flowers

Pashley Manor Gardens Tulip Festival

I know summer is blooming all around us, but I would love to take you back to springtime for just a little while.... If you're a fan of tulips, then you would love the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor Gardens - imagine 30,000 tulips (with over 100 different varieties) set in a beautiful garden on the border of East Sussex and Kent.

The festival ran from 22 April - 07 May this year (2016) and cost £10.50. This time I visited on a weekend and it was very busy, which made photography a little more challenging, as it was almost impossible to get a shot without someone in it! If you can, I would strongly recommend visiting on a week day - we visited the day before it opened last year as part of a staycation, and it was much more relaxed. But still 100% worth a visit, busyness and all.

The tulips are planted/arranged by colour and the complementary planting was just as beautiful. I'm a big fan of pink (no surprises there!), so let's start with those.

The tulips are all really clearly labelled, which is brilliant if you are looking for some inspiration for which tulips to plant in your garden - just remember to bring a notebook - or photograph the labels, as there are far too many to remember. You can even order the bulbs at the festival, whilst admiring a beautiful cut flower display (wish I'd left enough time to photograph this!).

If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Tulipa Angelique, which reminded me of peonies, but the tall slender West Point tulips (further below, in yellow) came a very close second.

Whilst the tulips were mostly planted in colour blocks, I loved the subtle combinations and two tone varieties, especially these ones.

I had the pleasure of visiting with my sister this year, another avid photographer, so we happily pottered around at snail's pace. We managed at least two circuits of most of the garden - one with my 100mm macro lens (my floral photography lens of choice) and the other with my 50mm f1.4 lens, to capture a few wider shots. Happily there are plenty of places to sit and rest your weary legs along the way - all very pretty too, so the perfect place for a few portraits. And I must just mention the cake! Food and drink are served on the verandah by the manor house and I was very impressed to see a selection of gluten free cakes.

Another beautiful place to sit is by the pool. You could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the mediterranean (except perhaps for the temperatures!). Throughout the garden you will find lots of perfectly placed sculptures, all leading the eye to lovely viewpoints or planting. I think my favourites were the ones by the pool.

I loved this sculpture too - looking out to a beautiful Magnolia on one side, with the most amazing Wisteria behind it. I would love to have returned a bit later to see it in bloom - it looked like it had been trained in beautiful loops all up the wall of the house.

Although we were there to see the tulips, one of my favourite places was the glass house (of my dreams!). I'm currently rather obsessed with Geraniums and succulents, so this was heaven for me :)

And finally, we should return to the tulips! Let's finish with a little more colour for good measure.

A familiar sight, amongst the tulips - you'll spend much of your time avoiding all the other photographers and visitors, so using a shallow depth of field can be very helpful to blur out distractions. This is my sister, though, so this one was intentional (and I'll forgive her for getting in the way!).

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and would love to return next year. There are also several other events throughout the summer - the special rose week is on this week - so hopefully I'll manage to return. You can read about my visit last year or see more photos on Flickr below if you fancy.

Pashley Manor Gardens

Do you have a favourite spot to visit for tulips or spring flowers? I'd love to hear - I'm always on the look out for lovely new places to visit.

West Dean Gardens through my macro lens

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful West Dean Gardens (near Chichester, West Sussex) with my family last weekend. Luckily for me, we are all keen photographers, so dawdling along at a snails pace to allow hundreds of photos to be taken was permitted without (much) complaining! The site is huge (90 acres) - there is so much to see and explore. I'm already planning my return visit!

I was particularly enthralled by the cutting garden and the 13 victorian glasshouses, which have been beautifully restored. I fell in love with a new (to me) flower - Larkspur - and am already hatching plans to plant a swathe of these in our garden. Larkspur is essentially an annual Delphinium and comes in blue/purple, pink and white (the ones pictured are Larkspur Sublime I think). Apparently it is easy to grow as it self seeds - finger's crossed!

The Larkspur had been planted next to some Cosmos, another firm favourite of mine. All that frothy foliage provides the perfect backdrop.

There was colour across the spectrum in the cutting garden, but I always gravitate to purples/pinks and whites (sorry to the yellow lovers amongst you!). There were butterflies and bees everywhere, including clouds of Cabbage Whites - so pretty to watch!

I absolutely loved the wild meadow bed at the end of the garden, tucked away behind the glasshouses - I much prefer my gardens wild and rambling. Must try and introduce some poppies next year!

The beautiful victorian glass houses offered incredible variety, from temperate to tropical, ferns to flowers, fruit to vegetables.

I was fascinated by these climbing ferns...

And I loved the potting shed, filled with vintage gardening paraphernalia... 

