Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

Together. This should be a simple challenge for most of you –

find a picture of people or things which are together in your picture.

I am not sure, for me anyway, this Weekly Photo Challenge  was a simple challenge.  There are very many heartwarming photos this week of couples and people Together, however, personally I am loath to use photos of friends and family on my blog, but that is just my point of view and I suspect the  majority of you may disagree with me.

My initial thought was that Together was very similar to the one a few weeks ago Two Subjects, but on further investigation Together is subtly different.   I always helps me to check out the challenge word on the On-Line dictionary – this usually sparks off some ideas, which fortunately it did.

The photos below are just three that come within the meaning of the word Together.

Together  adv.
1. In or into a single group, mass, or place:   We gather together.  
This photo I took a few years ago of elderly people on benches, looking at this one today, I noticed a couple sitting together on the beach too – what better photo than this to depict gathering Together.
Together  adv.
2.  In or into a unified structure or arrangement:
This photo of canoes was taken at Symonds Yat last year.   I like the way they are all tied Together in a unified structure. 

Together  adv.
3. In harmony or accord: We stand together on this issue.
I love this photo, it is of my daughter and two of her bridesmaids standing Together in harmony.

Finally, there is just one personal photo of Together that I am more than happy to include and that is of me and my Mum spending her 92nd birthday Together a few weeks ago.

An absolute delight: West Green House, Hartley Wintney

I visited two gardens on Saturday,  Dunsborough Park, which I have already written about and a dream of a garden at West Green House, near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire.

You will find West Green House in the National Trust handbook, but it is an oddity, it is not owned by the NT.  When they decided to sell the house and garden in 1993, it was bought by Marylyn Abbott –  a lady with a passion for gardens, gardening and garden design.  She has made the historic walled garden what it is today and although it is privately owned it is open to National Trust members from 7 April until 30 September 2012 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11am – 4.30pm.

This is a garden that I had never heard of before last week and what a delight it was.   The garden is entered via The Dragon Garden, and both sides of the path were packed with peonies.  I can imagine that in the Summer when they are in full bloom, against the red garden ornaments and bench,  these two beds are sight to behold.

Beyond the Dragon Garden you come to the Lake Field with fields around a lake which, at the moment, are a mass of Fritillaria, daffodils, with bluebells just coming through.   I see Fritillaria everywhere in Spring and always tell myself  buy the bulbs for my garden, but never do, this year I will.

As we walked around the path of the lake, there is a smaller pond bordered with wonderful display of Forget-me-nots and Pulmonaria – the bees were having a wonderful time.

This was my kind of garden  to enjoy, full of different areas of interest.    The next part of the garden is split into two sections,  one  for herbaceous plants, although there is nothing much to see at the moment and the other is a potager with an Oliver Ford fruit cage in the middle.   There were tulips and Spring flowers scattered about  and I suspect this part of the garden is going to look glorious and colourful in the Summer.

I took the photo above from the top of steps that have water flowing down either side,  these led up from a circle in the wall, which I understand is called a  Victorian moon gate – a great photo spot.  The photos below were taken either side of the wall and if you look carefully you will see the water edging the steps.

There is a lot to see and it was great just to wander around, coming across something new and different at each turn.    What I was not expecting to see were fountains and waterways on raised ground which is called The Paradise Garden.  I am still not sure what I feel about this, I liked it, but not certain of its place in this garden.

Having said that, Marylyn Abbott is a garden designer and that is the beauty of West Green Garden, her use of imagination throughout the garden is evident.    This can also be seen in the Alice Garden below with a variety of clipped topiary shapes around the borders.   Red is a colour that you can’t miss and it certainly stood out here, there is also a seating area with tables and chairs painted red – all very Alice in Wonderland all it needed was a pack of large cards.

