Garden Journal 16.5.20

Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire
Broadwell Manor

Today is a bit of an anniversary for me, marking the six month point working in a full-time role at Broadwell Manor. I had envisioned putting together a six-month-review sort of journal entry, although, and this is something I toy with daily – I feel the need to tread carefully where privacy is concerned, and as with my blog that continues to evolve, so is my gardening and social media output whilst I’m at Broadwell.

While I now work at an all-singing, dancing and traditional Cotswold Manor House garden, it is also a private home, so forgive me if I’m a little hesitant and changeable in the things that I post across Twitter, Instagram and now TikTok (Re. TikTok – Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – it’s getting a great many people through the nightmare that lockdown created…!)

Previously, my social media ‘presence’ was structured heavily around my work at Compton Verney; posting things that were largely aimed at boosting the profile of natural, historical and horticultural elements, at a public venue I passionately cared for. Presently though, whilst I’m engaged in very similar nature and horticulture focussed activities, and at a venue that is steeped in historical features; the property itself doesn’t exist to attract thousands of visitors, and so my ‘content’, for want of a better word, continues but in subtle sort of way.

Beautifully scented Wisteria doing its thing on the south wall….

It must also be said that again, as much as I’ve a keen interest in sharing my love for gardens and where I’m at, I’m not employed to spend time creating ‘content’, and I have an awful lot of practical gardening work to be getting on with! If only I could walk around with a live web-cam on my hat – you’d probably still struggle to keep up!

Six months though… It seems like nothing compared to some time-served gardeners, but it’s been so full of activity that it does seem much longer, and so much has been achieved. After a much more public facing role at CV, it did feel for a while as though I had gone into hibernation, and I’m sure some people were questioning my sanity but, I think I’ve finally worked out why I needed to change my core, daily role, after putting in so much hard work over the years at CV.

Allium breaking its silence in a border at home…

I simply needed to step away from pressure that had built, and to reconnect with the very thing that had sustained me for so long – gardens, nature and growing. I had been losing my connection with the very things that had driven, excited, encouraged and engaged me for so long. Although I might not have realised it at the time, I ‘simply’ needed to step away, to refocus and reconnect – and look at the door that eventually opened…

And so to the present, where you’ll find me actively engaged each day and completely immersed in horticulture once again, both at home and at Broadwell – the added filming elements and working for such a supportive and respected TV gardener (and lovely family) just adds to the daily wonder!

Yes, there is too much to do, I’ve lost weight despite upping my food intake, and I’m knackered on a daily basis, but every day is different and more importantly; every day is full of plants and flowers and wildlife – I have indeed reconnected and I feel grounded on a daily basis… What an incredibly challenging and life affirming 6 month it has been! Now, back to a swift finish for the journal proper…

The past week has been really varied to say the least. I usually structure my journal entry with a look back to the previous Sunday, which last week coincided with #GardenDayUK, This explains my first random image below where I put common sense to one side, and joined in by making my version of a floral crown – or floral hat in my case!

Floral Crown #floralcrown
My floral creation for Garden Day UK, all cut from my garden!

Although the weather had turned cold, with the usual British resolve many folk joined in and supported the initiative through a range of zoom-style online activity from quizzes to demonstrations and live chat – it was good to see so much support from some high profile and entertaining garden characters, and I think that for me, the day’s success was the home-style presenting that everyone was forced into doing, which worked really well.

There was plenty of floral creativity through the many flower crowns, and whilst I had lots of other things to be getting on with I enjoyed tuning in frequently. The reliable gardening people and their ‘we’re-in-this-together’ attitude was very evident and a good day was seemingly had by all! Crowns off to the many folk and Candide who made GardenDayUK a success.

On the work summary front, the past frost-threatened week looked a little like this: Monday – Tidied tulip borders. Watering. Began scything perimeter boundary to facilitate access for stone wall repairs. Tuesday – Scything and clean-up of boundary. Shear cut Lonicera shrubs and tidied surrounding area. Wednesday – Auricula session. Relocated stored debris to compost. Received compost delivery (Yay!) Mowing. Thursday – Mowing. Began digging south herbaceous border. Friday – Watered. Continued digging.

