Yesterday evening I was very lucky to have an after hours guided walk around the wonderful Ventnor Botanical Gardens. It was the perfect weather to enjoy the magnificent planting and made very special by being shown around by a passionate gardener eager to point out the rare and unusual blooms. There have been a number of changes since I was last there, the main one being that it’s no longer run by the IOW Council. The gardens are managed by only a few full-time staff with the help of volunteers and they are achieving amazing things. The micro climate at Ventnor means that plants grow here that don’t elsewhere in the British Isles.
Thanks to the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust I spent a very enjoyable day at Lisle Combe a lovely house at the Undercliff just past Ventnor Botanical Gardens. The reason was for a talk by Kate Harwood a garden historian and lecturer. Lisle Combe is an early 19th century cottage orne (no, I’d never heard of one of those either!) and the home of the poet Albert Noyes (no, I’ve never heard of him).
The talk was titled….Gardens of the Picturesque and Recency Period.
I hadn’t known what to expect but in fact it was a terrific day. Amazingly it was sunny and warm. The group were lovely. Kate certainly knew her stuff and how to share it with us in an entertaining and informative way. The house was fascinating and the owners pulled out all the stops to make us welcome and wonderfully well fed.
The gardens are overgrown and in a sad state but it’s still possible to imagine how they once were and hopefully can be again. Like all these old houses and gardens upkeep is a huge job and restoring and maintaining the house should probably come first but it would be wonderful to see the gardens looking fabulous again.￼
I have even been inspired to do a little pencil drawing of the house, something that I’ve not done for a very long time…….
If we were going to move house and had a couple of million in the bank then Bath would be pretty high on our list of places to move to, unfortunately we don’t have that kind of money and there is no way that we are ever moving again………………..
The architecture is sublime and the shopping is somewhat better than on the Island.
At long last we’re seeing some sunshine and it’s getting warmer.
I’m still clearing the ground and the compost heap is getting higher. I’m starting to lop off some branches from the larger trees to get more light into the space. In this January sunshine we’ve been having on the Island its all looking lovely.
I’m still discovering new things like these plaques. I’ve no idea what they say or even which way up they should hang….but that’s for the future!
I made a trip to Ventnor Botanical Gardens this week as they had a pre season plant sale.
When we moved to the Island ten years we took on a garden that was just a couple of old bushes and a big lawn. Bit by bit we filled it with plants, mostly from the botanical gardens. Our theory was that if they thrived just along the road then we would be pretty safe with them in our garden. When we left the house everything went into storage and we simply had to say goodbye to all the lovely plants we had collected……so it’s back to square one.
We had the Lampanthus all along the outside hedge hanging over the wall along the front of the house. It thrived in the poor soil and in full sun. The almost day glow colour of the flowers could hardly be photographed as they were so bright . Lots of people took cuttings and then complained that they had died. They’d put the cuttings in potting compost, kept them in the greenhouse and watered them regularly but still the cuttings had died? We had to explain that in fact they thrive in poor soil and don’t need watering….just stick them in a sunny spot and leave them! I’ll be able to take loads of cuttings from this and so we’ll soon have plenty around the garden.
The Agave (filifera) is a baby from a plant that they are excited about at the botanical gardens as it shoots up a dramatic flower (eventually) so I’m looking forward to how that develops.
The Hebe (brachysiphon) is another of those terrific plant that once planted can just be left alone and will be soon be covered in lovely flowers.
The other plant is labelled as being Euryops but looks nothing like the plant I looked up on Google so I’ll just have to wait and see what develops.
It was a lovely day so after looking round the gardens I made my way down to Steephill Cove which is at the bottom of a steep path below the botanical gardens.
I was the only person there (well I didn’t see anyone else anyway) and it was really magical. The sun was shining, the sea was calm and the little collection of houses, shacks and beach huts looked wonderful.
It rained quite heavily last night but it was dry this morning so armed with my loppers and new gardening gloves (why has it taken me so long to get a pair?) I ventured into the secret garden. It’s hard going but we’re really starting to see some results now. The heap of cut down undergrowth and branches runs along the end of the garden and is getting higher daily but will soon break down………….well it will do eventually!
An hour ago the rain came back and I got soaked and filthy however with my clothes in the washing machine and my gloves drying out on the boiler I’m going to spend a bit of time looking at the gardening books for planting inspiration.
I think that if you compare these two photos taken today with these….
taken last week you can begin to see just how far we’ve come!
OK so it’s not a particularly amazing discovery but it certainly gave me a surprise! Pulling away at the undergrowth in our secret garden this morning I uncovered something looking back at me………..a concrete crocodile. No classical piece of sculpture for me, no marble urn or column………..a concrete crocodile closely followed by a concrete lizard with glass eyes!
These items may not find themselves included in the new design and planting scheme.
It’s a slow processes but I’m making progress, mind you the compost heap is massive!
Another beautiful day on the Island and I’ve been back at work in our secret garden. It’s become a bit of an obsession and I’m afraid I probably did too much and will suffer tomorrow. Most of the undergrowth has been cut down from one side and today I concentrated on clearing the ground, cutting up the branches, brambles etc and gathering it up into a rather massive compost heap. I did think about having a bonfire but we have only just moved in and I don’t want to blot my copy book with the neighbours, plenty of time for that later!
There are ivy runners everywhere which will take some time to eradicate but I’ve made a start.
This is a bigger job as the ground is less even and was completely covered with brambles, I’m going to need the strongest pair of gardening gloves to clear it! There isn’t a rush (who am I kidding of course there’s a rush) but I’d like to get everything cleared before things start growing again so I can see clearly what’s coming up……..and deal with it!!