Tag Archive: edging


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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The newly refurbished Bothy is nearing completion; a home for gardening volunteers, office and shop for the produce to come

The newly refurbished Bothy is nearing completion; a home for gardening volunteers, office and shop for the produce to come

I worked with recent volunteer recruit, Peter (another Peter, this one with an Australian accent), in this week’s voluntary gardening at Blickling. Whilst the other Peter got on with some welding of the metal edging in the walled garden, ‘Aussie’ Peter and I double dug some stretches of soil where new fruit bushes will be planted and trained into espaliers along wires.

Not much evidence of our hard wrok, but these stretches of soil are now ready to be planted up with fruit trees

Not much evidence of our hard work, but these stretches of soil are now ready to be planted up with fruit trees

The rest of the volunteers did some more tidying of the borders in the Orangery Garden. To the crackle of welding torch and a digger (driven by ‘Dud’), which Mike had got in to dig over the surface of the top beds, Peter and I got into some serious ‘Yakka’, as Peter called it.

I gather this is an aboriginal term for ‘hard work’. Well it was. Not helped by a slight back ache I’d had for a few days (after overloading the firewood basket at home). Still, we soon got into a rhythm and entered ‘into the zone’- that wonderful mental state where the unconscious mind takes over and you do things on ‘autopilot’. But this didn’t stop us having a good natter, exchanging life and family backgrounds, football and so on.

Meanwhile Project Manager, Mike and Gardener Rob were trying to install some of the remaining metal edging alongside the northern border, which the other Peter duly helped cut up into the right lengths.

A couple of days earlier I’d attended the Blickling ‘Mid Winter Meeting’ at the local High School. This is an opportunity for staff and volunteers to hear from Heads of department about plans for the coming season (the House reopens on 5th March). I thoroughly enjoyed this event, which had some fun, unusual and inspiring talks to get us fired up for the year to come.

My wife has been sorting out our family photos and similar stuff, and came across this old postcard of Blickling among several I’d bought many years ago. I think it dates from 1907  – and includes a brief, cryptic message to a ‘Maude Meachen’ together with franked Edward VII stamp. It shows the rather fussy parterre before its major redesign in the 1930’s – see how small the Yew trees are, which today are the huge ‘acorns’ that are the major structural element in todays garden.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Levelling up the new cross paths was this week's focus.

Levelling up the new cross paths was this week’s focus.

Having dug out channels for the oak edging to some paths in the Walled Garden in previous weeks, my colleague Peter and I had a day filling in the paths with soil in readiness for these to be put to grass.

It was hard work shifting sticky soil from a huge pile 100 yards away from the paths. These will form access ways across the four major quarters of the garden and will be grassed over- Project Manager Mike is yet to decide whether to turf or seed them.

In contrast to our previous session, today the weather was sunny and ‘crispy cold’ and the exercise (including arm extension from barrowing heavy loads!) was refreshing, if tiring. Two days on and I’m still feeling the effects on my shoulder muscles.  The first line of metal posts has been installed along one side of a quarter and with a nice dark mulch underneath starts to really define the shape of the garden.

Metal posts installed and mulched underneath in readiness for fruit planting

Metal posts installed and mulched underneath in readiness for fruit planting

It was also encouraging to see the progress on restoring the building in the corner of the walled garden which is to become a new ‘Gardeners’ Bothy, plus office and shop. This is expected to be finished by March, when a new crop of volunteers begins work; the recent ‘Volunteer Recruitment Day’, seems to have been a great success.

The roof well underway on the new 'bothy'- pic Blickling Estate

The roof well underway on the new ‘bothy’- pic Blickling Estate

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

More trenching this week, but we managed to finish this off...

More trenching this week, but we managed to finish this off…

In my first session of the New Year at Blickling the cold weather had arrived. My colleague Peter and I braved the wet snow to help Mike in the Walled Garden, by finishing off the trenching needed to put in the oak edging for the cross paths in two of the quarters in the new layout.

I was slightly embarrassed to hear that most of the other volunteers had already had a session last week, which I missed (having phoned in to discuss whether to come in with head Gardener, Paul). I thought the weather would put paid to any productive gardening. I was wrong! the team had begun the painstaking work of cleaning off sooty mould from the leaves of the orange and lemon trees in the orangery, so there are some inside jobs for bad weather days!

