Tag Archive: letter

WP_20160222_14_13_35_ProOld School Garden – 29th February 2016

Dear Walter,

This month has been one of acquisition. I mentioned my plans for a DIY shed (including shingle roof) at Blickling recently and one of the volunteers, Peter, said he thought his brother might have some shingles he wanted rid of. Well last week I collected  several boxes of cedar shingles and ridge caps from his home in nearby Taverham, and think I might have enough to do most if not all of the roof- for a bargain price of £20.

Shingles...I look forward to fixing these on the roof of my new shed

Shingles…I look forward to fixing these on the roof of my new shed

The shingles are old, but unused and have been stored under cover for several years. You may remember that I’m drawing up plans for this shed based on using the old floorboards taken up when we had some under floor insulation put in? The plans are firming up nicely, and I’m making the shed big enough and tall enough to comfortably store all my unpowered garden tools along with a potting bench and storage for trays, pots and all the other garden paraphernalia like string, plant labels and so on. I’ll need to buy a few extra slabs for the base, as well as the timber for the frame, but the result should be something that will last, be big enough, not cost the earth – and look attractive too (I hope).

The other big project for this year, the wildlife pond, has begun too. Having firmed up my sketch plan I decided to dig out the main boundaries and other features and put in some key shrubs from elsewhere in the garden. While I was at it I thought I’d tidy up and strengthen the planting in the two borders you pass between to get to the pond. These look much better, with one side featuring a relocated Spotted Laurel (which was nestling unseen behind soem holly and whose leaves now pick up the yellow flowers of the Kerria behind), Star Magnolia and  Viburnum along with white Forget – me – Nots, and Verbena bonariensis. The other side features the ornamental Japanese Maple I bought last year along with a Flowering Currant and Anemanthele lessoniana grass, all surrounded with Yellow Loosestrife and purple Geraniums.

I’ve also acquired- again from Peter and his wife Pam, some plants suitable for the pond area and I hope to get some rustic wooden poles and log slices for embanking and an arbour from Blickling when I’m next there – the acquisitions continue!

Elsewhere in the garden I’ve begun the great spring clear up- cutting spent stems and pruning shrubs and trees, raking off leaves from the borders and forking over the soil to remove weeds and aerate. I find this very satisfying work, though I’ve a lot to do. I also cut the grass in a few places a week or two ago (in February would you believe!), as it had grown considerably in the (to date) mild winter.

Borders cleared and ready for weeding and soil tickling...

Borders cleared and ready for weeding and soil tickling…

I’ve also finally got my seed potatoes chitting (‘Rocket’ as first earlies, ‘Charlotte’ as second), and my first seeds have been sown and are starting to germinate; Sweet peas, Scabious, Lettuce, Calabrese, cosmos etc. Some of these are a little spindly, showing the effect of low light levels, but hopefully they can be potted up shortly and placed in the greenhouse to continue their journey.

My garden design course at Blickling proceeds well, I think, with 6 participants keen to find out how best to improve their own plots, which range from small, urban settings to large country gardens. The second session involved a practical measured survey of the Secret Garden at Blickling, which I think they found very instructive, and in tomorrow’s session I plan to cover garden structure which will also involve a visit to the gardens at Blickling to observe the key structural elements of the different gardens there.

Oh, I mustn’t forget my other acquisition this month. Our neighbour Richard and I were chatting over the garden fence one day and he told me of his new mole repeller, and asked if I wanted to get one as he was going to order another. Having used this sort of thing in the past with mixed results I was skeptical, but went along and said I’d give one a try. Well, he duly came round the other day and presented me with this solar-powered device, which emits a regular sound which is supposed to disturb the moles and encourage them to move on. He didn’t want any payment either!

Will it work? My new attempt at mole control,courtesy of neighbour Richard

Will it work? My new attempt at mole control, courtesy of neighbour Richard

So, it is in the lawn where there was last evidence of mole activity (I’ve also come across lots of mole hills in the borders as I’ve been clearing up), so we’ll see what impact it has. I suspect it’s still a little early for mole activity on any scale, so I await the spring with a mixture of trepidation and a small element of hope that this new device might do the trick. Of course with us both having these things we could drive the moles to our third nearby neighbour’s garden! But this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as the chap there, Norman, seems to thrive on his mole catching ability; I think his tally to date is in the twenties!

