Gardens and the Best of Times

Welcome to another GardeningWays post, where this week I’m going to say a little, wait for it – about the importance of gardens.

Oh here we go again I hear you say! Seriously though, gardening for me feels somewhat different this year. Times have changed – but then I’m sure they have for everyone.

Sunrise over the Sphinx bridge at Compton Verney in Warwickshire
Sunrise beyond the Sphinx Bridge at Compton Verney ©️Gary Webb

When I look back, just one year has passed since I released myself from a working role which, through ten years of growing, saw me change immeasurably as a person. When thinking of this last year, I hardly need close my eyes before vivid images across those four seasons come to my mind; a time of intense and very rewarding activity I have to say.

Journal 30.9.20

Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journal – this entry a little later than planned, but an important entry nonetheless; as you find me on the last page of my chapter gardening in the Cotswolds.

Essentially it’s change of job time, equalling new days and new challenges ahead. My boots though are not yet cold from tearing around the works garden, preparing things as best I could for the inevitable gap between me and the next gardener. Therefore, for this journal entry, unlike my usual format of reviewing and looking back over the previous week, I want to be a little more creative with a look back over my last year.

Broadwell Manor, East Front in the Cotswolds in September
A reflective post….

Not wanting to assume that you know anything about the place, I shall try, at the risk of under-selling, to explain in one paragraph the garden as I see it.

Situated in the rural Cotswolds, the mellow stoned Manor House with its formal east facing Georgian façade has owned its place in the landscape for more than three centuries. Lichen and moss enriched dry stone walls and mature woodland wrap their arms around the garden, where plants ornament every corner, and iron fixings pepper every available garden wall. Fully grown walnut, beech, lime and oak trees anchor the garden firmly to the limestone packed soil, and sweeping lawns roll away from the house to a reflective pond and farmland beyond. Did I mention the kitchen garden…?

Moving into a working position there took some time, with my notice period taking a full three months to navigate. Apart from brief visits to keep things going therefore, my start was held back until mid-November, about when the rains arrived – and seemingly for the whole winter.

Garden Journal – 19.7.20

Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journal – an entry for the week leading up to Saturday 18 July. This week, apart from a day of annual leave, has revolved around some project work on a rather large pond which left us mud splattered and more than a little damp around the margins.

Gardening often includes pond maintenance, here in a Cotswolds garden
A silt splattered but happy chappy!

Light Dancing and Bobbing
Now, that pond work… One and a half days devoted to the pond so far this week, and the task itself; to regain the upper hand over pond weed. It’s a naturalistic fish-shaped pond, albeit with its tail fin curled up, and it sits perfectly amongst the lower slopes of a green and pleasant Cotswold hills garden. Grassy banks slope gently from the north to a margin lined with a variety of lush plants, and beyond the pond Iris foliage and reeds direct the eyes to a nearby belt of trees that form a varied texture backdrop.

Partially cleared pond weed – it’s a steady old job to be sure!

If anything, the pond has naturalised a little too successfully and is approaching the stage where bigger intervention may be required – but until that day comes we have a job to do, and Tuesday last was the day to make a start, to pick up the gauntlets, to haul some weed and to begin returning the lake from a bobbled blanket weed surface to its smooth and reflective self.

Removed pond weed, draining to allow insects opportunity to return to the pond.
Pond weed stacked up and draining.

I’ll spare you the detail, but suffice to say there were numerous rope tricks, repeated netting ‘runs’ and rake flinging techniques employed in an effort to pull and tease and encourage the weed to the pond edge. Once at the edge the weed could be dragged out to drain on the side of the pond – a good practice that gives any pond life a chance to crawl or wriggle back to the water, whilst also allowing the sodden weed to dry and become a whole lot lighter – reduced manual handling and all that.

‘Surprisingly heavy, damp and aromatic,’ is how I’d describe the pond work itself, but even with webbed feet developing, it is immensely rewarding. If some gardening can be seen as a restorative act, then working beside open water is equally so. I’ve known this for many years if I’m honest: the presence of damsel and dragon flies flitting about the surface; water birds flapping away from perceived threat; an occasional fish swimming near; the sound of splashes from disturbed water itself; and last but not least – flashes of reflected light dancing and bobbing across the surface. I don’t fish personally, but it’s no wonder that angling is such a long established pastime.

