ONLY TWO MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS

It is wonderful to think that the days are slowly going to get longer. It is now very mild at the moment and several clumps of snowdrops are flowering. What a heralder of Spring they are, their bright little faces popping up in several of the beds. Near the house Polly has been mulching the beds with leaf mould, at the same time taking off the leaves of the hellebores which are all beginning to flower. The beds look so pristine, and a relief to look at after all the bright colours we enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

Tomorrow Thomas is driving me and Nicholas up to Shropshire to stay with Dominic and Hetty and their two children, George and Arthur, who have a house near Ludlow, which has the most beautiful castle. The two dogs are coming too, probably in the car with James. We shall. be the most awful squish, but I am so looking forward to it, James and I are going to go to Madrid for a week after Christmas, and then in January I am giving two lectures at neighbouring garden clubs. Clive has taken a lot of time and trouble doing me a memory stick of all the best photos of my garden. He took some lovely ones this year, so they are fairly up to date. The last lot had a two page spread in Country Life and featured on how we used alliums in the borders. All the tulips have been safely planted, and the new colour schemes are exciting. Goodness there is a lot to look forward to next year!

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My favourite romantic gardens, 28th November, 2017

In England Sissinghurst still remains supreme, with Great Dixter, Powys Castle, and Plas-yn-Rhiw on the Llyn Peninsula. Three of these are National Trust and have all been created many years ago. One of the main advantages of Plas-yn-Rhiw is that due to its position (miles away from anywhere) it is usually completely deserted, and you can imagine yourself with the three Keating sisters at the turn of the century, who originally created it. Clough Williams Ellis sent them a letter, which is framed, saying ‘How is your little bit of heaven’. When you are standing in the garden it frames the sea. I feel that for a garden to be romantic, the house must either be old, or very attractive, I am afraid that rules out several places.

I ask myself, ‘ is it because I am Welsh, that two of these gardens are in Wales?” Wales is romantic in itself as not many people go there, and everything that you see seems to reek of antiquity. You are always finding visitors going to Ireland, and Scotland, but not Wales. Near where James comes from at Rhiwlas, are two beautiful small painted chapels, again in the middle of nowhere. The other three gardens I have mentioned are very strong on topiary. Those huge bulging hedges at Powys have to be seen to be believed. Goodness knows how they clip them, or how long it takes. The vast borders going down what seems like a cliff face, are able to grow several tender plants, which is fun to see if you recognise them.

Sissinghurst, though slightly in a time warp, is pretty marvellous. The building is very beautiful, and the planting is exceptional, particularly in the Cottage Garden. The tower is romantic, and you can easily imagine Vita and Harold there. They were followed on by the two amazing gardeners Pam Schwerdt, and Sibylle Kreutzberger, the latter whom I am lucky to have as a friend and lives near me. Great Dixter is within easy reach, and it is interesting noting the difference between the two. Dixter is more untidy with a lot of annuals, but is pretty mind blowing, with plenty of atmosphere. Polly and I have just planted Poncirus trifoliata. Look it up if you don’t know what it is. It is very unusual, and I saw it growing at Sissinghurst.