Well, Walter, I hope this latest letter finds you and Lise in good health and looking forward to the lighter, warmer days of spring that are on the horizon- tomorrow is March after all!

best wishes,

Old School Gardener



Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show...

Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show…

Old School Garden – 29th January 2016

Dear Walter,

I looked back at the letter I wrote you this time last year, just out of interest. Even though that letter (written from a snowy landscape), painted a picture of relative inactivity, I did at least have potatoes chitting and the first seeds germinated. Alas, even though the weather has been mild (if a bit wet) I seem to be way behind this year.

I do NOT have potatoes chitting (I’m waiting on my friend who’s ordered the seed potatoes this year) and I do NOT have seeds sprouting (I brought the propagators in yesterday along with the seed box for sorting through).

I am looking forward to seed sowing though. Apart from some interesting perennials I bought at a National Trust Garden in the summer, I’m waiting on my selection of seeds from the RHS Seed scheme. These, with early vegetables (I planned out this year’s crops for the Kitchen Garden before Christmas) will give me a lot of seed sowing and seedling potting activity in the coming weeks….

Apart from NOT doing the things I needed to, I HAVE done a few other garden related things. As you know, I’ve been constructing some cupboards in two alcoves in our entrance hall. I’m rather pleased with the result. I bought some solid oak cupboard doors and sourced some oak framing and tops from a local timber merchant (the smell of freshly cut oak in the car on the way home was delightful). These are now finished and being repopulated with photo albums, sewing machines and other stuff… and I’m pleased with the result, and not a little surprised at my own skill level (YouTube ‘How to’ videos are a wonderful invention).

One of two new cupboards I've been building from solid oak...

One of two new cupboards I’ve been building from solid oak…

Well, I was left with a few pieces of spare wood, and had begun making a key cabinet to also go in the entrance hall, but upon putting this together using glued dowels I discovered my skill level wasn’t quite up to that challenge and also concluded that the thickness of the wood looked out of place for such a small item….So, having abandoned that project I had a lightbulb moment and decided to adapt the three sided box I had into a ‘bug hotel’, with a focus on nesting places for solitary bees and the like. Here’s the result…

One Bug Hotel!

One Bug Hotel!

It is rather heavy, but certainly solid. I’ve used a selection of old canes, some willow plant support and an old bamboo window blind, cut to fit and jammed together. I’ll now need to finalise where to put it up. I gather it needs to be in a warm sunny spot at least a metre off the ground. I may try to fix this to the fruit fence in the Kitchen Garden; this is the place where effective pollination is especially important.

Oh, and I nearly forgot that I’ve tied in the summer raspberries – at last! I’ve pruned the apple trees and vine. I’ve also finally dug up the dahlias and apart from a little tuber rot, these seem to be OK, so they are currently drying off in the greenhouse and will be put into slightly damp, second hand compost shortly, to stay under cover until they are ready to plant out later in the season. I also dug up two Osteospermums and put these in pots inside, as I think they might be prone to dying off before the end of the winter if left outside.

I’m pleased to say that my new Garden Design Course, ‘Get More From Your Garden’ looks like it will run as I have achieved the minimum number needed to make it viable, so I’m looking forward to meeting this new group of people and using the wonderful venue at Blickling Hall to explore and develop their own design projects.

Deborah and I have followed your lead and joined our newly established, local U3A (‘University of the Third Age’) group in Aylsham. We went along to a fascinating talk about ‘PAT’ (Pets As Therapy) dogs yesterday, the ones used in schools to help shy children learn to read, as companions for older or disabled people and so on. I’ve also joined a new gardening group and met the dozen or so other people in the group last week for an initial get together to discuss what we want to achieve. It looks like this could include visiting each other’s gardens to discuss problems and ideas, swapping plants, visiting open gardens etc.

An ahhhh moment...

