Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Last Friday I made it to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. I had seen them on Twitter for a while but hadn’t really connected that it was fairly close to me. But, while sourcing a plant I realised they were close enough for a visit at just over an hour away. The garden is an absolute treat with the nursery having a focus on perennials. I arrived for opening at 1 and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to do a loop of the gardens while it was still quiet and see more of the wildlife. It was a bit of a grey day so there wasn’t as much about as there would have been on a sunnier day but still plenty to enjoy.

The cafe courtyard

The cafe courtyard was lovely and peaceful when I entered. Quite a shaded spot with a nice mix of foliage plants around the edges.

The steps were lovely with the pots and plants spilling out the brickwork. I didn’t note what it was at the time but looks like creeping toadflax.

A pair of doves were going in and out of a window at the top of the cafe.

I was happy to see a pot of podophyllum after seeing it in a recent lecture from Phillip Oostenbrink.

Bird feeders

There were two paths out from the courtyard and I chose the one less travelled as the view looked inviting. More people were heading out the other way. This took me to the bird feeders.

There was a nice mix of birds visiting. Several types of tits and robins.

Though the arrival of the slinky cat put them off.

From the feeders, I found some deep pink dahlias.

And anemones.

The rill garden

I think I’ve missed the peak of the rill garden flowers. It looked like Nigella, love-in-a-mist had gone over in many of the planters. But the water tinkling through is always a pleasant sound.

On a sunnier day, I imagine this catches the light beautifully.

The pond

The pond had some nice tall planting surrounding it with a few views in.

A waterlily set to unfurl.

The meadow area

From the pond, I headed around the woodland meadow area. This is made up of many hardy geraniums with other plants mixed in. A nice mix of spreading plants. They had a few hives hidden away. I didn’t notice any honey for sale sadly as I do like a souvenir pot of honey.

There was a good number of small and large white butterflies about and the odd peacock. As I said, it was quite a grey day so not as much moving in the meadow as there would be a sunnier day.

Wonderful peeling bark.

I rather like the tansy flowers in the meadow, Tanacetum vulgare. Lovely little yellow balls. I was tempted by a pot in the nursery but I don’t think it would gel with my other plants.

The long border

From the house, there is a long border with clipped bushes along the middle. I realise looking back at my photos I didn’t take a decent long shot. I possibly didn’t want to annoy visitors photographing them or getting them to move. These borders were spectacular filled with lots of perennials. It’s always good to visit other gardens as this when you see plant combinations that work well. Stillingfleet had lots of effective combinations. Some are plants unsuited to my soil and conditions but still lovely to see.

I seem to have seen Monarda a lot this year. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I’ve noticed it or that more people are using it. There was a stand on the BBC coverage of RHS Tatton Park talking about them. It is a lovely vibrant plant and loved by bees. In the mint family with quite a pleasant smell to my mind.

The wasps were loving the echinops. They are very rich in nectar so I don’t know if that’s the draw. I only have one of the smaller varieties but I could be tempted with some of the taller types.

There was plenty of dahlias dotted around.

And plenty more visual treats.

On the way around the house, I spotted a little trough of pitcher plants, Sarracenia. This is a carnivorous bog plant. It’s usually grown as a house plant or in greenhouses, but it can be grown outside as its native range is across North America. I meant to ask someone what soil they were growing it in and what drainage they’d given it but I forgot by the time I got around to any of the staff.

Wire sculptures

Dotted around the garden there were sculptures by Chris Moss. I saw lots of visitors eyeing them up. The robin on a spade seemed to be very popular. I saw lots of people checking the price while I had a cup of tea in the cafe courtyard.

The stock gardens

I actually really enjoyed looking in the stock gardens. A lot of gardens hide them away or keep them private but it’s nice seeing the plants growing in masses and the many different varieties. The entrance was covered in honeysuckle giving you a nice waft of scent to put you in a spending mood.

The agapanthus was the standout plant. They seem to be having a good year from many peoples accounts. I was very tempted to add a few more when I got to the nursery sales but I resisted. I spoke about mine in yesterday’s six on Saturday.

Twister was one of the finest available in my opinion. The two colours are very attractive.

Though there was some dark beauties set to unfurl.

There was a good section of borage in the stock area. This is such a good plant for bees as it refills its nectaries within two minutes. Anyone keeping honeybees should have it around to avoid honey bees depleting flowers from native wild bees. The flower is also edible. It looks particularly pretty in ice cubes.

The robins were serenading visitors around all areas of the garden but they were posing for photos in this area.

A peacock enjoying the buddleia.

