The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is made up of a picturesque Victorian landscape full of important tree and shrub collections that are managed by the Forestry Commission. There are as many as fifteen thousand trees at Westonbirt which come from all over the globe. The Arboretum is famous for its spectacular display of autumnal colours, but is also known for its Spring displays of rhododendron, azalea and magnolia. This time of year however is the most popular, and invites children, adults and dogs to explore the grounds.
If you're planning to visit either during school holidays or on the weekend, then get there early. You will avoid the masses of children, buggies and families that seem to take over the entire site after about 12pm, and you will also be able to get some great photographs without having to wait for people to evacuate from the selfie hotspots. Look out for the 'Enchanted Christmas' event throughout December, which lights up the trees for the festive period. More information can be found here on their website.
As gardening and blogging about horticulture is a relatively new venture for me, I was concerned that by the end of September, I might struggle to provide content for my blog - especially colourful photographs. Of course the Autumn months bring with them vibrant oranges, reds and browns in the trees, but I never would have guessed that Autumnal plants could flower in such a vast range of pinks, blues and purples; colours which most of us might associate with the Summer months. Although the trees have started to change in colour, it will still be a couple of weeks for most of us before we see them at their most glorious. In the meantime, if you are looking to satisfy a need for colour, then the Picton Garden at Old Court Nurseries is the place to go.
The rich family history of the garden is evident in the nursery, where you can purchase from the collection of hundreds of different variations of michaelmas daisies, many of which are named after family members. The pink variations include other names such as 'pink lace', 'rufus', 'lassie' and 'prince'. The purple variations include 'superstar', 'purple dome' and 'fair lady'. The blues include 'little boy blue', 'blue bouquet' and 'sapphire'.
The volume of the collection is absolutely astounding and overwhelmingly beautiful; it didn't take long before my Mum and I were shopping the collection ourselves... To top it all off, the family and gardeners who work there are friendly and helpful, and will even give you directions to the local cafe, 'Cafe Morso' where you can enjoy a delicious cream tea and great cup of coffee.
More information about the garden and its open days can be found here. They are open every day from now until the 20th October, so make sure to plan your visit soon!
Last weekend, my Mum and I hosted our second National Garden Scheme open garden event of the year. Only this time, instead of an afternoon of tea and cakes, it was an evening filled with nibbles and lots of wine. The garden opening is an amazing opportunity to raise money for the charities that the National Garden Scheme donate to, including Marie Curie UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Parkinsons UK and many more.
This is an element of the open gardens that I feel many forget. Whilst opening our garden has always been a joyful occasion and raises money for many incredible causes, the stress of maintaining a large garden during a less than average summer that basically ended in July can be overwhelming. Although the end of August may seem an ideal time to hold such an event, the weeks leading up to it saw wilting roses, fading colours and underwhelming amounts of sunshine or rain. For this, I am in awe of my Mum's ability to create a patch of paradise, no matter the weather.
Summer has been somewhat disappointing this year. In true British fashion, the heatwave arrived early in May and June - stayed for a few weeks - and then quickly disappeared. Throughout August, my 'summer' wardrobe has therefore consisted of wellington boots, hoodies and fleeces, as well as winter coats and bed socks. Luckily, I have had the pleasure of spending August in the Cotswolds where - come rain or shine - beauty can always be found. Preparations are currently underway for our second National Garden Scheme open garden event of the year, and I thought that before I post about the charity event, I could write about the more natural landscapes and wildflowers of the local area.
Although there isn't quite as much to see out walking as you might find in a public or private garden, the hunt for unexpected inhabitants can be just as interesting. As well as commonly known scotch thistles and bramble bushes, poppies can often be found lurking among wheat fields, and carpets of yellow rattle create respite for weary walkers tired of long grasses. In the alkali soil of the Cotswolds, Beech trees and Hawthorns grow quite happily, and along with elderberries, these species provide pollen and nectar for bees throughout the Summer, and berries for birds in the Autumn.
