, here are photos from a Summer visit several years ago when I first fell in love with it.

Snowshill Manor

sloped bank at Snowshill Snowshill garden shed view

Unusual layout of a garden bank, with arced wall and grass walkways to zigzag down instead of steps

Garden buildings which are in the middle of the garden with doors that form a walkway

Another idea - which sadly I wasn't able to take a photo of - was using writing as part of room decoration – e.g., cut-out wooden letters balanced in arced wall grooves (so not flat against wall) that spell out a phrase.

Mostly Snowshill is visited to see the house contents – which is a treasure trove collection of everyday things, like antique bicycles, toys, costumes and so on. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take any photos inside, but we did take some of the garden which is nice in its own way. To see more photos of the garden click here.

Lacock Village and Abbey

door in Lacock Village

Clock incorporated in a door

Lacock is an entire village preserved by the National Trust. The only things that bring it to the modern age are seeing all the cars, the tarmac and people’s clothes. But, get rid of the cars, bring in some dirt to cover the roads and period costumes and you have instant period set – which is why it seems almost every period drama in the UK gets filmed there! It’s also been used in the Harry Potter films, especially the Cloisters underneath the Abbey. To see the full set of pictures, including the Cauldron from the first Harry Potter movie, click here.

Acorn Bank Garden

Acorn Bank greenhouse artichoke in herb garden at Acorn Bank

Permanent raised beds inside a greenhouse

Pretty artichoke flowers

virginian pokeroot waterlily pond in herb garden border

Virginian Pokeroot

Small mini-ponds interspersed in borders to grow water plants

path into pear orchard at Acorn Bank garden closeup of steps at Acorn Bank

Lovely narrow winding cobbled path through the orchard

Unusual angled pair of steps

Acorn Bank terrace border

Terraced paths with plants in a narrow strip and down the banks, with undercover ponds

Acorn Bank is quite small but lovely in its own way. It has one of the largest collections of herbs in England and a lovely orchard with lots of old apple and pear varieties. To see the full set of photos click here.

Hilltop in Lakes District

window with plants at Hilltop

growing alpine plants in small ridge on roof

As for Snowshill, Hilltop is famous for the inside of the house rather than the garden, as it’s where Beatrix Potter (she of Peter Rabbit fame) lived. You can’t take pictures of the house, but if you want to see more photos of the outside, especially the vegetable garden, click here. Even though the garden was looking a little worse for wear, we couldn’t resist photographing it considering it’s where so many of the stories were set! It's in the little village of Hawkshead in the Lakes District

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

interesting window shutters

Last weekend I visited Nice, in the south of France. I was there for a "hen party" - ie: a girls weekend away to celebrate a friend's wedding. It was a lot more civilised than the male equivalent(!) in that we didn't spend the entire time in bars & got to see some of the city.

As per usual, I kept a look-out for ideas for Amherst. I'm a big fan of window shutters in all guises, but Nice was the first place I've ever seen "shutters within shutters":

049interesting shutters in Nice

I think it might be fun to have the 'Nice' shutter style in some windows, interspersed with the more traditional Australian approach, aka:

awnings with blinds