Archive for June, 2016

WP_20160629_18_44_36_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I’m feeling pleased. After some despondency at how the ‘garden has got away from me’ this year, I’m finally getting a grip of things…I think. I guess you’ve had lots of rain and not very high temperatures in June, like us? Well the rain has certainly led to luscious growth just about everywhere.

I think my more positive outlook is partly down to being a little creative in Old School Garden. In my new Pond Garden – where the planting is starting to take hold very nicely- I’ve added some touches of ‘artwork’ which I hope add to the rustic, slightly oriental feel of this sunken space, and have also added more planting- e.g. some clumps of Camomile in between the flag stones (added to the Thyme I put in last month) , plus some plants I purchased down in Devon at the Tavistock Garden Festival (more on that experience in a later post).

The artwork consists of some red-painted items, plus a ‘sheaf’ of Cornus stalks, which were red when cut (the variety is ‘Sibirica’), but have turned jet black as they dry out. I hope these new additions will pick up the red paint on the bench and will also link to some red and black planting in one corner. The red items are all recycled; an old metal bed head (found in the garden) similar to those I’ve painted black and placed above the entrances to the Courtyard, a broken metal wheel that looks like it might have come off of a hen house (also found in the garden), and some curtain poles and finials which I’ve collected from various places over the years. Here they are- what do you think?

Elsewhere in the other ornamental parts of the garden I’ve resorted to some more ‘speed weeding’ along with cutting the edges fo the lawns- it’s always surprising how much better the borders look after this treatment. Fortunately I’ve been able to catch major weeds before they flower and set seed. On a more positive note the Philadelphus (‘Belle Etoile’) I grew from a cutting I took at Peckover House in Wisbech when I was working there has produced a lovely shower of white flowers.

Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile'

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

The main borders have also filled out and crowded out many, if not all of the weeds. I’ve also put out my hanging baskets on the front porch (a red, white and black colour theme), and these are looking good. In the same area, you remember I reported our plan to have the old paint removed from the two storey end of the house? Well it’s been done and the result is excellent, tying the old flintwork once more into the rest of the house. Below there’s a picture of the company during the work, which involved using a fine glass to blast off the paint. Some of the mortar has come away, but it should be possible to repair this with an appropriate mixture of lime and sand…though matching in the colour of the new with the old mortar will be tricky. I’ve started to set out the border in front of this wall, albeit ona temporary basis for now-a mixture of marigolds and Echeveria will provide some summer interest, whilst some English Lavender I recently bought and have potted on, will provide the long-term planting here; hopefully we’ll have a bushy, fragrant low hedge right under the bedroom windows!

I’ve also been creative in the Kitchen Garden where having reorientated the compost area, I’ve now refurbished the bins so that I have removable slats on the fronts, which should make turning and removal a lot easier. I’ve also begun to put in some proper steps to give access to the Fruit Screen to the rear of the garden, where, incidentally, the Sweet Williams I sowed en masse last year are starting to put on a glorious show- as are those plants I left in from last year! These steps will lead up toa new path which I think will be pea shingle on a landscape membrane. I may try out using the large supply of old roofing tiles I have available as edging to this.

We’ve had our first New Potatoes- the variety ‘Rocket’. Though delicious I’ve been a little disappointed with the productivity so far, possibly down to later than usual planting and not wonderfully warm weather. I’ve also been enjoying some broad beans. Though Wimbledon is traditionally the time for strawberries, the crop to date is disappointing in fact I haven’t yet picked one! As I mentioned in an earlier letter, the Deer have been in and nibbled off the tender new growth, which seems to have reduced drastically the number of flowers, and again the weather hasn’t been our side either. The first raspberries are ready to pick and I plan to use these in a dessert on Friday, when we have some friends over for dinner.

Tomatoes are also just about coming forward, though we could do with some heat to ripen these off, the peppers and cucumber have also finally gone into the greenhouse and I can see some cucumbers starting to form.

Good sized tomatoes...come on, ripen!

Good sized tomatoes…come on, ripen!

Other things well on the way include Calabrese, Cauliflower, Garlic, Onions, Shallots and of course the rest of the early potatoes (‘Charlotte’ my favourite will follow on from the first earlies) . I’ve put in a few squashes, having cleared away the Purple Sprouting Broccoli from last year’s sowing, and also four courgettes, a range of different runner beans and some carrots, parsnips and beetroot. I have some leeks on the way for planting out in a couple of weeks and some red cabbages too.

The other areas where I’ve put in some time are the Terrace and courtyard and connecting pathways, where the pointing was in a serious state of disrepair. I’m pleased with the repointing, though all the wet weather we’ve had finally took its toll on two wooden planters I’d made out of decking and other wood. The wood finally collapsed, rotten and I’ve therefore had a rearrangement of the layout in the courtyard, still trying to retain a sense of enclosure around the table and chairs the Hostas are into their stride here and make a wonderful display- what do you think of the new layout?

On the propagation front I’m pleased with the results of my seed sowing so far, including an interesting mix of marginal plants sourced from the RHS and other places; I’m looking forward to a super display of Candelabra Primula, amongst others, in due course.

