Archive for August, 2017

Thursday Doors…

Here are some doors, residential and historic, from Post Road in the small town of Greenland, New Hampshire. In the early 1600’s, Greenland was a parish of Portsmouth but was incorporated in 1704. The current population is around 3,500. Greenland is a lovely little New England town with a wonderful greenhouse, Rolling Green Nursery. I […]

via Thursday Doors — NewEnglandGardenAndThread


So here we go…a first, experimental post to share some of my experiences of gardens, parks and other open spaces on our recent trip to Australia. Please let me know what you think!

Our trip was primarily about visiting our eldest daughter and her partner as they were expecting our first grand child. They live in the south west suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, so much of the six weeks we were there were spent in Victoria, though we also managed tow short breaks to Sydney and Canberra.

The first trip out was to a histroic house and park/gardens called Werribee Park, a short drive away. We didn’t look round the house- a Victorian pile (in both senses) put up by a family that had ‘made it good’ in the newly prosperous Victoria of gold rush fame.

The Park is laid out in classic English landscape style with beautifully grouped trees and lawns, with more formal beds and borders of carpet bedding and other flowering plants. there is a large lake with an accompanying grotto and an old glasshouse with rather different planting than you’d see back in England!

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There is also the Victorian State Rose Garden a more recent addition to the park and which is cleverly laid out in the shape of a Tudor Rose and with accompanying areas shaped as a bud (carrying a large collection of David Austin roses) and the ‘Australian Federation Leaf’. Though it was winter time when we visited, there was still a good display of flowers, and the whole area must be really grand in mid summer.

The concept of the State Rose Garden goes back to 1976, when the National Rose Society developed the idea…it was another 20 years before the Tudor rose area was planted up and since then grants and donations have enabled the newer areas to be planted out. In 2003 the garden won the ‘Garden of Excellence’ award from the World Federation of Rose Societies. Managed by Parks Victoria, the site relies on a large group of volunteers for its care and maintenance. I look forward to visiting both areas again in the summer months!

Oh, and if you didn’t know, our grand daughter Freya Grace was born on 28th June and is doing well, along with mum and dad!

Old School Gardener


Gardening for Wildlife…

We recently hosted a visit to our garden by students from our local school, who came to look at how we garden with wildlife in mind, how we attract wildlife of all sorts and create a balanced ecosystem. We all had a great time! We began by looking at our live moth trap that had […]

via Young naturalists visit Avocet — greenbenchramblings

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

Well, old friend, back in blighty! It’s been a month of trying to get some semblance of ‘order’ in Old School Garden, having left nature to itself for six weeks whilst we were away in Australia.

The weather this month has been rather dull for August, so much the same as we left Victoria in mid winter! I won’t say that I was ‘pleasantly surprised’ at how the garden looked on our return, for many areas had been overrun with annual weeds, and of course the grass was pretty long…. but not as long as expected.

However, after a mammoth grass cut and several sessions of ‘speed weeding’- especially trying to get out those weeds that were in flower and going to seed- everything of course looked better.

Since then its been a case of turning my attention to various construction projects; initially repairing windows on the house (at the time of writing I’m just about to fit three new openings that replace those that had rotted beyond filler) and repainting, and more recently dismantling the old shed in the Kitchen Garden, laying an extended base of flagstones and soon to begin constructing a new potting shed from floorboards and other salvaged timber…quite a project. As you might remember, I purchased a number of cedar shingles a year or two ago in order to give the new shed a more ornamental appearance.

Extended shed base …job done (but a bit of a clean required)

I’ve also continued the restructuring of the Kitchen Garden. I’ve already moved some of the fruit bushes to new plots. More recently I replaced the rather scruffy paved path next to the courtyard sheds wall with a topping of pea shingle, in keeping with the other paths in this area. Here are a few pictures of the Kitchen Garden…a work in progress!

