Tag Archive: tulips


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

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Back to a Wednesday for my latest session at Blickling, and I joined a num ber of fellow volunteers in the ‘Secret Garden’ for a tidy up.

We forked and hoed our way around the clumps of ferns, and other plants just coming into life and after a couple fo hours you could see we’d been, as barrow loads of leaves and a few weeds were consigned to a nearby trailer.

Just before lunch I went over to see how the Walled Garden was looking and found a few gardeners and volunteers well into concreting in the metal arches for the Apple Tunnel that had been awaiting its final positioning for a few weeks. I took the opportunity of sharing some pictures I’d taken of something similar at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, which I’d recently visited. This tunnel is made up of some pretty old timber arches and some very old apple trees, quite an impressive sight (I’ll share more of Gunby Hall in a further post, soon).

After lunch I spent an hour helping tidy up a narrow border to the side of the house, where, amongst other things a ‘Chocolate Vine’ had managed to grow along and up the walls, in a very haphazard manner…I decided to leave it intact rather than lose a lot of the growth, but we managed to remove a lot of dead leaves and cut back a few of the more straggly stems on a Cotoneaster.. As I signed out and passed through the double borders, the tulips were really coming into their own…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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wp_20161124_12_48_27_proHaving spent the morning doing some Geophysics surveying at the nearby Aylsham Roman Project, I joined the Thursday Team at Blickling for a couple of hours this week.

The focus was digging over the Black Border and planting out over 600 ‘Queen of Night’ tulip bulbs which will look splendid alongside black Irises and black Mongo grass, as well as shrubs such as black Elder. The soil here is pretty damp and claggy, so we spent a good time forking it over to loosen it before planting out the bulbs.

wp_20161124_12_48_42_proOn my way to lunch I bumped into Project Manager, Mike, who has thankfully returned to work after his back problems. After lunch I was joined by Norfolk Peter and Gordon in the Walled Garden, where we planted out about seven rows of tulips which will be used for cutting flowers next spring. The soil, here, having been improved consistently over many years, was a joy to work compared to the Black border.

wp_20161124_14_43_36_proSo where were all the gardeners? It turns out they were ‘dressing’ the gardens for the festive openings in the run up to Christmas. The lighting effects and other decorations promise to be even better than previous years and the House has also been decked out as it would have looked for a 1930’s Christmas. If you can manage a visit, I’m sure it will be very worthwhile- I’ll post some pictures later in the week of how it all looks.

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Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

bonfireNovember is upon us, the clocks have ‘gone back’, the days continue to shorten as temperatures fall. What is there to do in the garden this month? Here’s a list of ten top ‘to do’s’ to keep you busy!

1. Clean

  • Rake up fallen leaves – especially from lawns, ponds and beds. Put the leaves in a leaf cage or black bags to create leaf mould to use on your garden over the next few years.

  • Cut down herbaceous stems and clear the remains of annuals, but leave those perennials that fade relatively elegantly (sedum, astilbes and grasses for example).

  • Clear out the greenhouse, wash pots and trays, clean, mend and oil your tools and throw away anything that is beyond hope of reasonable repair!

2. Burn

Keep leaf raking and saving to make leaf mould

Keep leaf raking and saving to make leaf mould

  • If you need to, use a seasonal bonfire (where this is allowed) to dispose of material that can’t be composted. Follow good neighbour and eco friendly practices- avoid smoke nuisance and don’t use petrol/diesel or burn plastics etc.

3. Dig

  • This month is probably your last chance to prepare your soil before winter sets in. If it’s heavy, clear the weeds, dig it over and add organic matter to the soil as you dig or lay a thick mulch on top and let the worms do the work for you!

  • If you produce a fine tilth, protect it from winter rain, which will damage the soil structure – use a good layer of compost and/or leaf mould, sow a green manure or even lay plastic sheeting over it. The soil will be easier to plant or sow into the following spring.

3.Plant

  • Finish planting spring bulbs such as narcissi, crocuses and alliums – even though it’s a little late!

  • Plant tulip bulbs – the cooler soil helps prevent the fungal disease ‘tulip fire’. Plant bulbs in containers or in a sunny spot at 2 – 3 times their own depth and double their width apart. They can also be used to fill gaps in beds and borders, under shrubs and trees or naturalised in grass or woodland. Remember that tulips like good drainage and ideally should lie on a thin layer of grit if your soil is heavy, to prevent rotting.

  • Pot up amaryllis bulbs, water, keep them initially in a dark, warm place, then in daylight as leaves appear – hopefully you’ll have glorious colour for Christmas!.

  • Plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs, hedging and roses as well as fruit trees and bushes. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour before planting.

  • Sow over-wintering onion sets, broad beans and garlic.

    Sow Broad Beans now for a heavier crop next year

    Sow Broad Beans now for a heavier crop next year

4. Divide

  • Perennials such as daylilies, Asters (Michaelmas daisies) and Golden Rod can be divided and replanted. Cut them down to about 8- 10cms, dig them up and divide carefully. If your soil is heavy clay, do this in the spring. All other perennials are also best left until the spring, especially peonies which dislike being split in cold weather and ‘warm season’ grasses like Miscanthus.

