Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journal – an entry for the week leading up to Lammas Day, Saturday August 1st. This week: Maintaining sweet peas in Every Which Way, pond weeding in All in Good Time, and botanical illustration in Sharp Pencils and Inspiration.
‘The last week in July’ – what a week that was! Monday I took a day trip to a near-ish garden in Northampton called Canons Ashby. Following this it was head down for the working week, where the temperatures continued to rise each day, ending with the fan-oven Friday ridiculousness. It might have taken all of Friday evening to top up my fluid levels, but at least now I’ve thankfully returned to my normal self – apart from permanently etched tan lines of course…
In a works capacity, irrigation of containers and raised beds became something of a priority due to the temperatures, but all came through the week nicely. Indeed this was the very same with my containers at home, with additional watering needed each evening, and occasionally in the dark!
Well it’s garden journal time and this week feels like an improvement on last, in as much that it has seemingly moved at a more normal pace – or maybe I’ve just acclimatised a little more to the strange situation we’re all in?! Out in the garden, aside from some very cool mornings there have been some quite warm and sunny days, in fact spring seems to have really begun now with bright and beautiful blooms almost everywhere I look; primulas, daffodils, grape hyacinths, wind flowers and so many more.
As mentioned in last week’s journal – for the time being, and due to the social distancing that my working role allows, I am able to continue with my gardening. This is something I’m extremely thankful for – not least because it’s one of the busiest times of the year for gardens and for gardeners. Indeed it’s been heartening to see the pressure build for garden centres to resume service to the public, and I certainly support this. Whether by special opening arrangements akin to supermarkets, or indeed by ordering for local delivery – as I know some have now started.
Back in the garden, the cool overnight temperatures are keeping the pace of grass, for example, quite steady. Yet all around the garden is quickening its steady steps into a meaningful stroll, and that pace is only set to speed up – it’s the time of year when you wish you could clone yourself in order to devote enough time to all that needs doing!
My horticultural hit list this week has been, in summary: Monday – Fed and reduced foliage area of many box shrubs that were moved before the weekend, trimming to similar dome shapes. Began first mowing session with pedestrian mower. Some re-potting. Tuesday – Lots of heavy-going mowing to neaten up close mown areas, and to define edges of wild flower areas. Wednesday – Disinfected and cleaned many display containers ahead of dahlia re-potting. Thursday – Steered some tree pruning activity, and began cleaning up and potting up stored dahlia tubers. Friday – Completed dahlia containers – just shy of 120 pots of joy, and each one planted with love and attention!
To my first image above, a relatively recent acquisition; a mini-greenhouse to help with growing from home. In a small garden these kits offer a sheltered space that can be really effective in lifting temperatures enough to both protect delicate plants and to bring seedlings on more rapidly. One particular thing I’d mention from experience is to make sure the unit is tied in securely, as they love to blow over once they’re fully loaded and when you’re not expecting. I learned the hard way…
Next up is a single pot of what is arguably the most unusual flower going – the chequer petalled snake’s head fritillary, or Fritillaria meleagris. An absolute delight and a draw for my camera every year without fail.
I remember seeing them beautifully staged and growing in a grassy glade in the Quarry Garden at Belsay Hall, and didn’t hesitate to introduce them to Compton Verney over recent years – it’s such a shame they’re all blooming without us being able to see them just now. As well as this the one above at home, I have two pots to plant at Broadwell, and look forward to getting them all in the ground this week.
These are some of the box shrubs that have been lifted from the kitchen garden and planted here to rest until their final planting places are ready – not for a good while yet. Essentially they are here receiving a reduction in leaf mass, to reduce water loss after their move. Hopefully they’ll bounce back and with a strong fibrous root mass to help with their next move.
The image above hints at the dahlia activity from this week. It seems but a short time ago when I was washing down the tubers and potting them into dry compost in these old wooden cases. They’ve spent the winter in a cool tool shed, and have now been divided (those that were willing!) and potted up individually to grow on.
Some will clearly make strong plants, but I’ve potted almost every last tuber so we may pick the best for display – some staying in their pots and some, most likely, being transferred into the ground.
This photo in my folder just jumped out at me. The primulas at Broadwell have been flowering their socks off for weeks, and don’t look like stopping anytime soon – they’re an absolute feast for the eyes!
