Ashwood Nurseries are world-famous for their Hellebores and the range of hybrids they create is quite remarkable for their breadth and beauty. My timing for this visit was perfect as I was travelling down from Manchester to London, and this was an excellent stopover, just to the west of Wolverhampton (for them, close to a big population base but in quite secluded rural location). And as I knew, there was an Open Day, with behind the scenes tours around the glasshouses where the breeding program happens. Marvellous.
The colours range from pure white to deep plum and slate, passing through pale lemons, deeper golds, pinks, peaches, ruby and claret red, jade greens – with spots and dots, stripes, blotches and contrasting veins, picotee edging (a fine line at the edge of the tepals) while the inner ring of nectaries (the petals, really) provide further interest, in green, gold, purple, red…
Judy at New England Garden and Thread casually mentioned in a comment on her latest post that she used to take part in the annual Portsmouth Fairy House Tour. How did I not know about this?? Adding this to my bucket list of things to do when next we visit relatives in NH; will have to time visit accordingly! Apparently this tour is the world’s largest fairy houses event.
What is a fairy house, you may ask? From Tracy Kane at FairyHouses.com: “Fairy Houses are small structures for the fairies and nature’s friends to visit. Sticks, bark, dry grasses, pebbles, shells, feathers, seaweed, pine cones and nuts are just some of the natural materials that can be used. Ranging from simple to intricate ‘Fairy Mansions’, these whimsical habitats are built by children, families, gardeners and nature lovers reflecting their creativity, joy and pride.” Tracy and Barry Kane have written and photographed a charming series of books with ideas for fairy houses, as well as a guidebook for children about making their own. You can find a gallery of their photographs here: FairyHouses.com Photo Gallery. We had a couple of these books when my children were small and we had a lot of fun with them.
On a related note, one of our favorite movies has been “FairyTale: A True Story.” It is the film based on the actual incident of two girls who were believed to have taken real-life photos of real fairies in Yorkshire, just after World War I (the “Cottingley Fairies”). They became minor celebrities, promoted by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Part of the movie’s story involves elaborate fairy houses built by the deceased, artistic older brother of one of the girls, who died at the age of ten.
My children are no longer interested in fairy houses or fairy tales but maybe, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, maybe someday they will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. I think I’m there.
I arrived at Petersham Nurseries 45 minutes earlier than necessary with a view to taking a few pictures – and I am a speedy photographer – so here is a little gallery of plants that are both conveniently for sale or at home in the Cutting Garden (a practical resource for so much of the nurseries’ floristry needs as well as a seed-bed for inspiration). I was not disappointed.
After a day of sunshine and rain, and having watered extensively and spending a few hours titivating the roses in particular, a final ten minutes before I headed home to take just a few more pictures. An indulgent gallery featuring some of the most fragrant roses and a whole kaleidoscope of colourful perennials – much to admire and much to take home if you want…
I love these new colors among Echinacea, although I usually gravitate to cooler shades in the flower garden. You can see how those cooler pastel shades in the background make these warm tones pop. I can see that, but I can’t replicate the effect, either in my garden or my photos. But I so appreciate those who can!