The Turning Of The Year

Janus, the Roman two headed god, looks forward and back at the turning of the year. We are doing the same. It is still dark and cold but the seed catalogues are arriving and I start with the vegetable seeds. I rely on Paolo Arrigo at Franchi for our main tender crops and use wholesalers for seed we want in quantity. The unusual crops tend to stick in my mind. The purple kohl rabi that makes good coleslaw, the tomato ‘Cuor di bue’ with its massive heart shaped fruits for salads and, for my children, lemon or French sorrel.

Flower seeds, particularly the annuals are a tricky game. Every catalogue promises fantastic flowers from new varieties. The problem is, I can’t resist their sales pitch. The new pictures are exciting and I want them all but I mustn’t forget to order seeds that were new to us five years ago and have become old favourites. This requires a fair amount of self discipline and an inpenetrable spreadsheet to prevent over ordering. On the whole I ignore dwarf varieties but then again they can be excellent for infill bedding. Alyssum is naturally small but punches high above its weight for floriferousness and scent. Rudbeckia ‘dwarf mix’ isn’t really dwarf at all and sometimes I just can’t resist a new cultivar however stunted its breeding. It’s this head messing stuff that drives me outside.

When temperatures reach 6C and the ground thaws then plant growth can start. The longer days have a major impact on emerging snowdrops, aconites, early irises and hellebores. Leaf litter, slowly rotting under the horse chestnut and black walnut is punctuated by pale green shoots (snowdrops) and fat buds (hellebores). Galanthophiles are also stirring. Christopher Lloyd used to call these snowdrop enthusiasts, ‘Galanthobores’ which is very ungallant. (Enough puns). This breed of men and women are making plans to visit the other end of the country from where they live for the chance to see and collect snowdrops slightly different from their own. It sounds daft and it probably is, but it doesn’t stop me from joining them.

In the meantime, the best colour in the gardens comes from the birds perched on the twigs of trees and shrubs. On a dreak January day nothing lifts the heart like the birds. We may still be watching for a break in the weather for signs of spring but they know that now is the time. The pheasant cockbird is a glorious sight in his full winter regalia. He is attended by blue tits (now looking properly blue), long tailed and marsh tits streaming through the trees behind his royal progress. In the Spring, he’ll ruin it all by flapping his wings and calling raucously like mad king George, but for the time being we believe in his dignity. He is matched in colour by glimpses of the kingfisher, and unsually this year, the bullfinch.

First published www.alantitchmarsh.com (2011)

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

Garden Update

South Kesteven-20120907-00940 sweet pea harvestFor the last few weeks we have been clearing the meadows. This is a timeless process as our meadows are maintained in the same way as ancient hay meadows.

The grass is cut with a modern Allen Scythe, raked into rows and then piled into mounds of hay before being cleared away. As the rows dry, the last flower seeds drop onto the ground below. These germinate in the spring in any patch of clear ground.

We have nearly finished harvesting our sweet peas too. Bags of seed are collected and hung in the greenhouse to dry out, then we need to clean out all of the pods before the seeds are packed away.

It might sound simple, but the process is actually very time consuming. All of our peas have been assessed throughout the summer. Each variety is marked with separate coloured labels depending on how happy we were with the quality of the flowers on each plant.

This is very important to ensure that each variety comes true from the best seed. These seeds are then available for us to grow and for you to buy. Some of our varieties are available to purchase on the online shop, but please do contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

With best wishes,

From us all at Easton Walled Gardens.

Children’s Week

IMG-20111020-00504 pumpkin rolling.jpgPumpkin rolling is back!  Between 23rd – 25th and 27th October, we are holding our very special Children’s Week at the gardens.

Along with the ancient game, kids will be able to take part in a fantastic range of activities including snail feeding and learning how to pot their own plants.

For more information, please visit our website.

 

 

Win a place on a workshop

Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 13.56.43Our Autumn Workshop Week is just around the corner, so we’re giving you the chance to win a place on a course of your choice*.

With everything to make from wreaths to chocolate, there is something for everyone to enjoy within the idyllic surroundings of the gardens.

Just visit our Facebook page and enter your details to be in with a chance of winning, or to book your place head to our online shop.