Zanthan Gardens Week 30
2007-07-24. The weeds have won but the cosmos make me smile. Let it grow.

July 30th, 2007
Week 30: 7/23 – 7/29

Dateline: 2007
I got very little done in the garden this week, other than dig a bit more caliche and gravel out of the back lawn and try to prepare it for replanting. All week it rained.

Zanthan Gardens Week 30

And it rained.

Zanthan Gardens Week 30

I never had a chance to mow the lawn. And the weeds are so out of control in some places that I’ve given up and will tackle those spots in the fall. Or winter.

Like Pam/Digging, I find that orange cosmos is the perfect summer fill-in plant. I’m glad I planted a bunch just before I went on vacation. And I’m thankful for the temperatures in the 80s here in the last week of July when we’re usually wilting under the 100s.
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Tatton Park Japanese Garden
The sunlight illuminates all the various shades and textures of green in the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park.

July 28th, 2007
Tatton Park: The Japanese Garden

Japan is my adopted second culture and yet I’ve never had a desire to replicate a Japanese garden in my own yard. When most people think of a Japanese garden, they conjure up visions of the great temple gardens, or the gardens of the Imperial Palace, or the tea gardens of wealthy manors of old. Mimicking those gardens in a backyard in Texas seems as eccentric as building a miniature garden of Versailles. Would I put a Shinto shrine in my garden? Why not a mini Stonehenge?

Tioram Castle
NIMBY. Stone circle on beach in front of Castle Tioram, Scotland

And that’s the key to how I feel about Japanese gardens outside Japan. They are examples of a style, museum pieces rather than livable gardens. We could argue that the Italian garden was an example too. I think the difference is that I can walk through the Italian garden, sit in it and read, dangle my fingers in the fountain. It’s comfortable and inviting. The Japanese garden seems reserved and distant.

Of course, Tatton Park is not my little back yard and the Egertons had enough space (about the size of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco) to work with. Choosing to create examples of different types of gardens was a great idea–especially for those of us on a visit. It’s almost like shopping at the mall. “Are you in the mood for Italian or Japanese tonight, dear?” “Oh, let’s just sit in the fernery.”

The Japanese Garden at Tatton Park has been restored just recently and is considered to be one of the finest examples of its kind in the UK. It’s sited in what looks like a little gully with a stream running through it to a large lily pond. Lots of moss grows here, too. The combination enables you to imagine a little bit of the steep and rocky terrain of Japan here in the fine grassy plains of Cheshire.

Tatton Park Japanese Garden

Many plants found in Japan grow here. They seem larger and a bit wilder than their clipped counterparts in a formal garden in Japan. The feeling I got was of stumbling across some forgotten teahouse hidden in a mountain forest. Part of me wanted to go inside. (Due to the fragility of the garden, one is not allowed to walk through it.) But part of me didn’t need the signposts or chains to make me hesitate…to sense that this is a sacred space that one doesn’t intrude on casually.

Tatton Park Italian Garden
A rare spot of sunlight breaks out over the Italian Garden at Tatton Park while storm clouds threaten in the background.

July 26th, 2007
Tatton Park: The Italian Garden

My visits to England are constrained by school holidays and, as a result, I have never managed to be in town for the RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park. However, the gardens at Tatton Park are always worth a visit anyway.

Rather than garden rooms like Hidcote Manor where the small gardens flow from one to another changin. moods and showing off various collections of plants, the multiple gardens at Tatton Park are distinct and separate entities which reflect the international interests of the former Egertons who made them. Thus you find a Japanese garden, an African Hut, and an Italian garden scattered among the grounds in addition to more domestic English borders, rose gardens, great lawns, walled vegetable gardens, long walk, fernery, rhododendron-filled woods, and a maze.

For some reason, I’d never stumbled across the Italian Garden, before. This time, however, map in hand we made our way through the woods, past the Leech Pool, to the Mercury Pool (god not chemical as I’d thought), and up to the Italian Garden from below, hiking up a steep lawn, at first seeing only the roses tumbling over the balustrade and color from a long border of lavender above us. We turned the corner…

Tatton Park Italian Garden

… and entered a formal garden which made a stunning contrast to the naturalistic woods and ponds that we had just come from. Tatton’s Italian Garden was designed in 1847 by Joseph Paxton who designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

As you might expect then, it’s not too shabby.

Tatton Park Italian Garden

What I love about this garden most, is the siting–the contrast of the clean formal lines and flat terrace against the informal backdrop of trees, fields, and small lakes beyond.

The garden layout was designed to be viewed from above, looking down from the mansion, like this.

Tatton Park Italian Garden

I’m glad we sneaked in the back way, appreciating the parts before seeing the whole.

We had the garden almost to ourselves and I enjoyed a sense of proprietorship as I always do. AJM took the opportunity to sit and read. I strolled through the garden, brushing my fingers through the lavender hedge, and dreamed.

