Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Maclura pomifera Osage Orange

Well done to those of you who correctly identified this amazing tree's seed pods. I think it's a fabulous name for a tree. One of the reasons I was so confused by this seed pod was that I found it on the ground nowhere near the tree itself. A child had possibly picked it up and carried it to another part of the garden. Anyway, a member of the gardening team took us to the tree, and below it were dozens of the things. I should think they'd give you a nasty bump on the head if they fell on you. So the moral of the story is, don't stand beneath a Maclura pomifera Osage Orange during the Autumn. But then I expect you knew that already!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

What on earth is this?!

I didn't know at first, but I asked an expert and now I know what it is. Do you?!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Cambridge Botanic Glasshouses

The glasshouses at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens are impressive. Not on the scale of an Eden, Wisley or Welsh National Botanic, but they still hold their own because of the interesting layout. A long corridor runs from one end of the complex to the other, and different rooms open from it, each showcasing a different climate zone. I find this a more intimate way to view the plants, and certainly compared to Eden a lot less overwhelming.

The central corridor

A huge Aeonium

Delightfully glossy foliage

A type of passion flower? Amazing, whatever it is!

More lush foliage

Monday, 19 November 2012

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens are among the best in the country without a doubt. Tucked between ordinary streets in the town's suburbs, this 40 acre oasis is open throughout the year. You can see just about every gardening style known to man here, including a rock garden, waterside planting, nine national plant collections and an impressive network of glasshouses. In October, the most impressive areas were around the lakes, where autumn colours were stealing the show.

These Systematic Beds group plants according to their families, for teaching purposes.

There's so much more to see (including the glasshouses which I'll feature in my next post) that I recommend you check out the garden's website.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Anglesey Abbey

Another National Trust treasure that we visited at half term was Anglesey Abbey. The now famous Winter Walk was looking good, and in a month's time it will be spectacular, with the perfume of viburnums and daphnes in the air. Of course looking good all year round are the silver birches. Cyclamen were also putting on a show.

This is a pretty old wisteria!

The dahlias were looking very uniform in their semicircular plot.

Here they are from the other side.

The house itself is fantastic, room after room crammed with the collections of its last private owner, the 1st Baron Fairhaven. The grounds are vast and there are many areas I haven't featured - we were keen not to miss the All Saints Day evensong at Kings College Cambridge!

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Not a bad place when you think its owner only lives here for a couple of weeks a year! Not much of the house is open to the public, for security reasons, but what is open is truly splendid. The grounds sprawl for miles around the house, and there is a walled garden which is only open to booked groups.

One would be happy to worship here!

 There were some impressive autumn colours on display, and a lake is never too far away.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Is this the most beautiful house in England?

It's normally the gardens I rave about when I visit National Trust properties, but at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, it's definitely the house that steals the show. Built by the Bedingfeld family in the 15th century, they have lived here ever since. Inside, the family's Catholic history is revealed, complete with a secret priest's hole which you can crawl inside. I was captivated by the place, inside and out. Some of the walls are covered in gilded leather, and the colours are as vivid as the day they were made. Outside, the way this moated house sits in its grounds is so majestic. One is reminded of Ightham Mote and Bodiam Castle, but there's something about Oxburgh that makes you feel you could just move in.

As I've already implied, the garden is perhaps not the star attraction at Oxburgh, but the grounds are very pleasant. There are, however, a few features of note.
This formal parterre lies in the shadow of the hall.

This border must have looked lovely in the summer.

Sometimes I think the National Trust wishes its properties didn't have kitchen gardens. But in fairness, it is November.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Pensthorpe is set in 500 acres of countryside with miles of nature trails to explore through ancient fen meadows, woodland and a series of lakes. Pensthorpe is home to a collection of waterfowl including endangered exotic waterfowl from around the world. Dozens of migratory bird species can be seen during the winter and summer months and specially created hides help you get closer to nature. Originally flooded gravel pits until the early eighties, Pensthorpe has been restored as a safe haven for wildlife including the creation of islands for safe nesting areas, and shallow scrapes for waders and other species. A highlight of our visit was a trip around the reserve in a landrover, discovering some of the wildlife. The guide was excellent, pointing out various birds and habitats.

A crane of some sort...

Of course the main purpose of my visit, although I forgot to mention this to long-suffering garden visitor Dad, was to see the Millenium Garden, planted by Piet Oudolf. Created in 2000, this was Oudolf's first ever public creation, He was invited back in 2008 to refresh the planting. Even in November it was looking pretty good to me. Like all his prairie style gardens, the plants are not cut back in autumn, so that wildlife can enjoy the seedheads. This also gives his gardens a wild, rather dreamy quality I think.