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. And this is effectively the meadow’s one year anniversary.
I was sitting in the meadow enjoying the warm autumn sun and suddenly realised I should have done an update on the meadow.
The last blog was June the 13th and we were pleased with the meadow with many flowers coming out. We then went on holiday for three weeks not sure what to expect when we got back and we were in for a surprise.
Yes that all grow in three weeks. Daucus carota Wild Carrot to 1.2m tall across the whole meadow.
And as well as the wild carrot there were other wild flowers coming out, Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed .
Of course August is the time to cut all of this back.
The cut meadow is then left for a few days for any seeds to drop before a very manual job of racking it up and dumping it into the sheep field for the sheep to eat.
This was effectively the first cut this meadow has had and I was interested to see what would be left. The mechanical scythe cuts at about 7cm which meant chopping through many of the flower plants!
I needn’t have worried, after a few day everything is looking great.
Closer up you can see a few of the many wild flower plants that should come through next year together with flowers grown from seed that has dropped.
In fact some of the Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare decided to flower having been hidden from the light by the wild carrot. So far it is looking good for 2022.
It is hard to describe how much enjoyment we have had over the last couple of years. Covid has meant we have been in our garden much more with most holidays cancelled or not possible. I think gardening has saved a lot of us during these times.
We have used the time to create an improved seating area. Here we have used wooded blocks held in place aby a soft steel frame with the front edge at the same level as the grass to facilitate mowing. This seat is effectively under the canopy of the tree so can provide shade when required.
And the view from this seat.
A second seating area. This time in a sunny position that will also get the evening sun. We made the frame quite high so that when seated you see over the fence.
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!
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.
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.
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.
There are some beautiful ponds, rills, cascades and even movement sensitive frogs that project water at unsuspecting visitors.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first task was to cut the grass.
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!
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.
The seeds are beginning to germinate and we are keeping our fingers crossed!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.