An ahhhh moment…

So, I look back. And whilst I’m behind in some garden-related things, hopefully there’s still time to catch up (especially with the seed sowing). I’m pleased to hear that your new terrace has been laid and look forward to seeing it when we visit you and Lise at Easter. No doubt you’ll be planting up the pockets you left amongst the paving soon?

all the best for now,

Old School Gardener



Old School Garden – 31st December 2015

Dear Walter,

It was great seeing you and Lise over Christmas and we hope you had a wonderful time with your nearest and dearest. As you know, my time in the garden has been limited this month as I tried to finish off the major redecorating in one end of the Old School. I’m pleased to say that’s done and I’m now developing detailed plans to fit out a couple of rooms with some built in furniture. Alas, my plans for the outside are moving slowly, though there’s been a bit of progress I can report.

Dogwoods starting to put on their winter colours

Dogwoods starting to put on their winter colours

We had a few hours cutting up the fire wood we’d saved from the major tree surgery on our Black Poplar a couple of years ago, and this is all now stacked in the woodshed. At the same time I reorganised the outside storage area (with pallets and angle irons), in anticipation of getting some new logs from our neighbours (who have some Ash trees that have fallen foul of Ash die back).

Awaiting logs (left) and a new leaf mould bay (right)

Awaiting logs (left) and a new leaf mould bay (right)

I’ve built alongside (using more pallets of course!) a leaf mould bay, which in the summer will also serve as a good spot for the grass clippings. As you know, in the past I’ve deliberately mixed these two materials together and had some good organic material to add to the soil. Gathering up the final loads of leaves from around the garden has been the other major task this month, though there are a few stubborn oak leaves still to fall. This minor reorganisation in the rear garden area has started to tidy it up, and so I can get to grips with further spring planting in the area with a nice view to the church (where I plan to put another bench).


A work in progress- rubble from one of the shed floors used to begin sculpting a basin for the pond garden…

New possibilities- the view across fields to the church is crying out for a bit of organisation, including a new bench.

New possibilities- the view across fields to the church is crying out for a bit of organisation, including a new bench.

I’ve also potted up the cannas (but not yet the dahlias as it’s been so mild here), and planted up the pots they were in with some violas and a range of tulips and other spring bulbs- we should have a great show next spring.

I’ve cleared and planted up the front circular border with the rather ‘whippy’ selection of Wallflowers and Sweet Williams I sowed earlier in the year. I also took the opportunity of swapping over the centre piece shrub here; out came the Star Magnolia and in went another Magnolia (‘Merrill’), which will grow a bit larger than the one it’s replaced and so be a better counterbalance to the large magnolia we have on the other side of the drive. So the Star Magnolia is in a pot for now until I decide it’s final location, somewhere in the pond garden.

Not much to look at right now, but the round border tidied and planted out with a new Magnolia and some spring colour- I hope!

Not much to look at right now, but the round border tidied and planted out with a new Magnolia and some spring colour- I hope!

The table top planter- good early growth, but a bit of weeding required too!

The table top planter- good early growth, but a bit of weeding required too!

The kitchen garden is looking tidier, too, though without much of interest as you might expect. I’m pleased with the progress of the table top planter, though; the unseasonably mild weather has really got the shallots, garlic and broad beans well underway.

You know how in Autumn and early winter you can pick up some plant bargains (the ones that are past their best, but will nonetheless put on new growth if looked after)? Well, I picked up a few trays of violas to fill my ever increasing containers and at the same time got three pots of Pennisetum, reduced to well below their original price- they don’t look much at present, but with a bit of spring care and potting on/ planting out, should do well.

A plant bargain

A plant bargain

Violas starting to pick up

Violas starting to pick up

I spent a couple of sessions over at Gressenhall focusing on leaf clearing, cutting back and digging over some of the borders, so that will probably be my last time there for now.

One of my jobs in the next couple of weeks will be to finalise the marketing material for my new Garden design course, which hopefully will begin in early February at Blickling. I’ll put details in a page on my blog early in the New Year for anyone interested.

WP_20151218_09_15_22_ProWell, as we come to the end of another year, I’m grateful that the garden here seems to have survived pretty well, despite less attention than normal; but the ground elder awaits and this and the other weeds will need attention in a couple of months time before the growing season really gets underway! 

Very best gardening wishes for 2016,

Old School Gardener



Some of this year's squash harvest- should keep us going for a few weeks.

