Archive for May, 2015

Long Row


Most plants will grow in alkaline soil, but these are particularly tolerant of high levels of alkalinity (lime).

Old School Gardener

Wisteria Walk, Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens

Wisteria Walk, Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens


WP_20150524_13_47_31_Pro To Walter Degrasse

29th May 2015

Dear Walter

Looking back to my letter to you at this time last year, I see that various things were further ahead, especially in the ornamental garden and to some extent vegetables. But it’s still a lovely time of year, with fresh green growth everywhere and other emerging colours in flower and foliage.

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I was out weeding today and planting out some Cosmos, tobacco plants and ornamental grasses, just before the rain came to helpfully water them in. I finally got round to weeding (for the first time this year) an area at the front of the garden which was in danger of becoming overgrown with ground elder, nettles and the like- it was a relief to see it cleared and the strong growth of the shrubs and other plants there coming through, hopefully to invade the space that I’ve created. Whilst I was out a group stopped by the gate and were talking about the garden- after bidding them good morning they were very complimentary about the garden, which is always nice to hear.

Elsewhere in the garden I’m just about up to speed on the food front. Broad beans are podding up nicely, I’ve some Calabrese, Cabbage and onions bulking up. The potatoes are up above ground (I’ll earth these up next week), and I’ve just put out some squash (interplanted with the onions) and Sweet Corn. I don’t know if you watch the gardening programme ‘Beechwood Garden’ (shown early Sunday mornings on BBC 1), but they are trialling different approaches to growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. I was very interested to see the use of as specially designed ‘aquaponic’ system where the plants sit in pots with a wick in then that is dipped in a reservoir underneath in which you out the diluted feed. I’ve decided to buy the ‘Quadgrow’ system which I think is the one the TV programme is using, and can;t wait to get this set up next week. I’ve got 8 good looking tomato plants from my friend Steve to put in as well as the usual cucumber and peppers he’s kindly given me.

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So, Old School Garden, in spite of me being away for much of the month, seems to be shaping up nicely. Oh, I almost forgot, I finally cut back the Melianthus having had a couple fo flower spikes go over. It’s interesting seeing how small the new growth is compared to last year when I cut it back much earlier. I wonder if it will catch up!

As I’ve been away a lot I haven’t been in to Gressenhall or Blickling much. you may have seen my post about my latest sessions at Blickling earlier in the week. I also spent a couple fo hours at Gressenhall, doing a bit of tidying up and planting out a few annuals in the gaps in one of the borders there as well as the entrance border, which I was pleased to see looking good, with purple Alliums contrasting well with the newly maroon red foliage of the Cotinus. The grasses in this border have done really well, in fact they might be in danger of unbalancing the design, so a bit of ‘editing’ might be required here.


Well, as you read this we shall be back in Devon once more, hopefully finally sorting out a flat for my mother-in Law and getting some bulky items moved across so that she can move in once she’s out of hospital. Oh, and no doubt there’ll be a bit of lawn cutting and weeding to be done in her current garden, to prepare the way for selling the place.

I do hope that you and Lise are enjoying the lovely Spring weather and managing to get out and enjoy your garden, especially now that you’ve got a gardener in to help you manage it. All the best for this month old friend.

Old School Gardener





Phot by Mike Smith

Photo by Mike Smith

WP_20150515_12_13_25_ProAfter leaving Emmetts Garden on our way home from Sussex last week, we also stopped off to see a place that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time- Red House, in Bexleyheath, London. The house and garden designed by Philip Webb with fellow Arts and Crafts man William Morris, is a wonderful monument to all that exuberant artistic endeavour of the mid and later 19th centuries.We had a stimulating guided tour of this lovely house and garden that has been a major influence on English architecture and garden design.

Part reaction to the impact of industrialisation, part a response to its social consequences, William Morris and the movement- which had close ties to the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and early socialist thinkers- have perhaps become most closely associated with floral prints in wallpaper and fabric. I hold my hands up- we are definite fans and have some Morris designs in the Old School.

