Tag Archive: walled garden


wp_20161023_15_51_29_proSo this week we were mainly lifting, dividing and replanting herbaceous plants in the Walled Garden at Blickling…

The ‘we’ constituted the two Peters and me, with Gardener Rob putting up support wires for the wall-trained fruit. Project Manager Mike had decided to reorganise the long border with herbaceous perennials into something a bit easier to manage and negotiate from the cut flower point of view. So lines of the same plants were the order of the day, rather than the clumps that had developed over the last year or two. The rest of the volunteers (there were only a handful this week), went over to the parterre for some weeding.

Digging all done...Mike resting on his spade, while Rob presses on with wiring up support for the wall fruit...

Digging all done…Mike resting on his spade, while Rob presses on with wiring up support for the wall fruit…

 

As we left for lunch, one of the other staff, Lizzie, was just starting up her seed sowing session aimed at children who are visiting the house and gardens (it was half term week of course). Some enthusiastic youngsters were more interested in filling some mini watering cans and pouring the contents over some nearby plants…oh well, good practice I suppose.

Lizzie gearing up for some seed sowing...

Lizzie gearing up for some seed sowing…

Over lunch, Gardener Rebecca’s young dog, Otto (who is kept in a cage in the bothy during work time) looked (and whined  painfully) as he watched me devour a rather nice Russet apple- I gather he had already had one earlier in the day and had rather liked it!

Otto the dog is in there somewhere!

Otto the dog is in there somewhere!

It was reasonably straightforward to lift and group plants before replanting them, some needing to be further divided. After the lifting out came the digging over of the border. This took us pretty much up to ‘home time’ and we conveniently left the clearing up to Mike, who had joined us after lunch to supervise and help with the replanting.

Regimenting the cut flowers...

Regimenting the cut flowers…

Mike told me that the new cold frames were due to be delivered on 1st March, so I look forward to seeing them installed. Also, I gather we are due to see some new volunteers soon, so yet more hands to make light(er) work!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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Cordon gooseberries at the ready in the recently erected Fruit Cage...

Cordon gooseberries at the ready in the recently erected Fruit Cage…

Another morning session at Blickling this week. My hip was feeling good, but my trip to the doctors after this session revealed some moderate arthritis, so I’ll have to be careful, but hopefully I can increase the gardening…there’s certainly lots to do at home let alone anywhere else…

Today, we split into two groups, the ladies weeding in the main gardens, we chaps sent to the Walled garden for some weeding amongst the pots of roses (due to be planted out soon), and tickling over one of the beds, removing a few minor weeds as we went. I joined Norfolk Peter on the latter, whilst Rory and Gordon headed over to the roses.

For the roses...

For the roses…

We had a good chat about this and that and also talked about the plans for the walled garden. I’d found out from Project Manager, Mike that the new cold frames were due to be delivered and fixed in the next week or two.

ready for fitting- the base of the new cold frames next to one of the glasshouses

ready for fitting- the base of the new cold frames next to one of the glasshouses

I also spotted some of the metal arches that are to be erected over the main path, where apples will be trained up and over them. Rory showed me the holes he and Peter had dug last week in preparation for this.

And I was pleased to see that the new panels for the information board at the entrance had been fitted; they give some interesting insights into the history of the garden, recent achievements and something on the vision for the future.

As we finished off the border digging, Peter and I remarked on how well the bean tunnel we had built from hazel a couple of years ago was looking; it has  the string ties replaced each year, but it still looks good and solid!

wp_20170209_12_47_51_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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wp_20160929_13_42_00_proBack to Thursday at Blickling this week. An interesting, if not particularly tiring day helping to erect the new fruit cage that I thought might have been up already!

I’m not sure about why there had been a delay, but no matter, it was an enjoyable day working mainly with Project Manager Mike, Gardeners Ed and Rebecca, Norfolk Peter and a couple of guys sent over by the supplier to help.