Tatton Park Italian Garden

Fryer's Roses Cheshire UK
Rows and rows of roses at Fryer’s Roses.

July 23rd, 2007
Fryer’s Roses, Cheshire

On the last day of my vacation, Margaret treated me to a gardeners’ field trip to Fryer’s Roses which is located only a few miles from her house. Fryer’s both sells and breeds roses. It’s been racking up the awards this last decade, receiving in 1999 The Queen Mother’s International Rose Award and then going on to win gold medals at Chelsea Show, Hampton Court Show, and Tatton Park Show. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, rent that movie Greenfingers.)

Established in 1912, Fryer’s remains a family business and is run by Gareth Fryer, grandson of the founder. He lives in a very nice house on the grounds of the garden centre. Margaret and I talk about how disheartening it must be to try to run a nursery business in a cold, wet summer like this one.

The first thing we did when we arrived (free parking! –that’s so unusual in England) was rush over to the roses growing in the fields.

Fryer's Roses Cheshire UK
No amount of mud was going to stop us from viewing the roses nor did a the little bit of rain dampen our spirits (although it did make it hard to take photos).

Rather than in display gardens, the roses (mostly Hybrid Teas) are grown in long (labelled, yay!) rows. I don’t grow any Hybrid Teas myself, so almost all of these roses were unknown to me. I liked the form and color of A Whiter Shade of Pale. The Floribunda Alderley Park caught my eye but I was particularly impressed with Champagne Moment with creamy apricot colored flowers and very green and glossy leaves showing absolutely no black spot despite the weeks of rain. And it was very fragrant.

Fryer's Roses Cheshire UK
Not all the roses fared so well in the wet conditions plaguing England this summer. This is “Pride of Cheshire”.

I was intrigued by the Fryer’s-bred Belle Epoque which has a very unusual bi-toned color. I couldn’t decide if I like it or not but I think that if I grew it, it would win me over because it is so different than anything I grow now. I got a nice glossy catalog from the man in the rose department to peruse on the airplane. I can dream of roses even if they aren’t likely to be available in the US. The rose man cautioned that roses that grow well in England might not take favorably to Texas. Don’t I know it!

After our tramp through the mud and flowers, Margaret took me to lunch in the cafe. We had sandwiches (I had to try watercress since I was in England) and coffee and a scrumptious dessert. It was raining and the cafe was packed. I can’t imagine going to a cafe in a nursery in Austin but it made so much sense in England where it rains a lot and the general lack of parking makes doing everything in one stop sensible.

After lunch we wandered around the massive garden centre, which includes plants, tools and chemicals, garden books, and a gift shop. (Austinites imagine Breed & Co.) We sniffed the confederate jasmine and I was transported home. We looked greedily at the passionflower vines and the clematis. Indoors, I was especially fascinated by the local foods, marketed as “The True Taste of Cheshire”. I saw my favorite, Tyrell parsnip crisps and discovered discovered Moffat Dollop. I passed, this time, because I’d already bought Moffat Toffee on this trip.

Fryer’s also has a section of glass conservatories, children playscapes, outdoor furniture, grills and heaters (even Mexican chimineas), landscape paving and gravels, pots, and statuary. Of all the nurseries/garden centers in the Central Texas area, Fryer’s reminded me most of Wildseed Farms (although Fryer’s is a bit more upscale…upmarket, they say in England.)

If I lived in Knutsford, I imagine that I’d go to Fryer’s Roses frequently just to have a cup of coffee with a friend and then walk around chatting and picking up odds and ends for the garden or the kitchen and gifts for just about anyone.

Zanthan Gardens July 22, 2007
2007-07-22. There’s some yucca under all that monster vine, Pandorea ricasoliana. I haven’t started to weeding the meadow and I wonder if any of the buffalo grass has survived. The monkey grass is back and blooming.

July 22nd, 2007
Week 29: 7/16 – 7/22

Dateline: 2007
I planned to take a photo of my fingernails (long, clean, and even) before I got back to sticking my hands in the dirt but…

The garden remains strangely green for July in Austin. A lot of the green is weeds which I’m trying to deal with in an orderly fashion by focusing on one bed a day rather than running around in a panic.

Crape myrtle and some roses continue to bloom. There’s a lot of rot and mold in the garden, too. Rather than fresh and green everything smells sodden and musty. My salvia (indigo spires) up and died after 12 years of spreading itself around the stump garden. It had always been such a trouble-free plant, sprawling and layering itself to make baby plants. Many irises are rotting away.

I’ve mowed the lawn three times since I returned from England a week ago. After my three week absence the grass was over a foot tall and I worried about it going into shock even though I set the mower at the highest setting. However, I have a reel push mower and it’s very difficult to cut St. Augustine grass with it as the blades of grass grow in all angles rather than straight up. So I made one pass which left a lot of tall grass standing, then another a couple of days later, and my final pass today. I think I can report that it’s back to normal now.

