Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Why I Love NGS Knitson Old Farmhouse

Nestled snuggly in the Purbecks, is Knitson Old Farmhouse, owned by Rachel Helfer.

Rachel, who has spent the last 50 years developing her garden, has filled it with the most wonderful collections of perennials and shrubs, all living cheek by jowl 

The seating area at the top of the garden, where she serves the most delicious cream teas with homemade jam, is surrounded by a rockery filled with plants and affords some welcome shade from a large Tulip tree. 

All the old Purbeck stone used in the rockeries and paths are reclaimed from building work done to the interior of the old farmhouse.

The garden is on a gentle slope leading down to her orchard where she keeps a couple of sheep, hens, ducks and guinea fowl, which she says helps keep down the slugs and woodlice population.

When you reach the orchard, tiptoeing through the plants which spill onto the paths, past an old bench covered in the most wonderfully textured lichen, you reach a moon gate, built by Rachel's daughter and son-in-law in 2003. I imagine, sitting in the garden at dusk when the moon rises, especially at the summer solstice, and seeing it through the moon gate, would be quite magical.

                                                    I love this bench. Not safe to sit on but a thing of beauty


Perennials are my favourite plants and this garden didn't disappoint me, with poppies, irises, geums, kniphofia, aquilegia, every plant you would expect to see in a cottage garden and more. All planted in a cohesive jumble and not an inch of soil to be seen.

A path, which straddles the width of the garden, leads to the most beautifully arranged organic vegetable garden I have seen.

The raised beds are constructed out of railway sleepers, piled two high and are in triangles, just wide enough for you to reach into the middle of the bed, from either side. Willow has been woven in an artisan way, to create a hurdle to edge the beds.

The kitchen garden enables Rachel and her family to be self sufficient in vegetables and fruit which is no mean feat and who would have thought that the Purbecks had the perfect microclimate for growing kiwi fruit?

I have been very inspired by the triangular beds kitchen garden and come winter, my small plot is getting a makeover.

                                                                                  Wonderful raised beds

Whilst I was there, eating my jam and clotted cream scones, I could hear the whistle from the steam train, as it arrived at Herston Halt and it felt like you could be back in the 50's. It really is the most idilic garden and I can see myself visiting it many more times, not just to see the fabulous plants but to soak up the restful atmosphere of this garden.

Rachel opens her garden for the NGS and also to visitors by appointment, details on the NGS website or in Yellow Book.

                                                         National Garden Scheme Knitson Old Farmhouse

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Peony - A Photo Essay

The flowers on my peony are so fleeting and so beautiful, that I anticipated their arrival like no other flower in my garden.

When they arrived I gazed upon their beauty, which made my heart sing but with todays rain, which is much needed in the garden, I fear that the few that are left, will be spoilt.  

My camera captured their beauty, which I shall enjoy until these pretty blooms return next year.

Friday, 27 May 2011

RHS Chelsea Show 2011

The Chelsea Flower Show, deserves the title 'The greatest flower show in the world' and completely blew me away, when I visited it on Tuesday.

We arrived not long after it had opened but we were by no means on our own. Hundreds of people had got up at the crack of dawn to see the most wonderful show gardens.

The first one you encounter is the M and G garden by Bunny Guinness. Being mainly vegetables, I absolutely loved it and was quite surprised to find it got a silver gilt not gold medal. 

The curved raised woven willow beds were packed to the gunnels with the most perfectly poised vegetables. It was absolutely beautiful and proved that vegetables are a thing of beauty and deserve centre stage in any garden.

The two avenues on which the show gardens are located, were very busy and you had to be very patient and wait your turn to slip into the front for the perfect view but it was definitely worth the wait, they were so wonderful.

My two favourites were the Laurent-Perrier garden by Luciano Giubbilei which has the most delicious plants imaginable. There were a couple of Astrantia's I had not seen before. 'Buckland' with its soft pink flowers on whitish bracts with green tips and 'Roma' with it's beautiful sugar-pink flowers.

The plants chosen for this garden had a lovely soft hue and the garden was so relaxing, with its wide stretch of water running through the middle; lots of ideas and inspiration to take home.

My other favourite show garden was Cleve West's garden for The Daily Telegraph. This sunken garden, with it plants suitable for a dry garden, was loosely inspired by a visit he made to the Roman ruins at Ptolemais in Libya several years ago. 