Picking Up Steam
Leaving the pond for now, there have been numerous other ‘plate spinning’ tasks with watering, plant feeding and lawn mowing dominating – and hasn’t the grass picked up steam?! Aside from these gardening regulars, it’s also been good to spend time in the kitchen garden attending to some of the raised beds with a touch of weeding. I’ve also picked up the baton again and started to remove dead ivy from the perimeter wall in an effort to raise the presentation standards now the end of the garden build comes into sight. (It was also a good opportunity to spot any loose stonework that might have needed attention).

Ivy ready for removal.

Jobs Done
Before I move onto my final thought for this week, here’s my key tasks in the garden last week:
Monday – Watering and deadheading containers; feeding in kitchen garden.
Tuesday – Mowing; pond maintenance.
Wednesday – A day annual leave, for daddy daycare duties!
Thursday – Weeding; pedestrian mowing; pond maintenance.
Friday – Watering, feeding & dead-heading; raised bed maintenance; pedestrian & ride-on mowing.

Best way to  keep weeds at bay is to hoe hoe hoe
Hoe hoe hoe time!

You’ve Been Framed!
Stepping back from garden maintenance chat, BBC Gardeners’ World on T.V. is a weekly treat for me, if I can get it. I say ‘if I can get it’ because family life doesn’t always free up the time to sit back and watch the show in relative peace, and iPlayer doesn’t work reliably enough to guarantee quality viewing.

I’ve heard many ‘professionals’ talk the program down over the years for one reason or another, and I myself have drifted near and far from the program for as long as I can remember. These days however, I have to say that the program offers me an opportunity to peek over the garden fence, so to speak, and to see what other gardeners are up to at any particular stage of the season.

You might imagine that some of the features may sometimes be a little lightweight for myself as a working gardener, however, there is often a relevance or something useful to take away, and anyway; none of us should be so daring to say we know it all. To this end, I want to also record how good the ‘viewers videos’ have been, and to make a particular point.

After training in horticulture it’s very easy to use techniques that have been taught and to stay in a gardening comfort zone. However, features like viewers videos remind me personally that there are many ways to grow plants and to achieve a beautiful garden – and some of them entirely more sensitive to the planet. The feature also proves how a novice gardener can approach any particular topic with imagination, and achieve brilliant results and personal satisfaction. I see people young and old exhibiting new and innovative methods that are clearly successful, breaking the established norm with refreshingly simple techniques, and often whilst doing it being thrifty and environmentally aware to boot.

My point is, that I’d like to vote for a ‘viewers video’ feature to continue in future runs of the program, maybe even spreading to include some of our self employed and employed gardeners who, through necessity, also have to innovate on a regular basis. (Dare I say it, the example set by You’ve Been Framed, offering a fixed sum payment for clips used, might be an attractive way to adopt the feature, and to support gardeners too?! – I’ll leave that one with you….)

Until next time… Do keep in touch in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram.

Garden Journal 11.4.20

Tulip time!

What an absolute stunning week of weather we’re having! (Apologies if that opening line jinxed the weather for the rest of Easter by the way!) Temperatures up into the mid-teens and wall-to-wall sunshine have made these last few days an absolute dream, but needless to say it’s been a week if intense gardening activity both at work and home.

My mind is presently fixed on mid-spring activity which includes all the April classics such as mowing, weeding and container work. Generally speaking, there’s still enough moisture in the soil so that weeding is about as easy now as it’s going to get, especially if conditions remain dry – and so if you haven’t started yet, there is no time like the present to get the hoe or cultivator tool on the move!

In terms of the garden at Broadwell, I’ve also been working to ensure that the hard work given out over the winter isn’t wasted now by taking the foot of the gas. For example, the mild winter has allowed me to get on top of some grassy areas that last year had grown a little lengthy, shall we say. In some areas a number of cuts have been made during the cooler months with the height of each cut gradually being reduced – it’s not an exact science, nor does it have to be, but at this stage of the game, and for the mowing equipment available, I’m happy that all is under control.

Where ornamental containers are concerned, many at Broadwell have recently been re-potted, which of course leads to root disturbance and a hit to water uptake until their roots settle into the new compost. The ongoing issue therefore encourages me to monitor the fresh foliage closely for signs of drooping, and to ensure plants are sufficiently irrigated – the plants will communicate their needs one way or another, I just have to watch that I’m not too busy to notice!

