Archive for April, 2016

Woodland Walk in Leicestershire- picture by Colin Garratt

Woodland Walk in Leicestershire- picture by Colin Garratt



WP_20160429_16_54_22_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Well, a busy month this one, and I’m pleased to say that one or two big projects have moved on a pace.

Though I’ve made some inroads into digging over the borders and getting seedlings going, these two things are suffering somewhat as I spent most of the available time (dodging windy, cold and wet weather), making progress in the pond garden and to an extent preparing the ground for my new shed (you might recall that I have a supply of old floorboards that I’m planning to use for this and acquired some cedar shingles for the roof).

The new area for an extended shed- and an attempt to keep nettles at bay!

The new area for an extended shed- and an attempt to keep nettles at bay!

I’m pleased to say that after many sessions of earth removing (I must have shifted ten tons or more), I finally got the underlay and liner installed and some of the major features on their way; stepping-stones, a waterfall and rockery (made out of flints given to me by my neighbour and some old valley tiles) as well as a sitting terrace with a four pole and rope swag along which I plan to train a couple fo yellow roses and some purple clematis.

I’m just at the point of finishing off the surround and path on one side and then putting in some gravel and stones to create a couple of shallow beach areas, before planting it up. I’ve got hold of a good supply of plants from a local nursery as well as things people have given me,  some existing plants I want to move as well as some form seed, so it’s getting to that exciting part of ‘clothing’ the garden structure! I’ve also created a small bog garden at one end so that I can grow marginals/wet loving plants there as well as on some shelves I’ve created round the edge of the pond. I’m also looking forward to getting my waterfall going- I’ve bought a solar-powered pump to supply the water.

The mound I’m creating to overlook the fields and church has grown considerably with the rest of the pond spoil, so this should be quite a feature once its settled. I’ve made up the new bench we were given by Deborah’s mum and put this in the kitchen garden, so the bench that’s currently there will be transferred to the mound. ~And i’m well on with restoring the other, old rustic bench we were also given by Deborah’s mum- painted cherry red with dark brown wooden seating and back. It should make a great focal point in the pond garden. I’ve also re used the three or four Cotoneaster bushes I eventually dug up from in front of the house (the area where we hope to have the paint stripped back)
This was some feat of brute strength in the ned, but I’m pleased it’s now fully cleared, and I can give some thought to what to put in here after the works have een completed.

The mound grows!

The mound grows!

Elsewhere in the garden there are plenty of tulips and other spring flowers on display, but I keep seeing the weeds in the main borders and know its unlikely I’ll get to them anytime soon; the pond needs finishing off and next week we are off to the Isle of Skye and Glasgow for about ten days. I’ll try to send some blog posts and pictures while I’m there, as I’m sure there’ll be plenty of horticultural and nature interest (as well as the Talisker Distillery of course!).

In the kitchen garden, things are fairly well organised and up to speed; I have planted my first and second early potatoes, some celery and leeks. I have some seedling Calabrese plants in the greenhouse and we continue to enjoy last years’ planting of purple sprouting broccoli as well as the first very sweet pickings from the forced Rhubarb!

A couple of days ago a neighbour made me a very generous gift of a shredder/chipper and home-made collection box. though unused for a while I understand it does work, so I’ll perhaps get it fully serviced before I use it. It will make shredding material for the compost heap and paths etc. a whole lot easier and will mean I don’t have to light quite as many bonfires.

So, this month, old friend , it feel’s like I’m getting somewhere, notwithstanding that lingering guilt at letting the borders get out of hand.. for now.

I hope that you and Lise are well and enjoying the spring- such as it is so far!

Old School Gardener

Allium flower head forming- picture by Ellen Zillin

Allium flower head forming- picture by Ellen Zillin

Sedum 'Chocolate Drop'- the foliage as attractive as the flower- and what a combination!

Sedum ‘Chocolate Drop’- the foliage as attractive as the flower- and what a combination!

We tend to think a lot – some of us almost entirely – about flower colour when we consider planting in the garden. Leaves last far longer than blooms, so why not go for a combination of flower and foliage that will add texture to flower colour and shape?

Some leaves are striped, others marbled or speckled, while others range from purple, silver and blue, to butter-yellow or lime-green. Geranium (Cranesbill) and succulent-leaved Sedum are good examples of plants that pack a punch with their leaves, as do Hostas and Lamium.