5. Prune

  • Roses  and tall shrubs (Lavatera and Buddleja for example) should be pruned lightly to prevent wind-rock (reduce stems by about a half). Pruning can be carried out from now on throughout the dormant season. Once the leaves have fallen it is easier to see the overall shape and prune accordingly.

  • Do not cut back the less hardy perennials such as penstemoms and hardy fuchsias more than a third – the dead stems should give some protection for the crowns in the coldest weather. In colder areas, mulch them with composted bark or something similar and avoid cutting them back fully until they begin to shoot from the base in spring.

  • Remove any fig fruits larger than a pea – the really small ones are embryo figs that will be next year’s crop. The larger ones will not survive the winter.

6. Support

Feed the birds- most will help you keep pests under control

Feed the birds- most will help you keep pests under control

  • Remember to feed the birds in your garden and provide fresh water.

  • Create a small pile of logs to provide shelter for insects and amphibians over the winter.

  • Solitary bees make good use of nooks and crannies in gardens over winter, so if you need some build your own by drilling holes in blocks of untreated softwood and then suspend the blocks in a sunny site. (Block dimensions – 5cm x 10cm x 20cm, Drill bit sizes – 4mm, 6mm and 8mm).

7. Protect

  • Stop winter moth damage to fruit trees by using grease bands around the trunk.

  • Drain and lag standpipes, outdoor taps, irrigation lines and water pumps in advance of really cold weather.

  • Cover brassicas with netting if pigeons are a problem

  • Move tender plants inside or keep a supply of fleece, bubble wrap or similar to protect them from freezing conditions – this is especially important for recently planted hardy annuals and outdoor containers which can be insulated with bubblewrap and raised off the ground to prevent waterlogging and freezing.

  • Protect newly planted trees, hedges and shrubs from the elements with a temporary netting windbreak if they’re in an exposed site.

8. Harvest

  • Bring in carrots, parsnips (wait until after a frost), endive, cauliflower and autumn cabbages.

Leave Parsnips in the ground until they've had a good frosting- it improves the flavour

Leave Parsnips in the ground until they’ve had a good frosting- it improves the flavour

9. Store

  • Remove any canes and supports in your garden left from your summer crops or staking– remember to store them safe and dry.

  • Check stored fruit and vegetables and throw out any that show the slightest sign of rotting.

  • Dahlias – wait until a couple of good frosts have blackened them, then cut the stems back to approximately 10cm from the ground and label each plant as you lift it – it’s easy to forget which is which! Lift the tubers carefully as you dig around them, remove all the soil and store for a couple of weeks in a dry, cool place upside down to allow any residual moisture in the stem to drain out. Once they are completely dry, they can be buried in gritty or sandy peat free compost (used stuff will do) so the top of the tuber is above the compost level. Keep them somewhere frost free.

10.Plan

  • Order seed catalogues or invesitgate seed availability online so that you can get hold of the seeds that you want in good time. If you’re a member of the RHS you can get hold of up to 12 packets of seeds (including 9 collections) for only £8.50- find out more here.

Old School Gardener

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IMG_1052 I’ve finally got round to posting the first pictures from some gardens I saw on our recent trip to Scotland. Spending a week on the Isle of Skye (with amazing temperatures and bright sunshine) and then on to Glasgow for a couple of days, we visited some wonderful places. I’ll post more over the next week or two; the series begins with the ancient seat of the Clan MacLeod, Dunvegan Castle.

The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, this special place on the north west copast of Skye has been the home of the Chiefs of MacLeod for 800 years. We were given a warm welcome and lots of interesting information as we toured the castle. I was even more impressed with the gardens, which consist of a Woodland Garden, more formal ‘Round Garden’ a Walled Garden and a superb Water Garden.

The woodland garden features a hallmark of the gardening skills at play more generally here- very careful attention to planting in what can sometimes seem to be large, daunting spaces. There were some lovely touches; e.g. swathes of Shuttlecock Ferns glinting in the dappled sunlight.

From here we visited the ‘Round Garden’ which had some impressive displays of tulips, formed into a central array of beds, helping to define this circular space.

And then on to the Walled Garden where I chatted to one of thew gardeners abotu the vegetables under cultivation in raised beds, and visited an impressive glasshouse witha good show of various tender, exotic plants.

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But the climax was undoubtedly the Water Gardens, which followed a path alongside tumbling waterfalls and streams and some more very thoughtful planting in and alongside the water.

Further information: www.dunvegancastle.com

Old School Gardener

WP_20160505_10_34_04_ProA short session at Blickling this week, as I needed to get home to cut the grass before we head off for Scotland. I mentioned how the Tulips were looking great in the Double Borders last week. Well, I can say that as I turned into them again this week, I was truly ‘stunned’- a word I tend to resist because it has been over-used and devalued somewhat (rather like ‘awesome’ and ‘epic’!).

They must be at ‘peak tulip’ and in some instances are just about to go over, but the mid morning sun made them stand out marvellously.