My summary for key tasks at Broadwell and home this week: Monday – Watering. Disinfected dahlia storage boxes and various clay containers. Sorted through nursery plants. Initiated shrub border renovation. Tuesday – Completed shrub area work, cleared debris and mulched with leaf mould. Wednesday – Relocated wallflowers and repotted lillies. Mowed lawns. Thursday – Watering. Wood splitting. Furniture moving. Friday – Bank Holiday! Drew together list of autumn 2019 bulb planting for the borders at Broadwell. At home – made paper pots and started sowing ornamental seeds. Made solitary bee hotels with my son for the garden. Generally moved trays of seedlings around the garden to keep them exposed to the sun!

My first main image this week highlights the autumn through to spring journey for on border at Broadwell, and shows some of the first tulip blooms to open. I’m looking forward to seeing the other tulip groups flower over the coming weeks.

Tulip Apricot Beauty
‘Apricot Beauty’, one of the first tulips into flower at Broadwell

Next up is a photo to remind me that mowing is and will continue to be a primary activity for the months ahead. There’s ample lawn area for me to play with and manipulate with a mixture of cutting equipment and mowing regimes, and there’s enough room to develop some good quality wild flower areas too; something I look forward to with much anticipation.

In the meantime, I might look a little silly driving around on a pint-sized John Deere, but it’s an incredibly versatile machine, and my mowing work alone is already drawing comments of approval from local passers-by. So far, so good…

Lawns need a cuttin!

Next up is a micro scene that jumped out as I passed by a raised bed. It was, quite simply, a droplet of water cradled by lupin leaves. It’s a detail that many will instantly recognise, but it never ceases to amaze how often these details are overlooked, or the shear wonder on someone’s face when they tune in to such a sight. The crystal ball like qualities of those tense droplets of moisture must surely enchant the hardiest of gardeners?!

Lupin leaves and water droplets
Lupins and water droplets…

When I left my last role I was surprised and delighted to receive a little pot maker from my team, amongst many humorous and touching gifts. Naturally, I have waited until now to try the little gadget, and I’m happy to say it works really well! Now I’m not really short of pots, but the size of paper pot this press makes is a perfect half way house between seed tray and container. I’m optimistic that if the paper holds together, I’ll be using this more often – I might even start buying newspapers again, if only to keep me going in raw materials!

Making paper seedling plant pots
Making my own pots… My self sufficiency rating raised a little further!

My last image was taken at Broadwell and won some praise on social media. I can’t lay claim to taking the photo, just to sowing the seeds, but it’s photographer knows how to turn a plant, and Clearly knows how to turn out a great photo too – many thanks for passing over the image 😊.

The image does remind me though of how quickly a packet of seeds turns into a food plant. These courgette seedlings were sown just three weeks ago – an incredible thing to witness and be part of. If you possibly can, grow something; even for me, a lifelong gardener, it feels more important now than ever before, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for giving you focus and engaging the mind and body.

Courgette seedlings, growing our own
Courgette seedlings at Broadwell.

At home my own sowed crops are coming along nicely. I have but a single heated propagation unit that suits my needs, and it has been on the go for the last month or so now, starting things like tomato and chilli seedlings to begin with, and Eventually moving on now to ornamentals. Mind you, the temperatures we’re currently enjoying does give sufficient window ledge temperatures to germinate most seeds that need heat, so if you don’t have a heated propagator, don’t let it stop you trying to sow a few seeds – to this end, the easiest way to get hold of a packet is on the front of a garden magazine! (Keep your eyes peeled when next in the supermarket!)

I must finish up now, although I could very easily type away all day. To garden is to fill the memory with sights and sounds, activities and images that flow back as soon as I look at my diary. Looking to the present moment though, the window is open, the early evening is cool now, the nearby roads are silent, and the birds – birdsong fills the air. I must get out there! Stay safe, and if you must; stay home.

Regards, Gary

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

Garden Journal 28.3.20

OK, so, I’m going to keep this journal entry as normal as possible, which might not be that easy all things considered, but here goes…

This week I’ve developed something of a split persona between work and home life. Like many but not all gardeners, my situation has meant that I’ve been able to continue working whilst following good social distancing guidelines. I get up, take myself directly to work, keep an ample distance away from employers, work all day in two pairs of gloves, wash frequently, go home, put everything in the wash (me included,) and repeat. My already ridiculous hand washing routine has been ramped up to the point where hand moisturiser cream is now essential, not just an occasional extravagance and oily inconvenience…

Naturally I’m tuning in to the daily updates to see if that situation changes, but for the time being at least, in a unique situation I’m able to continue working alone and to cling to one of the few constants in my life, my work; something I’m incredibly grateful for.

