Sunday, 15th December, 2019

It is extraordinary the lift of spirits that a group of early snowdrops gives you. On Friday I was looking at the two circles in the paddock that Polly has now weeded and cut back. There staring at me was a group of Galanthus Atkinsii. I could not believe it it seemed so early. At the moment in the garden it is almost the bleakest time of the year, except for a group of Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic’ bought from Marina Christopher. Anything that you buy from Marina is a star. It is still flowering at this moment, and I will show you a photograph of it. Very pretty too are the plumes of Miscanthus sinensis Kaskade. I ‘planted that because it was illustrated in Marina’s book ‘Late summer flowers’ It is still flowering well and is very twirly!

Down the bottom of the garden is Prunus subhirtella autumnalis. It was only planted last year and is covered with blossom and is something I have always wanted to grow. It is growing in the grass next to my bed of Salix Irrorata, spotted at the Cambridge Botanic Garden last year. I thought it was the best thing in January that I could see in their Winter Garden, and felt really pleased that we had made the decision to go there. Today we are going to lunch at Kiftsgate which I am really looking forward to. We are getting close to Christmas and have caught 10 mice in Dominics old bedroom, which my grandson Nicholas sleeps in! I cant think where they are coming in!

All the bulbs are coming up, particularly the snowdrops. I am looking out of the kitchen window., the ferns seem to have spread a lot. Bevis is getting huge, and Betula Jacquemontii is now a lot taller than the house. On Monday we are going to stay with Dominic and Hetty and the three grandchildren, they are near Devizes. I enjoy buying clothes for them, and the boys only seem to like Lego. I am pleased that they are living closer to us. Our little stone walls are very pretty and look rather Japanese, covered in moss. The next star of the garden is going to be the hellebores. What other flower flowers for three months. We have already cut off the leaves which do not go on the compost heap as they are too tough to rot down easily.

James does not like it but I rather like Christmas.

Saturday, 23rd November, 2019

Just over a month until Christmas. Time seems to go so fast, and we have started cutting back in earnest. Basically we let the borders continue to look attractive, and demolish things that are black or soggy. We have to tackle the borders now or there is just too much work for next year. Polly is planting the tulips in between outbursts of rain. We have ordered three new Crateagus Prunifolia Splendens from Bluebell Nursery, which is at Ashby la Zouche, and very good specimens arrived quickly. Though Polly spotted big thorns on them, she has an eagle eye. She says that she is going to plant them in large circles, so she can escape the thorns. James and I saw similar Crateagus at Wisley, with bigger thorns. This was a planting by Tom Stuart Smith. Tensing and Temba have been to their hairdresser, Peter’s posh pets. They always look so beautiful when they have been there, and I think they know it. People stop me in the street! One of the main reasons for planting euphorbias is the amazing red stems they have in the winter. Clive looked out of the kitchen window and thought he was looking at Cornuses.

Last week we went to Mostyn for a trustee meeting and I had not seen the garden for a year, and it was amazing how it had advanced. The really huge ancient greenhouse was on the way to being finished and was quite beautiful. At the base of the brick work were quite large holes for the grapes to be planted to go through. My greenhouse would fit in about 30 times. Though I am not envious of it. It is a job in itself! Then we went to Llandudno and up the Great Orme, and went in to a lovely little church, 5th century, called St Tudno. Finally we went to Bodysgallen Hall, the garden looking fairly inspiring, with a lovely view of Conway Castle. The Akebia Quinata has been completely taken down from the drawing room wall, and there is a gap at the bottom which has had to be filled in but now it is rain worthy. Sorry I am back to talking about Pettifers. The whole trip gave me some good ideas.

7 November, 2019.

Here we are in Autumn, feeling very grateful for the soft light and plants that turn golden and red. I have just heard from my daughter in law, Hetty, that we have a large page in Country Life, of the Autumn Border which I have not seen yet. Exciting. I thought that the Autumn border was exceptionally good this year, the colours were amazing, though whether everyone would have liked my use of yellow I do not know. It is so large this border that I can play around with combinations and colours. It’s other advantage is that the soil is very good and we do not have to stake anything.

Because of all the interminable rain we have been having, quite a few things have gone black. A very charming person called Paula came to interview me on monday, for four and a half hours, I was exhausted, and we walked round with me trying to notice everything. Polly was cutting back in the par terre as the rain had made the dahlias go over. In the Autumn Border Aster pink buttons was still going strong. Extraordinary for the first week in November. Found in Paris and increasing like mad. I have had it some time. Kniphofia Rooperi still flowering, though I never think that kniphofias go over at all well. Though one thing I think to myself is that no garden should be without asters as they prolong the season. We have more bookings than usual for this time of year, some from the French and Italians. I like them as they are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Yesterday James and I went to Wisley together, managed to get a good idea out of it, I hope. We then went to the shop, which is always very good. Pleased to see the Tim Richardson book that we were on the cover of is still for sale. Something very delicate and beautiful is flowering. Kniphofia Thomsonii var thomsonii, how I love it. It is at the edge of the main border so that you really notice it.

I suppose the frosts are going to start arriving, but as we have good structure it will look alright. If it is very cold this year I will worry about the Pittosporum Golfball which has just gone into the par terre to replace the Sarcoccoccas, which got too huge, and the Woodwardias which we normally cover.

