Sunday, 10 July 2011

Open Gardens: Montrose

Sat Nav was set to the Town Nursing Home. The familiar yellow Open Garden banner along the outside wall told us our man ‘Tom’ had successfully got us to the ticket buying/map collection point. We could see many others had just arrived too and the buzz of a town with Open Gardens could be sensed before we even parked the car.

Purely by chance and very fortunate timing we were in Montrose. We had just returned from holiday the night before and catching up on recorded gardening programmes with Breakfast last Sunday morning I got a bit of a surprise!

Scotland’s gardening programme Beechgrove Garden featured one of the gardens that would be open. I liked this garden a lot, but that wasn’t the real reason I quickly made up a picnic and woke my daughter to see if she’d like to come with me :-)


Ticket/Map bought from the friendly ladies sitting at their table in the sunshine, we could hear music playing from a marquee. They were playing for the visitors enjoying the teas. Not taking a drink with me, the plan was to get a coffee here first… mmm… and some home baking too :-)

It’s been some time since I’ve added a coffee cup warning for a chatty post but perhaps you might want to pour yourself a cuppa :-)


The Nursing Home had opened its gardens too. I have to say I thought it was lovely to see some of the residents enjoying the sunshine, music and the extra buzz of people.

Okay, browsing my map over coffee we had a planned route. I knew where the garden that I wanted to visit was so we were sorted there. Off we went... although initially in the wrong direction. Fortunately a local resident told us this and give us a few pointers. We met others and told them too :-)

Personally, I think the great thing about Open Gardens is the wealth of ideas and inspiration to be found there. For new/first time gardeners I would suggest they are better than Garden Shows especially if you are new to an area. The Open Gardens show you what will grow in that location which will generally save on losses of plants not hardy in the area.

As is often the case, unfortunately we didn’t manage to get round all the gardens open this day. I do have a pang of guilt when I don’t get to the ones a bit further out as was the case here. Having been in that position myself (a few years ago) I know how disappointing it is when visitors don’t reach you. My apologies now to the gardens of Hillside that we missed.

I’m guessing a deliberate move by the organisers not to give descriptions for the gardens on the maps ensured that all gardens would get visitors and all visitors would get a surprise on the style of garden they entered. I’d say that worked.

However, for my post I am concentrating on the garden that took us to Montrose this day. I should add that I asked permission to take photos at this garden. I recognised the owner from the television programme… oh yes… and her name from somewhere else ;-)

Let me take you on a town garden tour… to a long thin garden plot with a path to a vegetable/kitchen garden at the end. There’s a wall along one side, fencing on the other. Oh… and there’s a shed in the back corner. Mm… that doesn’t sound that inspirational though does it? Let’s take a closer look…



Yes, there were bold flowers like poppies in this garden. There were also delicate flowers and a wealth of wonderful foliage. Of course, being a foliage fan I was happy ;-)

Yes, the kitchen garden was hidden at the back of the garden but what a delightful area this was. It definitely didn’t need to be hidden. A productive space with healthy neat herbs, vegetables and fruit this area had a lot of attention from visitors reducing my photo opportunities.

On entering the kitchen garden through an open gate on the right, a quick scan around left to right clocked the tall fennel, full working greenhouse (I say that with envy as mine is being temporarily used for storage at the moment) and a main rectangular bed with veggies up the centre (width wise).

A grey garden shed in the back right corner was facing the gate/entrance. Dull corner? Oh yes… and there were spiders webs too… honestly… no dusting done for visitors then?

Lol… I smiled broadly to see the bug house tucked in the corner under the shed roof with webs covering part of it… spiders in residence then? What a brilliant place to put an insect house! Location, location, location :-)

A green shed roof had everyone smiling. It also had me suffering a little (green) envy once again as this is something I have toyed with myself. From the views I was able to get from the ground this was a very successful planting too. Mm… this is back on the list for possible garden projects :-)

Fishing creels (guessing to protect the young plants underneath) drew my eye right along to the back path to the left hand border. Fruit was trained up the back and side fences and seen in a small fruit cage. Lilies were flowering in a corner, grey paddle stones with young box hedging were growing in patterns under a tree (maybe apple?).

The creels, insect houses and a shiny, scarlet red garden seat facing the gate (which I missed when my eye was drawn to the smaller detail of webs on a bug box) show the gardeners here don’t lack imagination and flare for detail. Sorry, Gardening Scotland, something I felt missing from your show gardens and floral marquee displays this year.

Yes, from the minute we walked into this town back garden, the creativeness and skill of the gardeners behind it sang out! Admittedly, I had an idea of the plants, layout and scale but often photos or television views leave us disappointed when you visit a garden for real. Not in this case though!

