Garden Journal 23.12.21

Hello, thanks for clicking on the link and welcome to my garden journal – A bumper Christmas Edition you could say! I hope you’ll stick around for a few moments whilst I paint a picture of Sunlight and Snow, I look back on December Gardening, and record some thoughts peeking Onwards to a whole new chapter in 2022.

Bright December sunshine washes down through a silhouetted tree, whilst casting long shadows across snowy ground
They may be short, but some days can be exquisite!

Sunlight & Snow

If there’s one thing that has struck me recently, apart from the roller coaster temperatures we’re experiencing, it is winter sunlight. I would be quite within my rights to waffle on about how poor the light has been of late, what with short days frequently shrouded with cloudy gloom, but I won’t.

I will instead refer to days when those grey pillows move aside to reveal bright skies, and when sunbeams flood down across our faces and gardens. Perfect moments for me, if a little challenging from a gardening perspective, are days when frost clings to foliage or when a sprinkling of snow highlights formwork and structure in the garden; both, especially when sunlight shines can enhance even the grumpiest garden corner.

Bird pulling a sledge? 🛷

Wildlife footprints leave telling signs of night time activity, frozen foliage droops, sound softens and time slows. What’s extra exciting in a public garden though, is the fact that a gardener often finds themselves alone and faced with a thousand picture postcard opportunities – even if there is work to be done!

Christmas pudding anyone?!

Snow peppered tree trunks, perplexing footprints criss-crossing and silhouetted trees with their long shadows. If you’ve an eye for a photo opportunity, everywhere you look becomes a picture. Thank heavens for social media so that some of the half decent images of all that otherwise unseen garden loveliness can be shared. I hope you like the few I’ve shared here, snapped before a warm session with the snow blower.

December Gardening

Whilst many things have been (and continue) in a state of flux, gardening has continued as normal for me – like it must. On the work-front, December demanded that I focus on a few tasks which on one hand meant putting the garden to bed, and on another meant paving the way for a solid 2022 start.

Hedge trimming – there seems to have been a good deal of hedge trimming. Yew is the hedge of choice at Sulgrave and this year brought a second opportunity to raise the bar. Building on the work of previous gardeners and my efforts last year, I again tightened my approach and tried various forms of string tying to get the cleaner edges I desired. It’s better than before but, there’s room for improvement still.

All now planted & in position 🌷

Bulb planting – after last year’s 5000 + bulb planting extravaganza, this season has been much swifter, with a key focus on containerised bulbs plus more for six mixed borders. There’s a hope that many planted last year will flower again, but I did add more bulbs to guarantee a display. I also colour themed container displays to red, white and blue. I chose to take a cost-effective approach due to a tight year, but I’m sure all will be wonderful from the moment the first Iris flowers spring forth.

New shoots – at home, and with a new garden as referred to previously, I’m glad to say my first plant is finally in the ground. As a key plant to the front of the house, it had to be a special one, so after much deliberation I chose a Japanese cherry tree called ‘Collingwood Ingram’.

Naturally, it’s going to provide a wonderful display of single pink flowers in early spring, but I’m equally awestruck by its historical connection to Captain Collingwood Ingram (1880-1981) – known in horticultural circles as Cherry Ingram. I’ll save that fascinating story for now, but with regard to planting what was little more than a bare-root whip, I’m glad to declare that gardening, with a sprinkling of mycorrhizal fungi and peat free Christmas magic, is officially underway!

Onwards

Honestly, if you’d have said one month ago that I’d be starting a new role in the first month of the new year, I’d have thrown you a long and pretty suspicious look. It’s true though, so following an unbelievably busy two months where I’ve even paused my blogging, I can confirm that I’ll be leaving the garden team at Sulgrave for a position with the National Trust in the Midlands.

There’s a lot to discover about my new role as yet, but whilst I’m really keyed up for my start towards the end of January, we do have a pretty busy (and festive) few weeks to navigate. To that end, I shall channel my next journal post to looking back over a fascinating and very productive fifteen months at the Manor, where I’ve worked with and been supported by an amazing team of gardeners who I’ll be sad to leave.

Face to face peacocks

On the whole, it’s clearly been a topsy-turvy two years for us all and every one of us have our own up and down stories. I’ll spare you mine, but I will say that aside from a sense of letting a few folks down by moving on a little quicker than expected, I have found myself on a journey where I’ve learned more about me and my aims than I ever thought possible.

