With the cold and frosty weather that we satin the first week of the year, it was a great opportunity to get out doing lots of walking in the woods on the Thornham Estate, to spot signs of winter and enjoy how different frost makes everything look, especially our double border, which was only recently chopped down to the ground, and now with a dusting of frost looks very different to how it did a month ago.
Along with walks work has continued in the garden, with the first big job of the year being the planting of new raspberry beds, extending the existing bed into where the old portacabin used to live until it was taken down last year. We lifted roots of raspberry canes from the existing bed and set about digging trenches to plant them in and back fill. Hopefully they will settle in by spring and start to grow, if not we have plenty more canes that can be lifted and moved.
We have also started work on chopping and tidying the glasshouse that is home to our collection of more exotic plants, with some plants being chopped, some removed and some being tidied up where leaves have died. A little more work is needed with the small succulent plants, but that won’t be till the frosts have passed and we can do some propagation of them at the same time. We are also about to start the winter prune of the apple trees, with this year everyone adopting their own tree to prune and then maintain throughout a year cycle, this will form the basis of a specialist tree care and pruning course, written by Lisa so there will be lots to learn and in the process our apple trees will be getting lots of love, care and attention.
In pre pandemic times we would open the walled garden to the public on weekdays for free, to allow people to enjoy the fruits of the labour that we all put into maintaining it. The pandemic came along and it has been closed for much of that time, with opening through this summer on Sundays and partial openings during the week for plant sales. With a planned estate open day we took the opportunity to open the Masters Gate once more for the public to see the garden, and showcase some of the other work that our clients do in the sessions we provide. We also took the opportunity to do a bit of fundraising.
In preparation we have had a big purge to get rid of things that are shabby, broken and old, the collapsing chicken coop has now gone, as has a rotting wooden store and rusting metal storage container. We have cleared old pots that we do not use, they were re-homed and will be gratefully used. old crumbling tables have also been replaced, the inside spaces are now clearer and more functional, the extra space has allowed us to clean through easier, so its all looking as neat inside the glass houses as it ever has.
The garden has had lots of attention too, with beds being forked over and weeded in recent weeks as well as leaves raked and beds tidied up and mulched. We have however left the double border and apple tree pruning till after our open event, as doing a chop and clear, makes the garden look very set for winter and removes quite a bit of its interest. The next couple of weeks and the winter months after Christmas will see this work completed, as well as revamping the raised bed with the plant collection in it inside the glasshouse. For now everything is still looking interesting and tidy, hopefully qualities that will be enjoyed by our visitors.
As we headed into November our themed activities naturally reflected the changing season and the celebrations that come with autumn. Bonfire night of course being a highlight in the calendar was a good excuse to get the fire pit operating and to learn about how we light fires safely. Our walks around the woodlands were an opportunity to collect sticks and then return to the garden to lay a fire, on which marshmallows were toasted and enjoyed. We also decided to have a big bonfire in the week leading up to November 5th, burning much of what has been chopped in the garden as we head to winter and start getting the garden ready for spring.
Leaf raking has started under the apple trees, and as has become our resourceful way, the leaves have been used to mulch the roses in the east and west borders, adding nutrition to the soil as they decompose, and helping to keep the weeds down over the winter months.
Leaves have also featured in our theme weeks, with their identification and threading as we made leaf wreathes in the woods, selecting leaves for their autumn colours to make seasonal decorations. Preparations are also under way, to get the garden in shape for the estate open day on the 4th December, when we will be welcoming in visitors to the garden to see it before we close for winter.
The misty mornings of October are now upon us, and the colour of the garden is starting to fade from the glorious summer months. The double border however still has lots to offer, with Sedum and Helianthus in full flower, and the Asters are still giving lots of colour too which is making for the double border still looking great. AS the month goes on and we progress to November the autumn chop will begin and the border will be ready for winter dormancy. Meantime we are busy weeding and getting the beds tidy and have even found time to give the Buxus hedge a tidy before the weather turns. Autumn will see much chopping and tidying, with many of the fruit trees getting attention as we head into and through winter. This time of the year is all about getting things into shape in preparation for spring when things burst back into life. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us for a good few weeks yet, so that we can get as much done under a clear blue sky.
With autumn around the corner we have been fortunate to have had plenty of dry days in the garden to get on with seasonal tasks and also enjoy walking around the estate to get plenty of steps in. This month we started work on the vegetable growing we plan to do next year, with starting to form a new vegetable growing bed. Turf has been skimmed off two grass paths and the ground forked over, as well as some of the perennial plants already moved and potted up for next years plant sales (lots of flag irises for sale next year!). While all of this has been going on we have had a big bonfire and also started work on digging out composted material that would not burn, and adding it to the vegetable beds, so that we have lots of organic matter to improve the soil.
We have also started work on the Yew hedges outside the Masters Gate. A couple of years back we started restorative pruning, to get them back into shape as they had grown rather large. This year we are looking to finish the job, which is leaving them looking rather bare, but next year they will start to green up and recover, and with height adjusting too, should help connect up the different bays that form the outer garden. We are fast approaching our open day on the 26th, so look forward to inviting in members of the public to look at the fruits of our labour in the garden.
The theme to July in the garden seemed to be that of dodging showers and weeding, while there have been huge amounts of weeds this year, with going out in big groups to weed around the borders and beds, we have managed to get on top of all annual weeds. With regular mowing and of course rain in plentiful supply, the lawns in the orchard areas are looking very lush and green for this time of year. The hedging that was cut earlier in the year is now all shooting and looking green, if we are able it will get a second cut this year to keep it tidy, but of not it will wait for a cut next spring.
With August now here we are starting work on our cordon apple trees, pruning them back into shape. Our pear espalier trees have also had a summer trim, so our fruit tree pruning for the year is well under way, all helping the garden to continue to look well kept.
Of course as we progress through summer, we are starting to see the fruits of everyones labour in the vegetable garden. With plants now growing large, they are now out competing annual weeds, and being hugely productive. Onions have been harvested, as have beans, courgettes and marrows. It’s also been hugely exciting to lift potatoes, and see that with watering and all of the rain that it’s a bumper crop. The produce has been much enjoyed as a part of everyones healthy lifestyle, with regular harvesting being bagged, taken home and enjoyed as a part of daily meals.
As we enter July the flowers in the garden are really coming into their own, literally thousands of blooms all contributing to a full rainbow display of colour, which when set off by a blue sky and sunshine, are an absolute joy to behold. This year of particular note is the Nepeta along the double border, a small flower, but with nearing 40 plants on each side of the border, they are forming a massive blue froth that lines the path. This line of blue is echoed by the deeper blues of Lavender (Hidcote)which lines the front of the glasshouses and just now starting to come into bloom, are the firework looking pom poems of Agapanthus, a delightful blue from an unknown variety.
Also of note are the multitude of rose flowers from the east rose border, a number of floribunda bush roses, with ramblers running up the wall (American Pillar) which right now, and with our freshly clipped Buxus hedging really are putting on a great show.
With the warm but also wet weather its not only the flowers that have been enjoying the summer climate, the weeds have really gotten going too. With new volunteers joining us in the garden and our members all at the ready with buckets, forks and wheelbarrows we have formed a large working party to weed through apple tree beds, vegetable beds and all of the borders in the front garden, and at the rate we are all working together hope to be on top of the weeds and the garden ship shape in no time at all.
We do hope that you will be able to come along to the walled garden as it opens throughout the summer on Sundays between 12 and 3pm, to see for yourself the results of everyones hard work.
The end of May saw work on the Buxus hedging start for the year. Last year with lockdowns and the garden being closed, it was not possible to go around cut the hedging as intended in May/June, and so the decision was made to leave it for one year, and that this year we would look at tackling it.
With this years growth looking fresh and frothy, the time had come to start cutting the hedge back into shape. Lines were laid and sheers sharpened and the cut began.
Obviously this year with there being two years growth, the job was a bit tougher than it would usually be, but with the hedges prior to lockdown having been gotten into good shape after a period of neglect, it was easy to see where to cut to, and the shape emerged crisp and clear from the wooly shape of two years growth.
The hedge is all in good health at the moment, and with this years haircut, we are hoping that it will continue to be in good shape in all respects. Where we have needed to cut hard, in some places we are now awaiting for new shoots to green up some of the sides, we anticipate that hedge cutting will be completed by mid/late June, and that later in the summer we will go around again, to clip any areas of growth back into a tidy shape to look good over winter.
With having resumed our face to face services at the walled garden in the last month or so, we have been delighted to have welcomed back our members and volunteers. Work started straight away on propagation as well as starting to tidy up the garden after the winter and the time we were closed during the lockdown. With restrictions across the country relaxing more and more, the decision was made to reopen the garden to the public in late May, with Sunday openings starting on May 16th and running through the summer.
Work has been focused on getting the garden tidy and neat for this, and we have spent the last week working on the borders outside the front of the garden, which we have not tended as much over the last year. With these borders shaping up nicely thanks to everyones hard work the entrance to the garden at the Masters gate is looking fresher and welcoming to our visitors. We hope that everyone who comes along and has a look at what’s Beyond the Wall, enjoys the fruits of our hard work.
The garden is free to visit (Sundays in summer, Midday-3pm). Parking is at the Thornham Walks carpark near the Forge Cafe.