Kate's Cuttings Notes and Advice from a Country Garden Words by Kate Foale Photographs by Kevin Pyke
Contents Foreword by Dame Liz Fradd
Introduction: The Launch of Kate’s Cuttings
Spring Page 13 Early Summer Page 19 High Summer Page 25 Designing with Plants Page 31 Darker Days Page 37 Confessions of a Compost Anorak
I’m no Delia Smith but...
Works of Art in the Garden
In Remembrance Page 53 Ten Star Plants Page 57 Five Easy but Beautiful Trees
Sources of Inspiration Page 67 About Kate & Kevin
Foreword Why I ask myself, am I writing a foreword to this book? Though much flattered, I am not at all sure I am qualified to do so, except as an admirer of the two people involved in its creation. I am privileged to live in a small community that has such a rich resource of gifted individuals. Both Kate and Kevin have a passion for plants and plant life, which you will find plenty of evidence of throughout this book. Over the years managing my own garden has changed from being just one more job to do, into a hobby I am now passionate about. In part, this has been through Kate’s encouragement. I am therefore delighted to be able to commend this book to you, in the hope it will inspire you to also enjoy every aspect of your garden too. Kate is our village “gardening guru”. She provides regular practical tips and encouragement in “Kate’s Cuttings”, which is a popular feature of our monthly Village Newsletter. She has helped many of us turn a chore into an enjoyable pastime. Her cuttings assist seasonal planning for our own gardens. The pity is we don’t all have the same level of discipline and willpower to carry out the plan once formed! Kate illustrates her seemingly simple and practical points by helpfully using examples from her own experience. In spite of her use of exotic Latin names for plants, she makes it all sound very easy. This is especially awesome when one knows her imaginative planting is inspired by some of the greatest contemporary gardeners such as Christopher Lloyd. Kevin’s magnificent photographs demonstrate both a considerable skill and an ideal backdrop for “Kate’s Cuttings”. Artistically he captures throughout the book the varying moods of Kate and Peter's garden, as well as its many hidden surprises. If only we could all achieve such good gardening and photographic results; it all looks perfect.
learn and something different to try out. We all know however there is no such thing as a labour free garden; there are always weeds and plants that won’t grow. Importantly this is true of Kate’s garden too. What this book contains therefore is a truthful telling of the joys and pitfalls of gardening, as well as suggestions likely to enhance shape, form and all year round colour. It is the hints and tips that create interest and inspire the reader, especially the tips that have the potential to make life easier. “The pursuit of perfection” Mathew Arnold said “is the pursuit of sweetness and light”. Within this book you will find both. Enjoy its contents and enjoy trying out some of the suggestions in the pages that follow. Professor Dame Elizabeth Fradd DBE
There is nothing like a garden to provide the opportunity for creativity alongside exercise and fresh air, as well as the joy of discovering new plants. There is always something to
Picea pungens 'Glauca prostrata' 7
Spring May 2005
It’s early April and I’m sitting on the old wooden bench by the pond. Deep purpley-
red hellebores, pink and blue lungwort, pale yellow primroses and the last of the dwarf daffodils are flowering in the little woodland around me. Fritillaries are poking their strange heads upwards in a damp patch on the other side of the pond and a large, pale pink Clematis armandii is wafting its scent from the front of the house all across the garden. And to make the moment complete, here comes Peter with a glass of wine - cheers! March 2010
As I write this in early February, the sun is just about out and glimpses of spring are happening at last. Snowdrops and aconites are finally putting on a show and green shoots are appearing in the borders: there are even a few flowers out on the rosemary outside the study window. We’ve got several rosemary bushes dotted around. They grow surprisingly well on our heavy soil once established. A lovely deep purpley blue prostrate one (possibly ‘Benenden Blue’) is thriving on a sunny bank, not surprising as they are native to the Mediterranean coast. The more common upright variety, ‘Sissinghurst Blue’ is growing well under a yellow climbing rose, ‘Laura Ford’. When they are in flower together (which doesn’t happen very often, shame) they do look grand and smell gorgeous. There are pink varieties, but our experience here is that they are not so hardy. The Latin name is Rosmarinus, which translates into ‘dew of the sea’. March 2008
This is the time of year to roll your sleeves up, put on your boots and get out there. A few hours' gardening now will save you lots of effort later with better results.