Reminiscent of the task we had putting in the oak posts to support the raspberries, this involved lining up the posts, sinking receivers into the ground for the powder coated posts and then fixing the cross rails, making sure all were vertical and level as we went. We finished off with some corner braces to fix the outer posts rigid. The cage had been specially made to fit the irregular shape of the fruit bed, so I spent some time sorting out the different lengths of cross rail and placing them ready to be fitted.

Underway...

Underway…

After lunch I took a different route back to the Walled Garden; the sun was out and people were enjoying a late summer day by the lake…

Back to cage fighting! After a few moments of cursing at posts that wouldn’t stand straight or rails that weren’t level, with the aid of a sizeable rubber mallet and spirit level, we were able to ensure the structure looked neat and tidy. There was also a good standard of ‘garden banter’ on offer!

..near the end..of our tethers?!

..near the end..of our tethers?!

By the time I had to leave the bulk of the cage was up, leaving just one side to be put in. I think Mike is going to put the side netting on, but in case of heavy snow this winter, is leaving the roof off until the spring. I also had a spare ten minutes so I weeded the large piles of compost waiting to be put on the ground as mulch.

I also had the chance to speak with Mike about one or two matters I raised in last week’s post. First, I was right about the new compost bins- they are designed as ‘hot bins’ so don’t need any extra aeration. Mike tells me the temperature in the middle is already up in the 70’s fahrenheit! Second, he does plan to put in some green manure on the pumpkin beds, but it looks like its getting a bit late to sow any but a variety of grazing rye, so we shall see. I noticed that the beds had already been dug over following my clear up last week.

Ready for rye...

Ready for rye…

Today was the beginning of ‘sign up’ for the series of winter talks put on for volunteers here- a great idea. I’ve signed up to hear Mike talk further about the Walled Garden and also Assistant Head Gardener Steve, who is sharing his many year’s memories of working at Blickling….that should be ‘interesting’…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20160921_12_28_07_proI went in to Blickling on Wednesday this week and worked with Peter and Maurice clearing away the piles of pumpkin and squash greenery left behind after the previous day’s volunteers had harvested a fantastic array of squashes and pumpkins.

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

I was excited to see another wooden structure in the far corner of the Walled Garden- three new compost bins with removable, slatted fronts and panelled lids. These will be a great addition to the garden and reduce the need to transport piles of compost from the main dumping ground on the other side of the gardens.

The new compost bins

The new compost bins

I was initially puzzled to see no gaps in the sides fo these new bins as I thought they would be necessary to allow some air to get into the bins. However, on reflection, I think the theory might be that the amount of material, and with regular turning, these bins will be ‘hot’ bins creating usable compost within a matter of a few months. Mike, the Project Manager wasn’t around to clarify this, so that’ll be a question for next week’s session. As we were finishing off the clearing up, a couple of young children and their parents wheeled a couple of mini barrowfuls of material over to help us!

wp_20160921_11_23_58_proIn the remaining hour before lunch we hoed and stone picked around the soft fruit bushes, where, Assistant Head Gardener, Steve, told us that new fruit cages were to be erected the following day. I look forward to seeing these in place next week.

After lunch Maurice and I hoed across the pumpkin and squash beds to tidy them up. I think Mike plans to sow some green manures in these over winter. I hope so, as I’d be interested to see how this would look and what it would do to protect and add to the nutrients in the soil.

The Dahlias are continuing to put on a good show, and I noticed that the cyclamen were in full bloom just outside the Walled Garden.

We had plenty of visitors in the Walled Garden, and many stopped to chat and ask questions, as well as praising everyone’s efforts. One chap asked me what the difference is between a gourd and a squash…hmm after a quick thought I offered the view that they are different types of the same sort of plant, the gourd possibly being more of a climbing variety…As it turns out I wasn’t quite right, as this very helpful advice from the site Missouri Botanical Garden explains:

‘Pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the enormously diverse Cucurbitaceae family, which contains more than 100 genera and over 700 species.  They have been providing mankind with food and utilitarian objects since before recorded history.  Various members of the genus Cucurbita are known as squash or gourds.

