A season at Easton Walled Gardens

Thank you for your support this season! 

The gardens close for the season this Sunday in a flurry of half term activities including pumpkin rolling and bats.

To celebrate a successful season at Easton Walled Gardens and to thank you for your support we thought you might like see a selection of photographs from the season and read a bit more about what we have been up to.

Your continued support is deeply appreciated and here’s to another fantastic season in 2014, so we hope you enjoy our collection of photographs.

hellebore season at easton walled gardens
February: Snowdrops of course!More than 3,000 people visited the gardens during Snowdrop Week, enjoying Jackie’s expert talks and the fabulous drifts of colour.A mild year meant the winter flowering cherries and iris reticulata brought additional colour at just the right time.
March: The osmanthus hedge flowered uninterrupted by frost covering the pickery in a beautiful scent. Crocuses, little blue bulbs and anemones mingled with the last of the snowdrops too.It rained a lot! Steve took advantage of the time undercover, sowing and pricking out thousands of seedlings.
April: More rain but no late frosts allowed for plants to go out in good time and the mini meadows were packed with little bulbs.We saw very few queen bees buzzing around, providing cause for concern but fortunately with the improvements in weather into the year we saw plenty.Val’s intrepid artists also started their monthly visits to record and paint their own interpretations of the gardens through the seasons.
May: Our first ever series of courses included ridiculously over subscribed workshops on willow weaving.We were delighted with how many people came along to enjoy our arts and crafts workshops.In the gardens, the big show of bulbs was spectacularly good this year and hundreds of cowslips on the terraces looked elegant and understated. The swallows returned, with an extra pair nesting this year.
June: The fresh green shoots on the leaves and in the meadows promised great things while the horse chestnuts, hawthorn and laburnum were in full flower in a late season.The Cottage Garden and woodland walk looked wonderful and the first green salads were picked for the tearoom.Ursula was working hard on articles about containers for The English Garden and sweet peas for RHS The Garden.
July: Sweet Pea WeekWe grew more sweet peas than ever this year and the rain and sunshine made for perfect growing weather. Their scent filled the air around the tearoom beautifully.The roses in the Rose Meadows enjoyed a truly stunning year. Work begun on the big walls in the gardens, the first proper repairs for 100 years.The Cedar Meadow was cut but the Summer Meadows were reaching their peak, filled with insects on scabious, knapweed, clovers and trefoils.
August: The Environment Agency and Wild Trout Trust started the long-awaited work to the river, which now has a neat edge of hazel hurdles, pools and rills to encourage wildlife.The Vegetable Garden was packed and even supported basil this year, and the new homemade runner beans arches have been of great interest to our visitors while The Pickery was bursting with colourful cutflowers.
September: Landy, who organises our fantastic Autumn Country Market, made a really wonderful job of this year’s event. More than artisan craft and food 30 stalls – double last year’s market – along with great weather, llamas, owls and much more made for a great family day out.In the White Space Garden, Nicotiana sylvestris exploded into flower and Dahlias lined the paths in the Pickery.
October: Our second round of craft courses was extremely popular, and we are already planning for next Spring.Rob’s brilliant rose pruning course, which was packed full of information, proved a highlight, whilst other workshops provided a relaxing, stimulating day out.A mild October means that the Long Borders continue to look amazing thanks to Tim’s careful management. Podding sweet peas for sale online and in the shop has begun in earnest too!
Children’s Week marks the end of what has been a very busy open season here at the gardens.November will be quieter, though we look forward to our popular Christmas shopping event for the Friends of Easton Walled Gardens and their families.Thank you for visiting and we look forward to seeing you in the Spring!With best wishes,from everyone at Easton Walled Gardens

Nature highlights from a week at Easton

Last week we had a beautiful June evening, the kind we wait all year for. I went down to the birdhide to see what was moving there. An enchanting family of goldfinches skipped through the boxwood. The grey wagtail stopped by the river for a drink and a bedraggled-looking blue tit had a bath. All around me I could hear blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches, long tailed tits and jackdaws calling. That was in 10 minutes. Imagine how much we have seen and heard in the gardens in a week of weeding, planting and pruning.

Here are some of my nature highlights :

Tadpole-froglets are changing daily from round-bodied, long tailed black blobs to sleeker, flightier camouflaged animals with eyes, back legs and bulging bodies.

A few (very few this year) butterflies are on the wing and, like the bees, they love the catmint (Nepeta) which lines the iris bed. The irises are in full flower and range from deep blue to pure yellow.

Large Skipper Butterfly on Nepeta
Large Skipper Butterfly on Nepeta

Grey mining bees: stylish bees that live in holes under the Osmanthus hedge where you can see them watching you as you watch them. Val Littlewood, whose amazing portraits are shown below and who is running our art courses here, has more about these little creatures on her website 

Val Littlewood's beautiful image of the sophisticated grey mining bee
Val Littlewood’s beautiful image of the sophisticated grey mining bee

Hairy-footed Flower Bees are busy in the white comfrey in the Cottage Garden. These two species are making up for the lack of bumblebees who, I think, had a tough winter here, but it may just be that they are  preoccupied with their young in the nest.

Val Littlewood's portrait of the female hairy-footed flower bee.
Val Littlewood’s portrait of the female hairy-footed flower bee.

The Chiffchaff has been making himself known with his persistant call ‘Chiff, chiff, chiff-chaff’. He has come all the way from Africa to tell us this vital news. A delicate, brown bird with spindly legs, he can be distinguished from the garden warbler by his bobbing tail.

The swallows are fellow migrants and are back in larger numbers than ever this year. They are nesting under the gatehouse arch, in the tool tower and the potting sheds. The spotted flycatcher, my favourite bird, is either keeping very low this year or has not made it back from Africa. I am still hoping they have made it.

All images used in this blog are copyright Fred Cholmeley or Val Littlewood.