Tag Archive: ferns

Our second trip to a notable Lake District house and garden was Sizergh Castle, an imposing house standing proud at the gateway to the Lake District. Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The exceptional wood panelling culminates in the Inlaid Chamber, returned here in 1999 from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

‘A true patchwork of styles, taking a stroll through the House will lead you from the base of the medieval solar tower, through the Elizabethan interiors, into the French regency-styled Drawing Room and beyond. Cherished family photos sit alongside precious antiques, linking the past with the present day. In a house full of contrasts, fine craftsmanship can be seen throughout, from the impressive collection of Gillows furniture, to the stunning Italian-designed ceilings. They all have stories to tell, not least of all the splendid Victorian dining table, which awaits your uncovering of its tales and secrets. From the Battle of Agincourt, to the fight for Malta during the Second World War, the Strickland’s involvement in over 700 years of national history can be uncovered first-hand at Sizergh. ‘

The 647-hectare (1,600-acre) estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and semi-natural woodland. Its rich and beautiful garden includes a pond, lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a superb limestone rock garden.

Unfortunately an urgent medical need meant my visit was shortened, so some areas of the gardens I will need to return to. But I managed to meet the Head Gardener and compliment her on the quality of the planting in the herbaceous borders (with some clever twiggy supports) and the ‘square foot gardening’ in the kitchen garden. I also loved the Stumpery which shows off the ferns to great effect.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

In among the ferns and foxgloves in the Orangery Garden

In among the ferns and foxgloves in the Orangery Garden

My latest session at Blickling was working in the Orangery Garden alongside the other volunteers. The aim – to weed the borders and thin out the latest crop of foxglove seedlings. It seemed only a week or two ago that we were here doing the same…

Still, despite an aching back the following day, it was worth the forking over to see the newly turned (and surprisingly damp) soil around the neatly spaced seedlings.

Dappled shade makes for a distinctive habitat

Dappled shade makes for a distinctive habitat

The grasses and late summer flowers are still looking good in the double borders, though the parterre garden is now on the wane and slipping slowly into autumn. It’s also that time of year for hedge cutting (as I know from Old School Garden) and fellow volunteer Peter was detailed to strim the grass alongside part of the mixed natural hedge that divides the gardens from the wider estate. The gardeners will soon be cutting this back.

Inside the Gardeners' Bothy- we meet up, sign in and out and have lunch here...

Inside the Gardeners’ Bothy- we meet up, sign in and out and have lunch here…

Did you know that ‘strimming’ (a compound word of string and trim) is called ‘Whipper Snipping’ in Australia?! (thanks to my daughter’s boyfriend Shane for that one).

Do you recall the mystery plant I mentioned in my last Blickling post? Well it turns out to be Chelone obliqua (or ‘Turtlehead’ or ‘Twisted Shell flower’)…Here’s a picture of the example at Blickling…alongside a rather more floriferous shot from the RHS….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


The Regal Fern

The Regal Fern

Many plants cannot  tolerate damp, dense shade. But do not despair if your garden has a boggy, dark corner; one group of plants – ferns – relish such a site. Ferneries were popular during the Victorian era so you can create a period piece at the same time.

Choose hardy ferns for example Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) and the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), for the boggiest areas, and Aldiantum venustum – which needs neutral to acid soil- on slightly drier land. Dig rotted manure or compost into the soil before planting. Then enjoy the tender green and bronze- red young leaves, unfurling into rich green mature foliage.

Source and further information:

‘Good Ideas for Your Garden’- Reader’s Digest

A Fern Quiz

Old School Gardener

The Dell, Blickling- scene of this week's voluntary push..

The Dell, Blickling- scene of this week’s voluntary push..

I had a varied menu of gardening at Blicking this week…

I began with some ‘rescue pruning’of some old Espalier Pear trees on the orchard wall next to the Walled Garden. These hadn’t been pruned for some time and had put on a lot of thin growth (and some thicker, more rangy branches) in the past year or two. Working with Mike, Project Manager of the Walled Garden, we also tidied up the beds and paths near these old specimens and it now presents itself as ‘looked after’.

Mike was telling me there’d been a problem with something nibbling the newly emerging tulip leaves in the Walled Garden raised beds- pheasants were the suspected culprits! A few sheets of ‘Enviromesh’ over these was now adding some protection. I mulched around these with some shreddings to create walkable paths and finished off with the same treatment around an old Mulberry Tree in the corner of the garden; this will keep weeds down and moisture in over the growing season to come.

'Enviromesh' keeping the Pheasants from the Tulips..

‘Enviromesh’ keeping the Pheasants from the Tulips..

After lunch I joined the rest of the volunteers in ‘The Dell’, which lies next to the Winter Garden I’d been helping to tidy up in previous weeks. The Winter Garden was more or less finished (bar planting out some new Hellebores) and it looks splendid in the low afternoon sun, with the flowers of Witch Hazel, Daphne, Sarcococca, Snowdrops and Hellebores standing out against the cleared and ‘tickled’ dark soil- the fragrance of the Daphne is especially memorable.


