Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Power of Enhancement

I have used Photoshop many times but never to such dramatic effect...

The day was grey, rays of watery sun broke through the high cloud onto a grey sea (P1)...I pressed enhance and was amazed at the difference (P2)...for an experiment I enhanced once more...(P3).

In some ways this has left me feeling a little disappointed because P1 was how it looked and how the day looked too...

Monochrome of Grey

1st Enhancement 

2nd Enhancement  
However, I find all three photographs very beautiful.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Well Trodden Path

White Cliffs is a National Trust stretch of the Kent coastal countryside, for the most part open to the elements and at this time of the year wild and barren…a guided tour is going to have to be a must for me to identify the shrubby growth that withstands the harsh winds that whip off the English Channel.  Pathways along Langdon Cliffs followed the coastline at various levels. We chose what I think was the middle one; a well trodden path with, for the first stage of the walk, had only a short drop to the next level before dropping to the sea.  The scrubby bushes along this route had vicious thorns and an orangey tinge to the new growth, making a thicket that sent the wind up and over rather than through the copses.

Lower path visible

It is a two-mile walk to South Foreland Lighthouse, something to save for a less windy and warmer day. We walked as far as Langdon Hole but many people could be seen way in the distance making their way along to the tearoom at the lighthouse. We turned back at Landon Hole and took a higher pathway; this proved to be more windy still where the grass lay almost flat in the wind…

Impossible to capture the conditions but the grass lay flat because of the wind

The return journey opened up long views across the channel and towards Dover castle...

Dover Castle
A welcome piece of carrot cake and a pot of tea back at the visitors centre finished our first visit to this lovely spot. We will be back often to see the wild flowers that abound later in the year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Copton Ash - A Garden of Shadow and Sun

The glorious weather in the south of England brought people of all ages out in their droves. By the time we arrived at Copton Ash Garden just after noon parking was already becoming an issue.  A dozen or so people had beat us to the midday opening.

This garden is a delight from the moment you walk through the gateway of the long front garden. Plants abound in borders on both side of the driveway. One area is set beneath a wooden structure, open at the sides, with a canopy of glass to protect the choice alpines that the owner Tim Ingram grows beneath.  There is so much colour in the garden for the 16th February, not only from the flowering shrubs but from the borders too. The wealth of green foliage indicates that this will be a garden to return to on one of its many openings for the NGS until Sunday 8th June. However it is possible to see the garden independently by appointment until the end of October.

After a very slow preamble down the driveway we entered the back garden via the side pathway, onto a terrace. From here you can survey the length of the garden, but there is much more hidden from view. Tim Ingram opens at this time of year to display his extensive collection of snowdrops, which for the most part are planted in clumps in wide woodland borders, beneath the raised canopies of ornamental trees and in the orchard. Where possible the different clumps are all well labeled, the temptation to tramp across the wider borders to search for the name of a clump, was respected by all of the visitors that I could see…

Double Hellebore
Hellebores also featured strongly, one in particular Helleborus torquatus 'Tinkerbell' Group (Blackthorn) was to me a complete novelty. Information for this species can be found at Graham Rice's webpage. Different varieties of Iris reticulata, crocus, aconites, arums and many alpine beauties. Unfortunately the ground was too wet to scrabble about searching for labels which I am sure were well buried.  An area of orchard lay behind these woodland borders, with large compost areas behind these.

Beneath the trees in the orchard lines, still more snowdrops, grew to perfection. I have seen now a couple of times initially I was not been too keen on the yellow pedicel and yellowish markings of Galanthus plicatus 'Wendy’s Gold' but grown in a large clump they shone and will now at some point be added to my new garden.
Woodland border

Helleborus torquatus 'Tinkerbell' Group (Blackthorn)
Recent tree damage was evident, a large eucalyptus lay, partially cleared from one grass pathway. Other areas were blocked off, these areas were in need of clearance. One can only sympathise, not only has the weather made gardening of any kind outdoors nigh impossible…I remember only too well the challenges of keeping on top of the enormous work there is in anything other than a small plot. Copton Ash is not a small garden. And among all his other work, Tim Ingram runs a small alpine nursery.

Only a few plants were available in his nursery but we will be back later in the year when the nursery is open and the garden is in full early summer glory. Tim admitted to us that he only opens up until the beginning of June because the challenge of keeping the weeds at bay becomes too much.
It was as we walked back up towards the house, with the sun cutting through the trees, lighting the bark of a Silver Birch tree, that I appreciated how many wonderful trees were in the garden too. Another reason to return.

Copton Ash is the kind of garden I love…a work in progress. A man’s love for the plants that he grows, this above all shines through.