In my work’s garden in Broadwell as elsewhere, the sunny weather has arrived and with it the feeling that the growing season is finally underway. Bees and butterflies have responded rapidly to the rising temperatures, the grass is growing keenly now, and the countless winged sycamore seeds that have lain between the Cotswold gravel have started sprouting – more’s the pity…

Over recent months the garden generally has been tidied and nurtured, and generally speaking is coming along nicely. I wrote weeks ago about restoring the walled garden too, and plans are established that will see this, in time, become an enchanting and very productive space. However, needs must, and with food supplies under threat comes a challenge for the nations gardeners to get out their dusty seed trays, wash them down, and to get sowing. This has gripped me too and with spring vigour I’ve set about sowing both at home and work with a plan to supplement food supplies if at all possible.

My first image below therefore hints to some some work based Grow Your Own activity. I’ve sown a range of seeds including courgettes, carrots, lettuce, French beans, mustard, radish and spring onions, plus onions, shallots, garlic, dill and basil – oh and trays of potatoes are a chitting too. It certainly feels like I’ll be Digging for Victory, but of course I’ll be wrestling with the established trend for No Dig gardening – Decisions decisions…!

Growing our own…or trying to…

Next up, a pot-washing image (one of my favourite Whichford basket weave clay pot designs as it happens,) which hints to all the re-potting activity going on at the moment. Some containers are simply being refreshed or top dressed, some are having a complete turn out and re-pot, and some display containers have been cleared out in readiness for a new season of display or veg growing – whichever suits the times better!

Pot washing in action!
Pot washing

Moving on, the following four images simply aim to celebrate spring. Yes, we know the weather will be changeable and wintry yet awhile, but this week the daytime temperatures have risen and it has been so so welcome. To me, it felt like a warming, reassuring hug from Mother Nature!

Ladybird on a sot mullein leaf
Ladybirds on a mullein leaf..

In this image, a seven spot ladybird and its friend emerge from the velvety creases of a mullein leaf. Mullein, or Verbascum thapsus is a plant used historically for medical respiratory disorders. I’ve always admired this soft yet tough plant, and not least for its tall stems of yellow flowers. This last week however, when passing one frequently I couldn’t resist reading up about its uses again. I’m now convinced that along with Mullein’s other use as a substitute for toilet paper, this plant could very well hold the key to saving the human race! (You can now see why I’m not working in the health profession…)

Rheum palmatum or Chinese Rhubarb
Rheum palmatum

Rheum palmatum or Chinese Rhubarb just had to feature here at some stage or another. I’ve watched this in my garden slowly push forward from red pimples on the side of its disheveled winter crown to feature tiny (by rhubarb standards) leaves that will I hope continue to grow and colour. It’s a real eye catcher and it more than earns its leafy space.

Spring cherry tree blossom
Spring Cherry Blossum

This Prunus is presently flowering in the garden at Broadwell. The tree is seriously old for a cherry, with a swollen lower stem well over half a meter in diameter. The crown spreads gracefully in a triangular form as if trained by a great Bonzai master, and whilst it does have some dieback, the remaining branches hold an abundance of blossom – it’s an absolute stunner and was humming with honey bees this week!

Last image for me today is this Vinca major, or periwinkle. Another medicinal plant as it happens, and pictured here blossoming on a sunny bank at work. The clearest blue flowers have been present for a while now, although the numbers have grown these last few weeks, until finally I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick photo. The flowers are exquisite and always make me smile within.

Vinca major, or periwinkle flowers
Vinca major, or periwinkle

My week of activity, in summary: Monday – seed sowing, plus table and container shifting (A to B, then back to A again – all might be revealed in due course!) Tuesday – mowing, lots of, and container work. Wednesday – finished clearing an area alongside the pond, removing debris from an earlier tidying exercise I began with volunteers. Thursday – a day of planting, finding locations for numerous potted specimens. (This was a day of digging deep, literally!) Friday – a changed day of activity included, mostly, moving many semi-mature box plants and planting in a ‘slip garden’ area beside the walled garden.

