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

Tree Connections

I’ve been wanting to write a little piece about trees for a while now, but as often the way, it’s been just another post on the to-do list. However, when our friends on BBC Gardeners’ World produced a special program dedicated to trees, I was inspired to get out my notes and to revisit that post I’ve been meaning to write.

Limes in the morning mist.

Like many other people, I’ve a long held interest and fascination for trees, and not least for the fact they can grow from the smallest wind blown seed to enormous, living and breathing structures. How they establish a root hold and adapt their growth, melding with the environment they find themselves in is nothing short of extraordinary.

Allot-of-Potential

This post is the first in a new allotment themed category that I’m excited to be sharing to my Gardening Ways blog. The thread of posts will track progress on a new allotment plot we’ve taken on which will be tended by my partner in ‘grime’ Ruthie and myself, and our two boys if we can entice or bribe them to play an active part too – good luck with that one did someone say?

Allotment newbs..

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.