September : a month of Eastern promise in the garden at Uppark.

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There was a sense of South American exuberance about the Garden in August. We travel East for September in order to bring you a month full of exotic promise.

Vita Sackville West once wrote:

I cannot bear to see another summer go, and I recoil from what the first hint of autumn means.

…but although this may be a sobering thought, don’t give up on summer yet and don’t be fooled by some of the leaves which are already beginning to drip from the trees. September, one of our most beautiful months, is truly jewel laden and Uppark will have a plethora of its’ own late summer gems on display.

In the spirit of previous “learn with David” pieces, I’ve dug up what I hope will be some interesting snippets to augment our September newsletter so off we go….

Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa group’

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A native of China and Tibet, Hydrangea aspera is the first of our September Eastern promise plants. This late summer flowering deciduous shrub can be found in the island beds close to the entrance to the tea garden. The proximity of Cotinus coggyria ‘Grace’ deep red leaves serves as a foil to the rich pink and purple flowers of Hydrangea aspera. Incidentally, ‘aspera’ comes from the Latin for ‘rough textured’ and this nomenclature refers to the downy lower surface of Hydrangea aspera’s leaves.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu

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Another Eastern import, Kyushu is Japan’s third largest island, home to the nations most active volcano (Mount Aso) and many hot springs (quick geography lesson for you there!). ‘paniculata’ refers to the fact that Kyushu is ‘panicled’ insofar as it’s made up of a multi-branched ‘inflorescence’, or cluster, of flowers arranged on a stem. Plant names – it’s amazing how the search for one word leads to another, then another, then another. Suffice to say, creamy white is the predominant colour of the late summer flowers of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu‘. 

Clerodendrum trichotomum.

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A native of China and Japan, Clerodendrum trichotomum has some brilliant common names, amongst which my favourites are ‘harlequin glorybower’, ‘glorytree’ and ‘peanut butter tree’ (apparently its crushed leaves can produce a peanut like odour). We get two bites of the cherry with Clerodendrum trichotomum since its’ white, star shaped flowers are followed by bright blue berries in October. This is where trichotomum comes from; the blue pigment of these strikingly coloured berries contains trichotomine.

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica.

Uppark Garden

Also well known commonly as Chinese or Japanese anemone and probably less obviously as ‘thimbleweed’ or ‘windflower’ (what lovely descriptions!), Anemone hupehensis japonica was first named in the 1784 ‘Flora Japonica’ by Carl Thunberg. The influence of the Dutch and British East India Companies on the introduction of plants into Europe from the East is apparent everywhere and the story of Anemone hupehensis japonica illustrates this brilliantly. Thunberg was a doctor in the Dutch East India Company but was actually a Swede who, having learned the language was able to pass himself off as Dutch. This was critical to his access to all things Japanese as at that time, Japan was only open to Protestant Dutch Missionaries. A certain Robert Fortune was responsible for introducing Anemone hupehensis japonica to the UK from China in 1844. This is interesting enough in its’ own right but Fortune’s probable greater claim to fame was his responsibility for the transportation of tea plants from China to India in 1848 on behalf of the British East India Company. Think of the repercussions of that! (although the original plants were found to be very difficult to keep healthy). Fortune’s escapades in the East required dissembling similar to that of Thunberg insofar as since the purchase of tea plants by westerners was forbidden by the Chinese government of the day, it was necessary to disguise oneself as a Chinese merchant in order to get one’s hands on such valuable plants. Ingenious C18th and C19th determination of the highest calibre and this pair of stories provide a very colourful background to this equally colourful plant.

Aster novae-angliae ‘September Ruby’

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Also known variously as ‘Fall Aster’, ‘New England Aster’, ‘Michaelmas Daisy’ and ‘Septemberrubin’ we move from the mystic East towards Eastern North America for our next highlight. Asters have traditionally been used to provide vibrant splashes of late summer colour (even I know that!) and the deep ruby-red blooms of Aster novae-angliae ‘September Ruby’, which are also great for cutting, are no exception.

Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’

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Found in front of the Orangery Café and in the dairy bank border, we return to East Asia to highlight Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’. This blue flowered hybrid has now largely replaced the original Caryopteris species in many gardens and I was delighted to discover that Caryopteris x clandonensis is an accidental creation from the garden of Arthur Simmonds at Clandon (hence clandonensis). It’s lovely to have found such a happy link between the two National Trust places. Other cultivars include the very evocatively named ‘Blue Mist’, ‘Longwood Blue’, ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Summer Sorbet’….the poetry of plant nomenclature never ceases to inspire me.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’

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This is a plant I do not forget as I once tried, and failed, to enunciate ‘atriplicifolia’ at the end of a reasonably sized garden tour once we’d arrived at the scented garden. I think I gained the sympathy of the group for trying (‘nice but dim’ probably worked) but I now tend to stick to just Perovskia or Blue Spire. A native of South West and Central Asia and also known as Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia is, apparently, neither Russian nor in the same genus as sage (although its’ fragrance is similar). The name ‘Perovskia’ is in memory of V.A Perovski, a Russian General who introduced the plant to Western gardeners in the mid C19th whilst leading Imperial Russian troops on campaign in Afghanistan (since Perovski had earlier been captured by French troops during the retreat to Moscow from the Napoleonic 1812 Battle of Borodino and remained in captivity until the fall of Paris in 1814, he evidently had a lively formative career!). The crushed flowers of ‘Blue Spire’ provide a blue colourant useful for culinary purposes and in the textile and cosmetics industries. Find Perovskia atriplicifolia in the scented garden and dairy bank borders – once autumn has slid into winter, its’ silvery stems will provide some very welcome colour.

Ceratostigma willmottianum

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Native to Western China and Tibet, Ceratostigma is also commonly known as Leadwort or Plumbago. The epithet ‘willmottianum” was given by Ernest Wilson, another traveller to China and the Middle East, in honour of his initially wealthy, but later debt laden and increasingly eccentric sponsor, Ellen Willmott who is said to have cultivated over 100,000 different species of plant. In addition, the colourful Willmott appears to have been a gardener of uncompromising standards, sacking gardeners for leaving weeds in situ and justifying her policy of employing only male gardeners by stating that

women would be a disaster in the border….’.

Ellen Willmott’s words not mine, I say nothing and keep the peace!

Ligustrum lucidum

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Much better known as Chinese privet, not surprisingly this small evergreen tree (or large shrub depending on your point of view) is another native of Southern China. Also known as ‘broad leaf privet’ and ‘wax-leaf privet’, an alternative common name, ‘glossy privet’, elucidates the Latin lucidum that relates to ‘bright’ and/or ‘shiny’ in reference to its glossy leaves. Another plant that keeps on giving (its white summer flowers are followed by black or deep purple berries) Ligustrum lucidum has a slightly alarming number of uses in traditional Chinese medicine including the nourishment of the liver and kidney together with treatments for tinnitus, vertigo, premature greying and weakness of the lower back and knees. That’s quite a list and you learnt it here with David!

Although I hesitate to say it I am, indeed, coming to the end of my second summer in the garden at Uppark. It’s been inspirational, I know more than I did last year, I have a better understanding of how the property operates as whole and I have loved sharing my enthusiasm for the garden within the pages of this blog and, especially, face to face with our visitors – hope to see you soon!

June at Uppark

Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus – yellow daylily looking beautiful flowering alongside the now fading Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Nepeta ‘Six Hill’s Giant’.

Looking great in the scented garden: Sea pink or thrift (Armeria maritima) wonderful, low level colour that looks spectacular in large drifts. Combine these with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ (below) – and you’re in purple heaven!

Ox-eye daisies in the South meadow, just get a load of these! Aren’t they lovely?

Cabbage white butterfly on the now fading perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva) in the tea garden.

Above and below Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride) in the scented garden – this is a cracking plant for semi-shade. Gorgeous green waxy leaves and frothy loveliness above.

Look out for these wonderful Astrantia major – (masterwort) they’ve self sown throughout the garden and are looking lovely right now.

Iris germanica ‘Kent Pride’ look out for this beautifully coloured Iris near the scented garden.

Cistus x hybridus (rock rose) raised locally by the garden team in the Alitex glasshouses from cuttings taken a couple of years ago, these lovely summer blooms are at their best right now. See these flowering in the tea garden.

Salvia  x sylvestris ‘Mainact (‘May Night’) – one of my favourite Salvias, lovely colour at this time of year.

Hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium – near the scented garden don’t you just love green? Gorgeous.

Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’  – yellow mock orange looking great with a delicious scent right now, there’s a good chance if you smell something fragrant in the garden at the moment it could be this!

Wild and Wonderful May

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If I had to choose my favourite month, it would be May.  Although I enjoy the changing of the seasons in general, there is something unbeatable about late Spring and the sudden feeling of the world come back to life.

The world come back to life: young Beech  leaves (Fagus sylvatica) with a pocket of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the woodland at Uppark

The world come back to life: young Beech leaves (Fagus sylvatica) with a pocket of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the woodland at Uppark.

Although the garden is beginning to flourish, the thing that really grabs my attention in May is the profusion of wildflowers in the woodlands, hedgerows and meadows.  Combined with the fresh green glow of young foliage, these wildflowers steal the show.  I recently went around the woodland walk at Uppark to see what caught my eye.

Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Last spring I saw a few bluebells in the woods at Uppark, this year there are definitely more.  While I wouldn’t yet call it a carpet of bluebells, the number of plants is increasing.  This process is helped by woodland thinning to allow more light to reach the woodland floor, and the springtime planting of bulbs ‘in the green’ which will now establish for next year.

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Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) enjoying some extra light after woodland thinning work.

Primroses (Primula vulgaris)

These rugged beauties started to flower in February and are still going strong.  The picture above was taken on the the lower section of the woodland walk at Uppark where the primroses nestle in the banks.

Cowslips (Primula veris)

The primrose’s leggier cousin, the cowslip keeps the Primula banner flying into late spring. The number of cowslips at Uppark seems to be increasing.  Like the increase in bluebells, this may be due to woodland thinning and increased light levels.  Although the picture above was taken on the lower woodland walk, there are also cowslips in the south Meadow and in the long grass just south of the café.

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Wild Garlic (Allium urisium)

Working in the woods last week, we were surrounded by the scent of wild garlic.  Although the smell is fairly pungent, I love it, as it brings back lots of childhood memories.  It seemed to have a similar effect on Tristan, although he knew it by a different name and called it Ramsoms.  This got me curious and I did some research to find out if there were any other names for Allium urisium, here is the list:

  • Ramsoms
  • Bear’s Garlic
  • Buckrams
  • Hog’s Garlic
  • Ramsomes
  • Wild Garlic
  • Wood Garlic
  • Wild Leek

I suspect that this list is not exhaustive, as many wildflowers have numerous common names, their use varying around the country.

Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Although probably not known for its flowers (which are fairly small), from February onwards Dog’s Mercury begins to cover the woodland floor.  Although it is a plant which can spread too vigorously and smoother more delicate plants, I still think it deserves a mention.  Dog’s Mercury is part of the flora of our ancient woodlands and makes a vibrant green backdrop to it’s more colourful neighbours in late spring.  However, I have to confess, I’m a bit more brutal towards this wild plant when it finds its way into the garden.

Red Campion (Silene dioica)

There is only a small scattering of this lovely rose pink campion at Uppark, but its relative rareness here makes it stand out all the more.  Hopefully work coppicing and clearing along the lower section of the woodland walk (where the photograph above was taken) will increase the spread of this dainty but colourful plant.

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Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

I have to own up, this is a new wildflower for me although I know it’s garden cousin (Ajuga reptans atropurpurea) quite well.  I spotted a little group on the lower section of the woodland walk and had to take a picture and look it up.  Apparently its a great source of nectar for flying insects and is brilliant for encouraging bees and butterflies into an area.  Its really good to see it at the side of the wide ride at the bottom of the woodland, as this is an area we hope to manage to encourage more wildlife in the future.

Featured image taken by Andy Lewis, all other photos taken by Jenny Swatton.

Den building at Uppark

Join the garden team and get stuck into some den building in the woodland – one of the #50things activities

30 May 11-3pm in Uppark woodland

  • Free event, normal admission applies.
  • Clothing and foot wear suitable for rough terrain should be worn.
  • Not suitable ground for buggies.

2014: A photographic review of Uppark garden

Autumn Jewels

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The mist burns off to reveal a beautiful sun-filled autumn day. In the foreground, the majestic copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) by the flint wall on the edge of the garden.