Scything, mowing, composting, digging, hedge trimming - a busy week indeed!
Scything, mowing, composting, digging, hedge trimming – a busy week indeed!

So there we have it, a somewhat reflective post again. (I can see a theme developing here…) At least in my struggles to post a useful journal entry each week, I’m being forced to be more creative with its content – hopefully when I look back at some of these posts in the distant future, there will be enough intent and meaning in the words to time travel me, you or my children back to this unique time I’m experiencing.

Regards & Happy Gardening, Gary

Garden Journal 15.2.20

GardeningWays Journal Images 15.2.20

Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 15th 2020.

The Intro… I’m a professional gardener and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and activity. My main workplace is Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire for Rachel de Thame, although this journal is independent and content does not necessarily represent views of my employer.

The past week was expected to be sandwiched uncomfortably between Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, so before the weather could move in last Saturday I nipped out for a quick stroll at the nearby National Trust garden of Charlecote Park, for some fresh air and a floral fix. I was certainly not disappointed with a subtle and pretty selection of late winter blooms on offer alongside the twining, log-edged paths of Mary Elizabeth’s woodland garden.

My first image below therefore represents the numerous hellebores that were informally placed around the gardens, with their hanging flowers just waiting to be delicately upturned for closer enjoyment. In addition to some beautiful hellebores there were many other blooms to enjoy including a variety of Galanthus, and Primulas, even a Bergenia.

Hellebores orientalists flower close up at Carlecote Park
Helleborus orientalis

Before long the garden visit, indeed the weekend was over and done with, and it was to Broadwell for me on Monday to start the week with a ‘storm walk,’ to check for any weekend damage.

Thankfully damage was restricted to twiggy offerings and most of this was actually dead branch tips that Ciara had helpfully lowered to the ground for us – although the next image is a reminder that even the softest of dead timber can cause damage if it falls in a particular way – so always be aware!

Lime harpoon!

Despite the fluctuating weather patterns, the late winter flowers presently to be found around Broadwell Manor are looking magnificent just now. Sprinkled confetti-like in many lawn areas, drifts of snowdrops, early crocus and various primulas have perfectly seeded around. Throughout this week’s 26 miles of walking I frequently witnessed these flowers dancing comically in the chilly winds.

Crocus tommasinianus, or early crocus, or ‘Tommies’ in the garden at Broadwell Manor
Crocus tommasinianus

As if by magic, the clouds parted on Wednesday – perfectly timed for the first 2020 day of activity based volunteering at Broadwell. I was glad to welcome Alex and Mary, who joined me for a very physical and seemingly very long day of shrub removal that included shoots, roots and every scrap of energy!

The image below therefore, as an action shot, shows a well rooted trunk having its roots loosened. It previously supported a dense evergreen top that once removed left a wonderfully clear and newly illuminated space that in due course will be home to a glasshouse and cold frames – a new engine room from which the garden will grow and develop. It may be some time before construction begins, but I’ll look forward to sharing this in due course.

Garden volunteers in action!

Now the next image illustrates the contrast in weather that many outdoor workers ‘enjoyed’ this week – the sun was shining and the rain pouring both at the same time. Crazy weather indeed but the atmosphere exhilarating and the light – just too good to resist a snap or three!

February days in a Cotswolds garden.

My last image record of the week was simply a pile of sticks, but a valuable pile of sticks nonetheless. The first thing to strike my mind on seeing post-storm the twiggy garden debris is usually ‘what a mess’. Yet there’s often a bright side on which to focus. On closer inspection you’ll see that much of the wood is decayed, and as nature-friendly gardeners will know they’re perfect if cleared away to a shady corner of the garden and left to decay slowly in dead wood piles.

Beetles, woodlice, ladybirds, fungi and more will quickly take to these piles and break them down on our behalf, so of all the sticks collected on Monday last, and probably on Monday next too, can all be used to support wildlife in the garden. Every cloud has a silver lining, as people say…

Five, six, pick up sticks…

My week summarised included: debris clean up; moving two evergreen shrubs; rose pruning; shrub removal; area surveying; plant sourcing; tool cleaning; and the first proper mowing of the season. Yes, mowing in February!

