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.

Wild flower meadow project update (August)

Things have certainly moved on since this project started. We now have a fence (except for the field gate which should arrive this week). The lime tree in the picture has had its canopy raised so I can walk under it. This should create a dappled shade enabling wild flowers to grow under the tree. In the recent exceptionally hot spell (34c) it also provided one of the coolest parts of our garden!

The major and exhausting job has been cutting the existing grass and scarification to expose the soil prior to seeding.

The grass was first cut as short as possible. Even then there remained a lot of thatch as these fields have been a sheep meadow for several hundred years. Then my little scarifier has done the work to cut into the thatch and pull it up.

The thatch then needs to be raked up.

Without the right machine this is very much a manual job and quite exhausting it is too!

The thatch is beginning to loosen up so that when we seed the seed can make contact with the soil and hopefully germinate.

Interestingly although we have only brought about 26m into the field we do seem much closer to the pond. This pond was the fish pond for the rectory next door. It is therefore at least 300 years old and could have been a medieval fish pond. The level is maintained by a small weir on the stream which runs along the edge of the field.

So far I have scarified the whole field in one direction. Now I need to do the same in the other direction!

Right from the start we decided to get some mature trees. A visit to Majestic Trees and we now have three trees on order. A Liquidambar styraciflua

A Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’ and

a Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’. These trees will be planted in October when we should expect more rain. As you can see from the pictures they are on extensive watering systems.

Lastly we now have brought the meadow seed. We were fortunate to have a long established wild flower seed supplier near us called Naturescape. Discussions with them certainly helped us choose the seed. We have gone for three different seed mixes:

The ditch which forms the ha-ha at the edge of the garden is always going to be damp and we have gone for Wetland Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow2.50%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed9%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet8%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy7%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lotus pedunculatusGreater Birdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lychnis flos-cuculiRagged Robin2%
Ononis repensCommon Restharrow2%
Plantago lanceolataRibwort Plantain4%
Primula verisCowslip3%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal8%
Ranunculus acrisMeadow Buttercup9%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle10%
Rumex acetosaCommon Sorrel8%
Sanguisorba officinalisGreat Burnet2%
Serratula tinctoriaSawwort1%
Stachys officinalisBetony2.50%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious3.50%
Tragopogon pratensisGoatsbeard2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

The areas under the Lime tree and the Horse Chestnut tree will always be dry and we have been advised that a Hedgerow Meadow Mixture would work well there:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Agrimonia eupatoriaCommon Agrimony4%
Alliaria petiolataGarlic Mustard7%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed6%
Digitalis purpureaWild Foxglove3%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet4%
Galium mollugoHedge Bedstraw4%
Geranium pyrenaicumHedgerow Cranesbill1%
Geum urbanumWood Avens5%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort2%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious4%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leontodon autumnalisAutumn Hawkbit2%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy5%
Malva moschataMusk Mallow5%
Malva sylvestrisCommon Mallow4%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal5%
Silene albaWhite Campion5%
Silene dioicaRed Campion7%
Silene vulgarisBladder Campion2%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort6%
Torilis japonicaUpright Hedge Parsley4%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch5%
Vicia sylvaticaWood Vetch1%

And for the bulk of the field a Summer Flowering Butterfly & Bee Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Anthyllis vulnerariaKidney Vetch3%
Campanula glomerataClustered Bellflower1%
Campanula tracheliumNettle Leaved Bellflower1%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed8%
Centaurea scabiosaGreater Knapweed5%
Daucus carotaWild Carrot4%
Echium vulgareViper’s Bugloss4%
Galium verumLady’s Bedstraw8%
Geranium pratenseMeadow Cranesbill2%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort3%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious5%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Linaria vulgarisCommon Toadflax1%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil7%
Lythrum salicariaPurple Loosestrife2%
Origanum vulgareWild Marjoram2%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal10%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle7%
Scabiosa columbariaSmall Scabious4%
Stachys officinalisBetony4%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort3%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein2%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

In addition we added some seed of Cowslips, Oxeye Daisy, Greater Hawbit, Salard Burnet and Pignut. We will probably seed the area around the end of August.

One unexpected benefit of the meadow is it gives us another view into our garden.

Some stormy weather, summer delights and snakes!

Some of you will remember a blog in February 2017 when a storm took out part of an old apple tree in the middle of our garden. After much debate (thanks for your inputs) we decided to keep the remaining tree.

