Tag Archives: Bluebell Nursery

TO SISSINGHURST – IN JANUARY – TO ADMIRE THE ROSES

BALLETIC ROSE PRUNING, CRISP STRUCTURAL PLANTING, PREPARING FOR ‘THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF SPRING’img_3305

Immaculately choreographed, pruned stems of Rosa mulliganii against the sky, The White Garden, Sissinghurst.

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Effervescent – also beautifully choreographed, obviously –  Burns Night Haggis Dinner in Peckham given by Jake TilsonJeff Lee and their daughter Hannah Tlison (above).

img_3377The Top Courtyard, Sissinghurst Castle, the walls laced with the curving stems of pruned roses.

I am standing at the entrance to Sissinghurst Castle barely able to keep myself away from leaping over the box hedge and forensically examining the wall ahead of me. It is almost the last day of January. The glowing end-of-winter Burns night festivities are over and after a freezing couple of weeks – down to -7ºC here in Kent – the weather has become milder and there is a feeling that things in the garden are beginning to get on their way. I am with Sissinghurst Head Gardener, Troy Scott Smith, who bends down gently to point out the emerging shoots of peonies –  for now just tiny dashes of carmine red against velvet brown soil. He is describing how it feels to be in the garden at this time of year “There is something nice about a quiet spell.  I think gardens that are open to the public need it. There is something wholesome about that full cycle, the contrast with the extravagance of spring and summer”.

Troy has generously agreed to show me the garden in winter and knows I am dead keen to start with the roses.

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img_3370 img_3371                  The entrance to Sissinghurst Castle, Rosa ‘Alister Stella Gray’ against the brick wall.

To the right of a brick arch there is an eighty year old ‘Golden Rambler’, Rosa ‘Alister Stella Gray’. Peter Beales describes it as ‘ a repeat-flowering Noisette rose with cascading clusters of double, shapely flowers, yellow with ‘eggy’ centres paling to cream and eventually white at the edges. Highly perfumed and producing long, slightly spindly branches ideal for arches and trellises’. It is wonderful to see how carefully and cleverly the rose has been pruned for maximum coverage and softly-falling flowering. Long stems are retained and curved to form softly rounded steps and counter-steps against the wall. There are plenty of the horizontal stems (necessary for maximum flowering),  but the whole system is flowing rather than rigid, as so much rose-pruning tends to end up. These gentle shapes will be entirely achievable (I tell myself) if I look hard enough at these images and use them as a guide next time I head out into the garden with my secateurs ….

I feel a little pressurised to learn that rose-pruning at Sissinghurst is almost over – indeed pruning began on October 15th! The climbing roses against the walls go first – ‘for two reasons: first it is cold and windy high up, second we can clear the beds after pruning at the right time of year.’ Troy uses the classic Nutscene garden twine (in green) and was so frustrated with the flimsiness/garishness of modern vine eyes that he had a mould made of an old one and now a blacksmith keeps the garden supplied with these bespoke chunky vine eyes for the 2mm wires that stretch along the brick. ‘We tend to go twice round the wire and once round the stem of the rose’.img_8605                                                                  Nutscene garden twine.

img_8581             Troy Scott Smith’s handmade vine eyes based on an old example from the garden.

When the roses have been pruned they are given fertiliser (Sissinghurst has its own recipe: 2 parts Sulphate of Potash to 1 part Kieserite), and then a layer of compost – ‘compost is an underrated thing’ sighs Troy – is spread at the base of the plant. Once the buds have started to break in mid March, a fortnightly spraying regime begins – it takes two gardeners two hours to get round the extensive rose collection. There is a wisdom combined with an experimental curiosity in Troy’s approach which I will see again and again over the course of the morning. He will try out different combinations of traditional fungicides and Savona soap solution and regularly sprays with liquid seaweed feed or SB Plant Invigorator (which is new to me and looks impressive) too. ‘We pause for the main flowering period June, July. Last year we did a little bit of an experiment where we didn’t spray a number of roses for the last part of the summer’. The blackspot and rust came back with vigour but he is happy that he has tried.
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SB Plant Invigorator.

Against the entrance arch the octogenarian ‘Alistair Stella Gray’ is not as vigorous as it used to be so instead of trying to get it to stretch over the entire arch it has been ‘retreated’ to one side and a new ‘Alistair Stella Gray’ planted on the opposite side of the arch so that the two can meet.

