Wild flower meadow project (June 2021)

At last the meadow is beginning to look like we imagined. As this series of blogs has already mentioned the first year was a disaster as “we had the wrong sort of grass”! So this is effectively the first year following seeding last September.

However, right now we are getting excited and spend hours in the meadow identifying what is coming out.

The yellow rattle is flowering and everywhere there are signs of perennials that have germinated. Few of the perennials are flowering yet with the exception of the Oxeye daisy but as there were annuals in the mix on our first attempt and also as we disturbed the soil when we rotavated prior to seeding a host of annuals have come through.

The following series of photographs were taken this morning. (click on any image to scroll through them)

I have also discovered that it is hard to really capture a wild flower meadow in photographs!

Even with a wild flower meadow weeding still needs to take place. There are some weeds you definitely do not want to go to seed!

Wild flower meadow project (May 2021)

Time for another update on the wild flower meadow. This is the second summer but as I explained things did not go well at first and we had to effectively start again. But I am happy to say that so far it is looking much better.

The weather has not been kind this spring. January to April we have had very little rain. And it has been significantly colder than average. As in our main garden the meadow is a few weeks late as a result of the weather.

The Narcissus Pheasant Eye are now in flower and are creating our vision of swathes of them across the meadow.

The cowslips Primula veris are now going to seed. I have just been told that cowslip seed is very expensive but this seed will be going back on the meadow. A neighbour had given me a chunk of seedlings each one only a few millimetres high. From this I nurtured about 150 plants which have now all been planted out although not all have flowered this year.

It is certainly the case that wild flower meadows are not easy to establish. We used a wild flower seed mix last September but in a couple of areas it was always intended to use plugs. Here is my last delivery of plugs together with around 100 Yellow rattle plugs. (More on this later)

Our Wych Elm Ulmus glabra has come into leaf. I explained the background to this tree in February and due to Dutch Elm Disease it is now quite a rare tree so we are delighted to see it starting its new life in our meadow.

What can be more English than English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta in spring flower under trees.

These were planted as bulbs last autumn by just dropping them into holes made with a small size bulb auger. Easy and so far looks successful.

As well as a variety of different foliage the one important plant for creating a wild flower meadow is Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor. It is an annual plant that likes to grow in grassy meadows. It is semi-parasitic on grass. … The grass is weakened by it – which is why wildflower meadow makers love it and farmers hate it. You can see it here with pointed leaves pointing out from central stem.

However in some areas we can see lots and lots of yellow rattle. The seed mix had around 7% yellow rattle so this should not happen. Interestingly the density of yellow rattle appears to be from little on one side of the meadow to lots on the opposite side.

The seed of yellow is designed to move in the wind. As the seed mix was sown on bare earth I now think the wind had picked up the Yellow Rattle seed and moved it across the meadow. Hence the 100 yellow rattle plugs which will now be added along the windward side of the meadow.

The good news is that we have a good mix of wild flowers growing.

We have now had some significant amounts of rain and we just hope the weather gets a bit warmer to really bring it on.

Wild flower meadow project (March 2021)

The seeds planted last autumn are beginning to germinate and grow.

As you can see, a multitude of different wild flowers are coming through. The grass was specifically selected to be slow growing to give the wild flowers a chance.

And some early plants are now in flower.

Red Deadnettle Lamium Purpureum

We planted some Fritillaria Meleagris in 2019 and an additional 1500 in 2020. These are now coming through and are creating a wonderful display which should only get better with time.

And the English Bluebells are also coming up.

English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Lastly we planted an additional 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye to create some drifts across the meadow.

So the meadow is developing well and we have high hopes. Later in April we will have some plugs to supplement the meadow under the trees.

Our last garden visit

Living in Leicestershire we have been in some form of lock-down for the last year. However, we did manage to get away for a couple of nights in September staying at one of our favourite hotels in Devon, Lewtrenchard Manor. As always we are keen to visit gardens and on this trip we visited a new garden called The Newt in Somerset. Some other friends had also visited The Newt and told us we really must try and visit it.

Not the easiest garden to get to but as we found out a garden that should be on everyone’s must see list.

To call this a new garden is not correct. This is a major redesign of a long established garden. The garden is in the grounds of Hadspen House, a Grade II-listed house’s whose palladian façade of golden limestone was reckoned to be one of the prettiest in the country.