To finish my journal this week, I did want to write a tiny bit about the situation we’re in – some observations from a humble gardener’s perspective. I realise though, that if I were to embark fully on that topic, it would draw me in and a day will easily vanish whilst I dally with the right words and thoughts – maybe I’ll devote an article to it at some stage…

Just for now, I will say this. Out of this demoralising time we find ourselves in, I have faith that we as a larger community will come back stronger, more connected, and will be more informed and focused on real world priorities. I have hope that we shall never again in our lifetimes take our resources for granted. If we ever return to it, I know that I’ll never again give a meaningless handshake, will never again hug without heart, and I’ll cherish every opportunity more than ever to explore our world freely.

Like all the gardeners and farmers out there, who are incredibly busy – I intend to grow my way through this time, to focus on plants and people, and as one of my favourite mugs states, I intend to: Keep Calm & Carry on Gardening. I hope you can too.

Do follow me on Twitter or Instagram, where you’ll most often find me in the garden…
Regards, & stay focussed!

Garden Journal 21.3.20

Garden tasks from Gary Webb’s  Garden Journal 21.3.20

The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and journey. My main workplace is Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire, and needless to say – this journal is independent and does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.

What an incredible week filled for many with anticipation, worry and uncertainty. I’ve pondered as the days passed how I could even attempt this week’s journal entry by simply talking about my gardening. But, and here’s the thing – I’ve come to understand that it’s more important to me now than at any point ever.

I’m aware as much as the next person how being outdoors and the process of gardening is increasingly being known for the health benefits they can provide – the all important ‘wellbeing’ we seek. Therefore with the global situation set to continue, it wasn’t a great leap for me to see how much more important growing and our green spaces will become for some of us over the weeks ahead.

A range of grow-your-own seeds for containers.

Now, I’m not suddenly going to change into a veg expert and preach to you, that’s not what this journal is about. Added to this, I know that many people are already in self isolation with heavily reduced options.

I was fortunate though to get out over the last fortnight to collect some seeds and compost (peat free of course – we have standards to maintain!) and as the weeks pass I’ll be featuring a bit of this growing both at home, and hopefully at work too. If in the process it inspires anyone else to have a go, then it can’t be a bad thing, surely – maybe you have a spare packet of seeds down the sofa… (Or, do check out the website of your local plant nursery or garden centre, as many will deliver necessary items to get you gardening over the coming weeks).

The first image above therefore, shows my initial material acquisitions which over the coming weeks I will put into production at home – in a range of containers I hasten to add!

Getting this journal entry back onto its normal footing though, the above image simply records the process of top-dressing some containers. On the whole the pots are in great shape and have performed really well over winter – due entirely to the the expertise and careful selection by their planter – not myself I hasten to add! However, as is often the way, a couple that featured Heuchera showed vine weevil activity, so complete re-potting has been necessary.

Aside from this ongoing task, here’s my weekly summary of activity: Monday – made a start on top dressing and re-potting some key containers. Tuesday – a good deal of mowing and more container work. Wednesday – a day supported by volunteers Alex and Mary – we dug out two shrubs as part of a border renovation project and moved onto selective thinning of an informal cherry laurel hedge. Thursday – Strimming, to follow up mowing, then moved onto seed sowing into pots. Friday – A day off! Although a few more garden supplies collected to fuel sowing projects over coming days.

Chitting potatoes
Chitty chitty bang!

Images both above and below show seed activity, with seed potatoes set out for chitting – they’re now placed in good light on a cool window sill. The pots shown below contain French bean and courgette seeds, and these are now enjoying the sunlight on another slightly warmer windowsill too. A small start to food growing at Broadwell, but more to come for sure with seed sowing and ground preparation from Monday.

Pots of  freshly sown vegetable seeds
Pots of joy!

Stepping out of the works garden, I seemed to be here there and everywhere on Friday – something that already seems too much of a luxury… One of the many highlights of the day, pictured below, was this fancy Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ – an upright or ‘fastigiate’ tree growing just around the corner from me.

One of many floral highlights of the week, it reminded me in the moment that the day was indeed the vernal equinox, something of which I’m more informed thanks in part to Lia Leendertz’ wonderful Almanac. The vernal or spring equinox, or first day of spring to some, is one of those stepping stones for gardeners when day length becomes equal to night.