Some of this year’s squash harvest- should keep us going for a few weeks.

Old School Garden – 29th November 2015

Dear Walter,

As we move towards winter, this month has been one of small steps forward, old friend. We had our first frost last week, and I managed to get the tenderest plants under cover in the greenhouse.

Tucked away from the frost...

Tucked away from the frost…

I’ve noticed that the leaves on the Cannas have started to brown so it won’t be long until they and the Dahlias are also brought in. I won’t be cutting down or removing much else as I like to see the grasses and many herbaceous stems stand over winter- I think this is also good for wildlife.

Cannas on the turn- soon to be dug up and replanted in the greenhouse

Cannas on the turn- soon to be dug up and replanted in the greenhouse

The piles of leaves continue to grow, and though many have fallen, there’s still a lot of oak to float down and then be gathered up. I’ve already cut back and placed most of the Pelargoniums into trays for over wintering and once the remaining pots on the terrace are empty, I’ll plant out the four or five packs of tulips I have in the shed.

Tulips ready to go in some of the other terrace containers and borders

Tulips ready to go in some of the other terrace containers and borders

In the kitchen garden I’ve pulled the remaining carrots- they are a well-sized and tasty crop. The parsnips and a few leeks are all that remains for winter vegetables, with the promise of Purple Sprouting Broccoli to come in spring. As I reported last month, I’ve used my latest batch of compost to mulch the fruit bushes, strawberries and raspberries and added some manure over the rhubarb and asparagus bed, which hopefully might give us a few spears next year.

I dug up one of the remaining two blackcurrant bushes the other day and took this in to the local Primary School, where I was helped by 7 pupils to divide it and plant it out in their developing fruit garden. It was fun to be back among some familiar (if older) faces and they were very responsive and involved in the hour we spent talking about roots, stems, water and so on.

Awaiitng a Redcurrant, to go alongside White and Black!

Awaiitng a Redcurrant, to go alongside White and Black!

So, here we’re left with one large blackcurrant bush (after having three for several years – the freezer is still bulging with the last few year’s crops). I’m now waiting on the arrival of some bare root red currant and raspberry canes at the local nursery, so that I can fill out the summer fruiting raspberries and replace the blackcurrant, which will give us one each of Red, White and Black currants.

Looking ahead, my friend Steve volunteered to order me some seed potatoes, so I’ve gone for some first and second earlies which should be here for ‘chitting’ in January. I also recently ordered some seeds from the RHS scheme for members, which is good value for money. With the seeds I purchased on my visit to Wallington Gardens in September (as well as some harvesting at other gardens we’ve visited), I can see that February will be a busy time (as usual), propagating a new range of interesting flowers for the borders; including one ‘long wanted’ variety,  Cephalaria gigantea.

My Pond garden project is moving ahead slowly, with the reclamation of some large York stone flags from one of our outside sheds (we’ve had a new concrete floor put in here to replace the stones) and the use of the stony soil from under these to build up the surrounds of the pond area. Before going much further outside on this I want to firm up my design on paper, so the drawing board is out again and I’m sketching out some ideas, including a stepping stone bridge (this is what some of the flagstones will be used for), boggy borders and a ‘beach’. My collection of plants for this area is growing nicely so I’m factoring these into the design too.


On a broader front, I went over to Gressenhall the other day and began to clear up for winter (including some overdue shearing of the lavender and leaf clearing) and planted out some Catmint I took out of the courtyard planters at Old School Garden. Together with the new plants I purchased recently these will make a good show in a number of half barrel planters we have there.

You’ll have also seen something of my regular visits to Blickling Hall, where the winter clear up and preparation for next season is well underway. Did I tell you that I’m hoping to run a new Garden Design course at Blickling? Based on the one I’ve run in the past at Reepham, it will be slightly extended but will still focus on helping participants to design their own garden or area. I hope for a good level of interest, especially as we shall be able to use the gardens at Blickling as a showcase for many of the ideas and concepts I’ll be covering. If I get the numbers I need this will begin in early February.

Having just replaced the broken glass in our wood burner I think its time to light it and get something to drink!