I particularly liked the Walled Garden below and, again, this is going  to be one to revisit in another few months.   The clematis supports placed around the garden were an indication that this is going to be a part of garden crammed full of colour and plants.   The hues are gentle and pleasing to the eye at the moment and after the red of Alice’s Garden, I hope when I come back  here it remains gentle.

I am told that there is also an abundance of Alliums which are a sight to behold when they are all out , although at the moment, this is where most of the tulips are to be found.

West Green House Garden is a gem and if you have the opportunity to visit, please do go.  I will certainly visit again, because it has whet my appetite to discover what colours and plantings await me in other seasons.

Before I leave you I have to share what I can only describe as “Garden Art”.   I came across them hanging on the wall in the Orangery, I suppose like any art you either love it or loathe it, but I thought they were great, probably because I like quirky things.   I looked around for some idea of who made them but there was nothing, which was a shame.

The other love  Marylyn Abbott has is opera and West Green House with its purpose built auditorium must be a splendid backdrop with its lit garden at night.  Dinner and opera on a Summer’s evening in a beautiful garden, what a wonderful combination.

Tulips at Dunsborough Park Garden

I think everyone will agree that this has not really been the best year for tulips.   I have read blogs and spoken to gardeners who have all expressed disappointment in their displays this year.  The weather appears to be to blame, a hot few weeks in March followed by a plummet in temperatures and frosty nights turned the poor tulip into turmoil.   There are many that are stunted and gardens who are open to view their displays are having to hold back some tulips for later in the month, so some are still in bloom for visitors.

Tulip "Shirley" Long slender ivory flowers with feathered edges in soft purple

Yesterday, Saturday 21 April, I went with Charlotte, from The Galloping Gardener, to visit The Festival of Tulips at Dunsborough Park, in Ripley, Surrey.   Dunsborough Park is a privately owned house and the garden is open for only a few of days during the year for the NGS and Tulip Festival.

We were both disappointed to be told “No Photography”, we really did want to take photos of the garden and especially the tulips, after all that was one the main reasons we were there.  It was clear, once we were in the garden, people were merrily snapping away.    We introduced ourselves to the owner and were granted permission, which happily made clandestine photography unnecessary.

We were given a map of the tulip bed layout,  but not a map of the garden and had a little difficulty in finding the Dutch Garden, probably because we branched off to the left rather than going straight on.

Our path took us towards the stream and the water garden.   I loved the wrought iron bench and thought what wonderful tranquil moments could be had sitting and contemplating life.

As we wandered around we met up with the happy, smiling, Ukrainian gardener, Olag, and talked to him about the gardens.    He told us that every year he plants over 10,000 bulbs and when the season is over they are all pulled up again.   That is apart from the meadow area where the bulbs are left to naturalize, apparently they last usually for about 3 years before having to be replaced.   He pointed us in the direction of the meadow and as we walked over the bridge I was not expecting such a lovely sight.   A bank of Spring flowers, including beautiful tulips scattered around.

I have not seen tulips in a setting like this before.  Normally, they are planted in colour blocks, neat and tidy, all in a row like soldiers.  Even in our own gardens at home, we tend to plant them in flower beds or in pots.  To see them growing in the grass in a haphazard manner had a totally different and, for me, a more pleasing effect.

The only drawback, if there is one, was there is no way of telling what variety the tulips were.  There is an abundance of glorious oranges and just at the edge of the garden was a very pretty lilac tipped with a pale pink variety.  I liked that one very much so will now  trawl bulb catalogues to find something similar for Spring 2013 in my garden.

We found the the Dutch Garden behind an old Victorian wall.    Here, armed with our planting plans we wandered around the garden noting which tulips we liked, loved, disliked – as you do when looking at plants in any garden.   All the tulips were at different stages, some were over, some still in bud and, of course, ones in full bloom.  Most were planted within Box hedging and grape hyacinths used as a frame.

I took a close up of the bed above, which you can see below, and if you are interested, the tulips closest are called “Pink Impression”,  the next row (not out yet) is “Rosalie” and the pink tulips tipped with white at the far end are “Peach Blossom”.