With the inevitability that the colder months will soon be upon us, the colour of the fields will quickly fade, so grasp the chance to go walking while it's still warm enough to stop and admire. I go walking for the same reason I go running: good exercise, fresh air - and most importantly - time to yourself to calm down, cheer up or motivate yourself (whatever negative energy you're carrying can be left along the footpaths). As long as you have a good pair of shoes, a sense of adventure and a decent pub to visit at the end of it, walking off the beaten track is a sure way to escape the trials and tribulations of every day life, even if only for a couple of hours.
Whichford Pottery is a family-run business in Warwickshire that makes and sells traditional flowerpots for both home and garden. My Mum has been a loyal customer for years - buying their products at a number of different gardening centres and stores - but had never actually visited their workshop, garden and cafe - which are all on site to explore at their company base in Whichford. When she mentioned to me that we should go and visit, I underestimated the scale of their site, which almost reminds me of walking onto the kind of family festival campsites that I used to go to as a child.
After we'd had lunch, we went into the gardens and pottery workshop to check out their designs. These consisted of an Alice in Wonderland range, a Shakespeare range and many more eccentric designs inspired by the potters and their experiences - one example being a 'Sicilian lemon' pot inspired by the designer's recent holiday in Italy. Some of favourites included the miniature bee planters and elephant pots, which fit beautifully with the aesthetic of their gardens.
Welcome to a three part series titeld: Changes. Like many other young people around the country, I have recently finished my degree. Although most people have already graduated, I don't have my ceremony until December. I will, however be graduating in December with Distinction in a Masters in Music and Composition from the Royal Northern College of Music. For as long as I can remember, my whole life has revolved around music in one way or another. However, my hobby for gardening and photography has only just begun, almost as an antidote to a full-time schedule of music and composition. Now that I've finished my degree, I've moved out of Manchester and back home to the Cotswolds for the summer. Anyone who has ever had to move house will understand the huge amount of stress and exhaustion that it causes, and will sympathise with my lack of blogging as of late!
Most Brits seem to have some kind of opinion about country living one way or another, and there are so many misconceptions about life outside the city. Yes, there are lots of farmers... and dogs... and cows. There is also an incredible choice of high quality restaurants and pubs (local ales being the specialty). Moreover, there are things to do in the country that simply aren't available in the big cities. At certain times of the year, the local village run a village cinema, where you pay £5 only for your ticket and a glass of wine. The sense of community here struck me at first as very strange (being a Londoner: suspicious of everyone) - but out in the sticks - people are genuinely happy to talk to you and invite you over for a drink, food or even just a bit of gossip. Fortunately for me, this means getting to photograph other local gardens, which are often absolutely stunning.
Manchester is a vibrant city full of colourful people, and I will miss it greatly. Although many young people my age would wince at the thought of living in what they might consider to be the middle of nowhere, the vast amount of wildlife and plants on offer are an undeniable luxury. To be honest, most people my age would wince at the thought of writing about gardening, so I'm probably not the typical twenty-three year old anyway!
The Little Green Blog was launched exactly one month ago today, and what better way to celebrate the one month anniversary of the blog than with my first ever flower show! I mentioned to my Mum that I'd seen adverts for Tatton Flower Show, but had never heard of it myself. She told me that it would be the perfect way to get into flower shows as it is known for being one of the smaller but more vibrant events. In particular, the show highlights its young and upcoming garden designers, creating an incredibly youthful and festival-like aesthetic which provides ample opportunity for budding young photographers...
The highlight of the tent was master grower, W. S. Warmenhoven's alliums, which were definitely one of the most popular species at the whole event. These variations on the classic allium were a beautifully arranged evolution of the plant, and showed perfectly the dedication of the growers.
I am so grateful to those who explained their designs and thought-processes to me; it is vital that the designers, growers and business owners that contribute to these kind of events are recognised for their hard work. Their dedication to art and construction should be acknowledged in the same way we would recognise artists in a gallery or designers on a catwalk and celebrated equally.
I've come away from Tatton having learnt a few more plant names, facts about species and the insects and animals that benefit from them, but I've also come away in awe of the people that not only create beautiful outdoor spaces, but promote important and evocative messages. Flower shows are not just for plant lovers, but for photography enthusiasts, philosophers, architectures, volunteers, children and more.
