Garden Journal 4.4.20

Gary Webb’s Garden Journal
A range of garden delights…

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!

Growing your own food
Home Grown

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…

Snake’s Head Fritillary​
Snake’s Head Fritillary

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.

A temporary resting place in the slip garden for these box shrubs.

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.

Plating up dahlias after winter storage
Dahlia potting

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.

Pretty primulas
Pretty primulas and some early flowering tulips

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!

Windflowers

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

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
#SixOnSaturday

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.

Follow me on Twitter. Follow me on Instagram. Check out #SixOnSaturday on Twitter.

Garden Journal 1.2.20

SixOnSaturday

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 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
SixOnSaturday

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.

Check out Silent Space

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Garden Journal 11.1.20

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 will record my story. The text below therefore aims to give a little more background for each of the chosen images.

Well, the first full working week of 2020 has certainly felt like a long one! The weather on my patch has largely been kind for outdoor activity, so I’ve found myself postponing some administrative tasks in favour of practical ones, in order to again push projects forward whilst the sun shines.

The week included a visit to a wildlife site, pruning fruit trees, some tree surveying and the first clearance work beginning in the walled garden. It’s incredible that even in a relatively small area, I managed to cover just over 19 miles from Monday to Friday – it’s no wonder I need a sit down at lunchtime!

My first image below offers a dose of the brightest yellow to blow away any winter blues, it is of course the prickly gorse, growing here at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Brandon Marsh nature reserve in Coventry.

Gorse growing at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust Brandon Marsh
Gorse at Brandon Marsh

It was an absolute treat to wander around the trails that are woven amongst lakes, twisted trees, grassland and dense shrubberies – contrary to initial thoughts of a winter landscape – everywhere was alive with chirping and squawking. There were also a good few shushes thrown to my none too quiet boys who, despite not particularly wanting to go, were excitedly exploring the paths with their rotten lightsaber sticks – I don’t think they disturbed the wildlife watchers too much!

The next image below is a lighter hearted one taken on Monday morning as I prepared to start pruning in the orchard at work. Woodapuss was quick to check in with me to make sure I knew what I was doing and, as always, to remind me that she wouldn’t be far away!

Woodapuss eprting for garden duty
Woodapuss reporting for garden duty!

It’s a relatively small orchard with some ageing specimens that have cropped well in recent years, so whilst I have pruned very carefully to let more light and air into the branches, I’ve also tried to retain as much fruiting wood as possible. Time will tell, but I’ll be watching carefully to manipulate re-growth as it happens.

Pruning is one of the tasks I can find challenging, as my inner artist takes over and battles with the form I want to create, against the form the tree is taking, especially with very mature specimens such as those above. I’ll certainly find a balance with those established, and also look forward to training some new fruit in due course as the garden develops – prepare for some fruity creations!

Ivy-leaved cyclamen ad winter aconites in the January Garden
Ivy-leaved cyclamen and winter aconites.

Sometimes I don’t realise that there is a lack of colour in my day until I suddenly notice a bright blue sky, or spreading blotch of orange lichen or, as shown above, I stumble across a pretty patch of flowers in a lawn. This group of pink cyclamen and aconites put things right very quickly and I couldn’t hold back from crouching down for a closer look at this patch of perfection.

Continuing the floral theme, it’s always with excitement that flower followers post snowdrop pictures each year. I had been tipped off that there were lots of snowdrops in my garden at work, and so I have been looking forward to seeing what emerges and where.

January snowdrops Wellington their way now.
Early flowering single snowdrops racing into the new year.

It turns out the little beauties are everywhere, and this little group are ahead of most of their neighbours by a fortnight or so. I look forward to getting down amongst the foliage over the coming weeks as I attempt to capture their wonder in this Cotswolds garden.

In my next image, I have broken a self-set rule and in difference to the ‘jungle’ type image at the head of this post, I have sneaked in an image after the work is partially complete – rather than leave you wandering how the clearance work turned out!

More cut-backs in for the garden!

Essentially, the image above shows an overgrown east facing corner of the walled garden that is awaiting renovation. The photo shows the brambles cut hard back, along with a fig bush that had grown seriously out of hand – it had layered itself naturally around 4 metres away!

You might thinking the pruning looks harsh, and you’d be right, but it was essential and taken in stages so that I could understand where growth could be left to recover, to form a new framework. In my favour was fresh growth that had layered naturally, and I’ve taken some cuttings to try and root, so I’m confident we’ll see something bounce back before too long. *He says, whilst looking to the sky and whistling.*

My last image below was taken Friday, whilst surveying trees for safety. It goes without saying that with a historical site there are often many trees to be found with decay, holes and crevices, and it can be quite difficult to understand and assess some trees. On a positive note though, there is always opportunity with all trees to consider not just safety and aesthetics, but habitat also, and the tree below is one such tree.

Looking closely at the incredible habitat of this decaying parkland sycamore tree
Neil McClean from Midland Arb

A mature sycamore in a parkland setting, this tree is testament to careful and considered management over recent years, which has allowed what is essentially a high-rise habitat tree to be retained for the benefit of wildlife. Safety can certainly be managed beneath the tree, and hopefully it has many years left to decay in peace whilst offering an incredible deadwood habitat for a wide range of wildlife – long may it live!

So there we have it; another very full-on week of activity whilst out and about in Warwickshire, and working in Gloucestershire. In my quieter moments I have been thoroughly engaged in listening to The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and have been dipping into Lia Leendertz’ The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020. Both books are hugely informative and the latter will stay with me throughought the year (as the 2019 version did) to guide me through the monthly goings on both above and beneath the garden surface. Yet another image squeezed in below!

The Almanac- A Seasonal Guide to 2020 by Lia Leendertz. Mitchell Beasley.

Before I sign off, I just want to pass on my thanks to those who follow my gardening progress via Twitter, Instagram and this blog. I have enjoyed great support from my new employers as I’ve settled into my new role – no need to name names! But as expected, there are many moments of isolation for any gardener in a largely private setting. (This may change as I look to recruit some volunteer help over the coming weeks – do DM me if you’re within easy travelling distance of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire).

Over the last few weeks therefore, I’ve been spurred on by contact from old friends, colleagues and family, by long time social network connections and many new friends too. Many thanks to you all – it has been inspiring to connect with you all, and I look forward to meeting some of you soon, to opening up my gardening experiences through 2020, and to learning from you too!

Kind regards, Gary Webb, GardeningWays.

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

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
#SixonSaturday

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

If this post has been of interest, do click to follow the GardeningWays blog, to receive a reminder each week when (or if!) I post a journal entry. Thanks!

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
#SixOnSaturday

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
Orchard

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
#SixOnSaturday

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