(Aside: AJM reported that the grass was “about 4 inches” tall. He’s the only man I know who would estimate a 12 inches as four. Most men get it mixed up the other way around.)

The freakish rain continued this week. In addition to almost daily showers it rained hard on Wednesday and hard and long on Friday and then hard again early Saturday morning.

Rainfall totals graphic exaggerates
Although we’ve gotten almost double our normal rainfall this year, we haven’t gotten quite as much as Austin newspaper’s graphic would lead you to believe. Those are the normal and 2007 year-to-date totals in inches, NOT the total rainfall received in July 2007.

First flower: cypress vine (7/22). The rose ‘French Lace’ is blooming for the first time in two years. I’m not sure of the date because it had flowers when I returned.
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Zanthan Gardens Texas Flood
2007-07-20. I knew putting the house in a trench and then piling a foot of caliche behind it was going to cause drainage problems. This area behind the house will someday be my garden work area and tool storage.

July 20th, 2007
Rain Delay

The rain’s continued off and on all week and the work as been just as intermittent. Yesterday was a pretty good day and the framing was completed and part of the metal roof panels installed. In contrast, today it began raining at 6:15 am and then at 10:15 it began raining hard!

When the building part of this project is done, I’ll be able to put in the french drains, a retaining wall, a rainwater collection system, and finally some plants. These are all things I wish were done before all this rain but it just didn’t work out that way. I feel miserable seeing all the rain wasted.

I know that this excess rain been bad for some people but I love it. I always wanted to live somewhere where the summer temperatures top out in the 80s instead of the 100s. Tonight we had to turn off the whole-house fan because the inside temperature had dropped to 75 and I was getting goose bumps.

Tired of the rain? Not when I look at photos from last year’s drought.

Zanthan Gardens Texas Flood
2006-08-26. Drought or flood–that’s Texas. I’ll take the flood.

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
The tour’s featured garden was built into a steep hill. The owners are reported to have been inspired on the pond tour two years earlier. I wish my inspirations would take solid form like this.

July 18th, 2007
Austin Pond Society Tour 2007

One of the unexpected benefits of the garden house project is that we are becoming owners of a pond. I’ve wanted a pond for a long time. In anticipation of this new stewardship, we began checking out books on ponds. I realized quickly that I face a very steep learning curve. The Austin Pond Society’s annual tour was last weekend. Although I was in flight on Saturday, I decided I could extend my vacation one more day and spend Sunday visiting ponds instead of tending my own garden. Luckily, all the ponds open Sunday for viewing were in south Austin.

I really enjoyed the tour and it was well worth the $15 admission even though I managed to see only about 1/3 of the 30 ponds that were open to the public. What I liked best about the tour was the variety, little DIY ponds made by “normal” people with “normal” backyards; a pond in a funky old south Austin in a yard full of handcrafted buildings (including a screened porch room); brand new ponds which made the most of a steep otherwise unworkable sites by creating pools and waterfalls, artsy ponds in killer backyards overlooking Austin, and a series of ponds in a canyon being restored to native plantings. I even saw a house I’d give mine up for in a second…and only a few blocks (and several million dollars) away.

Everyone was really friendly, too, and all the owners were extremely nice in talking about their pond experiences. Owners, thanks so much for inviting the hoards into your back yards!

I’m afraid that my eye strayed more to the gardens and plants than to the ponds. I’m sure that once I have more experience with my own pond that I’ll become more attuned to what to look the next time I tour ponds. Part of the tour, my camera wasn’t working so I only have photos from three gardens.

Gary’s Garden
Gary Pettitt owns Seasonal Living Trading Co here in Austin and his garden is a showcase for his wares .
Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
Distracted by the poolside view overlooking Town Lake and the Austin, I thought the pond took a back seat. Which is difficult because what a pond it was!

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
The backdrop was a 10-foot high drip wall which emptied into a 40-foot long, narrow but deep koi pond.

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
A sculpture took center stage and on either side little statues of Buddha sat serenely in their niches behind the flowing water.

Although this is not a pond I can imagine having in my own back yard, even if I had the money, it was wonderfully impressive. The rest of the yard was divided into various garden rooms, each showcase in itself.

Marc’s Garden
In contrast, Marc’s garden and series of ponds better epitomized the Austin aesthetic for me. Imagine having your own canyon in which to create a hidden paradise–very Shangri-la.

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007

He is transforming the canyon on his property into a series of ponds. Native plants are being reintroduced. And I felt a special kinship for his collection of rocks and folk art and other quirky sculptures made from found objects.

