Tag Archive: blickling


To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

Exciting times!! We’re off to Heathrow tomorrow to pick up our eldest Daughter, her fiance and our grand-daughter…we haven’t seen them in the flesh for a year. As you know they are coming over from Australia to get married at our local church, and our grandaughter is going to be baptised at the same service.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you and Ferdy to the service and reception, which as you know is going to be held in Old School Garden. Needless to say it’s been all go here trying to get the garden ready, and as luck would have it, we discovered a ceiling down after a leak on our return from Ireland a few weeks ago…so the builders (who are already restyling our lounge) have some more work to do…as do I on the decorating front!

So apologies (and to my other blog followers) for being a bit absent on the blog front recently…it’s down to lack of time with everything else going on. Still as they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ I’ll show you a few select shots of the garden at its spring time best…

I’ve also been over to Blickling which is looking splendid…

And the Sandringham Flower Show Garden is progressing nicekly…we are sourcing pretty much all we need from generous companies and others, but have yet to find some largish trees to add height and structure to the design.

And whilst I haven’t been able to devote any time to the Reepham High School and College Allotment Project, we popped over to see it today , as part of the Reepham Food festival, which was a real delight, and where we managed to hook up with a few old friends. The Project has moved on apace with several major features being added, including a rope pump and an outdoor classroom, (this is under construction and is using virtually all reclaimed and recycled materials) and a new hard roadway and french drain to sort out the drainage problems..

I was over at the church yesterday cutting the grass pathways through the rapidly growing meadow environment and recently we had the fantastic help (once more) of the Community Payback Team, who cleared the ‘triangle’ near the church and on which I’ve sown a meadow seed mix….

This was just before another major gathering at the church, this time the 100 Bomber Support Group (our local airfield was part of this), held part of their annual reunion with us…there was music, cake and plenty of memories and history on show..a great time was had by all……..

I hope you and Ferdy are enjoying the warm sunshine as are. sometime I must tell you about our trip to Ireland, which was a great adventure with some wonderful sights and sounds (and Guinness of course). To round off here’s one picture of the Giant’s Causeway, a magical place..

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I’m writing this on one of a number of very sunny and warm days, recently -up in the high 20’s C in fact which is very unusual for April.

On reflection its been a very busy but also productive month in Old School Garden.

I’ll come to the garden shortly, but first I thought I’d update you on the progress with the Sandringham Flower Show garden; you recall I’m designing this for the Prince’s Trust and Grow Organisation?

Following a very useful Design Workshop where I gathered together ideas and other information for the design, I hit upon the ‘5 Steps to Wellbeing’ on the NHS website. The garden is called ‘Grow and Trust’ and is about a young person’s journey to wellbeing. It is important that young people are involved in the design and build process as the garden is the focus of a programme that introduces participants to garden design and gardening as a possible way into further education or employment. Here’s the design, which is pretty blank in most of the zones, as I hope that the young people will fill the zones with a selection of different features and planting to illustrate the five steps:

  • Connecting- all about relationships

  • Giving- in this case to nature

  • Learning- this will focus on creating willow garden features

  • Active- this will show ways of growing your own food

  • Mindfulness-being in the moment and reflection

Now we are focused on sourcing and making elements of the design and I’m pleased to say that a local Nursery, Woodgate in Aylsham, have agreed to loan us the majority fo the plants and other items.

Due to other commitments my sessions at Blickling Hall have been somewhat curtailed recently. but I had a very enjoyable morning there last week initially planting some Asparagus and later edging the borders in the Parterre. It was good seeing my fellow volunteers once again.

Finally, away from home, I’m very pleased that the daffodils and trees we planted at the local church are doing their stuff. Having just reinstated the plaque for the ‘Avenue of Remembrance’ the site looks great…we are planning further improvements like a small area of wildlfower meadow, the seeds for which I’ve just ordered. Here’s a recent picture of part of the approach to the church.