A physically demanding but hugely enjoyable week with a real feeling of progress but, being another week closer to spring, the pressure to get more done in preparation increases now. Next week looks to again start with brash clean up, followed with more border renovation and more.

I hope your gardening week has been equally rewarding, and not too badly affected by the swirling weather patterns that keep gracing our forecast maps! Regards, Gary

You can follow my gardening journey daily on Twitter or Instagram

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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Garden Journal 1.2.20


Welcome to my garden journal entry for February 1st 2020. If you’re new to my journal you’ll find that I’m a professional gardener, and I’m recording here my gardening activity and discoveries from the past week. I channel my thoughts through the ever popular #SixonSaturday gardening meme, so please remember to check out the inspiring other SoS hashtags on Twitter & Instagram.

This week in the north Cotswolds garden where I work the weather has on the whole been kind, and other than being away from the ‘office’ on Wednesday for an ATV awareness day, I have been busily working away at Broadwell.

Let’s face it…

I started working the garden late autumn last year, with a full workload to keep me active through the winter. The weather has been regularly wet, but am I glad that it’s been mild, which has allowed me to plough on and begin returning things to good order. Put simply, I knew from the outset that the more I could achieve during winter, the better start I’d have when the spring madness gets going.

To this end, I’ve been regularly taunted by the above conifer hedge from day one. It hadn’t received a cut last year but although fluffy, was sitting quietly at the end of the long list for a trim, especially as ideally, I’d prefer not to trim in winter. That said, with continuing mild temperatures, a time slot was found on Friday afternoon and I made a start on facing up the hedge. To be continued!

Lesser celandine shining wild in the January garden
Lesser celandine

The above lesser celandine is one of very few flowering ones I’ve spotted in the garden so far, although I’m certain will be joined by many more soon. They’re often over shadowed by attention grabbing hellebores, snowdrops and crocus just now, but are no less beautiful when singled out from the crowd.

Another task on the agenda this week was to see to the winter pruning of an established wisteria. Well, to say it had made itself at home would be something of an understatement, for it was ‘at one’ with the water pipe, having twined around and around.

Obviously the wisteria couldn’t be allowed to dominate the pipe or it would cease to function and damage would be costly. Suffice to say that delicately, piece after piece was removed, and the pipe is now clear. The remaining wisteria is now tied in and ready once again to climb; although hopefully now in a more controlled fashion. Who knows, we may even see a flower or two if we’re lucky!

Wisteria climbs up the water piped
Climbs up the water spout…

Next image below is one of numerous early crocus patches we’re currently enjoying. Tommasini’s crocus, or ‘tommies’ for short, are just exquisite at the moment and towards the end of this week began their flowering turns whilst dancing in the breeze. How perfect…

Early crocus or ‘tommies’ in the January garden
Early crocus glowing amongst the grass.

Another discovery whilst delivering some material to the compost heap were patches of wild garlic, ramsons or ‘bear’s garlic’ I now also discover. Anyone for pesto…?

Ramsons making their presence felt at the end of January
Ramson time begins!

Finally, I close this week’s images with one from Monday morning, when the sky was bright and the snowdrops were at their shivering best not just in this garden but along the lanes nearby too. Yes, it would turn out to be another challenging week, but what a way to get it started; I couldn’t have asked for more…

Snowdrops in the morning sunshine
Single snowdrops bright and early

This weekend looks like another mild and sunny one, at least in this area, so hopefully there will be chance to get out to walk amongst some flowers. I’ve got one eye on a visit to Hill Close Gardens in Warwick for their Snowdrop Weekend, which always delivers an eye-watering display after many years of collecting – over 130 varieties now! I’ll have to make time to drop in…

Weather permitting, next week I’ll be digging deep, literally, to prepare for some plant moving and to reclaim at least some of a border that has, shall we say, gone its own way for a while. Will have to put Epsom salts on the shopping list…

Kind regards, Gary Webb, Gardening Ways.

Garden Journal 25.1.20

Welcome to my gardening journal for 25th January 2020. If you’re new to my journal entries, you’ll find that I bring focus through the ever popular #SixonSaturday gardening meme, where I aim to record some key experiences from my week of gardening.

