August 22, 2011

Glorious Gardens and My Own Bit of Earth

Argyll 03/06/10 by StephenH16
Argyll 03/06/10, a photo by StephenH16 on Flickr.
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden: home to the the tallest tree in Britain and the mightiest conifer in Europe

For the past three years I’ve attempted to grow my very own English cottage garden—in the rock and clay of the sunbaked Ozark foothills. In some ways it’s been a losing battle, in some ways it’s been a great learning experience.

I was inspired by picture-perfect photos of darling cottage gardens: rowdy, colorful, friendly, and loved. I wanted something of that English country charm in my own home, a place where I could read and drink a cup of tea. Just so you know, I have never had a love of working outdoors or getting my fingers dirty. However, I decided to try my hands at a little experiment, and so I asked Mom and Dad to help me cultivate a piece of ground just outside my bedroom window. I bought a wonderful book (Creating a Cottage Garden in North America by Stephen Westcott-Gratton) and set to work.

Footbridge over stream in Crarae Gardens
© Copyright David P Howard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Crarae Garden: 50 acres of sprawling woodland, sprinkled with bridges, is lush with color from spring to autumn

Easier said than done. Let’s just say that the British soil and climate is quite a bit different than the stuff we’ve got down here. Hacking through red clay and more rocks than dirt is not exactly easy, and I’ve had many failures (foxgloves seem to be a loss, as are English daisies and sage), but on the whole it’s improving as time goes on and I experiment with more new things. This summer has been week after week of 100 degree temperatures and baking sun, so most gardens around here are pretty pathetic. I seem to have hit my stride with four-o-clocks and morning glories, though; they’re doing quite well despite drought-like conditions.
Inside the fernery at Ascog Hall by mzehrer
Inside the fernery at Ascog Hall, a photo by mzehrer on Flickr.
Ascog Hall Fernery: this rare sunken Victorian fernery was rescued from ruin and is now a prestigious, prize-winning attraction

So that’s my personal garden story. A little frustration, a few tears, and some real satisfaction. Like so many other gardeners—green-thumbed or otherwise—hope springs eternal in my breast and I am already formulating plans for next year, when I might finally get the quaint, rambling cottage garden I’ve been working towards! 

Colonnade by itmpa
Colonnade, a photo by itmpa on Flickr.
Torosay Castle Gardens: A taste of Italy in Scotland, this place is home to a beautiful colonnade as well as "niche" gardens and statuary


  1. Hi Abby pleased to meet you.
    You are right I love gardens, and finding new one's to look around.
    As soon as I have finshed this comment I will follow you. I love seeing what folks think of our country.
    Have a good week
    See Yea George xxx

  2. Hi Abby thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Love your blog some great pics and interesting info have added you to follow. Not posting much at the mo new job keeping me really busy. Hope to take some pics tomorrow.

  3. I've already spent some time wandering around your blog Abby - very intriguing. Thanks for visiting mine and leaving your nice comment.

    Will we see photos of your garden ? soon ?

  4. Abby, the soil here is indeed quite different which we discovered a few years ago when we attempted to grow some Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn that one of my readers had so generously sent me the seeds for. We got several miniature ears. It was quite disappointing, however as small as they were we enjoyed them all the same! (Yes, the sweetcorn they grow over here is YUCK!!)

  5. Thank you all so much for posting your comments! I'm so glad you like the blog.

    @Marie: Wow, what a difference the soil can make! Ah well, you grow the cottage gardens and we'll grow the fields of sweet corn :)

  6. I like the atmosphere in this historical gardens! Nice images!!! Hugs from Luzia.

  7. Torosay Castle presently for sale at £2.8m - see

  8. @ Rick: Thanks for asking! I've reposted this on my other blog, but with pictures of my own garden :)


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