Posted on Leave a comment

Superb giant clematis – but what is the variety?

Superb giant clematis - but what are the varieties?

Superb giant clematis blooms the size of saucers and with stunning colours appeared in our garden several months after we moved into our present house. The blooms were typically six inches (15cms) across and the largest were eight inches (20cms). There were two varieties of similar size. In 2020 they came into flower mid to late May. In 2021 they flowered about a fortnight later, here in the south east of England.


The pink one with pale violet  edges to petals, grows to a height of about six feet (approximately 1.8 metres) winding its way through our buddleia , the violet coloured one grows to a height of about four feet (just over a metre) amongst a rose.

What variety?

Unfortunately these clematis didn’t have labels to identify them. Searching in our own gardening books has not produced a convincing answer. Can anyone tell me what variety these wonderful clematis might be?

More pictures

These books from Amazon look interesting and useful

Posted on Leave a comment

Our baby crow

Our baby crow

I found this crow sitting on a stone on top of a pile of bricks near our greenhouse on Thursday afternoon (20 May), the day before the storm. It looked sad and confused.

Its feathers hadn’t grown fully. You could see the fluffy baby feathers still showing in places. Maybe it was a little frightened but it made no attempt to get away.

Its tail feathers were extremely short.

When Julie arrived home I told her about the crow and she came to have a look. She realised it was a baby, but how had it got there? Had it fallen from its nest?

She thought it might be dehydrated and went and got it a small bowl of water. As she offered the bowl it didn’t move forwards to drink but opened its beak wide to be fed like baby birds do in their nests. Clearly it was a baby and not just a small and tatty adult.

We looked on the internet and found that it was normal for crows to leave the nest before they could fly as they were vulnerable to predators if they remained in the nest. We wondered if the parents were aware of their lost child. We called him “Little Jimmy”.

The website advised not trying to feed the baby as it had to learn to fend for itself and might become attached to you as a human with unfortunate consequences.

We were being watched

The website said that it was very common to find fledgling crows wandering around looking lost and not knowing what to do or where to go. However, the best thing for the baby crow was to leave it alone. The parents would be watching and waiting for the humans to go away so they could go down to see their offspring. Humans could harm the chances of survival by trying to “take care of the little crow”.

That evening

While we were having our evening meal we could hear crows cawing in the garden and thought the adults were talking to the baby, or maybe telling it off. But at least we were reassured to think that the parents were aware of the baby and might well be feeding it.

The day of the storm

The next day began very windy. About 8am we could see a parent bird about 20 feet up in an oak tree looking down at the baby. I photographed the bird from an upstairs window using my small camera and zooming in on it.

I couldn’t get a very good view from our upstairs window, or get the camera to focus well through the double-glazing, but I could see Little Jimmy looking windswept and pathetic by our garden shed. At least he had survived the night and had the strength to get down from the pile of bricks and walk about thirty feet.

Attempted break-in by a baby crow

About ten o’clock that morning I was in our lounge when I heard a tapping and scraping noise by our patio doors. I went to investigate.

There was Little Jimmy inquisitively looking in.

I watched him and he went over to our conservatory which adjoins our lounge.

He was looking into the conservatory and maybe could see his own reflection. 

Perhaps he thought this was another crow.

Then he flapped his wings in an attempt to get in. Obviously this didn’t work.

So he walked away in disgust.

Stormy day

As the day went on the winds got stronger and stronger and roared through the oak trees swirling and tossing the branches about in the wood behind our house. We just hoped Little Jimmy would be OK.

We went out on two or three occasions to look for him and found him in his original place, perched on top of the small pile of bricks. In fact it was quite a good choice for him as he was sheltered there by a bush and would have some protection from the high winds.

The next day, Saturday, we looked out of the lounge window and saw Little Jimmy sitting confidently on the head of our small statue. So it seemed his wings and strength had developed sufficiently to enable him to fly up to about a metre in height.

Last sighting of the baby crow

By Sunday morning the storm was over and the garden was quiet. I went to take out some vegetable peelings to our compost heap and found Little Jimmy perched on a wooden fencing panel that made up the side of the compost heap. He looked at me me curiously, but he never spoke.

The next day we went away for a few days holiday and on our return he was nowhere to be seen, unless that was him, now strong enough to fly high, flapping about high in the oak tree. We think he probably made it.

David Roberts, 30 May 2021.