The Dell is a sunken garden with different interest. Heavily shaded, and quite steeply sloping in places, it is home to a collection of ferns, evergreen shrubs and other such plants. We pruned some of the hollies back, tidied away on the slopes, pruning back dead stems and foliage, and of course removed- you guessed it-  more leaves!

 Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener



Old School Gardener

IMG_8624The second and final stop on our trip home from Devon recently, was Montacute House, Somerset. Surrounded by beautiful, formally laid out gardens, the warm, honey-coloured stone of the house glowed in the spring sunshine. There was a splendid display of tulips and wallflowers and a magnificent ‘cloud’ yew hedge reminiscent of those at Blickling House, near our home in Norfolk. We were fortunate to meet  a gardener in the ”orangery’, which, she explained, was not really in the best spot for this and had in the past been more of a shady water feature, with its tufa – clad grotto. This and it’s surrounds are gradually being replanted with ferns and other suitable species. Pots of standard Bay trees line the terrace outside where once orange and lemon trees would have been placed in summer.

‘Montacute is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass, glow of ham stone, and its surrounding gardens it is a place of beauty and wonder.

Sir Edward Phelips, was the visionary force and money behind the creation of this masterpiece, which was completed in 1601. Built by skilled craftsman using local ham stone under the instruction of William Arnold, master mason, the house was a statement of wealth, ambition and showmanship.

Come face to face with the past in the Long Gallery, which is the longest of its kind in England. The gallery houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Beautiful gardens surround Montacute, constantly changing, filling the house with scent in summer and providing an atmospheric backdrop for a winter walk…’

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Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

Another one of the ‘Tre’s’  or ‘place’ in Cornish. Trengwainton was one of those west country gardens I visited during my summer holiday in West Cornwall and Devon. The estate and gardens are huge and richly varied, so I’ll devote this article and pictures to the wider estate and gardens along with some general background. A following post will focus on the fascinating walled garden.

Trengwainton, located  in Madron, near Penzance, has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1961. The garden is noted for its collection of exotic trees and shrubs as well as great views over Mount’s Bay and The Lizard peninsular. A house has stood here since at least the 16th century and was altered and extended in the 18th and 19th centuries (it’s now a listed building).

In 1814 the estate was bought by Rose Price, the son of a Jamaican sugar plantation owner. Trengwainton was sold following the loss of income resulting from the 1833 Emancipation Act (which freed slaves on the family’s Worthy Estate in Jamaica). In 1867 the property was bought by T S Bolitho whose family still live in Trengwainton House. Rose Price planted trees and built the walled gardens and in 1925 Sir Edward Bolitho and his head gardener Alfred Creek continued the development of the gardens. They were opened to the public, for the first time, in 1931. The Victoria Medal of Honour for Horticulture was awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society to Sir Edward in 1961 and in the same year he donated 98 acres to the National Trust.

The day of our visit was sunny and warm. The walk around the gardens was a delight. Exotic plantations (many created during the 1920’s craze for exotic, new plants), give way to a long, winding, uphill approach to the House, which is lined with meandering footpaths and dells with running water, masses of different hydrangeas in bloom, all under the dappled shade cast by many and varied trees. This opens out to a large lawn in front of the House and beyond this to a pretty elevated walk lined with Agapanthus and twin focal – point pavilions. This area affords spectacular views of the coastline – and is obviously also a good spot to learn kite flying!

The estate is famous for its spring show of Camellias and Azaleas. The late summer show from the Hydrangeas, Agapanthus, Fuchsias, ferns and exotics, was very impressive – I must return in the spring to compare! As part of its campaign to get children to do ’50 things before you’re 11 3/4′ there was an invitation to create some ‘Wild Art’ (I couldn’t resist) as well as the kite flying and other adventures – a great idea.

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Sources and further information:

National Trust website


Old School Gardener

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My Botanical Garden

PICT2843PICT2942PICT1821PICT1830PICT1848PICT3062PICT3064PICT3077I guess people in common do have at least slight inclination towards collecting different artefacts. Then I am among the ones who have stronger tendency for collecting. Which makes me happy is not the possession of different items, but the ways they can be arranged in logical categories. From that point of view I could  find ferns interesting items.But I was still surprised to hear about pteridomania, a fern collecting craze in Victorian England. People got crazy collecting different ferns to that extent that some of the ferns got almost extinct! Honestly, I can’t blame them, arranging those photos I’ve almost started collecting ferns!

Pteridomania, meaning Fern Madness or Fern Craze, a compound of Pteridophytes andmania, was coined in 1855 by Charles Kingsley in his book Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore:  Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing ‘Pteridomania’…and wrangling over unpronounceable…

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