Archive for October, 2015



WP_20151030_13_49_00_ProOld School Garden – 30th October 2015

Dear Walter,

Well, this month I can say that I’ve just about caught up with the routine jobs that Old School Garden needs at this time of year, though my bigger projects of pond and shed still await some serious attention.

I’ve spread a large pile of leaf mould in the new woodland garden I’m creating and mixed this with the topsoil and ashes from the old bonfire site I’d deposited there a few months ago. The soil is at least starting to deepen and hold some moisture. Into this mix I’ve planted a lot of ground cover and slightly larger perennials from around the garden as well as many spring bulbs – in waves that should hopefully make a bit of an impact next March and April.

The new woodland garden...promise of things to come.

The new woodland garden…promise of things to come.

I’ve also dug over the main kitchen garden beds and added some leaf mould and compost; the latter around the various fruit bushes. It all looks nice and tidy and should help to enrich the soil as well as cover it over the winter. I also finally got around to cleaning up the greenhouse and am about to add its winter insulation before putting in the various tender plants that I try to over winter.

I also plan to buy some bare root summer fruiting raspberries and a redcurrant bush- I’ve decided to reduce further our stock of blackcurrant bushes to one and donate the other to the local Primary School; how we ever dealt with three bushes I don’t know! (the first one went to Gressenhall Museum last year).

The table planter I created this year has also been stocked with a mix of garlic, shallots and broad beans that should get going and give me a chance of early crops next year. And a mix of white and red onions have also been planted out for the same reason.

Leaves, leaves everywhere

Leaves, leaves everywhere

Elsewhere in the garden its been leaf collecting time, and having cleared last year’s leaf mould pile, I’m slightly reorganising the storage areas to accommodate a new supply of firewood (yet to be cut and collected) from our near neighbours. In doing this I’ve opened up a new vista towards the church..maybe a spot for another bench methinks?

New to take advantage of with a new seat?

New view…one to take advantage of with a new seat?

I had hoped to have shown you some pictures of the beautiful leaves on the Sumachs, but once again a little breeze and they soon disappear! It’s also been a time of hedge cutting and I’m pleased that this big job- with the added task of reshaping the big Laurel hedge in the main garden- has now been completed, as has fence painting. I spent one morning spreading 7.5 tonnes of shingle we had delivered which certainly improves the look of the drive, though in places it’s rather like Sheringham beach!

I recently made start on some plant moving, specifically a large white rose bush that was being crowded out by a vibrant Choisya and Viburnum. This helps to plug a gap in one of the mixed borders. I’ve also been mentally logging which other plants need to be shifted, including a Myrtle (which I’ll leave until early spring) and some other shrubs I’ve earmarked for the new pond garden. The plants I now have for this area – including some purchases earlier in the year – are now making a nice little collection and I can’t wait to finalise my design and get on with the pond and its surrounds.

Some of the plants I've been collecting for the new pond garden

Some of the plants I’ve been collecting for the new pond garden

I also have a big bag of tulips of various kinds as well as some Alliums I want to get into some of the containers we have and some in the borders. A job for next month.

As you’ll read in my other posts I’ve been putting in some sessions at Blickling Hall and also went over to Gressenhall museum last week to plant up some tubs with some drought tolerant perennials; two varieties of Cistus and a compact Buddleja, to be precise, with a few small ivies to add ‘edge interest’.

I gave a talk to a local gardening group the other night on the basics of garden design. This went well and I took the opportunity to plug my new garden design course (‘Your Garden- your Design’) I’m hoping to run at Blickling Hall from February next year.

The switchover has begun...the tender plants formerly in these pots are on their way to the be replaced by Carex elata aureum ('Bowles Golden Grass') and tulips to come..

The switchover has begun…the tender plants formerly in these pots are on their way to the be replaced by Carex elata aureum (‘Bowles Golden Grass’) and tulips to come..

I do hope you and Lise are in good health as the days shorten and the temperatures drop. No doubt you’re enjoying watching someone else do the autumn tasks now that you’re getting some extra gardening help!

All the best old friend,

Old School Gardener



Purple Ranunculus

Purple Ranunculus


Rose hips at Howick, Northumberland

Peter and Ed spreading shredded bark in the new 'Bug Village'

Peter and Ed spreading shredded bark in the new ‘Bug Village’

Apologies for the title, but I couldn’t resist it. I guess a more serious alternative would be ‘weaving and strewing’!

So my latest session at Blickling Hall involved working with fellow volunteer Peter and Gardener Ed on a new project in part of the Dell Garden; this is an area that’s looked a little neglected for some time and it was good to see some work to create something different.