This week a historical thread comes through strongly following a visit to a local museum, part of the week spent untangling vines and roses along a garden wall, and a good few hours of digging to understand a little more of what lies below ground level in the garden.

My #SixOnSaturday garden images for 25.1.20

First image below, is from a visit to Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, Bromsgrove. I’d visited a few times before and its iconic windmill plus many other reclaimed structures were engaging as always. But with my garden history hat on I was surprised when revisiting the ice house, to discover that it had been saved and relocated from Tong, the Shropshire historic landscape designed by none other than Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Well, I remembered the ice house of course, but was pleasantly surprised to learn of its connection to Mr. Brown… I just can’t escape him!

Anyway, to my chosen image. It may be a simple garden roller to some, but it’s all about context for me. It was a concrete garden roller, likely produced by Scoffin & Willmott of London.

Ironcrete Garden  Roller, Avoncroft Museum
Rock and rolling the garden…

The roller sat on a concrete pad, leaning against a concrete shed, in a soggy post war styled back garden of a prefab house. Not the most glamorous museum object in itself, but one that resonated with me, and one that not so long ago was a must-have item in any well stocked garden tool shed.

Next up was the sight that greeted me last Monday morning, when a week largely devoted to this Cotswold walled garden was ahead. The week started well, if a little frosty and, well, I’ll let the following images explain more.

Through the garden gate

The next image shows a large and very tangled grape vine which had me head scratching from the outset, and along with some wall fruit kept me quite occupied for two days. By day I was pruning and studying both the plant and the wall, and by night, inspired maybe by Vera, I was trolling through evidence to piece together a minimalist timeline, but what did I find?

Half way along its length, the wall was raised in height to accommodate a lean-to glasshouse between 1883 and 1900, and looking at the image below, a vinery with dessert grapes was the aim. Well, the rear brick wall is hard to date, although no earlier than 18th century I’d say. Although the brick bond isn’t consistent, it would certainly have been created at great expense to support and grow wall fruit; making the most of the southerly aspect and heat retaining qualities of bricks.

Vine pruning
A Vine Mess…

Subsequent removal of the glasshouse has of course left the vine out in the cold, yet a range of original vine eyes and more recent materials to keep the vine in-check show that gardeners have largely managed this vine through recent years, even if its haphazard structure suggests otherwise. At this point, following a severe talking to from my pruners, it is only a matter of time and tender care that will show if it still has good fruiting capabilities – the summer of 2021 should reveal all!

Below you’ll see mistletoe berries, and quite a few of them, but whether the seeds are fully developed is the question. The sprig was resigned to the compost and I can’t say whether it came in useful or not, but looking to the future, I thought I’d plant a few in the orchard trees to see if we can cultivate some kisses. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say…

Growing kisses with mistletoe.

The next image is one of those taken for the record. The short section of wall on the left is north facing, and with the low sun at this time of year, it’s clear how much of the plot sits in shade. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there will be much less shade cast in summer of course, but it’s one to remember when planning what to grow where, and when.

Note also the frost, that is retained in the shadier lower third of the garden – this stayed all day despite temperatures of 8 to 10 degrees centigrade on the upper, sunny side…

Frost in the walled garden
It’s cold on the dark side…

Finally to my last image, a close-up of a section of clay smoking pipe. The latter part of my week being devoted to researching some chosen areas within the old walled garden, to inform the developing plan; information gathered now is not only fascinating, but it’s useful to guide the project and can help to avoid any last minute surprises.

Among the surprise discoveries were some intriguing roof tiles, placed 60cm deep beside a north facing wall. With the help of Twitter gardeners we deduced that slate tiles were historically placed below fruit trees, their job being to guide fruit tree roots away from the wall, and maybe to restrict root growth too. Perfectly logical all things considered. I also discovered old path material and build up, a short section of wall foundation, and the obligatory shards of glass and pottery… The pipe section however, was a very pleasant surprise…

Clay pipe from the garden
CARTER Clay Pipes

If you till the soil in an old garden you’re likely to turn up fragments of clay pipe, which always for me links immediately to an unknown gardener of the past who once toiled away in that very space. The pipe section above was just the same, but interestingly it still exhibited the mark of its maker ‘CARTER’.

