Archive for September, 2016


To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

So, autumn is upon us! It’s been an interesting gardening month for me here in Norfolk, though I have to say spending rather more time on gardens and gardening projects away from Old School Garden.

That of course has made me feel a bit guilty, and with the damage done to the grass (I’ve given up calling them ‘lawns’) by the new brood of young moles, also rather dejected and overwhelmed with all that needs doing.

I have at least continued to harvest fruit and veg from the garden; the apples and pears are especially pleasing, and the cucumbers are beginning to overwhelm us! Still it’s that time of year when things tend to wind down as far as growing is concerned, and attention turns to selective tidying up and repair jobs. So, I’ve emptied the shed in preparation for constructing it’s replacement, replaced a wooden fence post, cut a shed full of firewood, cut the grass and cleared away the first leaf fall, and watched the autumn colours appear- especially from Asters and Sedums.

I also had a frustrating morning trying to get my new shredder working. You may recall that a kindly neighbour gave me this petrol driven machine, which after servicing I was eager to try out. Well, to cut a long story short, whilst I managed to get it going a few times, it kept cutting out on me and on one or two occasions stalled from too much damp, leafy material being fed to it. I gave up in the end and still have the aching elbow joint to prove how many times I yanked the starting cord, to no avail!

Away from home there’s been some interesting developments. I visited a social enterprise project called ‘The Grow Organisation’ on the outskirts of Norwich. They provide home garden maintenance services (providing employment opportunities to people who might otherwise find employment difficult) and are hoping to develop the surroundings of their impressive community hub building to provide gardens where people who have a variety of health issues can spend time using ‘gardening as therapy’ ; including a ‘Sensory Garden’ for those suffering from dementia. The project sounds great and having spoken with their Director, I’ve agreed to help them with some design ideas for these outside spaces.

The second project is one I’ve already mentioned in my blog- the Allotment Project at our local High School in Reepham. Here teacher Matt Willer has created a wonderful outdoor classroom using materials and other resources either borrowed, donated or upcycled. He’s also used a great deal of ingenuity to overcome some issues such as the lack of a pumped water supply by devising a system for harvesting rainwater and created a well for storing this.

The other big story is the success of the Harvest Festival event at our local church, St. Peter’s, where having cleared up the churchyard the week before, around 150 people fo all ages came to see the end of a vintage tractor run, listen to the Aylsham Band, sing some old favourite harvest hymns and take par tin various activities such as making bread and butter, sowing seeds, learning about compost, making their own ‘scrap’ tractors and tucking into some scrumptious tea and cakes. ‘Haveringland Groundforce Day #2’ is now planned for next week, where I hope that we can finish off getting the churchyard set up to become a properly managed conservation area which is accessible and provides a place to reflect and enjoy nature as well as visiting the graves of the recently departed.

So, a month of limited activity, and reflecting on my hopes from last month, I can’t claim to be a ‘gold medal’ performance. Still, satisfying to a degree. I’ll have another go at that shredder, I promise…

Old School Gardener

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wp_20160921_12_28_07_proI went in to Blickling on Wednesday this week and worked with Peter and Maurice clearing away the piles of pumpkin and squash greenery left behind after the previous day’s volunteers had harvested a fantastic array of squashes and pumpkins.

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

I was excited to see another wooden structure in the far corner of the Walled Garden- three new compost bins with removable, slatted fronts and panelled lids. These will be a great addition to the garden and reduce the need to transport piles of compost from the main dumping ground on the other side of the gardens.

The new compost bins

The new compost bins

I was initially puzzled to see no gaps in the sides fo these new bins as I thought they would be necessary to allow some air to get into the bins. However, on reflection, I think the theory might be that the amount of material, and with regular turning, these bins will be ‘hot’ bins creating usable compost within a matter of a few months. Mike, the Project Manager wasn’t around to clarify this, so that’ll be a question for next week’s session. As we were finishing off the clearing up, a couple of young children and their parents wheeled a couple of mini barrowfuls of material over to help us!

wp_20160921_11_23_58_proIn the remaining hour before lunch we hoed and stone picked around the soft fruit bushes, where, Assistant Head Gardener, Steve, told us that new fruit cages were to be erected the following day. I look forward to seeing these in place next week.

After lunch Maurice and I hoed across the pumpkin and squash beds to tidy them up. I think Mike plans to sow some green manures in these over winter. I hope so, as I’d be interested to see how this would look and what it would do to protect and add to the nutrients in the soil.

The Dahlias are continuing to put on a good show, and I noticed that the cyclamen were in full bloom just outside the Walled Garden.

