Journal 31.1.21

Well there goes week four and after a brief walk out this afternoon, January is pretty much done and dusted. (And on the whole – good riddance to it!) I must admit that I had worked three paragraphs into this journal post before I realised, just in time, that I was spiralling into a cracked and bottomless pot of despair. To that end I deleted said words after getting them out of my system, and for the next few minutes I’m promising my usually positive post about my week in gardening.

Pretty as a pictureRose Garden at Sulgrave Manor

This week has moved from a beautiful and not too deep covering of snow on Monday, through grey washed out days with enough sunshine between to keep the spirits up. The underlying issue, if there has to be one has been the quantity of rain, which has been frequent and persistent. As a result of said rain the ground all around is at full capacity, and beds and borders are too wet to touch.

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.

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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.

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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.

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