Very best wishes,

Old School Gardener



WP_20151030_13_49_00_ProOld School Garden – 30th October 2015

Dear Walter,

Well, this month I can say that I’ve just about caught up with the routine jobs that Old School Garden needs at this time of year, though my bigger projects of pond and shed still await some serious attention.

I’ve spread a large pile of leaf mould in the new woodland garden I’m creating and mixed this with the topsoil and ashes from the old bonfire site I’d deposited there a few months ago. The soil is at least starting to deepen and hold some moisture. Into this mix I’ve planted a lot of ground cover and slightly larger perennials from around the garden as well as many spring bulbs – in waves that should hopefully make a bit of an impact next March and April.

The new woodland garden...promise of things to come.

The new woodland garden…promise of things to come.

I’ve also dug over the main kitchen garden beds and added some leaf mould and compost; the latter around the various fruit bushes. It all looks nice and tidy and should help to enrich the soil as well as cover it over the winter. I also finally got around to cleaning up the greenhouse and am about to add its winter insulation before putting in the various tender plants that I try to over winter.

I also plan to buy some bare root summer fruiting raspberries and a redcurrant bush- I’ve decided to reduce further our stock of blackcurrant bushes to one and donate the other to the local Primary School; how we ever dealt with three bushes I don’t know! (the first one went to Gressenhall Museum last year).

The table planter I created this year has also been stocked with a mix of garlic, shallots and broad beans that should get going and give me a chance of early crops next year. And a mix of white and red onions have also been planted out for the same reason.

Leaves, leaves everywhere

Leaves, leaves everywhere

Elsewhere in the garden its been leaf collecting time, and having cleared last year’s leaf mould pile, I’m slightly reorganising the storage areas to accommodate a new supply of firewood (yet to be cut and collected) from our near neighbours. In doing this I’ve opened up a new vista towards the church..maybe a spot for another bench methinks?

New view...one to take advantage of with a new seat?

New view…one to take advantage of with a new seat?

I had hoped to have shown you some pictures of the beautiful leaves on the Sumachs, but once again a little breeze and they soon disappear! It’s also been a time of hedge cutting and I’m pleased that this big job- with the added task of reshaping the big Laurel hedge in the main garden- has now been completed, as has fence painting. I spent one morning spreading 7.5 tonnes of shingle we had delivered which certainly improves the look of the drive, though in places it’s rather like Sheringham beach!

I recently made start on some plant moving, specifically a large white rose bush that was being crowded out by a vibrant Choisya and Viburnum. This helps to plug a gap in one of the mixed borders. I’ve also been mentally logging which other plants need to be shifted, including a Myrtle (which I’ll leave until early spring) and some other shrubs I’ve earmarked for the new pond garden. The plants I now have for this area – including some purchases earlier in the year – are now making a nice little collection and I can’t wait to finalise my design and get on with the pond and its surrounds.

Some of the plants I've been collecting for the new pond garden

Some of the plants I’ve been collecting for the new pond garden

I also have a big bag of tulips of various kinds as well as some Alliums I want to get into some of the containers we have and some in the borders. A job for next month.

As you’ll read in my other posts I’ve been putting in some sessions at Blickling Hall and also went over to Gressenhall museum last week to plant up some tubs with some drought tolerant perennials; two varieties of Cistus and a compact Buddleja, to be precise, with a few small ivies to add ‘edge interest’.

I gave a talk to a local gardening group the other night on the basics of garden design. This went well and I took the opportunity to plug my new garden design course (‘Your Garden- your Design’) I’m hoping to run at Blickling Hall from February next year.

The switchover has begun...the tender plants formerly in these pots are on their way to the greenhouse..to be replaced by Carex elata aureum ('Bowles Golden Grass') and tulips to come..

The switchover has begun…the tender plants formerly in these pots are on their way to the greenhouse..to be replaced by Carex elata aureum (‘Bowles Golden Grass’) and tulips to come..

I do hope you and Lise are in good health as the days shorten and the temperatures drop. No doubt you’re enjoying watching someone else do the autumn tasks now that you’re getting some extra gardening help!

