Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

Every year is different

September 1st, 2014

But this year seems more different than most….the cold nights we had through late August have fooled lots of plants into thinking that it’s autumn already, and in the last couple of weeks many of them have started their end of season closedown.    The Koelreuteria paniculata, which was not showing much autumn colour until October last year, has looked like this for a week or so now :

Koelreuteria paniculata August 2014

Koelreuteria paniculata is one of our favourite trees for autumn colour – but we’d prefer it to wait until autumn!

Lots of other trees and shrubs around the place are also looking distinctly autumnal, and it’s looking as if the year which started early, is going to finish early too.


August 22nd, 2014

Memo to self :  if ever again you find yourself considering a major remodelling of the  garden whilst also running the nursery through its busiest spring /early summer season, think very carefully…..

But it’s done now;  a daughter married (last weekend) a garden almost entirely remodelled (to provide a photogenic backdrop for the wedding photos) and life gradually returning to a normal pace.

It might be a few more days before we feel as if we’re recovered from the excitement of it all, but for the moment we’re enjoying the relative mundanity of looking forward to the last bank holiday of the gardening year, and opening the order books for the autumn / winter tree and hedging season.

Colourful herbaceous borders in high summer

You wouldn’t believe the fun we’ve had guessing at when to Chelsea-chop some of these plants to get them showing colour in mid-August!

The garden will be open to visitors this weekend, so if you’d like to see the fruits of our remodelling efforts over the last few months, feel free….



May 25th, 2014

There’s been some debate about the similarities in some of the show garden plantings at Chelsea this week;  some commentators put it down to garden design zeitgeist, the more prosaic theorists suggest it’s simply that the designers were happy to plant whatever their supplier nurseries told them was looking good (and many designers use the same supplier nurseries!).

We prefer the zeitgeist theory, but only because that allows us to kid ourselves that we have our fingers on the garden design pulse, and explains the coincidence of our enthusiasm for growing lupins, and their appearance in the Chelsea gardens this year.

We’ve got lupins a-plenty on our sales benches right now, and our front garden houses a couple of crackers too:

Woodfield Lupin with lots of huge pink flower spikes

It’s a Woodfield, of course!   Photographed in our front garden yesterday.

Woodfield lupin - large pink flower spike in close up

Even more spectacular in close up

Woodfield Lupin - 17 huge pink flower spikes

Woodfield Lupin – just one plant – count the flower spikes!

Garden fashions come and go; it’s probably half a century since lupins were last in vogue in english gardens, but with breeders working hard to put some quality back into the genus, designers embracing them, and plants like these already available, maybe it’s time for a revival.


April 20th, 2014

We rarely blog without pictures, but have you ever tried to photograph a cuckoo?

So just to say, we opened the window this morning to hear the first cuckoo of the season.

A volunteer from the BTO was doing a bird survey in the lane yesterday, and predicted that we wouldn’t hear a cuckoo for a couple of weeks yet, so we can say with some certainty that they’re early this year!


April 20th, 2014

It’s been a corking year for blossom; most of the trees on the nursery, and in the neighbourhood, have been weighed down with the stuff. And even the Acers, never grown for their flowers, have had a go:

Acer Crimson King flowers

When most of their neighbours are weighed down with frothy pinks and whites, it’s nice to be able to rest our eyes on the altogether more subtle charms of Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’ AGM

Acer Crimson King blossom

Tiny, but delightful! And enough of them this year to be a genuine spectacle.

And it’s not just the trees – all our plants are looking lovely! It’s an early season,and the exuberance and enthusiasm that we normally see in May seems to be here already.

Colourful foliage and spring blooms in Barlow Nurseries shade tunnel

The shade tunnel a few days ago – and improving day by day!

We’re open every day, including today, Easter Sunday. Do come and see us if you get the chance!