Ageing plants provide a constant challenge for Troy and his team throughout the garden. In the White Garden there is a famous central arbour smothered in Rosa mulligani .

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Rosa mulliganii in flower.

 In fact, to maintain a spectacular display of this fragrant rose (believed to be the biggest of climbing rose available in the UK), there are now three roses, the original one, a second one planted by the previous Sissinghurst Head Gardener, Alexis Datta, and now Troy has added a third rose – all trained over the iron arbour designed by Nigel Nicholson, with assistance from rose expert Graham Stuart Thomas, when the original rose was at its most vigorous. The pruning regime of the three roses remains the same with the aim of producing spare, dancing ‘living lace’  that stops the heart on this cold winter day and will produce an incredible frothing canopy of white in midsummer.

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img_8408 img_8411 The Rosa muliganii arbour in The White Garden – the stems of the rose are pruned into heartstoppingly beautiful ‘Living Lace’.

Elsewhere in the garden the same looping pruning discipline prevails – against walls, next to a spur-pruned apple tree at the back of the shop, along strong wire to create a stand alone rose ‘fence’ and, looking particularly handsome on this grey January day, against the white clapboard building next to the café:

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The Sissinghurst ‘living lace’ style of rose pruning against walls and fences.

In the walled Rose Garden the shrub roses are supposed to be finished by the end of the week.  There is a rhythmic calm as the team (there are six full time gardeners, two part time gardeners and a number of invaluable volunteers) make their way through the space, pruning and clearing as they go, creating a low creeping world of supple crinolines and elegant towers. The crinolines are created by arching the new, flexible stems into semi-circles and training these onto hazel hoops or ‘benders’ in the ground.

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img_8469           img_3368Shrub roses, trained into Louise Bourgoi-like spider shapes, take over the Rose Garden.

The South facing Rose Garden walls are dizzy with fabulously tangled figs. It is fascinating to see, again, how crucial curves are to achieve the right sort of comfortable fullness when the figs come into leaf. Pruning the figs is a finely judged matter – it takes place as late as possible at Sissinghurst because of the tenderness of the figs. But in a warm spell the leaves break fast so when the moment comes the walls need to be tackled at speed.

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The fabulously tangled wall trained figs – pruning to take place as late as possible.

As we watch the steady transformation of the taller shrub roses from stands of impenetrable shagginess to clearly defined towers with neat scalloped frames, Troy explains his plans to reintroduce an avenue of cherry trees into the Rose Garden. Despite extensive research, it is not known which cherries Vita Sackville-West originally planted so he has decided on the winter flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella autumnalis) which she is known to have liked and which crucially has a reasonably  light  canopy. Obviously the moment you plant trees in a border there will be a knock-on effect on the planting beneath it … …’The only problem with the winter flowering cherry is that visitors won’t really see it’ he adds with a slightly anxious laugh (giving me a glimpse for a moment of the incredible number of ingredients that must be juggled for every decision made in this world famous, historic garden), but then he is reassured by the fact that the Rose Garden can be seen from the Tower and glimpsed en route to the the newly open-to-the-public South Cottage, both of which are open throughout the winter.

img_8467 img_3367The transformation of a taller shrub rose.

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The compact boards which are used throughout the borders during pruning to protect the heavy clay soil.

As I walk to take in the famous view from the Tower I am reminded that there is one rose in the garden which will not, of course, be pruned until just after it has flowered. The thornless evergreen rambler, Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, is one of the earliest roses to flower – it has clusters of pale lemon flowers in late spring – and at Sissinghurst it forms a delicate screen of foliage in the central arch which beckons you onwards and which will explode into a haze of yellow later in the year.

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Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ against the arch that separates the Top Courtyard from the Lower Courtyard.

Once at the top of the tower it is a complete pleasure to take in the clean-edged sculptural quality of the yew hedges and the quartet of Irish yews in the garden of South Cottage. If you are ever flagging in your faith in the power of structure in the garden, head to Sissinghurst as early in the year as you can (the entire garden will be open this year from March 11th).

img_3379 img_3381The clean lines of yew hedges especially seen from the Tower.

Within the garden the hedges play a shifting series of roles. Here, tight clipped yew provides ballast and guides the eye firmly into the distance:

img_8488                                     Yew hedges guide the eye firmly into the distance.

Elsewhere the velvet green planes provide a wonderful back-drop to red winter stems or the pale silvery buds of magnolia  :

img_3349img_8570Red winter stems and silvery magnolia buds against velvety green yew.