I loved the plants he chose like Dianthus cruentus, one which I heard lots of people ask about, with it ruby red flowers, interplanted amongst plants like, Calamintha sylvatica and Acanthus mollis and lots of plants which would self seed amongst the gravel.

Of the small gardens, A Post card from Wales, designed by Kati Crome and Maggie Hughes, was my favourite.

Designed around a small cottage in Wales, this garden has a mixture of cultivated cottage garden plants like Aquiligia, Campanulas, Veronicas and Thymes and then on the other side of the garden, along with a beached boat on silted mud were their wild cousins.

I loved these small Artisan gardens. As they were so small, your eyes could linger on every part of the garden and take everything in, which sadly you just can't in the large gardens. 

When you enter the flower pavilion, your nostrils are awakened by the wonderful perfume pervading the air. 

If you love flowers, it probably is the most exciting place to be in the world this week. I saw the most wonderful roses, & peonies and a gorgeous tulip called Angelique which is a must have for the garden next year.

The coverage of Chelsea by the BBC has been fantastic this week.

Instead of getting my weekly garden fix, courtesy of Gardeners' World on a Friday, I am getting it every day!

If you didn't get a ticket for Chelsea this year, how about going to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show from 5 - 10 July. The bonus of this show, is that you can buy the plants you see on the stands. Maybe it's best that you can't buy plants at Chelsea, well best for my bank balance anyway!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Childrens gardening tools - fun and functional for the mini gardener

Children love gardening. Getting their hands dirty, digging and especially watering, so with this in mind, I have been testing some gardening tools designed for mini gardeners and I have found two companies, who have approached these children’s gardening tools from two different angles, with fabulous results.

Firstly has a young gardener range of tools, which are fun, brightly coloured and I for one got very excited when I had a little go at digging with the mini trowel and raking with the mini rake but as they are not designed for big kids like me, I found some willing volunteers to have a go. My first little helper was very taken with the mini broom and swept my patio beautifully. Then we planted carrots seeds and the mini fork, trowel and rake fitted perfectly in her little hands. Of course we had to finish the job by watering the seedlings in and the mini green watering can was a big hit.

My other gardening buddies, loved the mini buckets and pink apron and gardening gloves, now who can’t love a pink apron and they also loved the mini tools which come in a little pouch you can wear around your waist.

I can highly recommend this range of children’s gardening tools. They are well made and there are a good variety of tools and accessories to choose from, which are very reasonable priced. They are perfect to get the young gardeners started but if you have a child who is older and is already showing a keen interest in gardening then I can also highly recommend the children’s range of gardening tools by Burgon and Ball.

These children’s gardening tools have been expertly crafted with quality, high on the agenda. The hand trowel and fork have rubberwood handles, which have been ergonomically designed and the bodies are stainless steel, which makes them strong and durable.


My volunteers used the trowel, fork and the children’s digging fork, which is made from strong ash wood and polished stainless steel and is the most superb quality, quite beautiful to look at in fact.

It’s nice and light to use, so perfect for children or small adults. In fact, Burgon and Ball use the same high quality materials in their children’s range as they do for their adults.

If your children or grandchildren love gardening, then these tools will see them through for many years, in fact the Burgon and Ball children’s trowel is perfect for the potting shed and with a leather thong to hang it up by, I can see the grown ups coveting these for themselves!

Whether you want fun colourful gardening tools for little ones, or practical beautifully made tools for the budding junior gardener, when these two companies have it covered.

The Craftplay Young Gardener tools are available online and the Burgon and Ball tools are available from their online store or check out their website for your nearest stockist.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Chalice Well & Gardens - a peaceful corner of Somerset

Although I have been to Glastonbury many times over the years, I have never made it to the Chalice Well and Gardens but last Sunday I decided to remedy that.

Sitting at the foot of the Tor, the garden, although close to a busy road, is filled with a sense of peace and tranquility. When you step into the garden, you feel that this is a really special place.

At the top of the garden, nestled amongst the plants is the well head and sanctuary.

                                                                        Well Head

The lid of the well has a symbol called Vesica Piscis which is an ancient sacred symbol of two interlocking circles. Its geometry symbolises a union, of heaven and earth or spirit and matter and it appears throughout the gardens. (information taken from the leaflet) This area is a place for quiet contemplation.

At the moment, the garden is filled with lovely spring flowers.

                                                                  Forget Me Nots


The spring waters which cascade out of the lions mouth can be drunk.

                                                                        Lion's Head

This water then trickles down to the healing pool. You can see how the iron deposits have stained the rill red.