Once the shed is built it will be  time to replace some of the edging boards to the various raised beds and relocate the various trellises to provide a visual screen to the front edge of this area, plus a new entrance (I plan to use an old metal gate) and creation of a Rose-lined path from this into the Kitchen Garden (using posts and ropes as swags along which to train the six ‘Compassion’ Roses that I planted earlier in the year and which have established themselves very well). I think I’ll go for a grey colour scheme on all these new wooden structures. Here’s a gallery of some good floral interest in the garden at present…

You may also have seen that I’ve been going along to the Aylsham Roman Dig nearby- I got involved in this last year. This has been a fascinating and rewarding experience. We’ve (re) uncovered not only the two Roman kilns we excavated last year- these are now thought to be of national significance- but new areas have been opened up which suggest that the site has been in pretty much continuous occupation for two thousand years! There are decades of futther work to be done here and my hope is that this community project grows year on year so that the story of the site- complete with Roman villa, iron working as well as pottery making and occupation for 2,000 years- can be fully explored.

I was also pleased to hear the ‘The Grow Organisation’ in Norwich (you will recall I’ve been advising and helping them develop a hub for horticultural therapy?), have been awarded funding by the local NHS Foundation Trust to get the project going, with an emphasis on preventing male suicides. This is great news and will really keep the fantastic momentum going on this site where Forces Veterans and others are already making a difference.

Turning back to Australia, I wonder if you think it would be interesting if I did a series of posts delving into the Green Spaces I visited there a little more? As you will have seen I’ve done a few posts with some selected pictures to broadly illustrate where I went, and was conscious that I didn’t want to bombard you and others with all my ‘holiday snaps’, but at least one blog follower has suggested that I could share my reflections on what I discovered…what do you think?

Perhaps I’ll post an initial item on the first green space I visited just as a trial run- I promise it won’t be too wordy, just a sort of  ‘Cooke’s Tour’ with some of the better photographs I managed?

I was delighted to hear that you’ve overcome your recent bout of ill health, and no doubt you and Lise are enjoying the summer….I can just picture you sitting out on the terrace, a glass of Pimms in hand, looking at the butterflies and listening to the birds…Here are a few general shots of the garden to finish with, hope you enjoy them…

Old School Gardener











Hull…the best laid plans…

Hull, as I hope you all know, is the UK’s City of Culture for 2017. You really don’t need an excuse to visit the city but, if that’s an incentive so much the better, because it’s worth it – Hull is one of the friendliest and most interesting places I’ve been to in a long […]

via Municipal Dreams in Hull, Part I: The best laid plans… — Municipal Dreams


Do it: prune wall trained fruit Prune new shoots to three leaves above the basal cluster Step 1 Wall trained or growth restricted fruit trees such as espalier, fan and cordon trained apples, pears and plums should be pruned in late summer exposing ripening fruit to additional light and air. Pruning should only take place…

via Monthly Masterclass: August — Winterbourne House and Garden

Joe Pye Weed…

August brings not just the Susans, but also Joe – as in Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium). Note that Joe Pye Weeds used to be Eupatoriums, but now thanks to the ever-busy taxonomists they are Eutrochiums. This is arguably an improvement since Eutrochium is one syllable shorter. (I’ve written my Senator demanding passage of a bill barring […]

via Hey Joe (Pye Weed) — gardeninacity

Guest Post by Maria Cannon, from Dallas, Texas, who believes we’re never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. Her hobbies–like gardening–played a major role in maintaining her physical and mental health.

Gardening is a great way to spend time outdoors, get more fresh food into your diet, and transform your yard into something beautiful. But there’s one big benefit of starting a backyard garden that doesn’t get as much attention: It’s great for your mental health. Don’t believe us? Here are seven incredible things a garden can do for your mental wellbeing.

1. It Relieves Stress

A 2010 study found that 30 minutes of gardening reduced levels of the hormone cortisol, too much of which is linked to chronic stress, poor memory function, and weakened immune systems, among other health problems. Gardening outside not only had a greater effect on participants’ cortisol levels than 30 minutes of leisure reading, but the effects lasted long after leaving the garden.

2. It Eases Mental Fatigue

When your to-do list has you feeling mentally exhausted, a stroll through the garden might be the remedy you need. Time in nature has been shown to ease the mental fatigue that leaves you irritable, inattentive, and forgetful. A few minutes spent weeding or cutting flower blooms lightens the demand on your mind — a welcome break from busy work and home environments where you must tend to several things at once. After a period of quiet contemplation, you’ll enjoy a less stressed, more focused mind.