In the early 18th century William Player created gardens a la française with geometric plantings with courts, fountains and three axes in the 300-acres surrounding the house. At the height of the landscape garden movement Henry Hobhouse Esquire had Player’s strict geometry cut with picturesque vistas and rolling hills. In the 1960s Penelope Hobhouse transformed the walled parabola vegetable garden, planting within and around it a 20th century Arts and Crafts garden. It opened to visitors in 1970 and is published in Penelope Hobhouse’s 1976 publication The Country Gardener. In 1987 the garden was leased to Canadian gardeners and authors Nori and Sandra Pope. This is a garden with history.

In 2013, the house, along with 800 acres of neglected ornamental gardens, parkland, farmland and orchards, was put up for sale at £13 million. The purchasers were Koos Bekker and wife Karen Roos owners of vineyard, hotel and formal garden, Babylonstoren, (Africa’s only RHS-partnered garden). They set about a project to restore and reinvent the once renowned Hadpsen House and Gardens.

The walk from the car park and already it is looking good
This starts to get magical as you walk through the wood

You enter the garden through the buildings at the top of this picture into a triple height Threshing Barn which also include the Farm Shop, Cyder Press and Bar. It is immediately apparent that the quality and finish of these buildings is exceptional. And I can also say the cakes they were serving were exceptional too.

After coffee and cake enter the walled garden.

The formal gardens have been designed by Italian-French landscape architect Patrice Taravella. The walls are unusual for a kitchen garden in being curved. They form a parabola, the shape of half an egg, and nestling within them is an apple maze. (This can clearly be seen in the aerial photograph above). The design has been inspired by the Baroque gardens brought to this country from the Dutch Republic by William and Mary. They landed in 1688 to seize the throne from the last Roman Catholic monarch of England, King James II, bringing with them Protestant rule and a love of water features and intricate geometry. Here the flamboyance of the Baroque is contrasted with the simplicity of apples.

 The walled parabola garden contains some 460 apple trees from each of the apple growing county of England, trained to form a maze as they grow. A complete tour de force in the art of espaliers, cordons and fans.

Below the walled garden on an axis with Hadspen House is the original bathing pool. The abundance of newts found here gave the garden its new name.

The kitchen garden provides produce to both the hotel and garden restaurants. It has been laid out along the axis and has an interesting range of beds. The overall build finish continues.

Extensive and effective use of grasses creating drifts of colour, shapes and texture.

There are some beautiful ponds, rills, cascades and even movement sensitive frogs that project water at unsuspecting visitors.

Throughout the garden the range and quality of the hard landscaping is exceptional including natural stone setts, pavers and square oak setts.

We were there in mid September and the herbaceous borders were looking good with a good range of plants. The use of big blocks of salvias with box hedging gave a very contemporary feel to the planting.

Beyond the garden there is a large deer park with many accessible paths.

The walks take you to wilder parts of the grounds.
This is the Marl pit created by the ancient practice of ‘marling’ or digging out lime rich deposits to improve agricultural soil.

A steel and timber elevated treetop walk, the Viper that leads visitors above the trees to the newly-opened Story of Gardening. (Given the lock down conditions we did not go in).

And of course every great garden needs a stumpery.

So a rapid tour of this newly redesigned garden. Everywhere the build standards were exceptional. During our walks we talked to a team of dry stone wallers who said they had been working there for over six years. The word on the street is that £100m has been spent on the redesign and it shows.

We will certainly be back and are planning a short stay in Hadspen House in July (lock down rules allowing!) when we can enjoy the garden and grounds after the day visitors have left.

An unplanned happy moment in a pandemic

No, I am not talking about Covid-19 but another pandemic that sweep across Great Britain. That pandemic was Dutch elm disease. This now infamous tree disease has killed millions of elm trees in the UK over the last 40 years. It’s changed parts of our landscape forever and it’s still spreading north.

Dutch elm disease is a serious disease of elms caused by the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi. It is a type of disease known as a vascular wilt because the fungus blocks the vascular (water transport) system, causing the branches to wilt and die. It is spread by elm bark beetles. Damage is usually seen in summer and early autumn.

I planted a golden elm Ulmus glabra ‘Lutescens’ about 20 years ago and had assumed that as it had survived for so long it might be immune.

Then last July the tell tale symptoms of the disease appears and within weeks the tree was dead!

The dead tree as it now looks.

Then last week an email appeared in my in box from one of our local plant nurseries, Goscote Nurseries. They had 100 Elm trees to give away. Apparently they had been micro propagated from existing elm trees that were resistant to Dutch Elm Disease and were now ready for planting out.