People often ask me how I find country life in the Cotswolds after growing up in London. I, like many people, assumed that moving to the country meant being cooped up in a cottage all day. In fact, there are so many wonderful attractions in the Cotswolds that are even better than many attractions found in London. An excellent example of this is the Cotswold Wildlife Park. You might assume from its name that it is a quaint little park in the Cotswolds equipped with a butterfly house and petting zoo. Although it does have both of these, you would be wrong to assume that it was anything but spectacular. I first went to the park two years ago, and was overwhelmed by its sheer size and scale. I visited again early this year, but hadn't yet launched a blog on which to talk about it. So, ever since launching The Little Green Blog, I have been eagerly waiting to post about - what I think is - one of the best wildlife attractions in the UK.
Although I'm no expert, the Cotswold Wildlife park is one of the few places where the animals appear to be incredibly content in their environment. The expert keepers not only work to maintain the beauty of the gardens, but the wellbeing of the various species that the park cares for. Whether you live in London, the North or South; a visit to the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens is essential for any animal, garden or nature lover - especially at this time of year!
Manchester has been my home during my studies at the Royal Northern College of Music for the last two years. Although I often go back and forth to Gloucestershire and London to see friends and family, I spend most of my time here in the city. It is sometimes hard therefore to find the same amount of greenery and wildlife in Manchester compared to the natural surroundings of my family home in the Cotswolds. I mentioned this before in my post about Media City, in which I discussed the lack of green space in the city centre. Despite this, Manchester is undeniably vibrant in its arts and culture. So, this weekend, I went on an urban wildlife hunt in the city.
So far, my urban wildlife collection consists mostly of street art and independent flower shops, but a city as industrial as Manchester provides a different kind of pleasure when it comes to discovering plants and animals because you really have to look for it. Walking back from the city to Salford Quays took me along the Manchester canal. Normally, I'm found running along the canal every other morning, so it was nice to use it for a leisurely walk for a change. The canal is home to lots of typical waterway plants such as the bright purple butterfly bushes that line the paths.
Apart from the ever-changing appearance of the garden itself, the open garden day is very much the same every year. My Mum is usually running around fretting about how much she has to do (the baking tends to start at about midnight the evening before everyone is due to visit). My job is always to lovingly decorate the cakes, help out around the garden in any way I can - and apart from that - stay out of the way and provide hourly cups of tea for my Mum to keep her going.
What astounds me is that my Mother's garden has been a five year project. In that small space of time she has managed to turn a completely bare canvas into a three tiered exotic country garden which features its own pond and waterfall, fire-pit and bee hives (with a few extra shady areas to rest your legs in between). I've always encouraged my Mum to be more bold with colour in her landscape design, so I was delighted to see the newest addition to her flower beds: the most vibrantly coloured snapdragons you've ever laid eyes on.
The open garden is very much a family-run affair; with my Mum working as tour guide for the afternoon, I'm in charge of cakes and teas (not a hard job) and my Grandmother and Aunt sat on the door this year welcoming guests and dogs of all kinds. My Aunt even brought with her, her magnificent Bernese mountain dog called Tigga who, along with our dog Rufus, was able to pay her entrance fee, sample some cake and explore the garden.
Although it has become tradition that my Mum and I start baking late the night before into the wee hours of the morning, the selection of goodies seems to get better every year. The two clear winners for the guests were my Mother's Raspberry and Rosewater Sponge, and her famous Bakewell Tart. With nearly £600 raised for charity, the day was a huge success and we'll be spending the next week trying to finish up any leftover cakes and tray bakes ourselves (which is a hard task but someone's got to do it right?)
On behalf of my Mum and the National Garden Scheme, I'd like to thank every single person who came to visit the garden yesterday to admire both the cakes and the flowers. It means so much to be able to take something that we enjoy and use it as an excuse to raise money for worthy causes all over the country.
Hi there, my name is Nevada and I'm a twenty-five year old music teacher. The Little Green blog centres around wildlife, gardening and lifestyle photography. All photos are my own and represent the portfolio of an amateur photographer!