3. It Combats Depression and Anxiety

There’s a reason horticultural therapy is quickly gaining popularity. Gardening is becoming respected as an effective way to combat mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Time spent outdoors is linked to better emotional regulation and less ruminating, or dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings.Gardening also helps you meet the weekly recommended amount of moderate physical activity, another important tool in managing mood disorders.

4. It Helps Attention Deficits

Just 20 minutes spent in nature can improve concentration in children with ADHD, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In fact, a short nature work improved children’s performance on concentration tests as well as or better than ADHD medication. And the concentration benefits of nature aren’t limited to children with ADHD: Adults with ADHD see improvements in concentration and impulse control after time outdoors, too.

5. It Strengthens Memory

That 20 minutes of nature can improve your short-term memory, too. Researchers at the University of Michigan found people perform 20 percent better on memory tests after spending time in natural setting over an urban one. This science has been applied to memory care facilities serving patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, where you can often find memory gardens designed to benefit sufferers’ memory function, cognitive ability, and stress levels.

6. It Improves Self-Esteem

Gardening can also improve your self-esteem — an important benefit for people with depression struggling to love themselves. Just one session in the garden has been shown to measurably improve self-esteem, with participants reporting less tension and better self-perception after tending to a garden.

7. It Makes You Feel Alive

At this point, it may sound like gardening is a miracle drug. And it just might be: One of the most stunning findings about gardening and mental health is that gardening increases vitality. People report feeling more energized, inspired, and motivated after spending time in nature, but those same benefits were lacking for activities that don’t involve green space.

 With all these amazing benefits, there’s no reason not to make gardening part of your life. After all, what’s more important than protecting your mental health? For people currently experiencing mental illness, gardening can lessen symptoms and serve as a healthy coping strategy. Not only can it help sufferers fight their illness, but it serves as a positive, productive alternative to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug or alcohol abuse. For people without a history of mental illness, gardening is a wonderful way to preserve and improve your mental well-being for the long-term. And who doesn’t want that?

Top image via Unsplash

Author: Maria (






A small group of volunteers were in on this week’s trip to Blickling. We began the day weeding around the glorious herbaceous border that abuts the parterre on two sides.

A couple picked their way through the dense planting whilst the rest of us hoed, raked and removed the grass and other seedlings that had taken a grip amongst the gravel paths. Though the path was a bit wet in places- not helped by some blocked drains- it was generally a satisfying task, even though it took some deft fingertip sorting of the small tufts of grass from amongst the muddy shingle.

During the morning the sound of chain saws was a constant background hum. I discovered that a large oak tree just over from where we were, was in the course of being felled. Apparently ultra sound testing had confirmed internal rot, that visual observation of a tilting trunk had suggested earlier. Work on the massive tree had begun a few days before, and I learned that during this a bees nest had been disturbed and that several people had been stung by the angry bees; Assistant Head Gardener Steve included. Having been chased to the bothy in the process, Steve was attacked again by the waiting bees as he re-emerged! A brief chat with him on our way to lunch confirmed that he wasn’t feeling too bad after his ordeal. I was pleased to hear that the felled timber is to be used to create some raised beds (probably along with a whole lot else) in the Walled Garden. You can get an idea of the scale of the tree in the picture below, alongside which I’ve included a couple of shots from the double borders.

After lunch in the Walled Garden bothy,  new volunteer Tim and I gathered up some onions and put them in the glasshouse for drying, and then harvested some runner beans; Project Manager Steve offered some of these to us (a nice treat for the evening meal at home, as my own plants hadn’t been yielding many), and I finished the day by carrying over the rest to the restaurant for their use. It really is impressive how much produce is now finding it’s way into the meals prepared in the on site restaurant.

On my way back to the car I stopped off at the beginning of some of the estate walks, where a new sign had been installed that uses laser cut etching onto the surface of bare wood (see pictures below). This looks very attractive and is being considered as the way we might present the written information on each of the Trees in the gardens that will form the new Tree Trail I’ve been working on. My only concerns are that the lettering might, over time, lose it’s legibility and the surface of the bare oak plaque used for the signs might also crack with weathering. We shall no doubt look into this further to arrive at a final solution by next Spring.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener








“Among those who understand the systemic nature of our problems, the controlled crash option is the subject of what may be the most interesting and important conversation that’s taking place on the planet just now. But only informed people who have gotten over denial and self-delusion are part of it.”

via When and How Will Growth Cease? — GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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