Garden Journal 19.5.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’m not afraid to say it’s Tulip Mania!

Tulip Focus

When assembling my journal entries I tend to look back across images I’ve snapped since my last post, and right now as I pause to look back there’s one particular plant that features heavily in my photos file – Tulipa!

There has been a good deal of gardening activity completely unrelated to tulips of course, but for this journal entry I thought I’d focus completely on these little beauties that by sheer fortune have bounced back into my life over the last few years.

Tulip ‘Sunlover’ at Sulgrave Manor

Looking Back

To track back just a little, in autumn 2019 I found myself planting many tulips in pots and borders for Rachel de Thame in her beautiful Cotswolds garden. It was a real treat being introduced to some lovely varieties, but more than that it was brilliant to see how they can work together when carefully selected by someone with a very keen eye. To say I learned a great deal would be something of an understatement!

Garden Journal 18.4.20

Tulips and poppy flowers
Hot colours from home tulips and work poppies…

Easter weekend seems like such a long time ago, as there’s been so much activity in my gardens. I remember finishing at Broadwell on Thursday prior to Easter and thinking how much I needed to rest up over the four day break. Well, I ended up doing so much from Friday to Sunday that my body cried “enough is enough” by Monday lunchtime, and I was forced to sit back and rest… but there was so much to do!

At home it’s all-a-growing, with seedlings shooting from a range of containers: standard seed trays and modules plus recycled tins, toilet rolls, paper pots and milk cartons – the recycled options not employed because I’m short of trays, just because I wanted to try some more ‘fun’ sowing with my children. It has certainly worked with the youngest, although as usual, I’m left to make sure the seedlings are looked after!

Tulip ballerina
Tulip ‘Ballerina’ in a container at home, defiantly shedding the rain..

All that is, except for two things. The first is a small biodegradable pot from the M&S Little Growers range, which my youngest lad sowed with the supplied beetroot seeds. He holds this pot dear, and it takes pride of place on the living room windowsill where he can check it daily. I was greeted by a very proud boy on Thursday holding aloft his tiny sprouted seedlings for my approval. Can’t wait to see if he eats it in due course, but sometimes, I guess the journey is more rewarding than the destination…

There are two seedlings there, honest!

The second is three pots with new strawberry plants that were bought in modules before the big ‘C-V’ kicked in. Well, I know it would be better not to let them fruit this year but again, my youngest is so keen to have home grown strawberries on his breakfast that we’re just going to let them grow and fruit. I’m literally moving the pots around the garden to make the most of the available light – willing them to grow faster!! “Grow you little b&%£@rs”, as an old head gardener I once knew used to say!

Welsh poppy, or Meconopsis cambrica
Welsh poppy, or Meconopsis cambrica growing happily in gravel…

At work, it’s been a short but very full-on four day week. Quite a range of tasks as is the way but a key one, sieving soil, gripped much of the week. Essentially, our mix of new and existing soil was found to be quite stony, and a few weedy roots also made it into the beds, it therefore became necessary to sieve the soil so as to give them the best start in life.

It was a steady old task, not helped by being force-fed radio one on a nearby radio but, by the end of the week I have five beds completed and ready for action. This early ground work, as hard as it is, is important for the ongoing use of the beds, and as such is a task well done – just wait until you see the rest of the garden!

Sieving for treasure, sort of…

Outside of those kitchen garden walls there continues to be flowers almost everywhere I look. Lawns are studded with speedwell, daisies, self-heal, and a stretch of woodland garden is carpeted with wild garlic, celandine and dancing wind flowers. Borders of tulips are coming very strong now too with each variety harmonising yet very different to its neighbour, and through the small orchard espalier pears have been flowering beautifully, whilst apple blossom is readying in the wings for their performance.

What an absolute treat to be amongst this beauty on a daily basis…

Lime tree reflection at Broadwell Manor
I couldn’t resist capturing this mirror-pool reflection of a stunning lime tree in the typically English landscape garden setting of Broadwell Manor.

In summary, my horticultural hit list for Broadwell and home this week has been: Sunday – planting 1st early potatoes (in pots). Weeding and planting container specimens into borders, including a baby Acer palmatum and seed grown guelder-rose . Monday – Rest day! Tuesday – Watering (!) and feeding containers. First day of soil sifting. Wednesday – Soil sifting. Thursday – Laurel hedge and yew topiary pruning. Weeding. Labelling tulips. Friday – Completed labelling. Mowing. Watering. Planted snakes head fritillaries. Shredded cardboard for compost. Sieved another cheeky raised bed before the rain came!

For now, I shall have to leave my journal there for this week… I hope you’re enjoying my words and pictures… Regards, Gary

Do follow me on Twitter or Instagram, where you’ll most often find me #InTheGarden

Garden Journal 11.4.20

Tulip time!

What an absolute stunning week of weather we’re having! (Apologies if that opening line jinxed the weather for the rest of Easter by the way!) Temperatures up into the mid-teens and wall-to-wall sunshine have made these last few days an absolute dream, but needless to say it’s been a week if intense gardening activity both at work and home.

My mind is presently fixed on mid-spring activity which includes all the April classics such as mowing, weeding and container work. Generally speaking, there’s still enough moisture in the soil so that weeding is about as easy now as it’s going to get, especially if conditions remain dry – and so if you haven’t started yet, there is no time like the present to get the hoe or cultivator tool on the move!

In terms of the garden at Broadwell, I’ve also been working to ensure that the hard work given out over the winter isn’t wasted now by taking the foot of the gas. For example, the mild winter has allowed me to get on top of some grassy areas that last year had grown a little lengthy, shall we say. In some areas a number of cuts have been made during the cooler months with the height of each cut gradually being reduced – it’s not an exact science, nor does it have to be, but at this stage of the game, and for the mowing equipment available, I’m happy that all is under control.

Where ornamental containers are concerned, many at Broadwell have recently been re-potted, which of course leads to root disturbance and a hit to water uptake until their roots settle into the new compost. The ongoing issue therefore encourages me to monitor the fresh foliage closely for signs of drooping, and to ensure plants are sufficiently irrigated – the plants will communicate their needs one way or another, I just have to watch that I’m not too busy to notice!

My summary for key tasks at Broadwell and home this week: Monday – Watering. Disinfected dahlia storage boxes and various clay containers. Sorted through nursery plants. Initiated shrub border renovation. Tuesday – Completed shrub area work, cleared debris and mulched with leaf mould. Wednesday – Relocated wallflowers and repotted lillies. Mowed lawns. Thursday – Watering. Wood splitting. Furniture moving. Friday – Bank Holiday! Drew together list of autumn 2019 bulb planting for the borders at Broadwell. At home – made paper pots and started sowing ornamental seeds. Made solitary bee hotels with my son for the garden. Generally moved trays of seedlings around the garden to keep them exposed to the sun!

My first main image this week highlights the autumn through to spring journey for on border at Broadwell, and shows some of the first tulip blooms to open. I’m looking forward to seeing the other tulip groups flower over the coming weeks.

Tulip Apricot Beauty
‘Apricot Beauty’, one of the first tulips into flower at Broadwell

Next up is a photo to remind me that mowing is and will continue to be a primary activity for the months ahead. There’s ample lawn area for me to play with and manipulate with a mixture of cutting equipment and mowing regimes, and there’s enough room to develop some good quality wild flower areas too; something I look forward to with much anticipation.

In the meantime, I might look a little silly driving around on a pint-sized John Deere, but it’s an incredibly versatile machine, and my mowing work alone is already drawing comments of approval from local passers-by. So far, so good…

Lawns need a cuttin!

Next up is a micro scene that jumped out as I passed by a raised bed. It was, quite simply, a droplet of water cradled by lupin leaves. It’s a detail that many will instantly recognise, but it never ceases to amaze how often these details are overlooked, or the shear wonder on someone’s face when they tune in to such a sight. The crystal ball like qualities of those tense droplets of moisture must surely enchant the hardiest of gardeners?!

Lupin leaves and water droplets
Lupins and water droplets…

When I left my last role I was surprised and delighted to receive a little pot maker from my team, amongst many humorous and touching gifts. Naturally, I have waited until now to try the little gadget, and I’m happy to say it works really well! Now I’m not really short of pots, but the size of paper pot this press makes is a perfect half way house between seed tray and container. I’m optimistic that if the paper holds together, I’ll be using this more often – I might even start buying newspapers again, if only to keep me going in raw materials!

Making paper seedling plant pots
Making my own pots… My self sufficiency rating raised a little further!

My last image was taken at Broadwell and won some praise on social media. I can’t lay claim to taking the photo, just to sowing the seeds, but it’s photographer knows how to turn a plant, and Clearly knows how to turn out a great photo too – many thanks for passing over the image 😊.

The image does remind me though of how quickly a packet of seeds turns into a food plant. These courgette seedlings were sown just three weeks ago – an incredible thing to witness and be part of. If you possibly can, grow something; even for me, a lifelong gardener, it feels more important now than ever before, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for giving you focus and engaging the mind and body.

Courgette seedlings, growing our own
Courgette seedlings at Broadwell.

At home my own sowed crops are coming along nicely. I have but a single heated propagation unit that suits my needs, and it has been on the go for the last month or so now, starting things like tomato and chilli seedlings to begin with, and Eventually moving on now to ornamentals. Mind you, the temperatures we’re currently enjoying does give sufficient window ledge temperatures to germinate most seeds that need heat, so if you don’t have a heated propagator, don’t let it stop you trying to sow a few seeds – to this end, the easiest way to get hold of a packet is on the front of a garden magazine! (Keep your eyes peeled when next in the supermarket!)

I must finish up now, although I could very easily type away all day. To garden is to fill the memory with sights and sounds, activities and images that flow back as soon as I look at my diary. Looking to the present moment though, the window is open, the early evening is cool now, the nearby roads are silent, and the birds – birdsong fills the air. I must get out there! Stay safe, and if you must; stay home.

Regards, Gary

Do follow me on Twitter or Instagram, where you’ll most often find me #InTheGarden

Garden Journal 14.3.20

The Intro… I’m a professional gardener/horticulturist and post weekly to record my gardening experiences and journey. My main workplace is Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire, and needless to say – this journal is independent and does not represent views of my employer or any organisation.

This week’s garden journal represents a week that seems to have moved very slowly to begin with, just to gain pace with more varied and random tasks from Wednesday onwards.

In summary: Monday – Complete re-potting of a large container where vine weevil activity had been discovered, followed by work to begin renovating a tennis court. Tuesday – More tennis court. Wednesday – Even more tennis court work, but also work began to create a new fruit border, and some additional border mulching (Thankfully supported by volunteers). Thursday – Key task was further ground preparation for that fruit border, and acquisition and fitting of wires for tying in fruit. Friday – A little support for an onsite event, some border hoeing and maintenance, and container work – relocating, removing protective wire and some cutting back.

Skipping back to last Sunday, I made a brief visit to Packwood House to breathe in some cool fresh air, to soak up some early spring sunshine and to simply enjoy being in a quality garden space. Packwood’s garden like many others is still holding its strong winter structure, something particularly brought to the fore in my image below of yew hedges being restored.

Yes hedge renovation at Packwood House, Warwickshire.
Yes hedges in a renovation programme at Packwood House

Knowing the garden in its summer clothes however, it’s incredible to think just how much it will change over the coming weeks. Plastic tubes and protective cloaks will soon be lifted off tender plants and exotics presently hidden away in glasshouses will take their place in the borders. Visitors will (hopefully) return in numbers to crunch along the paths, insects will zip around the mount in search of hot coloured herbaceous flowers on the terrace walk, and Instagramers will be seen crouching here and there in search of that one spectacular photo. I’m wishing myself there already…

Daffodil, or Narcissus RIP van Winkle
Narcissus ‘RIP van Winkle’

Moving to my garden at home, I had to add this image of a dwarf Narcissus called RIP van Winkle, an old cultivar known from as early as 1884/5. I’m not generally drawn to the larger attention grabbing daffodils, although I can’t deny their worth, but I was drawn to try this little beauty, and I’m so glad I put a few bulbs in a pot all those months ago – very much worth the wait.