                                                       King Arthur's Court & Healing Pool

If you fancy just stepping away from the hustle and bustle of life for an hour, this is a wonderful place to visit. It is a garden which has lots of ideas for secret, restful, tranquil spaces for you to take home and replicate in your garden, minus the pure spring healing waters of course, unless you are very lucky.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Wonderful Endorsement from Dobbies Garden Centre

This is what Dobbies are saying about my blog:

Louise Jolley is a professional photographer with a passion for plants and gardening. In and out of the garden combines great gardening advice with exquisite photography. Yet behind this carefully crafted display, Louise is still a humble gardener who shares her triumphs and tears as she toils in the soil. Louise also writes the online gardening blog for her local Bournemouth Echo, and is proud to have her photos published by the National Gardens Scheme.

Read more:

What a wonderful endorsement, I am chuffed to bits!

My new favourite gardening tools

The garden centres are full of tools and bits and bobs to tempt us into spending money but I wonder, do you buy additional spades and forks once you have your basics gardening tools?

After seeing Monty Dons immaculate potting shed with all his tools hanging up, I looked at my pile of gardening paraphernalia, heaped up in the corner of the garage and thought I needed to have a sort out.

I don't tend to have lots of tools, probably one of everything I need and I have collected some old second hand tools which I picked up at an NGS garden I visited but I have to admit I was tempted by Burgon and Balls stand at my local garden centre, Stewarts Garden Centre near Wimborne.

This seed and planting measuring tool and dibber is absolutely fantastic for a person like me who has no concept of space and especially as I vowed to space my plants correctly this year, it will be a god send.

Not only does it have inches and centimetres marked out but it gives the recommended planting distances for popular plants too.

Check out their website for all their garden tools and your local stockist.
I especially love their Grow Your Own range, which is were this ingenious tool comes from.

Below is a sneak peak of their children's gardening tools, which I will be reviewing along with some other fantastic children's gardening tools from on the blog by The PR Mummy which I am writing a weekly guest post on, to give help and encouragement to parents who want to garden with their children and are completely new to gardening.

I think my most favourite gardening accompaniment, is a kneeler I received for my birthday, from Cath Kidston.  (She didn't give me the kneeler my friend Linda did!)

                                                                  Cath Kidston Kneeler

I am a big fan of Cath Kidston products, so I absolutely love this pretty kneeler.

Last weekend the weather was absolutely glorious. I had to take a trip to the DIY store and I saw lots of people buying bedding plants and the naughty store didn't have any signs up to warn the shoppers of frost, which could still rear its ugly head, even here in sunny Dorset.

There was a seed sowing frenzy going on in the greenhouse.
Courgettes, sweetcorn, cut and come again lettuce and squash were all sown and whilst I was at B & Q, I bought a length of drainpipe to sow some peas in. The idea is that you fill the drainpipe with compost and then sow your seeds. When they are ready to plant, you just make an indentation in the soil, with the drainpipe and then slide the seeds, compost and all into the bed. I have never done this before, so it's an experiment but if it's good enough for Sarah Raven, it's good enough for me.

The flower garden is growing at a rate of knots and my orange tulips look magnificent.

                                                                      Orange Tulip

With major reconstruction work going on at the top of the garden, I will soon have a couple of new beds to plant up. I have a few ideas of the kinds of plants I am going for, Miscanthus and Verbena Bonariensis so I now need to decide, do I grow them from seed or buy big plants for instant impact. Decisions, decisions but how exciting, those are the kinds of decisions I enjoy.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gardening for the first time

 If you have decided that this is the year you are going to plant up your garden and learn how it works then firstly congratulations, I hope you get the absolute joy of gardening and it becomes a life long passion but if you just want your world to look a bit nicer, then that's good too but where do you start?

Well you could just rush to the garden centre and buy everything which takes your fancy. Now I am not adverse to the odd impulse buy or two but firstly there are a few basic bits of info you need to know before you could potentially make some expensive mistakes.

What condition is your soil in?

Is your soil full of clay, sand or a mixture?
If it is clay, then the good thing is it does keep hold of nutrients but it does dry out in the summer and becomes rock hard and is sometimes waterlogged in the winter.
If it's sandy like mine, then the nutrients leach out of the soil, it's rather thin but it is free draining, so the plants don't tend to sit in water like they do with clay.