In short – longer days combined with increasing temperatures result in more plant growth – so expect some exciting developments outdoors over the coming weeks. Even Monty referred to the equinox in last night’s first 2020 episode of BBC Gardeners World – an absolute delight to have back on our Friday night screens btw!

Coming up over the remainder of the weekend and through next week I’ve a great deal of gardening lodged in the mind, including more seed sowing, a touch of mowing and more container work. Some of it might even get done if I can just finish typing!

The week ahead does hold uncertainty though. But, although it won’t solve all our problems, if I can throw anything into the mix it would be this: look to plants, and look to nature. Spring is here, plants are bursting into growth and bees, birds and insects are already busily preparing for the year ahead. If you have to isolate then look outside and try to be part of that cycle – sow something, tend something, or simply observe.

Keep Calm, and Carry On Gardening!
Keep Calm and Carry On Gardening!

Regards, And take care, Gary

If you want to follow my gardening progress through these crazy times, you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll be trying my best to stay out in the garden!

Garden Journal 7.3.20

The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and activity. My main workplace is in Broadwell, Gloucestershire, and this journal is independent – content does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.

This week’s garden journal covers another very full and physical week in the garden at Broadwell, and I thought I’d start by adding a new and simple summary feature from here onwards to help me track the range of tasks that are being carried out on a daily basis.

In summary: Monday – Ordering supplies, backfilling trial pits, and gravel filling a raised bed. Tuesday – Completing hedge trimming, removing sticks from lawns and first ‘proper’ mowing of main lawns. Wednesday – Conifer hedge cleanup, and first attempt to clean-up lawn edge around pond with help from Alex and Mary. Thursday – Relocating delivery of 2 tons of topsoil and compost, (from roadside – the lorry couldn’t make it through the gate…) and preparing a raised bed for planting. Friday – Chris, Anne and Jill joined me for a thorough tidy of south border (previously cut material,) with bonfire to clear dry debris.

Creamy coloured crocus flower, posibyl ‘Creme Beauty‘
Crocus flower studded lawn at Charlecote Park.

Looking to the above image, I’m taken swiftly back to last Sunday on a visit to a local garden when a drift of crocus captured my attention. Potentially ‘Creme Beauty’, their flowers were intensified by a mustard coloured centre and a vivid, pumpkin orange stigma – exquisitely simple.

My next image below is from Wednesday’s pond edge clearance, with an aim to curb the growth that is marching steadily into the lawn. Alex and Mary thankfully joined me, and continued in the rain, and together we cut woody stems hard back and tightly trimmed other vegetation. I was particularly happy to get my very effective scythe back in action!

Scythe action in the garden
My kind of cut-backs in the garden…

The pond is completely contrived and an aesthetic feature, yet it’s clear that wildlife has come to depend on it – indeed the coots and geese were quite vocal about us disturbing their peace! Naturally there is a balance to be found between this as a wildlife resource and garden feature, but I’m certain this will continue to thrive and tick both boxes more effectively as we move forward.

Bird box being fitted in a tree
Sterilised bird box in place for spring 2020

Looking up, literally, is a quick view to remind me that the boxes should have been up already, ideally before February is out – better late than never as people say! This box was very kindly made and donated by Alwyn Knapton who dropped in recently to compile a first bird list for me at Broadwell – a stellar individual and wildlife champion personified.

Next up, I can’t help but introduce the ‘Sunshine Crew’, for on Friday they arrived with a special offer of a day’s volunteer work – and how grateful I was! You’re looking at a south facing border that has been heavily ‘pruned’ around a month ago, with the tangled, dried up debris having been left to dry as much as possible before a bonfire could clear the way. (I already have a large compost stack of decaying woody material elsewhere!)

The Sunshine Crew!

The work is part of a longer term renovation of this border. Having identified key plants for retention, and having moved a couple of shrubs to new locations, this is another phase of ground preparation before the ground is ready for new introductions over the coming months. More to come from this little spot for sure!

Below I just had to feature another of the gorgeous Chionodoxa flowers, known commonly as glory-of-the-snow. They’ve clearly very happy in the conditions on offer in this Cotswolds garden as they’ve seeded themselves here, there and seemingly everywhere – such a none-delicate beauty!

Chionodoxa, happy in the sunshine.