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Planted in the portico bed: Marigold (Calendula officinalis) used in herbal remedies to heal wounds and soothe irritations.

uppark gardenOn the edge of the garden, the mist burns off.

uppark gardenThe Queen Mother’s tree planted in 1964: Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

If you’re visiting Uppark this autumn, feel free to share any images on social media platforms using #autumnjewels #uppark


Cameras at Dawn

Uppark House and South Meadow

Uppark House and south meadow

Blurred house

Blurred house and yellow rattle

Cameras at Dawn

Cameras at dawn

Copper beech in the South Meadow

Copper beech

Sunrise and yellow rattle

Gorgeous clouds

Gorgeous clouds, great people, lovely photos and superb breakfast…

Look out for ‘Tripods and Tapas’ in September

Swan Barn Farm – Shingle making

Swan Barn farm team are at it again.

This year the NT Blackdown countryside team have plans to build another roundwood timber structure, an Orchard house at Swan Barn Farm.
They’re busy sourcing and preparing timber for the construction phase, due to start this summer.

It was just over 3 years ago the Uppark House and Garden team lent a hand and spent a day helping them out with making some shingles for the roof of the Speckled Wood house project which was completed in July 2012.

Swan Barn farm - Speckled Wood House and Hunter base camp

Swan Barn farm – Speckled Wood House and Hunter base camp

On Friday the Uppark team returned to help out once again, this time, making shingles for the Orchard house roof.

Strangely it was a dull drizzly day similar to our previous visit back in 2011  but we did not let that dampen our enthusiasm.

Before we started shingle making we had a cup of tea while Spike, (NT Blackdown, Warden), showed us the plans for the new Orchard house and followed that with a tour of the previous completed building – Speckled Wood house. Afterwards Spike gathered up the tools and we proceeded into the woodland where the shingle making facility was set up.

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Top row : Making blanks, middle row: Spike’s demonstration and bottom row: The team get to see the completed Speckled wood building and make a new friend.

 Following some instruction and a demonstration from Spike on the shingle making process we got stuck in to the job in hand, some of us preparing blanks and others making the Shingles.

Uppark Shingle makers hard at work.

Uppark Shingle makers hard at work.

Progress was slow at first but with Spike’s guidance the Shingle production got into full flow. The worksite had an unusual sound with the silent concentration broken by the clacking and scraping of the shingle making drowned out by the rain pouring down on the makeshift shelter.

Susie, Judy and Jenny concentrating on the Shingle making.

Susie, Judy and Jenny concentrating on the Shingle making.

About 7000 shingles are required for the Orchard house roof and we finished the day with a total of 70 new shingles made thus making a small (1%) but needed contribution to the target. Despite the rain everyone felt that they had an interesting and satisfying day.

Here are some of the Shingles completed and ready for laying on the Orchard House roof.

Here are some of the Shingles completed and ready for laying on the Orchard House roof.

If you would like to know more about Shingle making look here for guidance from the experts. swanbarnfarm a-guide-to-shingle-making


Spring Bonus


Hyacinthus orientalis 'Anna Lisa'Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Anna Lisa’

Planted last year, these Hyacinths in the scented garden are a beautiful colour, they have a heady scent and combine wonderfully with the deep blue H. ‘Double Crystal Palace’ in the background. The striking hazel screen,  on the right of the photo was fashioned with woody material from the wider estate by the garden team last year.

Narcissus canaliculatus

Narcissus canaliculatus planted last autumn, basks in the spring sunshine these enchanting miniature Narcissi have been a charming addition to the garden this Spring.

Narcissus 'Jack Snipe'

Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ planted a couple of years ago are a lovely sight at the garden entrance.

Assistant Gardener Jenny Kimmis:

“Among my favourite early flowers are some of the members of the borage family: Pulmonaria, Brunnera (below), Trachystemon orientalis, and the fantastically-named Omphalodes.

(Image Andy Lewis)

Pulmonaria (lungwort) are excellent ground cover plants for shady areas with moisture-retentive soil. They have beautiful spring flowers in a range of colours including blues, purples, pinks and white. They also have lovely foliage, often with interesting markings in silver or soft green.

Brunnera also prefer some shade and a moisture-retentive soil, and again make great ground cover. They have attractive heart-shaped leaves and delicate sprays of blue forget-me-not like flowers.

Trachystemon orientalis (Oriental borage) is a very useful ground-cover plant as it tolerates a range of conditions including dry shade. It has big, coarse-textured, bright green leaves and striking, delicate blue flowers.