Back to the home garden. Well, I was getting quite anxious about getting on top of weeds before they take hold, in advance of our older daughter’s wedding in early July. Having put in some hours (some days with a very early start to avoid the worst of the heat), and in the middle of last week giving the grass its first cut , that I feel that ‘a corner has been turned’. However, I may regret saying that in two weeks time, when we return from our trip to Ireland! It always amazes me how cutting the grass (and if time edging it too) makes a major impact on how tidy the garden looks.

I’ve also been busy in the kitchen garden, and whilst several construction projects remain, I’ve managed to plant both 1st and 2nd early potatoes and lot of other food crops both directly (Beetroot, Parsnips, Carrots) and in the greenhouse (which has been given its spring clean)- Cauliflower, Calabrese and Runner beans.

With the wedding in mind I’ve been planting out and sowing flowers for cutting, to go on the reception tables. The colour theme is Purple, Green and white so I’ve a selection of flowers that will hopefully fit the bill: two varieties of Nigella and Nicotiana, ‘Bells of Ireland’, Gypsophila, Ammi majus, a white poppy and Cenrinthe purpurascens as well as couple of other more unusual pruple flowers (whose names escape me for the moment). I also visited another local Garden Centre yesterday and bought a number of plants for our two large hanging baskets; again in the same colour theme. these will all rest in the greenhouse while we are away, our next door neighbour having kindly agreed to keep them watered for us.

To finish off, then here area few pictures of the garden as its is today, just the tidier areas of course!

As you read this we will be on our way north for an overnight stay in Dumfries, and then the following day catching the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast for a couple of days stay. After that we travel around the northern Ireland coast taking in the Giant’s causeway and other sights, spending some time at Sligo before joining 6 of our oldest friends in Galway Bay for a week together. After a very hectic time the idea of a holiday certainly appeals, if only I can relax and switch off that is! All the best for now, old friend. I do hope you are enjoying the good weather, and hopefully it won’t be too long before it returns.

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

So sorry I missed my letter to you in February! Without wishing to make excuses, it’s down to an incredibly busy month or two …and it seems there’s worse to come!

Let’s begin with the couple of weeks away we had- a few days in each of Iceland and Devon, both very snowy and windy as it turns out!

Our return to Iceland some 34 years after our first visit (in the summer), was something of a ‘saga’ you might say, mainly down to bad weather affecting both of our flights, to the effect that we had added an 8 hour coach journey each way due to flights being diverted.

And the return leg was further complicated by bad weather at our new airport destination (Keflavik)…this resulted in a day’s delay and further complications which all in all rather over shadowed the wonderful experience of northern Iceland in winter.

We managed to see some rather spectacular whales, had a trip out to NOT see the Northern lights (another long coach trip at nightime!), and visited the wonderful Lake Myvatn area with its volcanic landscapes, Godafoss waterfall and hot mud pools; we took advantage of a naturally heated outdoor pool..with beer! Here is a selection of pictures…

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Our trip to Devon was nearly as eventful. A couple of days after returning from Iceland we travelled west just as the ‘beast from the east’ dropped its load of snow  on Eastern England…we picked up our share a day or two later courtesy of the collision of the ‘beast’ with ‘Storm Emma’. We managed to get out and about on Dartmoor  just before this, but poor road conditions meant we delayed our return by a couple of days. Here are some shots to show how cold, normally mild, Devon was…

Back in the garden its been spring cleaning time. I’ve cleared off the borders and pruned back summer flowering shrubs, and hopefully tomorrow it will be time to collect up the rubbish and dispose of it- probably a bonfire for much of it. My efforts on re erecting the trellis in the Kitchen garden have suffered a blow – witness this picture…

As you can see the upright I had to fix in concrete hasn’t survived the winds and so its back to the drawing board; I think I’ll level off the base with mortar and drill some pilot holes for the bolts, then try placing these in a resin compound that my builders’ merchant says will ‘do the trick’! We shall see….