My final image is of these winter windflowers, or Anemone blanda. They are flowering in a shady woodland area right now and have risen above the dense foliage of wild garlic and primroses. They’re a pure delight and their blue flowers light up this space beautifully. What – a – treat!
As mentioned in my summary above there have been a range of horticultural tasks to keep me busy this week, along with some seed sowing at home. However, it would be impossible for me to ignore or not make reference in some way to the appearance of my works garden on Gardener’s World on Friday evening. It’s a minor miracle that the GW team are able to assemble a program under present circumstances, but so far they’ve done a great and quality job, and long may it continue.
As you can imagine though, privacy is a prime concern, and for this reason I’m personally restricting my storytelling somewhat – it’s incredibly frustrating but the right thing to do all things considered. Believe me though when I say there’s an amazing kitchen garden growing out of what was a long lost walled garden at Broadwell. My gardening and history interest aligns with Rachel’s and it’s been fascinating picking our way through the architectural details left between those garden walls – an iron hook embedded in a wall here, a hollowed out piece of stonework there and slates buried next to garden walls – each detail intriguing and all consuming.
I’m delighted to be part of the Broadwell posse, as a team we’re full of anticipation and excitement, and can’t wait to get the first crops growing in what are shaping up to be the best raised beds I’ve worked with to date – no pressure! We’re moving the kitchen garden forward as much as possible in the present climate, but with a fair wind and some luck we’ll all be able to watch it continue to develop and flourish on our TV screens during the year – I’ll be tuning in to see how it looks on the other side of the camera too! (You can catch it on iPlayer if you haven’t yet seen it 😉 )
For now though, that’s enough from me. Keep calm and carry on gardening! Regards, Gary
Do follow me on Twitter or Instagram, where you’ll most often find me #InTheGarden
This is the second weekend that I’ve selected six images based on my working week, and posted on social media with the SixonSaturday hashtag; a thriving hashtag community initiated by @cavershamjj
After posting I received a comment on twitter from @Jobasha who linked his six on Saturday tweet to his blog 30daysofwildparenting – its title alone is fascinating!
Well, I was inspired, and with credit for this initial spark of an idea to Joshua, I’m going to attempt something similar, in the form of a weekly (hopefully) update on all things horticultural. OK, so I may miss the odd week going forward – but like us all – there’s so much to do and so little time!
Above therefore is my SixonSaturday for this week, (w/c 25th Nov) as featured earlier today on twitter and instagram. I shall pass on explaining the top right image, which generally picks up on the weather pattern this week in the north Cotswolds garden where I work in Broadwell.
Dahlias, and lots of them! These tubers had been grown in containers this year, and had all died back from earlier frosts. My task was to release the tubers from their pots, to clean off the compost, and set out for drying. They’re now all clean and tidy, and indoors drying upside down, and will soon be planted right-side-up in a dry compost mix in boxes, until next spring. The spent compost has been recycled as a mulch on a border.
The above image of an empty compost bin shows one of four bins that have been excellently constructed and used at the garden. Thankfully, the last bin wasn’t completely full, so the work as started here entailed moving and mixing the decaying materials into the last bin on the right. There was ample cardboard that, after so much rain, was easy to tear and mix with the other green waste materials.
There’s a good deal of work left in these bins yet, but there’s some excellent composted material to be harvested too – which literally will go down very well on the borders throughout the garden.
This was the first section of a border that needed renovating before bulb planting can take place. Simply through time and commitments, the border had grown over with grass from the adjacent lawn, and whilst it was very heavy going, it was really rewarding to see this border return to something near its previous appearance. Next week will see some of the saved plants cleaned and returned, followed by extensive planting of bulbs.
Talking of bulbs, the above image is of more! I can’t take credit for planting these, but have netted with wire and stored in their winter quarters as shown. Hopefully, this secluded area will afford the bulbs the period of winter cold they need, and the wire will keep the squirrel and mice eyes off the prize!
This, the final image from this week’s post is to honour the beautiful late November sunshine that arrived on Friday. It was a long time coming, and in this image was gradually slipping behind the hillside as I finished digging the border that had strained me for much of the week.
A challenging week all things considered, but refreshing to finish with such a wonderful flourish. Key tasks were ticked off the list, and the scene is set for next week’s main task of bulb planting – and much more. You can keep an eye on progress, if you wish on Twitter and Instagram.