Through the Ginko hedge there were more tulip beds, this time not enclosed within any Box, but still bordered with grape hyacinths.  It was here that the swing between the heat and the frost damage to the tulips was more evident,  some were considerably shorter than the ones we had just viewed.  I did wonder perhaps if there were some dwarf varieties rather than suffering from stunted growth.

Working from the planting plan, I think I am right in distinguishing the scarlet red double tulip as “Abba” and the ones in the foreground are “Jackpot”.

I am always on the look out for quirky planting and then I saw running along side the Edwardian greenhouses, tulips planted in painted metal containers, looking very rustic.  After the meadow planting, this was my favourite way of seeing the tulips.  Apart from the container in the middle,  none of the others were flowering, so I can only imagine what they looked like in full bloom.

 The next dates the Gardens are open for an NGS Open Day are 19th May, 16th June and 15th September, and if you do visit you must not miss the tearoom!

The Palm House had been turned over to a tearoom and as far as I am concerned no garden visit is complete without a cup of tea and a slice of home made cake, so a visit was a must.   There was a scrumptious array of cakes, pastries and the most devilish looking meringues, all of which were made by the people that work at Dunsborough Park including the owner.  I had a slice of her Victoria Sponge which just melted in my mouth, indeed, even Charlotte who claimed not to be a cake eater, helped herself to some of my cake.

Finally, the two tulips that really took my eye were “Shirley”  – photograph at the top of this post – ideal for a cut flower and photographed below  is “Monsella”, a Double Early, ideal for pots and borders.

The tulips will be over for the NGS dates but there is a lot to see in the Dunsborough Park Garden and it is well worth a visit, but ask first if you can use your camera and don’t miss out on the cake!

Garden Foliage Day : 22 April 2012

Here we are almost at the end of April, and time again to take a look at the foliage in the garden.  This last week of torrential showers, has brought absolutely everything on by leaps and bounds.   It is amazing what a good drenching can do for plants and trees alike.    The one drawback to all this rain is that the grass is growing too and my lawn sounds like a sponge when I stand on it, so mowing it out of the question at the moment.

The Aquilegia are really making their presence known all around the garden, with it’s different coloured leaves according to the variety.  There are a couple of almost lime green plants that really stand out but most are the usual green.

I know I have mentioned this before, but I do appear to have a lot of plants in the garden that start with the letter “A”,  this is not intentional at all, it is only when I started to write about them this dawned on me!   To add to the “A” list the Astilbe have spread themselves in the damp north-facing bed down the right handside of the garden.  They are excellent value, because they love this spot and the dried flowers remain upright in the Winter, giving some archtecural height.   Judging by the amount of leaves that have come through this year there is going to be an excellent show of pink feathery flowers.

The hardy geraniums are filling out and at the moment are still neat mounds.   A lady I work with said she uses old wire hanging baskets, placed upside down on her geraniums and it helps keep them neat and tidy.  At just under £1.50 for small wire baskets from Wilkinsons, this definitely an idea I will try this year.

I need to keep an eye on the Geraniums (Cranesbill) in the bottom bed because they are going to choke the Astrantia if I am not careful.   Just behind the Astrantia, the Agapanthus are looking in good form, having made it through another Winter and at the back of the border is a Ballerina Rose – this is a very pretty rose with hydrangea type flowerheads.   I love the variety of green tones in the bed at the moment.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be a really good one for the Peony in the side bed, it now is so thick with leaves I am having to add extra support.   I am sure it is so very advanced because I covered it through the Winter with a cloche, the peony in the bottom bed is only just now sending up long shoots.  I love the pinkish hue to the leaves and the almost burgundy edging they have.

The Fennel is now about a foot high and will eventually reach about 6 foot, I love how the new leaves look fluffy and soft, like miniature pine trees.