Names differ throughout the world, but in the United States, any round, orange squash used for pies or jack-o-lanterns is likely to be called a pumpkin.  But the term “pumpkin” really has no botanical meaning, as they are actually all squash.  Squash are divided into two categories: tender or summer squash, and hard-skinned or winter squash.  Examples of summer squash include zucchini, pattypan, straightneck, crookneck and other types.  Winter squash include small to medium hard-skinned squash such as the acorn, small hubbard, miniature pumpkin and spaghetti types, as well as the large hard-skinned types, including banana, butternuts, cheese pumpkins, cushaws, and large hubbards, among others.

Botanists use distinctive characteristics of leaves, seeds and fruit stalks to classify the different species.  The origins of these species are lost in time, but all are assumed to have originated in the Western Hemisphere, principally South and Central America and Mexico.  Variety selection for the many distinct shapes, sizes and colors has occurred in all cultures worldwide….

Gourds are defined as hard-shelled durable fruit grown principally for ornament, utensils and general interest….

Hardshell gourds remain green throughout the growing season, but dry to a brownish-tan when fully cured.  They have traditionally been utilized as bottles and containers for liquid and dry materials, as well as food, medicine, musical instruments, artistic media and many other uses.

Like the squash, cultivar selections in various shapes and sizes have continued from prehistoric times to the modern era.’

wp_20160921_12_28_39_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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

Another hot day...

Another hot day…

An interesting (if not very taxing), session at Blickling this week. In the morning I worked with Norfolk Peter and Chris ‘bashing brambles’ along the main Temple walk. Cutting them out at ground level often involved scrambling amongst the rhododendrons and then hauling the extensive stems out of the bushes. Prickly work!

I then joined the ladies in the Walled garden and did a bit of weeding around the Raised beds with their brightly coloured Zinnias. The heat was climbing…

Weeding in the Walled Garden

Weeding in the Walled Garden

After lunch Peter and I joined Gardener Ed and a team of Tree surgeons over in the Wilderness, where a couple of huge, but unsafe, trees (a Beech and Sycamore) had already been felled- I remember hearing the loud crashes earlier in the day.

Well we were there to help clear up the brashings once another sycamore (also infected with Honey fungus) was felled. It was fascinating watching one of the surgeons clamber up the tree and progressively rid it of all its side growth, to leave a tall (I estimate 80 feet) trunk, ready for the chop. Ed told me that the hand-held chain saw he used is digitally controlled, so it regulates the power it delivers in relation to the resistance it picks up in the sawing job in hand. It was impressive.

Well, did we clear up? No. Did we see the tree fall? No. Unfortunately we had to leave before the deed was done, but Ed told me later that it fell well, and that it was caught just in time as it’s inner wood was spongy and soft from the fungus….a few more lives saved!

Old School Gardener

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_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

WP_20160804_14_13_43_ProRemembered my camera this week! Norfolk Peter and I joined Chris in the Walled Garden in my latest session at Blickling. The ladies were detailed to the ‘Black Garden’ for some (as it turned out) frustrating ‘hands and knees’ weeding around the irises.

Jane and Pam weeding in the Black Border

Jane and Pam weeding in the Black Border

Project Manager Mike had already begun installing the heavy oak posts (all sourced from the Estate) that provide the support for the fruit bushes.Peter and I helped him to finish off the two areas by using lines to make sure the rows of posts (in threes) wer both straight and level, though one post in particular proved to be a pain…first we couldn’t get it level and then we installed it the wrong way round (the holes for the support wires went across rather than along the row)! Chris, mean time was doing great job trimming the edges of the grass paths.

There were plenty of visitors around, many offering compliments for the way the garden has been transformed over the last 18 months or so, and inevitably a few asking what the purple edging plant along the main paths was….as reported last week, this Catmint (Nepeta x faasennii) often confuses visitors, many of whom think it is lavender …perhaps a sign is needed, or maybe we should resist this as it at least is one way (albeit repetitive) of engaging with visitors!