How could I resist this offer and yesterday I planted a Wych Elm Ulmus glabra in our wild flower meadow.

Taller than I expected. Of course there is no guarantee but if it survives then it is putting back a classic British tree.

This Wych Elm is the actual tree that my tree was micro propagated from. It will be a few years before my tree reaches this size.

The following is taken from Cumbria’s Top Trees

THE WILY WYCH

by Ann Sandell, 24 October

After Dutch Elm Disease swept through Britain and Europe in the 1970s and 80s huge gaping holes, like pulled teeth, appeared in the countryside. For such a magnificent tree to be lost to large swathes of the countryside was a biodiversity and landscape tragedy. So how lucky is Kirkby Stephen to have a proud, magnificent wych elm in its midst? Standing proud and alone on Tarn Lane, the tree is a wonderful example of spirited resistance against a formidable foe. Resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, its special seeds have been harvested to produce new saplings to regenerate the species elsewhere. It is a wily old wych indeed.

This development heartens Ann Sandell, Chairman of Kirkby Stephen & District Walkers. ‘Whilst other veteran trees may be older or taller this is a warm friendly tree as it leans away from the prevailing western winds sheltering the stock fence gate,’ she says. ‘I often lead walks this way and we have made and published an adventure walk using this under-used route to introduce children to the area and this magnificent tree.’ People often ask how you can tell wych elm and the traditional English elm apart. One of the best ways is this: wych elm, when mature, have long lower branches which droop down where as the English elm forms a very distinctive handle shape.

There used to be a tarn near Tarn Lane but it was drained many years ago for sheep grazing. One reminder is a small door built into a boundary wall to enable ducks to waddle through and reach the water.

Although all elms are associated with melancholy and death – because the trees can drop dead branches without warning and the timber was the preferred choice for coffins – they are great for wildlife, particularly insects. Many birds eat the seeds and the leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the peppered, light emerald and white spotted pinion moths. Caterpillars of the white letter hairstreak butterfly need elms and the species has declined dramatically since Dutch elm disease arrived in the UK.

Tree Facts
Species:
Wych elm (Ulmus glabra)

Size:
Height 10.33m, Girth 5.32m

Age:
Ancient

Trunk health:
Roots exposed, Canker

Find the tree:
From Kirkby Stephen large public (free) car park. Take the footpath with the school on your right, until the land falls lower where the former tarn was located. The tree is located in the left hand corner of the walls, next to a gate.

There is not much I can add to that and if I am in the area I will certainly visit the parent of our tree.

No gardening today

When I first moved to Leicestershire in the mid 70s we would have significant snow falls every year and normally we would have been stuck in our village for several days until the roads had been cleared. Then from around 1990 onwards there was no significant snow until Sunday this week.

It started about 10.00am and by lunchtime we had around 22cm of new snow. Monday morning the temperature around -5c everywhere looked beautiful. Well gardening was out of the question however I thought I would share some magical photographs taken in the garden.

Click on a photograph to see it full size

It is beginning to thaw now (Tuesday)!

I hope you enjoyed a look around the garden under snow.

Wild flower meadow project (January 2021)

Happy New Year everyone.

I was asked the other day “how is your wild flower meadow coming on” which made me realise that an update is long over due. My last update was last April and at that stage I thought things were developing OK.

May 30th

Along side the fence there was a strip about 1.5 metres wide where I had added extra soil to fill a depression in the original sheep field. This was beginning to look promising.

The annual mix that had been added to the seed was beginning to look good together with some perennial wild flowers.
And there was evidence of Yellow Rattle in the grass

June 20th

By mid June this strip was looking great although we could see it was mainly the annuals that were flowering, not quite the wild flower meadow in our dreams.

Looking across the meadow it was clear that the only really successful plant was the original grass. The meadow had sheep on it for many years but I had been told that if I cut the grass really short and scarified the ground before planting the wild flower mix then it should be OK. Clearly the grass was too vigorous and maybe the ground to fertile.

I contacted our local wild flower seed supplier, Naturescape, for advise. They suggested a number of ways forward but they all involved killing off the original grass.

July 6th

The first task was to cut the grass.

The grass prior to cutting.

I had already purchased the mechanical scythe and this was its first outing together with the operator with a very lock down amount of hair. (in the UK lock down hairdressers where closed)!

It made short work of cutting the grass.