Posted on Leave a comment

Nestbox time

Nestbox Time

We are trying out a nest-box with a video camera inside. We have lots of birds in our garden and encourage them with nesting boxes. Julie wanted to add another nest box so asked for a nesting box for Christmas. Just a simple wooden box was what she had in mind.
To her surprise our daughter bought one with a tiny video camera in it. It has infra-red night vision and a microphone.
The camera has an electrical lead to it from our shed to power the camera. The camera transmits a signal which is picked up by a tiny receiver inside our house. The receiver connects to our television but it could have been to a computer screen. We look forward to watching the birds in the nest.

Every few days we look to see the action. SO FAR NOTHING. But most birds don’t start building nests until March, so we remain hopeful. That’s not the actual colour of the nestbox, just how it comes out on the TV screen.

The Bird Nesting Season is officially from February until August though some birds start nesting or looking for nesting sites before this and some go on beyond August. Hedge cutting should not be carried out during the nesting season

So there’s still time to put up a nest box and it can be just a simple box with a hole in it.

Amazon sell a range of ordinary bird boxes and ones with cameras. If you click the Amazon link you can explore the range they offer.

Siting of nest boxes

We have read that nest boxes shouldn’t get too much sun or rain so north and east walls are favoured. Even so, we certainly had success with a box on a west facing wall at our previous home. Boxes need to be out of the reach of squirrels and cats, and have an unobstructed flight path to the box.

About the nesting habits of birds

RSPB How to build a bird box

Have you had success with a camera in a nest box?  Do you have any tips?

David Roberts
4 March 2021

Posted on Leave a comment

Treat yourself to tulips

Treat yourselves to tulips

Still time to plant bulbs this winter.

Last winter (2019/2020) the weather was very hostile in November and December. As a result we didn’t get many of our bulbs in till after Christmas, but they still came up and looked good. Our photos were taken in April.

This year (2020) we got some bulbs in at the end of November. We planted them extra-deep because we have a problem with squirrels which are very numerous this year coming in from the nearby wood. They have a habit of digging up our bulbs and eating them.

Posted on Leave a comment

Our garden – dry and sad – mid August 2020

Hardly a day’s rain for months and our garden was really suffering. We had done regular watering. We collect water in two large butts but by mid August these had long run dry. We used the hose but felt we had to be sparing with our watering because the local reservoir had come close to drying up in a previous drought period.

Water shortage

And we were right. Our local paper, The Mid Sussex Times, carried a story on 13th August about a nearby village, Bolney,  that had had its water supply cut off.

Look at our perennial geraniums! Miserable and disappointing. Normally they are flourishing with excellent foliage and masses of small pink flowers from May to September, and they are hardy, easily surviving the winter. Unfortunately they don’t like drought. They have been the mainstay of our flower border in the back garden. They were here when we moved into the house seven years ago.

True geraniums can be so good

What we normally call geraniums are really pelargoniums. Both produce long lasting flowers. What I have only recently discovered is that the perennial geraniums come in many different varieties and in different colours. I hope we may be able to try a new variety next year.

This is a link to an article all about perennial geraniums.

Acanthus also normally provides wonderful a bold display with glossy green foliage. Usually our main problem with acanthus is that it spreads rapidly and can be very difficult to remove. (When we converted a flower border to an attempt to grow vegetables we found that the smallest fragment of root left in the ground would sprout and start to form a new plant.)

By mid August the acanthus was mainly spindly and withered.

One plant that resisted the drought was the cedum. Perhaps we should grow more of these if we are going to have long periods without rain.

More water, more success

We learned from Monty Donn on Gardeners’ World that Cannas need a lot of water so we tried to be generous with the few cannas we have in our front garden. The colours were terrific and they have flowered for a long time.

Japanese anemones

Another well-watered success in the front garden was the Japanese anemones, but plants we divided from these plants and put into our back garden have mostly died.

David Roberts

20 October 2020

Posted on Leave a comment

Nymans National Trust House and Gardens Story

Nymans House
Nymans HouseThe story of Nymans is very unusual

Nymans is a National Trust house and gardens situated in mid Sussex a few miles south of Crawley.
Most National Trust Houses are ancient mansions, castles and estates that have belonged to the rich and powerful of hundreds of years ago. Nymans appears to be another ancient home though on a smaller scale than most. It appears to be a medieval manor house with an extensive Gothic part that is so old it has fallen into decay.
In fact, the Nymans estate only began to be developed in 1890 when the land was purchased by a wealthy German stockbroker, Ludwig Messel. He had a great interest in trees and plants and began the development of Nymans’ tree planting and collection of shrubs and flowers. He developed the wall garden, the heather garden and the pergola walk.