In my final image for this week, I have the sun setting over the distant hill, after a very productive week at Broadwell. Even for just that day, it finally felt like spring had arrived.

Another exquisite Cotswold sunset.
Sun setting behind the hill…

Wider afield gardeners are sowing seeds for a productive year, and like me they’re full of hope for the winter chills to be gone and for another vibrant growing year ahead. Social media channels are packed with gardening productivity and creation from balconies, allotments and back yards, to grand gardens and estates. For me they all have something in common – they each have someone taking care of the garden, someone growing, someone nurturing life in a special place.

There may be some serious challenges coming our way from the wider world, but I think you’ll know what I mean when I say that being in the garden is likely to take each of us to a special place; a place for finding balance, for re-focusing and for restoration. I sincerely hope you’re able to find your special place through a garden, however great or small. Until next week…. Have a good one. Gary

If you want to follow my gardening progress, you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Garden Journal 22.2.20

Images from my GARDENINGWAYS blog for February 22 2020
GW Journal images 22.2.20

Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 22nd 2020.

The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and activity. My main workplace is in Broadwell, Gloucestershire, and this journal is independent – content does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.

Once again I’m tempted to focus on the weather we’ve experienced this week. However, as I know that so many have suffered much more severely, and in neighbouring counties too – I feel I can’t moan about what was simply, for me, just a few more wet and windy days that caused me to change my work plan.

Counting my blessings then, I can thankfully focus on the positive days, moments and tasks that have filled this gardening week, such as with my first image below of Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’, basking in the Saturday sunshine in my garden. The petals are almost too light for my taste, especially knowing some of the deeper blue flowers available, but the deep yellow and patterns on the falls are just mesmerising – and all the more agreeable for the £1.75 I paid back in November!

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’
Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ (Reticulata)

My next three images record a pretty intense activity that kept me very occupied on Tuesday and Wednesday – coppicing a handful hazels that were established either side, and possibly through this lovely dry stone wall. I did post a video to my Instagram account but suffice to say, it was quite a jumble and not your average coppice stool.

An established coppice stool prior to coppicing
One of the coppice stools awaiting attention.

It was clear from the outset that a good amount of decaying wood was present, but whilst I found some healthy wood to cut back to, the extent of dead material was considerable. Knowing this makes wonderful habitat for a range of insects, it was too good to waste, and so I constructed a nearby habitat pile.

I could not guarantee that a few bug homes weren’t shaken up during the coppicing work, but I could at least offer a longer term bug hotel just next door for the foreseeable future.

A coppiced stool and nearby habitat pile.

My keenness to take on the congested mass of woody growth wasn’t just to make an area tidy, but also for the good and useable timber it would supply. As such, after cutting the shrubs back to basics, all the harvested growth was sorted into similar sized piles, and will wait in the wings for the opportunity to play a supporting role in the garden this year. The coppiced ‘stools’ will now be allowed to grow back naturally over the next few years, before the exercise is repeated.

Hazel rods after coppicing has taken place.
Freshly cut hazel rods awaiting storage.

I have to say that I love coppicing. It’s a task that grounds me, being an age-old activity that demands simple things: a little knowledge, a sharp saw, a methodical approach, and for me – a deep rooted feeling that I’m repeating an activity that has been done before, and will hopefully be done again in a handful of years.

Coppicing literally brings you to your knees, and forces you to think about things like the passage of time, the manipulation of nature for our own ends, and a productive activity that seems timeless. Or maybe that’s just me…

Sharp Felco secateurs
Happy pruners after a good clean and sharpen!

OK, so maybe I’ll refer to the weather just once more, when on Thursday the heavens opened repeatedly. Thankfully again the forecast had been very accurate, and so with sodden soil I had written-off outdoor gardening for the day, and wasted no time by servicing some of the tools that had worked very hard of late.

Furthermore, whilst the hail hammered against the brew house windows where I’m based, I set about some garden planning for the next few weeks – which look to be rather busy with project work bringing many more people onsite. Mind you, I have to add that the rain did eventually clear through, the sun returned and the little primulas in the lawn shone once again – what a way to end the day.

I’m very aware that next weekend sees the arrival of meteorological spring, and even at this early point in the year the grass is actively growing, tulips are breaking the soil surface in search of light and blossom buds are bursting in the trees. It might not be spring as we wish it, but even if the weather does turn again, a new growing year is well under way now and the pressure of mounting tasks build! (Yes gardeners do feel pressure too – it’s not all lightness and joy!)

