Tag Archive: orangery

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day...

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day…

Only a couple of hours this week at Blickling. In some ways that was a relief as it turned out to be the hottest September day for many years (on my way to a meeting in Diss, the reading on my car’s thermometer was 31.5 degrees C!)

I arrived around 9am and signed in as usual; but no gardeners were to be found. The whole place had a peacefulness that only hinted at the boiling heat that was to follow; the lines of the main Temple Walk were gradually emerging from an early morning mist, soon to be burned off.

The diary we garden volunteers use to sign in and get our instructions said we were to be split between the Parterre (removing Bindweed with assistant Head gardener Steve) and something unspecified in the Walled Garden. As I couldn’t see anyone around the parterre I wandered over to the Walled Garden- still not a soul in sight. Hmmm… where could they all be?

I made my way in the direction of the Orangery, and Head Gardener Paul turned the corner and greeted me in his usual jolly way. He modestly told me about his own small garden and some of the wide range of plants he’s been growing , including some tropicals. We both moved on- he to his office, me to join the (small as it turned out) gardening team in the Orangery.

There Steve, Rebecca and Ed were busy hosing down, weeding and generally tweaking the inside of this lovely building, in readiness for a wedding reception to be held there the day after. I joined in and helped sweep off the pammented floor, raking gravel and, having spotted several of the potted citrus trees with black sooty mould on the leaves, went round and rubbed as much off as I could.

Ed hosing down the inside..

Ed hosing down the inside..

We finished off by shifting some of the many plants around; including rather tentatively carrying several large Agaves (with their extremely sharp and pointed leaves) into an adjoining room. By this time it was morning break (had I really done much?- I was certainly sweating). Anyway, after greeting fellow volunteers, we went off to various parts of the gardens; most it seemed to the rose garden to dig over and weed, in the comparatively cool shade of a starting- to- steam mid morning.

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings...

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings…

With only about an hour to spare I went over to the Walled Garden and hoed around the soft fruit bushes- once again this was a pleasant job with one of the twin-bladed Wolf hoes that Mike had recently purchased. But boy it was hot, and though the Dahlias were looking resplendent, it was not place to be for long, so I was glad to be on my way just before midday.

Dahlia 'David Howard' putting on a show with it's partners in the Walled Garden

Dahlia ‘David Howard’ putting on a show with it’s partners in the Walled Garden

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Blickling Hall and The Parterre looking splendid in a low winter sun

Blickling Hall and The Parterre looking splendid in a low winter sun

I worked with the ladies away from the Walled Garden in my latest Blickling session. The Dell was our target- a bit of ‘TLC’ with light weeding and clearing dead stems and leaves to reveal the wonderful Snowdrops and Hellebores.

Head Gardener, Paul tells me that the slopes here are not conducive to the Hellebores rooting, so its an annual task to plant up new ones. Paul says some terracing is needed. I think this would need to be done quite subtly, as it could spoil the natural look of the space.

We worked around the sloping sides of the Dell – well I kept to the top path and the slightly less pernickety areas. The lady volunteers seem to have the finger skills and eyesight needed to tease out the weeds from around the plants and at one stage looked like (in the nicest possible way), a herd of mountain goats stretched up the slope. I contented myself with the more straightforward leaf raking, limited weeding and path clearing work above, as well as emptying weed-full trugs into the waiting trailer.

A major milestone has been reached this week in the walled garden. Project Manager Mike reports that all of the metal posts (76 of them in total) have now been installed, so we now wait on wires going in and then fruit tree planting in a few weeks time.

Posts all in- 76 have been set into concrete around the walled garden. Picture Blickling Estate

Posts all in- 76 have been set into concrete around the walled garden. Picture Blickling Estate

Oh, and my wife and I paid a visit to the gardens on Sunday, where we indulged in one of the restaurant’s special Valentine’s Day Cake Platters…

WP_20160214_15_32_46_ProFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


WP_20160121_13_37_53_ProThis week’s gardening session focused on the avenues in the wilderness garden at Blickling. Gardener Ed led the volunteers to continue felling, gathering, shredding and stacking wood from the trees and overgrown shrubs alongside one of the routes radiating away from the House.

Having delivered two trays of birthday cakes (held over from last week), I made my way over to the Temple area where it was clear that some serious wood cutting was going on. You may recall in an earlier post, that the avenues have not received regular attention and so various trees have forced their way into what were once clear, straight lines of Oaks and similar trees. The main culprits are Yews and Hollies though some ‘rogue” Oaks have also found their way into these areas too.

WP_20160121_10_54_13_ProEd set to work with an impressive chainsaw attachment on an extended pole which made cutting off offending boughs look pretty easy. He later used a more conventional chainsaw to reduce some overgrown hollies to stools, form which bushes will re-sprout.

The shredder which managed to consume vast quantities of brashings from the trees was an impressive machine. ‘The Wolf’ gobbles up quite thick stems and so we were left with just a couple of piles of very thick cuttings that we later stacked in a wood pile for firewood. I imagine the shreddings are mixed in with other organic material to from compost.

