Category: Heritage Gardens & gardening


On a recent trip to Devon we revisited a couple of favourite National Trust properties on the south coast. The first, Coleton Fishacre, is an arts and crafts house and garden originally owned by the D’Oyly Cart family of ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ musical fame. The house, built in the 1920’s, is furnished in period style and provided an interesting example of a homely scale house, in contrast to so many huge ‘vanity projects’ of the pre First World War age.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But even more impressive is the garden with its typical valley microclimate providing the opportunity to grow some rather exotic species. I was especially impressed with the borders near to house with the array of Echiums in full flower and a splendid alpine raised bed. The wider estate is a rich mix of trees and shrubs with some wonderful views towards the sea. Well worth a visit.

Further information: National Trust website

 

This year marks the bicentenary of the birth of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, renowned plant hunter, naturalist, botanist and Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. On a recent visit to his home town of Halesworth, Suffolk, I discovered a modern day band of enthusiastic gardeners who are planning a big celebration of their famous ancestor.

Joseph Dalton Hooker as a young man

You may know that one of my voluntary activities is as a judge for the Green Flag Award- the bench mark for good public parks and gardens around the U.K. and beyond. I was honoured to be asked to visit Halesworth Town park recently a small public park in the centre of this old Suffolk Market town, jointly in the care of the local Council and ‘Halesworth in Bloom’, a group of volunteers who have spearheaded many improvements and projects to make the park and wider town a place of horticultural excellence.

During my visit i was shown round the Park and had the chance to learn more about the voluntary effort being put into this very impressive public park, and was also very pleased to see the energy and skills being put into marking Joseph Hooker’s bicentenary; this includes some special plantings in the Park with Hooker associations and a trail around the town and park featuring places, plants and other Hooker associations. The following text is unashamedly lifted from very informative Trail Leaflet produced and which will be launched in the town on 30th June, Hooker’s birthday.

Nepenthes x hookerianum- illustration by Anna Lu to be shown at the forthcoming botanical art exhibition in Halesworth

‘Joseph started attending his father’s botany lectures at Glasgow University at the age of seven! This stood him in good stead when he came to identify and record thousands of both new and known plants. To go on his first voyage of exploration circumnavigating the Antarctic he had to qualify as a medical doctor. He was also an accomplished amateur geologist, a geographer, meteorologist and cartographer, as well as a botanist. He was a skilled writer, artist and botanical illustrator, recording everything in his fascinating journals. He was able to measure and record air pressure, humidity and altitude, and to estimate the heights of mountains so accurately that his mapping of the Himalayas is the basis for all modern maps of the area.

An illustration from Hooker’s ‘Botany of the Antarctic Voyage’

He travelled on foot, sometimes barefoot when it was slippery. In India and Sikkim he travelled by elephant, pony and boat. He endured many biting insects and leeches, and braved man-eating tigers and crocodiles, as well as suffering altitude sickness. As is evident from his Himalayan Journals, he needed to be an intrepid walker and climber.

‘I staid at 13000ft very much on purpose to collect there seeds of the Rhododendrons & with cold fingers it was not very easy…. Botanizing, during the march is difficult. Sometimes the jungle is so dense that you have enough to do to keep hat & spectacles in company, or it is precipitous …. one often progresses spread- eagle fashion against the cliff, for some distance, & crosses narrow planks over profound Abysses, with no hand-hold whatever.’

His collection of thousands of plants, now carefully preserved at Kew, together with his studies of plant distribution linked to altitude, climate and isolation on the many islands he visited, was of significant importance to Darwin, with whom he corresponded regularly.

Rhododendron argenteum

Joseph Hooker, although he was eight years younger, was a close friend of Charles Darwin. They had met fleetingly when Hooker was 21 and was preparing for a long expedition on HMS Erebus as assistant surgeon. When Hooker returned in 1843, Darwin wrote welcoming him back, urging him to compare the flora of the different regions he had visited. Hooker drafted a paper showing the striking similarities in the plants across the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. This was a long time before continental drift had been mooted. Darwin was impressed. So began a close friendship, with Hooker helping Darwin with his botanical collection. As Hooker was preparing for his expedition to the Himalayas in 1847, Darwin wrote:

‘Farewell! What a good thing is community of tastes! I feel as if I had known you for fifty years….’