I love this glimpse of the Herb Garden with pea sticks leaning ready for action against the wooden bench which nestles so comfortably between buttresses of yew. The bleached-out, silvery-mauve aromatic plants remain soft and inviting against the vivid green backdrop.

img_3317The Herb Garden.

Not a hedge – obviously – but this mown path through the damp grass of the Orchard has a surprisingly powerful presence.

img_3310The serene Orchard path.

There is a considerable amount of important box hedging in the garden which carries the usual worries of box in the 21st century – plus particular stylistic concerns for this famous garden.   Troy is tackling the situation in his characteristic surefooted and gently experimental way. In the White Garden he wants to loosen up the low box edging for a more abundant, relaxed feel – ‘I think Sissinghurst became too tidy’ – but at the same time has to balance the more fitting, softer aesthetic with the level of irritation the narrower paths might bring forth from demanding visitors. He is relaxed about the way the expanding hedges are looking a bit rough around the edges as they are allowed to grow. If there is an ailing section of hedge he moves box plants from elsewhere in the garden to fill the gap (he would not consider introducing new box into the garden now) and, in case the worse happens – ‘I have the sad feeling we will have to take all our box out one day’ – he has just brought in a load of Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’ (the box leaved euonymus) to trial.

img_8416             Box edging in the White Garden – beginning to bulge satisfactorily.

Elsewhere in the garden the Lion Pond at the base of the old Elizabethan wall is brought alive in winter by the vibrant fresh green of some low box hedging.

img_8571The fresh green of a section of box hedging near the Lion Pond gives this area energy at the beginning of the year.

Yew and pleached lime trees are a vital and anchoring combination both at the front of the Castle and at the approach to the Lime Walk from South Cottage.

img_3385Yew hedge and pleached limes at the front of Sissinghurst Castle.

The four Irish yews in the Cottage Garden are incredibly beautiful at any time of year. In this photograph there is the wonderful extra layering of Irish yew with box drums behind and then a clipped yew hedge directly in front of a section of  pleached lime.img_3364              Rich layering of Irish yew, box, yew hedge and pleached lime in the Cottage Garden

The Lime Walk is famous for its immaculate avenue of trained lime trees underplanted with spring bulbs.

img_3323The Lime Walk.

But of course nothing about a garden can stand still and it takes a skilled and subtle gardener to tackle the challenges that the Lime Walk quietly but insistently poses. Troy has changed the pruning regime of the trees themselves – bringing the date forward from August to Midsummer’s Day. This brings more light into the walk itself during the summer and leads to a haze of wonderful ruby growth.

img_3325Deep red new growth on the lime trees a result of midsummer pruning.

He is fond of this effect, but at the back of his mind is a slight worry that this pruning regime may perhaps be weakening the trees. At the same time the branches are becoming altogether too long and a further experiment is taking place – luckily on a shorter stretch of lime trees elsewhere in the garden – to reduce the branches considerably .

Then there are the bulb beds underneath the trees. I can see hundreds of Crocus tommasinianus shoots, but my enthusiasm is quickly checked as Troy explains that the crocus has become ‘so aggressive and spread so well that it outcompetes some of the finer tulips and fritillaries’.  Sections of border are being taken up each year, cleared, sterilised and then the bulbs (which are planted in mixed groups in pots to create as natural an effect as possible as quickly as possible) are sunk into the beds.

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Hundreds of unwanted Crocus tommasinianus shoots in the beds of the Lime Walk.

Then there are questions of opening up the area immediately beyond the Lime Walk so that visitors can stroll down unimpeded to the lake – and how best to do this of course – and beyond the Lime Walk is the Nuttery where the underplanting is also getting out of balance (Troy remembers a lighter, more dancing tapestry of planting when he was here before in 1992-97 ). Added to this, the mostly yellow azalea border across the path is about to be replaced with a much richer palette of azaleas underplanted with brightly coloured polyanthus (which Vita had until 1973) and glamorous peonies and lilies ‘It might be a bit bold in places but you don’t want to be too tasteful’ muses the Head Gardener with a grin.
img_8443                                                   Silhouette of pleached lime against the sky.
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img_8433The Nuttery – the underplanting is under review so that the epimedium seen here for example does become too dominant.

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The Azalea Bank left – about to undergo a 1970’s polaroid transformation.