Next it was now time to kill off the grass. I do not normally use glyphosate in our garden but needs must. After a couple of weeks the grass had died back and I rotavated the ground to break up the surface layer. This action also encourages weed and grass seed to germinated so after another four weeks I sprayed the glyphosate again.

By now the ground was looking clean and ready for seeding. However, before seeding we decided to plant some more spring bulbs.

The drifts of Narcissus Pheasant Eye had been beautiful earlier in spring and we took the opportunity to plant more.

Another 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye, 1500 Snakeshead Fritillaria Meleagris  and 1000 English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta all planted over a couple of days!

September 1st

The ground was now ready for seeding. This time on the advice of Naturescape we had a bespoke mix made up. Normally a seed mix for a new meadow would be 20% wild flower seed and 80% grass seed. We had a 50% wild flower seed mix made together with the least vigorous grasses.

October 19th

The ground has been seeded and the autumn leaves are beginning to drop

December 15th

The seeds are beginning to germinate and we are keeping our fingers crossed!

The wild flower seedlings and some grasses

Closer up a good range of wild flower seed has germinated. At this stage we would not expect all the seeds to have germinated. Some need winter frost and others will not appear until April/May.

So far so good. What I have learned is the importance of having a clean seed bed before you start. Unless you are sowing in particularly poor soil then you will probably need to eliminate any existing grasses ec.

We are all hoping 2021 is going to be a better year. Mass vaccination should help us all get back to normal although I fear it will take six months before we can start to relax a little. Thank goodness we have our garden to continue to enjoy.

Gardens are never finished

Its raining, raining hard and for the last 24 hours. The first significant rain we have had for three months. The garden really needs it so I must not complain and it gives me a chance to update the blog.

Some of you who have been following Glebe House Garden will remember the area behind the garden wall which had been used as a dumping area and was badly in need of a plan.

I reported on the development as it happened. Planning for the future – a design challenge, Planning for the future – a design challenge II and Planning for the future – a design challenge III. Now it is looking great. The posts supporting the trees have been removed, the trees have developed and are growing well and the hard landscaping has softened. The trees are Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire‘.

Karen (Bramble Garden) visited Glebe House Garden last week. Although she has been here many times before this was the first time she had seen the final development for this part of the garden. As well as her normal kind comments she complemented us for having created a distinctive area within our garden. Many thanks to all of you who input to our development. The area looks great with only a minimal effort to maintain it.

The large pond is being a delight this year. Although we have had a lot of sun the water has stayed crystal clear. There is no technology keeping it clear. It just relies on the plants keeping the water balanced.

With the clean water and warm temperatures we do get grass snakes that spend hours swimming (and hiding) in the pond. I assume they are after the fish and newts.

The border beneath the pleached lime hedge has been planted with Rosa ‘Alfred de Dalmas’, Alliums (over now with seed heads removed to control self seeding) and lavender. The lavender has always been a challenge, quickly growing woody and scraggly. So we have just removed the Lavandula augustifolia ‘Hidcote’  and replaced it with Lavandula augustifolia ‘Vera’ and hope for more success. I also plan to prune it in the autumn rather than the spring as that is the current RHS recommendation.

This small bed of Rosa ‘Irene Watts’ was renovated in 2016 when all the plants were cut to about 1 inch above the soil level. At the time many people thought I had gone mad! but they came back well and are continuing to perform. The one bush without flowers was a replacement we put in this year.

With our back to the bed of Rosa ‘Irene Watts’ the Geranium sanguineum striatum on either side of the steps is doing its thing. Apart from cutting it back at the end of the year it requires little help and always does well. If you only had room for one geranium I would always recommend this.

The lawn on the left is also where we used to have an old apple tree with Rosa ‘Rambling Rector‘ climbing up it. This blew down last year and the whole area was cleared including the rose. It was going to be impossible to replace in the short term and although we were sad at first it has opened up different views across the garden towards our new wild flower meadow.

The lost of the apple tree has also given us the opportunity to enlarge the flower bed along the top of the wall between the lawns.

The turf is being recycled to turf the hole left by the apple tree and some damaged lawns elsewhere. This photograph also shows how the lost of the tree has opened up the view to the meadow beyond this part of the garden.

Rosa ‘Mme. Pierre Oger’
Rosa ‘Swan Lake’

A couple of the new roses that we planted this year have just started flowering. Beautiful!