Galanthus Wendy's Gold

Galanthus Mrs Thompson
Glanthus plicatus 'Gerard Parker' 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

R.I.P Grace (Gay) Charlotte Hellyer

A favourite picture of Gay during her university days

I can still remember the day my mother died,  it's as if it was yesterday but truth be told I lost her on the 11th February 1977 at approximately 5.50 in the morning...or that is when Arthur found her, still warm. Life was never quite the same for me. As I'd matured we'd became the best of friends. She was proud of me and my endeavours and told me so. At that moment I lost my best friend and mentor as well as my mother.

She was three weeks and five days from her 70th birthday. The shock to us all was huge. Recently recovered from a hip operation for which she' d waited for several years, the next years' of Arthur and her life seemed full of hope. Lame for many years, and growing tired of the pain she was in (though she barely complained just becoming more 'scratchy' than normal) she wasn't to be swayed by Arthur's reluctance to her having the operation. 

In an extract from The Haphazard Gardener I write - '...she was I think a very bright and industrious child.' As with all biographies, some assumptions have to be made, but from her childhood books, papers I have read, from her first teaching job, through to her university days, on to the comments about her from 6th Form students, who, after 50 years still remembered her with affection, I can draw this conclusion with absolute confidence.

Gay at Lord Portland's pond during her first teaching post

Described by Alan Titchmarsh as an 'earthy woman', I guess she was just that. Practical in all she did, thrifty and frowning artificial embellishment. She only wore lipstick and powder on the rarest of occasions, along with natural nail varnish. She did own one or two long evening dresses; worn with elegance when the need arose. 

Gay and Arthur - probably at a Ladies Night in the 1950s. An orchid was her only accessory

Her memory stays with me always. At the end of The Haphazard Gardener I dedicate a poem to her. This was not the first time I had 'seen' her whilst I worked in their garden, but it would be the last...although even now I know that I still have her blessing.

I saw you

I saw you for a moment, a glimpse of your face
smiling. Your green eyes danced amusement,
your smile flashed the flat teeth you died with.

I saw you for a moment, chestnut waves gently
bouncing. Brown ribbon tied back wayward hair.
You smiled.

I saw you for a moment, white overall
from your youth. Your days with goats
and rabbits.

I saw you for a moment. you're forty not
sixty-nine. You're in your youth
not gone to a better place. I saw you

I look down and scrape my chair from Arthur's desk
And you're gone. Was it you? I know it was
but you disappeared.

A solitary robin cocked her head,
watching me with beady eye inches from my feet.
No fear. I saw you for a moment
You were smiling. Now I can leave too.

©Penelope Hellyer

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Spring Platt Garden

Charting new territory we found Spring Platt Garden - open on this occasion for The National Gardens Scheme - through country lanes from the wrong end of the pretty village of Sutton Valance. We were fortunate with parking, as that is limited. The day before I understand, some people had to park in Sutton Valance and walk (real dedication). The view as we drove into the grassy car parking area is breathtaking. The day was kind, high cloud, sun, no rain but a bitter wind. Wrapped up properly it didn't prove a problem but I suspect that the large gathering in the Millen's front room were not only drawn in because of the spectacular view and tasty food.

One long shady border, planted with dark plum-coloured hellebore, showed a rash of seedlings on the twiggy covered ground. This border also held, crocus, anenome, aconites and snowdrops.

Other borders were planted, along with crocus and snowdrop, with evidence of summer glory. Bright red peony buds pushed through beneath the silver birch trees.

One mixed border was shining in all its glory, a mass of aconites, with little groups of Iris reticulata, in blue and dark-purple shades and snowdrops bobbing in the less windy shelter of the front of the property. Crocus too flowered here, tightly closed in despair of the wind! Many to my delight had escaped into the lawn. Greenhouses held the Millen's collection of alpine plants and a large vegetable garden was still in production. Sadly the sales table was depleted by the time we arrived, though there was still much to offer.

A large sweep of rockery must be a joy in the summer.

In many ways I have left the best till last, snowdrops abound. A gallery of 100 of the 250 + that Carolyn and her daughter have collected since they first became hooked in 2013 is shown on their website These are displayed to their advantage in raised beds on either side of the property; all are well named. Sadly I took no notes, hoping that my pictures would show the name for me. A problem with my camera meant that this was not to be. It would only download a few of the images I took. I was surprised that the ones I could download were not more blurred. I have added a few to this post. If anyone knows the names then please advise me.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Me by Walter de la Mare

A favourite poem of mine is Me by Walter de la Mare...I think it is the references to trees and flowers that catches my heart. I only wish that I had been Just Me much earlier in my life.


As long as I live
I shall always be
My Self – and no other,
Just me.

Like a tree.

Willow, elder,
Aspen, thorn,
Or cypress forlorn.

Like a flower,
For its hour

Primrose, or pink,
Or a violet –
Sunned by the sun,
And with dewdrops wet.

Always just me.

Till the day comes on
When I leave this body,
It’s all then done,
And the spirit within it
Is gone.

Walter de la Mare