A Fantastic Year at The Garden House

Well that’s it then. The end of an era! Cornish Jen and I officially finish our student year here at The Garden House at the end of August.

What a year it has been. I know I speak for Jen too when I say that we have learned so much and will be sad to leave but all things must come to an end. I am headed to another garden to finish the last year of my traineeship and the other Jen has come to the end of her third year and is planning to stay in Cornwall. The Garden House is very special and we have been very lucky to be a part of such a fantastic team. The garden itself has such a diverse collection of plants that make it a plantsman’s (or woman’s) dream come true. 

Cornish Jen (Left) and Scottish Jen (Right) visiting another garden last October. ©jwright

Cornish Jen (Left) and Scottish Jen (Right) visiting another garden last October. ©jwright

I have so many plants which I love having been introduced to them over this last year. Anyone on the garden’s team will be able to tell you that my favourite plant changes weekly and sometimes even daily. There is no way I could make up my mind and why should I? I have tried though. Specially for this month’s blog I have narrowed it down to three but it nearly broke my heart to exclude so many. 

Deutzia ningpoensis on the long walk close to the magic circle. ©jwright

Deutzia ningpoensis on the long walk close to the magic circle. ©jwright

Favourite number 1: 

Botanical Name: Deutzia ningpoensis also known as D. chunii. 

Common Name: Ning-po Deutzia (It’s so imaginative right?) 

Plant Family: Hydrangeaceae 

I am not going to lie, at the start of the year I couldn’t tell the difference between a Deutzia and a Philadelphus when they weren’t in flower and to be very honest, I think I would still struggle if there was no context. This particular Deutzia was new to me and I didn’t even notice it until it started to flower in July so I was very late to the game in joining the Deutzia ningpoensis appreciation fan club. This shrub comes from East China, grows around 2 m tall and wide (optimistic size) and flowers in early-mid summer. I particularly like this plant because of its starry white flowers and grey sepals, that’s the bit that protects the flower before it opens. It appeals to my slightly gothic side and definitely earns its place in the top 3. 

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' in the walled garden. ©jwright

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' in the walled garden. ©jwright

Favourite number 2: 

Botanical name: Brunnera macropylla ‘Jack Frost’ 

Common Name: Siberian Bugloss 

Plant Family: Boraginaceae 

This Forget-me-not relative doesn’t look like much right now but in the spring, it was covered in tiny blue flowers. It gets its name ‘Jack Frost’ from the silvery tone in its leaves which is at its most prominent in the spring. I love the sprays of true blue flowers that made my day every time I saw them. It isn’t a very tall plant, around 30cm maximum, so is best at the front of a border where it can be seen. We have this plant in the walled garden to provide early season interest while the rest of the walled garden is just about peeking up above the surface. I have also seen this plant used at Buckfast Abbey where it was combined with a blue Hosta, white Irises, Ferns and white Foxgloves to create an airy light fantasy feeling which worked extremely well. 

Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' in the walled garden on a rainy day. ©jwright

Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' in the walled garden on a rainy day. ©jwright

Favourite number 3: 

Botanical Name: Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ 

Common Name: Sneezeweed 

Plant Family: Asteraceae 

This red and yellow beauty is in the same plant family as Sunflowers, Dahlias and Black-eyed Susans. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ wasn’t new to me when I arrived but after seeing it in the walled garden, I have gained a new admiration for this flowering herbaceous perennial. It began flowering this year in the early part of July and has just got into full swing now. From memory, it flowered well into October last year. I love this plant because of its ability to be so fluid in its use. It can be used in a formal border, in a naturalistic grass planting as well as in a cottage garden. It’s deep dark red and bright yellow flowers draw your eye and shine even on a rainy day. Top tip: cut the tips of the plant off around the RHS show at Chelsea time to prolong the flowering season and to reduce the overall height. 

Since it did break my heart to leave out so many here are some honourable mentions: 

  1. Catalpa erubescens x ‘Purpurea’ 

  2. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ 

  3. Kniphofia caulescens 

  4. Decaisnea fargesii 

  5. Styrax japonica 

  6. Hemerocallis ‘Pink Damask’ 

  7. Gunnera chilensis

  8. Rhododendron ‘Polar Bear’ 

  9. Kirengeshoma palmata 

  10. The entire blooming garden!

Lastly, I think I should say a very big thank you to everyone at the Garden House, staff and volunteers alike. It has been wonderful getting to know you all and I will definitely come and visit. I would like to give a very special thank you to two people in particular. Nick Haworth, our head gardener, and David Miles, our Tuesday morning student teacher. Both of them have been instrumental this year to a fantastic learning experience and have given me so much to take away and use moving forward in my career. I am duty bound by honour to also mention Cornish Jen. She puts up with me every day without too much grumbling.

I don’t have anything else to add so this is Scottish Jen, signing out for the last time on the Garden House blog. It has been a pleasure! I am going to cry… Just kidding!

Jennifer Wright