Following more research and thanks to the guidance of Robert Moore and David Higgins, and a ‘Society of Clay Pipe Research’ pamphlet, the period when this pipe is likely to have been created was between 1850 & 1876, when various members of the Carter family were pipe making in Banbury, just 20 miles away from where it was found.

So, to summarise, it appears that we have a vinery, as an additional glasshouse added in last 15 years of the 19th century, and a section of pipe most likely to have been discarded by a gardener in the 1860s/1870s. Both of these discoveries may be small, but illustrate that this garden plot was certainly enjoying a peak of use in the late Victorian period, when walled gardens were at their height of development. Case closed, for now at least!

That has to be it for this week’s garden journal. I look forward in the coming days to bringing my garden investigations to a conclusion, for a tangled shrubbery awaits, and a beautiful wisteria is calling out to me – at least I’ll be going up in the world, so to speak!

Kind regards, Gary Webb, GardeningWays.

You can also follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

or check out #SixonSaturday on Twitter

Garden Journal 18.1.20

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

I join in with the SixonSaturday meme that continues to blossom on social media each week, as I find it a perfect way to turn images into journal entries that effectively record my ongoing gardening story. The following text therefore aims to give a little more background for each of the chosen images.

SixOnSaturday images for GardeningWays garden journal by Gary Webb

This past week has been, I’m not ashamed to say, one for testing morale. If there was a mere hint of rain mentioned in the forecast, we received it and more besides – and I’ll waste no more words on storm Brendan…

Beneath and between the showers however, the gardening week continued and much was achieved. Now, although a frosty weekend is upon us; the sun is beaming for the weekend and all is good!

To start my six for this week then, I look to snowdrops that are stretching their stems all over the place, signalling hope and a fresh start to the gardening year. I will be sure to post more images of these little stunners as the next few weeks pass, and will be searching for any unusual ones beside the perfect snowy white nivalis.

Snowdrops  in the morning sunshine
Snowdrops glowing in the morning light…

In my home garden I’ve a handful of containers that were freshly potted in the autumn with a range of bulbs, many of which are now shooting from the damp Compost – peat free I hasten to add.

Naturally I’ve recorded what was planted in each container, but I like to, indeed I’m very good at forgetting what bulb mixes I’ve planted in any given pot, which I believe only increases the surprise when the blooms do eventually arrive. What you’re looking at in the image below is a container full of hope and anticipation…

Containerised bulbs showing their presence

The next image shows a mature Viburnum, likely bodnantense ‘Dawn’ that I look after in my home garden. Well, I say look after, I tend to leave it alone as it’s a great perch for birds who drop down from a nearby birch tree. They hop between and inspect its tangled branches in search of insects, or to reach a hanging suet block.

The controlling gardener in me knows this wonderfully fragrant shrub would benefit from maybe two stems removing from its base, but for once, no, I’m content to let it do its own thing, and to enjoy it at its full, natural height.

Viburnu bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Sunlit scented Viburnum

Next up is a ‘pruning’ task as I’d say, for amongst the tangled mass below is a very strong and fine climbing rose that has simply had a few seasons to stretch its wings. This time, the controlling gardener encouraged me not to fire up the hedge cutter, but to work through steadily so that I didn’t cut out stems that would later prove useful…

The ‘before’ image…

Well, as you’ll see below, there doesn’t appear to be much left at all, but what the image isn’t great at showing is a slightly thinned branch network that I’ve retained, and some strong new stems that have been tied in along both rear walls.

Whilst I type right now with thorn pricked hands, this rose is now back within its own space having good light and air to all its stems and, hopefully, all its flowers this year (Or maybe next year!)

Much left to do, but it’s getting there…

Finally, some bare walnut branches that throw the most exquisite shapes against the fading but importantly clear Friday evening sky – an attempt to sugar-coat the week maybe..?

I can’t finish this week’s journal without a quick mention of the fact that I’m presently in the process of being signed up as a trustee for Silent Space – indeed early yesterday morning our first ‘Skype’ meeting saw the first discussions taking place with the team, and the true potentially of Silent Space making itself known! All very exciting and I’m looking forward to writing more about this initiative very soon.