The inevitable plant purchases

Obviously I wasn’t going to come away with no purchases. The range of plants they stock is amazing. Download the catalogue and feel envious. The main focus is perennials with an amazing collection of hardy geraniums and pulmonarias. It was a pleasure to see such choice when I’ve become accustomed to garden centres stocking smaller and smaller ranges. During my last outing to the local garden centre I asked for directions for an astrantia and hardy geraniums and it was clear none of the staff had any knowledge of plants. They openly admitted they didn’t know what these were. It strikes me as strange that you can work in a garden centre without knowing what you are putting on the tables. The equvialant would be a supermarket shelf stacker who didn’t know where to direct you for baked beans. But that’s all the garden centres are now is supermarkets for plants. The plant space is getting cut down in my closest to make room for more scented candles, bath bombs and other gifts. They are places for people to go for a day out and have a slice of cake. The plants are becoming an inconvinient nuisance that need looking after. So, now I’ve put my plant shopping experiences in context you can see why Stillingfleet was such a joy.

I had specifically gone to obtain Iris foetidissima lutescens. They are the only stockist of the plant in the whole country. It is much like any other Iris foetidissima. It has the strap like evergreen leaves but has an all yellow flower, a little bigger maybe than the normal variety. It’s reckoned to be slightly more tender than the normal version but being a pretty bomb proof plant to start with I’m feeling fairly confident it will be alright. I’ve now ended up with six of the nine varieties of Iris foetidissima that the RHS lists. I’ve still got my eye on trying to get hold of the variegated one next year. It might seem like an odd plant to decide to collect varieties of as it is far from the prettiest iris around. The main interest comes from the berries in winter. But it is one of only two native irises to the UK and I feel it’s worth preserving. I’ve recently joined plant heritage who work conserving rare plants in cultivation. With more and more nurseries closing it seems important to try and keep these more unusual plants in circulation. Like I said, the garden centres are offering less and less choice so supporting nurseries that offer more is important. For the long term we need a great variety of plants to survive whatever may happen with our climate.

I also picked up two varieties of sea holly ready for our anniversary. They formed part of our wedding flowers, but they are also wonderful plants for wildlife on top of that. Eryngium bourgatii picos amethyst looks to be a darker more vibrant blue than my existing ones.

And Eryngium giganteum ‘silver ghost’. This is described as growing as a biennial by most sources but should hopefully self seed. It’s a tall white sea holly offering great spikey architectural flowers.

And the final purchase for me, a Persicaria ‘purple fantasy’. I’ve cavorted a persicaria and this had such stunning foliage. I’ve put in a pot for now while I decide where it will go. They have a reputation for spreading rapidly beyond where they are wanted but I believe this is meant to be quite a well behaved one. I could have come away with a lot more, but I wanted an anniversary the next day, not a divorce. Got my eye on the pulmonaria list for future visits.

I really enjoyed my trip to Stillingfleet. The gardens are very much to my taste with lots of informality. Lots of the plants are spreading and sprawling out of gaps in paving and into each other. But it’s absolutely lovely. There are a lot of Capability Brown landscape gardens around me on far grander scales, but these largely leave me cold. I like plants, and ideally plants rammed in thickly. The intimacy of this little garden was fantastic. The plant range immense, a plantsperson’s dream. Well worth a visit.

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Six on Saturday: Furzey Gardens

While down in Dorset we visited Furzey gardens. This is a lovely little garden nestled within the New Forest. It is an RHS partners garden so I probably could have got free entry but didn’t mind paying to support. The garden is a social enterprise providing work experience and training for people with learning disabilities. There is a cafe within the gardens. Currently, it was offering drinks and a few light bites. I don’t know if it is any different when Covid restrictions are fully over.

  1. The Cottage Garden

When you first enter the garden you are met with the cottage. This is surrounded by informal cottage garden style borders. Lots of herbaceous perennials. They do have a cottage you can let for occasions. I’m not sure if this one is available to let or if there is another one on site.

It rained on and off lightly while we were there so the bees were in and out during our visit. But, this border was very active.

These borders were stunning, filled with colour. Amy spent ages taking close up photos of many flowers. If I used her photos we would be getting on for 66 on a Saturday, probably more.

2. Woodland borders

As you’d expect from a garden in the New Forest much of the garden is wooded. There are a lot of camellias and rhododendrons, but these weren’t offering any colour at this time of year. There are little hidden paths and structures with viewing points over the area hidden away.

Hidden within the garden are 40 fairy doors. I think we found maybe 20. Alice enjoyed looking so kept her busy.

The woodland contains lots of ferns and some interesting foliage plants.

And a good few hydrangea happy in the shade.

3. The play area

The play area is made up of a large scale fairy village. Lots of huts and tunnels and walls to climb around.

