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.

Unexpected garden watering!

The last week has been very busy preparing for our open garden event in one week. You can imagine my surprise and shock when I came out of the house to hear a very strange sound coming from our large pond. On close inspection I discovered that the hose to the water fall and rill had separated and the pond had emptied overnight on to the garden.18_06_08_8746Fortunately I had put the pump on a concrete block so that the pump had not totally drained the pond and the fish were safe.18_06_08_8747Exactly where all this water went I have no idea but I will not need to water this part of the garden for some time. To give you an idea of the amount of water I have been refilling it with a garden hose turned full on. I estimate it will take up to sixteen hours to replenish the water.17_05_23_5810So just one more thing to sort out for our open day!

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning June 2nd Total 2018 to-date Average per week
53 377 17

 

The luckiest toad in the garden

At last the last few days we have seen the sun with temperatures up to 28c which is very hot for England at the beginning of May. Yesterday I had noticed a very large toad in our main pond. The sides are steep and I was afraid that it could not get out so I moved it to our more natural pond which has sloping sides so that animals can get in and out easily. 17_04_25_5373As I mentioned last week, this pond is currently full of tadpoles and it seemed an ideal home for the toad.18_04_22_8620

This morning we were showing some friend around the garden and they were fascinated with the number of tadpoles. I mentioned that as it was so warm the grass snakes might come out to feed on the tadpoles. As I said that I noticed the familiar tail of a grass snake.18_05_08_8651But to my surprise the large toad was being swallowed whole even though the size of the toad was about three times the circumference of the snake. After a few minutes the snake took fright and slid into the pond with the toad still in its mouth.18_05_08_8652

Not a good photo as things were moving quickly however you can see the snake’s mouth and the toad by the reeds on the right with the snake’s body curving to the left in the water.

Again the snake was frightened and took off into the undergrowth without the toad. Amazingly the toad was OK apart from a few scratches and a large amount of shock. He has been moved to another pond and seems to be recuperating OK.

The snake was about 80cm long and this was the first snake sighting this year. On another nature note the swallows have arrived back some five weeks later than they did last year!

End of Month View – April 2018

April has been another strange month. Its been cold, wet and dull for most of the month, to the extent that any gardening was out of the question. Then we had a very short three days of sunshine and temperatures at least 10 degrees higher at 26c. And did we get out to work in the garden with around 90 people coming around the garden on the 22nd! We were lucky that day was also dry although there was a cold wind. But the last week has gone back to where we started, cold, wet and windy.18_04_22_8612At last colour is coming back to the garden with the tulips bursting out. 18_04_22_8632Looking down on the garden we can see the the lawn has benefited from all the rain. The alliums have also grown at an incredible speed, in some cases bloting out the tulips. 18_04_22_8631Looking further round to the left the wall across the garden is about to burst into life and the Tulip Red Impression that fill the left hand border are coming into flower.18_04_22_862918_04_22_862118_04_22_862318_04_22_8611Tulips are the main feature at this time of year in this part of the garden. the Red Impression always works well against fresh green foliage and also the purple honesty.

18_04_22_8613Last year under-planted some roses with Anemone blanda atrocaerulea. the idea was to give some interest when the roses are only just coming into leaf. It is great to see it working again.18_04_22_8626The bed to the corner of the wall is full of tulips and far to many alliums! When we get some gardening weather I shall remove some of them. The red tulip, Tulip Ad Rem at the back of this picture were planted in 2014 and continue to put on a good display.

Tulip Hageri Splendens is now in flower across the stoned edged circle bed. This was planted at the end of 2016 and are coming back well.

One of my favourite tulips is Tulip Ballerina. 18_04_22_8620It was great to see some frog spawn in one of our ponds and now it is tick with tadpoles. This small pond does not have any fish in it so the fish do not eat the tadpoles. however, if it were warmer I would expect to see grass snakes having a feast.

Looking back a year at End of the Month View – April 2017 its is amazing to see how behind the garden is this year. In April 2017 there were roses in bloom, apple blossom on the trees and the first swallows arrived on April 3rd. No sign of them yet this year! In many ways we are four weeks behind normal.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning April 21st Total 2018 to-date Average per week
8 211 13

The poor weather and a week skiing in France has resulted in little work this month with the exception of the three days mentioned above.

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of April. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.

Ashwood Hellebore Nursery

18_02_15_8485There have not been many perfect sunny days so far in 2018 and I was lucky to be part of a private visit to Ashwood Hellebore Nursery with the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust on an exceptionally sunny day.18_02_15_8486This was the first time I had visited the nursery and I have to say the stock looked very healthy and was extensive.