Silhouetted walnut branches
The sun has set on another productive week

Let me just say that if you don’t have a ‘Silent Space’ in a garden or green space near you – then you should! All the info is available in the link below, including a new map of Silent Space locations, and if you’ve engaged in a Silent Space already then I’d love to hear of your experience.

Well that’s all for this week, a week of battling with the weather and roses, of reclaiming lost walls and terraces, of hardwood cuttings and container maintenance. It was also a week packed with sightings of new shoots growing from ground that we know doesn’t sleep, of working alongside the ever friendly, if cautious robin, and a treat of seeing a charm of goldfinches flee from some Verbena flower heads outside my office door – it’s all happening out there!

Kind regards, Gary Webb, GardeningWays.

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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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Garden Journal 21.12.19

Welcome! Join me here regularly to catch up on my gardening endeavours through my GardeningWays Journal. I spend much of my time gardening professionally for Rachel de Thame at Broadwell, in Gloucestershire, and my journal updates aim to cover progress and pick up on other horticultural highlights too.

The six-on-Saturday images below give a flavour of my gardening week, and what follows below is a little more background for each of the pictures.

Six on Saturday  gardening images from Gary Webb

To summarise my week, as for the preceding one, ‘rollercoaster’ yet again comes to mind – linked specifically to the weather and its effects on the working week. Yes, another week spent mostly in wellies and waterproofs! It was however another productive week where some key tasks were accomplished, and even allowing for a day out for Christmas shopping, I still managed to walk 19.4 miles around that garden over the four days!

Orchard grass  cutting

A small orchard is part of this wonderful garden, and one that has been very productive in past years. At this point in time however, the orchard grass had grown and collapsed upon itself, resulting in a tangled, matted surface, where even the moss had been crowded out and had died off!

Having previously cleared a good quantity of leaves from across the surface, my task this week was to start the grass clearance and really take things back to basics. Starting with a steady, tight, strimming session, the above image taken before a final clearance.

Pruning  an ivy clad wall
Ladder Selfie!

I’m up the top of a long ladder in this image, maintaining three points of contact I have to say, whilst giving some ivy a topping. At this point it was a relatively light pruning task to start the process of getting this ivy back to an acceptable height limit, for above this point it clothes the balustrading and needs gradual clearance from above – more of this to come!

Camassia bulb planting at Broadwell
The last of the bulbs going in!

Above, I’m relieved to say, is the last of the recently acquired bulbs before being planted. It was quite a tall order to get some areas cleared in time to get the bulbs in, but I have to say it’s given a good early opportunity to learn about the soil conditions, and to introduce myself to some of the weed species that ‘have’ enjoyed living at Broadwell – as far as the weeds are concerned; let the game commence!

Boxing up dahlia tubers for winter storage
Boxing up dahlia tubers

Another box I’m glad to have ticked this week is the boxing up of dahlia tubers for winter storage. Having previously released them from their summer containers, thoroughly cleaned and dried each tuber, here they finally get to rest. Numerous tubers boxed in dry compost will sit out the winter in this frost free shed for the winter. Sleep tight, as they say…

Raindrops  backlit by the setting sun at Broadwell
After the rain, came the sun-set.

With all the rain it wasn’t the most inspiring week for photographs, but as for last week, the weather threw us a late-on-Friday treat of an incredible sunset. I tried here to capture the last light through raindrops, the collective gracefully but fleetingly decorating the naked winter stems in the orchard.

A wrath for Christmas at Bradwell
Making an entrance!

Finally, it was a treat to be given the opportunity to create a wreath for another door to the house at Broadwell, which accompanies a stunning wreath given as a gift from a neighbouring property. Creating a wreath is a lovely way to spend some time in the lead up to Christmas, feeling appropriate as a traditional activity that many Head Gardeners of old would have carried out.

I also feel that it’s a good opportunity to bring together botanical elements from the very place where a wreath is going to hang; a lovely way for a gardener to capture the essence of what their winter garden has to offer. The above wreath contains the traditional holly and ivy, but also bay laurel, pittosporum, a little cypress and rose hips to enhance the natural colouring. (I’m glad to report the wreath was given the de Thame seal of approval, thankfully! 😅 )

In past years my wreaths for the tall studded front doors to Dunster Castle in Somerset aimed to capture the exotic nature of the gardens, and in recent years my wreaths at Compton Verney in Warwickshire were collected from its Georgian landscape garden and often tried to capture an exhibition of the moment. My most recent wreath for Broadwell was drawn from long established plants that fit perfectly in their Cotswolds garden.

