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WP_20151008_12_52_21_ProAfter just a few minutes weeding (in the Orangery Garden once more), Ed (one of the gardeners at Blickling) asked me if I’d like a change of role- to help Peter continue strimming (or ‘Whipper Snipping’ as they say in Australia).

I was easy either way, so went with him to be briefed on the safe use of a rather good strimmer, and to receive my safety mask and ear protectors. So far so good. The cord used in these machines is seriously tough (I think it is a metal cable sheathed in plastic), so will cut through some thick stems if needed.

You  might recall from my previous session that Peter had started to clear alongside the boundary hedge between the gardens and wider estate, some of which is set in the bottom of a ha ha (ditch). The idea was to clear a path alongside this hedge so that it can be easily trimmed. I began a stretch beside the Orangery and was soon impressed with the cutting power of the machine. However, I soon discovered that, strong though it is, the cable cutter was no match for the wire fence alongside the path and so I was left with a short length of cable!

It took a good few minutes to replace this (not before returning it to the workshop and putting the machine in a vice to enable the very short length of cable that remained to be pulled through and replaced).

It had been some time since I’d used a strimmer, but it soon became relatively easy – notwithstanding that the gap I was working in tapered dangerously close to a barbed wire fence (necessitating a diversion) and there were some thick saplings of sycamore and other species that had punched their way up through and alongside the hedge and required pruning off with secateurs. Still, I completed a reasonable stretch before ending for the day. There was also time for a quick look at the double borders, which maintain their floral splendour..

Oh, and just out of interest, the Urban Dictionary refers to Whipper- Snipping somewhat differently:

‘A snippet is a brief quotable passage. People who think in snippets are called ‘whipper-snippers.’

Women have a greater propensity to hear snippets and deduce from them because they have conversational skills that men don’t have and men tend to internalize and think about things differently.

While driving in a car:

Man: Oh! There’s that trading firm. I made millions off of them.

Woman: Williams!? What is that!? Williams!? Williams!? What is that!?!

Man: Williams!? What is Williams!? I said millions, ‘whipper-snipper.’ Where do you get ‘williams’ from ‘millions’ talking about a trading firm!?’

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

gardening_hints_windy_gardens_windswept_treeHave you got an exposed garden? In these sites- especially on hillsides or in coastal areas- wind can cause more damage than frost or cold. Think about the best ways of providing some shelter.

A solid wall or fence can make wind eddy over the top and can cause strong back-drafts on the leeward side. Instead, filter the wind to slow it down with a hedge or artificial wind break, which will give useful shelter for a distance about ten times its height on the leeward side. Another option- if you have the space- is to plant a shelter belt of trees. If you have views out from the garden that you want to preserve, try creating ‘windows’ in a hedge or other barrier.

Here are four typical problems in windy sites and tips on what to do about them…

1. Growth

Problem: Wind slows plant growth by increasing water loss through evaporation. This can significantly reduce the yields of vegetables.

Tip: protect the vegetable plot with wind break netting or a natural barrier like a hedge.

2. Pollination

Problem: Pollinating insects avoid windy areas.

Tip: To get good pollination of fruit crops grow them against sheltered walls.

3. Leaves and flowers

Problem: Plants with big leaves and those that come into flower early in the season are more vulnerable to wind damage.

Tip: Avoid growing such plants or place them in sheltered spots.

4. New plants

Problem: New plants, particularly evergreens, are especially susceptible to wind damage.

Tip: Protect these plants with wind break netting until they are well establishes and keep all new plants well watered.

Windbreak fabric can be an effective method of sheltering your vegetables

Wind break netting can be an effective method of sheltering your vegetables

Further information: Gardening hints for windy and exposed gardens

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

Old School Gardener

The Lime Walk at Arley Hall, Cheshire, an example of pleaching
The Lime Walk at Arley Hall, Cheshire, an example of pleaching

It’s that time of year when the summer growth of hedges – at least those that need to be kept in trim- is being cut back. Joe Sloley from Hintlesham has an interesting opportunity with one of his hedges:

‘I have a row of overgrown lime trees which originally formed a screen and which I want to cut back and pleach. Are limes suitable for this kind of training and what are the details of the method?’

