Tag Archive: late summer


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

 

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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

 

P1000307It was great seeing how the pumpkins and squashes that I’d help to plant only a couple of months ago had taken over a large part of the walled garden.

On my most recent visit to blickling, together with new volunteer Gordon, I picked a large number and many heavy weight fruits on a bright, sunny day. We then managed to fill two trailers with the remaining foliage and stems and raked over the ground to leave it for weedkilling action; Project Manager Mike doesn’t like to use chemicals like this, but manpower is limited so it’s a must do in the short term to keep the ground under control.

The pumpkins will probabaly be used in the Hall’s forthcoming Hallowe’en events and the squashes in the restaurant, so its good to see that the developing kitchen garden is continuing to be of practical value.

After that we joined the ladies in weeding the well stocked veg patch along the south facing wall. This all looks very neat, healthy and tidy, despite the threat of rabbits and pigeons.

The Gardens continue to show a great range of colours and textures with Japanese Anemones, Sedums and various grass flowers now adding their sublety to the mix…

Last week I commented on how pleased I was at being able to identify (with their latin botanical names) three plants I was asked about by visitors. I said then it was probably a fluke, and sure enough this day, when asked by a visitor to name a rather unusual pink flower in the double borders, I was stumped- but then again so was another volunteer and one of the gardening staff! I’m trying to find out its name; I think it might be a Salvia of some sort- I’ll post a picture, and its name in my next Blickling post!

WP_20150917_14_13_26_ProFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

WP_20150826_19_04_46_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Another month and little to report as far as Old School Garden is concerned! As you know we’ve spent around 10 days away in Portugal (more posts on this to follow in the next few days), and once more we seem to have found some lovely and interesting places to visit. Fortunately my neighbours and good friends Steve and Joan were able to get in to water while we were away.

There seems to have been a good harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and soft fruit while we’ve been abroad, and this is continuing ,though starting to tail off a little (apart from the prolific blackberries and promise of many apples to come). The new watering/feeding system for the greenhouse tomatoes seems to be going well, though it seems many others have had a good crop of tomatoes this year too, so we must hold fire on any final conclusions about its advantages over other systems- but having the reservoirs does make watering less of an issue while you’re away.

Almost the first thing I noticed when looking round the garden was a new rash of mole hills and tunnels, so the mole man’s achievement of catching two, has paled as we seem to ave around four or five new and probably young moles at work! I swear they were waiting in the borders for us to go away before they came out into the grass! As we are about to go away again (to Scotland and Northumberland, isn’t retirement tiring?) I’ll hold off on any further action until we return-  as I have a couple of traps I might have a go myself.

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

You know I’ve been puzzled about my raspberries – you might remember that for a few years now the second half of the autumn fruiting variety has not produced any flowers or fruit? Well, I noticed one summer type- fruit on one of the canes the other day and that got me thinking. Maybe these canes are summer varieties and therefore I’ve been pruning them wrongly! I shall leave the canes that have grown this year and treat them like summer varieties and we’ll see if they produce anything next year.

The garden is looking very full and flouncy and its a pleasure just wandering around it or sitting on the terrace, though recent weather seems to have announced autumn rather than the expected dry warmth of late summer! Thankfully most of my house decorating is now done, so I can turn my hands to the garden more seriously upon our return from the north. I’m keen to press on with my pond project and I’m gathering lots of ideas for this as I look round gardens and parks on our travels. Also, as my old potting shed is now reaching the end of its life, I’m thinking about creating a new one using the floorboards taken up during our refurbishment works. This will probably be a spring project.

WP_20150826_19_05_21_ProWell, old friend, once more to the joys of packing cases for another trip, hopefully to include some beautiful landscapes and interesting places (we’re also taking our bikes!), as well as seeing our old circle of college pals for our annual ‘road trip’…

Good gardening!

Old School Gardener

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Flowers of Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Flowers of Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

 

OK, when you think ‘grass’ in the garden you’ll probably think ‘lawn’. Though they’re hard work to keep looking good and not the most environmentally friendly form of gardening, I do like the way a nice green sward sets off colourful and interesting borders. I’ve just given a part of my own lawn here at Old school Garden a bit of TLC, scarifying, aerating and treating with an Autumn ‘weed and feed’. However, living in one of the driest parts of the UK, means that lawn care can be rather disheartening, as it quickly turns brown in the summer.