The guided “Hellebore Tour” gave us a fascinating insight into the history of Ashwood Hybrid Hellebores. 18_02_15_8489Part of the propagation shed full of hellbore stock.18_02_15_8491Our guide explaining the process of pollination and selection. I had heard that they were trying to develop hellebores which held their heads up. However, this is no longer the case as they found that, with the open flower upwards, they suffered from the rain etc. They now concentrate on flowers whose backs have more interest as it is the backs that are most viable from above.

never the less the stock plants clearly demonstrated why their hellebores are world famous.

18_02_15_8507As well as the hellebores, the private visit included a tour around “John’s Garden”. John’s Garden is the private garden of John Massey, owner of Aswood Nurseries. It is situated behind the nursery in a canal-side setting, in the lovely open countryside of South Staffordshire. The garden has been developed since 1998.18_02_15_8503We were lucky to have John taking us around. He is an encyclopedia of plant knowledge and a great guide which made that garden come alive. He explained about transparency pruning and the importance of respecting a tree’s natural shape and form. The garden has a lot of shrubs that have been pruned in this way and I am sure any gardener would find this interesting.18_02_15_8505

Throughout the garden there are some great examples of sculpture. The canal can be seen towards the back of some of these pictures.18_02_15_851318_02_15_8512Looking both ways along the pond.

As you would expect there are many interesting plants. The garden worked exceptionally well as a winter garden but from the photos of the garden at other times it would certainly be worth a visit on one of the open days.

 

Spetchley Park Gardens

When you have had an interest in gardens all your life it comes as a surprise when you discover a little gem of a garden that you did not know. This happened on a trip arranged by the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust to Spetchley Park Gardens near Worcester.

Spetchley is a beautiful historic garden, surrounded by ancient parkland, deer park and lakes and is set in the wonderful Worcestershire countryside with far reaching views to the Malvern Hills.17_07_13_6716

A short history taken from displays in the information centre.

The Spetchley Estate was purchased in1606 by Rowland Berkeley, a wealthy wool merchant and banker, and has been in the family ever since.

In 1625 his son, Robert Berkeley, was granted a licence to impark (to enclose) by Charles I creating the Deer Park that we see today and carrying out an extensive campaign of planting and enclosure. Robert was a chief justice and was knighted by the King. By a sad accident his house was burnt down in 1651 by Scottish Covenanters staying there who also supported the King. Sir Robert lost a great deal of money through supporting the Monarchy and rather than rebuilding the house, converted the outbuildings which became the family home for the next 170 years.

However with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Robert (grandson of Sir Robert to whom he left the estate) may have received compensation, and from 1673 when he became of age he embarked on a new campaign of tree planting advised by his friend the famous diarist and silviculturist John Evelyn

When another Robert Berkeley (1764-1845) inherited the estate in 1804 he embarked on the next major phase of alterations at Spetchley. 17_07_13_6717The new house, designed by John Tasker, was begun in 1811 with gardens and parks in the ‘romantic’ style of the time creating long vistas over the lake and sweeping lawns grazed by deer.17_07_13_6718

J. P. Neale 1822, in his book Views of Seats of noblemen and gentlemen, in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, wrote “The extensive grounds of this ancient place were crowded with timber, walls, and fences; judgement, skill, and taste, were absolutely necessary to give the whole a new appearance; and in this the present owner has succeeded with admirable effect… the eye now glides over the undulating green…”

17_07_13_6729The grounds were enlarged and improved for a third time from about 1897 by the celebrated gardener Ellen Willmott and her sister Rose. Robert Valentine Berkeley married Rose in 1891 and, together with her sister, she transformed the planting in the gardens with long borders densely packed with plants.

In 1925 Spetchley became one of the first gardens in the country to open its gates to visitors under the National Garden Scheme.

The garden

The gardens are having another improvement with the Spetchley Revival Project, a long term project designed to invest in securing the gardens for future generations to enjoy. Much of this has already happened.

Of particular interest is the complete dredging of the lake (garden pool on the map) which resulted in huge quantities of silt being removed, the banks reinforced and the puddling maintained. The lake is centre stage for many of the views from the grounds.17_07_13_6741

We had a guided tour around the garden with the head gardener. I think to get the most from this garden such a tour is essential as much of the interest is in the history. There are many trees of interest in the gardens that were planted by the family over the last 350 years with new specimen trees still being planted.17_07_13_6724This is a cork oak, Quercus suber, the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and other uses, such as cork flooring and as the cores of cricket balls and an unusual tree in England.

Spetchley was earmarked as the headquarters for Churchill and his war cabinet during WWII however he decided to stay in London and so it became a recuperation home for the 9th USAAF.  On Churchill’s death 12 acorns that he had collected from his favourite oak at Blenheim were distributed to places that had a connection with Churchill. One came to Spetchley and the oak is growing on the Long Walk opposite the Cedar.

17_07_13_6722The bridge over the canal from the garden pool with the new rose garden in the background.

