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Rachel's Journal

Rachel's Journal July 2009

Last Post 3131 days 11 hours ago


30 July 2009 18:02:11
Stipa Capillata & Alstroemeria Oriana

Stipa Capillata & Alstroemeria Oriana

Myself and Cooper arranged to meet up at the Springmount Garden Centre first thing this morning to catch the bargains at their annual sale. We weren't disappointed.

Let me just say, it was hard getting everything into the car.

One area I was buying for was the area which has lain fallow since we moved the stone table off it and to its permanent home (the stone circle) this summer. I had meant to sprinkle grass seed on this circular area but somehow didn't get around to it. I must have known deep down that I would plant it up eventually :)

The plan this morning was to plant Calamagrostis ”Karl Forrester” as whatever I read lately, I can't seem to get away from this grass. I was planning a bit of a Noel Kingsbury type 'new perennial' planting. However, as usual, when I saw Calamagrostis ”Karl Forrester” in its pots, I was unimpressed and couldn't bring myself to buy it.

Instead I settled on a little brother of Stipa Gigantica called Stipa Capillata. I bought Alstroemeria Oriana and Astrantia Major Lars to go with the Stipa, building on an orangy theme (by the way I've recently noticed that I must like orange as I keep buying it!). Now all that's needed is some alliums for spring interest and time.

Mum's the Word

29 July 2009 23:38:11
Mum's the Word

Mum's the Word

Well, my giant chrysanthemums have flowered.

I bought the root stock by mail order back in spring. I potted them up, manured them, watered them copiously, reduced stalks to a max of four per plant, potted them on, fed them with tomato food, removed side shoots, staked them, cosseted them in the greenhouse and now they have finally flowered for me.

The moral of this story is - you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

In my amateur ignorance I  did not know what to look out for when buying root stock and I have bought the wrong thing.

They are okay, as plants go, but do not deserve the kind of preferential treatment they have received. I will plant them in the garden forthwith - enough with the molly coddling. We live we learn.

The Chimes

28 July 2009 22:50:33
The Chimes

The Chimes

I inherited a set of chimes. Its sound is magical.

My husband hung it up on one of our pergolas and the sound echoing through the garden on a slightly breezy day is just enchanting.

The only problem is that on windy nights I lie awake, listening to the chimes blowing, thinking how I should have taken them down.

The string will perish if left out ovewinter and I am still not 100% sure how weather resistent the chimes are but I find it so theraputic to listen to the sound, especially on these rainy days when you can't actually go into the garden.

The sound is delicate and yet it carries. I do hope my neighbours like it too!


27 July 2009 21:27:00


27 July 2009 18:20:29
Aeonium Simsii Zwartkop

Aeonium Simsii Zwartkop

I reached an all time motivational low around midday today. It was just about the time when it down-poured AGAIN.

I was feeding the plants in pots and, thinking of Jacinta, I even gave my Mexican Sunflowers a dose of tomato feed. I looked at all the jobs to be done and that's when I hit the "biorhythmic dip". Isn't that a great phrase. It's posh for being really browned off and just wanting to go back to bed.

I really hate this weather.

This afternoon my spirits were lifted somewhat by the arrival of my mail order succulents. I was happy to pot them up and add them to the 'collection'. The order for 10 succulents included three aeoniums. Aeonium Simsii Zwartkop is pictured.

New Pond

25 July 2009 20:21:23
bounce went the froggy...

bounce went the froggy...

When dead heading today I lifted up the Water Hyacinth in the new pond - remember, the little basin-sized pond I put in this year!

This is what I found. Isn't he cute?

This spring my friend in Germany gave me the idea of little ponds to attract frogs and now I have the proof that it works! And I only have two small ponds! Thank you, Geraldine, for such a great idea. I'm dead pleased.

Speaking of wild life, saw both the koi in the other pond today when they came up for dinner. I have added some new photos to the 'July 09' album.

Summer in Ireland

25 July 2009 13:13:27
Summer in Ireland

Summer in Ireland




Discover Ireland this summer...

Nice Day - nearly...

24 July 2009 19:04:06
Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Well, it was nearly a nice day. The morning was enough to give me hope that summer was still here. I got out and did some weeding and dead heading but it began to feel a bit like a scratched record because, before long, there were lightning showers and I was running indoors.

