Archive for August, 2016


One block of the 'Piano Hedges'

One block of the ‘Piano Hedges’

A very hot, humid session this week at Blickling. Just as well then that Gardener Ed had something not too taxing for Aussie Pete and me to do. It involved coaxing the Yew bushes known as ‘pianos’ (due to their resemblance to grand pianos) into a bit of order.

Gardener Ed explaining his approach to 'playing the piano'...

Gardener Ed explaining his approach to ‘playing the piano’…

Ed handled the hedge clipper, while Pete and I used measuring tapes and lines to cut the turf edges that will help to guide the edges of the hedges! I his usual thorough way Ed explained how, over time, the bushes have become a bit unruly- too much ‘cutting by eye’ had resulted in a number of bumps, bulges and hollows that spoil the neat geometry. Over the past few years he has been letting some areas of the bushes grow out to the desired lines, and now they look pretty much ready to be ‘whipped into line’. It’s interesting looking at how much these bushes – and their accompanying ‘acorns’ on the parterre- have grown in the last 200 years or so. Here are some pictures taken between 80 and 100 years ago and the difference with today is quite noticeable…

Whilst the bushes will continue to grow (especially inside), the hope is that the lines now beign established can be maintained. Even so, it was interesting to see how much Pete and I had to cut back the turf edges to accommodate them- 2-3 inches in places. As I say, it was relatively easy work with lines and half moons, but even so the high humidity made it rather sapping work. Still we were rewarded with an ice cream from Ed at the end of the session.

The rest of the gardens in this area are looking grand, and I also made a quick trip over to the walled garden to see how it was looking (Project Manager Mike wasn’t around today). The other garden volunteers were busy weeding around the edges fo the parterre and Rob and Becca were raising the crown on a Lime tree near the Temple- complete with hydraulic lift. The result has certainly opened up the area and enabled some shaded shrubs and trees to benefit from more light.

Before the session I’d emailed Head Gardener Paul a layout plan and list of trees for possible inclusion in the Tree Trail project I’ve mentioned before. This is coming together nicely, with between 20 and 30 trees in the trail. Once firmed up we can start to sort out the information to go on the sign boards at each specimen, as well as leaflets, childrens’ activities etc.

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As I may have mentioned before, the gardening team is a wonderful group of people, with many an amusing tale to tell. Ed’s contribution today concerns the ‘human sundial’ set out in the parterre (see picture below). Apparently he confronted a bemused gentleman walking around this one dull day. The man complained that the sundial wasn’t working- ‘It’s overcast’ said Ed. The man was puzzled and disappointed he couldn’t get the dial to work- ‘You should put a sign up explaining that it only works when the sun is out’, he said. Hmm, maybe a case for introducing an artificial sun on dull days?!

The 'Human Sundial'- it seems a little too complicated for some people...

The ‘Human Sundial’- it seems a little too complicated for some people…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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Ah yes, this is just what I need.....

Ah yes, this is just what I need…..

To Walter de Grasse

WP_20160731_09_32_56_ProDear Walter,

Well, old friend I have to begin this letter with many congratulations on the success of your eldest, Andre, at Rio!! Three medals for Canada (2 bronze, one silver) is a fantastic achievement that you and Ferdy Lise must be very proud of. Especially as you also are no stranger to Olympic glory yourself, getting that gold for Pigeon Racing back at the 1948 games. Please pass on our congratulations and very best wishes to Andre. (You may have noticed that I retained the hanging baskets as the headline photo in this post; red and white to celebrate Canada’s and your son’s wonderful achievement.)

Andre De Grasse- known to his freinds as 'Please', as in 'Please don't walk Andre de Grasse'

Andre De Grasse- known to his friends as ‘Please’, as in ‘Please don’t walk Andre de Grasse’

Well, after many late nights watching the action from Rio, and of course very proud of Team GB’s amazing achievements (we had the Union Jacks flying over the hanging baskets during the games), the gardening has been rather low-key during August. Some selective weeding, grass cutting and watering have been the main tasks, leaving time to sit and enjoy the warm weather. I did spend about 4 hours the other day trimming back all the hedges. Much tidier, but I have the cuttings to clear, not one of my favourite jobs.