Hooker knew that Darwin had spent many years collecting material in support of his theory of natural selection, and that Darwin had been devastated when he received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858 coming up with the same idea. Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley persuaded Darwin to publish a paper alongside Wallace’s setting out the theory. That done, Darwin rapidly finished On the Origin of Species, which he had been preparing for so many years. It was printed the following year.  Their friendship ranged from science to domestic matters. In 1862 Hooker wrote to Darwin asking if his wife could recommend a good cook but she must be beyond the ‘the age of flirtation’. Darwin noted what a pity it was that natural selection had not produced ‘neuters’ who would neither flirt nor marry. After Darwin’s death in 1882, Hooker successfully lobbied for Darwin to be buried in Westminster Abbey and was one of the pall bearers at the funeral.

Joseph Dalton Hooker in later years

William and Joseph Hooker (father and son) were Directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew – William from 1840 to 1865 and Joseph from 1865 to 1885, nearly half a century between them. They were both keen plant collectors and highly accomplished artists. From 1806 to 1820 the family lived in Halesworth, where Joseph was born in 1817.

Sir William Jackson Hooker was originally from Norwich and came to Halesworth in 1806 when he had invested in a Halesworth brewing business. He was given a house here and a management position. There are still imposing maltings in the town such as those that now house The Cut and Kings Motors. The Cut Arts Centre retains the barley hopper in the Malt Room Art Gallery. William’s maltings remained in operation until the 1960s. However, he never had his heart in this enterprise and preferred to roam the countryside in search of wild flowers or, nearer to home, to cultivate orchids in his own hot-house. It was the age of the amateur naturalist and collector, and William and later his son Joseph were among the greatest in this country.

Sir William was able to become Professor of Botany in the University of Glasgow without any scientific qualifications because of his specialist knowledge picked up in the field and his published work.

At the University he was paid to give lectures to those studying medicine because most remedies were plant based. He built up a high reputation, producing many important illustrated reference books. As a result he was made the first Director of the Botanic Gardens at Kew. As Director, William increased the size of the Gardens to 300 acres and set up a library, a Museum of Economic Botany and a herbarium, as well as the remarkable Palm and Temperate Houses.

The Palm House, Kew

He used his links with the royal family to good effect and raised significant funding to develop the Botanic Gardens at Kew. Both he and Joseph were outstanding networkers who knew everyone important and used these contacts effectively to leverage what they wanted in the interests of botany and the Botanic Gardens. They also encouraged many other important plant collectors and William, with wealthy patronage, established a superb Arboretum. William’s only regret was probably not being able to travel more. His early expedition to Iceland was his only major scientific journey. He encouraged his son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, who went as assistant surgeon and botanist on a four-year expedition circumnavigating the South Pole and visiting New Zealand and Tasmania. To be accepted for the voyage Joseph had to get a medical degree.

Later, he collected in India, the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet, Morocco, the Atlas Mountains, Palestine and Syria, as well as undertaking an 8,000 mile journey across the USA. In the Himalayas he climbed Donkia mountain, which at 19,300 ft was the highest that anyone had ever reached at that time. On his travels he collected 25 new species of rhododendron, many magnolias, including Magnolia campbellii, and thousands of other specimens.

Rhododendrons at Heligan, Cornwall, grown from seed provided from Hooker’s travels

Joseph’s 150-year-old plant collection is currently helping in the reintroduction of original species to the Falkland Islands. The Hookers’ collections (Herbaria) consist of many thousands of plants at Kew and are highly prized.

As well as succeeding his father as Director of Kew Gardens, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was awarded the Order of Merit, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India, Companion of the Order of the Bath and the Presidency of the Royal Society. In 1858 George Bentham published his Handbook of the British Flora while working with Hooker at Kew. When Bentham died he left the Flora to Hooker, who edited the later editions. These, known as ‘Bentham and Hooker’, were used by university students for the next hundred years.’