As well as a host of venerable garden advisors and historians, Dan Pearson comes on a voluntary basis twice a year to act as an advisor and sounding board. I can imagine that these are productive and hugely enjoyable days much appreciated even by the most thoughtful of Head Gardeners..

Before I leave the garden I make a note of the straightforward plants which are looking good even at this time of the year. The blue-grey leaved Euphorbia characias is as always looking fresh and strong – such a great architectural plant that always helps an area of the garden look well furnished and happy.

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Euphorbia characias adding fullness to the spare winter border against the Elizabethan Wall.

At the entrance to South Cottage Mahonia and Helleborus foetidus look bright and fresh, especially perhaps because they are each given a good amount of space in which to shine.

img_8564Mahonia and Helleborus foetidus against the entrance to South Cottage.

One of my surprise favourites is this fine, spikey pair of Yucca gloriosa which I admit to never having used, but which looks wonderfully at home with box and rosemary at the base of this aged red wall.

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Yucca glorious anchoring the entrance border.

One sneaky inclusion in this list is Rosa ‘Meg’ which is also growing at the entrance. It is a rose I have not grown – and which was obviously not in flower! –  but which has, I discover, large, almost single, beautifully waved flowers and a delicate pink-apricot colour, with red-gold stamens. It would look wonderful in a garden with my favourite Rosa mutabilis whose flowers pass through shades of apricot yellow to coppery pink.

15094Rosa ‘Meg’.

Another new discovery is the rare evergreen shrub Distylium racemosum, or Winter-hazel, which is sunning itself on the left of the central Courtyard archway with some Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Sissinghurst Blue’ bursting out at its feet. I have tracked it down to the wonderful Bluebell Nursery where it has a rave review ‘a slow growing attractive evergreen tree from Japan… in spring attractive, small, red Hamamelis-like flowers with lurid purple stakes appear on the older branches’. One for the shopping list.
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Distylium racemosum growing to the left of the Courtyard arch.

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The red witch hazel like flowers of Distylium racemosum. (Photograph courtesy of Bluebell Nursery).

The oldest rose in the garden is the ‘Mme Alfred Carrière’ that covers the front of South Cottage. This was the first thing planted by Vita Sackville West in the entire garden and it is this rose that gets ceremoniously pruned first in the middle of October. I was charmed to discover that Vita had determinedly planted the rose before the couple had actually signed the Title Deeds for the Castle, a sort of guarantee to herself that she was going to make a garden here.

It is a move I might employ myself in some lonely country plot in the coming years. Husband, be warned.
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Rosa ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ against South Cottage – the oldest plant in the garden.

 

A PIGEON IN A CRAB APPLE TREE

THE DAHLIA PAPERS’ RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GARDENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS – AND HOW TO REMAIN PALE AND INTERESTING WHILST ACQUIRING THEM

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Wood pigeon in crab apple tree, Laxfield, Suffolk, December 2014

At the turnstiles, South Kensington tube station. I am bracing myself for a first session of Christmas shopping when I find myself turning right into the tunnel instead of making my way upwards to ground and shop level.  The station has long borne a tantalising sign that simply says ‘Museums’ and flashing through my mind was the knowledge that the refurbished Cast Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum had re- opened only the night before.  How could I resist sneaking off to the V&A instead of weighing up the impact of the ‘faux’ aspect of a ‘faux mohair’ throw for my mother or worrying if an 18 year old boy, closely related to me, would show any sign of increased animation when discovering a  ‘reinterpreted piece of apparel from the Adidas archive” (i.e. a navy blue t-shirt that says ‘By Nigo’ under a giant Adidas logo) in his Christmas stocking?

On arrival at the museum I am immediately drawn towards the ruddy glow of the John Madejski Garden – the wonderful courtyard garden at the heart of the museum.  Here,  glittering softly in a quiet rainbow of reds and golds, is the most wonderful, gently radiant, Liquidamber.  Two wise visitors are picnicking calmly in the fading light under the best possible early Christmas tree.

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Two wise picnickers under a Liquidambar, The John Madejksi Garden, V&A

I feel eighteen again myself as I enter Room 46a – which together with its neighbour 46b – now named the Weston Cast Court – are the only public galleries in the museum which display the same collection of objects as when they first opened: an exceptional group of 19th Century plaster cast reproductions which allow you to travel wondrously around Europe and through history in the space of a gorgeous hour.