A grand week all things considered, despite the wet stuff! Next week will be carved around a little due to the Christmas break, but I’ll be gardening intermittently and will aim, all being well, to post a journal entry if time allows. Until then, I wish you a very merry Christmas!

Bye for now, Gary.

Garden Journal 14.12.19

Welcome! Join me here regularly to catch up on my gardening endeavours through my #GARDENINGWAYS Journal! I spend much of my time gardening professionally for Rachel de Thame at Broadwell, in Gloucestershire, and my journal updates aim to cover progress and experiences in this role, and other horticultural highlights too.

SixOnSaturday  images from my gardening ways journal for 14th December 2019

The above six-on-Saturday images give a flavour of my week working in a wonderful Cotswolds Garden. What follows below is a little more background for each of the pictures – merely hint at the depth and richness of each experience.

To summarise my gardening week, ‘rollercoaster’ comes to mind, especially concerning the weather and how it impacted the tasks I undertook. Days of persistent rain fused with very cool, sunny and windy ones – on the whole, I didn’t spend many hours out of wellies and waterproofs!

63 and 64…

These two stunning trees were first up in my review of a previously compiled tree survey. The nearest is a straight and true horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) with a sizeable diameter of around 1.3m.

The trunk and branches of this chestnut feature more scars than I suspect we’d find on James Bond, and my closer study suggest that for this tree and its neighbouring beech tree sidekick, it is clearly time for a more detailed inspection by an arborist. To be continued…!

East front border

Following a thorough weeding session during the previous week, I was here setting out the tulip bulbs prior to planting. The weather forecast suggested time was of the essence, indeed rain set in as I was finishing. Timed almost to perfection – almost…

An auricula theatre
Clearing the stage…

A pretty swift task all things considered, was that of clearing off and cleaning the Auricula theatre ahead of next season. It’s a recently created and very nicely built theatre, and it’s with some excitement (Plus a little apprehension!) as I look forward to programming some star performances in 2020.

Scrubbing the front step…

In theory, I’m liking my activity in the image above to that of scrubbing the front step. Prior to my starting work in the above space, the front approach, the area was encrusted in decaying foliage across much of the area. Whilst this is to be expected, and encouraged to some extent back in autumn, the dense layer was beginning to affect grass growth and hide the drive.

At last therefore, the image records the new, somewhat cleaner approach, after surplus leaves have been cleared to a new leaf mould stack – these will be recycled for mulching purposes in due course. It’s good to once again present an entrance more appropriate to such a wonderful property.

Jelly Ear or Auricularia auricle-Judaea  fruiting body
Jelly Ear fruiting body

I’m certainly no fungi expert, but noticed what I believe to be a ‘jelly ear’ fungus living quietly on a stick, and thought I’d record it as the first one on my list of fungi at Broadwell. Not particularly rare, but a fascinating form nonetheless.

Scientifically known as Auricularia auricula-judae, it apparently prefers to grow on elder wood, and is edible – although I think even the celeb’s on Ant and Dec’s program would turn their nose up if this appeared in a bush tucker trial!

The sun setting behind Broadwell Manor in the Cotswolds, sunset
The sun sets on another busy week at Broadwell.

And so to my final image, capturing the fading light and a fabulous sunset as I hurried to ‘finish’ work to the front drive.

The week was a steady yet productive one, dictated largely by the weather. But then, pretty much every gardening day is defined by its weather I guess. I’ve had many small wins as you’d say, and have on the whole continued to move forward with my ‘putting the garden to bed’ routine.

Next week, the last full working week before Christmas (!) I’ll be hitting the orchard grass hard to get this in order, boxing up dahlia tubers, and all being well, will be exploring the archaeology of the walled garden to see what can be found under foot.

You might like to observe or follow my progress on the fascinating journey via twitter @GaryWebb1 or on Instagram @Gary_Webb1

Bye for now, Gary