And then we have the chillies - 250 varieties of them! I had no idea there were so many... All the different shapes and sizes were laid out and labelled for visitors to look at and there were several glasshouses full of them, along with other vegetables. Very inspiring to see what is possible. 

I loved being able to see the lifecycle of vegetables growing and discovering new varieties - I might even have to have a go myself next year! And a beautiful glass house is of course now on my wish list ;)

The fruit was amazing too. The walled fruit garden housed many, many apple and pear trees, shaped in different ways. And the glass houses were filled with figs and melons and grapes - the vines were quite incredible. It was hard to believe we were in the UK!

And flowers mixed with fruit, is always a good thing. There were beds bursting with flowers throughout the walled fruit garden (with a surprisingly lovely purple and yellow colour theme) and even in the entrance.

And now onto the kitchen gardens. A mighty fine display of vegetables in prime condition. I love my greens and was very tempted to take some of these home with me!

Red Chard West Dean Gardens.jpg
Yellow_Chard_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

The grounds at West Dean are very extensive and perfect for a picnic lunch. We found an empty table and chairs on the picturesque picnic lawn and ate our lunch under a giant willow tree overlooking parkland with grazing sheep (no decent pictures I'm afraid as I was too busy eating at this point!). They also have a lovely restaurant with seasonal dishes.

After spending most of our time in the cutting, fruit & vegetable gardens and the glasshouses, we thought we should explore a little of the rest of the grounds....

We were serenaded in the sunken garden by a couple of talented musicians, before wandering through a rather spectacular 300 foot long pergola, wrapped in the loveliest selection of climbing plants.

Pergola_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

It made a lovely backdrop for some portraits. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I even managed to get a rare photo of my husband and I without camera rucksacks or cameras dangling from our necks!

After the pergola, we had a lovely walk through the spring garden, but rather ran out of time and energy to explore the rest of the grounds. I'll have to see the Arboretum on my next visit... Dogs are welcomed on short leads, so when we finally manage to get our furry friend, this would be a perfect place to come.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the Echinaceas from what I think was the spring garden.

Echinacea_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

Apologies for a rather picture heavy post - but believe me, I barely even scratched the surface of the gardens! I can highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near West Sussex - find out more on the West Dean Gardens website.


I've add a few of my favourite floral images to my Red Bubble Shop in case you are interested - they make rather lovely greeting cards and postcards. Also available as fine art prints, phone cases, bags, pouches, notebooks and more :)


Pashley Manor Gardens

I hope you will excuse a little flashback to spring, even though summer is blooming all around us. I had the pleasure of visiting the stunning Pashley Manor Gardens back in April, the day before their tulip festival started. Now I'm not usually one for formal gardens (I prefer mine wild and rambling) but I was bowled over by the beauty of the gardens and grounds. Pashley Manor Gardens are located on the border between East Sussex and Kent and are in the middle of the most beautiful countryside.

I don't think I've ever seen a more impressive display of tulips - every colour and variety you could imagine (100 different varieties in fact and 25,000 blooms in total). And everything was so amazingly neat and tidy - we saw lots of gardeners trimming and tidying everywhere, making sure everything was perfect for opening day.

My absolute favourite area, that I returned to many times over our visit, was the pool. Hard to believe this is in the UK! If I ever had the good fortune to stay in a place like this, I don't think I would ever leave the poolside. That blue looked so inviting.....

There were lots of beautiful statues dotted around the grounds, carefully placed to relate to one another, their surroundings and to lead the eye to the most impressive views.

I think my absolute favourites were the pool ladies...although the deer came a close second....

The Manor House is pretty impressive too. They serve drinks and food from the verandah, allowing you to enjoy a very beautiful view. The house is cloaked in wisteria - I bet it's looking amazing now!

I think I did quite a few circuits of the gardens, trying to drink everything in. Luckily there are lots of very well placed seats for you to rest, accompanied by the most beautiful birdsong. It really is a most relaxing place.

I think it's definitely worth a return visit - it must be looking completely different already. I believe the roses are now the stars of the show. For more information, please visit the Pashley Manor Gardens website.

Spring spectacular at Merriments Garden

Since we left Oxford at the end of last year I've been on the hunt for some new gardens to frequent - I need a regular dose of beautiful blooms! I'd been totally spoiled in the past by having the University of Oxford Botanic Garden on my doorstep. So I was very happy indeed to discover the beautiful Merriments Garden, near Hawkhurst and Ticehurst.