‘m getting a bit anxious about all the things building up for me in the next few months, not least remodelling our lounge (just  had a bit of a shock with the builder’s quote on this) and getting the place ready for our Daughter Lindsey’s wedding reception…and of course all the other arrangements that go with this!

Add to this my usual round of Green Flag judging (I have 4 parks and open spaces to visit in London, including Clapham Common, plus two in East Anglia) and a new project; I’ve been asked to help the Grow Organisation with a design for a show garden at the Sandringham Flower show on the theme of ‘A young person’s journey to wellbeing’. This is being commissioned by The Prince’s Trust. This is an exciting prospect as I will be working with a group of young people to co-design and co-produce the garden.

Volunteering at Blickling Hall continues and most recently I had a very pleasant few hours edging the paths with some of the other volunteers. As you can see there’s also a lot of work being done to restore the Orangery- I had an interesting chat to one of the workmen, who explained how badly decayed a lot of the woodwork is, but it will look splendid once more, in the, hopefully, not too distant future!

And I’m very pleased to report a great success for the Reepham High School and College Allotment Project, where I’m one of the community volunteers; they’ve just won the Norfolk and Norwich Eco School award, which is very well deserved as it is fast becoming a major centre of school and wider community life, exemplifying the principles of permaculture and recycling. I was pleased to be involved in the visit of the Orchards East project, three of whose personnel came to see the orchard and provide some very useful advice on pruning and management; hopefully they can help out with some extra fruit trees next winter to fill a few gaps and diversify the types of tree in the orchard.

So, once again sorry for missing you out in thedepths of winter, old friend; I was pleased to hear that our mutual mate, Les popped in to see that you and Ferdy were keeping well, and I gather he stocked you up with food and few beverages when you were snowed in, too! You can probably tell my anxiety levels on on the rise, so hopefully by next month I will be able to report some real progress in Old School Garden as well as in the many other areas of my horticultural life! Keep well!

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

Well another New Year! It’s been rather mixed here, weather -wise, of late. Today is windy and cold with some squally showers, but it looks like it will clear a bit later, so that’s when I’ll get outside…

In the last week I’ve been re -erecting the trellis panels in the Kitchen Garden, with a mix of old and new posts (this time concreted in), to provide a clear boundary to the main garden. I’m pleased with the result, though yesterday, in an attempt to refix one post (in a metal clamp) to some concrete, I managed to burn out my electric drill, so that little adjustment will have to wait until a new drill arrives in the next few days.

I’ve also fixed the posts to hold the rope swags I’m planning along the entrance to the Kitchen Garden, up and along which will be trained the six ‘Compassion’ climbing roses I put in last year. The whole thing looks a little unkempt at present due to its original cream paint being covered with mildew. Once Spring arrives I will clean off the woodwork and repaint (in a light grey). I’ve also relocated and tied up the Blackberry to run along the back of this plot (which was previously the home of the raspberries). Here are some pictures of how things look at present…

I’ve also bought seeds for the Kitchen Garden as well as some annuals with an eye on flowers for our eldest daughter’s wedding in July; and some Early Potatoes are chitting (‘Swift’ and ‘Charlotte’).

Having had a satisfying day yesterday tidying up and burning off a lot of the debris from last year’s garden, planting a new Blueberry in a sunken pot and a few other bits and pieces, I feel that I’m making progress…still a lot of major structural work has yet to be done as well as continuing the tidy up.

