Tag Archive: tree trail

Well, a little sadness this week. Due to a combination of other commitments (including Jury Service and six weeks away in Australia), I had to say a temporary farewell to my fellow gardeners at Blickling this week. I won’t return until early August; by then I expect to see plenty of progress, including the apple arch fully assembled and painted!

I joined Rory (who had brought in some lovely cake to celebrate his birthday), both Peters and Gordon alongside the parterre where the hyacinths had been dug up. After collecting these we needed to dig over and weed the bed in preparation for the Penstemons. Tressa and Diane were busy cutting off the top growth on the bulbs so that these can be stored for next year.

There was plenty of chick weed in the border so we made steady, if not rapid progress. By lunch time about three-quarters of the area was done. On my way to lunch I noticed how the double border tulips are pretty much at their peak at present…

After lunch I had a quick talk with Aussie Peter, who is a Garden Guide here, to get his thoughts on the draft Tree Trail I’d been working on. He made some helpful comments and we talked about how the trail could be of use to the Garden Guides as they take groups around.

After this I met with Head Gardener Paul and some colleagues from the wider Property Management Team to discuss the Tree Trail. It was a very positive meeting and some exciting ideas about how to best present the information came up and will be further researched. I went away feeling that my efforts were appreciated and of some value in pushing this idea forward. I’m now firming up the numbers, route and text. Hopefully by next spring the Trail will be launched, including some fun elements for younger children as well as some interesting local and other facts about the 20 or so trees that will feature. Wwe are planing the route so that it takes people to the extremities of the gardens here, sometimes areas that they wouldn’t normally head for.

As I left,Gardener Rebecca presented me with a new pair of boots, as those I’ve had before are very much in need of replacement. A nice ‘going away present’! I wish all the team – staff and volunteers – at Blickling a wonderful three months!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener






At Blickling this week it was a case of more hoeing, or rather using the rather neat three-pronged cultivator to get under the crusted soil to loosen a rather extensive spread of weeds.

I joined Norfolk Peter in the Walled Garden where he was weeding alongside one of the glasshouses. Once again I was working in the side beds where nothing much is growing at present apart from a few lines of herbaceous flowers. By lunch time I had turned over a good area and attacked another with a border fork, as the weeds were rather more deeply rooted.

Nicely hoed beds…

I also noticed that some rather smart new hose reels have ben fixed around the walled garden which certainly tidies up areas where hoses had been more casually left lying, so removing a potential trip hazard.

I planned to return after lunch to rake off the loosened weeds and to knock down the forked area to enable the weeds in this area to be removed. However, on our way back to the Bothy we met Head Gardener Paul, who, in his usual cheery way, asked how we were and thanked us for what we were doing. He had also received my submission for the planned Tree trail we had discussed a few months before and wanted to discuss the next steps with me and Assistant Head Gardener Steve, after lunch.

We initially planned to cover thirty trees in the gardens with a small amount of interesting information on small boards placed next to each tree. I had researched all of these and also produce d a mock-up of a couple- here’s one example …

I’d given a copy of the thirty sets of text to Aussie Peter, who is also a Garden Guide, to see if he could add any interesting local information to what I’d found online; he said over lunch he’d send me a few thoughts, but that the overall proposals seemed fine..so that was encouraging. He also offered to carry on where I’d left off on the weeding to allow me to see Paul and Steve.

The meeting was useful and we explored different ways of presenting the information; either next to each tree or in leaflet form, as well as other options, like using mobile phones to capture codes at each location to enable an audio guide to be accessed. I favour beginning with simple foam back boards fixed to posts at each tree (and we also plan to add a stamp at each of the posts for 6 or 7 common leaf shapes for children to print out on their trail leaflet).

We might be able to convert the posts (I’m suggesting 3″ square oak sourced from the estate, with a sloping top) should an alternative approach be better, e.g. just having a number and name at each tree, with the buk of othe rinformation provided ona leaflet.  We agreed that the next step would be to meet up with those responsible for visitor attractions and marketing at Blickling to nail down the final plan, something we’ll hopefully do in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the trail will be installed by Autumn, which should add another interesting feature for the gardens over the quieter months.

As I left the other volunteers were weeding amidst the double borders, where, once again, the Tulips in the double borders were looking great, as are those in the White Border to the side…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener





One block of the 'Piano Hedges'

One block of the ‘Piano Hedges’

A very hot, humid session this week at Blickling. Just as well then that Gardener Ed had something not too taxing for Aussie Pete and me to do. It involved coaxing the Yew bushes known as ‘pianos’ (due to their resemblance to grand pianos) into a bit of order.

Gardener Ed explaining his approach to 'playing the piano'...

Gardener Ed explaining his approach to ‘playing the piano’…

Ed handled the hedge clipper, while Pete and I used measuring tapes and lines to cut the turf edges that will help to guide the edges of the hedges! I his usual thorough way Ed explained how, over time, the bushes have become a bit unruly- too much ‘cutting by eye’ had resulted in a number of bumps, bulges and hollows that spoil the neat geometry. Over the past few years he has been letting some areas of the bushes grow out to the desired lines, and now they look pretty much ready to be ‘whipped into line’. It’s interesting looking at how much these bushes – and their accompanying ‘acorns’ on the parterre- have grown in the last 200 years or so. Here are some pictures taken between 80 and 100 years ago and the difference with today is quite noticeable…

Whilst the bushes will continue to grow (especially inside), the hope is that the lines now beign established can be maintained. Even so, it was interesting to see how much Pete and I had to cut back the turf edges to accommodate them- 2-3 inches in places. As I say, it was relatively easy work with lines and half moons, but even so the high humidity made it rather sapping work. Still we were rewarded with an ice cream from Ed at the end of the session.