In June 2018 our friend pointed out that the apple tree had taken on the shape of a chicken.

Then last week the weather decided it could do another topiary job of the tree.

This time it really does look like the end. The tree , especially when the Rosa Rambling Rector was in flower, was an important focal point within the garden. So removing it will be sad but hopefully will open up new opportunities.

The apple tree was not the only casualty with Rosa ‘Blush Noisette’ being blown off the pergola although fortunately this was repairable.

The following summer delights in the garden

Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’
Rosa ‘Madame Gregoire Staechlin’
Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’
Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’
Clematis ‘Rhapsody’
Clematis ‘Rhapsody’
Clematis ‘Viola’
Clematis ‘Viola’
Clematis ‘Monte Cassino’
Clematis ‘Monte Cassino’

The clematis and roses are all doing well this year.

This corner always looks good in the summer with the pink Geranium palmatum, roses and delphiniums. Last autumn I added the posts at the back to provided support for Rosa ‘Iceberg’ and Rosa ‘New Dawn’ as they always got lost behind the flowers.

Rosa ‘New Dawn’ has been here for at least 30 years and is looking healthier than ever.

Rosa ‘Iceberg’ has been in for about ten years can now be seen.

Often mistaken for a Rose , Carpenteria californica at the back has been looking great, probably benefiting from the mild winter we had. The pink rose is Rosa ‘Irene Watts’

And now for the snakes.

The mild winter has certainly helped the grass snake population. As soon as the sun comes out you can find them in the garden. This beauty was taking an early morning swim in one of our ponds, probably after our fish for breakfast!

A major new garden project starts

My last post was on 31st August 2018. Before then I had been blogging almost every week. Since then lack of time has taken over and we had spent a considerable amount of time out of the country. I want to tell you about a new venture in our garden which is going to keep me busy for several years but I intend to keep blogging as it proceeds.

We moved to our house twenty five years ago and shortly after moving in we tried to buy a piece of land at the bottom of the garden. The field is owned by the church and they were asking far too much at the time and the purchase did not happen although the vision remained. Recently we have tried again and an acceptable price has been agreed and we have added 0.3 acres at the bottom of our garden.

The area bounded in red indicates our new garden.

This photograph looks across the land to the fence at the bottom of our current garden. The large beech tree in the centre of the picture is now on our land.

This photograph looks back to the boundary with our neighbour and the corner (to the right of the tree) where the previous photograph was taken from. The large chestnut tree on the right is just outside our land.

The field has been used as pasture land for sheep for as long as people can remember. There is some indication of the ridge and furrow cultivation. Ridge and furrow was formed over centuries by medieval ploughing. The plough would be driven up and down a strip, year after year, decade after decade. This shifted material to one side of the plough, forming the ridge, whilst the furrow gets driven down. At the end of strips you get a headland where the plough turned.

Our intention is to create a wild flower meadow.

Unusually this spring the sheep have been kept on a different field and the grass has been allowed to grow. This has enabled us to better see what we have to work with. I would say that our meadow contains a mixture of native grasses with just a few coarse ones and a few more common survivors such as dandelion, plantain, yarrow, speedwell and meadow buttercup. Pam Lewis (Making Wildflower Meadows) suggest that such conditions are all good signs.

The views from the meadow are classic English parkland.

We had hoped to take possession of the land last October and we started planning.

A chance trip to Rosemoor RHS garden where we saw their wild flower meadow in progress.

And some very handy thoughts about where to begin. The Narcissus Pheasant Eye in the pictures above looked great and a 25kg bag of bulbs was purchased. There are a couple of areas shaded by trees which would be excellent for English Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and 500 bulbs were purchased. I love seeing Snake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris growing in meadows and 1000 corns were purchased. We were set to begin but the legal side went on and on and we have only just legally purchased the land!

The Fritillaria had to be potted up and will be planted later this year.

The bluebells were all potted up and some of them can be seen above.

The Narcissus have all been planed in various parts of the garden and will need to be lifted and replanted later this year.

So our next steps are:
1. Fence in the field
2. Start cutting the grass in July August.
3. Transplant the bluebells and Fritillaria
4. Lift and plant the Narcissus
5. Scarification to expose bare soil
6. Seed with wild flower mix and Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor
7. And………….

I will continue to blog on this project as it develops. Please let me know if you have any thoughts and suggestions.

View into existing garden from the meadow.