My  Blooming Cactus

I have a few house plants, but only ones that require little or no attention.  Whilst I spend time nurturing my garden and outside pots, although my houseplants are in clear daily vision I have a tendency to ignore them, tipping the odd glass of water on them when I remember.  It doesn’t seem to do them any harm and one that has thrived on neglect is the Cactus I bought last year.

Its official name is Schlumberger, known as  a Christmas Cactus and also Thanksgiving Cactus, a name which makes much more sense and will explain why it is in full bloom now.

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On the 5th November, after a summer of being abandoned on my kitchen windowsill, I noticed it was full of little flower buds.  If you are one for reading instructions on how to care for plants, there are seemingly highly scientific directives about reducing light and temperature at certain times for specific periods – all too much for me to bother with!

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True to the name of Thanksgiving Cactus, it was bursting with the most beautiful pink and white flowers by the 24th November.  This Cactus does come in a range of reds and pinks, mine has petals which are shocking pink at the base graduating to white tips and bright red stamens, this beautiful Cactus sits on my windowsill abundant with candy floss colour.  Pretty good considering the non-care it receives during the year.

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The Schlumberger is a succulent, loving humidity and low light, mine has defied all odds, it sits on my kitchen windowsill in full sun during the summer.   I will, however, repot it in March as it deserves a great big thank you for looking so blooming good.

Rousham Gardens – A Must to Visit

Day 3 of my short break to Oxford was a visit to Rousham Gardens.  I was surprised at the number of people who had not heard of Rousham when I spoke of our itinerary, it is clearly a little known, but very important in the history of garden design.  Rousham is an original English Landscape Garden, almost unchanged since William Kent (1685-1748) remodelled the garden created by Charles Bridgeman in the 1720’s.

Rousham is a favourite of Monty Don and in this video he describes it as the best landscape garden in the country.  I have included it in this post as it really does give you an excellent feel as to why it is such a great place.   Having spent several hours at Rousham I now fully understand his love of the garden.   Monty’s video concentrates on the landscape part of the garden with its Palladian style of architecture, classic temples, follies and statues.  As you will see later in this post there is more to the garden than landscape.

A brief history of William Kent

William Kent was born in Bridlington, and started as a painter decorator.  He was encouraged by an employer to study art, design and architecture and had a period of study in Italy.  Kent became an eminent architect of both houses and landscapes originating English Landscape gardens.   He was involved with Stowe Gardens and this is probably why when walking around Rousham it definitely has a Stowe feeling about it.


Kent’s folly The Pyramid has a quintessential English countryside view, over the river, to the cattle grazing in the field opposite.

Some of the views, such as the Praeneste Terrace are probably not the same as it was in Kent’s time due to the well established trees, leaving the intended view to your imagination.   The eagle eyed of you who have watched Monty’s video (filmed I believe in 2012) will notice there are no benches in the Terrrace but there are now, so I wonder if they were being renovated.  I would like to think they are the original benches.

As I said earlier, there is more to Rounsham than landscape gardening.   When you walk around to the back of the house, which by the way is open by prior arrangement, you are met with an immaculate, manicured, expanse of lawn, known as the Bowling Green.

To the side of the house is the Walled Garden.  The rose garden was very sheltered and warm which would probably explain why the roses are still in full bloom.  We sat here and had our picnic.   There are no refreshment facilities at Rousham and visitors are welcome to bring picnics and spend all day enjoying the garden.    The dahlia border was spectacular with the overwhelming colour being purple.

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Just before you enter the Rose Garden there is a very well cared for greenhouse and a shed with onions drying. i usually see them roped and hanging from a ceiling, I have never seen then drying like the ones above.

Further down is a well stocked kitchen garden and a large area of grass with a walk of apple trees and espalier trees.  It was a hot day, despite being the last day of September, and as we entered the orchard the aroma of apples was wonderful.   We spoke to the gardeners who told us that this part of the walled garden was the original vegetable garden, and the smaller kitchen garden was the fruit and berries garden.

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Rousham Gardens are open every day of the year from 10 am. Last admission is at 4.30 pm and the gardens close at dusk. Tickets for the garden are from a self service ticket machine at £5 per person.  Rousham House is open by prior arrangement.

I loved Rousham and would really recommend a visit.  This is one garden I will definitely go back to see.

Waterperry Gardens, nr Oxford

The first of our brief tour of gardens in the Oxford area was to Waterperry Gardens close to Oxford.

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It is always a bit hit and miss visiting gardens at the end of September, you never really know what you are going to see as so much of the summer planting is over.   However, judging from the photographs on Twitter, we were on a pretty good bet at seeing some fabulous Asters or Symphyotrichum as they are now called.

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Brief History of Waterperry Gardens

Beatrix Havergal and her friend Avice Saunders established a Ladies Garden School in 1932. During World War II Waterperry was home to ladies in the Women’s Land Army who worked on the land digging for victory.  By the end of the war Waterperry was established as a well respected gardening school.  When Avice Saunders died in 1971 Waterperry was sold to the School of Economic Science, who continued with day courses for horticultural teaching which is still does to this day.  Many courses are run including the RHS Level 2 Principals of Horticulture. Miss Havergal died in 1980.

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I wrote a book review about First Ladies of Gardening.  in March 2015 and Miss Havergal is mentioned in this interesting  book.   Back now to our visit to the garden.

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We were right in hoping the Asters would be good.  They were spectacular!