Then you need to know the pH balance. In other words, is it acid or alkaline.
This is easy to find out by buying a soil testing kit from the garden centre for a couple of pounds.
You add soil to a test tube some water and wait to see what colour the soil goes. A visual guide on the packet will tell you the pH of your soil.

So now you know what condition your soil is in and the pH balance, you can buy your plants to suit your soil. Whatever your soil, clay or sand, you will need to feed it with some compost. Garden compost, well rotted farmyard manure or green compost like Eco Compost are good ones to go for. Spent mushroom compost is cheap and cheerful but it does have lime in it, so don't use it if you are going to grow acid loving plants like Rhododendrons or Blueberries.

What aspect is your garden facing?

You need to observe the way the sun moves across your garden.
It's no good buying a plant which loves full sun, if the bed is in shade most of the day.

It's well worth finding this out first as it will save a lot of disappointment and money if you buy the wrong plants for your conditions.

So now you know your conditions, what plants do you buy?

Well it's purely down to what you like and how much time you want to spend in your garden.

My favourite style of planting is cottage garden. You can use shrubs as the backbone and perennials as the stars with roses and climbers for colour height and scent and not forgetting spring bulbs, to fill the spaces whilst the perennials are growing.

Perennials grow, flower and die back in one season, to return again the next year. You can either cut them down to the ground at the end of Autumn or if they have pretty seed heads, leave them through the winter and cut them down in spring.

It's good to spread the flowering times throughout the garden and throughout the year, so you have something of interest in flower every month.

Here are some of my favourites, which I wouldn't be without:





                                                       Angelica for height and structure

but the list is endless.
Roses for scent and beauty. Grasses for grace and movement. Lavender and honeysuckle for scent.

Visiting gardens open to the public like NGS gardens, are a good way to get inspiration and RHS shows like Hampton Court or Gardener's World live at the NEC are both good as you can buy the plants you see, at the shows.

Your local library has a good source of gardening books and the Internet has endless inspiration and information. I always find Gardeners World or the BBC/gardening very good sources.

Whatever your style of gardening, I hope like me your get enjoyment and pleasure from your connection with the soil and with the warmer weather heading our way this week, there is no better time for getting out there and getting your hands dirty.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

National Garden Scheme The Yellow Book 2011- Press Launch

Today I felt very privileged to attend the NGS press launch for the 2011 edition of The Yellow Book.

I had been invited as a photographic contributor for their book and it was the first time I got to see which images they had used, in their first all-colour edition.

Last year the NGS raised 2.6 million pounds, going to beneficiaries as Macmillan Cancer Support, Help the Hospices and Marie Curie Cancer Care. For every pound that is raised 80p goes to these charities, which is pretty good going.

I am very proud to have the following images in the book.

                                                                  Aviemore Hampshire

                                                              Fritham Lodge Hampshire

                                                 Dahlia New Baby from Hilltop in Dorset
                                                  (A whole page was given to this image)

On a large screen one of my favourites taken at Knowle Farm in Dorset, was shown, to illustrate that you can stay at some of the gardens. Knowle Farm is also a B & B.

                                                                       Knowle Farm Dorset

and if this wasn't exciting enough for me, a large banner showing one of my photographs from White Barn in Hampshire, was displayed for everyone to see.

                                                               White Barn Hampshire

                                     NGS Banner with image of White Barn in Hampshire

After the presentations, it was wine and canapé time and a chance to catch up with some of the lovely people I met last year.

I am now making my list of gardens in Dorset and Hampshire to photograph this year. I met up with a lovely couple who have a garden in Hampshire and who are happy for me to photograph it, so there is one on the list.

It really is a privilege to be involved in this wonderful charity.
Visiting an NGS garden is such a wonderful afternoon out. The garden owners are always happy to give advice and visiting the gardens is such a good opportunity to get ideas for plant combinations for your own garden. Of course the tea and amazing cakes are literally 'the icing on the cake'.

The average entry price is £3 and under 16's go free into most gardens and The Yellow Book is available for £9.99.
If you only want the garden details for your county, most libraries and garden centres have these for free.

Crocus at the NGS is the perfect way to purchase plants, which you have seen whilst visiting the gardens, with 15% of the purchase going to the NGS and if you purchase plants now and spend £50 excluding bedding and seed orders, you get a free copy of The Yellow Book.

I hope I have inspired you to visit some gardens open for the NGS, it's an afternoon well spent!


Sunday, 20 March 2011

The First Day of Spring

Today is the first day of spring and the weather did not disappoint.