Other tasks this week included some hedge tidying and the trimming of an ornamental pear that needed its crisp, umbrella-like shape returning. Shrubby tasks like these need to be drawn to a close now as birds are actively seeking places to nest – spring seemingly breaking earlier has moved all of this activity forwards, and needless to say – all of the above work was carried out after a good search for any signs of nests under construction.

That brings this week’s garden journal nearly to a close – a very heavy but rewarding week of activity. Next week I have a volunteer day to plan for, amongst many other tasks in preparation for spring.

If you want to follow my progress in the garden at Broadwell, you can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

I hope you enjoy your bird friendly gardening this week too! Regards, Gary.

Garden Journal 8.2.20

Six gardening images to illustrate my gardening week

Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 8th 2020. If you’re new to my journal you’ll find that I’m a professional gardener and I post here to record some of my gardening activity and discoveries from the past week. I contribute and channel my memories through the ever popular SixonSaturday gardening meme, so please remember to check out some of the inspiring SoS hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

This week I’ve again been beavering away in the garden at Broadwell, but before I mention more I’m going to mention the snowdrop weekend that I did manage to attend last weekend at Hill Close Gardens.

A Warwickshire named snowdro variety
Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus ‘Warwickshire Gemini’

There’s simply no holding back the love and appreciation people have for these charming little flowers, and on the day I visited the hedged Victorian gardens in Warwick the visitor numbers had reached record levels – to the point where the cakes had run out – yes – there was no cake! (Which means I was able to buy more snowdrops…)

The welcoming and the very tidy gardens however were as good as ever, along with a collection of snowdrop varieties that is now 130 strong – yes I became snowdrop blind after the first five groups.

Anyway, I’d love to visit and write about gardens all week long, but on Monday it was most definitely back to the weeding for me, with a brand new area to tackle. I say the word tackle, for five days on from those tentative first steps into the border, I find myself with aches where I haven’t ached before and hands that have still to relinquish bramble thorns – brambles don’t give up their ground easily!

It was hard to capture a tell-all image but a large mixed border it was, that had simply been left for a while to its own devices. By the end of the week I’d worked through 75% of the unwanted vegetation, and it was clear to see that the obviously deep and fertile soil had encouraged strong weed growth, so things do bode well for future growing activity – once the unwanted specimens are taken care of.

Garrya elliptica shrub in an English garden
Garrya elliptica

Above I snapped a picture of a Garrya elliptica, a visitor from the California coastal area as I learned during some brief research. The Garrya was looking handsome with the setting sun behind, A sun that has worked its magic across gardens this week. Things may be about to change with a storm moving in but for now, lets revel in the sunshine!

It’s all too easy to keep your focus on the job in hand, but one of the wonders of working outdoors is the moment you stop to straighten your back, only to notice a spectacular scene that may sometimes be seconds in duration. The crocus below is another example. Drifts of these little beauties embellish the lawns at Broadwell just now, along with aconites, hellebores and more, but this single wide open flower caught my attention as I walked by – it would have been rude not to record the moment!

“Give me all the sun you’ve got!”

Last of my floral pictures below this week brings another snowdrop moment, but with a little soil splatter and a spider web or two for added reality. Tough as they may be, the humble snowdrop does its thing at the muckiest time of year, but it doesn’t make them any less perfect. It’ll soon be time to think about lifting and dividing some to share the joy.

And finally…. is an image that tried to capture the mist that hung beautifully around for much of Thursday. Well, not that successful in capturing the mist but a nice image nonetheless, with the sun shining down through lime branches dripping with moisture. I guess you had to be there…

A very active week it was, and an enjoyable one for sure. Whilst I continue to beaver away in the borders, plans for ‘bigger’ garden developments are moving quickly along and foundations are literally being laid; from which a new garden will soon be created – it’s all very exciting and I look forward to posting some news as soon as I can.

Next week will see a continuation of border clearing, more rose pruning and a range of hedging activity to name but a few tasks. Oh yes, I’ll also be surveying an area to inform planning for a new glasshouse no less! Let’s cross fingers that the storm passes swiftly over and leaves us free to continue spring preparations – my goodness, I do believe that 2020 has really started!

Hope your garden is blossoming too. Regards, Gary Webb, GardeningWays.

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