Garden Journal 14.6.20

Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journey – a journal entry for the week leading up to June 14 2020. This week it’s a tale of three very different garden situations: my work garden at Broadwell, home garden in Warwickshire, & a first post-lockdown garden visit to the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle – and what an experience that was!

At the beginning of the week it still very much felt as though irrigation was the order of the week both at home and work, as forecasted rain hadn’t materialised in any decent quantity previously – it turns out I have no influence upstairs after all…

Furthermore, rain was still expected but couldn’t be relied upon and so – off to water I did go. In the midst of this I rediscovered an old favourite plant of mine called Knautia macedonica, otherwise known as scabious.

It took but a few seconds to witness and remember how good these flowers are at attracting pollinators, for every flower had at least one, and more often two bees on it. It’s no coincidence that it gets the RHS’s ‘Plants For Pollinators’ badge of honour! As you can see from the image below, the intensity of the flower colour alone is reason enough for growing a scabious like this, let alone its attraction to bees… A top herbaceous plant for sure.

Macedonian Scabious (Knautia macedonica).

Moving onto other tasks, the working week looked a little like this: Monday – Watering. Strimming to edge-up or reduce long grass areas. Planted sweet peas. Tuesday – Collected Monday’s debris. Trimmed Pyracantha hedge. Fed sweet peas & weeded herbaceous border. Potted up seedlings. Wednesday – Compost bin emptying & border mulching. Thursday – Watering. Feeding kitchen garden plants. Auriculas. Composting. Mowing. Friday – Day off! No gardening at all – well just a little bit at home…

Compost clear out!

The image above shows one of four bins that I emptied on Wednesday. This was quite a task without the tractor and bucket I’m more used to, but a steady dig away was achievable and revealed some lovely, crumbly material that spread beautifully as a mulch around the recently planted dahlias.

Some material had become compressed at the bottom of the very full stack with the result that it hadn’t decayed completely, but this was easily worked into the remaining material when spreading, and the border worms will make short work of it I’m sure. I may not have started this compost heap, but I was glad to get it emptied and to finally see it begin to work its magic out in the border.

Sowing some beetroot…

In my garden at home, my ‘grow your own’ spirit has eased just a little because the space available has progressively reduced over recent weeks, yet my focus on all the plants hasn’t eased up at all – quite the opposite. As larger containers have emptied following spring bulb displays, options have opened up for planting out baby veg’ plants and for sowing a few more seeds, and it won’t be long before I’m emptying large (ish) pots of 1st early potatoes – and their pots will also be put straight into use. It seems like every pot and corner is important, and I’m loving the challenge!

The image above shows a new sowing of ‘Boltardy’ beetroot in a nicely formed tin container with room enough, after thinning, for a reasonable hoard. Beetroot can be sown in succession until July, and I’ll hopefully be sowing a few more in due course – as soon as I empty another pot that is!

Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata)

Above is another of my all time favourites, the yellow or dotted loosestrife. I’ve always admired the toughness of this plant, although I haven’t often seen it for sale. I begged a piece from my parents garden some while ago and as they’ve since moved house and left theirs behind, I’ll soon be well placed to offer them some back – unless they moved house just to be rid of the stuff of course!

The image below, taken on Saturday 13th of June marks the first ‘proper’ outing and visit since lockdown began. Knowing the venue well, and understanding that risks were mitigated as far as could be reasonably expected, we were relieved to take the opportunity to pre-book and visit Kenilworth Castle.

The Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle.

Believe me, it was with some trepidation that we ventured out, indeed it was the first time I’d taken my car off the now established work-home-supermarket-home routes. It was good though to be waved through the gate once the appropriate QR codes had been scanned, at a distance of course, and to head into a favourite heritage venue of ours.

There was a one way route in operation that flowed easily, and with enough space to social distance for those who chose to, which was most people, and we slowly glided along the inside of the curtain wall of the south court.

A fragrant ‘Gillyflower’ or Dianthus.

It felt weird, I have to say, but there was reassurance in being out amongst folk at a safe distance, and especially to walk amongst scented roses and pinks – the ‘gillyflowers’ of the sheltered Elizabethan garden.

Bright blue skies, fluffy clouds and sunshine looked kindly on our day. Our children were stretching their legs in an old haunt that possessed a new atmosphere, and along with us so called grown ups, were breathing fresh air deeply and smelling the flowers that seemed stronger than ever.

It must have been a big day for the staff as well as they adapted to that ‘new normal’ we keep hearing about; as if anything can be called normal. They collectively handled the visit efficiently, if tentatively, and our first step out on a reignited 2020 season was really enjoyable – it was an absolute treat and very much needed.

Plant vacation!

Last thing I want to cover is the break in weather that happened this weekend. Fortunately for us it was after our day out on Saturday and came mid-evening, giving me chance to set out some of the houseplants that would benefit from a good rain soaking – I trust.