I cleaned up the greenhouse a bit and discovered (no, not another elephant hawk moth) a Morning Glory in full flower. While it is lovely, I won't bother with them again next year (unless they invent all-day-long-glories)! This is the first one I've seen in full flower - the others had either just flowered or were about to flower or showed no sign of flowering whenever I saw them! And they're a lot of trouble with staking and feeding etc.

I removed some flowering marigolds from the greenhouse border and planted them in gaps outside. Hubby has been complaining about the lack of anywhere to plant his French turnip seeds and has his eye on the greenhouse border. I also planted out the Ricinus from Bill as it is now hardened and was constrained in its little pot. But that was it for today.

What's this?

23 July 2009 19:29:45
What's this?

What's this?

I had a lovely time at Cooper's garden this morning. Boy have her perennials come on since the last time I was there! And not a weed in sight - not sure how Linda manages that with this rain.

Unfortunately due to the recent Mullingar plant swap, both myself and Headgardener were cleaned out so had no plants to bring her. All I could offer was some orchid bark for potting on the recent acquisitions from Rita D and te lend of Gardens Illustrated.

Linda produced her now-famous chocolate squares although, if I'm not mistaken, she was pressurised into baking this time by Headgardener. He had hinted that, even if it rained, we would still have Linda's cakes to look forward to. No pressure! I guess that's what happens when youset the bar so high, LInda!

On a different note, and prompted by Gismo's recent journal, what do you make of this fellow, found yesterday in my greenhouse? At first the hubby thought he was one of those 'pot ornaments'that I love but, when I saw him, I knew immediately that he wasn't.

Hubby picked all the Pak Choi today as it was about to bold and we par boiled it and froze it. Hubby then planted fennel seeds in the space vacated in the raised bed.

Rain Proof Rose

22 July 2009 18:20:45
Just Joey & Helenium Waldtraut

Just Joey & Helenium Waldtraut

RANT ALERT. I'm about to have a rant about the weather so if you're not in the mood, don't read further.

I went out to do a bit of weeding today. But I didn't get far. It was like someone above was having a laugh. I no sooner started weeding when someone turned on the tap overhead. I ran indoors so they turned off the tap. I went out again and had just collected all my gear and bent down to weed when... you guessed it - they turned on the tap again. I got fed up and decided to just stay out. The result was a very drippy me.

I did a bit of emergency staking - helychrysum and eryngiums. Foolish me, I have been of the opinion that Sea Holly doesn't need staking until now. Actually, if I think back to last year the eryngiums were lying down on the job by the end of the summer then too. Poor garden - grass needs a cut, flowers need dead heading and the weeds need attention.

But, in all of that, I was encouraged by the performance of my rain-proof rose. Just Joey, the hybrid tea, does not ball in the rain. I think it must have been designed specifically for our Irish climate. And it's beautiful too.

Face Book

22 July 2009 10:45:28

Datura Woes

22 July 2009 00:34:58
looking up the flower 'skirt'

looking up the flower 'skirt'

I have a weird problem with my Datura and I wonder if anyone has come across it before? Rita D?

My Datura is flowering. It is of the double flowered type. That is to say, the flower is supposed to be double-decked with an inner bell shape and an outer one. The first flower opened and when I looked up inside it I could see the ruffles of the inner bell. However, the inner bell never came down so you could only see it by looking up the 'skirts' of the flower. The flower turned brown from the inside out and was ugly within a few days of opening.

It's almost like the inner flower is stuck and rotting as it can't come down. I tried giving it a little tug but it didn't want to come down and the whole flower came off.

There are lots more flowers coming on the plant and I was really hoping not to suffer from the same problem... Any help or is this one for Gerry?


21 July 2009 19:34:58
Atlantic Giant

Atlantic Giant

Here is a picture for Gismo of my pumpkin in a pot in the greenhouse.

It is kind of taking over.

I intend to leave about three fruits and then reduce that to one to get one giant pumpkin!

I have other pumpkins planted outdoors - this one is just to see how big I can get one!

We picked a whole bowl full of dark purple French beans today. They swelled like magic  in the space of a few days because last time we looked they were like toy beans. They were delicious too in tonight's dinner! They were the bean seeds from Drumanagh so thanks, Alison.

Belvedere 2

21 July 2009 11:48:17
Cooper, Headgardener, Drumanagh, Mairin, Shelser, Gerry Daly, Joybells & her hubby

Cooper, Headgardener, Drumanagh, Mairin, Shelser, Gerry Daly, Joybells & her hubby

It was great to meet so many of the great people on garden.ie but I was sorry to learn afterwards that there were people at the gathering that I never got a chance to meet.

