Category: Heritage Gardens & gardening


At Blickling this week it was a case of more hoeing, or rather using the rather neat three-pronged cultivator to get under the crusted soil to loosen a rather extensive spread of weeds.

I joined Norfolk Peter in the Walled Garden where he was weeding alongside one of the glasshouses. Once again I was working in the side beds where nothing much is growing at present apart from a few lines of herbaceous flowers. By lunch time I had turned over a good area and attacked another with a border fork, as the weeds were rather more deeply rooted.

Nicely hoed beds…

I also noticed that some rather smart new hose reels have ben fixed around the walled garden which certainly tidies up areas where hoses had been more casually left lying, so removing a potential trip hazard.

I planned to return after lunch to rake off the loosened weeds and to knock down the forked area to enable the weeds in this area to be removed. However, on our way back to the Bothy we met Head Gardener Paul, who, in his usual cheery way, asked how we were and thanked us for what we were doing. He had also received my submission for the planned Tree trail we had discussed a few months before and wanted to discuss the next steps with me and Assistant Head Gardener Steve, after lunch.

We initially planned to cover thirty trees in the gardens with a small amount of interesting information on small boards placed next to each tree. I had researched all of these and also produce d a mock-up of a couple- here’s one example …

I’d given a copy of the thirty sets of text to Aussie Peter, who is also a Garden Guide, to see if he could add any interesting local information to what I’d found online; he said over lunch he’d send me a few thoughts, but that the overall proposals seemed fine..so that was encouraging. He also offered to carry on where I’d left off on the weeding to allow me to see Paul and Steve.

The meeting was useful and we explored different ways of presenting the information; either next to each tree or in leaflet form, as well as other options, like using mobile phones to capture codes at each location to enable an audio guide to be accessed. I favour beginning with simple foam back boards fixed to posts at each tree (and we also plan to add a stamp at each of the posts for 6 or 7 common leaf shapes for children to print out on their trail leaflet).

We might be able to convert the posts (I’m suggesting 3″ square oak sourced from the estate, with a sloping top) should an alternative approach be better, e.g. just having a number and name at each tree, with the buk of othe rinformation provided ona leaflet.  We agreed that the next step would be to meet up with those responsible for visitor attractions and marketing at Blickling to nail down the final plan, something we’ll hopefully do in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the trail will be installed by Autumn, which should add another interesting feature for the gardens over the quieter months.

As I left the other volunteers were weeding amidst the double borders, where, once again, the Tulips in the double borders were looking great, as are those in the White Border to the side…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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On our way ‘up t’ ‘ull’ (Up to Hull) recently we stopped off at a Lincolnshire Garden that was most impressive, Gunby Hall. This National Trust house was an interesting tour, but the most impressive feature is undoubtedly the gardens.

The time was right for a wonderful woodland display of Wood Anenomes and spring bulbs, complemented bya walk lined with flowering cherries. And the Walled Garden (where I stopped to talk to the Senior Gardener) and orchard are a delight. Enjoy the picture parade…

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

My latest session at Blickling was mainly spent hoeing between some of the side beds in the Walled Garden, alongside Aussie Peter, and we also spent time harvesting rhubarb for sale by donations.

I do enjoy hoeing, especially using the Wolf hoes that we now have . I also have one of these at home and I think it must be my favourite tool (well it at least pushes the hand fork for first place)- it’s a joy pushing and pulling and getting an effective result both ways with the two cutting blades.

I was also pleased to see the result of my (and others’) tulip planting last autumn- there are soem splendid rows of very blousy blooms (see above). Having hoed we harvested the rhubarb. Some stalks must have been as thick as my wrist, and we managed to sell off nearly two crate loads by the end of the day. I don’t think peter had harvested rhubarb before as he set about two plants with such enthusiasm that only a few straggly stalks were left before Project Manager mike noticed and advised to pull rather less per plant! (you can see our respective results in the picture below- ‘Peter’s plants’ are the two stumps in the foreground).

Still, no harm done, as the roots are pretty substantial. The other volunteers were involved in potting on tomato plants, and Peter and I occasionally paused to mix some compost for them. Meanwhile Norfolk peter and Mike were doing some remedial works on some of the irrigation points which had become rather sunk as the soil level around them has built up. It was a reasonably simple job of lifting them up and fixing them in a new wooden case.

There had also been progress elsewhere in the Walled Garden, as some new volunteers with a building background had begun installing the hard surfacing beneath the benches , which Mike says will make mowing the grass a lot easier! Progress continues on the central pergola or apple tunnel, with the arches now fixed in place and the bottom rails also welded on. The rest to follow shortly….