But I’m not really here to talk about lawns. This and the next article in my new series aiming to help you with design tips for your garden, are focused on another use of grasses- in the border. When you think about it, grasses are probably the plant that humanity has cultivated the longest, albeit originally it was for food rather than aesthetic reasons. Grasses have been rather slower coming into our gardens, and then they have often been treated as ‘alien invaders’ to be pulled out and ‘dealt with’ as all ‘weeds’ are.

I suppose ornamental gardening did not really start in earnest until the seventeenth century and it was then that the first grass was listed as an ornamental plant- ‘Feather grass’ (Stipa pennata), grown for its long, feathery awns (needle thin bristles attached to the flowers of grasses and the things that often give them their golden glow as they catch the sunlight). This English native was listed in John Kingston Galpine’s Catalogue of 1782. A century later the famous ‘naturalistic’ gardener William Robinson was listing nearly 30 varieties in his classic book, ‘The English Flower Garden’. However only about twelve of these were used in gardens, and then as curiosities, as specimens amid the wider swathes of lawn grass.

Robinson, and later Gertrude Jekyll, were the founders of the Edwardian ‘naturalistic garden within formal bounds’ style (not forgetting my architectural and landscape designer hero, Sir Edwin Lutyens). Jekyll was specific about the placing of grasses – often close to water, but also in borders (e.g. Blue Lyme Grass or Elymus arenarius) and Luzula sylvatica (Common Woodrush) in woodland, used as ground cover.

Stipa gigantea

Stipa gigantea

 

Both Robinson and Jekyll were influential in America, where some grasses such as Miscanthus and Pampas grasses were proving popular, fitting in well in large American landscapes. This was the birth of the ‘prairie style’ of garden design in America where designers such as Jens Jensen and Frank Llloyd Wright led the way.

After a dip in popularity the style returned in the 1950’s, and at about the same time, on continental Europe nurserymen like German Karl Foerster (who’s given his name to one of my favourite grasses, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’), were assembling plants from around the world and associating them with the naturalistic style of garden design. Foerster was followed by another group of nurserymen who advocated the use of grasses in forming natural, self sustaining plant communities where pesticides and herbicides would not be necessary. Another stimulus was the growing awareness of climate change and the increased frequency of drought conditions, so choosing plants that could withstand these harsher times were a logical response.

Leaves of Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'- Zebra grass

Leaves of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’- Zebra grass

 

The combination of interest in North America and continental Europe led to the modern ‘new wave’ garden of designers like the Oehem van Sweden partnership in east coast America. From  here the ideas of naturalistic planting spread to South America under the patronage of designer Burle Marx and in more modern times via Dutchman Piet Oudulph, who has created some classic gardens in the UK and been very influential in the use of grasses and other ’prairie plants’ as stand alone designs, as well as leading to the increased use of grasses within traditional herbaceous and mixed borders.

This is how I use grasses in Old School Garden and in some of my designs for other gardens, e.g. the entrance border at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Norfolk.

So that’s the background to grasses in the garden – what are the design tips to follow?  My next article will tell all….

Part of the Piet Oudolph beds at RHS Wisley Gardens

Part of the Piet Oudolph – designed beds at RHS Wisley Gardens

 

Source: ‘Grasses’- Roger Grounds (RHS and Quadrille Publishing)

Further information: Prairie planting

Old School Gardener

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

Cosmos looking good at Old School Garden

 

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Sorry for the delay in this month’s letter. Having been away for a couple of weeks, I find myself playing ‘catch up’ in the garden and in many other respects too! The past month in the garden has been a relatively quiet one. The continued dry, hot weather has had a marked impact on the state of the plants, and not having been here for a fortnight has also left its mark, though I’m blessed with some very kind, helpful neighbours who have at least kept most of the vulnerable things watered – more on that later.

It was a joy seeing you and Lise at the beginning of the month, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and what you saw in the garden. That new crop protection netting I was telling you about arrived just before I went on holiday and this meant I was able to get it set up over a wooden and twine  frame to cover my recently – planted Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese. You remember this has a smaller mesh than the previous one I’d been using and is supposed to prevent Cabbage White butterflies getting at the brassicas? Well, it came just in time (or so I thought), as the beginning of August saw an explosion in these pretty but annoying pests that lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves leaving a legacy of a host of hungry caterpillars that destroy your best Brassica efforts!