On the ornamental side the pond garden is filling up very well with a nice range of floral and foliage- and wildlife, including frogs and dragon flies. I’m also rather pleased with a couple of Cannas that are flowering superbly at present.

In the Kitchen Garden the bounty continues, though the tomatoes have pretty well finished. cucumbers and peppers are coming thick and fast from the greenhouse, and the salad bar is flourishing. We also have plenty of runner beans, courgettes and carrots. Cauliflower (if I can stop the caterpillars) red cabbage, chard, more carrots, parsnips and summer squash are on the way. The winter leeks are in and doing well, and there’s a good crop of apples and pears on the way from the orchard as well as the ‘super columns’ in the kitchen garden (some of these are so laden with fruit they are bending over- I think I’ll have to put some mopre substantial supports in over the close season). Deborah has also bottled up around a dozen beetroot which should keep her going for a few months…

Son-in-Law Diego has continued to be really helpful in the garden, giving the new shed another coat of ‘Creocote’ and helping me clear up after cutting the hedges back. I’m pleased to report that both he and our daughter Madeleine have secured jobs in or near to Cambridge and we heard the other day that they have a nice little terraced house near the centre of Newmarket to move into in the next week or two, so soon we’ll be helping them with their garden!

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It’s a few days until our first ‘Haveringland Groundforce Day’- our attempt to get to grips with the churchyard over the fields from us, in order to manage it into a wildlife paradise with mown paths and spaces to sit and reflect. I’m hopeful that we’ll get enough support and equipment to do a good job strimming and raking off, weeding, pruning back ivy and cutting back saplings and more mature trees. It will also hopefully set out a scene for the Harvest Festival event being held there on 11th September, which will feature a vintage tractor run from nearby Cawston, children’s activities, standing steam engines, refreshments and an informal service with music supplied by the Aylsham Town Band. We’re looking forward to seeing you and Ferdy here for the weekend, which will also see the Norfolk Churches Trust cycle ride visiting the church.

The view to St. Peter's...

The view to St. Peter’s…

So,a warm, peaceful and enjoyable time in then garden this month but I’m already lining up some major things for September; building a new potting shed, weeding and bulb planting, among other things…hopefully a ‘gold medal’ performance!

Old School Gardener

Does every day seem the same? Then why not have a ‘Green Day’, when you get up in the morning announce to your children that you are going ‘Green’, this is where your imagination plays a part and a bit of forward planning is advisable. Here are some ideas for a ‘Green Day’: Get dressed in […]

via Why not have a ‘Green’ Day? — Gardening with Children

WP_20160530_13_41_55_ProOn our last Devon trip we spent a day at Antony House, Torpoint.  This 18th century mansion tells the story of a family caught up in the English civil war, a place which is still home to the Carew- Poles.

Before entering the house it was great to visit a small exhibition of some interesting artefacts, including one of Humphry Repton’s original ‘Red Books’, where he set out his assessment and vision of the gardens including some beautiful, if soemtimes fantastical, ‘before and after’ watercolour illustrations.

‘A house of silver grey stone, Antony is a beguiling mixture of the formal and informal. It’s believed to be one of the finest surviving Queen Anne buildings in the West Country.

View the outstanding collection of portraits, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a famous painting of Charles I during his trial. There are also fine examples of period furniture, textiles and tapestries.

Breathe in the sweeping views as you explore the landscape garden, which includes a formal garden with topiary, modern sculptures and the National Collection of Daylilies.

The Woodland Garden, owned and run by the Carew Pole Garden Trust, also has outstanding rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias.

The magic of Antony was captured by director Tim Burton, as a film location for his blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland.’

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The gardens and grounds are exceptional. The tree collection is especially interesting and I was pleased (and inspired) by their tree trail which gives few bits of information alongside each specimen – and there are plenty of these, many at or beyond maturity. The walks around the woodland garden are peaceful, with a selection of viewing and sitting points overlooking the nearby channel, and, when we visited, a superb collection of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in flower. I also loved the pond and some playful timber seats, which contrast with some very old wooden seats in the more formal garden spaces.

