Posts Tagged ‘Derby day’


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Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that there are different types of rain: the sort that chills the bone and taunts us of coming old age and the sort that cause us to dance with wild abandon. The sweetest rain comes in the night whilst we are tucked up in our dreams, waters the earth, and then politely leaves before we have finished our porridge. Such was the rain last night.

The early summer party is well under way in the garden and the geraniums, nepetas, papavers, paeonies, aquilegias and alliums are all putting in a hard day’s work. Meanwhile, the hibiscus and young walnut tree at the bottom of the garden have just begun to wake up, unfold their leaves, wipe the sleepy byes from their eyes and look around them, wondering what all the fuss is about…


rose meg 





Meg rose is old favourite, with  its peachy apricot almost single flowers and russet-red stamens.







The Chelsea Flower Show has been and gone. The plans I submitted featuring one hundred and one garden gnomes and a tractor tyre tastefully planted with petunias was rejected. I know not why. I spent my time instead doing the ‘chelsea chop’, the term given to a pruning technique where certain herbaceous perennials are cut down by a third or a half, according to one’s temperament and daring, so that they grow more compact rather than tall and lanky and falling all over themselves. On our estate the heleniums, leucanthemums, sedums and anthemis are all worthy subjects of this benign pruning.


rosa reveil dijonnais



Reveil Dijonnais is a most original rose, well-suited for growing on a pillar and is said to cope with hot dry conditions. The outer colour of crimson and  orange meets with a bright yellow centre.




Derby day is traditionally the date given for the start of the box hedge pruning. On the estate we have small box hedges on the parterres and box balls on the corners of the main borders but no main hedges or topiary sculptures which is probably just as well given my lack of talent with the garden shears.

For the historically interested, the Derby was inaugurated in 1780 at Epsom race course by Edward Smith-Stanley the 12th Earl of Derby. The race is held in the first week of June and gardeners have always understood that cutting box before this date tempts the bite of a late frost and if you cut after the end of June the new growth may not be tough enough to cope with the first autumn frosts. Therefore, somewhere in the middle of June is reckoned the best time and the experts from above now counsel cutting just once in the year to minimise the risk of box blight of which I have written at more length in the ‘how to’ section.


papaver coral reef (1)





papaver coral reef…







Charlie and Bones have chosen the sure-fire winner of the Derby this Saturday based on inside information. It seems that one of them has a cousin who knows a friend who goes out with a stable-boy who overheard a conversation…Their choice is a well-guarded secret but they spend their coffee breaks planning what to spend their sure-fire winnings on…


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