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.

A video tour of the garden in mid summer

It is mid summer and unusually for England the temperature is over 30c Here is a quick 3 minute look round the garden with only the sounds of birds, water and a small plane that flow over at the wrong time!

I hope you enjoyed that.

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.

A walk around the garden in Lock-down

We continue to be in lock-down with no apparent end in sight. The weather has been stunning which has enabled us to get many jobs in the garden done. We have created a routine for these days. Following breakfast we take a slow walk around the garden. As we go we discuss what needs to change and what is working well. Then we start work on the garden however, very soon after, it is time for a morning coffee! As the day progresses I guess we do four to five hours of gardening. On May 8th I took photographs as we went around. Here is our record of the walk:

By the back door is one the the early roses, Rosa ‘Old Blush China’. Not really a climber but it does a good job of trying.

Next is an old wisteria. This was here when we brought the house and fills the air with its scent.
Please note that the seats have been arranged 2 metres apart for social distancing.

Towards the front of the house is a real climber Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’ situated above some out-buildings. This is normally the first rose to come out however as we shall see there has been lots of competition this year. It does not repeat. We have tried to grow clematis up it to extend the season but so far only with limited success.

Coming through the little gate that you can see, with the green house on our left, we have our largest pond. There was a very large (over one metre) grass snake swimming here yesterday, trying to catch the fish and newts. On the right is Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ and the tall pillar is Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine.

The pond from the green house end.

The green house is rapidly filling up with plants waiting until the last of the overnight frosts. The photograph on the left was taken on April 5th.

The borders at the end of the large pond will look great in mid summer. Just now they need extensive hand weeding and some planting out with annuals.

Continuing on round is our fruit cage. Raspberries and strawberries. These have just been weeded, tidied up and watered. I thought I had fixed all the gaps in the netting but within 10 mins of closing the gate a blackbird was flying around in the cage!

Next is a small nature pond. The irises have just flowered and are looking stunning.

Further on the air is filled with the honey scent from Berberis Koreana ‘Red Tears’. This is a great shrub for a large garden and I wrote up a full description of it as an excellent plant with four seasons.

At this corner of the garden there is a very old apple tree. The blossom has been terrific this year but as it is more or less hollow I am concerned that the weight of apples may cause another branch to break away.

From here you can see into our wild flower meadow. One of the mature trees, Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’, that was planted at the end of last year is now coming into leaf. The leaves are showing the red margins that give the tree it’s name.

Back to the walk, we can see into the main garden under the rose arch with the wisteria in the distance.

This border is looking very empty. The area should be full of Hakonechloa macra to create a sea of rippling grasses surrounding the yew balls. Unfortunately we lost a lot in the very dry and hot weather last year. Currently we are waiting for replacements to be delivered.

Another small circular flower bed with peonies coming into flower.

Next to the circular bed is a small vegetable area. Currently only lettuce, spring onions, radish, beetroot, coriander and cannellino beans but it will soon fill up when the frosts are over. Beyond the rose hedge on the left is the wild flower meadow.

And from the same spot looking back towards the house.

And to our right is the bottom corner of the main garden with the wild flower meadow further to our right. This corner has been trial and error for some years but is beginning to come right now. The Osteospermums seem to come through our winter okay with the trees under planted with Epimedium  x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ and Epimedium ‘Akebono’. There are many spring bulbs flowering here earlier on.

These photographs are of the borders along one side of the main garden. The tulips are Red Impression and always look good against the new green leaves and purple Honesty. The Hostas suffered with the dry weather last year and we have some replacements on order. The pink flowering shrub is a Deutzia but we do not know its name.

This border had been over run with Alliums and we are in the process of removing thousands of Allium bulbs. I shall leave the Alliumns towards the back of the bed. The herbaceous plants here grow to 1.5metres which will hide any dry allium foliage.

The rose on the wall is Rosa ‘Shot Silk’ and you can also see that we have got Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ climbing through the rose to extend the season.

We decided it was time to replant our pots of Agapanthus. They had been infested with couch grass. It meant separating the roots etc and replanting. So far it seems to have worked.

Elsewhere Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ is starting to flower. Again not a climber but no one told it and it seems very happy climbing up to 3metres.

Another example of where Alliums have got too much and need sorting out. Maybe next week!

It is tempting to sit here all day.

and sometimes we do.

I hope you have enjoyed this short tour of our garden. Please keep safe.

