Tag Archive: snowdrops


Our friends Jen and Dave visited us at the weekend and on the way they stopped off at the wonderful Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. This National Trust property has a spectacular display of Snowdrops (finished by the time of their visit), formal gardens, summer borders and also a winding Winter Garden which features a fantastic mixture of flower, leaf and stem colour. Here are Jen’s pictures from that Winter Garden; I expect it will soon be pruned- thanks Jen!

Further information: National Trust Website

Old School Gardener

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

WP_20150122_12_03_53_ProMy latest session as a volunteer gardener with the National Trust at Blickling Hall involved working in another area of the gardens- the Winter Garden, which I think was planted up a few years ago as an area to feature colourful stems, fragrance and flowers at this quiet time of the year in the garden.

Work in the Walled Garden has been continuing, however, and with a few frosty nights it has been possible to move and spread the rest of the farmyard manure over the beds. As you can see below, this has helped to give definition to these planting areas…

Muck spreading in the Walled Garden- get to work worms! Picture: Michael Owers

Muck spreading in the Walled Garden- get to work worms! Picture: Michael Owers

For gardener Rebecca, me and the other ‘Thursday volunteers’, this week involved raking off a thick quilt of Sweet Chestnut and other leaves, tidying up spent stems and foliage and sprucing up the Hellebores…. as well as uncovering the first snowdrops. When I say ‘quilt’ I’m not joking – I just hope the plants underneath haven’t been as shocked as I have been, recently, emerging from under my own quilt in the frosty mornings!

So, for me the day that was spent almost entirely raking and loading leaves into trailers to be carried away for turning into leaf mould. Definitely one that required a ‘Radox Bath’ on my return home!

Even though it was repetitive work, it was also very satisfying, showing off this lovely garden with its over-arching trees and understory of shrubs and winter perennials- and hopefully giving some of the plants a good chance to ‘pick up’ as the seasons move on.

Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

birch

‘Anglesey Abbey is a country house, formerly a priory, in the village of Lode, 512 miles (8.9 km) northeast of Cambridge, England. The house and its grounds are owned by the National Trust and are open to the public as part of the Anglesey Abbey, Garden & Lode Mill property, although some parts remain the private home of the Fairhaven family.

The 98 acres (400,000 m²) of landscaped grounds are divided into a number of walks and gardens, with classical statuary, topiary and flowerbeds. The grounds were laid out in an 18th-century style by the estate’s last private owner, the 1st Baron Fairhaven, in the 1930s. A large pool, the Quarry Pool, is believed to be the site of a 19th-century coprolite mine. Lode Water Mill, dating from the 18th century was restored to working condition in 1982 and now sells flour to visitors.’

Source and further information:

Wikipedia

National Trust website

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