We visited twice last week and ended up joining their garden club so we can visit as many times as we like over the year - hurrah! I'm so glad we made it in time to see the blossom in all its glory. There is the most amazing cherry blossom tree over-hanging the Monet pond with a beautiful blue bridge. The petals were falling like confetti and floating in the water - it reminded me of a pointillist painting. I feel privileged to have seen it - a week later it was all gone - so precious and so fleeting...

We also timed it perfectly to see their beautiful and very colourful display of tulips, part of their "Spring Spectacular". The garden isn't huge, about 4 acres - but it's jam packed with flowers, just the way I like it. It's beautifully designed too, with so many different viewpoints and gardens within gardens, places to sit and ponder, and lots of curves. It gets a big thumbs-up from me!

There were so many different kinds of tulips and every colour imaginable - it really was a feast for the eyes. I loved the combinations - lots of ideas to take away for my garden at home...

These ones reminded me of raspberry ripple ice-cream!

But it's not just tulips - there were so many other flowers out too, including the most delicate fritillaries. And lots of blossom. Please excuse the gratuitous photos - I just adore blossom and can't get enough of it! We sat and picnicked under the beautiful pink number below in the car park field. Is there anything finer then picnicking under blossom filled blue skies? I really don't think so!

Oh and I mustn't forget the Magnolias, looking glorious in the sunshine.

My apologies for such a picture-heavy post - and believe me, there are many more! If you are anywhere near this beautiful garden, I highly recommend a visit - I can't wait to go back in a month or so. If you are in the area, there is another lovely garden nearby in Ticehurst you must see, which also has a tulip festival on at the moment and is looking rather spectacular: Pashley Manor Gardens. But I'll save those photos for another day and another post!

Shades of spring blossom

Nothing makes me happier than the sight of those first spring flowers poking through. Except perhaps the blossom that follows. All that perfect, pastel froth and loveliness displayed for free, lining our streets and filling our parks. I adore spring!

I'm currently loving variations on the blush pink colour palette and various shades of dove grey. So much inspiration to be taken from the spring colours outside.

I'm pondering using some such combination to paint our living room, to complement our new charcoal sofas. But I suspect the pondering might continue some time as I'm desperate to get outside and enjoy our beautiful world now that we are finally unpacked and have completed the essential DIY. All the same, I'm collecting some favourite shades on my Pinterest Colour Palette board.

I'm on the hunt for the perfect location for spring blossom near me. All these trees were found nearby and are very beautiful, but I'd love to see more froth! In Oxford, I knew exactly where to go, but I'm starting afresh here in East Sussex. I'm planning to visit some gardens on our holiday next week, so finger's crossed the blossom will hang around a while longer. But if you have any top tips for beautiful blossom in East Sussex, I'd love to hear them!

I may be feeling a little blossom poor, but I'm loving these beautiful Summer Snowflakes that have popped up all over the neighbourhood and even in my garden. Aren't they beautiful? I hope you're enjoying the beautiful spring flowers near you. Expect more from me soon! And in the meantime feel free to have a browse through my Spring Bling set on Flickr if you're in need of some spring colour.

A riot of colour in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Well, hellooooo there! Apologies for my absence of late - we've been busy house hunting, so the last month or so has been rather consumed with pouring over Rightmove, maps, travel times etc. and spending far too much time on the M25! The upside, however, of researching where to relocate to, is that we've visited lots of beautiful places and I've got lots of photos to share with you :) I promise my blog will contain something other than travel photos, just as soon as I get a chance to sit down at my sewing machine!

So, next stop on our house hunting tour of the UK, after Devon (see last two posts), was Cambridge - the alternative Oxford ;) I took some time out from house viewings and city wanderings to spend a wonderful couple of hours in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. A beautiful oasis of green and calm in the centre of the city - just a short walk from the train station. I can highly recommend a visit, especially in July, when everything is a riot of colour.

The garden is huge (much larger than the Oxford one that I love to frequent) and essentially a collection of lots of different gardens, so do allow plenty of time for your visit. There is a rather nice Cafe there too, so plenty of opportunity to rest and refuel!

Hard to pick out any favourites, as it's the sum of the very colourful parts that I love. But I may just have to give special mention to the Echinaceas. They do a fantastic job of attracting the butterflies and bees - I stood staring at them for as long as my strength would allow!

In one corner of the garden there was a beautiful meadow area, with a gorgeous medley of poppies and cornflowers and countless others. I always love the wilder areas of any garden. Oh and the alliums were out in force too, and very popular with the bees!