Stipa gigantea- wonderful

Stipa gigantea- wonderful

You can creat a soft, billowing effect with plants that have feathery foliage, such as Bronze Fennel, or those with masses of leaflets, such as Aquilegia and many of the ferns. Ornamental grasses can also be used to soften displays; many are particularly useful because they are drought tolerant. I grow several here at Old School Garden, and I love the variety they add to a herbaceous border with an evergreen structure of shrubs; Stipa gigantea is especially lovely when the late afternoon sunlight catches its stalks and waving awns.

From flower to seedpod- Agapanthus

From flower to seedpod- Agapanthus

To sum up….

  • Blend foliage plants with flowering ones to keep the border looking at its best over the longest possible time.

  • Combine foliage and flowers that contrast with each other in colour,shape and texture.

  • Use plants with ornamental seed pods, such as Agapanthus, Feathery grass heads, such as Pampas grass and evergreen foliage.

  • Use plants with variegated leaves, such as striped, blotched and marbled, to their full advantage.

  • Choose flowering plants that have attractive foliage, such as Alchemilla mollis and geranium so that they add interest to the border over several months.

Hostas are usually grown for their foliage- which comes in all sorts of patterns and hues, but the flowers can also be very attractive

Hostas are usually grown for their foliage- which comes in all sorts of patterns and hues, but the flowers can also be very attractive

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’- Reader’s Digest, 1999

Old School Gardener


tulip aparna jha

Tulip- picture by Aparna Jha

WP_20160421_10_36_32_ProMy latest session at Blickling was spent in the Walled Garden, once more. On my way I stopped to look at the wonderful display of Tulips in the Double Borders, caught in the early morning sun.

As I arrived it was clear that a lot had happened in the Walled Garden since last week- mainly that the grass paths had been turfed. These really look great, and I also saw that the first prototype metal arch had been installed at one end of the central path… this will eventually be a ‘fruit arch’ covering the entire length of this path.

One group of volunteers were set to weeding in the Parterre garden, whilst the two Petes and a new volunteer, Chris and I were detailed to path edging (Norfolk Pete) and digging (yes, you guessed it!) and mulching some borders which will be home to an array of cut flowers, all ready and waiting to go in from the nearby cold frames.

We moved over to one of the quarter beds and dig some double digging- the three of us in line. Or rather, ‘bastard digging’ (!) , so Mike tells me as he says ‘double digging would involve incorporating some organic matter in the trenches before turning in the next spit of topsoil.

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go...

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go…

‘Norfolk Pete’ spent the day bolting in some joining plates for the metal edging, which appears to be nearly complete. I saw a large pile (some 120 tonnes) of Carr Stone in the orchard, which is waiting to be put down as the base for the hard paths , which will have peas shingle laid on top. A bit of path near the potting shed had been finished off as a trial run and it does look neat. mike said we may spend next week laying and raking this gravel over the rest of the paths, the Carr stone having been rammed hard. Carr Stone (the gingerbread coloured sand stone found in West Norfolk), when broken down, provides a perfect sandy path sub surface; it binds together well and is hard wearing.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


joan fitzpatrick

Tulip: picture by Joan Fitzpatrick

Jardin Plume is one of those gardens which not long ago got featured everywhere. So when Charles Hawes was in France for the Chaumont Garden Festival he made a long trek to go and see it. And I waited for his response with eager anticipation. He was disappointed. (Is this the inevitable consequence of too much…

via Plume Puzzle by Adam Hodge — thinkinGardens

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful grandmother who lives in the Derbyshire countryside. She has dogs and a horse and the most beautiful cottage garden, and I adore staying there. It’s a wonderful break from the stresses of ordinary life, and I can sit for hours listening to my grandmother’s anecdotes, or touring […]

via Sunshine and gardening in Derbyshire — Edinburgh Garden Diary

Shakespeare had his take on Hotspur, and on April 8 the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County had its shot at larkspur, Delphinium carolinianum ssp. penardii. Marshall Enquist explains that there are four small petals in the center of each flower, with the lower two bearing the conspicuous hairs that you see here. The other five […]

via White larkspur flowers — Portraits of Wildflowers

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