2011 stamp issue to mark the 100th anniversary of Hooker’s death

Plants in Halesworth associated with Hooker:

  • Allium hookeri – small white allium

  • Crinodendron hookerianum – Chile lantern tree, evergreen climbing shrub

  • Deutzia hookeriana – scented shrub with white and pink flowers

  • Himalayacalamus hookerianus – blue bamboo

  • Inula hookeri – yellow daisy-like perennial

  • Iris hookeri – small blue iris

  • Polygonatum hookeri – creeping alpine with pink flowers

  • Rhododendrons (Sikkim) – Hooker was influential in starting the Victorians’ rhododendron mania by bringing back over 25 species

  • Salix hookeri – dune willow

  • Sarcococca hookeriana – sweet scented winter box

If you’re able to visit Halesworth on 30th June you are in for a horticultural treat as the Hooker Trail is launched. There’s also going to be a special exhibition of botanical art (from 1st July). For that matter, I’d recommend visiting the town at any time as it’s a wonderful example of local people playing a hands on role in creating a vibrant and beautiful community.

Hooker’s grave in the churchyard of St. Anne’s, Kew

Further information:

Joseph Dalton Hooker

Halesworth Exhibition of Botanical Art

The Hooker bicentenery in Halesworth

Halesworth in Bloom- the Hooker Trail

Old School Gardener

 

The Old Vicarage Garden at East Ruston is a particular favourite of mine, and one I take students to as it beautifully demonstrates a lot of key design principles and ideas. It also has a wonderful vibrancy and variety, including a dry river bed garden and other areas designed with a particular style. The owners are very knowledgeable plantsmen and come up with some delightful combinations.

It also has a very strong structure, largely created by the lines of hedging that the owners have planted as shelter belts; given it’s proximity to the North Sea coast. Though the overall style is ‘modern arts and crafts’, in keeping with the house, the hedges create a series of garden rooms with their own micro climates and connecting pathways, where a range of different garden styles have been successfully introduced. It’s located between North Walsham and Stalham in Norfolk, and well worth a half day if not a full day visit. I hope you enjoy the pics I took on a recent visit with our friends Jen and Dave…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further information: East Ruston website

Old School Gardener

Save

Having thought I’d done my last stint at Blickling for a while, I was pleasantly surprised to be released from Jury Service for a couple of days, which meant I could pop along for a sunny morning.

It was a relatively easy-going few hours. I started by joining Project Manager Mike in pruning the cordon gooseberries being grown in the Walled Garden. They have come on well since planting last year and now needed side shoots trimming back and suckers removed along with a leader being tied in to continue to gain height before they are fully ready to fruit- I guess this will be next season.

Rory was already at work weeding over the neatly planted lettuce rows and he soon joined me as Mike went off to a meeting. We were soon joined by the two Peters who set to hoeing around the metal edges to remove the weeds in the beds and along the path edges. We exchange a few bits of news, including my frustrating few days waiting to be called to be a juror.

Mike had asked me to go round all the cordons and espaliers to check if their leaders needed tying in, and so it was another relatively light task- and one I really enjoy- to finish off by lunchtime…as I had to get over to the local church to cut the grass in the afternoon before the forecast rain descended. I was pleased to see that the metal arches along the main central path had all been welded into place, and Mike told me that he was waiting for the natural ‘bloom’ on the metal to fade before the job of painting this can be started.

As the other volunteers were weeding over in the Orangery  Garden I didn’t get to see them, but if they’re reading this I hope you’re all well and enjoying the sun! As I’m writing this I can now say that I’ve begun active jury service and have a very interesting case to ponder. This and holidays will probably mean that there’ll be no more Blickling for a few weeks…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Well, a little sadness this week. Due to a combination of other commitments (including Jury Service and six weeks away in Australia), I had to say a temporary farewell to my fellow gardeners at Blickling this week. I won’t return until early August; by then I expect to see plenty of progress, including the apple arch fully assembled and painted!

I joined Rory (who had brought in some lovely cake to celebrate his birthday), both Peters and Gordon alongside the parterre where the hyacinths had been dug up. After collecting these we needed to dig over and weed the bed in preparation for the Penstemons. Tressa and Diane were busy cutting off the top growth on the bulbs so that these can be stored for next year.