The rest of the gardens in this area are looking grand, and I also made a quick trip over to the walled garden to see how it was looking (Project Manager Mike wasn’t around today). The other garden volunteers were busy weeding around the edges fo the parterre and Rob and Becca were raising the crown on a Lime tree near the Temple- complete with hydraulic lift. The result has certainly opened up the area and enabled some shaded shrubs and trees to benefit from more light.

Before the session I’d emailed Head Gardener Paul a layout plan and list of trees for possible inclusion in the Tree Trail project I’ve mentioned before. This is coming together nicely, with between 20 and 30 trees in the trail. Once firmed up we can start to sort out the information to go on the sign boards at each specimen, as well as leaflets, childrens’ activities etc.

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As I may have mentioned before, the gardening team is a wonderful group of people, with many an amusing tale to tell. Ed’s contribution today concerns the ‘human sundial’ set out in the parterre (see picture below). Apparently he confronted a bemused gentleman walking around this one dull day. The man complained that the sundial wasn’t working- ‘It’s overcast’ said Ed. The man was puzzled and disappointed he couldn’t get the dial to work- ‘You should put a sign up explaining that it only works when the sun is out’, he said. Hmm, maybe a case for introducing an artificial sun on dull days?!

The 'Human Sundial'- it seems a little too complicated for some people...

The ‘Human Sundial’- it seems a little too complicated for some people…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160530_13_41_55_ProOn our last Devon trip we spent a day at Antony House, Torpoint.  This 18th century mansion tells the story of a family caught up in the English civil war, a place which is still home to the Carew- Poles.

Before entering the house it was great to visit a small exhibition of some interesting artefacts, including one of Humphry Repton’s original ‘Red Books’, where he set out his assessment and vision of the gardens including some beautiful, if soemtimes fantastical, ‘before and after’ watercolour illustrations.

‘A house of silver grey stone, Antony is a beguiling mixture of the formal and informal. It’s believed to be one of the finest surviving Queen Anne buildings in the West Country.

View the outstanding collection of portraits, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a famous painting of Charles I during his trial. There are also fine examples of period furniture, textiles and tapestries.

Breathe in the sweeping views as you explore the landscape garden, which includes a formal garden with topiary, modern sculptures and the National Collection of Daylilies.

The Woodland Garden, owned and run by the Carew Pole Garden Trust, also has outstanding rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias.

The magic of Antony was captured by director Tim Burton, as a film location for his blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland.’

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The gardens and grounds are exceptional. The tree collection is especially interesting and I was pleased (and inspired) by their tree trail which gives few bits of information alongside each specimen – and there are plenty of these, many at or beyond maturity. The walks around the woodland garden are peaceful, with a selection of viewing and sitting points overlooking the nearby channel, and, when we visited, a superb collection of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in flower. I also loved the pond and some playful timber seats, which contrast with some very old wooden seats in the more formal garden spaces.

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As you may have read earlier this week, in my post about my latest session at Blickling, I’ve made progress in getting a similar tree trail project going there, so am very thankful for the detailed information Antony provided on how they put theirs together.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20160818_10_09_52_ProI’d missed a week, but the Dahlias, which I thought had reached their best two weeks ago, were definitely in peak form in the Walled Garden at Blickling this week.

It was also pleasing to see that the posts and wires for the soft fruit were finished- but not after some further manoeuvering of our ‘difficult post’, by Project Manager, Mike! And the four new benches are also in place; they look great and offer visitors a chance to sit and enjoy the veg, fruit and flower offerings in the garden. I began work weeding around the herbs – a rather intoxicating experience as I rubbed against Thyme, Sorrel, Garlic, Fennel, Annis and so on…

After this- a mixture of hand weeding and hoeing- I went off to see Head Gardener, Paul and Assistant Head Gardener, Steve to discuss the Tree Trail Project. We are hoping to set out a series of name and information boards for around 20-30 trees within the gardens and perhaps add some ‘child friendly’ activities along the way. I suggested this after visitng Antony house in cornwall, where a similar, volunteer-led project has helped present their wonderful collection of trees.

We had an enjoyable walk around the gardens identifying the trees with a bit of special interest or stories to tell- it was difficult keeping up with the professionals whose encyclopedic knowledge of the many trees on offer was mightily impressive! Still, I think we have the makings of a great project and I’m looking forward to drawing the information together and working with Trust staff and other volunteers to finalise the information boards and leaflets etc. Something of a winter project, I think!

After a late lunch I spent an hour helping Chris and three of the lady volunteers in the corner of the walled garden clearing away the extensive weeds under and around the Mulberry Tree (which is one of those likely to make it to the Tree Trail, too). This area- previously enclosed in glass- is a wilder part of the walled garden, but after our work looked rather more in keeping with the trim borders elsewhere.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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