Garden Notes

Floral Corner

Skies 2012

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Lot’s has gone on in the Walled Garden since the last entry in May 2011. More of that detail later.

Despite the record rains of 2012 we have had an abundant harvest and are about to set our plans for the 2013 plantings.

The view in photo is taken from the top of the north wall looking south to the house.


Irrigation, Irrigation, Irrigation

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The frantic pace of activity on the estate has continued throughout May – the month that traditionally marks the start of serious planting outside. The team has been planting, seed-sowing and pricking-out at a pace of knots – as fast as we empty the glasshouse and polytunnel of material, it fills back up almost immediately!

On top of all this frantic work, we have (like most gardeners in the South of England) been forced to spend an unseasonably large amount of time and effort on watering thanks to the continued dry spell. The yew trees in particular have been suffering, with a number going into unsightly transplant shock – still, their root systems remain healthy and there is the promise of new growth about to emerge….

The improvement of the soil in the walled garden was completed towards the end of the month, with the final tally of added material soaring to 80 tonnes of sharp sand and 70 cubic meters of organic material. The result is a much more workable soil structure – I can plant using a hand trowel now rather than a pick-axe! This huge job should not have to be repeated next year, so we are hoping to be further ahead of the game 12 months from now.

With the soil work complete, we were finally able plant out the box hedging within the walled garden. As the photograph shows, it completely changes the nature of the space, and it’s great to finally see the garden with its core infrastructure taking shape.

The rose garden has also erupted into its best display in years – testament to the careful and targeted formative pruning regime we employed during those cold days in February. Numb fingers, embedded thorns and blood offerings all seem worth it now! The first aphid infestations have been spotted, and duly sprayed with an organic soft-soap to reduce their numbers and impact on the plants.
So far we have planted out courgette, lettuce (Lollo Verde), broad beans, dwarf French beans, jerusalem artichokes, onion, swiss chard and potatoes. More will follow in the subsequent months as we successionally sow and increase the range of material we are growing in the walled garden.

Sadly, Maisie decided to leave the gardening team for pastures new. We will look for a replacement, but I’d like to thank her for all the effort she put into the garden during its formative months.

Happy gardening everyone!

Mark


Or is it June?

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Has this been the driest and hottest April on record? It certainly seems so! Despite trying to be a month ahead, it now feels like we are a month behind, with everything romping ahead full-kilter. I’m sure everyone remembers frost or snow in April’s gone by, but this year we seem to have thrown the rule-book completely out of the window. So much for not planting out until after the first of May….

As predicted, the ‘Dutch Master’ Daffodils went into overdrive mid-April, with almost two thousand blooming simultaneously along the length of the drive. A marvellous sight! Some of the ‘White Folly’ held on to provide a nice counterpoint to the yellow – and by the end of the month, this counterpoint was achieved by the naturalised bluebells.

The Wisteria on the potting shed also erupted into cascades of lilac bloom, and is already sending out lots of new whippy growth that will need to be tamed in Autumn – I’m happy that the plant has responded well to the formative spur pruning and new framework. We will continue to build up the spur network over the next few years to ensure more prolific flowering each spring.

In addition to the fruit trees that arrived at the end of March, April saw us take delivery of around three thousand box plants (Buxus sempervirens – Buxaceae) which will be planted around the edge of the four central beds of the kitchen garden – these, in combination with the alpine strawberries and chives, will form the core structure of the garden in winter. We also took delivery of over thirty 2m high Yew trees (Taxus baccata – Taxaceae) that will form the ‘butresses’ on the outside of the kitchen garden walls.

On the infrastructure front, April saw a radical new element introduced to the design of the walled garden – two paved areas either side of the Glasshouse, which will be used as an outdoor kitchen, dining and seating spaces. Additionally, all of the walls were bedecked in their frame of supporting wires, which will allow us to train the fruit trees and grow climbers.

April will also be remembered for the back-breaking job of improving the soil in the kitchen garden. Compaction over winter made the soil very hard to work, so we have incorporated around forty tonnes of sharp sand and thirty cubic meters of composted green waste (organically produced of course!) Thankfully this should not have to be repeated next year!

Seed sowing and pricking out continues apace, and the gardening team hopes to be planting out a wider range of plant material after the Easter break. Check in again next month to see how we did!

Happy gardening!

Mark