The garden here rather plays second fiddle to the house, which was meant to be ‘something medieval’ and does conjour up images of courtly love, knights in armour and Arthurian legend…

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But the garden sets off this fabulous building very neatly and today also boasts a kitchen garden. The original design was as unique as the house, with Morris insisting on integration of the design of both. The garden was divided into four, small square gardens by trellises on which roses grew. The flower beds were bordered with lavender and rosemary while lilies and sunflowers had also been planted in the garden. White jasmine, roses, honeysuckle and passion flower were planted to climb up the walls of the house.

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Further information:

National Trust website


Old School Gardener

Southover Grange Gardens, Lewes, Sussex, recently

Southover Grange Gardens, Lewes, Sussex, recently

WP_20150521_15_40_07_Pro I think it must be three weeks since I was last at Blickling. I got a chance to look around at the end of my working session and there were several highlights I hadn’t seen before, most notably the Azaleas round the Temple, the wall-trained Wisterias, the masses of Forget-me-Nots and Honesty in the Dell and some of the colour combinations in the double borders; especially the Tulip ‘Queen of Night’ and the black foliage of Mongo Grass and Black Elders.

My fellow volunteers were bit thin on the ground this week, and the gardening team pretty much seemed to be tied up in interviews all day, so we were left to our own devices! But the task was simple, weeding in the rose borders in the main Parterres. I went to work with my hoe (I really enjoy this task) and though the borders were pretty clear, there were a few odd weeds (including patches of Oxalis which the other volunteers dug up) and some edging of the grass to be done.

The session was punctuated with chats to vistors who were very complimentary about the gardens. One couple from Bury St. Edmunds envied us the light soil we have in this area- they have to tackle thick clay.

Head Gardener Paul informed us that the National Trust Gardens advisor had recently visited and was full of praise for the gardens and what the whole team had achieved; that was good to hear.

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Work in the Walled Garden has continued with the hard core for the main paths being laid and consolidated. The next job is installing 800 metres of metal edging- I don’t envy the Team that job!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


The chalk cliffs at Rottingdean, recently.

The chalk cliffs at Rottingdean, recently.

WP_20150515_11_05_33_ProOn our way home from Sussex last week, we manged to call in on two other National Trust properties. The first was Emmetts Garden, near Sevenoaks, Kent.

Though situated in a commanding hillside location, the garden is tucked away a bit, but we eventually found it after some tortuous lanes and slippery hill climbs! Our stay was short,but the garden didn’t disappoint- masses of spring interest, including a very attractive rockery with plenty of alpines on display. The Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Bluebells were also looking superb in the bright sunshine.

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Wikipedia describes the gardens:

‘Emmetts Garden was open farmland until 1860 when the present house was built. The name ’emmett’ is a local word for ant and refers to the giant anthills that covered the area until the 1950s. The house and land was purchased in 1890 by Frederic Lubbock, a banker and passionate plantsman. Lubbock’s elder brother was John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, coincidentally a world expert on ants, which may have influenced his decision to purchase the property.

The gardens were initially laid out between 1893 and 1895 under the influence of Lubbock’s friend William Robinson in the fashionable Edwardian style popularised by Gertrude Jekyll. The shrub garden was added later in 1900-1908.

After Lubbock’s death (1927), the estate was acquired by an American geologist Charles Watson Boise. He made various alterations to both house and garden but retained the original character of the gardens…

The garden, which covers an area of about six acres (approximately 2.5 hectares), occupies a commanding site on a 600-foot (180 m) sandstone ridge, overlooking the Weald. One of the highest points in Kent, it offers expansive views towards the North Downs.

It is mainly planted with trees and shrubs in the form of an arboretum; a magnificent 100-foot (30 m) Wellingtonia fortunately survived the Great Storm. There is also a rose garden located next to the Victorian house to which the gardens once belonged.’

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

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