January 21st, 2014

Wishful thinking perhaps whilst the winter continues mostly dull and wet, and it is only January, but when the sun does peep through the clouds, everything seems to be taking on decidedly spring-like hues.  The weather is mostly mild, the birds seem unusually busy and vocal, and some of our plants are making us think that spring is just around the corner.

We left a few of the plants in our car park hedge to grow into trees, and one, a hazel, seems to be having its mast year a season after all our other trees and shrubs.

Catkins against a fiield of winter wheat


Last autumn the oak trees were weighed down with acorns, this year it looks as if the hazel is going to be similarly encumbered.  We only get occaisional squirrel visitors here, but if any pop by this autumn, they’re going to have a ball.

Hazel catkins against a clear blue sky

The nuts from the native Hazel, Corylus avellana, are considerably smaller than those from cultivars bred for nut production, but there’s still got to be a nut roast or two here hasn’t there?

Catkins in close up against a very deep blue skiy

Not a cloud (or a con-trail) to spoil the view

Meanwhile, in the garden, reliable as ever, the hamamellis are doing their thing.

Hamemellis Jelena illuminated by low winter sun

Early morning sunshine illuminates Hamamellis Jelena

The team here at Barlow is split on the merits of Hamamellis – 50% of us think it’s lovely, while the other half think it’s unremarkable, over hyped,  and not worth the border space. What do you think?

Hamamellis pallida

Unusually this year, Hamamellis pallida is flowering at the same time as H. Jelena

Hamamellis pallida

What’s not to like?

Hamamellis Jelena

Hamamellis jelena – as delightful in close up as from afar

Hamamellis Jelena

Very slow growing, and consequently never bargain basement plants, but surely  worth every penny??

The sad truth is that for maybe 50 weeks of the year Hamamellis are completely unremarkable; but for the couple of weeks when they’re doing their thing, they’re pretty damn good aren’t they?


January 13th, 2014

Just for the record, we have had some cold weather this winter.

Frosted oak leaves on grass

Frosty leaves last week – just a few degrees below zero, as cold as it’s been so far this winter

Frost patterns on car bonnet

Frost on the pickup bonnet this morning – only just frozen – after an overnight low of zero

We’re not sure that the frosty nights count will have made it into double figures yet this winter, and there’s plenty of time for cold weather yet of course, but we’re starting to wonder whether there’ll be enough for the plants that need extended vernalisation…


December 4th, 2013

Oak trees are always the last to lose their leaves, but it’s the first week of December – surely they should be on the ground by now?

Any phenologists out there care to comment on whether this is as strange as it seems?

December oak v2

Turning colour, but hanging in there…??

How many ways can you photograph a beech hedge?

November 18th, 2013

We love our beech hedge.

We’ve nurtured it from a row of pencil thick whips, planted around the turn of the century, to the 8 ft behemoth it is today. We walk past it many times a day (it lines the route from house to nursery) and rarely fail to be impressed by its functionality (it forms a very dense barrier between our garden and the nursery car park) its hospitality (it’s a munificent host to myriad birds and mammals) its huge enthusiasm for growth (it needs trimming twice a year) and its always-interesting apparel – not evergreen, but never bare of foliage, either spring and summer greens, autumnal golds, or winter browns.

Our enthusiasm for recording its rugged good looks and seasonal gyrations is undimmed, it’s made more than a few appearances on this blog already, but we’re wondering how many more photographic contrivances  we can can come up with….

Beech hedge autumn depth of field

A long lens, a wide aperture, and very narrow depth of field!

Autumn, half done

November 16th, 2013

It’s been a long slow autumn.   Lots of the deciduous trees and shrubs have been very slow to turn this year;  most of the oaks in the neighbourhood are still entirely green.

But the pace of change is increasing, we’ve had a few frosts and some windy days, and there’s now as much autumn colour under our feet as above our heads.    Another couple of weeks and the trees will be bare, and it will be leaf mould time.

Acer campestre autumn colour Nov 2013

Acer campestre, the common field maple, half way to naked.

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