WP_20160804_13_44_23_ProApart from some subtle final positioning to make the tops of the posts roughly line up (sometimes involving standing on an upturned dustbin and using a ‘comedy hammer’ as Chris called it- a large rubber mallet), this was a fairly straightforward job. The oak posts seem really heavy but even so, as the rows are rather long Mike had arranged with fellow gardener Rob to put in some angled supports to help resist the forces that would otherwise pull over the posts- I know about this from bitter experience at Old School Garden , where my posts are gradually toppling inwards with the weight of the blackberry bushes.

Peter and I dug the holes for these angled wooden supports as far as we could in the time available, and Rob and Mike began to put them in the ground, secured with a couple of stakes at their bases to, once more, help to prevent the whole assembly ‘walking’ forwards.

I also took time out to photograph the dahlia border, which is coming to its peak…here’s a gallery…

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Mike told us he’s ordered four new metal benches for the walled garden- cream, simple designs that will look rather stylish…the picture below is of a two person bench, we’ll be getting a three person version.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160714_15_36_50_ProJuly in the Garden- by volunteer Sue Prutton

‘Yesterday was an oh so special day for me in that while I was wandering round the garden without a tour (the school summer holidays have begun and the customer-base has changed) I was overwhelmed with a wave of nostalgia. That perfume, redolent of romantic holidays in France, really took me back some 25 years …. and all because the lime trees were in blossom. I just stood still and invited anyone and everyone who passed me on their way to the Walled Garden to pause and enjoy it. One or two could not appreciate the perfume as for some scientific reason they were unable take it on board – similar to my late husband who could never smell my favourite freesias – but by and large the universal enjoyment provided by these small flowers really made my day.

The Walled Garden continues to be a source of amazement to our visitors – some have never seen it before but increasingly we have those who are returning to see the progress being made. A few weeks ago I noticed a “Walled Garden Salad” on offer in The Stables and now outside the restaurant door there is a list of the varied produce items which have made the rapid journey from the garden to the plate and are available each day. Surplus produce is regularly on sale from a table just inside the garden doorway and last weekend I was able to enjoy broad beans the way I like them – young and tender, rather than the larger, coarser version the supermarkets offer. I see that runner beans are coming on too, so I hope to be able to indulge in some of those soon.

On the far side of the garden, beyond the second greenhouse, the whole bed alongside the wall is devoted to dahlias. An excellent show is getting underway and is well worth investigating as it is not immediately visible from the entrance. So much has been achieved in less than two years but there is a great deal more still to come in the shape of the apple and pear trees now in place and which are destined to line the paths. It is lovely to see the visitors as they enjoy wandering up and down, their attention drawn to several varieties of lettuce, the chard and beetroot area, the courgettes and squash plants, the soft fruits and the many flowering plants. The new bothy is well used as it is quite a walk to and from the old one beside the double borders. As well as secure lockers for valuables there is a microwave and a dishwasher (no more excuses for grimy mugs, mercifully) and also a substantial set of tables and chairs so that the room could double up for meetings and similar. Back in the main garden a great deal of hard work is under way to re-take control of the boundary hedges in the ha-ha.

Elsewhere everything is at full peak blossom-wise. Five Tuesday evenings were set aside at the end of June and the start of July for “late night opening” when it was hoped that, weather permitting, families would bring picnics and enjoy a peaceful end to the working day. The weather did not always cooperate but on the evenings that it did, particularly on the final one which came at the end of an extremely hot day, it was lovely to see friends and families kick off their shoes, lounge in our deckchairs (we could do with a few more) and sip something cool and bubbly.

I had to smile a few weeks ago: in spite of the huge lake at their disposal I came across a pair of ducks giving their five well-grown offspring a swimming lesson in the Shell Fountain. I stood and watched as they calmly climbed out and waddled off back to the far larger “pool” which is always available for them. They had come on quite a stroll for their swimming lesson!’

ducks

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