The Tea Break Gardener

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 22.09.18

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 22.09.18

2018-09-22T15:30:01+00:00September 22nd, 2018|My Gardening Week - Six pictures on a Saturday|11 Comments

This week I drove a family member to an appointment in Rutland and was delighted as it gave me the opportunity to spend a day at Barnsdale Garden.  You could call it a horticultural pilgrimage as I was a big fan of Geoff Hamilton’s Gardeners World in the late eighties and early nineties.  The garden contains televised favourites from back in the day, alongside new designs.  It was great seeing the gardens I’d watched being created on television and there was inspiration everywhere, for gardens of any size, for plant enthusiasts or those starting gardening for the first time.

I thought I’d share a few fun new ideas I took away with me.

String-trained mini wedding cake tree

A large Wedding Cake Tree, Cornus contraversa, is a beautiful sight.  The silvery variegated leaves, arranged on tiered branches, reminiscent of a Great British Bake-off show stopper.

Even though the trees are usually only medium sized, few gardeners will have the space to give them to ensure an attractive spread is achievable.

This is a lovely alternative idea.  Featured in the Japanese Garden at Barnsdale, this isn’t officially a wedding cake tree but looks like a scaled down version.  It  is a multi-stemmed shrub called Cornus Alternifolia ‘Argentea’ and has been pruned to achieve a tiered effect, the branches bent downwards to a horizontal position using string and cobbles.  These shiny stones nestle in the raked gravel.

I have a couple of outdoor bonsai trees and whilst this shrub isn’t miniaturised, the pruning and weighting are essentially bonsai techniques.  I’d love to have a go at this.

More string

This is a good idea for anyone wanting a productive and attractive garden structure.  On one side of the simple wooden pergola, climbing roses are trained.  On the other side runner beans are growing up taught string.

Some of you may remember my penchant for using string, and I use a similar method for my sweet pea supports.  I can just imagine this pergola in high summer with sweet peas climbing up them, scenting the air…

Even more string

Tomato support Barnsdale Gardens

I thought this was brilliant – a support for outdoor tomatoes made from four hazel canes crossed in a low wigwam. The tomatoes have been trained up strings fastened into the soil with metal pegs and up to the top of the canes.

I can imagine this structure in any vegetable patch or allotment but I would venture to suggest it’s attractive enough to be incorporated into a garden border.

Talking tomatoes

Tomato indigo blue berries

How long is a piece of string? Well, I’ve run out of string based ideas for this week but how about this for a tomato?

It’s called ‘Indigo Blue Berries’ and there were several plants smothered in fruit in the Ornamental Kitchen Garden at Barnsdale.

I was tempted to try one but there was no-one around to ask. If anyone’s grown this variety, I’d love to hear how it tastes.

I haven’t grown tomatoes for 4 years as I’m away too much in the summer school holidays.  I miss walking to the greenhouse and picking a warm tomato to slice for a cheese and tomato sandwich. Now I’ve got a watering system in my greenhouse it may be time to resurrect my tomato growing.

Autumnal Pots

Autumnal pot collection with cornus

At this time of the year many of my containers look a bit bedraggled and I’m beginning to clear them ready for some bulb planting.

This collection in the Container Courtyard Garden at Barnsdale is a great example of plants still looking great in autumn and the plants work so well together.

The leaves of the Cornus shrub are turning a beautiful shade of red, matched by the Sedum ‘Red Cauli’ and set off by the black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’. The pink scented pelargonium is still flowering well.  This collection would look great in any garden but I suspect that Cornus took allot of watering this summer.

A longed for identification


Aesculus parviflora

When I cut the vegetable beds at the top of my garden I was gratified to find deep, humus rich soil under the grass.  The gentleman who’d sold me the house visited one day and when I commented on it he said he’d fed a family of seven from veg beds in precisely that location.  I benefit to this day from his labours and years of his compost and mulching.

A casualty of my veg beds was a shrub that I had to dig up and relocate.  He’d planted it when his family flew the nest and he no longer needed so much fresh veg.

The shrub was planted elsewhere and promptly curled up its roots and died and I never even had time to identify it.  As soon as a saw this in the Country Garden at Barnsdale it was like greeting an old friend.

Aesculus parviflora

Thanks to the efficient labelling at Barnsdale I know this to be Aesculus Parviflora, which has a lovely fresh green colour and attractive palmate leaves.  I have a space for new shrub in my semi-shaded top path and this would be a good candidate.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the Country Garden in which this plant features.  It’s a simply stunning collection.

Country Garden Barnsdale


Six on Saturday is a weekly meme – take a look at the comments at the base of host The Propagator to see more ‘sixes’ from other keen gardeners from all over the world.


  1. Mala S. Burt September 22, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Love the pebble hardscape in the autumnal pots photo. Lots of great string ideas.

    • Katharine September 22, 2018 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Mala, you’re so right. I didn’t comment on the cobbled paving but it is lovely. That whole courtyard garden is paved beautifully and the planting dotted around in containers. Inspirational for those with smaller spaces.

  2. Fred September 22, 2018 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    This place looks beautiful! I also loved the stone that bends the branch down; an excellent idea for both bonsais and tree branches that would take a wrong direction …Otherwise, I have never tasted ‘Indigo Blue Berries’ toms but I have already seen in the conservatory garden of tomatoes ( /). If you come to France in summer, take the time to visit it: it’s fantastic!

    • Katharine September 22, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the link Fred – what a fabulous looking place. I can almost smell those tomatoes and my mouth is watering!

  3. fromourisland September 22, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Wonderful ideas and photos. I’m in the midst of a dilemma with a cornus contraversa in our garden: keep it? where? I have too many trees! You give me food for thought.

    • Katharine September 22, 2018 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      I’m so happy to hear that. In your wellies I would definitely give it a go. Please let me know if you try!

  4. Chloris September 22, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I have never been to Barnsdale but it looks worth a visit.I have a Cornus alternifolia but I never thought of training it like this, it looks great. A blue tomato? Whatever next? I try to grow a few tomatoes in the greenhouse, but really they need so much water and mollycoddling that I lose patience with them. Great post.

  5. March Picker September 22, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Such a lovely visit you had at Barnsdale! You met an old friend, too. 😉 Another tiered cornus is featured in Six on Saturday today, but can’t think where…

  6. @cavershamjj September 23, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    What are the weights for? To hold the branches in the desired place?

  7. thequiltinggardener September 23, 2018 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    What a great Six. I would love to visit Barnsdale after all those years watching it develop on GW. One day!

  8. Lora Hughes September 25, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for taking us w/you on your visit. I learned so much. Those tomatoes look really good, don’t they? I find the darker ones have a much nicer flavour, more sweet, less acid. I may have to try those myself. The stones on the limbs reminds me of how cloud topiary is done, except I’ve only seen the limbs tied to the shrub itself, not the stone method. The angle of the wigwam shot makes it look awkward to me, in terms of the plant growth. Am I seeing it wrong? I agree w/you that it’d look good in a border, tho. Think I might have to grow hazel.

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