You can’t beat seeing horticulture first-hand

Chrysanth Society display. Picture by Tom PattinsonChrysanth Society display. Picture by Tom Pattinson
Chrysanth Society display. Picture by Tom Pattinson
Summer gardens should be enjoyed by everyone. Some are open to the public on a regular basis, others just occasionally in the name of charity.

Then there is your very own space, seen by some as an outdoor extension of living quarters, a place that offers opportunities for all tastes, food production, creativity, and relaxation.

And even when you’ve achieved your version of paradise, surrounded by plants, structures and furnishings, there’s a lingering urge to improve, make additions, and fine-tune. This is normal. Gardens evolve over time and one of the best ways of finding inspiration for change is by visiting those of others.

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Ideally, this would include gardens large and small, locally, nationally, and worldwide. This enthusiast`s interests also take in exhibitions and flower shows, of which Chelsea is tops for ideas. All the latest hardware, gadgetry and tools are there for viewing, and the diversity of trade stands displaying plants growing out-of-season to perfection, is stunning.

Fragrant Roses and Garden Pinks. Picture by Tom PattinsonFragrant Roses and Garden Pinks. Picture by Tom Pattinson
Fragrant Roses and Garden Pinks. Picture by Tom Pattinson

All these things I found so absorbing until they came to an abrupt halt, of necessity, during closedown. During the intervening period we’ve visited two virtual Chelsea Shows online. Warkworth Flower Show also went virtual last year, and are doing so again in mid-August.

There remains the possibility of virtual garden tours. However, nothing compares with observing first-hand, horticultural items in their setting and discussing the pros and cons with someone involved in their creation.

The lady of the house and I recently visited several gardens in Lesbury village that were open under the NGS charitable organisation. All such locations offered by the scheme are currently booked online. The occasion was like a breath of fresh air and enlightening.

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We were in the process of renewing vegetable and fruit cages and netting at the time and had thumbed through a series of catalogues in search of suitable structures. Those we saw and discussed in local gardens that morning helped focus our thoughts. Similarly, a visit to four Craster Village gardens open under the same scheme, focused our attention on the considerable range of plants tolerant of a sea front setting and salt laden wind. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The gift which keeps on giving!

Once a summer garden is up and running, it keeps giving. With a little planning, the harvesting of vegetables and fruit will continue for weeks. There’s also the spiritual reward of relaxing in the presence of greenery and flowers.

My first and last outdoor actions of the day are tours of the garden with the captivating sound of a blackbird or song-thrush, and the flower fragrances enhanced by morning dew or drifting on the evening air.

Flowers currently dominate our garden scene. Typical of this is the group of roses by the patio, chosen for their form and fragrance and in the company of gorgeous garden pinks. Whether you are walking past or dining alfresco in their presence, Olivia Rose Austin, Chandos Beauty, Gabriel Oak and Just Joey are a joy to behold. There are such subtle differences in the scent emanating from each that it’s understandable top breeders enlist the help of perfumiers in describing the fragrance of newly created bloom.

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There’s certainly no mistaking the chocolate fragrance of Cosmos atrosanguinea blooms in the mixed border, but seeing this plant safely through winter can be a challenge if it's planted in a frost pocket.

The foliage of many plants need only the slightest touch to offer their contribution. The collection of herbs in our raised beds, one or more of which join every evening meal, have such a distinct individual scent they can be identified with the eyes closed.

In a previous article I mentioned some plant leaf fragrances. Borage (cucumber), Alloysia (lemon), Rose eglanteria (ripe apple), Helichrysum serotinum (curry).

On our recent RGS visit to Craster we purchased a delightful Salvia x Jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ from Gill and Dave’s plant stall.

A worthy addition to the garden, it has blackcurrant-scented leaves!

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