Garden Journal 12.10.21

It’s garden Journal time for me, so if you’ve found these words already, I hope you’ll stick around for another few minutes whilst I tell tales about my last two weeks in gardening. In this post I’ll be Feeling Autumn, I enjoy a Hidcote Booster, and I explain why my arms will be a touch achy for the next few weeks.

Feeling Autumn

I don’t know how you’re finding things, but when I stop to consider the autumn season, being in the garden has felt a little bit weird for a while now. Allowing for the vagaries of plants that do what they want, when they want, things still feel odd. Maybe it’s just the mild seasonal weather at the moment, but some flowers seem to be later than usual, some trees are keeping their colours hidden, and some perennials want to keep on going – at least in my garden.

A tired but persistent October cosmos flower…

Garden Journal 27.9.21

Hello and thanks for visiting my garden journal, a place for recording my gardening activity and tracking moments in gardens. This week I’m recognising a grand volunteer effort through raking the orchard, I’ve been corralling plants for growing at home, and have been soaking up some wonderful autumn light in observations.

Raking the Orchard


Gardening at work this summer, (Sulgrave Manor if you’re new to this blog,) has been something of a rollercoaster I have to say. Indeed, numerous factors seem to have combined to create a two steps forward one step back type of year – weather and Covid being the biggest of them for sure. Yet, I’ve been completely uplifted of late, and especially on our very successful and busy Heritage Open Day, by the growing visitor numbers and the many positive comments about how tidy and lovely the garden is.

The results in terms of garden presentation is in no short measure down to the regular attendance and dedication of the Sulgrave team – mostly volunteers, who’ve donated many years in some cases to the garden. Week in, week out, each individual arrives, giving up their valuable time to help us plant, prune and weed, and without them the garden would be but a slither of its excellent self.

Heaps of fun after a good deal of raking!

Garden Journal 11.9.21

Hello, and thanks for visiting my garden journal – a place for recording my gardening activity and tracking moments in gardens. This week two new gardens requiring a good deal of work enter my life, and I’m uplifted by visits to two great Northamptonshire gardens: Kelmarsh Hall and Coton Manor.

New Garden News!

I promised in this blog to bring news of two new gardens that have arrived from left of stage. Due to their gravity I’ll cover both ‘projects’ independently below but in short, the first of the gardens has arrived because I’ve moved home to a brand new house with a wonderful blank-canvas garden. Secondly, after waiting in the queue, I’ve landed myself a half-plot at the local allotments!

Rose Gertrude Jekyll flowers in September
A potted Gertrude Jekyll survived the move 😅

As you’d imagine, I’m spinning with ideas as to the many different ways both these plots can be developed, and not at all daunted by the work ahead. Okay, maybe I fibbed about the last part! Nevertheless, I’m fully aware of the opportunities these two plots offer to literally put roots down, permanently in some cases, in gardens for the benefit of my family and those around, and of course for my own self!

Fifty Percent Foliage

In the main, I have to say that we as a family, not just I have moved house. Therefore you’ll have to forgive my distance from social media over the last few weeks as there has been a good deal of box packing and stress and of living in the moment – you know how it goes. We were so excited to get the thumbs-up after numerous postponements, but whilst we’re now in, it’s all rather strange.

As I type (starting at 7:45am,) the reversing beeps of the builders tele-handler continues to sound a short distance from the house, the JCB’s bucket scrapes tarmac, and other finished houses around us sit empty, awaiting visits from landscapers before they can be ‘signed off’. Flooring throughout the house is yet to be laid, and we continue to battle with our telecom provider for a useable system. Yet, the garden we’ve acquired is FABULOUS!

The deal with our last rented house meant that I needed to remove planted borders and reinstate to what we found eight years ago. This of course resulted in many, many potted plants that have since spring been tucked away in corners here there and everywhere, awaiting their move in date too. I even borrowed a hidden corner of the work’s garden where I stored a few car loads! The result is that on our moving day, the final van load was still fifty percent foliage and terracotta!

No time for photos, too busy carrying plants!

Now, in terms of the garden, it’s planted and turfed to the front, and entirely turfed to the rear but for some access paving tight to the house wall. The front is tidy, as you’d expect, and planted blandly into nasty looking imported soil, again as you’d expect – but it will keep. In my head I’m already peeling back the turf and imagining a pretty tree. Maybe a cherry, no, maybe an apple to make the space pretty and productive. Maybe a Cornus kousa, or Himalayan birch, or even a Musa to buck the trend! Again, it will keep, there’s so much else to think about and there’s no need to be hasty.