Pleaching or plashing (an early synonym) was common in gardens from late medieval times to the early eighteenth century. It means the interweaving of growing branches of trees and shrubs to form a hedge, living fence or arbour which provides a strong barrier, shaded paths or garden features.  The word ‘plexus’ derives from the same Latin root word ‘plecto’, meaning to weave or twist together. This craft had originally been developed by European farmers who used it to make their hedgerows more secure.

 "Walking in a thick pleached alley in mine orchard" - William Shakespeare, 'Much Ado About Nothing'

Pleached Trees and an underlying Yew hedge ay Dipley Mill, Hampshire, via  Angus Kirk

Pleached Trees and an underlying Yew hedge ay Dipley Mill, Hampshire, via
Angus Kirk

Today the term tends to be used to refer to what might be called the process of creating a ‘hedge on stilts’ where (usually smooth-barked) trees have their lower side growth removed and the higher growth is pruned and trained to form a continuous, elevated hedge.

Limes can certainly be pleached: they have pliable growth, and the shoots rapidly grow long enough to be woven in and out. Once the trees have been cut back to the height you require, the lower part of the trunks should be cleared of side growths. Then attach horizontal canes or wires to the trunks and across the gaps between the trees. Allow new shoots to grow out sideways; any which grow forwards or backwards should be pruned out completely. The side shoots are tied to the canes/ wires and when plentiful enough are interwoven with one another. As the shoots mature into branches, the canes or wires can be dispensed with and new growth trained amongst the old.

Pleaching in process

Pleaching in process

Tilia (lime) is the most commonly used tree for pleached walks; usually the red-twigged lime (Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’).  Ash, beech, chestnut, hornbeam and plane can also be pleached, as can apples and pears. These can often be obtained ready trained.

Laburnum and Wisteria are favoured for pleached arbours and covered walks, especially tunnels, which show off the attractive flowers perfectly.  Use Wisteria grown from cuttings or raised by grafting, as it will flower more reliably and uniformly than seed-raised plants, and Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’ is a better choice than seed-raised L. anagyroides.

If you want to start a pleached hedge, select young, whippy plants that are more easily trained. Plant these out in winter and during the early years also prune in the winter when the plants are leafless and dormant. Train and tie new shoots in over the summer. Once pleached trees have reached their full extent, prune in the summer, pruning to shape the new growth and reduce the tree’s vigour.

Here’s a fascinating example of how pleaching could be used to ‘grow homes’!

fab-tree-hab

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS guide to pleaching

Pleaching- the art of taming nature by Jardin Design

See through boundaries

Healthy Hedges with Crisp Edges

Old School Gardener

A work of art in East Rudham, Norfolk
A work of art in East Rudham, Norfolk

Stepped and repeating curves

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Cotoneastersaurus

Seen somewhere in Yorkshire….

Old School Gardener

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A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Smell the air

iLandscape.com.au

Two projects in the village of Cawston, Norfolk enabled me to ‘cut my teeth’ on designing playful landscapes.

Both were completed about 6 years ago and largely on a voluntary basis. I remain involved at the local Primary School, helping them with their School Gardening activities, but my early involvement was in designing, sourcing planting and organising the creation of an ‘Eco Park’ – basically to try and diversify the habitats and play opportunities in a bland, mown grass playing field with a solitary multi function play unit. The design features a curved mixed native species hedge (which is now over 2 metres high) and a haven for wildlife, several groupings of native trees such as Silver Birch, Hazel, Douglas Fir, Beech, Oak, Feild Maple, Mountain Ash and Black Poplar, and some areas of shallow mounding.

The planting has been used to create several different spaces, and grass within these has been left to grow long both to provide varied habitats and interesting play areas. In addition a ‘Nectar Bar’ of insect – friendly herbaceous and other flowering plants has been created alongside the school, including a painted pergola which both helps to privide shade to the south – facing side of the school and added planting interest.

The second project involved working on commission for the Parish Council and a local charity to design, seek funding, consult local people and supervise the creation of a new play landscape at the ‘Oakes Family Field’ located to one side of the village. The design was constrained by the need to retain areas for cricket and football pitches and to avoid placing play areas close to housing on one side of the field. There is a mix of landscape features including a large mound (with a slide), timber play equipment for balancing and enclosed social areas, as well as a selection of traditional play equipment in two main areas, one for younger, one for older children. Over £100,000 was raised from various sources and so a wide range of play equipment and features has been possible.

Old School Gardener

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