It was Ludwig’s son, Leonard, who inherited the property in 1916, who was an even more enthusiastic plantsman than his father and added greatly to the Nymans collections.

Nymans House
Nymans House

The house and family

It was Leonard who built a new house in the Tudor and Gothic style. So the house which appears to be medieval and which we see today is little over 100 years old.

Why the ruin?

In October 1947 a disastrous fire swept through most of the property creating the burnt out shell we see today at the southern end.
The house was partially re-built after the fire and became one of the homes of Anne Messel, Leonard’s daughter who married Ronald Armstrong Jones. Their son, Anthony, married the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, in 1960 and became Lord Snowdon in 1961. For many years he lived on the Nyman’s estate.
Anne’s brother, Oliver Messel, became a famous theatre designer.
Leonard gave Nymans to The National Trust in 1954 but the house continued to be lived in by the family.

Nymans cedar tree and ruin
Nymans House seen from the south, across the main lawn
Anne with her son Anthony. National Trust photograph
 Anne Messel

Anne’s second husband was the Earl of Rosse and Anne lived with her husband mainly in Ireland in Birr Castle, but she often came to live at Nymans. Anne was one of the founders of The Victorian Society which aimed to preserve the (then unfashionable) art and architecture of the Victorian period.
Anne was also a keen gardener and took a hand in Nymans’ continuing development. With her husband she added rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas, hypericums, agapanthus, hardy fuschias and more roses. In 1979, following the death of her husband she returned permanently to Nymans to spend her final years here. She was Director of the Garden until1987. She died at Nymans in July 1992 aged 90.
When the house re-opens it is her home that visitors will be able to see. Meanwhile there are the extensive gardens.

An interior view of Nymans, National Trust Photograph


Members of The National Trust – admission free
Non-member adult (aged 18+) £10.00
Non-member child (aged 5-17) £5.00
Non-member family (2 adults max 3 children)£25.00
Non-member family (1 adult max 3 children)£15.00
Booking essential till the end of August
To book call 0344 249 1895
Dogs are not allowed in the gardens but are welcome in the woods


Nymans, Staplefield Lane, Handcross RH17 6EB

Posted on Leave a comment

Nymans National Trust House, Gardens and Woodland – Sussex UK – Partially open 2020

Nymans cedar tree and ruin

Nymans is a National Trust house and gardens situated in mid Sussex a few miles south of Crawley, just off the A23.

Now open again after the covid closure with a reduction in facilities and visitors are restricted to following a one way system. It is necessary to book your arrival time but once here you can stay till closing time if you wish. The cafe has been demolished and a new improved one will be ready for visitors in the Autumn (2020). A small refreshment/ice cream stall operates at the end of the Lime Trees Walk.


Open every day 10.00 till 17.00

Members of The National Trust – admission free

Non-member adult (aged 18+) £10.00

Non-member child (aged 5-17) £5.00

Non-member family (2 adults max 3 children)£25.00
Non-member family (1 adult max 3 children)£15.00

Booking essential till end of August
To book call 0344 249 1895
Dogs are not allowed in the gardens but are welcome in the woods.


Nymans, Staplefield Lane, Handcross RH17 6EB

Map below.

We have visited Nymans many times and there is still much to enjoy here. The walk along the eastern edge offers views across the Sussex Weald. Often, when we come here, we walk down into the valley, by the lakes and through the woodlands on the public paths. In fact you can do the woodland walks without entering Nymans at all. No charge for this.

Now the house itself is closed to visitors but you can visit almost the entire area of gardens. We visited last Tuesday (18 August 2020) looking for some ideas for plants that would be flowering at this time of year as our garden is currently a bit short of colour.  I took a few photographs.

A sketch of the story of Nymans and its owners will be the subject of another post.

David Roberts

Nymans cedar tree and ruin
Nymans ruin and cedar tree from the south

The lime tree walk on the eastern edge of the gardens. Part of the burnt out ruin of the house. The sunk garden and the house seen from the south.

Finding your way round Nymans

Plan of Nymans Gardens

The corona virus inspired one-way system for walking round Nymans

Nymans access with covid restrictions

David Roberts, August 2020,   Please share.