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.
Towards the end of March we started work on weeding and putting neat edges to the apple tree beds. We did this with everyone taking part, removing weeds, hoeing the soil and then cutting the grass around the edges to make it al, look neat and tidy, support was given from staff and volunteers, and by the end of March the bests on one side of the garden were all looking great. As we head into April, we will be working on the beds on the other side of the garden.
Another great project that we have started recently has been revamping the raised beds at the Forge Cafe, the old plants have been removed, the area around the planters weeded, new compost added and the beds cleaned in preparation for being repainted and replanted later this month. Look out for what we add to the beds, and if you pop up to the garden you will even be able to buy some of the plants that you see in the planters!
Our other great project for this year is the allotment plot beds in the vegetable garden to the rear of the garden. The big beds have been weeded and dug, and paths mulched to make them easy to access, April will see seeds being sown in the glasshouse, and then when the weather is warm enough, the beds will be planted, keep an eye on our social media accounts for progress on what we grow.
We have also been busy with mulching the double border and planting few new plants where there were gaps, at the moment all the Nepeta isn’t looking too happy after the snow and cold, but hopefully it will come back as the weather warms, or if not, its an opportunity for us to try growing something different in its place.
At the moment the garden is still closed to the public, but we are hoping that as restrictions lift we will be able to have some limited opening times in the summer for public visits to see the results of our hard work. Meantime we are about to set up our spring and summer plant sales stands, see our social media again for where these will be popping up.
With moving into March and the start of lockdown easing, we have been fortunate enough to have assessed the return to the garden as a safe activity for staff and our members. The vaccination programme is going well in the area and rates are now all down to a far safer level than they were around Christmas.
Our staff team have been working hard to prepare all of our work spaces for use as we return, and making them Covid secure in the process. And we are delighted that as schools return to work, that we will once again have the garden open to our members.
Thanks to everyones hard work before Christmas the garden was left on very good condition, with many jobs that would’ve been done in January and February completed. With the extended cold period when we had snow, spring growth has been a bit slower than previous years, so the garden still looks good, though of course there is always lots of work ahead. the lawns will need their first cut soon, weeds will need removing, seeds sown and of course the plants in the green house will need tending, and we have lots of propagation ahead the next two months, to build our plant stock for sale this year.
We are delighted to welcome our members back to the walled garden, and to make a start on work within the walls for 2021, we are also hoping that if we can recruit volunteers, that the garden will once more be able to be reopened (on weekends to start) to members of the public, so that they can come in and enjoy the results of everyones hard work
As we move into February, sadly with the national lockdown the garden has had to remain closed. However with staff popping in and out to do checks and resource online sessions, we have been able to take photos and make videos of what’s happening, so that everyone can stay up to date with the first signs of spring. Bulbs have started to emerge from the ground and snowdrops have all started flowering. Hellebores have also come into flower and to the front of the garden Sarcococca is now on flower and smelling amazing. A few weeds are now appearing in the vegetable beds, but this will not be difficult to sort out when we are all back working. Meantime the weather has brought us more snow and very cold weather, so it’s certainly been warmer being together while on our daily Teams meet up from our living spaces at home. Plant quizzes, baking, games, conversation, cooking yoga and lots of exercise and mindfulness has all been a part of our daily get togethers, so we have all had the opportunity to keep fit and active while it’s been cold. We have even been keeping track of our daily steps while we go out on daily walks. Hopefully march will be warmer, so we can all get outside to enjoy the outdoor spaces around us more.