The day was great but it would have been better if we had had a reason to return indoors after the plant swap in the car park. I think many people left after the plant swap and a lot more socialising needed to be done really (in my opinion).

I tried to keep my best plants for firm garden.ie 'friends' but I then thought I was being a bit mean so changed that tack. The result was that by the time I met up with Jools O & Rita D (for example) I really didn't have anything worthwhile left so sorry about that, ladies.

I did come away with some great plants so thank you to everyone who swapped with me. And more importantly, it was great to meet you all and lets do it again some time...

Jools O has started a discussion about another plant swap on the TALK page, under plant & seed swap - check it out and maybe contributute...


21 July 2009 11:37:25
Head Gardener (Bill) & Rachel

Head Gardener (Bill) & Rachel

I had a wonderful day out at the Belvedere get-together.

I travelled up with Cooper and Head Gardener, as you may have already read in Head Gardener's journal.

There had been some anxiety about the number of plants the three of us were bringing and how we would fit them into Bill's boot but we managed.

Pruning & Exotics

17 July 2009 17:31:26
Datura & Glory Lily

Datura & Glory Lily

I went out into the wind today to prune my Mock Oranges. I have about 14 of them and they have just finished flowering.

In the books it's so clear cut. You prune the branch, which has just flowered, back to a strong shoot. Well, I could find no new shoots in many cases. Sometimes I imagined I could see a scar on the stem, like you do with roses, so pruned to that. Mostly I just thinned the bushes out by removed complete branches from congested centres. Very unsatisfactory. I really don't want to end up with leggy specimens!

While I was annoying the Mock Oranges, the Rosa Rugosa came to my attention. God, they're such invasive things, springing up miles from the original bush. I hacked at them but, annoyingly, when you cut off the outside branches, you uncover the unattractive spider like legs of the bush. But I think I've ranted on about Rosa Rugosa before in this journal so I'd better give it a break : )

Putting all that aside, my heart was warmed by the sight of my flowering Datura. And the scent - overpowering. You know, rainy Ireland can't be all bad when you can grow beautiful exotics like this!!!

Greenhouse Re-arrange

16 July 2009 19:58:19
only the pumpkin to lift up...

only the pumpkin to lift up...

While I was busy working in the garden, hubby decided to re-arrange the greenhouse! Anyone would think it was his greenhouse too! In fact he did a super job and it's much easier to get around now.

I had had some staging doubled up. This had been for good reason earlier on but that reason is now planted outside and it was very hard to get at the stuff at the back. Especially with the giant pumpkin we have decided to grow in a pot. It was taking up nearly all the floor space. I'm telling you, between the enormous carnivorous sarracenia gobbling up bees, the giant pumpkin train under your feet and the sunflowers blocking the door, it was like Day of the Triffids in our greenhouse!

Things are much better now, with only a single row of staging and the pumpkin (which we potted on to its final size - tricky) on the table. The pumpkin's train does still adorn the floor, however, but not all the floor.

Chop chop

16 July 2009 19:52:27
Chop chop

Chop chop

I did a complete round of dead-heading today and it was amazing the things that got chopped!

I cut back my lupins (a bit late, I know) and my Johnston's Blue Geraniums. So now I'll see if I get a second flush of flowers, as my reference book promises. 

The  roses have done their first flush of flowering so they have had a thorough dead heading and a bit of a cutting back. The likes of Ballerina (a polyanthus or musk, depending on where you read) is now flowerless but I know more buds will come. If I think of it, I should give them all a feed tomorrow.

A few of the sunflowers in the greenhouse also fell victim to the chopper. They were getting in the way of other things. I'm not sure why Sammy's so delighted with their demise in the photo!

What's on the Menu

16 July 2009 19:28:48
What's on the Menu

What's on the Menu

I thought I would add my tuppence worth to the 'what's for dinner' journals. Today we picked the first sweet peppers and a single chilli so here's the run down...

Pak choi, courgettes, sweet peppers, chilli, mangetout, a few tomatoes, various herbs, windfall apples, black & red currants, goosberries & raspberries, one strawberry : ( and marigold flowers.

Disastrous discovery - the 'cabbages' we bought as small plants from a Garden Centre have turned out to be cauliflowers!!!


15 July 2009 22:26:55
Helenium 'Moorheim Beauty'

Helenium 'Moorheim Beauty'

Took a walk around the garden today to see what the damage was. It's not too bad but needs a good dead heading.