Well I hope you have enjoyed your visit and I haven't bored you with too many echinacea pictures ;) I'll be back soon with more photos from this beautiful city. TTFN. Z x

Summer lovin'

I took a very welcome break from all the DIY in late May and headed to my favourite little sanctuary in Oxford, the University Botanic Garden, for my summer floral fix. It's such a peaceful space, as oasis of calm, tucked away right in the City centre. And right now it's just bursting with colour. I spent a happy hour wandering and snapping with my camera before meeting a lovely friend for lunch.

There was just so much to see, from the country garden borders above to beds of beautiful Irises of many varieties to the wild summer meadow to big blousy peonies....

All that colour really is tonic for the soul, especially when coupled with birdsong :)

I spent a long time in the large bed of Poppies, watching them dancing gracefully in the breeze. Such a beautiful, elegant flower....

I love the little details my macro lens brings out - nature really is pretty amazing.

A thoroughly lovely and restorative visit - I will be back soon! I hope you are all enjoying some summer colour, wherever you are. xxx

It's the simple things

For me, there really is so much joy to be found in the simple things in life. Like a glorious sunny spring walk around the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford. Last Sunday Al and I packed up a picnic and headed out on foot with our cameras in search of spring. I'm pleased to say we found it in abundance, looking most glorious, basking in the beautiful sunshine.

There is a beautiful circular walk around the College grounds, with paths lined with daffodils and clusters of beautiful crocuses. I don't think anything lifts the spirits quite as much as golden daffodils aglow in the sunshine - yellow for me is the colour of happy. The perfect tonic after a winter of cold and grey.

We even found a Fritillary or two, which had popped up early, encouraged by all the lovely sunshine and warmth.

I love the randomness of where the crocuses pop up - little clusters of happiness all lit up, nestling amongst the daffodils and the pretty purple Scilla Siberica flowers. Of course it meant getting low down with my camera to get the best angles - I'm very good at getting in the zone when I have a vision of what I want to capture - but unfortunately this often means that I'm not really thinking about what I'm asking my poor body to do to capture said shot. I was limping around for a few days after this beautiful walk - a mild case of spring flower strain ;)

The beautiful sunshine created some beautiful shadows and patterns with the Magdalen College architecture too.

A day of warmth and joy. It really is the simple things :)

Spring has sprung in Oxford, oh yes!

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see longer, sunny days, trees dusted in beautiful blossom and flowers poking up through the ground. Oh yes, spring is most definitely here and is most welcome indeed!

There is an absolutely gorgeous cherry blossom tree on the High Street in Oxford outside the University Church of St. Mary's. It's my spring barometer and is usually one of the first things to bloom, often in early February. I photograph it every year - it's my spring ritual and I never get bored of it! I caught it a bit late this year, as the blossom is already falling and making a very pretty carpet....

I was very happy to win the lovely Emily Quinton's Floral Friday competition last Friday with an iPhone shot of this beautiful tree :)

I also spent a most wonderful afternoon pottering around the University's Botanic Garden - another one of my favourite haunts. I'm always itching to get out my macro lens once the spring flowers start poking through, so I was a bit trigger happy - but who could blame me? I also had a lovely picnic lunch OUTSIDE in the sunshine with a lovely friend :)

I stepped inside one of the beautiful glass houses to be greeted by the most divine scent of Jasmine - and so many floral and ferny delights. It was so warm too. I felt like a happy cat in a window :)

I also braved some of the hotter glass houses - really didn't need my feather down coat and woolly hat that's for sure! The beautiful, delicate (and tiny) crocuses below were in the Alpine House.

I hope you're not bored of springy images yet, as there are lots more coming! I had the most delicious walk last Sunday amongst daffodils and crocuses galore....watch this space! And enjoy this gorgeous spring sunshine when it appears :)

Oh flutterby!

We had a lovely wander around Waterperry Gardens last week on our staycation - so much colour everywhere - and so many butterflies! There were clouds of Cabbage Whites on the Buddleia.....

Oh flutterby
Oh flutterby
Oh flutterby

...and Peacock butterflies all over the Echinacea...and lots of other butterflies I didn't recognise. Anyone know what the orange and brown one below is?

Peacock butterfly
Butterfly mecca
Summer visitor

I couldn't help myself snapping away to capture some of that gorgeous colour - I know it won't be long before it all disappears - not ready for that to happen yet! I especially love Cosmos - such a happy flower :)

Cosmos loveliness
Cosmos loveliness
Cosmos
Pinks
Summer pastels

There's just so much variety on display in August - a real feast for the eyes. Isn't that Dahlia just perfect? I love the symmetry.

Perfect Dahlia
Yellow haze

So it's back to work on Monday - hope these flowers help to brighten your Sunday afternoon and lead you into a cheery week. Z x

Buddha
Oh flutterby
A cloud of white