Wild flower meadow project update (April 2020)

Another four weeks in lock down! We have been so lucky to have a garden to play with and to enjoy. The weather for much of April has also been exceptionally warm and sunny. Some 10 degrees centigrade above typical April temperatures. There is lots to do throughout the garden but we have spent many hours on that chair just enjoying the moment.

The Snakeshead Fritillaria Meleagris has worked well. These were originally planted in 2018 in pots as the legal purchase of the land was taking forever. However we re-planted them in the autumn 2019 and they have come up looking as I had envisioned.

They are ideal for a meadow as they flower early and then disappear with very few leaves etc.

Looking across the meadow you can see some of the Narcissus Pheasant Eye with the Snakeshead across the middle. This was taken on 20th April and there is little to see apart from grass.

The new tree in the corner is Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is just beginning to come into leaf. All the new trees have been put on automatic watering. The hose on the right is part of the system which connects to drip hoses around the trees under the bark chippings. Keeping new trees watered in the first couple of years is essential.

The Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’ as yet to show signs of leaf but this is not unusual as beech seldom gets any leaves before the end of April. Again it is on automatic watering.

The English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, have come out and should bulk up over the next few years.

Of course as well as the Bluebells the buttercup, Ranunculaceae, are also flowering.

This wild violet has also found a home in our meadow.

Where the seed mix was on bare earth there is a multitude of plants coming through.

And where we sowed the seed mix into existing meadow then you can see a variety of plants starting to grow.

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.

Although this Horse-chestnut tree is just outside our fence we feel it is effectively part of the garden. This has come into leaf and the flowers are spectacular.

Under the Horse-chestnut tree we planted a seed mix for hedge rows. There is a large variety of plants growing here.

The drifts of Narcissus Pheasant Eye has started to look their best. The idea of planting them in a wild flower meadow was something I borrowed from the RHS Rosemoor garden.

Our lockdown continues into May. Take care of yourselves and I will update the meadow progress at the end of May.

The birds are back

Every year pair of mallards arrive in our garden to try out our ponds.

The female has decided that the reeds in the corner would be an ideal location for a nest and sets to work building it.

Meanwhile the male just swims around , clearly impatient to get on with life.

At last an egg is safely delivered into the nest.

Just as the mallards were about to leave a morehen inspects the nest area only to find it is too late!

A female mallard builds a nest from leaves and grasses and lines it with down plucked from her breast! Eggs are laid between mid-March and the end of July. A normal clutch is about 12 eggs, laid at one to two day intervals. After each egg is laid, the clutch is covered to protect it from predators.

It is now day three and there are three eggs in the nest and we watch with anticipation.

Wild flower meadow project update (March 2020)

At the start of my last blog I said “at last it has stopped raining”. I was wrong as it feels like it has been raining ever since! We are several weeks behind with the garden and still have to finish some of the rose pruning. The Under Gardener says that I am always concerned about our progress at this time of year so maybe everything will be OK.

Of course the major event happening here and around the world is the coronavirus epidemic. The UK is certainly not prepared for this epidemic following 10 years of our government starving the National Health Service and public sectors of cash. We have just gone into virtual lock down with almost all events being cancelled and many people being asked to stay in their homes for the next few months! We are very lucky to have a large garden where we can spend many hours in lock down. With so much cancelled I shall be spending 100% of my time sorting out all the little jobs that never get to the top of the list.

So, lets talk about how our wild flower meadow project is developing. Previous blogs on this were:
https://glebehouse.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/a-major-new-garden-project-starts/
https://glebehouse.wordpress.com/2019/08/06/wild-flower-meadow-project-update-august/
https://glebehouse.wordpress.com/2019/08/25/wild-flower-meadow-project-update-august-again/
https://glebehouse.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/wild-flower-meadow-project-update-november-2019/

I have just started buying spring bulbs ‘in the green’ from what appears to be a very good nursery Eurobulbs. So 50 Eranthis Hyemalis Winter Aconites found their way into my order and are now planted into one corner of the meadow.

Some of you will remember that we planted around 2000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye to provide drifts of white flowers across the meadow.

These are now coming up and we are looking forward to them flowering.

We also planted Fritillaria Meleagris (Snakeshead) again to provide drifts. A combination of mice and bulbs rotting meant that our success rate was very low, around 25%. Last winter I again planted 1000 bulbs in separate cells and kept them in a cool greenhouse. Once again germination was low with many of the bulbs rotting.

