Tag Archive: fruit trees


The final solution for the trained fruit trees along the central path?

This week’s session at Blickling was easier- at least to begin with- than the previous few. Norfolk Peter and I were detailed to measure out the positions of the new trained fruit  around the edges and across the middle of the Walled Garden.

Placing and tying in canes to mark the planting positions was pretty straightforward around the perimeter- Mike plans for these to be vertically planted and then trained. Then we needed a bit of discussion about the central path, where Mike wants to put in some angled cordons for apples and pears. Putting them all in at 45 degrees and pointing the same way proved problematic; we ended up with plants placed too close to the concrete footings of the metal posts and some cordons would have to wrap around the corners or there would be gaps at the upper sections if we stuck rigidly to the spaces between each post…

After a bit of trial and error we came up with a combination of outwardly angled and a vertical espalier for each complete stretch of the wire and posts; this would mean some cordons growing over the intermediate metal posts and the angle would have to be steeper than 45 degrees. But overall it seemed to be a pleasing arrangement, and after they were in place I could see two other advantages; the design would visually slow you down as you proceeded along the path (rather than being hastened through if they had all be pointing in the same direction) and the angles nicely framed the other central path where these cross.

The rest of the volunteers were off digging over the parterre alongside the Hall, removing dead or dying Catmint and roses and replanting with new stock.

After lunch, having finished off the cane placing, Peter helped Mike measure up the splendid carved oak top trim for the new noticeboard and I barrowed in some soil and manure along the borders in the walled garden in preparation for the planting out of the many new plants that seem to be arriving in time for my next session… so next time it will be more gardening, less construction.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener



WP_20160303_12_57_32_ProThe pace is quickening in the Walled Garden at Blickling. Having missed a session, I returned to discover the second Glasshouse restored and looking wonderful, with work to install the cold frames under way.

Cold Frames under contruction

Cold Frames under construction

I discovered that in my absence my fellow volunteers – ‘Aussie’ Pete and ‘Norfolk’ Pete – had been busy painting the metal posts that will carry wires for trained fruit.

Aussie Peter getting to grips with the painting

Aussie Peter getting to grips with the painting

In my latest session Aussie P continued with this, whilst Norfolk P and I finished off double digging between these posts in preparation for the fruit bush planting.

Project Manager Mike was well into asembling the wires, including the straining bolts that enable them to be tensioned.

And in the new bothy, work was underway to fit a new kitchen. In here I also saw a wonderful carved oak panel that will sit atop the oak noticeboard installed near the entrance, installed some weeks ago.

Sneak preview...part of the carved oak rail to be set atop the new noticeboard

Sneak preview…part of the carved oak rail to be set atop the new noticeboard

A new kitchen for the new bothy

A new kitchen for the new bothy

Whilst we three set to in the walled garden the remaining volunteers went about cutting back and tidying the borders around the moat to the house, which contain a bank of perennial Fuchsias.

After lunch it was a case of ‘all hands  to the wheel’.

As the house was due to open in a couple of days a big effort was needed to clear away the excavations that have been underway to install the Lake Source Heat  system I reported on a few weeks ago.

Along with a digger, tractor and trailer, which were used to remove some sloppy spoil, we loaded barrows and filled in a trench with crushed concrete, which was later smoothed nad compacted before having gravel spread to restore the pathway near the House.

Intense activity in a confined space...restoriung a path near the house

Intense activity in a confined space…restoriung a path near the house

Serious ‘Yakka’ once more, but a satisfying bit of work as the gardening staff and volunteers pulled together amidst the usual banter….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


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


Getting to grips with fruit tree planting- the group at Wensum View Park

Getting to grips with fruit tree planting- the group at Wensum View Park

You may remember that we opened Old School Garden to the public for the first time back in July. Apart from the fun (and worry!) of sharing the garden and getting people’s feedback, it was a chance to raise some money for some local ‘good causes’. The £300 raised was divided equally between gardening projects at Cawston V.C. Primary School (where I help out as a volunteer), towards the upkeep of the fabric of St. Peter’s Church, Haveringland- the ‘Church in the Fields’ you can see from our garden-  and to support small – scale projects in the Norfolk Master Gardener programme.

One of the latter involved funding some new fruit trees for a Community Garden in Norwich and the Master Gardener supporting that project, Jeremy Bartlett, has written a piece about the planting event yesterday. I’m so pleased that our little fundraising effort has achieved something worthwhile- I’ll report on other projects funded in due course, but for now here’s Jeremy’s article.

‘Volunteers spent the morning of Sunday 17th November 2013 planting fruit trees and an edible hedge at Wensum View Park in Norwich, thanks in part to a Norfolk Master Gardener Grant .

