Posted 31st Jan 2018
Jane Bastow, gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, joins us again to tell us about the wonders of her garden, and how she's using it to raise money for charity
My garden started early this time around with a clump of Primula vulgaris in bloom halfway through December nestled at the foot of the Holly hedge, and just after Christmas the first of the Snowdrops. By early January I started to get a really good showing of Snowdrops all over the garden, several weeks earlier than I would expect. These were the G. nivalis and not the doubles. This is such an important bulb this early in the year as it is used almost exclusively by honey bees and is one of the few sources of pollen available to them as they start to become active again in February. So often when talking about plants for bees it is the summer plants that are given so much attention, but if we don’t plant for them early (and late with the ivy flowers), they won’t have to worry about the summer as they won’t survive!
Another passion of mine are the Hellebores. Like the Snowdrops they start to bloom in the dead of winter – mine start into flower just after Christmas. Their beautiful big open flowers are another vital source of pollen for the early bees, the single flowers being so accessible. What a joy on a sunny winter day to see and hear the bees on these remarkable flowers, which even after their flowers fade and the seed pods are forming are still lovely to look at. I allow the seeds to drop where they are and leave most of the seedlings to grow on to form large clumps. I got this idea many years ago when I saw large stands of them in Beth Chattos garden. They grow all over my garden, in sun or shade, between the paviers and in the Hosta bed. I allow this sort of seeding with a lot of plants and from them, I pot on and sell plants on open days.
My first Open Garden will be for the NGS (you can find out more here) on Sunday 25th March. All details can be found on their website or in the Yellow Book, The Laburnums in Suffolk.
The biggest change from last year is the restoration of the large pond which was done in August 2017. It has gone from being totally overgrown (24 years of water lily growth unchecked and the liner breaking down) to a beautiful open reflection pool. It was completely stripped out back to bare earth, the contents of the surrounding bed potted up, and then reinstated and restocked with a variety of fish. A small number of the water lilies were replaced too. Sitting next to it when it was finished, looking at the reflection of the tress and sky reminded me of a verse from a favourite poem;
“We all need time to stand and stare
By rivers(or pond)still and peaceful air,
Relaxing in this cool retreat;
A precious moments joy complete."
The seats by the pond are the ones we use most and the most occupied on an Open Garden. Last spring I added 5,000 snowdrops to the garden and this year intend to do the same.
Although I have written extensively about two plants, there are many more to see. A great favourite last year was the large clumps of Leucojum. They have taken three years to bulk up.
The daffodil walk has had many more additions this year and they also grow all around the garden. For perfume I have a Sarcococca near the back door and this will be immediately followed by the Daphne odora ‘marginata’ which is already showing some colour in the buds. The perfume just sweeps across the garden and although not perfumed the early small single Camellia is on show to be followed by its larger showier cousins later on. There are also a variety of trees on bloom from very early spring through to the summer giving another level of colour, and the pink of the Prunus ‘kanzan’ against a blue sky takes some beating.There is always something on bloom in the garden for the whole twelve months of the year but as well as the plants there is the wildlife. A whole variety of birds which breed in the boxes and hedges from wrens to pheasants and everything in between and also hedgehogs, so good at eating the things I don’t want munching on my plants.
There is a great enjoyment to be had in sharing the garden with visitors, exchanging gardening tips, tales and advice. There is always something new to learn in the university of life.
My second open garden is Saturday May 12th 10-5 (see press and local adverts for details). This year the main charity will be Guide dogs for the blind. At both my open days there will be plants for sale as well as food and drink available.
It is so easy to make friends in the garden – we all talk about plants, cake and the weather!
Happy gardening for 2018.