And another bit of progress as the roses that have been temporarily stored in pots on one area of the Walled Garden have bene relocated to the small garden at the back of the Walled Garden- a lovely little enclosed space, just perfect for plant storage until the time comes for it to be properly used…perhaps as a bee hive area, according to Mike.

The tulips in the double borders are also coming to their peak, so enjoy a few pics of these and our rhubarb exploits to close….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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Back to a Wednesday for my latest session at Blickling, and I joined a num ber of fellow volunteers in the ‘Secret Garden’ for a tidy up.

We forked and hoed our way around the clumps of ferns, and other plants just coming into life and after a couple fo hours you could see we’d been, as barrow loads of leaves and a few weeds were consigned to a nearby trailer.

Just before lunch I went over to see how the Walled Garden was looking and found a few gardeners and volunteers well into concreting in the metal arches for the Apple Tunnel that had been awaiting its final positioning for a few weeks. I took the opportunity of sharing some pictures I’d taken of something similar at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, which I’d recently visited. This tunnel is made up of some pretty old timber arches and some very old apple trees, quite an impressive sight (I’ll share more of Gunby Hall in a further post, soon).

After lunch I spent an hour helping tidy up a narrow border to the side of the house, where, amongst other things a ‘Chocolate Vine’ had managed to grow along and up the walls, in a very haphazard manner…I decided to leave it intact rather than lose a lot of the growth, but we managed to remove a lot of dead leaves and cut back a few of the more straggly stems on a Cotoneaster.. As I signed out and passed through the double borders, the tulips were really coming into their own…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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I was in early on this Thursday session at Blickling as I had to be off by lunch time. Fell0w volunteer Rory and I were sent off to a new area (for me); known as ‘the Parade’ it lies near the lake and offers an alternative route to the walled Garden.

We set about raking and piling up lots of small sticks that the storm ‘Doris’ had broken off the mature trees lining the path. On the way Rory pointed out a mother duck (or maybe it was a goose) and her three fluffy ducklings… apparently the day before there had been four, so perhaps Mr. Fox had been in and done his worst?

It took us an hour to complete the task, so now the gardening team can cut the grass here without messing it (and their mowers) up. on my way back towards the house I spotted Norfolk Peter who was on his way to the Walled Garden. He took time to show me the work being done on the small brick building that houses a water wheel which I think is somehow connected to the lake water supply and also disposing of the house grey water. Apparently plans are to put in steps so that visitors can go down and see the wheel in operation, another feature to provide some interest.

The water wheel building..in progress

After a quick trip to the Walled Garden, where the apple tunnel is currently being installed, we went to join the other volunteers in the Moat for a tidy up. I edged some grass, pruned a Buddleia and helped Aussie Peter lift out some sedge grass that was starting to take over one corner of this special area.

The moat looks very neat and tidy and it’s a shame that visitors don’t venture down into it to get a better look…that reminds me, I discussed the idea of putting up some signs to encourage visitors down here with Head Gardner Paul, some time ago in the context of the planned Tree Trail. I must remember to include this in our forthcoming discussion about the Trail, which begins with the Magnolia grandiflora that’s trained up the front wall of the house from the moat below.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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We took a mother’s Day trip out to this super National Trust Hall and Farm in Cambridgeshire. I loved the parterre with it’s combinations of Box and Euonymous and the Folly tower with some wonderful skeletal trees…

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Back to Thursday, this week at Blickling; it was good to see my fellow volunteers, who haven’t been with for a few weeks…so there was much catching up of news as you might imagine.

Most of us were sent off to the Walled Garden, where I was very excited to see the fully (well nearly) installed cold frames…what an impressive sight! They are just awaiting a set of stays to make sure they can be lifted fully open and propped whilst plants are placed in and out.

Norfolk Pete, Jane and I set about lifting the bed of Penstemons that had been slotted in here last autumn. We transported them over to the potting shed where other volunteers and gardener Rebecca were trimming them, potting them up and planting cuttings to propagate.

These are the Penstemons that are used at the top of the Parterre garden wall to replace the purple hyacinths that are just now coming into bloom. As I’ve been at Blickling for just over a year, I’m beginning to get the annual routine that affects much of the gardening activity here (and most places for that matter!); you may recall that a few weeks ago I was (once again) planting out Hellebores.

After lifting the Penstemons, Peter and I dug over the bed, leaving me a little time to help finish off the potting up. And as there were some hyacinths on sale I bagged eight and have slotted these into a border at home where some of last year’s were also put…sounds like I’m repeating myself?!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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I returned for a Wednesday session at Blickling this week. I joined a group detailed to tidying up the front edge of the moat, sitting directly in front of the main house entrance.

After a briefing from Assistant Head Gardener, Steve, we set about releasing a line of rather old, gnarled Fuchsia magellanica bushes from a smothering of Clematis montana, the latter climbing up the inside of the moat wall, scrambling over the metal post and rail fence and tumbling over the fuchsias.