In my regular visits to Blickling Hall I’ve enjoyed the company of fellow volunteers and the gardening team. Our jobs have included cleaning out the Shell Fountain and pond  where the Irises had invaded the pool and over grown the lilies, requiring a major job of cutting out, splitting and replanting (I’ve brought home a few spares for my own pond). Here are some pictures taken on the day…

Most recently I went in early and worked with fellow volunteer Rory  to clear leaves in the Secret Garden and then with a few other volunteers to mulch the main borders in the Parterre…it was a lovely sunny day and the Orinental Planes looked especially impressive in the winter sun…

I’ve continued my small voluntary input to the local High School allotment project where, with the students, I’ve finished creating some new raised beds and begun the process of mulching all of these with some rather rich compost and farmyard manure. A number of projects are underway here and I’m pleased to have helped arrange a visit of the local Orchards and Apples project to provide some advice about the orchard.

And speaking of orchards I’ve just been sent my data and other guidance to carry out a survey of historic and other orchards in the parish by the project Orchards East. This same project is also visiting the Grow Organisation in Norwich where hopefully they can help establish a new orchard as part of a wider ‘Fruit Forest’ area, complete with underplanting of fruit bushes, ground cover and other plants. The aim is to create ‘plant guilds’ to help establish and develop this important part of the master plan for the site. I’m popping over to them next week to help with designing a strip next to the Hub Building as a wildlife garden, sensory area etc.

Well, that’s about it as far as the past month is concerned. As we are spending a couple of weeks away towards the end of February (including four days in northern Iceland!), I think it will be a month of pottering and odd spells of tidying up rather than anything more major. I think I will also hold off sowing seed until early March….and then things will begin to take off big time!

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I hope you and yours have had a great Christmas! We have here with immediate family and some friends to help us celebrate.

As you will appreciate the last month hasn’t seen much action in the garden; mainly clearing leaves (the oaks have yet to give up all their leaves), and planting out of a few choice plants bought (on offer) recently; including some Verbena rigida and a white form of ‘elephant’s ears’. I’ve also managed to get hold of some Monarda (spares from Blickling), some of which I’ve planted out alongside the Kitchen Garden, others potted up for planting later.

I’ve been buying the wood needed to finish the Kitchen Garden so if the weather allows I shall get out and put up the trellis and other structural timber work in readiness for the new growing season.

I mentioned that I’d cleared back some trees along the western boundary and have since planted out a mix of native hedging (Beech, Dog rose, Hawthorn etc.) to fill gaps in the slowly forming hedgeline here.

As there isn’t much to show of Old School Garden, here are a few shots from Blickling taken over recent months. We finished off the year here with lovely party for the garden volunteers and I’m looking forward to another productive year here, especially as the Walled Garden is now pretty much into full production.

So, old friend, we now look forward to lengthening day light and the chance of increasing activity outside. Here’s wishing you, Ferdy and the family all the very best for 2018!

Old School Gardener

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I’m getting a bit behind…so here’s post covering my four latest visits to Blickling….sorry for the delay!

Session one involved weeding in the fruit cage in the Walled Garden. As you can see, after doing the bush fruit we wandered over to the strawberries, including ‘checking’ on the quality of some late fruiting varieties!

Session Two focused on clearing weeds from a part of the side borders, where its planned to create some raised beds for local Schools to get involved with. Rory and I set to and removed a large amount of Couch Grass (or rather it seemed a lot, but as you probably know the stuff will return…). After this I trimmed back the tendrils of the squashes and gourds which were starting to invade the perennial borders…some of the pumpkins are looking very large already…

The third session was a bit of a wet day and only a few volunteers were on site, but I think we made an impact in a morning’s work. First Rory and I replanted and strung together some tall perennials that had been uprooted by Storm Aileen, and then we joined Jane and Tressa in tidying up one of the glasshouses. The floor had been overrun with ‘Mind your Own Business’ and we decided to lift the metal gratings above the old heating pipes and clear this out, which revealed the piping and ornamental ironwork, and with the other tidying up made for a much improved scene overall..

Despite the recent stormy weather toppling some of the taller flowering plants in the Walled Garden, its still looking glorious…

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My last session was a switched day, so I was working with some of the Wednesday volunteers over in the Rose Garden, weeding, and in my case, tackling the large amount of lichen and other weeds that had invaded sections of the gravel paths. Here are some ‘during’ and ‘after’ shots. Quite satisfying, though I suspect in lifting whole sections of path surface like old carpet, that much of the original path is now in the compost bin!