All the best old friend,

Old School Gardener




Old School Garden – 29th September 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I’ve looked back at what I wrote to you at this time last year and it began ‘I’m feeling very guilty’.  Once more I find myself confessing to not much happening in the garden, well until the last few days at any rate.

As you know we went on a two week trip to the Hebrides (Mull and Arran) and Northumberland in late August-early September and this, coupled with an earlier spell away in Portugal has meant that the garden has been sorely neglected; but for the harvesting and watering efforts of our daughter, Lindsey and friends Steve and Joan, that is.

My other excuse, and you’ll be bored at me banging on about this, has been decorating, decorating, decorating…and still one more room to go plus some finishing details.

Enough of the excuses, what have I been up to in the garden? Well of late hedge cutting, including an overdue trim of the neighbours’ side of a mixed hedge that forms one of our boundaries. And today I am going to do drastic work on that laurel hedge that backs the main lawn (or should I say ‘Mole patch’). You might recall my plans to create a wildlife pond on the northern side of this and how my plans for the hedge are to:

  • let more sunlight into the pond area

  • reduce the height of the hedge to make it easier to maintain

  • create a sweeping curved profile to add visual interest.

Well, I’ve made a start with hedgecutter and loppers and today I will try to tackle the thicker stems using the wonderful battery-powered chainsaw I was given to trial by it’s makers Ego. And I mustn’t forget to mention Deborah’s efforts in weeding paths and beds, which has certainly made things look a lot tidier.

Despite the neglect nature seems to find a way of surviving and so there’s still plenty of ornamental interest in the garden at present, including a lovely Hydrangea paniculata, Sedums, and of course the various grasses which are now starting to put out their feathery flowers.

There seems to be a good crop of apples on the way to add to those already picked. It’s also been a good year for figs and we are just about coming to the end of the cucumbers, peppers (which were decimated by an attack of caterpillars) and tomatoes (the shortening days and contrasting night time and daytime temperatures are having their effect on what remain on the plants). I’m also rather pleased with the crop of squashes this year, largely planted to provide ground cover while we were away, and they seem to have done this and rewarded us with a winter’s supply!

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Returning to the house renovation side of things, I finally bit the bullet and chopped off the stems of the ivy growing up the front of the house, which had been encouraged to cover up some rather unsightly painting over flintwork (sacrilege). I now plan to remove the dead stems with crow bars etc and then get the builders in to sandblast the front and repoint the stones. Quite an undertaking, but I think it will be worth it in improved appearance alone.

The front of the house with its, now dead, ivy- removing this, sandblasting and repointing the flintwork will be a major undertaking, possibly before winter really sets in

The front of the house with its, now dead, ivy- removing this, sandblasting and repointing the flintwork will be a major undertaking, possibly before winter really sets in

I’ve also been splashing out on some bulbs and spring bedding in the form of violas and pansies, which I’ve started to use in some of the containers that were beginning to look a bit sad. They will hopefully provide a good splash of colour during the dark winter months. Oh, and I came across a plant on a visit to Wallington Hall in Northumberland (more on this visit in due course) which I couldn’t resist; a Crocosmia called ‘Norwich Canary’- as a season ticket holder at Carrow Road it just had to come home with me!

It’s also that time of year when I put out the bird feeders and I was immediately rewarded with the usual crowd of Blue and Great Tits plus a few other species. It is lovely watching them have their breakfast while we have ours.

WP_20150929_10_33_19_ProOn the wider gardening front I’ve re-engaged with my voluntary input at Gressenhall and Blickling. I’ll be posting about the latter in the next few days, and for the former I’m pleasantly surprised at how well my areas of responsibility have come through the summer and into autumn. I went in last week and felt that not much tidying was required so I turned my hand to mowing the grass and edging this. The front entrance border with its mix of grasses, lavenders and shrubs was looking great.

Oh, and I may well be running my garden design course once more. you might remember that the Reepham Learning Community is no longer functioning so my venue at the High School is no longer available. So I’m making enquiries about running a day time course in the New Year using accommodation at Blickling. This looks promising, and it might be especially helpful to use the gardens here as a way of illustrating elements of the course. I’ve also been invited by a former student to give a talk on the basics of garden design to her gardening group near Fakenham soon, so that will help me to keep my hand in on the teaching front.

