Gardeners busy at work

The sun is shining on the gardens today and smoke drifts across the gardens from our Autumn bonfires.

The beeches in the park have turned a beautiful golden colour and the sheep grazing underneath make a bucolic picture.

We have seen the first winter frosts this week, which have caused many of our tender plants to collapse and there is an urgent need to tidy up pots and annual beds.

The dahlias can now be lifted and work is ongoing to store them safely over the winter. The tubers will sit dry and warm undercover before being planted into pots in the spring and then planted out in late May. Steve has been busy clearing a new bed beneath the Black Walnut tree in the woodland walk.

Recently, it had grown further and further over the path, its great limbs reaching down to the ground and kneeling there before shooting up again.

There are only about two weeks of the year when the sap isn’t rising in a Black Walnut, so if you perform tree surgery at the wrong time the tree will bleed to death. In late August this year we cut the limbs right back and there was a perfect space left for a new bed.

Since it was swamped with ground elder, Steve spent two and a half days days just clearing and pulling out the roots! We are going to create a winter bed here full of snowdrops and cyclamen and iris reticulata but when we can plant it depends on the ground elder. We may also have to weed several times more.

November work

With our volunteers and friends we planted over 4,000 bulbs on a mild morning and the soil was perfect for introducing bulbs that will bring us yellow, blue and white flowers in a succession from March onwards.

In late Spring the terrace meadows  are covered with the native cowslip and one or two precious Pasque flowers. These native wildflowers like our poor limestone slopes. Unfortunately so does the ragwort and thistle. We walk across the terraces wearing gloves (ragwort should not be handled without gloves, it has a poison that can enter the skin) and a big fork. On a damp soil, they  will slide out fairly easily. In the greenhouse, we are potting up a very delicate daffodil called Narcissus bulbicodium for planting out ‘in the green’ onto the terraces next year.

A great small tree for any garden is Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis.’ Now, it is a flaming orange and, in any spell of mild weather throughout the winter it will flower. This tree confuses visitors who think that its funny behaviour is a sign of climate change. It may burst into blossom or just throw a few pale pink flowers any time between November and April. We have planted (so far) seven and, if they flower in February, will add an ethereal feel to the drifts of snowdrops on the slopes. It is widely available and will grow in almost any soil.

We are harvesting and storing seed. Salvia patens, a true royal blue flower, sets fat dark seeds that fall out into your hand. The seed from its cousin Salvia viridis or Clary needs wrestling out of its limp seed pod. Salvia patens works well in pots and for sticking into spaces in the garden from June onwards. In milder areas than ours, it will overwinter in a warm sheltered part of the garden. Clary comes in pink, white and blue.(available for sale in our online shop) The flowers are tiny but each spike is topped with vibrantly coloured bracts. We get orders for seed of the blue or pink but rarely the white. This is a shame as the white form with its green veining is excellent in flower arrangements. These are two plants we are asked about over and over again through the summer. Almost all the Salvia family are worth investigating.

The final putting to bed of the rose meadows involves mowing, raking, piling and stacking. The birds keep a close eye on all this activity. In return, as the leaves fall from the trees we get a better view of their activities. Down in the birdhide, small groups of tits, dunnocks and finches flit between the feeders and the undergrowth. The fieldfares have arrived back to overwinter here.

We are hoping to complete the final weed through the beds and assume that the weather will turn and growth will stop. If not, we have a back up plan. A leaflet has arrived from a local one man business offering garden maintenance including clearing ‘evasive’ weeds. I hope he brings a big net.

Originally published www.alantitchmarsh.com – November 2010

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