We had plenty of visitors in the Walled Garden, and many stopped to chat and ask questions, as well as praising everyone’s efforts. One chap asked me what the difference is between a gourd and a squash…hmm after a quick thought I offered the view that they are different types of the same sort of plant, the gourd possibly being more of a climbing variety…As it turns out I wasn’t quite right, as this very helpful advice from the site Missouri Botanical Garden explains:

‘Pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the enormously diverse Cucurbitaceae family, which contains more than 100 genera and over 700 species.  They have been providing mankind with food and utilitarian objects since before recorded history.  Various members of the genus Cucurbita are known as squash or gourds.

Names differ throughout the world, but in the United States, any round, orange squash used for pies or jack-o-lanterns is likely to be called a pumpkin.  But the term “pumpkin” really has no botanical meaning, as they are actually all squash.  Squash are divided into two categories: tender or summer squash, and hard-skinned or winter squash.  Examples of summer squash include zucchini, pattypan, straightneck, crookneck and other types.  Winter squash include small to medium hard-skinned squash such as the acorn, small hubbard, miniature pumpkin and spaghetti types, as well as the large hard-skinned types, including banana, butternuts, cheese pumpkins, cushaws, and large hubbards, among others.

Botanists use distinctive characteristics of leaves, seeds and fruit stalks to classify the different species.  The origins of these species are lost in time, but all are assumed to have originated in the Western Hemisphere, principally South and Central America and Mexico.  Variety selection for the many distinct shapes, sizes and colors has occurred in all cultures worldwide….

Gourds are defined as hard-shelled durable fruit grown principally for ornament, utensils and general interest….

Hardshell gourds remain green throughout the growing season, but dry to a brownish-tan when fully cured.  They have traditionally been utilized as bottles and containers for liquid and dry materials, as well as food, medicine, musical instruments, artistic media and many other uses.

Like the squash, cultivar selections in various shapes and sizes have continued from prehistoric times to the modern era.’

wp_20160921_12_28_39_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Floral art outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. picture by Steve Mosley

Floral art outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. picture by Steve Mosley

Dahlia flowers at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. Picture Madeleine Boldero-Rito

Dahlia flowers at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. Picture Madeleine Boldero-Rito

Angel Oak, Johns Island SC- said to be 500 years old

Angel Oak, Johns Island SC- said to be 500 years old

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The Autumn Raspberries are ripening fast in the warm weather and can be picked daily they are delicious with cream or ice cream but freshly picked Raspberries have a limited shelf life of about 3 days in the fridge, if you have a glut make them into delicious jam or freeze them in a single […]

via Raspberries – delicious to eat and easy to grow — Gardening with Children

Ingra Tor, Dartmoor...a favourite place

Ingra Tor, Dartmoor…a favourite place, visited recently

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day...

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day…

Only a couple of hours this week at Blickling. In some ways that was a relief as it turned out to be the hottest September day for many years (on my way to a meeting in Diss, the reading on my car’s thermometer was 31.5 degrees C!)

I arrived around 9am and signed in as usual; but no gardeners were to be found. The whole place had a peacefulness that only hinted at the boiling heat that was to follow; the lines of the main Temple Walk were gradually emerging from an early morning mist, soon to be burned off.

The diary we garden volunteers use to sign in and get our instructions said we were to be split between the Parterre (removing Bindweed with assistant Head gardener Steve) and something unspecified in the Walled Garden. As I couldn’t see anyone around the parterre I wandered over to the Walled Garden- still not a soul in sight. Hmmm… where could they all be?

I made my way in the direction of the Orangery, and Head Gardener Paul turned the corner and greeted me in his usual jolly way. He modestly told me about his own small garden and some of the wide range of plants he’s been growing , including some tropicals. We both moved on- he to his office, me to join the (small as it turned out) gardening team in the Orangery.

There Steve, Rebecca and Ed were busy hosing down, weeding and generally tweaking the inside of this lovely building, in readiness for a wedding reception to be held there the day after. I joined in and helped sweep off the pammented floor, raking gravel and, having spotted several of the potted citrus trees with black sooty mould on the leaves, went round and rubbed as much off as I could.

Ed hosing down the inside..

Ed hosing down the inside..

We finished off by shifting some of the many plants around; including rather tentatively carrying several large Agaves (with their extremely sharp and pointed leaves) into an adjoining room. By this time it was morning break (had I really done much?- I was certainly sweating). Anyway, after greeting fellow volunteers, we went off to various parts of the gardens; most it seemed to the rose garden to dig over and weed, in the comparatively cool shade of a starting- to- steam mid morning.

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings...

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings…

With only about an hour to spare I went over to the Walled Garden and hoed around the soft fruit bushes- once again this was a pleasant job with one of the twin-bladed Wolf hoes that Mike had recently purchased. But boy it was hot, and though the Dahlias were looking resplendent, it was not place to be for long, so I was glad to be on my way just before midday.

Dahlia 'David Howard' putting on a show with it's partners in the Walled Garden

Dahlia ‘David Howard’ putting on a show with it’s partners 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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