‘If a door opens, step through it’, and ‘things happen for a reason’, are sayings I’ve heard repeatedly, and I do believe in fate. But I also believe that whilst hard work and applying yourself to the task in hand is the only way, there is much to be said for looking forward and working towards a goal.

Yes, of course there have been times when I’ve been completely ‘lost in the moment’, but these have subsequently challenged me to view my job and career journey differently – and I believe I’m not alone over recent months in re-evaluating my connection with gardens and nature. I know I’m at the point of serious change, of turning down a new, thrilling garden path. My eyes though are fully open, and whilst I know there will be bumps in the road, I look forward with a great deal of excitement – it’s going to be quite some journey for little old me!

Me & the not so friendly neighbourhood cat! Photo A. Robinson

All that said, I really don’t know what impact all this change will have on my blogging or social media for that matter. I enjoy it all thoroughly, partly for the creative opportunity it brings me and also for the encouragement I receive to keep it all going. I will, somehow, always find a way to share my love for the detail in gardens and for the benefits they offer us. Where would we be without our gardens and green spaces eh. . .

Thanks for making it to the end of this garden journal update, I hope to be back for a new one soon! Whatever you have planned for the coming days, I hope you enjoy a happy and peaceful Christmas, lets look forward to a brighter New Year!

Kind regards, Gary Webb, Gardening Ways

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 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 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.

My Gardeners’ World Video

I’m delighted to record that after watching BBC Gardeners’ World on my screens for what seems like an eternity, I finally made it onto the screen myself! Okay, it was a video I’d sent in about me and my garden but still – I’m very chuffed for my clip to have been selected, and I’ll be walking around with a rosy glow on my cheeks for the weekend at least!

At home, Spring 2021

Last Spring

I’ve written in my journal before about how the pandemic impacted my gardening world, in as much that whilst enduring the first lockdown I was fortunate to be able to continue working. I say fortunate because I live for working with, in and around gardens, and to think of having to stay indoors, or to have been restricted to a small space would likely, well, I can’t even begin to think.

Garden Journal 18.4.21

Hello and thanks for dropping in on my garden journal. This week I’ve my own update on Sulgrave Manor Gardening, an important Peat Free April message plus a little Home Gardening for the sarnie filling.

Sulgrave Manor Gardening


Writing in my garden journal last week I talked about the pre-opening rush that the garden team and I were going through to make sure all was looking good for the opening day on Wednesday. If you’re a gardener you’ll likely be very familiar with the thoughts and feelings that are very present in the run up to the big day.

Garden Journal 11.4.21

Well it has been quite a full month since I last posted to my garden journal, after taking a break for a while to take stock. I’m back now though and keen as ever to resume the weekly posting of my horticultural happenings to this journal, which is part of my Gardening Ways blog.

I suppose then that I’ve four weeks of shenanigans to account for, but whilst I’ve scanned back across the weeks and selected some memory jogging images, I’ll spare you from the general daily going’s on. Instead, and from my chosen picture, I’m going to skip across the month all spring lamb-like, if you can picture that!

Sulgrave Gardening

In my last journal entry I was still harping on about the “ongoing pruning” in the heritage orchard at Sulgrave Manor, which I’m glad to say is now all complete. In fact it’s more than complete, as some of the volunteers have thankfully returned to the fold, coming to my aid with a very thorough clean up of cut material – I had stacked it nicely of course!

Amongst the branches of an apple tree in a heritage orchard Up amongst the branches…

In addition to completing the orchard, which is now resplendent with thousands of daffodils and a few Continue reading

Journal 7.3.21

I’ve arrived at garden journal time this weekend perplexed as to how the week has flown by, although as always, it doesn’t take me long to work it out, what with switching between homeschooling and working. Seriously though, despite some full days it does seem to have been another week of maximum effort, modest achievement.

What I can say is that it’s been another fully and engaging week of work in my field of ‘gardening’. It’s seen me up and down ladders whilst pruning in a heritage orchard, arranging servicing for machinery and contacting volunteers, and there was even a little COSHH thrown in for good measure.

A little mulching on the go…

There was a session of mulching ornamental borders, sowing seeds and moving some heavy ornamental pots. Pruning tools were cleaned, sharpened and oiled, and a good deal of my present book was thoroughly enjoyed – The Tulip, by Anna Pavord. Last but not least, there was another fascinating webinar with the discerning historic landscape expert John Phibbs.