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Members' Blogs - Week 5 of Lockdown


Well here I am, finally, finding the time to write a blog for the Friends of the Garden website.........a FOG blog, no less!  In case you think I’ve been slacking, I am no slouch.....I’m currently working on the Council Covid19 hub, arranging support for people that are self isolating or otherwise vulnerable during this time. 

During this lockdown period we have been so lucky with the weather… I’m currently sitting out in my garden, in the sun, admiring all the beautiful grasses that I’ve bought from the Friends’ plant sales over the years.......and very magnificent they look too.

I thought, since it’s such a sunny day, that I would take photographs not only of the plants but of something that doesn’t normally belong in my garden and tell you little bit about it. Recently, whilst doing a little bit of spring cleaning, I discovered a box full of dolls house furniture in the back of a neglected cupboard. Since the furniture dated from the late 50s, early 60s, I decided to offer it to Beamish for their new 1950s village and was thrilled a couple of months later to hear that they would very much like to take the items for their collection. 

The next time I went to my father’s house down in Essex, I went up into the attic and discovered to my amazement that the dolls house........which was actually not a house but a bungalow......was still there, so I packed it in the car and brought it back up to Durham. It was made for me by my father when I was about four years old.

After giving it a clean, I put all the furniture back into it and have had several very happy weeks rearranging the chairs, beds and tables in the various rooms, just like I used to when I was little girl. My plan now is to offer the bungalow itself to Beamish but I’ll have to wait until the lockdown has been eased. I’m very much hoping they’ll take it… It’s wasted, locked away in my father’s attic!

So, here are some photographs of my garden, the dolls house, and some of the furniture.....which you may get the chance to see at Beamish at sometime in the future!

I hope you’re all keeping safe and that you are managing to spend at least some of your time out in the sunshine. We are so lucky, here in Durham, to be surrounded by such beautiful open countryside and woodland.......tho I know we will all be missing the Botanic Gardens. 

The bluebells are absolutely magnificent at the moment, as you will have seen from Mike, our Head Gardener’s photographs, so if you haven’t been out for a walk in the woods to see them yet, get your act together immediately and go and have a look.

I sincerely hope it won’t be long before I see you all again......take care.


Now the daffodils are over the Dicentra are taking some of the glory.

I am very fond of the Rhodohypoxis. This is a greenhouse specimen, well ahead of the outdoor one not surprising since the latter suffers from being trampled on by wood pigeons!


The Totally Tangerine Geum is also well ahead of Mrs Bradshaw.

The glorious red flowers of Mrs B are reluctant to open just yet! Someone said Geums only last about three years but I have read that if you split them every three years or so this will sustain vigorous plants. Hope this proves to be the case! Also, presumably will provide me with more plants!

John and Kristin

Here are two ‘rescue' plants which are now, with a little tlc, doing well. The Comfry had been ‘fly tipped’ and less than year ago the Rhodanthemum was unloved, pot bound and much discounted on a "clearance counter”.

Peter and Margaret

Latest from our garden.

1. Our rhododendrons will soon be completely out. The tall ones catch the morning sun.

2. The ivy and moss have almost engulfed the bird bath again.

3. One wild flower thinks it owns the meadow.


Thought these needed a wash, hand sewn by my mother-in-law in 1945.


This week, with the arrival of some welcome rain, the garden has burst into life. Fern fronds (Dryopteris filix-mas I think) are unrolling their shepherds’ croziers and the Hosta albomarginata are in full leaf, fresh from winter dormancy, as has the Acer palmatum var. dissectum.

A few weeks ago I mentioned how some frog spawn had been deposited in a flower pot saucer. The tadpoles that arose from this spawn have continued to grow but have yet to develop legs. Many have commented on how loud the birdsong seems this year and we certainly have had our fairshare of visitors to the feeders. Not all the young born will of course make it and this pretty egg, which I believe is that of a Song Thrush, found on the grass is testament to that truth.


I am really glad to have seen the rain we have had over the last few days. The garden has really perked up no end. But I am starting to get a little nervous about my potatoes. Still no sign of them appearing. This anxiety happens every year and when they do appear all anxiety melts away. Here's hoping! I decided to try and grow some kale over the winter however despite all my efforts all the plants decided to bolt at the same time. Never mind. Gardening always involves more failures than successes. Well that's what I tell myself to keep me trying.

The photos this week are of a number of Japanese Acers in the garden. We just love the gracefulness of these shrubs and small trees. And they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and leaf colour. The Autumn colour is also stunning. Their flowers however are small and generally insignificant. They look so delicate but if you can give them a little bit of shelter from the wind they are as tough as old boots. They also don't seem to be troubled by pests or diseases.


Is it week 5 or 6? I've lost count!

Two pics of pansies. I think pansies represent the best value in spring flowers, especially these new varieties which have vibrant heavy blooms, an upright habit and strong wind and rain resistant stems. They are great value for money when bought as winter stock plugs.

This is 'Cancan' and come in at about 18p each.


Taken on this morning’s walk - even on a dull day brings cheer. Although you can see the colour and beauty (hopefully) what you don’t get is the birdsong and the playfulness of two deer that seem to be enjoying a game in the glade.


I am attaching a couple more photos taken in our garden last week and one of the orchids just in flower.

Euphorbia griffithii with Stipa arundinacea in the sunshine, plus my shadow! The excuse, well, it’s to close to the conservatory to get a good angle.

Clematis Broughton Star, a mass of flowers, covering a fence, as the sun is starting to go and the rain clouds are on there way.

And down the garden path...

Cattleya schilleriana - each flower is about 2.5” across and beautifully scented.


I wondered if members might appreciate this photograph of cowslips, taken on a strip of land surrounding a modern housing estate in Hexham.

They grow every year and I don't know whether they were deliberately seeded or appeared naturally.


Two of the three varieties of honesty in the garden. If anyone has managed to germinate the perennial variety I’d be delighted to know how they managed it.

View of the narrow part of the garden from the French windows.

Clematis Montana just opening up.

Mad Hatter water feature.