Alice was a bit unsure of the ladders but once she’d been up a few times she loved it.

She had a good play before falling off the swing which put an end to her fun. But she recovered after a snack.

4. The meadow

Surrounding the play area there is an area of meadow with paths cut through.

This area was very species-rich with many hoverflies, bees, butterflies and beetles visible. Here we have a soldier beetle.

In this photo there is a small copper with the wings open and a gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers have been the most numerous butterfly we saw in Dorset.

5. The pond

On the walk down to the pond, there was bursts of rain. But, by the time we got down there it was stupendously hot. You can see how much the sun is shining off the water. I took a lot of overexposed photos along this section.

Grey wagtails were hopping back and forth on the lilypads.

Around the side, massive gunneras dominated an area. Alice refused to stand next to them for comparison.

And there were a few different butterflies. A brimstone.

And a speckled wood.

6. Birds

There was lots of birds around the garden. Many of the smaller ones were quite tame. The robins came onto the picnic tables while we had our lunch.They were very accommodating for photos.

I thoroughly enjoyed this garden. From the description we thought it would be a little drop off and then head into Lyndhurst but we spent a good few hours there. Alice loved the fairy trail and playpark. Amy was happy taking photos and I was happy enjoying the wildlife and plants. The plant sales were very reasonable priced and by souther standards were probably excellent. From little £2 pots of easy self seeders to some decent shrubs. If we lived closer I’d be using it regularly, but I wasn’t going to to fit anything in the car for the journey back. But I did get some primula seeds so I can hopefully grow a memento of the garden. I am working on my next plant profiles for my current RHS assignment so I’ll probably research these one. Hope you all enjoy your weekends, we have a busy one ahead but then I have two days with Alice booked in for ballet school, so have a bit of time to ourselves.

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Six on Saturday: 5.9.20 Monocots & Dicots

For this weeks six I thought I would do a blog to aid with revision for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. Having had a look through past exam papers the differences between monocts and dicots is a regular exam question. Flowering plants (Angiosperms) are divided into two key groups moncots and discots. The course never really explains why this is important to know but it does give you a good idea of how a plant will grow, what leaves it will have. Some diseases may affect dicots but not monocots so it can be useful to be able to categorise the two.

1. Leaves

The leaves of monocotyledonous plants have parallel veins. They are usually strap-like in shape and have the stomata (where oxygen exits and carbon dioxide enters) are spread evenly between the top and bottom of the leaves. Grasses would be a good example of this. Here we have a hosta showing the parallel veins.

Whereas, dicotyledonous plants have spreading, reticulate (net-like) and branching veins. Here on the heuchera you can see the veins spreading out like a web. The stomata are located on the underside of the leaves.

2. Stems

Monocot stems have vascular bundles scattered around the stem with an epidermis one layer thick. They cannot undergo secondary thickening so they do not form woody stems. There are some exceptions such as palm trees and bananas that can form larger stems but these are exceptions that have developed different strategies than dicot stems for growing larger. So while something like a hosta may grow large leaves it does not develop a large stem. Here the agapanthus has the strap like leaves with a long stem but it cannot undergo secondary thickening to make it more stable.

Dicot stems have vascular bundles arranged in circles around the pith acting as a starch store. They can undergo secondary thickening. So, in general, most trees will be dicots.

3. Flowers

Monocot flower parts are arranged in multiples of 3. Irises and lilies are good examples of this.

Whereas, dicot flowers have parts arranged in multiples of 4 or 5.

4. Seeds

Monocot seeds have one cotyledon, thus the name monocot. The cotyledon is the embryonic leaf that the plant initially grows when first germinated. As it grows larger it forms the true leaves. In the case of monocots, as already said, strap-like.

In dicot seeds, they have two cotyledons. Here we have the two seed leaves of the dicot coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea.

5. Roots

In monocot roots are usually fibrous. They sometimes have an initial taproot that dies off quickly to be replaced by the adventitious fibrous roots. Whereas dicots can form a tap root system with a central thicker root growing down with roots branching off this. Then from the secondary roots smaller taproots may form. Here we have the fibrous roots coming off an onion.

6. Pollen grains

Monocot pollen is monosulcate. This means it has a single pore through the outer layer.

Whereas dicot pollen is tricolpate meaning it has 3 ridges through the outer layer.

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing some of my course knowledge. Hopefully, some of it may be accurate. One more weekend to go before the test so I have a bit more time to cram. Sorry if I don’t get around to reading everyone else’s sixes this week. Between starting my new job on Monday and preparing for my exam I am a bit busy. But it should settle into a nice routine after the exam. Enjoy your weekends.

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