There was plenty of chick weed in the border so we made steady, if not rapid progress. By lunch time about three-quarters of the area was done. On my way to lunch I noticed how the double border tulips are pretty much at their peak at present…

After lunch I had a quick talk with Aussie Peter, who is a Garden Guide here, to get his thoughts on the draft Tree Trail I’d been working on. He made some helpful comments and we talked about how the trail could be of use to the Garden Guides as they take groups around.

After this I met with Head Gardener Paul and some colleagues from the wider Property Management Team to discuss the Tree Trail. It was a very positive meeting and some exciting ideas about how to best present the information came up and will be further researched. I went away feeling that my efforts were appreciated and of some value in pushing this idea forward. I’m now firming up the numbers, route and text. Hopefully by next spring the Trail will be launched, including some fun elements for younger children as well as some interesting local and other facts about the 20 or so trees that will feature. Wwe are planing the route so that it takes people to the extremities of the gardens here, sometimes areas that they wouldn’t normally head for.

As I left,Gardener Rebecca presented me with a new pair of boots, as those I’ve had before are very much in need of replacement. A nice ‘going away present’! I wish all the team – staff and volunteers – at Blickling a wonderful three months!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Save

Save

Save

Save

We were very lucky to have a morning to spare before travelling home from seeing friends in Cheshire, recently. Tatton Park was a half hour drive away, so we headed off. I was eager to see this garden which is a prominent National Trust property (though run by the local Council) and features in the annual round of RHS Flower Shows. I wasn’t disappointed…

Our friends took us straight to the most talked about area here, the Japanese Garden. WOW! It was a delight, especially as the various Maples were newly in leaf. The sun was out and the garden, with its changing levels, water and Japanese feature buildings and monuments, was breathtaking.

After this we had an hour to get round as much of the rest of this beautifully kept estate, including fernery and palm houses, bothy, walled garden, tower garden and wider woodland areas with some superb early Rhododendrons. You could easily spend a day or two here exploring the wider parkland as well as the 50 acres of richly varied gardens…enjoy the pics!

Further information:

National Trust website

Tatton Park website

Old School Gardener

Travelling back from our recent trip to Hull, we stopped off at a National Trust property in Derbyshire, the north midlands- Hardwick Hall. The Hall itself wasn’t open on our visit, but promises to be a fascinating example of high 18th century bling, so a return visit is in store….meanwhile how about the gardens?

After a pleasant lunch, sitting outside in the sunshine, we made our way around the rather splendid house (picking up a brief history from a very helpful guide) and explored the interesting entrance gardens and walled gardens that sit alongside the impressive pile.

The gardens are kept in good condition, as you might expect, and provide a wonderful opportunity to diversify and create areas of interest in what might otherwise seem to be an underdeveloped layout. Certainly the mixed herbaceous borders surrounding the House looked to be firing up for a wonderful summer show, but I was left thinking that more could be made of the walled garden….maybe I’ve been spoiled by my experience of regenerating the Walled Garden at Blickling! However, it was a very pleasant walk and I was very impressed with the various neat and interesting ways of interpreting the gardens and what’s currently of interest…something Blickling could do more of…

We didn’t have time to explore the wider estate, but it would seem to be packed with interesting walks (including a sculpture walk), complete with roaming herds of deer and other animals.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

pbmGarden

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

SISSINGHURST GARDEN

Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably

BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

ABOUT MY GARDEN, MY TRAVELS AND ART

Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

aristonorganic

"The Best of the Best"

PetalPushin

Thoughts from a professional Petal Pusher

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

An idea exchange for kids' education

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Wild Plants & Animals Advocate

Focused Moments

Photography by RACHAEL TALIBART

Lightning Droplets

Little flecks of inspiration and creativity

crabandfish garden

This WordPress.com site is our garden, cats, chickens and travel musings

breathofgreenair

mindfulness, relaxation, thought provoking images and poems

Vastrap Farm

My new life as a farm wife

C.B. Wentworth

Just following my muse . . .

~ Goat Track Photography ~

Ian G. Fraser, Brisbane, Australia

%d bloggers like this: