Snowdrops, snowdrops everywhere….

February is associated with this beautiful flower and we have them in abundance. The name ‘snowdrop’ does not refer to the powdery stuff but to the long pearl drop earrings worn by women in the late 16th and 17th centuries. (as in ’The girl with the Pearl Earring ‘by Vermeer) Once you know this, it is easy to see the comparison, as snowdrops hang on a long thin green pedicel and move in the wind.

Daffodils are starting to show. ‘Spring Dawn’ is the earliest and is a pale colour that complements the snowdrops. For some years we have been trying to establish crocuses and this year looks like we may have succeeded with a few bulbs. If the mice find the bulbs in their first year of planting they will get eaten, every single one. After that, however, it seems that the bulbs dig down deeper or maybe their roots put the mice off and they are left alone. All along the borders of the cottage garden there are delicate spikes of purple,blue and yellow. Some are crocuses but others are the early and very beautiful irises Harmony, George and danfordiae.

In some ways, February is my favourite gardening month. The grass hasn’t started to make big calls on our time, the light illuminates the spring bulbs pushing up across the close cropped turf and everything looks tidy and manageable. There is time to appreciate the small things like the first bee of the year or buds breaking on cold branches. Even the young seedlings in the greenhouse say ‘Carry on, we’re in no hurry to move.’ A warm week in March will change all that.

Snowdrop Week runs daily from 15th February until 23rd February 11.00-4.00 Jackies talks on the snowdrop are included in the admission price and last about 20 minutes and have some seating. 12.30 and 2.30 daily.

We have a good selection of unusual snowdrops and hellebores for sale.

The gardens open for the season from Sunday March 2nd until end of October. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

 

First published www.alantitchmarsh.com (2010)

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