Six on Saturday: An Artist’s Garden

It is exactly a year since I started volunteering one day a week in the garden at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex, where artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived and painted in the middle decades of the twentieth century. So for this week’s six I am sharing some photographs I took of the garden…

This Week at Charleston: Brown Gold

This week at Charleston I was mainly knee deep in compost. Fiona, the Head Gardener, is determined to have a ready supply of good, well-rotted and most importantly free compost for the garden. Making your own compost is also great for the environment, so I was happy to get stuck in to the task of…

Forget-me-nots, sweet peas and a surprise: this week at Charleston

“The forget-me-nots are holding the garden together at this time of year,” said Head Gardener Fiona, when I joined her in the walled garden at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex yesterday, where I volunteer one day a week. After two weeks off for the Easter holidays, it seemed to me that an awful lot is…

In a Vase on Monday: A floral bird bath

My sister-in-law and her partner came to stay this weekend and we very belatedly exchanged Christmas presents (at least we managed it before Easter!). Their gift to me was this beautiful table bird bath. It will be perfect for our patio table, but for now I have filled it with daffodil and hellebore heads. The…

Spring is in the air at Charleston

Officially, Spring begins at the vernal equinox on the 21 March, but according to some it starts on the first day of the month. I think all of us in the UK can agree that there was absolutely nothing springlike about St David’s Day this year. But by yesterday, Spring was definitely in the air at…

This Week At Charleston: Allium attack

The walled garden looked quite stunning after the first frost of the year yesterday: artichoke leaves dusted white, snowdrops peeking through here and there and pale green hellebores like winter ghosts. My task for the day was to remove all of the alliums which have spread throughout the bed at the end of the lawn….

Winter pruning: this week in the garden at Charleston

The garden at Charleston is like a supermodel: it always photographs well. And what a joy it was to be back in the garden this week after a winter break for us volunteers. I returned to the garden on a perfect winter’s day – bright and cold – the downs behind creating a chiaroscuro effect…

Bare bones

The last rose, a final flowering hollyhock, these are the little treats that the end of the year throws up, but for the most part December is the month when the garden is finally reduced to its bare bones. This can be dispiriting, particularly when it is accompanied by low light levels and cold, damp…

Alliums and Auriculas: this week in the garden at Charleston

Winter can be the most exciting time in the garden. There is no denying that back in May when I started volunteering at Charleston just as the annual literary festival was getting under way, the garden was looking divine with romantic tumbling roses, gorgeous towering hollyhocks and heavenly blue delphiniums. Then, later in the season…

Shrub Wars: the director’s cut

I have been feeling a bit oppressed by our garden of late. It is filled with mature shrubs, planted by someone else and then left to grow into huge megaliths. The result is not so much Sleeping Beauty’s castle as elephants’ graveyard. So with autumn here and nesting time over, I decided it was the…

Mums the word

In France at this time of year the florist shops are full of colourful displays of chrysanthemums. But do not make the mistake of buying them for someone as a gift. Here as in most Catholic countries, chrysanthemums are reserved for placing on graves  on La Toussaint, All Saint’s Day, on November 1st. In China,…

Shortcuts: this week in the garden at Charleston

  As I have already written I volunteer one day a week in the garden at Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex. Having studied for and gained the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture, I want to get some practical experience under my belt. This week Fiona, the head gardener, set me to work…