Wisteria in April 11
Things you can pop into gaps now include dahlias, cannas, cosmos, tobacco plants, verbena, geraniums (pelargoniums), zinnia - the list is long. Later flowering hardy perennials are also available, michaelmas daisies, phlox, salvia (not the dumpy little red bedding ones, there are some gorgeous tall blue perennial salvias, some quite hardy), sedum, and my favourite garden chums, penstemons, which flower and flower. You can also plan ahead and sow perennial and biennial seeds to flower next year. Delphiniums and foxgloves are really easy from seed and you will get loads of plants out of a packet. May 2006
Stake your plants now. If you leave it too late you
My favourite dianthus is the native "Cheddar Pink". It stays quite neat, is low growing and has little, bright pink single flowers on and off throughout the summer and into autumn. They come true from seed, unlike the bigger and posher hybrids. Propagating pinks is easy and now is a good time. Choose healthy shoots with four or five pairs of leaves and cut cleanly below a joint. Cut off the bottom two or three pairs of leaves and insert the cuttings (sometimes called pipings) into gritty compost and keep damp. They will root within a few weeks. June is also foxglove month. Their tall spires are lovely in almost any situation, in sun or part shade. They are usually biannual, germinating and growing a strong rosette of leaves in their first year, and flowering the next. They often run out of steam then and are best pulled out unless you want them to seed themselves about. The best variety I have found so far is ‘Excelsior’. They are a bigger, more varied version of the native foxglove and very easy to grow from seed. Sow them anytime now, get some soil to a fine tilth and sow them direct into the garden. Keep them watered and thin them out when they start to make decent little plants. If necessary move them where you want them at the beginning of autumn to give them time to establish and you will have a fabulous show next summer.
can never get supports in unobtrusively. Last year I had some success using twiggy material from a hazel bush, I just pushed it in round the plants. It looked a bit odd at first, but the plants soon grew up round them and they stayed more or less upright. Page 16: Allium 'Christophii' in May
Above: Foxgloves in June
Last week a kind friend gave me some cutting
Opposite: Bees busy on ornamental thistles. Echinops, the Globe Thistle on the left, and Onopordum acanthium, the Scotch Thistle on the right Pages 20-21: 'Cheddar Pink' Dianthus gratianopalitanus
of some 'Mrs Simpkins', a lovely, fragrant member of the dianthus family usually referred to as ‘pinks’. Mrs S is a white pink – confusing, I know. I did read somewhere that the common name ‘pink’ refers to the shaggy edges to the flowers. They look as if they have been cut with a pair of pinking shears – rather than their colour. True or not, they are lovely, fragrant flowers. Whenever I smell their scent, it takes me back to my childhood where our next door neighbour had pinks edging her paths. Their perfume was just gorgeous. 19
High Summer August 2005
Several friends tell me that they struggle to continue the colour and interest in their borders through from spring to late summer. High summer colour is quite different from spring in our garden with much brasher, brighter colours so it doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. I’m writing this mid July and have borders stuffed with reds, yellows, oranges and purple, on a sunny day it really comes into its own. Some plants in flower today: large, deep orange day lilies, purple Penstemon ‘Raven’ and deeper purple ‘Blackbird’, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, purple clematis both climbing and herbaceous, red and yellow Lychnis, Achillea ‘Gold Plate’, red and yellow climbing roses, orange and red geraniums, dark blue ‘Hidcote’ lavender, morning glory, Verbena bonariensis threading its way through almost all the borders, rich blue vernonicas and salvias, and giant oxlips which seed themselves in a damp, shady spot. July 2004
As I write my garden is crying out for a decent downpour. I’m already sick of endless watering and vow yet again to grow more drought tolerant plants. I collect rainwater and mulch borders to conserve water, but at this time of year it often seems to be an endless battle to keep some plants looking their best. Beth Chatto is a renowned expert on this subject, her glorious garden open to the public is in one of the driest parts of the country, near to Colchester in Essex. If you are ever in that part of the world, I can highly recommend a visit to you. As well as a very pretty dry, gravely garden there is a gloriously planted woodland covering several acres, and a large plant nursery with some unusual plants for sale. In her book ‘The Dry Garden’ (Dent, 1990), she includes a plan for a dry, shady bed that includes ajuga, liripoe, iris foetidissima, saxifrage, viola, hosta sieboldiana, brunnera, lonicera nitida, epimedium, pulmonaria, and acanthus mollis. The secret of success, she suggests is good soil preparation incorporating lots of compost as well as grit if the soil is heavy, and careful choice of plants. She claims not to water her plants after they have become established and they all looked as if they were thriving when we visited a couple of years ago. 23