After recovering (!) I headed off to the Walled Garden once more, and was soon joined by Norfolk Pete (who was detailed to start constructing the wonderful oak welcome sign board near the main entrance), Aussie Pete and Chris , who set about lightly forking over and hoeing, which is what I began with too. Project Manager Mike had heard the weather was going to be dry and warm- so perfect conditions for hoeing. This is  a job I really enjoy- a bit like scything – once you get into the flowing motion, you can lose yourself…..

Well, by the time I left, we had been over about an eighth of the main four growing areas, just loosening the topsoil and removing weeds and large stones, all ready for some planting out. It was satisfying and we paused to share experiences, jokes and general banter as usual; this time comparing our efforts at tracing our family trees amongst other topics.

Mike, meanwhile was finishing off one of the few areas of gravel path still to be completed, and what a difference seeing those paths -plus the grassed ones- makes to the overall impact of the garden.

So, I miss my slot next week as I shall be up on the Isle of Skye; I’m really looking forward to this break with my wife and 6 old friends, lets hope the weather and midges are kind!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

WP_20160421_10_36_32_ProMy latest session at Blickling was spent in the Walled Garden, once more. On my way I stopped to look at the wonderful display of Tulips in the Double Borders, caught in the early morning sun.

As I arrived it was clear that a lot had happened in the Walled Garden since last week- mainly that the grass paths had been turfed. These really look great, and I also saw that the first prototype metal arch had been installed at one end of the central path… this will eventually be a ‘fruit arch’ covering the entire length of this path.

One group of volunteers were set to weeding in the Parterre garden, whilst the two Petes and a new volunteer, Chris and I were detailed to path edging (Norfolk Pete) and digging (yes, you guessed it!) and mulching some borders which will be home to an array of cut flowers, all ready and waiting to go in from the nearby cold frames.

We moved over to one of the quarter beds and dig some double digging- the three of us in line. Or rather, ‘bastard digging’ (!) , so Mike tells me as he says ‘double digging would involve incorporating some organic matter in the trenches before turning in the next spit of topsoil.

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go...

Norfolk Peter- a bolting we will go…

‘Norfolk Pete’ spent the day bolting in some joining plates for the metal edging, which appears to be nearly complete. I saw a large pile (some 120 tonnes) of Carr Stone in the orchard, which is waiting to be put down as the base for the hard paths , which will have peas shingle laid on top. A bit of path near the potting shed had been finished off as a trial run and it does look neat. mike said we may spend next week laying and raking this gravel over the rest of the paths, the Carr stone having been rammed hard. Carr Stone (the gingerbread coloured sand stone found in West Norfolk), when broken down, provides a perfect sandy path sub surface; it binds together well and is hard wearing.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

WP_20150521_15_40_07_Pro I think it must be three weeks since I was last at Blickling. I got a chance to look around at the end of my working session and there were several highlights I hadn’t seen before, most notably the Azaleas round the Temple, the wall-trained Wisterias, the masses of Forget-me-Nots and Honesty in the Dell and some of the colour combinations in the double borders; especially the Tulip ‘Queen of Night’ and the black foliage of Mongo Grass and Black Elders.

My fellow volunteers were bit thin on the ground this week, and the gardening team pretty much seemed to be tied up in interviews all day, so we were left to our own devices! But the task was simple, weeding in the rose borders in the main Parterres. I went to work with my hoe (I really enjoy this task) and though the borders were pretty clear, there were a few odd weeds (including patches of Oxalis which the other volunteers dug up) and some edging of the grass to be done.

The session was punctuated with chats to vistors who were very complimentary about the gardens. One couple from Bury St. Edmunds envied us the light soil we have in this area- they have to tackle thick clay.

Head Gardener Paul informed us that the National Trust Gardens advisor had recently visited and was full of praise for the gardens and what the whole team had achieved; that was good to hear.

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Work in the Walled Garden has continued with the hard core for the main paths being laid and consolidated. The next job is installing 800 metres of metal edging- I don’t envy the Team that job!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Picture: Lill Dunne

Picture: Lill Dunne

What a difference a week makes- double borders in full colour

What a difference a week makes- double borders in full colour

A brief couple of hours at Blickling this week, as I needed to get home to prepare for our journey to Devon. Still, the place looked superb and I managed to sort out a few lines of plants in the walled garden.

My fellow volunteer Jonny and I began the day (which was sunny again!) with Mike in the Walled Garden. Mike wanted to level some soil between a couple of rows of well established Foxgloves and Rudbeckia and to straighten a line of Nepeta. We set to and after this put in a few more lines of flowers- Agapanthus and Phlox.

The session was punctuated with a visit from a senior manager at Broadland Council, coming to see how a grant they’d made to help restore the greenhouse had been spent and to discuss volunteering. After that I hoed along some of the other lines of veg in the Garden and generally tidied up. Meanwhile Rebecca and Pam had been pricking out seedlings ready to put into the restored greenhouse, which is only about a third full at present (with Penstemons).

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Last week I got my new badge, this week I’ve been offered some National Trust clothing to wear in the gardens- nice to be looked after so well!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

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