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The rose garden

Ellen Willmott, the renowned horticulturalist and plants woman, was instrumental in helping her sister, Rose Berkeley, design and plant the garden and so, heavily influencing the existing planting structures. She was the first lady recipient of the RHS’s Victorian Medal of Honour. This is the Miss Willmot of Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’

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‘Miss Willmott’sghost’ in Glebe House Garden

It is said she would always have some seed in her pocket so that when she visited other gardens she could scatter some in their borders , hence Miss Willmott’s ghost!

Ellen Willmott was also instrumental in the creation of the large herbaceous borders.17_07_13_672817_07_13_6708

Every garden needs at least one,17_07_13_6712and at Spetchley there is a very fine example, with room for two, located in a old brick built building in the garden.

Sculpture has been introduced into the garden creating many interesting focal points.

17_07_13_6732A corner of the walled garden now devoted to flowers.

Old melon and grape houses.

17_07_13_6737Some exotic planting in the melon yard.

Edward Elgar was a friend of the family, often staying and enjoying some fishing in the garden lake. He was so inspired by the garden that he penned part of his masterpiece, the Dream of Gerontius, whilst staying here.

17_07_13_6743No important house in England would be without a chapel and Spetchley is no exception with some very fine memorials to the Berkeley family in the nave.

Some areas have been redesigned in recent years. Of particular interest here is the creation of a covered walk way using Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. This is probably unique and according to the head gardener is quite a challenge to keep looking good.

When to visit

The displays of spring bulbs in April and May, including drifts of Narcissi ‘Spetchley’, are some of the best in England and are complemented by a springtime shrub garden containing rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and azaleas and include one of the largest private collections of peonies in the Country. I shall certainly revisit the gardens at this time.

In June there is a large selection of roses, whilst July, August and September reveal the great herbaceous borders in all their glory.

Do not expect manicured borders but do expect much variety in the planting.

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 29th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
27 636 21

Neeleshwar Hermitage Garden

17_02_07_4838For the last three weeks we have been away from Glebe House staying in the Neeleshwar Hermitage Hotel in Kerala, South India. Neeleshwar Hermitage is hybrid of a boutique hotel and an Ayurvedic wellness centre. Its 18 palm roofed villas are scattered across the garden, their porches cooled by spinning ceiling fans, and at the rear of each is a large outdoor bathroom with a tub set in a small walled garden. At the seafood restaurant, tables spill out into the beach.17_02_06_4823 I often think that a the percentage of guests who have stayed before is a good measure of how good a hotel is. This was our third visit and I would estimate that 50%of the guests had been before. This is despite the fact that it is not an easy hotel to get to. We flow from London Heathrow to Mumbai, then from Mumbai to Mangaluru and finally a two and a half hour car ride!17_02_10_4901We first stayed about six years ago when the Hermitage was relatively new. Since then the gardens surrounding the villas has grown significantly and are still being developed.17_02_10_4886Being next to the beach the soil is very sandy and unless watered plants soon dry out. At this time of year the temperature is typically 33c with no rainfall.17_02_10_4904The gardener explained that they plan to clear this area of dried up plants and plant the area with pineapple plants which would then provide fruit for the restaurant. Needless to say in this temperature I did not volunteer to help him.17_02_09_4870The garden is kept alive watering and the cattle egrets love it as the water brings the insects out.17_02_10_4903Around the garden  there are a number of small pools which as well as providing attractive features bring more wildlife to the garden.17_02_07_484117_02_10_488917_02_12_4921This part of the Kerala coast is very underdeveloped and the wildlife is stunning.17_02_12_491717_02_09_4859

The garden is by its location a tropical garden and the following is a selection of plants flowering when we were there.

The other feature worth mentioning is the swimming pool.17_02_15_4952The pool has become part of the garden as well as providing a fantastic amenity for guests.17_02_15_4954At 7 o’clock in the morning the air temperature was around 26c and the water was perfect for a swim looking out over the infinity edge to the beach.

We have now had 13 holidays in India and have traveled over much of the sub-continent. This trip was purly for winter sun and relaxation and the Neeleshwar Hermitage delivered 100%.

Glebe House Garden

No work on the garden for the last few weeks. We arrived home late last night. However, I was very pleased to see a bed full of snowdrops this morning.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
0 550 16

Jack Frost comes but life goes on

16_11_08_3639This week the frost has really come. We have dug up some of the dahlias and stored them upside down so that any water in their storks can drain out. After a couple of weeks we will put them into pots with new potting compost and store them in the green house. Around February a watering will start them off again.16_11_08_3640The garden benches are getting their winter coats on. In the background the Melianthus major is just about coping with the frost. We will pack some mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from the cold and do not cut it down until the spring. In the past they have always survived the winter when managed that way. 16_11_07_3634The fig (Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’) certainly did not like the frost and badly needs a prune.16_11_07_363716_09_29_3529The greenhouse has had its annual clean out removing all the tomato, cucumber and aubergine plants etc. and washing the windows and staging etc. We always take cutting of our Osteospermums as they do not always survive the winter. They have been potted up together with a few saliva cuttings.