Got the grass cut too, which is just as well because there's more rain due.

Some new plants are coming into flower now, particularly the heleniums. Moorheim Beauty is slower to flower than the brighter Walstraut but they are both looking good at the minute. Some photos in the 'July 09' album.

Help, Ted, I'm going mad...

14 July 2009 23:44:02
Help, Ted, I'm going mad...

Help, Ted, I'm going mad...

Does anyone remember Father Ted? And do you remember the episode where Ted, Dougal and Jack go off on holiday together? They end up staying in the tiniest caravan and, of course, it buckets rain.

As if that wasn't bad enough Graham Norton (as a priest) turns up with the folk group and they all pile into the tiny caravan and start a ceilí. Graham Norton is his usual hyper self and won't let anyone sleep. I think it's Fr Dougal who utters the unforgettable phrase "help, Ted, I'm going mad".

Well it feels like that at the moment with the deluge of unrimitting rain going on outside.

Louis & Zoe

14 July 2009 14:49:07
Louis & Zoe

Louis & Zoe

Today I set out to find a hanging basket for my nepenthes. I needed a small plastic, hanging basket, preferably with a saucer attached underneath for collecting drips. Could I find such a thing? Not a chance.

I ended up in a Garden Centre with my youngest, Sammy, where I bought a basket of hanging strawberries (just for the hanging basket) and then detached the hanging bit and attached it onto a pond basket. I now have my nepenthes in a hanging pond basket (apparently the pond basket it best because of the drainage). Luckily it hangs over the sink so that drips end up in the sink - well, nearly!

Anyway, while in the Garden Centre, we went into the pet section and ended up buying two koi for my little pond. The woman in the shop said that they would grow (or not) to fit the size of the pond. Well, I took a chance. So my sons named the koi, Louis (the white one) and Zoe (the one with the orange splodge).

Agave Parryi

13 July 2009 17:29:34
Agave Parryi

Agave Parryi

My mail order succulents arrived today. It's so exciting to get stuff my post. My husband is always getting stuff by post so it's such a surprise when something arrives for me. Having said that, I haven't done too badly recently. I got my birthday  pressie last Thursday and now the succulents today.

Some of you may remember how impressed I was with Helen Dillon's Agave Parryi when I visited her Dublin garden recently. Well, today I received my very own 5 Agave Parryis. They are tiny but they're all mine...  I could really get into succulents. I was recently happy to learn that Cooper shares my interest and, in fact, she gave me the most lovely present of 3 little echeveria. I was really delighted as the big one I got in France died last autumn and I was unsuccessful with leaf cutting.

The large sarracenia in the greenhouse ate another bee yesterday! We'll have nothing left to do any pollinating for us at this rate - very politically incorect with the bee population having been decimated last winter. It'll be after the ladybirds next. If you had a ladybird in your garden... Harking back to Mairin's latest journal entry - I have seen only two ladybirds in my garden this year! And it's not the sarracenia's fault!

Dividing Irises

12 July 2009 15:05:36
blue irises

blue irises

Last year my blue bearded irises were fabulous (even if i say so myself). They are flowering in one of the five 'garden' pictures that I have chosen as representing the best of my garden.

This year, however, I got very few flowers, indicating that it is time to divide them.

I started to dig them all up this morning, just as rain threatened. What big clumps! It's amazing to think that all these rhizomes came from one little tub that my son, Zachary bought about 10 years ago. It was heavy going, slicing the clumps up with the spade but replanting was easy as they don't go in deep. I had enough irises to spread into further flower beds than before. So I'm looking forward to a good display next spring.

And I kept 3 plants over and put them in pots to bring to the garden.ie get-together next Saturday. There is also one each for Cooper and Head Gardener.


12 July 2009 14:55:57


I never ate a fresh gooseberry, before this summer, that was actually pleasant. They were always too sour.

The gooseberries on out small bushes this year, however, are delicious.

Even the little fellas are eating them (the real test)!


12 July 2009 14:48:43
seedling & plant

seedling & plant

I tried to grow Datura from seed this year but only got one seedling. It is taking forever to gain any size. I noticed today, however, that there are actually two seedlings growing right on top of each other. Maybe that's why it's so slow - they're robbing nutrients from each other. There was no separating them so I weeded out one. What a shame.

By contrast, the Datura root I bought last year is about to flower. In the photo, my Datura seedling is on the left and the opening flower of my  Datura plant is on the right.