Real, heavy, soak-you-through raindrops were dropping as I stowed away the garden chairs and moved plant pots into the open to take full advantage. The air felt charged and the thunder rolled which, although half hearted, added to the atmosphere that filled the garden. As I understand ‘petrichor’ is the smell of rain falling on dry ground, and I’d put a nugget on that being the scent present, and wasn’t it a delight. As long as foliage isn’t being battered to the ground or having flowering stems snapped, many plants thrive in that atmosphere, and I was very happy to see them enjoying the moment – it’s been a long time coming.

It’s been a late journal entry this week due to a lovely family weekend, so I hope the post knitted together well from your perspective. Until next time – enjoy your gardening and do get out and about if you can.

Kind regards, Gary Webb

Link to explore your visit to Kenilworth Castle & Elizabethan Garden

Garden Journal 28.12.19

Welcome! Join me here regularly to catch up on my gardening endeavours through this #GardeningWays Journal. I spend much of my time gardening professionally for Rachel de Thame at Broadwell, in Gloucestershire, and my journal picks up on progress there plus other horticultural highlights that might pop up during my week.

I use the #SixonSaturday meme that continues to blossom on social media, as a way to channel my gardening week images and writing, and the text below aims simply to give a little more background for each of the images I’ve chosen.

A Monday sunrise, garden archaeology, orchard mulching, composting, hedge trimming and a book for Christmas

This particular Christmas week, in summary would have to fall into two distinct halves, prompted largely by Christmas Day falling right in the middle! Mixed weather continues to be the norm but it threw a couple of wonderful sunrises and sunsets our way, which combined with the odd hanging mist made for a beautifully atmospheric working week, and one where a few tasks were ticked off the list.

In the image below the sun seemed slow to rise, indeed I think it waited on purpose until I could get in and sorted. This picture taken looking through one of the southern doorways to the walled garden.

Sunrise over Broadwell
Sunrise Over Broadwell

On Monday morning, it felt as though I was bailing out of the usual Christmas preparations as I headed to Broadwell to start the working week. In all honesty, I was happy to be avoiding the last minute shopping mayhem I was hearing about on the radio – if indeed it happened at all?!

In this short firethorn hedge image below, I’ve finally given in and taken to giving it a light trim. It has been teasing me over the last few weeks and I just haven’t made time to get give it a cut, every time I walked past it was saying “You know I need a trim, just do it already!”

For my tardiness, it left me with a tip of a thorn in my thumb for the rest of the day…

Hedge trimming a thorny bush
Trimming the thorny bush..

I’m guessing the useful berries had already been picked off by birds, for there were but a handful left on the whole hedge. You’ll have to take my word that the finished hedge was somewhat tidier…

The next image shows what was a brief step into the world of garden archaeology, I guess, carried out simply to learn more about the garden paths that I hoped would be just below the surface. This shallow scrape is on the inside of a walled garden that has been left fallow for some time. I felt lucky to have found a simple, cambered gravel path surface, although no flagstones or smart edging as dreamt of! More of this to come in due course…

A touch of garden archaeology
A touch of garden archaeology.

Well, in connection with my previous image of digging in the walled garden, I just had to select the following image of a perfect Christmas gift from my good lady MrsRuthieWebb – who thought I might need a little more guidance on Walled Gardens…

Thus far I have only scanned its rich gallery of images, and I’m sure this will keep me entertained and informed over the coming year at the very least – especially the list of restored walled gardens that are open to visitors!

Walled Gardens by Jules Hudson, National Trust Books
Walled Gardens by Jules Hudson.

The next photo simplifies a physical but very rewarding task – that of managing the compost heaps; the energy source for any productive garden. On clearing out the time-served bins, I found that cardboard had been layered too thickly in places causing dry areas beneath, and the general weight of each stack had also compressed lower layers to the point where the composting process had broken down somewhat.

Worms found on a piece of cardboard in the compost heap
Compost corner.

I have therefore gradually emptied each of the four bins, and reworked each. We now have one bin that is ‘open for business’, along with three very full, freshly stacked bins of layered material that include: grass, some older compost, twiggy sticks, shredded, rain-soaked cardboard, and lots of worms. We also have a gardener whose arms and shoulders are glad now to be enjoying a long weekend rest!

Lastly, an image taken part way through a mulching exercise in the orchard. The tangled mass of grass has previously been tightly strimmed to bring back in hand, with the cuttings freshly removed away to the compost heaps.

Ideally I’d have cut beds around each tree, but we’re unsure how this area is to develop so for now, a thick mulch will suffice, to be reviewed in spring. The mulch was finally raked to a rough level, and is now left to the worms and frost to take care of the rest. Pruning will be undertaken over the coming weeks.

Composting trees in the orchard
Orchard composting.

Well there we have it, a journal entry I didn’t expect to post in this odd week between Christmas and New Year. But still, even in the midst of winter there’s lots happening in the garden that I can recall – the generally subdued images hide a wealth of colour and infinite detail that continues to keep the garden a fascinating and engaging place – I do hope you’re able to get out and visit an open park or garden over the Christmas break.

Bye for now, and all the very best for the coming New Year! Gary

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