I thought I had lost a number of my lavender bushes but this little one was having none of it, and to prove me wrong is producing lots and lots of new leaves, so I will only have a couple to replace this year.

The Hostas are particularly slow in making an appearance this year but hopefully in May there will be a good show for the next Garden Bloggers Foliage Day.

Thank you Christina from Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides who hosts this monthly meme.   Please hop over to her blog and take a look at lots of foliage posts.  It is always so interesting to see what is happening in gardens all around the World.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

The problem with this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is the subject is SUN.  We are all told not to look directly at the SUN and even pointing our cameras at the SUN could do damage, not just to our eyes but to our cameras too.   So my challenge this week was how to take suitable and interesting photos on this subject.

After a typical April week of sunshine and showers, actually make that torrential downpours, I was lucky enough to wake up this morning to a sunny start to the day.    As I stood outside in the garden with my camera desperate for an idea, I noticed:

–  the SUN shining on the rose leaves

–  the SUN making the raindrops glisten.

– the SUN’s  dappled light on  the Lilac tree

– the SUN lighting up the leaves on the Sambucas Nigra (Elderflower)

and the SUN reflecting off the cloches on my pots.


It’s funny how certain things come to mind when you are doing something – or does that just happen to me?  Whilst putting this post together, I started to sing the Morecombe and Wise song “Bring Me Sunshine”  so what a better way to end this challenge with a song about Sunshine  (if you click on the link you can sing along too):-

Bring me Sunshine, in your smile,
Bring me Laughter, all the while,
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow,

Make me happy, through the years,
Never bring me, any tears,
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.

Bring me Sunshine, in your eyes,
Bring me rainbows, from the skies,
Life’s too short to be spent having anything but fun,
We can be so content, if we gather little sunbeams,

Be light-hearted, all day long,
Keep me singing, happy songs,
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.

Words – Sylvia Dee, Music – Arthur Kent

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An observation during a train journey

A short post tonight, just wanted to get something off my chest that concerned me about a fellow travelling commuter who I have never seen before and may never see again.

I see many people of different shapes and sizes during my community journey at the beginning of each and at the end.   We are all squashed together, shoulder to shoulder, often also knee to knee,  invading each other’s personal space.  There is always a troop of commuters making their way down the carriages to locate the carriage with the comfortable two abreast seats.   You are lucky if you find one that is free, the majority of the carriages have thin, narrow  upright seating for three (small)  people on one side and two on the other, with the aisle so narrow you have to walk down it almost sideways.

This evening, for nearly 40 minutes, I sat opposite a man, who was probably no older than his late 30s.   He was working on a laptop precariously balanced on his lap and juggled calls between his iPhone and his Blackberry.   Unfortunately, he was grossly overweight, sweaty and had a nervous twitch which made him look as though he had something prickly in his collar.  First one shoulder went up, then the other and then he moved his head from side to side in a peculiar manner.   The poor man, looked as though he was going to peg out with stress any moment.

I noticed a very tight wedding ring on his left hand, and wondered what his life outside this Southern Rail sardine can was like.  What are the stresses and pressures he is under?   Is he mortgaged up to the hilt and has to work every hour God sends?   Is he so in fear of losing his job he has to put in every hour to prove his worth?  What does he do when he is not working?

When the train reached his station, I felt saddened as I watched this relatively young man squeeze his way sideways towards the exit.   I hope that he is happy, he certainly didn’t look it this evening.

What a shame that there is such pressure on so many these days.   Is it the economic climate or the fact that it is possible to use mobile technology anywhere and everywhere we go?   Does the business commuter  see travelling time as “unproductive or wasted”  time if  not continuing their working day outside the office?   There is barely enough room on a busy train to move an elbow, let alone struggle with balancing laptops  and a collection of mobile phones and Blackberries.

The vision of hamsters in a treadmill comes to mind!

Meanwhile, I am still quite happy just to look out of the window or read.