Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Special Plants: A Final Winter's View

Back in February when Derry Watkins was my VIP, I promised you a return to Special Plants to show the garden and nursery during winter time. As the world is currently turning golden yellow with the arrival of the daffodils and there's the suspicion of a fuzzy green appearing on some trees, I think today's my last chance to show you before all this becomes history for another year.

When I visited last September, it coincided with an article appearing in The English Garden. Just like this winter view from the back door of the house, the magazine's photos looked completely different to the one on view. That's because the garden was photographed the previous year so pictures relevant to the month of publication could be used. As Derry likes to change things around each year, the garden will look different again when you make your own visit.

A winter's visit not only meant I got the chance to see the garden at a time not usually seen by visitors, I was also able to appreciate the garden's structural elements such as this Beech circle called The Empty Quarter, introduced by Derry's architect husband Peter (he designed the garden, Derry planted it).

We also admired this view over Peter's Shapes in Landscape for several reasons: it's practical because the hedges disguise the water pump and sewage tank, plus the structures stop the garden running down the steep hill. I also thought they acted like a windowsill, underlining the view over the fields and hills beyond the garden. We joked about the garden having two halves: the structural, but planted half being Derry's and this more architectural side belonging to her husband. She also pointed out how the variable colouring of the Yew hedge was (shown in the middle of the picture): this was something I'd not noticed before, but winter brings out this kind of detail for us to appreciate.


In the summer I'd remarked to Threadspider about the unusual grass hedge, but didn't take a photo. It was still going strong in January. Derry likes the idea of the succession of the short grass of her garden, then the long grass of the Miscanthus forming a boundary, followed by the short grass of the fields beyond. The cut down area in the foreground is where she's using Pictorial Meadows seed mixes for a long lasting border of successional annuals.


The pond area still looked inviting and the plants within it showed the water quality to be extremely good. There was plenty of watercress growing at the point where the spring flows into the pond to the right of the picture.

Derry's nursery specialises in tender perennials many of which are also planted out in her garden. I was therefore surprised at how little the garden was wrapped up for winter protection. Instead lots of cuttings of favourite plants had been taken ready to plant up the borders anew come spring. Anything not surviving the winter is seen as an opportunity to try something else.


The garden and nursery have a spring fed water supply. Here, one of the springs splashes into the top of the garden at one side of the house. Threadspider and I thought this part of the garden wasn't working that well when we visited last year, so I was cheered when Derry told me this area is one of her projects for 2010: a new bog garden.


After my interview and tour, I was allowed to wander freely around the nursery and garden. I must be one of the few people around who can get excited over a relatively empty nursery! However, I viewed it as part of winter's renewal: a time to clear out old stock and to clean and prepare the nursery for 2010.

After all, there was plenty of life elsewhere: here's the greenhouse stuffed with plants as usual and with quite a few unusual Pelargoniums in flower. Derry confessed at her talk to Bath University Gardening Club last week that she had to start her nursery so she could make room for more plants in her greenhouse!


At the top of the nursery there's plenty of cuttings being given the tough love they need to provide good, strong healthy plants for 2010's gardening season. By now garden tidying and seed sowing will be in full swing and both the nursery and garden will have started their transformation into what this year's visitors and customers will see. Opening times can be found here which also includes details about this year's Special Tuesdays: Derry's series of short weekly talks about various aspects of gardening and plant care.

11 comments:

  1. What can I say, you know I'm a convert already. Fab post. Great pics. I really do love that beach circle.

    RO xx

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  2. Good post, I really must get to Special Plants this year, beginning to feel left out!!

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  3. Derry's garden is great - I believe because it is that classic combination of architect (husband) and planting skill. An object lesson in how to deal with a slope which is running away from you.

    Derry has a great eye for putting plants together - colour and form working together and some broad generous sweeps.

    Brilliant. Do so wish there were more like it.

    XXx Anne

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  4. Very nice! What a good looking garden Derry and her husband have created...The windowsill is perfect for the vistas beyond. I see I am going to have to plan to move to England for the spring and summer and maybe fall to see all I want to see;) Oh if that could only happen! gail

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  5. How come I never knew this was just down the road? Jane will be off there sonnI guess.

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  6. Must must visit one of these days ! I do like the shape of that lawn and the curved hedge.

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  7. looks like a lovely place, I love the Beech circle

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  8. Hi everyone - yes, Derry's garden and nursery are very special (!). I'm very lucky that she's within a 20 minute drive :)

    Gail - I think we're going to have to kidnap you and Frances when you come over and 'force' you to go around as many gardens as possible!

    Mark - it took me a while to find out too!

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  9. Fascinating post, I so enjoy seeing the great garden's winter aspect. It's starting to alarm me, this growing admiration for tightly clipped woody plants. I love the beech circle, and the Yew hedge is absolutely wonderful. Too bad the deer love Yew, otherwise I'd try that on a miniature scale.

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  10. MMD - I'm surprised the deer can eat Yew, I would have thought its toxicity would be a bit much for them.

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  11. I've been meaning to go there for years, this has convinced me I will do it this year (perhaps even next week!)

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