Trachystemon(Image Jenny Kimmis)

The appearance of early spring flowers motivates lots of us to get back in our own gardens and to visit others for inspiration. We hope the garden at Uppark will inspire you this spring and that you’ll be tempted to take home a lovely plant or two from our plant sales area.”

Plant sales


Spring Flowers for Mother’s Day

photo 2

Erythronium dens-canis (Dog’s Tooth Violet) in flower in the scented garden, Uppark

After the warm sunny weather of the last few weeks, spring has definitely arrived at Uppark and with it some beautiful plants are beginning to emerge.

Uppark gardenSiberian Squill (Scilla sibirica) in the garden at Uppark in 2013

On Sunday the 30th and Monday the 31st of March we’ll be using some of these lovely spring plants to decorate the house with seasonal flowers and foliage for Mother’s Day.

Uppark gardenBeautiful displays last year, for our Grand Tour Flowers event

The garden and house teams will be joined by several mothers and their children to create the floral arrangements for the house, keeping up the tradition of children collecting posies of flowers for their mothers on Mother’s Day.

Uppark gardenChildren from Harting school in July 2013 arranging flowers for our Grand Tour Flowers event

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Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ in flower at the garden entrance

Uppark gardenVases on display in Uppark House, that could be used for our flower arrangements

As well as celebrating the arrival of spring and Mother’s Day, the floral arrangements mark the start of a joint project between the house and garden teams to grow more flowers in the garden for cutting and display in the house. This follows on from the success of last year’s Grand Tour Flowers.

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We hope you’ll enjoy the spring flower and foliage arrangements in the house and come back to see more floral displays later in the year.

Uppark gardenScilla sibirica

Home Educators at Uppark

As I changed down into second gear to help the car climb the steep hill that leads to Uppark House and Garden I remarked to the trio that everything used to build the house in Georgian times would have been transported up the hill long before the invention of cars, lorries and power assisted transport and we talked about how that might have been.

Much of our learning takes place in the car and the conversations that stem from inspiration we find along the way on our many gallivants. That is because we have chosen to educate our three children otherwise than at school using the legal option of Home Education. The National Trust recognise the importance of learning outside the classroom and offer a special membership for home educators.

Uppark garden

Our third visit to Uppark this year and every visit has a new angle, the height of the location emphasised again yesterday as, for the first time, we were able to see the Isle of Wight and Spinnaker tower as we played cricket. Yesterday, as well as meeting up with several other home educating families we know, we met up with Andy the head gardener in a shaded spot under some trees.

Initially Sapphire and Etienne, my home educated eight and six year old children, had been disappointed to find that the tall meadow grass they so enjoyed running in on our last visit had been cut back into bales but Andy soon pointed them in the direction of a new secret area to explore and they were off. Running and laughing and playing with their friends.

Much of the inspiration for the decor and furniture at Uppark comes from the “Grand Tour” and especially Italy 250 years ago now. Sapphire and I have talked about this before on previous visits as two years ago we drove, in the same car we have now, from our house in Pulborough, West Sussex the 1000 miles to Tuscany in Italy undertaking a grand tour of our very own. In Tuscany we saw marble stacked at the side of the road ready for export although I doubt it was as beautiful as the samples on the tables in Uppark that S and I so admire.

So, after a picnic and cricket and a chat with Andy about his role and ideas for the garden, very reluctantly, the boys came in from the sunshine and the garden to the house and we set out to find the grand tour inspired flowers around the house.

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‘Switzerland’ arranged by Judy Culhane for Ditcham Park School

But not before my youngest Orin made a special request for a glass of the delicious water, he remembered from last time. We spotted the flags of Paris, Germany and Switzerland but were then sidetracked discussing whether or not some of the lemon trees we found were real or fake!

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Belgium & Germany arranged by Harting School

We often experience that when we are looking for one particular thing we miss out on others but we persisted and talked about how difficult it must have been to find black flowers. Our friends managed to find most of the flag flowers though. I often arrange to meet my parents at Uppark so that the boys can stay outside and Sapphire and I can explore the house in more detail.

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Above, ‘Greece’ arranged by Sarah from Alitex

We always leave Uppark talking about what we will do when we return the next time. Even after three visits there is still so much we have not seen.

Below ‘Italy’ arranged by Susie Culhane (internal photography Russell Baker, external photograph Andy Lewis)

Uppark garden