A quick question... how many times have you heard gardening programmes suggest breaking up a long garden with a zig-zag path and placing plants so you don’t see the garden all at once? This garden executed that idea… and some.

Being absolutely genuine here, in my opinion, at a garden show this garden would take a gold medal and best in show. Again sorry to say, Gardening Scotland, this garden is way better than your show gardens this year. I was quite disappointed with them.

Let’s continue our tour by taking a walk through the kitchen garden gate and on to a slightly raised, decked walkway that zigzags to the back of the house and where we entered the garden…



The scale and planting combinations of this this garden absolutely captured and delighted me. At a glance the mass tapestry of beautiful planting wows you but even in darker smaller corners the planting sings out. Expect to stop a few times en route ;-)



The feet just showing (bottom right) in the photo above, show my daughter taking a stop while I’m taking photos. She is sitting on a bench seat to a wonderful, heavily styled dining table that is under a fabric sail canopy.

What a wonderful place to sit, relax and entertain. I can imagine this being well used. A tree fern takes main stage in the small corner of shady plants behind the table. I had one of these once upon a time until I decided one winter I'd try and harden it up by giving it less protection... bad idea!

I didn’t manage to get a photo without people sitting or looking here. This area is completely hidden from view from the back of the house. You can get a sense of the number of plants in this view.



Above, one of the path-side views that stopped me in my tracks had me going a tad green also. I absolutely loved the tiny white flowers of the sea kale, Crambe, against the white bark of the birch trees. Oops… thinking about this I’m a tad green on the birch trees too… that’s something I’d love to have a group planting of too.

Crambe, I did have in my garden at one time. It never really performed well enough where I had it and I was never lucky enough to see the wonderful frothy flowers like this. Guessing not enough sun was my problem, and perhaps the fact that I moved it around my garden.

On the positive side I successfully took root cuttings. On the negative side something found the leaves tasty and I was left with ugly spiders webs of leaves. My plants were shown the garden gate… and live in another garden now :-)

So, above, waist height in front of me here was a froth of flowers with Crambe and Astrantia as a backing choir to the large, dark poppy flowers. My eye was drawn to the colour detail here of the pink edges in the Astrantia echoing the poppies. I also loved the blue/green tall foliage here which was in strong contrast to the planting on the other side of the path...



Taking a closer look at the planting at my feet now, I smiled to see a Tiarella planted with Heucheras. Being a Heuchera fan, this year the Tiarella has caught my eye in garden centres. I fancy adding it to my garden especially when I have so many shady areas. I see it can be propagated by division just like the heuchera... excellent!

I also smiled at the almost hidden water feature with water gently flowing over a steel/mirror orb. I am certain there were many more details that I and others may have missed in this garden. Let’s take a longer view…



Above, we can get a feel of height and scale with another tree and a visitor taking a closer look at another water feature that all visitors were enjoying…



Wonderful ripples of water ran down a steel/mirror vertical slab which also reflected the purple/blue flowers that skirted around and in front of it. I thought it a great touch to use a blue flower here as if to continue water into the planting area. Maybe that wasn't the plan but that's the way my eye saw it and shows a garden is no different than a piece of art when it comes to intepretation.

Meanwhile, above on the other side of the path, a bit more subtle but just as inspiring a beautiful deep red/orange peeling bark on the tree growing through the Heucheras tied them together. Lovely detail there especially with the sun backlighting the bark ribbons just as Heuchera leaves can be lit with sun too. Nice touch :-)

Let’s change direction now and look at a couple of planting combinations at the beginning of the zigzag path…





Did you spot the sculpture in the 2nd photo above? Once again a hidden treasure and a wonderful colour too. I do believe there were others that matched in colour and style in other parts of the garden.

As I said earlier, there were so many details to this inspiring garden… many just took a closer look to find them. I like that about a garden and try that a little in mine too :-)

I admired these plantings as I waited for an opportunity to chat to the lady behind this garden. Yep… I was now converted to bringing back some poppies in my garden for next year. Also after much chat about adding Astrantia every Spring for the last few years it must happen now!

Oh… and those unusual blue flowering stems of Cerenthe… perhaps it’s time to look at what conditions they like. Yep… visits to Open Gardens also give reminders of what plants we have loved, lost and would love to have again as well as new ones to add to our gardens :-)

So, it was a glorious day all round, the sun was shining and I was wearing a hat especially for the occasion! There was a reason for this ;-)

Once the lady of the garden was free to chat, I tilted my hat quite squint to the one side… “Hello there, Janet” I said with a big smile.” I’ve worn a hat especially for you today”. With that Janet smiled broadly back… telling her husband who I was. Wait a minute though, we had never met…

Ah… remember when your cuppa was warm at the beginning of this post and I said that I got a surprise when watching the garden shown on the television programme. It wasn’t the garden that I was surprised at but the lady showing the presenter around… I thought I’d recognised her from a photo.