As to be expected there was still a lot to look at.

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The borders with grasses looked good, although there were some tall grasses at the front hiding shorter plants behind.   Whether this was deliberate planting or trial and error I am not sure but it did seem a pity.  I know that sometimes when a planting plan is new, it is not always easy to guess exactly how tall plants will grow and things like this are rectified in following years.

dsc_0017 I am a great believer in tranquil gardens, and whilst Waterperry cannot be held responsible for noise, or the wind direction, I found the constant drum of the M40 traffic, the Chinook helicopters overhead (I presume from RAF Benson) and private jets from the local Oxford airport, was far from a relaxing experience.  Maybe on another day with the wind blowing the other way it may possibly have been a quieter visit.

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Waterperry Gardens is open daily apart from Christmas Day and New Years Day.  In October it is free for RHS Members.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden

Today I visited The University of Oxford Botanic Garden and despite it being the end of September and most things are well past their best, I found it impressive and inspiring.  My friend, being  particularly fond of prairie gardens, was keen to see The Merton Borders.

The Merton Borders

The Merton Borders were sown by seed directly in 2011 in collaboration with Professor James Hitchmough from the Department of Landscape at University of Sheffield, and it is a stunning area of 955 m2 covered by naturalistic, ornamental planting based on plants from North America, South Africa and the Mediterranean.   Sand mulch is used to suppress weed growth and promote longevity. Many of the plants originate from dry grassland and this type of planting is quite drought-resistant.

Silphium terebinthinaceum

I was really taken with the dried planting, which included Stipa Gigantea, Eryngiums, Rudbekia, Asters, Kniphofias many are now minus their foliage and weather beaten.  There were a lot of spectacular Silphium terebinthinaceum, with its yellow flowers still intact, which must have been at least 10ft tall if not higher.

Berkheya purpurea

What struck me were the remains of some of the flowering plants nestled in amongst the flatten grasses.  I discovered a very pretty Berkheya purpurea tucked away deep in the dried grass.

The garden is divided mainly into two parts, The Lower Garden and The Walled Garden.

The Walled Garden




The Walled Garden has a variety of  beds containing medicinal plants, with information labels.  Being a cancer survivor I was interested in the Oncology bed.  Amongst the other beds was a Cannabis plant growing in the neurology bed.  Note the sign saying the cannabis contains no THC – the hallucinagenic part of the plant.

The Lower Garden


I was sorely tempted to walk away with the wicker cloches!   Aren’t they lovely. These beds all had detailed and interesting information boards with a brief history of fruit and vegetable plants such as maize, tomatoes and sunflowers.


In another border I came across a white Japanese Anenome almost hidden in a Deschampsia ‘Golden Veil’. 

The Glasshouses


Before leaving the Botanic Garden we paid a visit to the glasshouses housing some enormous palms.   The one with the palms was closed, another has a series of rooms at different temperatures.  One room was full of Sarracenia, they were fascinating and veined colouring of greens and reds they were so interesting.    Unfortunately and annoyingly my camera battery was low so I had to be selective of what to take photos of.   In another room of the glasshouse was a large pond with the most beautiful pale blue lily, but it looks white in the photo.  Dancing and chirping around the pool was the sweetest little Robin who I managed to capture as he jumped from plants to plants playing chase me.   In the last room right up in the roof was a fabulous purple orchid.

If you get the opportunity to visit the Botanic Garden please do, it was tranquil and fascinating.

Opening Times

November – February:  Open daily 9.00am until 4.00pm (last admission 3.15pm)

The Garden is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day

March – April:  Open daily 9.00am until 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm)

May – August: Open daily 9.00am until 6.00pm (last admission 5.15pm)

September – October:  Open daily 9.00am until 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm)

Book Review: Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan

I usually enjoy writing a book review, but occasionally I am sent a book that leaves me totally uninspired.  This is not because it isn’t a good book, it is, if you are into DIY it will be just what you are looking for.    The Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan is published by Cool Springs Press in 2016 with an imprint by Quarto Publishing Group Inc.  


Thinking it would be packed with information and ideas about growing things in raised beds, I quickly discovered it was far more of a build your own DIY guide and I was disappointed,  it was just not my sort of book.   However, if you are adept at wielding a saw, screwdriver and electric drill, you will find it a book to motivate you with great ideas into building your own raised beds.   It might be that you are the gardener and your partner is happy making things, or the other way around,  in which case the book would suit you both.   With detailed shopping lists of the items required to make a variety of beds, it comes with clear pictorial instructions. 

 Growing edibles or flowers in a raised bed has countless advantages, such as economy of space, water conservation, portability, and accessibility. Raised Bed Revolution offers complete reference information on how to get started, covering subjects such as growing-medium options, rooftop gardening, cost-effective gardening solutions, planting tips, watering strategies.


There are lots of interesting ideas, including a wooden potato growing box, recycling an old table into a lettuce box and a laddered herb planter, which I particularly liked, but I would have to find someone to make it for me.  There are informative pieces within the chapters on the do’s and dont’s of gardening with raised beds, but the Raised Bed Revolution still struck me as being predominantly a ‘How to Build your Raised Bed’ book.


Tara Nolan is a freelance writer and writes gardening articles in Toronta Star and Canadian Living magazine.   A few years ago, along with three members of the Garden Writers Association, Tara co-founded a gardening website at http://www.Savvygardening.com.  If you are a Facebook user you can find her on FB – Facebook.com/raisedbedrevolution.