IMG_2477Towering Trajan’s Column, Room 46a, Cast Courts, Victoria and Albert Museum 

I am drawn first to the glimmering bronze detail of the Porta di San Ranieri – from Pisa Cathedral, c. 1180 – with this rhythmic scene of palm trees and Wise Men.
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Electrotype of Panel from the Porta di San Ranieri, Pisa: The Three Wise Men

And then to the pale exquisite perfection of casts from the cloisters of the Church of San Juan de Los Reyes at Toledo c. 1480-1500:

IMG_2487IMG_2489Detail from cloisters of San Juan de Los Reyes, Toledo

There is a sense of wonder and tremendous calm in these rooms and yet it is fantastically intimate. You are allowed to get close, to photograph, sketch, just sit and imagine you are in Southern Spain or Florence.

I love the rhythmical boxy flowers carved from milky reddish stone from the central pier of a doorway at Amiens Cathedral, 1220-35:

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And in the next door room, the yellow-gold exuberance of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, Florence, 1425 -52:

IMG_2522Detail from Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise

There is an exhilerating sense of scale and it is a fantastic privilege to be able to experience seeing the Gates and Michelango’s David at a mere arm’s length from each other – even on a visit to Florence to see the real thing separate pilgrimages would of course be required to the Baptistry and the Uffizi Gallery respectively.

IMG_2536Michaelangelo’s David and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise

I am entranced by the rather magical photographs which you cannot help but take of the box-framed ‘Fig leaf for David’ – believed to have been made in 1857 to protect the modesty of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert:

IMG_2527Fig Leaf for David, Brucciani & Co. c 1857

There is the crisp, star-burst clarity of decoration from the Tomb of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, 1505-09:

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Detail from the Tomb of Ascanio Sforza, 1505-09

And I stay for quite a while before the exquisite cool angel-wing carving of Donatello’s Cavalcanti Annunciation, 1425-50:

IMG_2509IMG_2507Donatello’s Cavalcanti Annunciation

Before I leave I enjoy the inventive charm of the 3D oak tree and wheat sheaves of Orcagna’s ‘The Assumption and Death of the Virgin’:

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The Assumption and Death of the Virgin, 1352, Andrea de Gione, known as Orcagna

I dart – for further fortification –  into the cafe. Here the Gamble Room is resplendent with its year-round giant bauble lighting:

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A giant bauble light, The Gamble Room, V&A Cafe

I am feeling much readier to think about Christmas and indeed Christmas presents and am going to change my approach. For myself (should anyone important be reading this …) I would be keen to start a collection of antique William Morris/William de Morgan tiles so that one day I will have enough to line a garden loggia …

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IMG_2556William Morris tiles from the Cafe at the V&A

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The loggia at the Arts and Crafts house,  Standen, National Trust, East Sussex

More realistically, inspired by the Liquidambar in the John Madejski Garden,  I am thinking  that alternative Christmas Trees would be a great place to start for presents for family and friends:

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The Madejski Garden at nightfall – The Liquidambar is now gold against gold

One of the prettiest trees to give at Christmas is a winter flowering cherry: Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’. This is a small tree – worth looking out for a multi-stemmed one – which quietly lights up the garden from November to March with delicate, pink tinged white flowers.  www.bluebellnursery.com has bare root plants at 125-150cm available for mail-order for £29.50.

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Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

Another great present choice is a ready-trained U-cordon apple tree.  Three of these  – there is still time for a Christmas delivery if you hurry – arrived from Pennard Plants in time for Christmas last year. The trees were inspired by my visit to the Prieuré D’Orsan (see my December 5th 2013 post): they have been handsome and prolific and are excellent hosts at Christmas for midwinter lighting.

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U-Cordon Apple trees, Camberwell with young fruit and with festoon lights and naked wire lights (both the latter are available from Cox and Cox )

prieure pommesU-cordon apple trees at the Prieuré D’Orsan

The apple trees carry slate labels which were also inspired by the labelling at the Prieuré –  permanent gold marker pens, slate labels with or without holes and fine galvanised tying wire are all available very inexpensively from the brilliant The Essentials Company and would make another good present.

