Category Archives: Gardening

A visit to the magnificent Stody Lodge Gardens

Lynn and I spent an extremely pleasurable afternoon recently at the nearby Stody Lodge Gardens.

The 14-acre gardens are at their most spectacular in Spring, when they show off over two hundred varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as innumerable other exquisite plants. The estate is perhaps best known for its amazing Azalea Water Gardens, laid out over four acres (the size of three football pitches), within a deeply atmospheric forest setting of gargantuan Scots Pines and other remarkable specimen trees.

I can only hint at the magnificence of these gardens, via the photos below that we took on this first visit. To whet one’s appetite even more, it’s a good idea to view this video on the Stody Lodge website

There’s a lovely walk from the car park to the white Georgian house with its East Anglian pantiles.

Lynn particularly loved the purples and blues of the borders to the front of the house, featuring Aquilegias, Alliums, Alchemilla Mollis, Lavenders and Verbena Bonariensis.

The neat yew hedging sets off the rambling richness of the rhododendrons.

The gardens are a feast for the senses, with new, delicious fragrances around every corner.

Looked at close up, the beauty of some of the blossoms is a sight to see.

Viewed from different angles, the variety and vibrancy of colours is often amazing.

There are numerous long walks between fragrant shrubs and towering trees.

We enjoyed identifying the plants – though this thriving Smoke Bush (Cotinus) brought back sad memories of our own poorly specimen in one of our previous gardens.

This (these?) Paeonies look ready to explode into flower.

Full size Alliums!

We thought these bushes were Weigelas (not certain); whatever they are, they’re pretty impressive.

Aah, the Rhododendron …

No idea what this is – possibly an Azalea variety? There were many exotic plants all around the borders.

Beauty in small things …

… and in colossal things.

I’m always intrigued by the variation in bark colours and textures.

The water gardens, with tiny islands and little bridges, were just a joy. A haven of beauty, peace and tranquility.

There’s a fascinating account of how the water gardens were developed on this page of the Stody Estate website.

This is a place we’ll be returning to again and again!

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April-May 2022: garden diary

The story so far …

We moved into our new house on January 21st. The quite small garden at the back was about as plain as it’s possible to be – just a lawned area, a greenhouse, patio and a couple of sheds. We set to work immediately to try to bring it to life.

Thinking long-term is all very fine and no doubt we’ll make lots of changes to the flower beds as time goes by. But in the interests of injecting some colour into the garden as soon as possible, we ordered some plug plants again, as we’d done when re-designing the garden at our previous home.

I also grew some flowers from seed (windowsill-style) and we bought some very nice plants from the impressive display outside Morrison’s supermarket (!), as well as getting other specimens from garden centres. I have to say that the variation in cost and quality between the local garden centres is incredible. We were blown away by the simply amazing displays and good value at Holt Garden Centre (and, believe me, we’ve visited a few gardens in our time). But we’ll watch with interest the fortunes of certain other places …

It’s still very early in the season, but most plants seem to be settling in quite well. More news on all of this later in the year.

I decided to add some structure by building a small gravelled area in the far left-hand corner. I used some edging slabs that had been left by the previous owners and sank them into the soil to create a three sided ‘plinth’. (I’m not sure that’s the right expression but that’s what we’re calling it – “The Plinth”). Geometry was never my strong suite at school but it seems to have worked out okay. I removed all weeds and levelled it off.

Well aware from previous experience that weeds love nothing more than to pop up all over gravel, I again made sure to line the area with a weed suppressant membrane and secure it with metal clips.

We’d bought three different varieties of fern. I made holes in the membrane and planted the ferns through them …

… before sweeping away any soil and firming in the plants.

We were quite pleased with the end result.

As the basketball hoop attached to the wall of the house was a bit redundant (and I’m more of a football, cricket and rugby man), I removed it and attached it to the fence, where it’s becoming increasingly popular with our feathered friends.

Talking of which, I’m fighting a battle to protect our Achillea plants from the appetites of some of our avian visitors. I think its probably the pigeons, but it could be starlings. They do seem to regard them as a delicacy; unfortunately for the birds, I have no intention of allowing them to give these beautiful flowers a premature pruning.

I’m really pleased with the Heucheras we bought. Over the years they’ve become one of my favourite plants, with their pretty flower spikes which last for many months and their variegated leaves in a variety of colours. They seem to be able to thrive in almost any soil and position.

We brought nearly all our flowerpots and urns with us and are having fun trying to find places for them in this smaller garden.

To the left in the above photo, you can just see a few of the Foxgloves that we bought and potted up. We’re growing them on, prior to planting them out later in the year. They’re biennials, of course, so probably won’t come into flower until next year and then hopefully will drop seed and get established permanently. This was another really attractive plug plant offer, found online (Thompson & Morgan) – twelve plants, all different varieties, ranging from some that will grow to be five feet or more tall to others only two feet in height.

The April mists rolled in a few times across the meadow at the back …

As usual, I made my first sowing of courgette seeds too early and once again they failed! One made it into a flower pot but eventually collapsed. The second sowing (early May) is looking much more promising.

Not everything bought online has been a success. One of the two Rhubarb roots came to nothing (just sat there and rotted). We purchased a fully-formed plant at the garden centre and both now seem to be doing quite well (variety: Timperley Early).

The same happened with the nine Raspberry plants – three early, three mid-season and three late, which I’m trying in pots. I’ve always grown raspberries in the ground previously but this will be an interesting experiment. Only three of the canes have sprouted, however, though fortunately that includes one per pot.

The bushiest is getting more sun. I think the others are trying to tell me something …

Meanwhile, on a nearby window sill, at 60-70C, the five different varieties of tomato that I mentioned at the end of my last garden diary began to look perky. You may recall that, after buying two new packets of seed (different varieties), I found some old seed packets in a shoe box, some well past their ‘Sow By’ date. These too were all different varieties, and I’m happy to report that all five have now been hardened off and planted out in the greenhouse. Hoping all continues to go well, I’m looking forward to picking tomatoes of various sizes and colours later this year.

This leaf curl on one or two of them is of slight concern. There are many theories about the cause of this kind of thing – might be lack of sunshine or maybe over-watering. Then there’s the virus school of thought. I trust they haven’t got Covid …

Our Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme don’t have any problem getting their fair share of sunshine against the wall of the house.

Next will come vegetables. I’m in the process of digging up the grassed area around the greenhouse and will see how much veg. I can cram into it! Our Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants are already doing well under a plastic cloche, and the Runner Beans (variety: Enorma, as usual) are just starting to show them selves in pots in the greenhouse.

The soil is well-drained but I think it needs better structure. I’m following the example of a neighbour from many years ago and scattering a very thin layer of grass cuttings (ensuring no seeds present) over the ground, each time I mow the lawn: a long-term strategy. I know it’s generally regarded as a bad move but it worked very well for her. I’ve also purchased some bags of good old FYM (Farmyard Manure) to act as rocket fuel in certain places, taking care to keep it away from any brassicas, which of course don’t like acid soil.

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