A quick rewind on the programme and I caught her name and then I was sure… Janet is a blogger I know!! Her garden was open and I could get an opportunity to see it and meet her too. I left her a comment on her blog suggesting I might come :-)

We had a nice chat, but knowing it wasn’t fair to keep her to myself when others wanted to chat to her too I smiled broadly, before asking the big question… can I take photos and blog on my visit?

Her husband turned to her and laughed suggesting this would be fun to see her and her garden as subject for a post. I looked to her tilting my hat again to persuade her a little ;-)

Poor Janet has waited a week for me to get time to do my visit to her garden justice. The anxious wait now will be at my end as I await her response to my post.

I do hope you and she has enjoyed my lengthy chat and photos of her garden and that others will read all the way to the end of this post to find out this was a Scottish Bloggers meet too :-)

In all honesty, I’ve not ‘bigged’ this garden up as Janet is a blogger. I really did enjoy her garden immensely and it is so nice to have a real face behind any comments/mail we exchange from now on. Janet blogs at Planticru notes if anyone wants to pop by to virtually visit her her to chat about her garden :-)

Oh... wait a minute, here's a late update... I've just disovered that another blogger, Hanni at Sweet Bean Gardening, has posted a before and after post on Janet's garden. Very interesting. I enjoyed seeing these photos and hearing a bit about the progress :-)

Would you believe it... I'm now adding a second update! I've now discovered a post with photos of the transition of Janet's garden on her blog. Great stuff. I love to see these sort of photos. Take a look here :-)



That’s me all chatted out now… phew… I hear you say! Spookily I am posting this at the time we arrived in Montrose last Sunday all set to see this garden! Enjoy your day :-)


This post was written by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch in July 2011.

9 comments:

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Thank you Shirl! I like the garden, and I also like your presentation. Very interesting! Crambe got my attention. I have one plant. I moved it to the sunnier location this year, and it started showing better growth. It does need sun!
Thanks again!

Janet said...

Wow is that really our garden?!I;m very impressed! Can I put a link to it please?

greggo said...

Delightful post.

Hanni said...

Hey, hey...I recognize this garden! :) Thank you for posting these delightful photos from Janet's garden - I'm a bit envious that you were able to walk through...it's so lovely!

The Sage Butterfly said...

What a lovely garden! I, too, like idea gardens. They inspire me to make my garden even better. Thanks for sharing this very beautiful garden.r

shirl said...

Hello everyone, hope you’ve all had a good week :-)

Tatyana, I’m delighted you enjoyed both the garden and my spin on it. Good luck with the Carmbe :-)

Janet, I think it’s always fun to see someone else’s eye on something you are familiar with. Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, link away :-)

Greggo, Delighted you enjoyed it, thanks for stopping by. You might guess what I’m going to do now… see you later. Happy GBBD :-)

Hanni, As I said to Janet above, it’s fun to put a different set of eyes on a garden. I enjoyed the post with you very much. Ah… but yes… I was lucky to get a wander through this wonderful garden :-)

Sage Butterfly, delighted you enjoyed the tour and inspiration. See you later. Happy GBBD :-)

VP said...

I haven't been to a garden in Montrose but spent a wonderful weekend there once (in what seems like another lifetime) doing an environmental discovery day for the local wildlife trust's Watch club. I can remember an incredibly long journey to get there, then my colleague and I running down the beach to the water's edge, laughing our heads off at the freedom. Oh and lots of eider ducks and loads of squiggly things found in the sand.

Anna said...

Sounds a great day out Shirl and as you say what an excellent way of finding out what grows well in your neck of the woods. Himself and I enjoyed a great day a couple of years ago racing round the open gardens of Usk in Monmouthshire. How nice to round the day up by meeting a fellow garden blogger.

shirl said...

Hello again, VP & Anna :-)

VP, Sounds a great trip – I can imagine the long trek you had. We have the same when we go South. I’m not familiar with Montrose myself but the people we met were very nice. I’ve never been to the beach but can imagine the feeling you had back then :-D

Anna, It was, not as long a drive as VP had but a little bit of a trek but definitely worth it. Sounds, like himself might enjoy garden visits too then – great for you. Yes the bonus and being honest, the reason for going this day was as much to meet Janet as to see her wonderful garden :-D