Well I think that just about wraps up my recent gardening life. How is your garden looking just now? I bet it’s a picture with the weather helping to bring out those lovely autumn leaf colours in your wonderful collection of trees.

All the best to Ferdy Lise and we hope to see you soon, old friend,

Old School Gardener




31st July 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Ticking over. Or rather, ‘just about coping’ in Old School Garden, this month. In fact I’ve just spent 11 hours wallpapering our stairwell as part of our (it seems, never ending) decorations, and just dashed outside to take some pictures so that you can see how the garden is looking. It was quite a surprise as I haven’t been out there seriously for a good while. Still, things don’t look too bad, proving that nature can take good care of herself! (I did pull up a few large weeds, though).

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The harvest continues with good crops of potatoes (I will dig up the second row of Charlottes over the weekend); strawberries; raspberries (though the Autumn Bliss seem, once again, to have put on no flowers towards the back of the row); courgettes; calabrese; onions; and our first squashes (New England Sugar Pie- just hardening them off). And the greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are doing splendidly I’m mightily impressed with my new aquaponic growing system for the tomatoes which seem bigger and more plentiful than I’ve ever had them. I’ve sown some carrots and parsnips recently and these seem to have germinated and now require a weed. Also, the apples and pears on my ‘super columns’ are really plentiful. I’ve also managed to summer prune my trained fruit bushes and planted out and netted some cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli.

Though it’s been quiet in general in the garden, I have managed to do a bit of tidying up- especially resurrecting our fire pit. Though we’re away a good deal in the next couple of months, perhaps we’ll get round to using it before autumn sets in.


About this time last year (and for some time before that), I was complaining about moles in the garden, especially how they wreck the lawn. Well, as I hinted recently, I bit the bullet and got a pest controller in. He set around 10 traps and caught just two moles (the body of one, complete with trap was taken away in the night, probably by a fox). Though I feel a tad guilty about killing these little earth movers, it would appear, for now, that mole activity has ceased, so I shall be raking off the remains of the mole hills and cutting the grass in the next couple of days, hoping that we’ve seen the end of the damage; at least for the rest of the season.

The last of mole hills?

The last of mole hills?

Well, old mate, sorry that there’s not much new to tell you, but you know its been full on with the decorating in the last few months, so the garden has taken a back seat.

WP_20150731_20_11_41_ProAll the best for now,

Old School Gardener




30th June 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

A short letter this month, I’m afraid. I’m sitting here, having just got access to the computer amid builders’ mayhem, with dust everywhere… and I’ve just been interrupted to see to a pigeon in the fruit cage! It certainly is all go.

I thought I’d write little and let my pictures speak for my gardening activity this month, if that’s OK?

First, we’ve been down to Devon a few times and thankfully completed my Mother-in- Law’s move to her new flat. A bonus was some rather nice pots she kindly gave me as well as a few cuttings of some interesting plants…one of the pots is a ‘Pig Salter’, I gather it was used to salt raw pig meat; it looks handsome with its bright yellow bamboo.

I’m also rather pleased with my efforts at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, little though they are. My visit last week revealed the gardens looking grand; I especially liked the swathes of Pony Tail grass just coming into flower…

At home, Old School Garden is also looking rather good, I think. And the harvest has begun too; Broad Beans, First Early Potatoes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries and this week the heads of Calabrese are looking just about ready for picking. I’m also encouraged by the new system I’m using for growing tomatoes- ‘Quadgrow’. This is a system of watering via a reservoir under the pots with a wick up into each pot. You add water and feed to the reservoir and away they go- and they are looking healthy, vigourous and are producing lots of fruit, though to date I’ve just had one ripe tomato.

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Hopefully the building works will be more or less completed this week and I can then begin my own efforts in decorating three and a half rooms plus a stairwell and corridor…I might be done by Christmas…

All the best old fellah..remember to keep cool in the promised heat wave this week!

Old School Gardener




WP_20150224_17_13_25_ProOld School Garden

26th February 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

A month of ‘not much’ I’m afraid!

