Garden Journal 4.4.20

Gary Webb’s Garden Journal
A range of garden delights…

Well it’s garden journal time and this week feels like an improvement on last, in as much that it has seemingly moved at a more normal pace – or maybe I’ve just acclimatised a little more to the strange situation we’re all in?! Out in the garden, aside from some very cool mornings there have been some quite warm and sunny days, in fact spring seems to have really begun now with bright and beautiful blooms almost everywhere I look; primulas, daffodils, grape hyacinths, wind flowers and so many more.

As mentioned in last week’s journal – for the time being, and due to the social distancing that my working role allows, I am able to continue with my gardening. This is something I’m extremely thankful for – not least because it’s one of the busiest times of the year for gardens and for gardeners. Indeed it’s been heartening to see the pressure build for garden centres to resume service to the public, and I certainly support this. Whether by special opening arrangements akin to supermarkets, or indeed by ordering for local delivery – as I know some have now started.

Back in the garden, the cool overnight temperatures are keeping the pace of grass, for example, quite steady. Yet all around the garden is quickening its steady steps into a meaningful stroll, and that pace is only set to speed up – it’s the time of year when you wish you could clone yourself in order to devote enough time to all that needs doing!

My horticultural hit list this week has been, in summary: Monday – Fed and reduced foliage area of many box shrubs that were moved before the weekend, trimming to similar dome shapes. Began first mowing session with pedestrian mower. Some re-potting. Tuesday – Lots of heavy-going mowing to neaten up close mown areas, and to define edges of wild flower areas. Wednesday – Disinfected and cleaned many display containers ahead of dahlia re-potting. Thursday – Steered some tree pruning activity, and began cleaning up and potting up stored dahlia tubers. Friday – Completed dahlia containers – just shy of 120 pots of joy, and each one planted with love and attention!

Growing your own food
Home Grown

To my first image above, a relatively recent acquisition; a mini-greenhouse to help with growing from home. In a small garden these kits offer a sheltered space that can be really effective in lifting temperatures enough to both protect delicate plants and to bring seedlings on more rapidly. One particular thing I’d mention from experience is to make sure the unit is tied in securely, as they love to blow over once they’re fully loaded and when you’re not expecting. I learned the hard way…

Snake’s Head Fritillary​
Snake’s Head Fritillary

Next up is a single pot of what is arguably the most unusual flower going – the chequer petalled snake’s head fritillary, or Fritillaria meleagris. An absolute delight and a draw for my camera every year without fail.

I remember seeing them beautifully staged and growing in a grassy glade in the Quarry Garden at Belsay Hall, and didn’t hesitate to introduce them to Compton Verney over recent years – it’s such a shame they’re all blooming without us being able to see them just now. As well as this the one above at home, I have two pots to plant at Broadwell, and look forward to getting them all in the ground this week.

A temporary resting place in the slip garden for these box shrubs.

These are some of the box shrubs that have been lifted from the kitchen garden and planted here to rest until their final planting places are ready – not for a good while yet. Essentially they are here receiving a reduction in leaf mass, to reduce water loss after their move. Hopefully they’ll bounce back and with a strong fibrous root mass to help with their next move.

Plating up dahlias after winter storage
Dahlia potting

The image above hints at the dahlia activity from this week. It seems but a short time ago when I was washing down the tubers and potting them into dry compost in these old wooden cases. They’ve spent the winter in a cool tool shed, and have now been divided (those that were willing!) and potted up individually to grow on.

Some will clearly make strong plants, but I’ve potted almost every last tuber so we may pick the best for display – some staying in their pots and some, most likely, being transferred into the ground.

Pretty primulas
Pretty primulas and some early flowering tulips

This photo in my folder just jumped out at me. The primulas at Broadwell have been flowering their socks off for weeks, and don’t look like stopping anytime soon – they’re an absolute feast for the eyes!

My final image is of these winter windflowers, or Anemone blanda. They are flowering in a shady woodland area right now and have risen above the dense foliage of wild garlic and primroses. They’re a pure delight and their blue flowers light up this space beautifully. What – a – treat!


As mentioned in my summary above there have been a range of horticultural tasks to keep me busy this week, along with some seed sowing at home. However, it would be impossible for me to ignore or not make reference in some way to the appearance of my works garden on Gardener’s World on Friday evening. It’s a minor miracle that the GW team are able to assemble a program under present circumstances, but so far they’ve done a great and quality job, and long may it continue.

As you can imagine though, privacy is a prime concern, and for this reason I’m personally restricting my storytelling somewhat – it’s incredibly frustrating but the right thing to do all things considered. Believe me though when I say there’s an amazing kitchen garden growing out of what was a long lost walled garden at Broadwell. My gardening and history interest aligns with Rachel’s and it’s been fascinating picking our way through the architectural details left between those garden walls – an iron hook embedded in a wall here, a hollowed out piece of stonework there and slates buried next to garden walls – each detail intriguing and all consuming.

I’m delighted to be part of the Broadwell posse, as a team we’re full of anticipation and excitement, and can’t wait to get the first crops growing in what are shaping up to be the best raised beds I’ve worked with to date – no pressure! We’re moving the kitchen garden forward as much as possible in the present climate, but with a fair wind and some luck we’ll all be able to watch it continue to develop and flourish on our TV screens during the year – I’ll be tuning in to see how it looks on the other side of the camera too! (You can catch it on iPlayer if you haven’t yet seen it 😉 )

For now though, that’s enough from me. Keep calm and carry on gardening! Regards, Gary

Do follow me on Twitter or Instagram, where you’ll most often find me #InTheGarden

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