pink or white flowers. The tubers get bigger and bigger, sometimes reaching a great age and size and are best transplanted while in growth rather than when the tubers are dormant. C. coum are later flowering, usually from December to March but equally rewarding. If ever you are in a botanic garden in early autumn, search out the alpine house when these little plants are at their prettiest. Harlow Carr Garden just outside Harrogate has such a sight waiting for you. December 2009
You may have heard Bunny Guiness on GQT a couple of weeks ago suggesting that on New Year’s Day it's a good idea for gardeners to get out and turn their compost heaps to work off the pounds gained over Christmas. I’m not sure I’ll go quite that far, but some time spent in the garden in winter can be really productive and satisfying. So if you’ve over indulged and want some exercise, why don’t you give the gym a miss and do something useful? Prune your fruit trees, tidy your beds and borders, get the vegetable plot dug and ready for spring planting. Go on, you know you want to!
are if completely dormant and there are no leaves showing and b) where to put them. I tend to end up planting in what appears to be a gap, but turns out to have something underneath the soil. So I plan to carry on lifting and dividing them after flowering on account of the fact I’ve been doing it for years and it works. So there. February 2003
One of the long standing assumptions of many of us who grow snowdrops is that they are best moved ‘in the green’ or straight after flowering. So I was surprised to read in the latest RHS magazine ‘The Garden’ that this is no longer believed to be the case. Not that the gardening catalogues seem to agree - there are still many adverts to buy them in this state at the moment. The problem with not planting them when they still green is that it’s hard to remember a) where they
As I write this in early January the garden is all white and crisp. The trees are like living sculptures and the sun is lighting up the silver trunks of the birch trees - I’m just glad I’m inside as it's blooming cold! February 2007
Early December the front of our house by the door needed a bit of cheering up, so I popped to Moores Garden Centre and bought some plants and compost to assemble a pot. I wanted colour and interest for as long as possible, and a range of 37
In Remembrance November 2003
Many years ago I gave my father in law (known as Pog) a pretty tin full of packets of seeds for Christmas. It wasn’t much, but he liked gardening and it was all I could think of. He died earlier this year, peacefully, at home and in his sleep, after a long, healthy life. While sorting out his stuff, I came across the obviously well used tin, stored next to his fork and trowel, lovingly cared for over years and years of gardening his small plot. There were a lot of things Cyril Foale and I disagreed about and in many ways we had little in common. But a shared love of plants and gardens (and wine) kept us friends to the end. And now I’ll be reminded of him each time I pick up his old trowel. I do hope he approves of what I’m planting with it... March 2006
I was so sad to hear that Christopher Lloyd died in January; we have lost such a great plantsman and writer. He had a gardening column in both Country Life and the Saturday Guardian for many years and built up a large and loyal readership. Garden design was not his strength but, after all, he did inhabit a house and garden designed by Lutyens, so that wasn’t much of a problem. What he did really well was border planning, encouraging us to experiment with plants and colour rather than playing it safe with soft, pastel shades or similar colours grouped in one bed on their own. He wasn’t afraid of controversy, either. Much to the chagrin of the horticultural establishment, he dug up an acclaimed rose garden and turned it into one of the most beautiful sub tropical gardens I have ever seen. Such was the quality of the huge plants and the breathtaking plant associations that walking through it in early September was almost overwhelming. If you haven’t been to Great Dixter, it is in Sussex and is well worth a visit. Some of the inspired planting suggestions he made in many of his books are: in late winter and spring: soft yellow primroses among the emerging carmine shoots of herbaceous peonies; winter aconite with mauve crocus. For the really daring - red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ 51