David’s Garden
Walking into David Amdur’s garden I felt that I’d been transported to the Austin of my youth. The artist/designer/builder has handcrafted his own house and all the furniture in it. The large yard meanders down a hillside (a common theme on the pond tour). In a grove at the bottom of the garden is a little screened porch room which I thought was as cute a button. AJM gave me a look as if to say, well if you wanted something like that… I don’t want to trade, I think my screened porch room is the right thing for our yard.

Garden House Zanthan Gardens
2007-07-15. The roof framing is almost finished, giving us a good feel for the final size of the garden house.

July 17th, 2007

During my three weeks in England, I was just as anxious as some of you to know what progress was being made on the garden house. We had expected it to be finished before we went on vacation. When it wasn’t, we were assured that it would be finished before our return. However, rain delays have slowed progress; it’s been raining since we began the project. It rained the whole time we were gone. And it’s forecast to rain this week.

We had a bit of a snafu the week before we left so I left house and garden with an uneasy mind made more anxious. The framing for the screened walls turned out differently than we expected and we had to stop work and come up with an alternate solution. All worked out in the end but the misdirection left me with the apprehension that I wouldn’t be able to catch any last minute design changes if I was thousands of miles away. Ivan is a bit less forthcoming in communicating changes in his implementation strategy than I’m comfortable with.

As it turns out it rained quite a bit while I was away and very little was done in my absence. Before JQS went off on his road trip, he reported nothing had changed that he could see. On the day before AJM was to return, I got an email from Ivan saying that they had tripped the circuit breaker doing the welding and since the subpanel is inside, work had stopped.

AJM sorted that out on his return. So during my last week in England, most of the roof got framed. I was only slightly disappointed not to have the house all finished when I returned. I much prefer to keep an eye on the progress. You can call me a control freak (many have). But this is a damn expensive project (for the likes of us) and I want it to turn out the way I want it to turn out.

Zanthan Gardens July 15, 2007
2007-07-15. Returning from vacation I find that the grass is about a foot high and the garden is completely overgrown. I’m so happy that the garden got along without me and my hosepipe.

July 15th, 2007
GBBD 200707: July 2007

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

July 15, 2007

Got into town late last night after my three weeks in cold, rainy England. At first light this morning, I was exploring the overgrown jungle that is my garden at the moment. (Okay…actually I drenched myself in mosquito repellant and combed over the garden with a flashlight as soon as I had my bags in the door last night.) I heard that Texas had rain in my absence but Good Grief! As a result Zanthan Gardens is much more green and floriferous than usual for July. I see a lot of weeding in my future. It’s good to be home!

  • Abelia grandiflora
  • Antigonon leptopus
  • Asclepias curassavica
  • Canna ‘Bangkok Yellow
  • chili pequin
  • Commelina erecta (day flower) — the weedy perennial. I much prefer its false cousin)
  • Cosmos bipinnatus
  • Cosmos sulphureus–some new life for the summer garden
  • Duranta erecta — finally bloomed this year and looks great
  • Hibiscus syriacus
  • Lagerstroemia indica Finally! They look stunning all over Austin right now.
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’
  • Lantana montevidensis — one white flower
  • Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey
  • Malvaviscus arboreus
  • Mirabilis jalapa pink
  • Mirabilis jalapa RHS red
  • monkey grass
  • Oenothera speciosa (evening primrose)
  • Oxalis triangularis
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ — full, gorgeous bloom
  • Plumbago auriculata
  • Polanisia dodecandra — still in full bloom
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette‘ — a few flowers still
  • rose ‘Heritage’
  • rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere
  • rosemary (unusual for summer here)
  • Rudbeckia hirta — fading
  • Ruellia (Mexican petunia)
  • Sedum album (white stonecrop)
  • Tradescantia pallida (purple heart)
  • Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic) Thanks, Pam!
  • Verbena canadensis
  • Vitus agnus-castus — a couple of flowers

I’ve been keeping (rather erratic) records on what blooms in Zanthan Gardens since 1995 in the In Bloom Calendar.

Arley Hall Ilex avenue
Looking south down the Ilex Avenue.

July 14th, 2007
Arley Hall Gardens

Dateline: July 12, 2007
Margaret and I revisted Arley Hall Gardens again today. I never tire of it because, of course, it’s never the same. The underlying structure is the same but the varying combinations of plants and colors constantly reveal new surprises. Updated photos when I return to Texas.

Dateline: August 31, 2005
I can’t suppress my discontent over my own sorry garden now wasting away in the last days of a Texas summer, not when I remember some of the magnificent gardens we visited in England.

Recently the gardens at Arley Hall, in Cheshire, have been voted one of the top ten in England. In a nations full of beautiful gardens that is no small feat. Arley Hall is still home to the Viscount and Viscountess Ashbrook whose family has lived there for thirteen generations. While Arley Hall lacks the grandeur of Castle Howard, one can’t help but exclaim, as Charles does, “What a place to live!”
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