Discovered a fragment of painted slate

While preparing the ground for a new cutting garden, I was lucky to unearth this small fragment of painted slate.

I’m fairly sure the two plants depicted are ivy and jasmine. The leaf at the end of the brown, curling stem has the unmistakable appearance of ivy. And the yellow flowers look very similar to jasmine, as do their oval shaped leaves. The white flower could be a faded yellow jasmine flower or belong to another plant. I’m amazed most of the colours have stayed so sharp after being buried in damp, heavy Gloucesteshire soil for some considerable time.


I don’t think the slate is of any great age- maybe early 20th century. But it has a certain charm about it that I really like.

Sadly I haven’t found any more segments of the slate, only large quantities of Cotswold stone that may have belonged to an old farm outbuilding demolished on the site.

If you have any ideas what the plants are, then please let me know.

Plot 90 – my new restoration project

I put my name down on my local allotment waiting list at the beginning of year, expecting a long wait. I had been told it could be up to 2 years. So it was a lovely surprise to get a call in November to be told there was one available.

I was shown Plot 90 and accepted immediately as it’s just what I was looking for. It will now become my own personal garden restoration project. Obviously the previous owner had lost interest in ‘grow your own’ and couch grass (Elymus reopens) has taken over. However this is compensated by the shed I have been left. I’ve been told rather enviously by the Head of Allotments it is one of the best on the site. It even has a veranda, where you can sit and admire your hard work on a warm summer’s evening.

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I have inherited a number of fruit trees, mostly apple and pear. Two are mature but healthy looking trees. They will need some restorative pruning but this won’t be a difficult job as their shape shows they were once loved. I will need to thin out the spurs and remove some of the old branches that are growing inwards or crossing.

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The couch grass is a different issue. Couch grass is a familiar enemy in garden restoration as it’s one of the first weeds to take over neglected or uncultivated ground. The perennial grass spreads rapidly by sending out a mass of long, thin rhizomes that grow just below the surface. Leave a small section of these rhizomes in the ground and new grass will soon appear.

Couch grass can be dug out by hand but this is a laborious process as every small section of rhizome needs to be removed. I will try to do this but have to admit I’ve already resorted to using a glyphosate-based weedkiller.

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I have divided the plot into seven beds of varying sizes. The bed furthest from the shed used to have a fruit cage and previous owner has generously left me some healthy looking gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes. Couch grass has not been so kind and has become interwoven through the bushes. This will need be removed by hand.

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I’m still undecided what to plant in my other beds but I’m keen to experiment with growing heritage vegetables. I may even try a few techniques that are mentioned in my vintage gardening books. I have one from 1736 that discusses growing produce in a kitchen garden but some of the methods mentioned will probably be too challenging to recreate in a small allotment.

I now have a deadline to get the plot back into shape. I foolishly mentioned to my son’s teacher that I had become a proud allotment owner and she has already arranged a class outing to visit the plot in March next year. It will be important to have all the couch grass under control and something growing before thirty eager five year old’s arrive to assess my work.

I’ll endeavour to keep you up to date with my progress, if I’m not too busy enjoying my shed veranda. It seems like my son has already found his favourite spot, although I would prefer some help with the weeding!

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Update on Working with an Iron Age Fort

Back in June I wrote a blog post about working with an iron age fort. On a garden restoration project I had uncovered a pile of stones that looked like a rockery. I was thinking about moving the rockery only to be told by the garden owner that the stones could be part of an Iron Age fort that is identified on the house deeds. Continue reading Update on Working with an Iron Age Fort

Appreciating the Dutch Style Features at Westbury Court Garden

I’ve always been interested in the Dutch style gardens that became fashionable between the late 17th and early 18th century when Britain and Holland shared the same king, William III.

Typically rectangular in shape, classical Dutch style gardens relied on a strong use of symmetry and geometrical form. They were designed to highlight the art and craft of horticulture, and were an expression of wealth for the owner.

But the Dutch style had a short life in Britain. The gardens were incredibly expensive and labour intensive to maintain. Many notable examples were destroyed less than 50 years after being built in favour of the more economical naturalistic landscapes, made fashionable by designers such as Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton.

One example a Dutch style water garden survives today at Westbury Court Garden. Continue reading Appreciating the Dutch Style Features at Westbury Court Garden

Happy Gladiolus Thrips, Unhappy Gardener

It’s been a bad year for gladioli at the garden where I work, thanks to thrips.

The difficulty with gladiolus thrips is that once you’ve spotted an infestation it’s often too late to do anything about it.

Infected plants have light flecking and brown blotches on the flowers and leaves where the thrips have fed. This is the damage on the gladioli I grew: Continue reading Happy Gladiolus Thrips, Unhappy Gardener

Linking a Garden with Doorways in Hedges

Recently I have become mildly obsessed with doorways cut into hedges. I think they are a wonderful way for large gardens to link different areas.

Too often hedges are seen as static features, acting as a barrier to divide one area from another. By cutting a doorway the hedge’s purpose changes and becomes an integral part of the garden design, linking rather than preventing access.

And there is also something ‘Alice in Wonderland’ about them, appealing to our human nature to explore.

I am lucky by living in the Cotswolds to have two gardens nearby that utilise hedge doorways with great success. They are Hidcote and Kiftsgate. Here are a few examples from those gardens that may help explain my growing obsesssion with this design feature: Continue reading Linking a Garden with Doorways in Hedges

Hornbeam Walkway through Spring and Summer

A lot of my time has been spent working on a Hornbeam Walkway as it transistions from Spring through to Summer.

This is one of my favourite areas in my client’s garden. The pleached Hornbeam looked fantastic and draw the eye to a beautiful elf sculpture and water feature at the far end- expertly modelled here by my dog Hamish! Continue reading Hornbeam Walkway through Spring and Summer