I mentioned last week a talk to the Estate volunteers about the Walled Garden Project from Project Manager Mike. This was well attended and proved to be extremely interesting, with plenty of photographs of how the Walled Garden looked over the years since it’s birth in the 1600’s, when fruit was definitely the thing to grow. It was interesting to hear that the original garden was twice the size of the current one, and that the current garden formed the orchard area whereas the adjoining car park was once the area for soft fruit and vegetables etc. There are some fascinating old aerial photographs of Blickling taken in the 1930’s which you can see at this site .

Here’s one taken in 1928 and showing the walled garden in the foreground. About two thirds along from the left  and just up from the bottom there is a feature stretching away vertically on the picture, just to the right of a group of trees; this is thought to be the pineapple growing frames which were orientated to capture maximum sunlight. Apparently the Lost Gardens of Heligan in cornwall have grown pineapples in recreated frames and have calculated that it cost them some £10,000!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


More trenching this week, but we managed to finish this off...

More trenching this week, but we managed to finish this off…

In my first session of the New Year at Blickling the cold weather had arrived. My colleague Peter and I braved the wet snow to help Mike in the Walled Garden, by finishing off the trenching needed to put in the oak edging for the cross paths in two of the quarters in the new layout.

I was slightly embarrassed to hear that most of the other volunteers had already had a session last week, which I missed (having phoned in to discuss whether to come in with head Gardener, Paul). I thought the weather would put paid to any productive gardening. I was wrong! the team had begun the painstaking work of cleaning off sooty mould from the leaves of the orange and lemon trees in the orangery, so there are some inside jobs for bad weather days!

The ladies continued with this work this week. Peter and I made good progress, and as it was my birthday, I decided to leave after completing the trenching to go home to a nice birthday lunch and peaceful afternoon in front of the woodburner! Incidentally, I held back taking in birthday cakes as I wasn’t sure how many volunteers would be in, so that treat awaits the team next week!

Peter takes a break amidst a gloomy day in the Walled Garden

Peter takes a break amidst a gloomy day in the Walled Garden

Project Manager Mike and gardener Rob continued concreting in the metal uprights which will carry the wires alongside the main paths in the walled garden, where an apple tunnel and other trained fruit bushes will be grown. Though perhaps the Walled Garden doesn’t look much different to how it did on my first day at Blickling (exactly a year ago), on reflection an awful lot of foundation work has been achieved (including drainage and water supply put in, path edging as well as remedial pruning to fan trained fruit), and a good crop of fruit and veg from one side border to boot.

Some of the oak edging in place; hopefully this will all be in by next week

Some of the oak edging in place; hopefully this will all be in by next week

The latest big project is the removal of the rotting wooden and glass roof and walls to the second greenhouse, which will be renovated with anew structure in the next month or two. This, alongside the other Greenhouse, which was renovated last year, will provide a superb pair of facilities for raising and protecting plants, and I get a real sense that this coming year we will start to see the main beds populated and productive.

Mike is giving a talk to the Estate volunteers about the Walled garden Project this week, and I’m looking forward to hearing his review of progress and plans for the coming year.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


IMG_7272I was privileged to be invited to the opening of a ‘new’ glasshouse at Peckover House, Wisbech last week.

You may recall that I spent some time here as a Heritage Gardening Trainee last year, and really learnt a lot from the Gardener in  Charge, Allison and her cheerful accomplices, Jenny and Janet. I wrote a lengthier piece about the garden earlier in the year (see link below), and at that time it wasn’t yet certain that the fast – decaying Orangery in this superb Victorian Garden was going to be saved. But thanks to some local fundraising and additional funds and wisdom of the owners, the National Trust, I’m very pleased to say that this focal point in the garden has been saved. Or rather, recreated, as the original was in such a poor condition, that further repairs weren’t possible. The replacement is a faithful rendition of the old structure, with a few minor amendments to make life easier for the gardeners. The former tiled floor, surrounding walls and walled containers with three ancient Orange trees have been retained, now with a new covering made, as was the original, in timber and glass. It includes sash window ventilation and roller blinds to help with temperature and light control.

During the rebuild the 300 year old orange trees were exposed to the elements and what a stroke of luck that we had one of the best summers in recent years, for they have obviously benefitted from that exposure to fresh air and sunshine!

The overall feeling is of a light, colourful and inviting atmosphere. The old Orangery had a typically Victorian air of ‘gothic gloom’ about it, especially as some of the older specimens accompanying the oranges were mature and shaded the interior. I guess the replacement plantings alongside the outer wall will eventually make their mark, but for now I do like the open, bright interior. The inner, sun – facing side of the Orangery is once more populated with a colourful array of terracotta pots containing a wide variety of tender specimens, all laid out on benches ans shelves in the spirit of the Victorian passion for collecting the unusual and exotic. Here are some pictures of the opening event and the new Orangery.

The overall project cost over £200,000. I’m sure it will be worth it as the garden- already a jewel in the National Trust’s crown – would have seemed empty without it. If you’re ever near to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire the place is well worth a visit – as you can see from this selection of pictures taken last week.

Congratulations National Trust, the Peckover House Gardening team and all those others who contributed to the project!

Related article- ‘Banker’s bonus:  Secret Garden Gem’

Old School Gardener

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