I’ve started to clear the pile of bonfire cinders, ash and other ‘soil’ to make way for the new pond, hard graft spreading the soil around the borders (especially around the fruit bushes), but I’m starting to make an impact. I was also pleased to accept my neighbour’s offer of some large flints (removed from a raised bed wall they have altered).

I’ve bought in a few bags of good manure and started putting this around the fruit, so hopefully, if everything works (especially the weather and pollination), we should have a good harvest.

The general tidying up that’s a typical task at this time of year has continued; raking leaves and other litter off of the borders, weeding and tickling over the soil surface. This was especially rewarding this week, as I came across a flash of metal whilst turning over the herb bed; yes, to my (and Deborah’s) delight it was my wedding ring, lost about 18 months ago! It just shows you that I didn’t get round to dealing with this area last year! I’ve also commenced the pruning of various shrubs and grasses, including fixing some support wires for climbing roses. It’s always great to see the new growth buds appearing.

Seed sowing has continued, and I had delivery of an interesting selection from the RHS Members’ seed scheme, so some have gone into the fridge for some ‘stratification’ (a period of cold to help break dormancy). Unfortunately I was a little too eager to move my cucumber seedlings on, and once in the greenhouse they suffered ‘damping off’ and had to be dumped- a new set awaits sowing.

Elsewhere, I’m on a two week break from gardening at Blickling Hall, but it seems that the walled garden is coming on well; manure has been dug in and the delivery of path edging and the refurbished greenhouse is awaited. I popped over to Gressenhall earlier in the week, too, not for gardening, but to commence a new ‘creative writing’ course- hopefully it’ll improve my blog (and letter) writing skills! The gardens there looked pretty good, but I shall combine my future course sessions with some gardening to get the gardens ready for the Museum opening in early March.

Deborah and I visited Prague last week for three days, and whilst there wasn’t much of gardening interest, it was an amazing experience; one that touched many emotions and which involved 24 miles of walking over two days! I’ll post soem pictures from this trip in a day or two.

We’re also contemplating some alterations to the house, including some energy conservation measures, so it may be that the garden will be rather more neglected than usual.

Getting there- view across the Old School Garden orchard

Getting there- view across the Old School Garden orchard

I  hope that you and Lise are keeping well as the winter slips away and spring is approaching.

 All the best for now,

Old School Gardener

Blickling Hall, under some recent snow

Blickling Hall, under some recent snow

Old School Garden

31st January 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Well the New Year came, and it heralded a new gardening energy for me after a few months of relative sloth!

I’ve begun my volunteering at Blickling Hall and as you might have read this is proving to be very interesting and satisfying, including meeting a host of other volunteers and helping to begin the regeneration of the two acre walled garden.

At home it’s been a few weeks of planning (seed checking, organising and buying), thinking a bit more about the wildlife pond I’m going to install here at Old School Garden and getting a few things under way, like chitting the potatoes (‘Foremost’ as first earlies and ‘Charlotte’ as second earlies), sowing  the first leeks, some bush tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peas, all with the aid of some heated propagators. They’re now doing nicely and in the next week or two I’ll pot these up and bring them on in my makeshift greenhouse (our lounge!). It’ll soon be time to get the next lot of seeds underway.


Seed potatoes being ‘chitted’ on the windowsill

I haven’t been up to much outside- and the mole hills continue to appear! I think I’ll venture out in the next few weeks and continue the tidying up before things really get going. Oh, by the way, I’m persevering with the Melianthus as I believe if I leave the foliage on (despite the plant looking a bit straggly now) I might get some flowers in the next few weeks- there are some already forming on a plant I’ve seen at Blickling.


First signs of growth for the new season…

I’ve completed my review of the grounds and gardens at the local primary school and hope that this will help them get to grips with their open spaces and get the most from them, especially educational and play value and for improving the diversity of wildlife. I’m also still working on the Management Plan for the local churchyard – the base plan is in place and I now need to research some details on establishing much of the space as a wild flower meadow. My latest garden design course is due to begin in Reepham in just over a week’s time- hopefully there’ll be enough takers to let it run.

I guess that’s about all the news this month old friend. I hope you’re keeping well and warm in this spell of cold weather, though thankfully we seem to have missed the dramatic snowfalls in New England (well, at least for now).

all the best,

Old School Gardener

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