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…

Volunteering in the garden at Charleston

My favourite time of day in the garden at Charleston is first thing in the morning when I arrive to work as a volunteer after dropping the kids at school and nursery. The garden is not yet open to visitors and there is often not a soul to be found, leaving space to imagine that…