The back garden though is where some real potential lives. After what seems like a lifetime of restrictive growing, on the home front at least, it feels like at least we have some real opportunities here to create a proper, personal space independent of all others. Things are too busy just now but I’m keen to get sketching, to play with the spaces, and to finally get some of my cherished plants into proper soil – although this may take some work too!

New garden, room outside or football yard? There are differing opinions in the household!

I very much look forward to sharing the garden’s development of course, along with the bone jarring graft that lies ahead! (It’s going to be a steady one for sure…)

Allot[ment] of Potential


The other great gardening story of my moment is the acquisition of a half plot at a very special site nearby; Wellesbourne Allotments. It’s a long established site on a relatively flat basin of land, with views over to rising ground that carries the Roman Fosseway – it’s really quite a special place.

I hesitated for too long to join the waiting list because, well, I spend most of my mental and physical energy in my work’s gardens. Last year however, in early spring when concerns about food shortages came to the fore, it felt like the right time to get onto the list (whilst also growing some extra supplies at home in containers). I was kept updated as to progress up the list but was genuinely surprised to get a call with an offer back in August, my reply of course being be a solid “Yes Please!”

I will spare you the details as to progress so far, but to be honest there has been frustratingly little. The day I collected the gate keys was a day before we went away for a week, and we’ve been moving house seemingly ever since. Still, we’ve moved onto the allotment so to speak, and have spent a couple of hours weed pulling around the previous tenants veggies in order to stop the weed seeds blowing across the other plots – not wanting to upset our neighbours who manage some very, very tidy plots!

More sessions are planned, and soon, but before I leave my allotment chat I just have to mention that whilst I have signed on the dotted line, our new allotment is very much a family venture – at least I hope it’s going to be! To that end my partners-in-crime Ruthie and the boys have already jumped in with the weeding, and we’ve even set up a dedicated Instagram account called AllotofPotential – and we’d love to connect with like minded folks to share our newfound love for allotmenteering!

Proud holders of a AllotofPotential

I hope to post snippets of our allotment progress to my garden journal, and will likely create independent posts too if I can make the time. I’m sure we’ll be learning loads over the coming year as we take a sleeping, couch-grass infested plot through to a productive (hopefully) patch.

Observations

I was fortunate to escape my work’s garden this week for an educational team visit (with meetings I hastily add!) to two nearby properties – Kelmarsh Hall and Garden, and Coton Manor Garden. There was a good deal to see and many things were discussed of course, but looking back I realised that it was my first external works trip for two whole years. There have been webinars, online chats and such like, of course, but I’ve made no real opportunity to get out and talk garden’s with colleagues, and this needs to change!

Echinacea flower in a flowery border at Coton Manor Northamptonshire, in early September
Echinacea perfection at Coton – a beautiful garden to be sure…

Visiting gardens to compare and contrast and to discover and inspire is to many a jolly, as you’ll often hear, but of course it’s more than that. It fires the imagination, lights a spark, triggers thought processes and all that jazz! In those two gardens I rediscovered plants I hadn’t worked with before, I studied two widely different plant nursery situations and admired the gardeners who were toiling away in pretty hot conditions. I watched visitors flow through spaces, explored marketing and road tested garden interpretation. Planting combinations were poured over, early autumn borders were investigated and, I might have purchased a plant or two for my home plot.

Loving the long established use of this ‘beside the walled garden’ space at Kelmarsh Hall, with yew topiary, box hedging and mixed border plants
Loving the long established use of this ‘beside the walled garden’ space – Kelmarsh Hall

My observation and discovery is that in my quest to push plants and gardens and their benefits out across the web, that somehow, mostly due to the pandemic I expect, I’ve missed out on some important experiences myself. I’ve lost the ‘out in the field’, mind expanding, logic challenging visits I previously enjoyed. They’re valuable, believe me, and it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of sharing time with like minded people. In the coming months therefore as ‘the situation’ eases, I certainly hope to repeat the experience and simply to get out more to benchmark!

On that note I’ll finish up now, as I know you’ll need to get on. Many thanks though for reaching the end of another of my garden journals. I do hope you’re enjoying some moments in the early autumn garden.


Gary Webb
Gardening Ways

Do please check out AllotofPotential over on Instagram 👍🏻

Garden Journal 21.8.21

Hello and welcome to my garden journal – a place for recording my gardening activity and tracking moments in gardens. This week (and especially last week) I breathe again through a garden visiting getaway where I’m wowed by the work of Sir John Vanbrugh, and I have a swift gardening observation for the moment.