Over the past few weeks its been pleasing to see progress in a number of other areas: the sun-dial that was stolen from the Secret Garden has been replaced with a replica (complete with 2017 date on the dial), and a couple of large oak trees have been felled because of infection – one of these may provide a good opportunity to include it in the planned Tree Trail, using its stump rings as a way of illustrating both its age and associated historical events back over a couple of hundred years. Work is also progressing on refurbishing the water wheel near the Lake, including a viewing area for visitors. And the metal tunnel in the Walled Garden has been finished and is looking great; as the apples grow up it will be come a central feature of the garden….

So a pretty busy month at Blickling (with a small contribution from yours truly) and it was also very interesting – and inspiring to see these pictures of the Walled Garden back in 2015 and just recently- what a transformation in a little over two years!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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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

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An early start at Blickling this week, and the first hour was spent harvesting some second early potatoes; variety ‘Nicola’. I don’t know these but have been told they are pretty tasty…’Charlotte’ is my favourite and I’ve just harvested a good crop in Old School Garden (I gather our neighbours enjoyed them too while we were away in Australia).

After that and reconnecting with some of the garden volunateers I missed last week, I went with them to the Parterre, which is looking splendid at present. The two Peters were continuing to paint the metal tunnel in the Walled Garden, with just the top half to do..involving painting from a platform.

The jobs in the Parterre were edging the grass and weeding. A fan of edging (it’s second to hoeing of the garden jobs  in my book), I found some reasonably sharp edging shears and managed to complete the set of four borders (new volunteer Tim had done one already) before departing home…to continue to get the home garden back to some semblance of order…

Progress is being made!


Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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It’s nearly two months since I was last at Blickling and I was wondering how the place might be looking, as it’s getting into peak visiting season.

I had lots of catching up to do, but after a few weeks with very little floral colour it was wonderful opening the garden door and coming across the double borders in all their summer glory.

It was great meeting up with the gardening team of staff and volunteers. With the other chaps I went over to the Walled Garden and was bowled over with the sight that greeted me…fabulous summer colour and every area with something growing in it, including a wide range of fruit and veg, all looking very healthy.

And whilst away the metal tunnel that runs the length of the central path (erected and welded together just before I went away) is now being painted…something the ‘two Peters’ were tasked with continuing with their tins of black ‘Hammerite’ paint. It really does add great vertical interest to the garden and will look absolutely splendid as the apples hat have been planted alongside it reach up and over to create a fabulous ‘green walk’. I also noticed a couple more new bench seats set out on the side paths which add to the scene.

Fellow volunteer Chris and I set about weeding between the rows of various vegetables (including some rather vicious globe artichokes), mainly hoeing with the occasional hand forking out of any larger plants. This was relatively easy work on a pleasantly warm and sometimes showery day…it was good to be out in the open and tackling some physical tasks once more.

Another pleasing sight was the south-west quadrant of the garden , which was the last to be cultivated. a fine sward of grass in the shape of a key hole is surrounded by vibrant floral interest and all symbolically done to represent the Indian flag, to link in with an exhibition at the House about the Marquis of Lothian’s connections to that country.

The whole scene was quite a contrast to Old School Garden,which after six weeks of letting nature do her own thing, looked rather less neat and tidy, as you might imagine. Still, after a lot of urgent attention since returning from Australia, it is starting to look rather more cared for.

As I left a little early (together with a bunch of wonderful Dahlias from the Walled Garden), to get on with the clear up at home, it was nice to hear ‘great to have you back’ from a couple of the gardening team… it was great to be back.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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Check out this article about the Walled Garden Project, which is now half way through its project development phase.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate/news/a-jewel-in-the-blickling-crown

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