Cuttings & Wind

11 July 2009 20:34:51
penstemon soft cuttings

penstemon soft cuttings

Oh my god. I feel miserable.

I have just dried myself and changed my clothes after wrestling with the weather outside. It's really whipping up out there and we had to put all the pots under cover and weigh down the trampoline. After doing that I noticed, to my horror, that one of the birch trees on my drive was bending. We already had trouble with another of them last autumn/spring. So out into the rain went hubby and I to stake it. Did I mention I am absolutely drenched?

But earlier on I had a much more pleasant afternoon. I took cuttings from my penstemons and potted them up. I'm so delighted that I now have a greenhouse so I can do this sort of thing.


10 July 2009 19:25:14


My Ginko isn't looking the best.

It's just not very healthy or leafy looking.

It was planted last year (I think). Do they take a while to establish I wonder?

Anyone have any experience of them?

Altamont Gardens

10 July 2009 18:38:14
Cornus Kousa Chinese

Cornus Kousa Chinese

We set off just before the rain to Altamont Gardens, Co Carlow. The kids love going to this garden (one of the few they enjoy) because of the wild woodland walk and the 100 steps from the river back up to the gardens.

Unfortunately the rain caught up with us and Josh (my third) got grumpy as he refused to believe we were going the way we always go. We enjoyed the walk nonetheless and I have put a few photos in an album. 

The plant that really struck us was the Cornus Kousa Chinese. It was in full flower and absolutely magnificent. Apparently the 'flowers' start off white and fade to pink. I looked for one to buy in the shop but they were too expensive. I did snap up an Acer Griseum, however, which was a steal at €10. It is small but you can see the peeling bark already.


09 July 2009 21:29:34
split lavender & just Joey

split lavender & just Joey

It has become increasingly obvious that the lavender in the West Garden needs replacing.

The bush split this year, showing its woody legs and leaving an unfixable gap in its middle.

I had bought a lovely nepeta at the Springmount Garden Festival exactly for that purpose. But then I thought I would leave the lavender until after it finished flowering. I ended up putting the nepeta somewhere else. I'm always doing that - buying a plant for a specific purpose but then getting seduced into planting it elsewhere. Does anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, I have started a 'July 09' album and also uploaded pictures of my carnivorous plants to the 'greenhouse' album.

Early Birthday

09 July 2009 17:28:42
sarracenia & darlingtonia

sarracenia & darlingtonia

There was much excitement at my house today when a delivery arrived at 8a.m. Normally no delivery man can find our place without phoning for directions so it took us completely by surprise to get a ring on the door at 8a.m.

It was my birthday present of carnivorous pitcher plants. What excitement! There was a tall thin box and, once the top was opened, I could see a really large pitcher plant peeping up. In fact the sarracenia I received was a whopping 93cm tall! There was also a small darlingtonia and a very sorry looking nepenthes (going to ask for my money. But the sarracenia specimen is magnificent, with flowers as well as pitchers.

I was disappointed, however, that the sarracenia compost mix I had ordered was clearly not enough. After some indecision and consultation of the specialist book that had come with the plants, I realised that I could make the sarracenia mix myself. So down to the garden centre I went for perlite, moss peat, orchid bark (for the nepenthes mix) and a glazed earthenware pot in a light colour (darlingtonia). I got the moss peat at the Farmers' Co-op in the end.

Home again and it was time to pot up my new purchases, which had all arrived bare root. I also potted on my sarracenia from Bloom as it was obviously in a mix of peat alone. And after a good watering with rainwater (refrigerated rainwater in the case of the darlingtonia), it was time for a photo or two.

8pm Note

Just in case anyone things I am suffering from teenage boy syndrome, I should clarify that I think sarracenia and nepenthes are very attractive plants (and of course unusual). Next year's challenge will be to incorporate sarracenia and darlingtonia in an attractive bog garden. By the way, the large sarracenia ate a bee this evening!

Coffee Morning

08 July 2009 13:14:32
Cooper (and Dean), Rachel & Head Gardener

Cooper (and Dean), Rachel & Head Gardener

Linda and Bill came around this morning for some tea/coffee and a look at the garden.

I had a really great time and Linda treated us again to her famous chocolate squares.

We were lucky with the weather and it was just great to have a proper gardening chat.

Ice Age 3

07 July 2009 22:06:51

Going Bananas

06 July 2009 21:39:39
ensete ventricosum 'maurelli'

ensete ventricosum 'maurelli'

I had experimented yesterday in moving my two large banana plants and datura into the garden. But it was far too windy and they kept blowing over. I gave up.

Today I had the brilliant idea of actually planting them in their pots in the borders. Duh! Don't know why this hadn't occurred to me before. I did it with one of the bananas last year, although it was a hell of a lot smaller then.  The advantage of planting them in their pots is that they're easier to lift to take in in winter. But they do need extra watering. They look great.

I decided against planting the datura in this way for two reasons. It is very brittle and bits break off easily. It also has several large buds so is about to flower. I would like to be sure of seeing its flowers at least once before experimenting with it. Does anyone put their datura outdoors in summer?

Anyway, that's all for the minute. I was just reading all the great comments below and they really gave me a boost. Will look around at what you've all been up to in your gardens and will make replies tomorrow but that's all for me tonight.


05 July 2009 17:49:02
water lily & sarracenia

water lily & sarracenia

My teenage son commented that the weather was very 'jumpy' today. It's an excellent description. One minute it's bright sunshine, the next it's a downpour.

Despite the weather I took plenty of photos - all in the album '5th July 2009'.

Hairspray for Gardens

04 July 2009 19:33:11
Stone Circle

Stone Circle

Whoever invents hairspray for gardens will make a fortune. You know, something you can spray on the whole shebang to make it stay just so.

Today I did a lot of work in the garden again and I can honestly say it is now as good as I can get it at this point in time. That's why I want the hairspray - to stop the grass and weeds regrowing and the flowers from falling. Of course, plants would never mature but... you know the feeling!

Will take lots of photos tomorrow, but for the moment here's a photo of the stone circle.

Lotsa Work

03 July 2009 22:06:15

Carnivorous Plants

02 July 2009 23:06:07
Nepenthes 'Rebecca' Soper

Nepenthes 'Rebecca' Soper

Had a real easy day today and did a good bit of browsing on the internet.

I was trying to find out more about carnivorous plants in general and how to order them on line, in particular. You see it's my birthday soon so I might be dropping a few hints to the hubby. 

I find the carnivorous pitcher plants really exciting and was amazed to discover that the nepenthes pitcher plants are completely different from the sarracenia pitcher ones in every way possible - different water, compost, light and temperature requirements. I was looking up information because my sarracenia plant doesn't seem to be doing that well. I think the problem is not enough light (I thought it was the opposite because the plant has, what seems like, scorch marks on it). Anyway, I need to get a proper book on the subject - my encyclopaedias don't cover it.

Alison, you mentioned that there is heuchera called 'Rachel'. Well, today I discovered that the Cobra Lily (also a carnivorous plant) has the name of darlingtonia. Since my name is Rachel Darlington, I think I had better look into getting one!

Glory Lily

02 July 2009 00:01:37
Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

Made a quick trip to the greenhouse this evening and was amply rewarded.

My glory lily has flowered.

I had to put up a quick picture, even though I will take better ones in daylight tomorrow.


Took a few photos in daylight. They're in the 'greenhouse' album. There are two flowers open and a sumptuous 11 more buds coming along : )

Helen Dillon Garden

01 July 2009 20:30:01
Helen Dillon Garden

Helen Dillon Garden

I made it. After three years of trying to get to the Dillon Garden, I made it.

In fact, I had an auspicious start because the rain actually stopped and stayed off and when I arrived at the garden bang-on 2pm, Helen said that I was their first visitor of the season. I got brought straight through the house to a window in the drawing room and encouraged to look out.

There in front of me - the full view. It was the stuff of legend, from the by-now iconic sphinxes to Helen's Alhambra style water channel. I know I am waxing a bit lyrical but that's the way I felt at the time.

And the garden is even more magnificent than in the books. In fact, it was breathtaking and I make no apologies for the numerous photos I took during my two hours there. In fact, I defy anyone to succeed in taking a bad photo in Helen's garden!

I never tried much with the colour blue in my garden but I am now totally inspired. Great billowing swathes of delphiniums, nepeta, geraniums and eryngium (which Helen seemed to mix with everything to surprisingly delightful effect) are the most salient memory of my time at the garden. Aah, delightful.

Of course I came away with a few mementos, including Helen's instructions on how to propagate crambe maritima and a mandrake cutting (mandragora officinarum). Apparently it is just a myth that they scream when uprooted but my teenagers are intrigued so it was worth getting for that alone.

So, I will have very pleasant dreams tonight


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