25 June 2012

Cott'sbrooke Characters

Special Plants' Derry Watkins, with purple accessories.

 Rosie Bose of Glendon Hall lets down her hair.

Ancient Industries ingenues are recommended.

Carrier Company Tina plus Hepburn cheekbones.

Gina Portman of Folk at Home.

James Alexander-Sinclair with his new wooden spoon.

Cotts snapper James Corbett

Swing Seat Des and Niwaki Jake

 Turned out nice: a sunny late afternoon in Northamptonshire.

02 June 2012

The Thirteen Clocks

On a fine, sunny day last week I visited Cottesbrooke Hall. Formerly known as Brooke Hall on these pages, it was the setting for my year-long training with the Women's Farm and Garden Association, a good excuse to drive down the farm tracks of Northamptonshire at dawn before many long days of labour and toil. In a completely inspiring setting. I went to see my old friends in the Gardeners' Mess Room and then was allowed out into the park and 13-acre gardens.

Because every inch is combed through by the three and a half gardeners there is a lot more garden per acre than most people have with no acres. The planting density is higher. The Terrace is a classic double border in the country house style: the garden-visiting public demands this in a place with 'Hall' in its address. Ribbons of smart tulips were still flowering away thanks to the well-irrigated spring, but meadow flowers like corn cockle (below) are becoming a presence and they have crept and then marched into all the formal borders.

As always, it is the unplanned combinations that really sing in anyone's back yard. I was particularly struck by the dandelion clocks on a bank in the Wild Garden, mixing with camassia. The white globes crowding around the Chinese pagoda were like a mass of lanterns, making the place look like a storybook version of the East via the East of England.

Other choice weeds were planted at Chelsea this year, on purpose, and with their good friends the native wild flowers, they did not let the side down. For more raving about weeds and friends do visit my very own Way of the Weed, over at the Observer, including the reliably lively comments section.

Herbalism inspired by Julia the herbalist, also known as