As we departed on holiday (I’ll be doing a few posts about the various gardens we visited whilst in Devon and Cornwall), the Agapanthus was coming into flower and I had hopes that my Tithonia (‘Mexican Hat flower’) and Cleome (‘Violet Queen’) were finally putting on flower buds. The late Spring seems to have delayed their development somewhat.

What it is to have good neighbours!  Our next door neighbours Rob and Wendy were happy to water the containers and greenhouse etc. whilst we were away, though they were themselves due to go on holiday a couple of days before our return, so I was a little concerned that things might just wilt before I could get to them. I had no need to worry, for on my return – in fact the very evening I went round and started watering things – I stumbled across our next to next door neighbour, Norman, who had just finished watering the containers in the Courtyard! He had apparently been tasked by Wendy to carry on with the watering in their absence! I thanked him for this kindness and remarked on my pleasant surprise at the healthy look of most of the plants.

On closer inspection, and looking beyond the containers, greenhouse, cold frame etc., I discovered that the pests had been at play while we had been away! Moles had decided the time was right to dig up various spots in the lawn (their activity might have been prompted by one day of heavy rain) and when I inspected the brassicas I found not very much left of the Cauliflowers, Calabrese and Broccoll previously mentioned! In fact the caterpillars had been busy and stripped every last leaf! The Red Cabbages looked reasonably OK, though even here there was clear evidence of caterpillars starting to munch their way through the tightly drawn heads. So a quick harvest of those was in order (and the 4 heads i salvaged are being cut up and cooked for storage as I write). So, i can only guess that the little varmints (in egg form) had somehow been deposited on the plants before my new ‘butterfly proof’ netting was in place! Oh well, it’ll be different next year… I might just try one last sowing of Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese, to get us some home-grown greenery in the winter months. We’ve also been harvesting courgettes (some interesting ‘patty pan’ ones  included), and the tomatoes and cucumbers as well as autumn raspberries and blackberries are looking great. The apple and plum harvest to come is also looking very promising and I’ve even found a first pear on one of the ‘super column’ fruit trees I planted a year or two ago. This year looks like a good one for fruit, as everyone is saying.

The flower garden is hanging in there. The Tithonia and Cleome have fulfilled their promise and are adding some bright colour (along with cosmos, Achillea, Phlox, Helianthus, etc.) to the late summer borders, once again complemented by the burnished stems and seed heads of the various grasses that intermingle in the main borders. I’m especially pleased with the mix of Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana that underscores the view to St. Peter’s church. The Nicotiana’s perfume of vanilla is wonderful too.

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Having had the late ‘bank holiday’ my mind definitely turns to autumn and so the coming month will be very much about managing a mix of harvesting (especially fruit), dead – heading and coaxing the last flowers as well as gradually clearing up those plants that have finsihed flowering and whose foliage won’t add anything to the winter garden in terms of structure or wildlife value.

Further afield I popped into Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum (where you know I’m a garden volunteer). The gardens here seem to be surviving the hot dry weather pretty well. However, the sweet peas and container plants are obviously struggling with lack of water (though I was told that the Museum had had some pretty heavy showers at the weekend). I spent a couple of hours watering, dead heading and weeding and also helped contribute to a new film being produced for the museum website . This is going to ‘cameo’ some of the many volunteers here in order to provide some information for anyone thinking of joining the volunteer team. I had to say a few words about my time as a volunteer, how I’d helped to redesign and renovate some of the gardens and my time as a Heritage Gardening trainee last year. This all seemed to go well, but a few hours afterwards I received an email from one of the film crew saying that because the sun had glinted on my glasses, that this had somehow affected the focus of the whole sequence – hence the need for a rerun next week- at least I’ll have had practice at my lines!

Its back to school here next week, and so Deborah is gearing herself for the return to our local primary school. I will no doubt also be having some discussions with the Outdoor Learning Coordinator about the year ahead in the School Garden, Hopefully we can build on the progress we’ve made this year and ensure the children all get a chance to work, learn and enjoy the garden through the different seasons.

That’s about all the news from here at present. Hopefully you and Lise are enjoying  the late summer sun, as we are. It somehow seems easier to sit and view (and snooze) in the garden at this time of year, occasionally harvesting some produce, pulling up the odd weed or cutting the lawn, rather than the more frantic, continuous activity needed to cope with the surge in growth that is spring and early summer – an altogether more relaxing time!

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 22nd July 2013

Dear Walter…. letter from Old School Garden 21st June 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 20th May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

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