The ladies continued with this work this week. Peter and I made good progress, and as it was my birthday, I decided to leave after completing the trenching to go home to a nice birthday lunch and peaceful afternoon in front of the woodburner! Incidentally, I held back taking in birthday cakes as I wasn’t sure how many volunteers would be in, so that treat awaits the team next week!

Peter takes a break amidst a gloomy day in the Walled Garden

Peter takes a break amidst a gloomy day in the Walled Garden

Project Manager Mike and gardener Rob continued concreting in the metal uprights which will carry the wires alongside the main paths in the walled garden, where an apple tunnel and other trained fruit bushes will be grown. Though perhaps the Walled Garden doesn’t look much different to how it did on my first day at Blickling (exactly a year ago), on reflection an awful lot of foundation work has been achieved (including drainage and water supply put in, path edging as well as remedial pruning to fan trained fruit), and a good crop of fruit and veg from one side border to boot.

Some of the oak edging in place; hopefully this will all be in by next week

Some of the oak edging in place; hopefully this will all be in by next week

The latest big project is the removal of the rotting wooden and glass roof and walls to the second greenhouse, which will be renovated with anew structure in the next month or two. This, alongside the other Greenhouse, which was renovated last year, will provide a superb pair of facilities for raising and protecting plants, and I get a real sense that this coming year we will start to see the main beds populated and productive.

Mike is giving a talk to the Estate volunteers about the Walled garden Project this week, and I’m looking forward to hearing his review of progress and plans for the coming year.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Chard providing a bit of winter colour in the walled garden

Chard providing a bit of winter colour in the walled garden

In the last visit to Blickling before Christmas we had only a morning session followed by a wonderful Christmas buffet lunch where all the gardeners and Thursday volunteers shared a lovely spread in the education room.

Digging over the parterre border

Digging over the parterre border

The morning’s work began with the ladies going off to dig over the long border by the parterre (you may recall we chopped down the spent growth here a week or two ago). Fellow volunteer Peter and I helped gardener Jane (newly returned from a birdwatching holiday in Australia) in tidying up (yet more) leaves. This was a case of loading up from a big pile, rather than blowing like last time. Oh, and I discovered that we volunteers will not be able to use any machinery in future unless we have been on an accredited course, so it may be my flirtation with the various bits of kit here is a brief one!

After an hour of leaf loading (they were rather wet and heavy so my arms and shoulders were beginning to ache), Peter and I headed off to the Walled Garden.

Project Manager Mike was already here. I hadn’t been in the walled garden for a few weeks and it was pleasing to see the progress and to hear of Mike’s plans for the New Year.

Taking shape- metal posts awaiting fixing alongside the main paths- they will carry a selection of apples and pears trained as fans or espaliers

Taking shape- metal posts awaiting fixing alongside the main paths- they will carry a selection of apples and pears trained as fans or espaliers

Mike himself was just finishing off hole digging for the last of many metal posts that will carry wires and a selection of apples and pears grown as fans or espaliers. Mike told me that a local apple growing project had managed to identify all of the different apple varieties growing on the walls, some of which were not as currently labelled! He’s still pondering whether to put up wooden battens to fix new wires here, but as this is not normal or historic practice, thinks it might be a case of fixing vine eyes directly into the walls.

Some of the metal path edging is in now but contractors will be finishing this off in the New Year. It also looks like the drainage is all in place. I mentioned in an earlier post that money has been secured to fit out a new gardeners’ bothy (though Mike is having second thoughts about a wood burner in here as he doesn’t want it to be too comfortable!). And the refurbishment of the second big greenhouse is also planned for early in the New Year.

So, having got the low down on everything, Peter and I set about trench digging for the wooden edging boards that will be used in some of the more minor cross paths in the growing areas. These oak boards and pegs had already been prepared by the ‘Wednesday Volunteers’ and they smelled lovely stacked up outside the bothy- in- waiting.

My trench with Peter in the background, preparing for oak edging boards.

My trench with peter in the background, preparing for oak edging boards.

It took me about 45 minutes to finish one trench, just long enough to take me up to that Christmas Lunch. It was a nice event, with Head Gardener Paul thanking us all for our efforts during the year. As well as receiving a Christmas ‘thank you’ card from all of the gardening team, we each took away a bottle of wine and a bag of apples that Mike had gathered from the walled garden. A nice touch.