This week I have potted on my seedlings and popped them into the greenhouse. I got quite a shock when I woke up on Saturday morning, to see quite a hard frost had visited us in the night. I feared the worst and imaged my little seedlings had perished in the night but I need not have worried because they were still hanging on in there. I think they had had a little shock but soon recovered when the sunshine warmed the greenhouse up.

Because this year I have a greenhouse, I have started my seed sowing earlier without realising it, hence I wasn't quite prepared for the frost. The seedlings had been kept in my utility room, which isn't heated but it is warmed up from the heat of the house, so I think going out into the greenhouse, was quite a change for them.

Since this fright, I have been tucking my seedlings up in fleece, just to give them an extra layer of warmth, at night.

It still is a bit early to be doing lots, so I have been nourishing my vegetable bed with a nice thick layer of well rotted manure.

I adhere to the no digging style, when it comes to the vegetable plot. I just fork over the soil lightly, before adding the manure and over these past three years, the soil has improved enormously. I know this because my once sandy poor soil, is now dark and delicious and full of worms. Oh I am so happy to see those little souls squirming about in the soil.

After adding the manure, I covered a small area of the plot with my two cloches, just to warm up the soil, ready for my first batch of seeds.

Rows of Garlic with cloches behind warming the soil ready for planting

I have been adding ericaceous compost to my two blueberries in pots and trimming them to a healthy bud, where necessary and they are looking lovely and healthy.

Blueberry plant surrounded by ericaceous compost

After first deciding not to grow potatoes this year (apart from my sweet potatoes) I have changed my mind but opted for potatoes which you can't buy in the shops.

The last couple of years has found me growing Charlotte which I love but those are now available in the supermarkets, so instead I have gone for a variety, which I grew a few years ago and that is Pink Fur Apple.

This knobbly pink beauty, is so tasty, so this year they are going into the potato sacks again but I intend to be more vigilant and water more frequently, in the hope that I get a better yield.

But for now they are chitting in the utility room, whilst I dream of simply boiling them and smothering them in butter........hmmm

Sunday, 13 March 2011

March Is Upon Us

Well they say time flies when you are having fun and I suppose I am.
My new portrait business is going well and that is definitely lots of fun and I have found out that the National Garden Scheme has used some of my photographs in the 2011 edition of the Yellow Book and that has made me very happy indeed. It means a trip up to London at the end of March for the press launch and that is exciting!

A little while ago, I was up in London, photographing one of my other favourite subjects cake. These images are going to be used on packaging and really tested my photography skills as I didn't take my lights with me and had to rely on window light and the camera, and talking of cake, I have just purchased a gleaming red Kitchenaid. Something I have wanted for a long time but sadly a Weight Watchers diet is preventing me from using it to it's full potential.

                                                                   My new Kitchenaid

With March very much upon us, the garden is bursting into life. Today has been the big tidy up, using my new sharp secaturs. Perennials have been trimmed, to reveal new growth and dead leaves have been swept away.


In the flower garden the miniature daffodils Tete a Tete have been nodding in the breeze -

                                                                        Tete a Tete

                                                             A beautiful yellow trumpet

 in the kitchen garden, the rhubarb is flourishing and this year we will be able to pick a few stalks for the first time. I have to admit that I have never tasted rhubarb but my boyfriend assures me it is tasty.


                                                                      Abstract Rhubarb

We have added some fruit to the garden this year. A red and blackcurrant and a family apple tree, which is a tree with three different varieties grafted onto it.

I have started my seed sowing in earnest. Chillies were the first to be sown and now with their true leaves emerging, will need to be potted on next weekend.

Tomato Ferline have been sown, and I will pot those on next weekend too and in a week or two, I will be sowing my other variety of tomato Legend. I grew both of those last year and I had such a success with them, that I have decided to grow them again.

Gardeners' World has returned to our screens with a new/old presenter Monty Don. I have always liked Monty and I thoroughly enjoyed this programme. The filming was very stylised and the music was very soothing. Watching it is going to be a wonderful start to the weekend but I can't help feeling though, that GW has returned to appealing to the middle-aged, middle class viewers. Toby Buckland and crew from the previous series, really lightened gardening and having Alys in the mix, whom I loved, would have appealed to those wanting to get into gardening, through vegetable growing.

I really think there is room for more gardening programmes than just Gardeners' World and would love to see Alys and Toby, return with a gardening programme designed to encourage new blood into the wonderful world of gardening.



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