The park, at the back of Turner Road in Norwich, is owned by Norwich City Council and contains a small children’s playground and a large area of grass used for games and by dog walkers. Local residents wanted to do more with the park and set up Wensum View Park Community Garden Group in early 2012. Following a public consultation by Norwich City Council earlier this year (http://www.norwich.gov.uk/Environment/ParksAndOpenSpaces/Parks/ParksImprovements/Pages/WensumViewPlayArea.aspx) work to transform the space began this autumn.

So far there have been two gardening tasks, led by Master Gardener Jeremy Bartlett, who has had previous experience setting up and maintaining Norwich’s Grapes Hill Community Garden (http://www.grapeshillcommunitygarden.org/).

In early October we created a herb bed and planted crocus bulbs. This was followed by a task on the morning of Sunday 17th November 2013 when about twenty-five volunteers planted fruit trees and an edible hedge. A Norfolk Master Gardener Grant for £45 went towards the cost of the fruit trees and the 105 small saplings for the edible hedge were supplied by the Woodland Trust.

We planted nine fruit trees: single trees of Apples “Golden Noble” and “Discovery”, Figs “Brunswick” and “Brown Turkey”, Medlar “Nottingham” and Quince “Champion”, two Plums “River’s Early Prolific” and an unnamed variety of Plum, which was donated by a local resident. The hedge consists of Elder, Dog Rose, Blackthorn, Hazel and Crab Apple and will add to the edible harvest once it is established.

Our next task, planned for January or February 2014, will be to build a raised bed for planting herbs and vegetables.

Wensum View Park Community Garden Group have now signed up as a Master Gardener household and Jeremy will continue to provide free growing advice during the next twelve months.

Wensum View Park (also known as “Wensum View play area”) is located on Dereham Road in Norwich. Its entrance is between numbers 319 and 321 Dereham Road and it is open to all, free of charge, every day during daylight hours.’

Old School Gardener

The Small Tortoiseshell- under threat

The Small Tortoiseshell- under threat

The latest ‘Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey’ reveals that some butterfly species- notably the Meadow Brown- seem to have benefitted from last year’s wet summer, whereas others- such as the Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell– were around 50% down on the previous year.

The Small Tortoiseshell was once prolific in Britain’s gardens, but it seems to have been one of the big losers in 2012. Last year’s weather  is only partly to blame, as wider agricultural policies and practices are a key driver behind a longer term decline in butterfly species and numbers and parasitic flies may also be part of the story. Around three quarters of the 59 native British species are now in decline.

So what can gardeners do to arrest this trend?

1. Think about providing year- round sources of food for emerging and mature butterflies. Examples of plants which feed butterfly caterpillars are: Dill, Antirrhinum, Columbine, Berberis, Marigold, Ceanothus, Cercis, Cornus, Foxglove, Wallflower, Ivy, Hop, Holly, Jasmine, Honesty, Ragged Robin, Crab Apple, Oregano, Cowslip, Rudbeckia, Thyme, Nasturtium, Verbascum and Pansy.

Species which are food sources for mature butterflies are: Achillea, Anthemis tinctoria, Bergamot, Buddleja, Columbine, Coreopsis lanceolata, Red Valerian, Ceanothus, Marigold, Echinacea, Globe Thistle, Knautia, Lavender, Tobacco plant and Hop.

2. Try to plant butterfly-attracting plants in groups– butterflies prefer to visit stands of brightly coloured flowers.

3. If you have room, choose a quiet but sunny area of lawn where the grass can be left to grow long – some butterflies such as the Meadow Brown prefer to lay eggs in long grass.

4. Allow a small patch of nettles (Urtica dioica) to grow unfettered– these will provide food for some of the more common butterflies such as Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Milbert’s Tortoiseshell.

5. If you have fruit trees, don’t be too tidy about windfalls– leave some rotting fruit as a source of food for some butterflies.

6. Try to provide a shallow, muddy puddle in a sunny spot– many butterflies love to drink from these and they also provide essential minerals and salts.

7. Avoid using chemical sprays to deal with insect pests and weeds– many will harm beneficial insects and butterflies as well as the pests.

Groups of butterfly- friendly plants such as Bergamot are better than single specimens

Groups of butterfly- friendly plants such as Bergamot are better than single specimens

Sources and further information:

Guardian online

Butterfly Conservation

UK butterflies

‘Wildlife Friendly Plants’- Rosemary Cresser

Quizzicals- two more cryptic clues to plant, fruit or veg names:

  • Our monarch continues to work hard
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems

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