The pots on the right are Anemone Nemerosa RobinsonianaEranthis Hyemalis and Anemone Blanda White Splendour. I have found I get more success this way, planting directly in the garden seems to just feed the mice and even in the greenhouse there is a mouse trap just in case.

And the Virginia Creeper certainly did not like the frost.

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This week

16_10_21_3581-copy

Four weeks ago

16_11_11_3644More progress has been made on the pond as I did get the marginals replanted. The irises are relatively small as I had replaced some flag irises last year which did not work well with the overall look and feel of this area. The marginals are now Iris laevigata, Iris laevigata Snowdrift, Iris laevigata Wychwood Surprise and Equisetum hyemale.

Despite the frost the roses continue to flower.  Do they not realise it is the middle of November!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
19 436 21

At last, progress on the pond!

DSC01280A previous blog described the problems we have been having with one of our ponds that had developed a leak. This was back in August and ever since then we have been trying to get it fixed.16_08_10_3163Having removed the liner the base of the pond was dug out further ready for a concrete base. 16_10_09_3558The next stage was to get the sides and base to dry out ready for fiber-glassing.  This meant we have had to put plastic sheeting over the pond.

If you look at the above pictures you can see that we have taken the opportunity of this disruption to revive the bed beyond the pond. The very large rose in the centre of that bed is Rosa omeiensis  pteracantha. This wild rose has very wide, decorative, reddish prickles that sit on a long base on the young shoots. It is therefore also known as barbed wire rose. The flowers are typical “wild rose” type and always flower early in spring.rosa-omeiensisThe rose does get huge and we decided to cut it down to the ground and let it shoot up again. Within a couple of weeks it was vigorously shooting.16_08_09_3161Meanwhile the water lily plants from the pond have been sitting on some spare ground.16_10_09_3559New planting cages were obtained together with aquatic compost to plant up the water lilies. We then just waited wand waited for the fiber-glassing company to arrive. Then at last they came last Saturday and what a change they made.16_11_02_3620Fiber-glassing is an excellent way to water proof a pond. There is no untidy liner to worry and leaks (if they occur) can easily be repaired.16_11_02_3619

Connections for the pump and electrics can also be done through the side of the pond which gives a much more tidy solution compared with a liner.16_11_03_3623The pump has been connected up and will supply a water feature which empties into the rill. The various terracotta chimney pots are just to provide some shelter for any fish and the stack of blocks in the corner is a shelf for marginal plants. 16_11_05_3626And then at last the pond was filled!16_11_05_3631The water lilies were planted up in the new plant cages16_11_05_3630and placed in the pond. There are basically to varieties, a red and a white one. They are both quite vigorous and are suitable for a pond of this size. So we now need to sort out the marginals and also finalise the water feature to restore the pond to it former glory:2010_20100621_434

This week we have also had the first frosts of winter. Looking again at the dahlias,

see what the frost has done. However, I will not feel so bad about digging them up now!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
17 417 21

More hedges and wild life

08_07_16_2797There are a number of yew hedges in the garden. This is looking along the area behind the garden wall and when we originally moved in this area was effectively a small paddock. As it ran south west to north west when we had any degree of wind it certainly blow up this side of the wall. We put the yew hedges in to provide some shelter for any planting we did. Over the years they have grown into substantial hedges but of course they need cutting although only once a year.

Another job done. Looking towards the cottages, on the left is a utility area including the compost heaps. (see Compost: Hidden dangers) On the right is one of those areas we are always meaning to do something with but never quite get there.21_06_16_2706Quite a difficult area as it gets little sun and on the right, in our neighbour’s garden, is a large sycamore tree creating even more shade. The wall is also about 14 feet high! Let me know if you have any good ideas.16_09_01_3356Another hedge that needs cutting each year is a beech hedge with some hornbeam  Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine columns. What is always amazing is the amount of growth that can occur in one year as shown above with the hedge cutting half complete.16_09_18_3468The completed cut.

As you can see above that the pond is still not repaired.( Pond develops a leak ) Every morning I check the pond for animals which have fallen in as the sides are vertical making it impossible for them to get out. Normally I find a couple of frogs, maybe a toad and possibly a Common Newt. However, one morning it was a Common Shrew16_09_05_3371and another to my surprise a Great Crested Newt.

Great Crested Newts have full legal protection under UK law making it an offence to kill, injure, capture, disturb or sell them, or to damage or destroy their habitats. I was not ware we had Great Crested Newts in our garden and was delighted to see this one which has now been moved to one of our other ponds along with the other frogs, toads and Common Newts.

Autumn is coming fast but some plants are still looking great.

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Ricinus communis impala

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
26 251 18