This is a large circular bed in the middle of the garden. This half of the circle faces south west and gets any strong winds etc. For some time we have not really had a good plan for it but over the last couple of years we have been trying to develop a style of planting that has been promoted by Piet Oudolf, using grasses and perennial plants. At last it is beginning to achieve what we had hoped for.

Lastly I am sure you will know that we have been in lock-down to control the spread of Coronavirus. Following the announcement that we could have meetings of up to six people in the outside provided we keep to the 2m social distancing we had a committee meeting for the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust in our garden! Unfortunately it was on one of the few cold days which certainly helped us have a short meeting.

Roses, Roses, Roses

May has been one of the sunniest on record and no rain either. It has been a fight to keep some plants happy. But not roses! The following photographs show the development of some of the roses in Glebe House Garden. There are more to come but they can wait for another blog.

It seems we are always finding gaps for new roses. Here nine arrived on May 14th. They included:

Rural England 8×6 Rambling Pink
Buff Beauty 5X5 Yellow
Swan Lake 8×6 White/Cream
St Ethelburga 4X3 Light Pink
Mme. Pierre Oger 4X4 Light Pink
Macmillan Nurse 3X3 White/Cream
Horatio Nelson 4X4 Dark Pink
Irène Watts 2X2 Light Pink

These have all been planted and are being watered regularly.

One of the earliest roses is Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’. It does not repeat but puts on a fantastic display which can be seen from the lane by our house so, as a result, we get lots of people wanting to know what rose it is.

Rosa ‘Old Blush China’ another early Rose. Not really a climber but can be trained up a wall. It dates from 1750.

Rosa ‘Alister Stella Grey’ a fantastic rose that keeps flowering for a long period.

As always in gardening things can go wrong. Just as it was looking great we had some strong wind that almost completely blew it off the wall, breaking the horizontal wires. Just another unexpected job that keeps us busy!

Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’ This is a rose of truly rambler-like character, which has the benefit of reliably repeat-flowering.

One of our favorites, Rosa ‘Alchemist’. This rose was in the garden when we bought the house 26 years ago. A robust climber, bearing full, old style, rosette-shaped flowers of golden-yellow flushed with orange and a strong fragrance.

The metal arches in the garden effectively have three roses growing on them. The two that are flowering now are:
Rosa ‘Meg’ a large, almost single, beautifully waved flowers. Delicate pink-apricot colour, with red-gold stamens. This is one of our favorites and works well with some honeysuckle which is growing up one of the brick pillars and is about to flower.
Rosa ‘Lauriol de Barny’ an old rose variety. Very beautiful, silvery-pink flowers with a strongly fragrance.

Below a pleached lime hedge we have a row of about 35 Rosa ‘Alfred de Dalmas’. Introduced in 1855 this little moss rose has clusters of medium sized, creamy-pink, semi-double flowers and a strong perfume. Not fully out yet but will look incredible in a week.

Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ a very unusual china rose with incredible flowering ability and good health. Flowers throughout summer and autumn with pretty, single, scented blooms of honey-yellow to orange, ageing to cerise red. Take no notice of the rose nurseries that say is only grows to 2m. Here it is at the top of the wall at 4m.
Also on the same wall is Rosa ‘Iceberg’ which seems to take its time to get going but I think it is starting to realise that we expect it to cover the whole wall and intermingle with the Mutabilis.

Rosa ‘Shot Silk’ is a star on the wall during all of May but is coming to the end now. We have grown a number of clematis up the rose to extend the interest. You can see Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ coming into flower.

Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ has quite large, apricot-orange flowers, in the form of neatly arranged, many petalled rosettes. They have a strong, fruity fragrance. It forms a tall, slightly arching shrub with plentiful glossy foliage. Bred by David Austin, 1999.

Rosa ‘Sombreuil’ was deliberately planted here next to the entrance to the garden. It is very fragrant and fills the whole entrance area with its fragrance.

Rosa ‘Louise Odier’, has lovely richly fragrant flowers of a bright pink, shaded with lilac. Introduced in 1851.

These Rosa ‘Irene Watts’ has been in our garden for around 20 years and with loving care they still look good. However, two of the new roses are destined as replacements here for a couple of the roses that had stopped performing.

Rosa ‘Fantan Latour’ a prolific flowering rose that has been trained up a wall. Light pink flowers with a blue tinge in certain lights.

Rosa Sericea Pteracantha an interesting wild rose prized for its red thorns.

So looking across the garden at the end of May it is roses time. There are more that will start flowering in June!

Please keep safe in these difficult times and if you can enjoy your gardens.