However, we did get enough to create a nice drift in one of the damper parts of the meadow. If anyone knows a foolproof way to grow Fritillaria Meleagris, please let me know.

Although we had some trees planted professionally (see previous blog) there was one tree that had been planted elsewhere in the garden and needed moving as there was not enough room where it had been planted. The tree, Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’, was first pruned to remove some of the bulk and then a wheelbarrow was used to support the root ball while it was moved to its new location. The good news is that the leaf buds are just beginning to open.

Across the meadow plants are beginning to germinate from the seed we distributed last September. This particular plant has come up in many places but until it flowers we have no idea what it is.

Looking back from the meadow, across the ha-ha into the main garden spring continues to develop. I am planning to restart my blog covering the main garden over the next few weeks.

Lastly the first of Primula Vulgaris Wild Primrose is about to flower. Wonderful!

In the meanwhile all take care and look after yourselves.

Wild flower meadow project update (November 2019)

It has finally stopped raining long enough for the trees we had ordered (see previous blog) to arrive.

We brought the trees from Majestic Trees and their truck arrived on a damp November day.

After laying some boards across part of the field the next job was unloading.

The farmer had let us use his field for access to where the trees were to be planted in our meadow area. You can still see standing water in the field as a result of the continuous rain we have been having!

The first tree arrives safely to where it will be planted. Time for a cup of coffee!

Another tree is brought across the field.

And positioned near where it will be planted.

And similarly the third tree.

Here comes a small digger and various bits of kit for the planting of the trees.

Ready to start digging the first hole.

Is it deep enough yet?
Measuring up for the watering system
Excess soil loaded into bags and removed
Lifting the tree into the hole
Almost there!

Ensuring the tree is upright was done by eye . The sacking around the root ball was not removed as it rots way quite naturally.

The tree needs to be fixed so it will not blow over. Two of the trees had substantial root balls and the system used was Platipus Anchors.

Platipus Tree anchor

The anchor on the end of the wire is pushed into the ground with the help of the steel rod and in this case the shovel of the digger.

The wire is then pulled up and as it does the anchor folds out and fixes the wire in place.

This was then repeated three times giving three anchored points around the root ball. A wire was then threaded through these points and a ratchet used to tighten the root ball into the ground.

Here you can see the wire across the top of the root ball. A watering tube was then positioned around the root ball.

And the tree is finally planted.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’

Similarly the second tree.

Liquidambar styraciflua
Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’

And the third although with a smaller root ball a more conventional way of securing the tree has been used.

In addition to the trees we have planted some roses in the two corners adjacent to our main garden. These are Rosa Rugosa, Rosa Rugosa ‘Alba’ and Rosa Rugosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’. These were chosen for their hips providing food for birds in the autumn as well as their colour in the spring.

There is still some more work to do in the meadow. I plan to move an existing tree from elsewhere in the garden and we have around 1000 Fritillaria Meleagris (Snakeshead) in the greenhouse that will need planting out in the spring!

Wild flower meadow project update (August again!)

In May I mentioned that we had been so keen to get started that we had purchased a lot of bulbs for planting in the meadow. As the legal side of the purchase took longer than expected we had to plant the bulbs elsewhere.

Before we seed the meadow with wild flowers these bulbs needed planting. But how best to do this given hundreds of small plant pots and hundreds of Narcissus bulbs. However, these simple tools came to our rescue.

The bulb planting augers are fantastic.

Holes can be created at a fantastic speed ready to drop the compost in.

This one is a drift of the Fritillaria Meleagris (Snakeshead) seen in the May blog.

The augers come in three sizes:
Snowdrops, anemones & crocus (small) – Ø1.25” x L18″ (Ø3cm x 45cm)
Daffodils, tulips & iris (medium) – Ø1.75” x L30″ (Ø4.5cm x 76cm)
Alliums & bedding plugs (large) – Ø2.75” x L24″ (Ø7cm x 61cm)
and can be brought from Crocus

We had seen these Narcissus Pheasant Eye in the RHS Rosemoor Garden and wanted to create a similar effect. Using the medium auger making the holes for the bulbs was easy.

After about 10 hours around 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye had been planted. That’s the good news – the bad news is that there are another 1000 on order!

You might think we have stopped doing our main garden. Not a bit of it but the meadow is our current significant project.

A quick look around the main lawn at the borders reveals some very full late summer borders. The roses have recovered for the third time after summer storms had totally stripped them of flowers.