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As you may have read earlier this week, in my post about my latest session at Blickling, I’ve made progress in getting a similar tree trail project going there, so am very thankful for the detailed information Antony provided on how they put theirs together.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

One hundred water voles will be reintroduced into the National Trust’s Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, in what is believed to be the highest upland water vole reintroduction project (by altitude) ever carried out in Britain. This will be the first time the endangered mammals have been seen at Malham Tarn – England’s […]

via Endangered water voles return to Yorkshire’s Malham Tarn after fifty year absence — National Trust Press Office

WP_20160818_10_09_52_ProI’d missed a week, but the Dahlias, which I thought had reached their best two weeks ago, were definitely in peak form in the Walled Garden at Blickling this week.

It was also pleasing to see that the posts and wires for the soft fruit were finished- but not after some further manoeuvering of our ‘difficult post’, by Project Manager, Mike! And the four new benches are also in place; they look great and offer visitors a chance to sit and enjoy the veg, fruit and flower offerings in the garden. I began work weeding around the herbs – a rather intoxicating experience as I rubbed against Thyme, Sorrel, Garlic, Fennel, Annis and so on…

After this- a mixture of hand weeding and hoeing- I went off to see Head Gardener, Paul and Assistant Head Gardener, Steve to discuss the Tree Trail Project. We are hoping to set out a series of name and information boards for around 20-30 trees within the gardens and perhaps add some ‘child friendly’ activities along the way. I suggested this after visitng Antony house in cornwall, where a similar, volunteer-led project has helped present their wonderful collection of trees.

We had an enjoyable walk around the gardens identifying the trees with a bit of special interest or stories to tell- it was difficult keeping up with the professionals whose encyclopedic knowledge of the many trees on offer was mightily impressive! Still, I think we have the makings of a great project and I’m looking forward to drawing the information together and working with Trust staff and other volunteers to finalise the information boards and leaflets etc. Something of a winter project, I think!

After a late lunch I spent an hour helping Chris and three of the lady volunteers in the corner of the walled garden clearing away the extensive weeds under and around the Mulberry Tree (which is one of those likely to make it to the Tree Trail, too). This area- previously enclosed in glass- is a wilder part of the walled garden, but after our work looked rather more in keeping with the trim borders elsewhere.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Ed Snodgrass stands on stage 1 – the green roof. Ed Snodgrass is the internationally known green-roof author, consultant and grower whose own Maryland nursery experienced downpours gushing downhill, unstopped by mere turfgrass. Of course he was using vegetated roofs, but that wasn’t enough. As Ed wrote me, “Even though the farm is mostly pervious, in…

via Stormwater Management at its Most Beautiful by Susan Harris — Garden Rant

Sorry I’ve been a bit lax in my original posting recently. It’s been a busy time and I added to my schedule a few sessions at an archaeological dig on the edge of Aylsham, the ‘Aylsham Roman Project’ next to a well known nursery, Woodgate.

Funded by the landowner and donations a professional archaeology Team from Britannia Archaeology supervised a huge army of volunteers in exposing two Roman pottery kilns and several other notable features, including iron age ditches and post holes. I spent time sieving spoil, washing finds and on my front prone over one of the kilns excavating around a mish mash of brick, tile and pottery clitter, often with a tiny trowel- the latter was the most rewarding activity, almost like an artistic act of creativity as I presented the solid features proud of their dirty surrounds. It turns out the kilns may be of national importance, as one of them still has its firing chamber intact , and the other appears to have had three walls built up around it as successive kilns collapsed.

After two weeks work a massive load of pottery and other finds have been amassed (nearly 15,000 by all accounts) and it’s planned to return here next year to continue the excavation…hopefully I’ll be around to take part (it was great fun), and may even extend my involvement to surveying and drawing.

Further information: Aylsham Roman Project Facebook page

Old School Gardener

“River Lands” is a new project being developed by the Field Theatre Group to produce 50 pieces of artwork to celebrate the 50 miles of the Fen Rivers Way. The Fen Rivers Way is a 50 mile way-marked path that …

via Creative film makers and photographers needed for a new arts project — Ouse Washes

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