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So, hopefully you can see I’ve been busy! Today I’ll be cutting the grass (on a dryish day). Oh and that’s something else I’ve done- used our inherited Scarifier to rake out dead material and moss from the more formal lawn areas and afterwards fed the grass. This is starting to look lusher that it has for a long time- witness the pictures below. Well, old friend, time to be off to begin the day’s work…hopefully we’ll see you and Ferdy Lise soon!

Old School Gardener


Here we are back with another selection of garden seats that we have discovered on our visits to two gardens last weekend, one small village garden and a larger garden attached to a nursery. Whatever size your garden is it deserves seats and so do the gardeners. A good gardener chooses seats that fit in […]

via Are you sitting comfortably? Part 10 in a very occasional series. — greenbenchramblings

WP_20160608_12_54_50_Pro Another week at Blickling and it was good to get back to the Walled Garden to see the progress and to get stuck in. I see Mike has bought some of those bird scarers that imitate birds of prey. I’ve had mixed results with bird scarers of various kinds- including old cd’s hung out on a washing line and a plastic owl with rotating head! All seem to work only if you keep moving them around. 

I spent the morning hoeing between the fruit bushes which are coming on well. There has also been much planting out of lettuces and other veggy which will give the kitchen an excellent supply in a few weeks time. There will probably be plenty left  for selling to the public too.

After lunch I planted out two varieties of courgette; one green, one gold, planted alternately. Set about a metre apart, these should bulk up into big bushes.

Courgettes planted, Mike watering them in

Courgettes planted, Mike watering them in

There are still plenty of plants in the glasshouses, and the rest of the gardens are also looking good.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Right now is the showiest time of the year for two very worthy but perhaps unspectacular shrubs: Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) and Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa).

via A Tale of Two Shrubs — gardeninacity

IMG_1052 I’ve finally got round to posting the first pictures from some gardens I saw on our recent trip to Scotland. Spending a week on the Isle of Skye (with amazing temperatures and bright sunshine) and then on to Glasgow for a couple of days, we visited some wonderful places. I’ll post more over the next week or two; the series begins with the ancient seat of the Clan MacLeod, Dunvegan Castle.

The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, this special place on the north west copast of Skye has been the home of the Chiefs of MacLeod for 800 years. We were given a warm welcome and lots of interesting information as we toured the castle. I was even more impressed with the gardens, which consist of a Woodland Garden, more formal ‘Round Garden’ a Walled Garden and a superb Water Garden.

The woodland garden features a hallmark of the gardening skills at play more generally here- very careful attention to planting in what can sometimes seem to be large, daunting spaces. There were some lovely touches; e.g. swathes of Shuttlecock Ferns glinting in the dappled sunlight.

From here we visited the ‘Round Garden’ which had some impressive displays of tulips, formed into a central array of beds, helping to define this circular space.

And then on to the Walled Garden where I chatted to one of thew gardeners abotu the vegetables under cultivation in raised beds, and visited an impressive glasshouse witha good show of various tender, exotic plants.

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But the climax was undoubtedly the Water Gardens, which followed a path alongside tumbling waterfalls and streams and some more very thoughtful planting in and alongside the water.

Further information:

Old School Gardener

Picture: Ellen Zillin

Picture: Ellen Zillin

Smallholder farmers in Africa are already aware that the climate is changing. For many, the growing seasons are becoming shorter and more difficult to plan, because of erratic and unpredictable weather including droughts and floods. Often this means that crops fail or yields are lower and livelihoods are impacted with less produce to feed the […]

via Protecting Africa’s Backbone: transforming agriculture in the face of climate change — One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

Picture: Dawn Pack

Picture: Dawn Pack

This post is a little different – a little more personal, a little more wide-ranging…but then that’s what Liverpool can do to you. It’s my wife’s home town (she’s asked me to point out that it’s actually a city with, as they’ll tell you, a cathedral to spare) and a long weekend last month was […]

via Municipal Dreams goes to Liverpool, part I — Municipal Dreams

The Double Borders taking on a different character-post Tulips

The Double Borders taking on a different character-post Tulips

A month has passed since my last session at Blickling, due to stays in Scotland and Devon. So, the need to get REALLY busy in Old School Garden has meant I’ve not been posting much original material on the blog recently- sorry about that, but if you’re a gardener, I think that you’ll understand.

Anyway, when I did return to Blickling it was great to meet up with the Thursday team once more and help them with Penstemon planting; these are put out in what seems like thousands, to replace the Hyacinth bulbs that give the early spring display above one edge of the Parterre. We mixed up some over -wintered older plants with some newer plants grown from cuttings. Some of these had mildew; hopefully they’ll recover and put on a good show. By the end of the day, the border was complete.

Over in the Walled Garden, the planting out continues, and several areas are now bulking up quite nicely. The long awaited oak noticeboard has been more or less completed with its beautifully carved top.

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It was good to be back and to see how things have continued to move on. Next week it will be a Wednesday session, and hopefully back in the Walled Garden.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


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