Steve told us the plan was to cut down the Clematis after flowering and try to control it’s growth a bit more. This is a very vibrant plant and once established can easily smother anything that gets in its way. Steve had already prepared the job for us by using the hedge cutter to remove most of the fuchsia stems. I set to work trying to remove much of the dead Clematis stems that had accumulated over several years.

It was tough going, trying to preserve some living and soon-to-flower stems, whilst at the same time cutting back the remaining fuchsia stems. The rest of the group followed on by tidying around the fuchsias, removing quite a few leaves and tickling over the soil.

By the end of the day we had completed the whole border, and finished off by wrapping the surviving Clematis stems around the tops of the posts and tying them to the rails. Hopefully, we’ll still see some flowers in a month or two, before the uncovered fuchsias bloom later in the year.

As we worked, we spoke to several visitors as the House fully opened this week, and it was amusing to see and listen to members of ‘The Diggers’ group who dress up in period costume and impersonate various characters in Blickling’s past. Today visitors were cheerily greeted by former Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin and the Blickling Head Gardener, circa 1939!

I popped over to the Walled Garden where the replacement cold frames were in the course of being installed. The Staffordshire company who have made these (and who also restored the greenhouses), have done a great job. I was interested to learn that the frames feature plastic glazing which has been pre-fitted. This will lighten the panels and provide a safer surface, as he frames are strung out alongside paths.

It was also good to see the various metal arches that will form the ‘Fruit Tunnel’ along the central pathway. These are now loosely placed in their holes, awaiting concreting in, followed by painting and planting up.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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I joined the Wednesday volunteers for my latest session at Blickling. The task? Planting around 400 Hellebores in the Orangery Garden and Dell!

I seems like an annual ritual as we put in a large number of new plants…these add to those previously set down, a number of which don’t seem to  survive, especially in the Dell, where it’s probably rather dry on the banks.

The Orangery Garden has a woodland glade feel to it, as there are a number of large trees providing shade and a woodland habitat. Here the Hellebores seem to do better, and in my opinion, look better, as they’re in groups by colour range and make a big impression alongside spring bulbs just coming into flower such as Snowdrops.

In this area the Daphne bohlua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ was also in flower, and more importantly, in scent. It’s heady fragrance permeated the garden and visitors all remarked on it.

The planting here was a little easier being on level ground. after lunch we set about planting in the Dell where it ‘s a different story. Steep slopes are the main planting area, but here the impact is rather less, as the plants are spread out and dotted in amongst other greenery and fallen leaves, so the flower colour is rather more muted.

I wonder that the practice of replanting every year is continued, as nature is surely saying something about the choice of location, if so many don’t survive. Better to plant other things that tolerate dry shade, perhaps; e.g. Cyclamen hederifolium?

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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wp_20161023_15_51_29_proSo this week we were mainly lifting, dividing and replanting herbaceous plants in the Walled Garden at Blickling…

The ‘we’ constituted the two Peters and me, with Gardener Rob putting up support wires for the wall-trained fruit. Project Manager Mike had decided to reorganise the long border with herbaceous perennials into something a bit easier to manage and negotiate from the cut flower point of view. So lines of the same plants were the order of the day, rather than the clumps that had developed over the last year or two. The rest of the volunteers (there were only a handful this week), went over to the parterre for some weeding.

Digging all done...Mike resting on his spade, while Rob presses on with wiring up support for the wall fruit...

Digging all done…Mike resting on his spade, while Rob presses on with wiring up support for the wall fruit…

 

As we left for lunch, one of the other staff, Lizzie, was just starting up her seed sowing session aimed at children who are visiting the house and gardens (it was half term week of course). Some enthusiastic youngsters were more interested in filling some mini watering cans and pouring the contents over some nearby plants…oh well, good practice I suppose.

Lizzie gearing up for some seed sowing...

Lizzie gearing up for some seed sowing…

Over lunch, Gardener Rebecca’s young dog, Otto (who is kept in a cage in the bothy during work time) looked (and whined  painfully) as he watched me devour a rather nice Russet apple- I gather he had already had one earlier in the day and had rather liked it!

Otto the dog is in there somewhere!

Otto the dog is in there somewhere!

It was reasonably straightforward to lift and group plants before replanting them, some needing to be further divided. After the lifting out came the digging over of the border. This took us pretty much up to ‘home time’ and we conveniently left the clearing up to Mike, who had joined us after lunch to supervise and help with the replanting.

Regimenting the cut flowers...

Regimenting the cut flowers…

Mike told me that the new cold frames were due to be delivered on 1st March, so I look forward to seeing them installed. Also, I gather we are due to see some new volunteers soon, so yet more hands to make light(er) work!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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