26th October, 2019

On Monday we got back from two weeks in Corfu, a beautiful day every day. We got persuaded to open our garden at Prosilio for the Garden scheme. I did not think we were good enough and I felt a bit cross about it. Amazingly enough it was a huge success and we had about 40 people, a mixture of Greek, English and various nationalities. I never thought that I would be holding forth as to what would do well in Corfu or not. I thoroughly enjoyed it as everyone was so friendly and interested.

The main thing that we did out there was to take down three large olive trees which then opened up a large section of the mountains of Albania and the sea. Why had we never seen to do this before, partly that we are always there in august when you cannot do this, we have people staying and it is hot. I think we are going to spend less time in august it is just too hot.

Back here at Pettifers the best thing is the autumn border and the asters. It is an autumnal garden. Almost the best time, and I am so pleased to be back with Tensing and Temba. I am always saying that.

21st September, 2019

James is now a companion to go to Kew with. We have never gone together before because he has always been working, and we are at Pettifers at the weekend. We went to the Broadwalk borders, and I was thrilled to hear him say that he preferred Pettifers Autumn borders. Still here we are concentrating on the Autumn, and there they are having a much longer spectrum. How lovely Kew was, so many beautiful buildings, and I certainly want to go back and see their interiors. London is filled with stunning things. James has gone to see his mother, and Temba is sitting on the kitchen step waiting for him to return.

When I drove down yesterday I could not wait to cut down the Golden hop tree. It was blocking all the light in the study, apart from its leaf looking very chlorotic, quite hideous actually. It has opened up a view to the church and a. statuesque pine tree. It stops cluttering the beautifully clipped undulating beech hedge. You can see a small black wrought iron gate, and the clock on the church, apart from giving us a lot more light in a room in which we spend a lot of time. Polly does not like me cutting down too many large things, but I am amazed that I did not see this before.

When we get to November it is the time for planting bulbs. I am talking about tulips really, and before we went to Corfu I had ordered all the ones we needed. Peter Nyssen is the wholesale firm I go to, and I think they are pretty good. Bloms, and Avon Bulbs are both top class, but quite a lot more expensive. I think this has been quite a dry season, though tomorrow we are expecting a week of rain. In my opinion badly needed, and it is going to transform most of the borders near the house. The Autumn border has pretty good soil, and one or two visitors have commented how we do not have to stake anything down there.

] am pretty pleased with the Autumn border this year. In all the time that we have been planting it, it has never looked so good. I think it is the use of yellow, purple and blue. We did use yellow last year but we have planted purple to go with it this year. The different colour pink monardas against Helenium Sahins early flowerer early on was fairly mind blowing. I took some good shots but needless to say Clive’s were absolutely stunning.

11th September, 2019, Autumn at Pettifers

We are back from Corfu, looking at an autumnal garden and Tensing and Temba thrilled to see us.

Everything looks completely different, with two of the hedges clipped, the front one, not with ‘scorch’ this time, and the new hedge next to Mrs Holbech’s garden which has now got a very good shape. It has taken seven years. Magnolia lilliflora nigra seems to have doubled in size, though it has taken a very long time to get where it has. The autumn border really looks lovely with a lot of yellow in it, a colour that some people find difficult, but all of it seems to go very well with the Eupatorium. I have dead headed the Achillea Gold Plate, which seems to go a slightly nasty dark brown colour, but it has been flowering for a very long time. The Aconitums are not really flowering yet, and I like the new one called Cloudy which we need more of. The Aconitum Royal Flush is showing colour. This is the one that has red foliage when it is coming up.

The par terre is a blaze of colour, though I need to think of something new to go with Murdoch. What is there has a huge head, which does not look good when it is wet. It is difficult choosing dahlias on line, though it is worth going to Sarah Ravens website, as she has good taste, and comes up with new ideas. Finally I have something that I am excited about. This is Chimborazo with Clare de Lune, and we will take out some of Sue Dickinsons alstroemeria. When this is over there is too much of a blank space which takes a while to fill.

When James and I went to the Cambridge Botanic Garden after Christmas last year we planted a bed of Salix Irrorata, and it is doing so well. They arrived tiny, and I really like the leaf, and they are huge. We are going to plant Aster Ice Cool Pink to the right hand side of the bed. Earlier on we have snowdrops and hellebores (white) as an underplanting. When something does well it certainly lifts the spirits. This does not always happen!


We have been here for three weeks, and we are coming back for two weeks in October which was like a paradise last year. It was nothing like so hot and seemed completely deserted. There was no one on the small curved beach at Avlaki and the roads were. empty. When we first came here, which was about thirty years ago, most of the roads were dirt track, and we are lucky that it has not been too spoilt since. We went to a restaurant going north up the island, called The Three Brothers, right off the beaten track, going north, with delicious food, and right on the beach. Since we have been coming to Greece the food has improved out of all recognition, and the local wines are good.

Still there has been no sign of any rain, which is badly needed. Why does everyone else’s Oleanders flower continuously and ours seem to have the once flowering and that is it. I have suddenly remembered it is James birthday on the Saturday we get back, and at the moment I am not feeling inspired as to what to get him! Needless to say I am looking forward hugely to seeing the dogs, and I am muttering about getting a third, but James at the moment does not seem up for it. I love the breed that we have got, Lhasa Apso, too naughty to be sold at Harrods apparently. I am looking forward to seeing the garden at. Pettifers, and have no idea what it is going to look like after three weeks absence. I think that several of the hedges will have been cut which I look forward to seeing. I am hoping that the autumn border will still look good, if different.