Gardening Getaway


I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity last week to getaway up to the northeast of England. On the whole it was time spent with family that was the most important aspect of the trip, but of course, there are always other benefits when a gardener gets to travel…

Box parterre Italianate style at Seaton Delaval Hall
Early 1950s Italianate garden at Seaton Delaval Hall

One important benefit Continue reading

Garden Journal 1.8.21

Hello, and thanks for visiting my garden journal – a place for recording my gardening activity and tracking moments in gardens. This week I recall positively glowing border flowers, I’ve been sniffing and snapping at Rousham, and I discuss mood and moments in observations.

Positively Glowing

There have been some ridiculously warm days over the last few weeks but since the full moon last weekend, hasn’t it all balanced out? It was all blazing sun and head-cooking workdays one moment, but then the weather turned and showers and storms seem to have become the norm for a while. Honestly, this year’s weather has been a real lottery!

The Rose Garden at Sulgrave Manor
Daisy clouds around the rose garden at Sulgrave Manor and Garden

Still, it has been and still is Continue reading

Garden Journal 11.7.21

Hello, and thanks for clicking the links to my garden journal – a place for recording some of my gardening activity, tracking my horticultural journey and waxing lyrical about gardens. This week I’m writing about the incredible growth just now in gardens, some border renovation in my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, and I have a timely message about growing in containers.

Incredible Growth

Gardens are growing well at the moment aren’t they, at least they are in middle England. Summer warmth has seen temperatures in the twenties pretty consistently since my last post, and with frequent rainfall, herby growth in particular has been lush.

Abundant growth across the rose garden at Sulgrave Manor

Wilder areas have been flattened by the rains and are spilling over the otherwise neatly mown paths – the grass itself seemingly springing up behind me as I walk. Then there’s edging-up; will it never end?!

Garden Journal 27.6.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’m writing about planting out all that summer bedding, I get all focused as I tune into topiary, and I finish with my regular observations on gardening and nature.

Planting Out


Following on I from my last journal entry where I talked about potting-on, I’m naturally drawn now to mention the very next step in the process which is of course planting out – in the garden at Sulgrave Manor.

Propagation there isn’t on the grand scale of course, with but two good sized glasshouses we have turned out a tidy number of annuals over the course of spring. Sowings of Cosmos, Tithonia and bedding Dahlias, Calendula, Rudbeckia, Nasturtium, Cleome, Helianthus and Zinnia have created a very busy glasshouse as you can imagine. This is of course in addition to plug plants that we’ve sourced and nurtured, over-wintered cuttings, tender plants and food plants for the Tudor Veg’ garden.

One of many wheel barrow fulls of plants heading out to the garden at Sulgrave Manor in Northants
One of many barrow fulls of plants heading out to the garden.

It’ll come as no great surprise then when I speak of the relief when each of the varieties find their way into the garden. Months of growing and nurturing has finally brought us to the point where the majority of the planting stock has been upturned, tipped from their pots and settled into summer quarters.

Garden Journal 14.6.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’ve been potting-up, repotting in my home garden, and there’s a mention of a brief run out to Canons Ashby. Also, for my observation section this week I’ll be focussing on the longest day.

Gorgeous white lupin spires at Canons Ashby

Potting Up


I’ve written in recent weeks of spring flowers that have cheered us through a somewhat turbulent spring. Many of the plants I’m proud to say came about through my autumn efforts alongside the garden team at Sulgrave Manor. Time passes by quickly though, and so even before the spring flowers had reached their stride I was planning for their late-spring changeover.

Garden Journal 29.5.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’ve written about fading tulips, the day the rains came and general glasshouse busy-ness. I also mention a garden move on the home front, (as opposed to a house move,) and introduce a new section about observation.

Tulips Fade


I last updated my garden journal on the May 19 when tulips were very clearly stealing my show. In some cases they continue to flower well but, I’m sad to say, many have now gone over. It has though been a dazzling year for them with cooler temperatures playing a useful role in slowing things down, although now it does seem like the show is nearing its end as each tulip one by one gracefully bows out.

Bright yellow Tulip ‘Yokohama’ flowers fading towards the end of their season
Tulip ‘Yokohama’ on the slide…

The Rains Came


I say gracefully, but for the second week in a row the weather has been all over the place; in fact the whole of May has been. Monday last brought very heavy and prolonged showers with added hail for good measure, and at my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, following a morning of it, all I could do was head indoors, again, to dry out.