This was a really fun, creative day as we helped Ed work up his idea of creating a ‘Bug Village’ of different insect hotels/habitats (with fun historical references to Blickling’s owners) in a largely shady and overgrown spot.

Ed had already done some clearing of the ground and had in his mind a rough layout. We started by continuing the hazel pea stick fence he’d begun which provides a really effective, simple, permeable barrier through which you can see into different parts of the area. These sticks are harvested every year from the Estate and put to use to support climbers and vegetables of various sorts. Peter hammered in a metal fence post to create holes about 6″ apart and I pushed home the sticks and wove them together.

After this we collected several loads of shredded bark and strew these over the areas where the bug hotels were to go- a mixture of different types of habitat and mixed in with some impressive stumps and enormous slices of chestnut tree felled elsewhere in the estate and, as Ed said ‘no good for firewood’. It was great ‘designing on the hoof’ with Ed and Peter, creating bays and spots where different elements of the layout could be best fitted in.

In particular there is an elevated spot overlooking the rest of the space which would make a wonderful spot for a seat, and Ed had already identified a wonderful piece of timber- a half round slice of Oak, I think, which would make the perfect base for this. We also helped to gather smaller edging logs which further helped to define the space and again filled in around and shrubs trees with more shredded bark.

On the way...

On the way…

It will be great to see how Ed progresses this in the coming weeks and what visitors think of this new feature- created from recycled materials from around the Estate.

 Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


Source: Schöck solution combines architecture with horticulture

Necklace Cherry Tomatoes

Necklace Cherry Tomatoes

WP_20150911_14_11_48_ProSo, we were on our way home from Northumberland and stopped off for a lunchtime visit to Goddards, a National Trust property on the outskirts of York.

This one time home of Noel Goddard Terry, owner of the famous chocolate-making firm Terry’s of York was designed by architect Walter Brierley in the Arts and Crafts style and is complemented by four acres of gardens, designed by George Dillistone.

The house has selected rooms displayed to give glimpses into the family home and workings of a chocolate factory. You’ve probably heard of (if not eaten) a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (traditional for a British Christmas!), but did you know there was also once a Chocolate Apple?!

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The garden includes yew-hedged garden rooms, a bowling green, wilderness gardens and plants for every season; it is also an oasis for wildlife.

On our visit we met an enthusiastic Garden Volunteer, whose role was to engage visitors among other things. The gardens were delightful, and obviously a lot of work is going into bringing them back to their Arts and Crafts roots. I particularly loved the classic terrace overlooking the garden, with its wicker chairs ready for a Sunday afternoon doze in the sun. Oh, and we had a lovely lunch in a traditonal style restaurant in the house too.

Further Information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener



Patio, Cordoba, Spain

Patio, Cordoba, Spain

WP_20150910_12_46_17_ProOur recent stay in Northumberland featured a boat trip to the Farne Islands.The National Trust says:

‘The Farne Islands are possibly the most exciting seabird colony in England with unrivalled views of 23 species, including around 37,000 pairs of puffin.

It’s also home to a large grey seal colony, with more than 1,000 pups born every autumn.

Historically, the islands have strong links with Celtic Christianity and St Cuthbert, who lived here in the 7th Century.

There’s also a medieval pele tower and Victorian lighthouse here, plus a visitor centre and easy access boardwalk.

Many of the islands hide underwater at high tide…’


We loved to see the birds and seals of the islands and to visit the main island to explore St. Cuthbert’s Chapel with it’s memorial to Grace Darling.

This young girl shot to fame nearly 200 years ago as she and her father helped to rescue survivors from a shipwreck. As the Grace Darling website says:

‘Grace was born on 24th November 1815 at Bamburgh, Northumberland and spent her youth in two lighthouses (Brownsman and Longstone) where her father, William, was the keeper. In the early hours of the 7th September 1838, Grace, looking out from an upstairs window of the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, spotted the wreck and survivors of the Forfarshire on Big Harcar, a low rocky outcrop. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half; one of the halves had sunk during the night.  Amidst tempestuous waves and gale force winds there followed an amazing rescue of the survivors.  Grace’s life would never be the same.’

November 24th will be the 200th anniversary of Grace’s birth.

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I also loved seeing the cliffs where bird nests can be seen up close. Unfortunately the main nesting season had passed so we weren’t able to see puffins and other birds who had moved on to new homes for the winter, but it was, nonetheless a great trip.

Old School Gardener

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