Next image to illustrate my week shows what difference a pressure washer makes to moss buildup on artificial grass. OK so the court hasn’t been used in a while, and it’s not exactly gardening, but as part of the fabric of the site it needs to look good, for sure. Time constraints and the pace of the task meant it could only be half completed, so more of this in due course but for now, as Mr Robson used to say – it’s back to the weeding!

Tennis Court Shenanigans…

Next up is a simple image that I am glad to share as a reminder that the soil, depending on where you are, might be good enough to begin hoeing. This tulip border was mulched thinly after planting, although was already showing a sprinkling of weed seedlings. Therefore, for this border, now is the ideal time to gently get amongst the plants, to push the hoe, and to dislodge those pesky little weeds. Very satisfying indeed!

Hoeing through the flower border
Time to get hoeing…

Amongst the border shown above and across the surface of many containers, tulip foliage is well advanced now and the next image just brings attention a little closer.

The waxy coating on each leaf tends to send tiny globules of rain water down to the base, but while my image doesn’t exactly capture the detail as I’d like, I hope in the least that it encourages you to nip out and have a closer look if you haven’t already – it’s a pure delight, and for a good while now, there’s been plenty of rainfall to top up those little reservoirs!

Beads of water at the base of a tulip

My next and final image gives a flavour of the border work we started on Wednesday and completed on Thursday. Essentially, a new border has been cut and dug over, and a wire network fixed to the wall to tie plants into – quite an intense piece of work that will be in place for many years to come, so it had to be done just so.

The work shown above signals a change in activity from the cutting back and sorting out period that I feel I’ve been in since the autumn, to the putting back and the creative period that we are now entering in the garden at Broadwell.

Border work well under way, and materials for wall support…

I’m thankful and hugely appreciative for the support from those around me, both physically in the garden and also online. We all know of the pitfalls of social media but I find it heartening how the online gardening community in particular has developed. Yes it can judge and scold people, but above that it can work to offer a nurturing, encouraging environment – and one that certainly spurs me on.

Whilst I do a lot of social media, some people do much less and some much more. It’s taken me a while to figure out what I want to do on social, and to work out what to contribute, and if truth be known I’m still figuring it out and adapting daily – you can tell that by seeing how often I change my bio! But without wishing to get sidetracked, I do question what life would be like for the countless solo gardeners and self employed people who spend much time working alone in complete isolation:

– what would it be like to get home after a dreary, rain soaked day, and to not draw encouragement from other folk in similar situations.

– what would it be like to not draw inspiration from pictures of blossom buds bursting across each nation in spring.

– what would it be like to not chuckle at a gardeners Instagram story during a much needed sit down and coffee break.

– and what would it be like to not get a like – that seal of approval for a horticultural highlight you captured; and especially after you had to peal off sodden gloves and risk your precious smart phone in the process!

Whatever we draw from using social media, it certainly has an incredible ability to do good and share positivity, and whatever you draw from it, I hope it continues to serve the community well in the days ahead. Just remember – days are stretching out, temperatures are lifting, seeds need nurturing and bees are already busy pollinating. I hope we will all continue to share our gardening passion and positivity over the coming days and weeks – we’re going to need it more than ever!

In mind of my comments above, do look for inspiration from some of the online communities. I can recommend the #SixOnSaturday Twitter hashtag meme that Encourages the sharing of garden and floral action every Saturday. There’s also GardensHour every Monday evening between 9 and 10pm, and amongst the many focus groups on Facebook, for horticultural types there’s All Horts!! – Which offers a really supportive and useful forum (I’m a recent convert to AllHorts!! After it was suggested in The Plant Based Podcast – another great place to learn about and engage with horticulture).

Do check these out if you haven’t already, and do feel free to point us to more groups in my comments – I’ll happily share. Until next week, have a good one…! Gary

If you want to follow my gardening progress, you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.