Oak boards and pegs awaiting installation

Oak boards and pegs awaiting installation

I can’t believe that it’s nearly a year since I began volunteering here; a year which has been a joy.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

A mowing strip using block pavers

A mowing strip using block pavers

Edging-

Keep edges to a minimum by making the lawn shape simple. Install a mowing strip (a hard surface level with the lawn) along the edges of the lawn so that the lawn mower can trim right over the edge. Any awkward tufts of grass and rough areas can be dealt with quickly using a nylon -line trimmer.

Further information:

Mowing strips

Installing a mowing strip

Lawns in small gardens

How to choose a lawn shape

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’ (Reader’s Digest 1999)

Old School Gardener

 

Nepeta- soem varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta- some varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of perennials and a few annuals, native to cool and moist to hot and dry habitats in scrub, grassy banks, stony slopes or in high mountains, in non tropical areas of the northern hemisphere. So as you can see, there’s pretty much a Nepeta to suit every garden situation!

Some members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their effect on cats – the nepetalactone contained in some Nepeta species binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria!

They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grey-green leaves. Nepeta plants are usually aromatic in foliage and flowers. The tubular flowers can be lavender, blue, white, pink, or lilac, and spotted with tiny lavender-purple dots. The flowers are located in ‘verticillasters’ grouped on spikes; or the verticillasters are arranged in opposite groups – toward the tip of the stems.

Nepeta can be drought tolerant, being able to conserve water. They bloom over a long period from late spring to autumn. Some species also have repellent properties to insect pests, including aphids and squash bugs, when planted in a garden. Nepeta species are used as food plants by the larvae of some butterflies and moths and as nectar sources for pollinators like bees.

Nepeta makea a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta makes a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta can be grown in any well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Some species, like N. govaniana and N. subsessilis prefer moist, cool conditions, whereas N. sibirica likes it fairly dry. There are a few tall growing varieties, like ‘Six Hills Giant’, with a more upright habit. These need staking or support to see them at their best.  Most Nepetas will rebloom if sheared back after their initial flowering (N. x faassenii and N. nervosa for example). Some won’t provide much of a second show, but their foliage will be refreshed and tidied by the shearing.

Nepeta looks wonderful when covered in flower from early summer. The pale, often lavender-blue flowers perfectly complement the hairy, scalloped and wrinkled, silvery, blue-green leaves. The flowers appear as a haze of blue from a distance. It is often used as an informal, low hedge echoing the colours of lavender (and is used as a substitute where lavender isn’t hardy enough). But it has a rather lax form and will spread itself to cover its allotted space (and more!). Nepeta is best planted at the front of the border, edging a path, so that when you brush past it you will catch the full scent from its aromatic leaves. Nepeta is also a classic underplanting for roses. The colours complement and the foliage hides the ugly ‘knees’ of the rose bush.

We have some here at Old School Garden and this year I’m experimenting with it in some raised planters to try to get a cascading effect, as I’ve seen it used effectively this way on top of an old garden wall in Devon, though I suspect some varieties will have longer stems than others so are better suited to this treatment. The pastel blues of Nepeta combine wonderfully well with pinks and yellows, such as day lilies and yarrow (Achillea). It also looks good with Allium cristophii and Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’.

Some suggested varieties:

  • N. nervosa ‘Felix’ – Compact plant with vivid lavender-blue flowers. (12″ H x 24″ W)
  • N. x ‘Six Hills Giant’ – One of the tallest growing Nepetas, with lavender-blue flowers.(36″ H x 30″ W)
  • N. subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’ – Pink flowers with burgundy bracts. Likes a bit more water than most Nepetas. (2′ H x 3′ W)
  • N. racemosa ‘Walkers Low’– has 8″ spikes of lavender-blue flowers.  ( 2 H’ x 2′ W)

Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'- foliage

Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’- foliage

Nepeta is one of those plants that thrives on neglect. Too much fertilizer will only make it grow lots of flimsy foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry growing conditions will encourage both flowers and scent. Many of the newer varieties of Nepeta are sterile, producing no viable seeds. This is a plus if you don’t like the weedy, self-seeding habit of older Nepeta varieties, but it means you will need to either buy plants or make plants from divisions or cuttings.  Division is not a requirement, but if you’d like more plants divide it in spring or in autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Nepeta longipes

Nepeta longipes

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

BBC – Catmint

About.com

One plant 3 ways- Nepeta design tips

Old School Gardener

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