The Coach House, Ampney Crucis

Earlier this year I visited the garden at The Coach House, Ampney Crucis.  From the moment I walked through the entrance gates I knew I was in for a treat.

Mel Tanner’s charming easy manner, her tch1
passion for plants and intimate, hands-on
knowledge of the garden’s creation
make her a perfect host.
The attention to detail is impressive. The quality of the planting and hard landscaping combined with clever use of hedging and vistas ensure that there is a new delight round every corner.
If you get the chance to visit jump at it, these photos are just a taster.

All photos are Copyright Lynne Revette Butler

Moon rising over South Oxfordshire and the soft, refreshing rain.

We have been waiting for rain; it has fallen  within ten miles of us but our ground has remained parched.  The moon rose with spectacular glory shortly after 10pm last night and about 3 hours later I was woken by the sound of steady rain.  Only a few months ago this would have filled me with dread as our house narrowly escaped flooding twice this spring. This morning the plants are looking perky and the House Martins no longer need to visit the pond for material to carry out their ongoing house repairs; a sense of balance has returned.moon1

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Butterflies, buddleia, thistles, rosa ‘William Lobb’, 3 journals and an unfinished book.

I was in journal heaven for two hours this afternoon; I sat in my garden with three of them, one for my novel, one for plants and one for wildlife. 

Novel first.   I was scoring chapters; when I innocently  typed my way through the first draft, periodically revising sections as I went  along to produce a sound base for my first major editing of the story,  I had no idea  writers “scored”  their chapters by rating the scenes for speed and light. I had instinctively moved between quiet, intimate scenes, action-packed intimate scenes, conversational or action scenes with lots of characters and so on. The more articles I have read about pacing your novel, the more blogs I have read about a writer’s anxiety that their story arc is not ‘on an upward trend’  or the pace of their book is too even, the more insecure I have felt about the construction of my own story.  The editing I started in mid-March now seems totally inadequate so I have  renumbered everything in smaller parts and described  each scene in more detail. Today I began scoring them in my journal; against all the odds I found I enjoyed doing it.

Plants.  On Wednesday I had a delivery of plants,  lots of them, carefully packed in flats and peeping out of damp  newspaper . Only other  plant-mad people will understand the joy of unwrapping each one, finding the right-sized pot and standing them somewhere shady to acclimatize for a couple of days prior to planting out. Today I entered their names in my journal; I know they are all listed on my laptop in the order confirmation email and I no longer need to hand-write the list but I have been doing this since 1983 and the feeling of continuity is comforting.

Wildlife (and plants).  I sat by a border that is allowed to contain thistles until  their seeds are about to disperse at which point they are hacked down and removed from the garden. There is also purple sage, a buddleia alternifolia and the wonderful rose ‘William Lobb’ in this border so the scent is superb and there is an almost constant stream of insects and butterflies passing by. The photos below are of this border. I have identified the butterfly as a female Small Tortoiseshell but if you disagree feel free to say so; she looks a bit ragged round the edges . There were also lots of comma butterflies and  others flitting about I did not manage to identify because I was writing. I recorded the ones I identified in my wildlife journal along with all the other species I had seen today; I do this a couple of times a month between March and October.





So, my secret’s out; I’m a Journal Junkie.

If you like these photos please feel free to use them.

Variegated Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica Aureo-reticulata

Following on with the theme of scented plants near the house I was lucky to inherit a fabulous variegated honeysuckle when I moved here. This grows against the East facing wall of the house and fills the rooms with delicious scent for about three weeks, depending on the weather. If you hate variegated plants, I know lots of people do, best look away now.varihoney 2

I have read many descriptions of this climber stating that it is not a reliable flowerer and a few which say that it needs afternoon sun to produce scent in the evening. In my garden it has flowered for all but three of the forty-four years I have lived here. The plant gets no sun after about 1.30pm but produces strong scent all day.

I took several photographs of bees at work and saw that one was becoming noticeably slower moving between the flowers; eventually it nose-dived into one and apparently dozed for a minute, giving me the chance to take the picture below.

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Scented clematis “Betty Corning”

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I love to have scented plants close to the house all year round if possible.  At the moment the delicate scent of clematis Betty Corning drifts in through the side door.

This clematis is really easy and always produces masses of blooms over a long period. It grows against a south facing wall adjacent to the side door but the roots are shielded from the sun  by a hebe. (If you have read my earlier posts you will know that they are sometimes also protected by  a fat hen pheasant sitting under the hebe.) I prune the stems back to about 2 feet (60cm) long in late autumn and the plant sends up vigorous shoots in the early spring to fill a space about 8 by 6 feet.

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This is a hardy clematis and could be planted against a North facing wall; I am trying one in this position for next year so will let you know how it gets on but I doubt if the scent will be as good.


Seeking solace writing in my journal at Waterperry Gardens

About ten days ago I was upset by an answerphone message, left on our phone by someone I was voluntarily helping, a message that showed such a callous disregard for my feelings it left me reeling, as if I had been punched in the face. I think I might have coped better with being punched, as then I would have seen it coming and had a chance to duck or at least brace myself for the impact.

I did not realize how emotionally bruised I was until last weekend when I sat down to continue editing Ellie’s story and I couldn’t work on it, my thoughts were all jumbled. I tried starting on a new short piece but I just felt empty, devoid of creativity.  On Sunday morning I set off with a journal to sit in the wonderful gardens at Waterperry and watch the world go by; on a sunny summer Sunday there is always a diverse range of visitors to inspire scenarios.




Sat on the white bench under the Wisteria I scribbled down ideas as people drifted by; the more I scribbled the better I felt. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt anymore, when you make someone a gift of your free time and they turn on you it leaves you feeling violated, but I’ve put it into perspective and regained control of my thoughts.


These point&shoot pictures were just to remind me of this therapeutic visit to a beautiful place; if you like them feel free to use them.

Rosa Chapeau de Napoleon – a talking point for your garden

This quirky rose is also known as the Crested Moss or rosa centifolia cristata; it was apparently discovered in the 1820s growing against a convent wall in Fribourg, Switzerland.cdn 1

The fringed, mossy sepals give the buds a shape similar to Napoleon’s hat, hence the name, and people are always intrigued the first time they see them. It is hardy in Zones 5 to 7 and should be fine in Zone 4 with a little protection.

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The scent is exquisite but the foliage up the long arching canes is a little sparse; in my garden I peg some of them down into the soil amongst neighbouring plants and new laterals form along their length so you end up with rose flowers over a large area.

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