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Gooseberry label, La Prieuré D’OrsanIMG_8724

Queen Cox label, South London

A crab apple tree with particularly long last red fruit would be another excellent tree to give at Christmas. Helen Fraser and I planted a pair of Malus x atrogsanguinea ‘Gorgeous’ from Landford Trees in one of our favourite gardens in Oxfordshire (see our Fraser&Morris website) where it is both long flowering and holds onto its fruit well into December:

december 2010 003Frosted Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’ fruit, Oxfordshire, December

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A welcoming pair of red-fruited crab apples in a front garden at Laxfield, Suffolk

Another tree to buy in a pair for a welcoming front door would be some handsome half standard variegated holly trees – Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’.  Really good size plants at 160-180cm are available for £44.50 each from the Big Plant Nursery

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Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ – flanking a front door in Canterbury and a close up of the light-catching leaves

My final suggestion of a tree to give for Christmas is a standard form of the White Currant ‘White Versailles’ – available mail order from Blackmoor Nursery for between £12 and £25 depending on whether you would prefer a bare root or a container grown plant.

Whitecurrant_LW A standard whitecurrant will grow into quite a sturdy, weeping small tree. It can cope with semi shade and leaves plenty of room underneath to plant with herbs perhaps or cutting tulips and wild strawberries which is the case in my own garden.  Whitecurrant fruit is hard to find in the shops but a single small tree can be very prolific, producing fruit to be eaten fresh with other berries in the summer and then made into an exquisite jelly for the winter:

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Frozen whitecurrants for making into jelly

Jane Grigson’s recipe from her wonderful ‘Fruit Book’ – another brilliant, enduring present – is based on Eliza Acton’s instructions.  You don’t even have to remove the leaves and stalks from the currants  – just cover the base of the pan with a thin layer of water, add the same quantity of sugar to fruit, boil hard for 8 minutes and strain to produce ‘a strong jelly of fine flavour’. The jelly is completely delicious with roast pheasant or lamb or with a blue cheese such as stilton. You will even be ahead of the game for Christmas presents the following year year…

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IMG_8640Jarof jewel-like white currant jelly, Camberwell

Two other book suggestions are Frances Bissell’s The Floral Baker – which is like a jar of sunshine with recipes for tomato and lavender tart and marigold, olive and manchego scones and will keep your friends and family happy, dreaming of the summer to come:

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And I can strongly recommend an almost dangerously provocative book for a plant nut: Bob GIbbons’ Wildflower Wonders of the World. I love this book – it cannot fail to make you want to make serious journeys to experience the intensity of the World’s most spectacular displays of wild flowers. 

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For a different kind of present for someone who loves plants and gardens, I have the work of two photographers to suggest.

I am a long standing admirer of Chrystel Lebas who uses a panoramic camera and long exposure times to create dreamlike sweeping landscapes which are hard to forget.  Her series ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ – a translation of the French phrase for twilight,  ‘entre chien et loup’ – has fantastic images of frozen shadowy, fairytale forests –  what could be a better present to receive on Christmas morning? Her covetable prints are available from The Photographers Gallery

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An image from the ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ series by Chrystel Lebas

Newly discovered for 2014 and absolutely on my own Christmas list, are the innovative iphoto images of award-winning photographer Nettie Edwards who is currently an artist in residence at Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire – more on this in The Dahlia Papers in 2015. You can read about her work and her time at Painswick in her blog Hortus Lucis A year in a garden of Light . I love the soft, atmospheric painterly quality of her photographs.  Prints are available from about £100 – contact Nettie Edwards direct on net@nettieweb.co.uk

rococo_chinoiserie1kale-flowers-05_14gothic-bench-salt-print-05_14exedra-04_14Four Photographs taken at Painswick Rococo Garden by Nettie Edwards, net@nettie.web.co.uk

I came upon my very last idea for an alternative Christmas tree – or indeed Christmas present – when walking in Peckham last week with artist and writer, Jake Tilson. We talked about his brilliantly illustrated, perceptively written new book about Christmas food (available mail order, of course from Tender Books ) as he led me to his latest find …Cooking Christmas

Together we peered over a back garden fence to admire the most fantastic Persimmon tree, heavily laden with orange fruit.   The wonderful attribute of Persimmon – if you are after a spectacular December display – is that the fruit ripens very late and stays on the tree to dazzle on a winter’s day.  Reads Nursery in Suffolk are selling large grafted specimen trees 5 – 6 feet tall,  a bargain at £64.50.
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Persimmon tree laden with fruit, Peckham

Do go to the Cast Courts at the V&A for a moment of Christmas calm then sit back and buy everyone  you know a tree. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas, Non.

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Trained apple trees with lights, Petersham Nurseries

IMG_2417IMG_2414Classic, perfect, holly decorations, Laxfield Church, Suffolk