Garden Journal 11.7.21

Hello, and thanks for clicking the links to my garden journal – a place for recording some of my gardening activity, tracking my horticultural journey and waxing lyrical about gardens. This week I’m writing about the incredible growth just now in gardens, some border renovation in my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, and I have a timely message about growing in containers.

Incredible Growth

Gardens are growing well at the moment aren’t they, at least they are in middle England. Summer warmth has seen temperatures in the twenties pretty consistently since my last post, and with frequent rainfall, herby growth in particular has been lush.

Abundant growth across the rose garden at Sulgrave Manor

Wilder areas have been flattened by the rains and are spilling over the otherwise neatly mown paths – the grass itself seemingly springing up behind me as I walk. Then there’s edging-up; will it never end?!

Roses, although still completely gorgeous, have fended off the heavy downpours as best they could, but need regular attention from my snips to delete dead heads and mushed up petals. Weeds are lurking amongst the borders, waiting, then waiting some more, only to shoot up to flower and seed when my back is turned. And then there are the hedges…

Haven’t the roses been sweet this year?!

It’s all good though, of course, where despite the heavy workload the conditions have delivered a garden that is very green and vibrant, and really looking wonderful. It has also ensured that soil has remained workable – after a day or two of draining that is. In some of the Sulgrave borders this has encouraged some border renovation where we’re looking to get on top of bindweed and ground elder, as well as rethink planting for 2022 – exciting planting opportunities are ahead!

Border Renovation

In terms of border renovation, there was a feature area at Sulgrave we turned to last autumn that I’ll cover briefly. It has two compact, banked areas that are visible from the ‘events’ barn – a hireable multi use hall (A very smart one if you have a wedding or conference requirement in Northants!) They had become pretty congested and unbalanced in what was essentially a formal area, with lovely stone walls either side and box and yew topiary features.

Prior to getting involved…

Initially we cleared and weeded the spaces to reveal two planting beds of around five by four metres. Some plants were deployed elsewhere in the gardens, but in amongst were some randomly planted sweet box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana), which we moved to the side, hoping that in due course their scent would be unmissable right beside the steps.

Tulips coming through & a bit off the top for the box hedge!

We then moved in with some Rembrandt tulips, which drew many admiring spectators in the spring. As the tulips were just getting going and temperatures rose, I moved in on the low box hedges to the front. They had suffered much crowding from the old shrubs and there was a good deal of die back. I chickened out a bit and didn’t go as low as I really wanted to, but did give the box a serious hair cut both to level and to try and encourage new growth. It’s touch and go if some will come back to be honest, but early signs are good after regular feeding.

Hydrangeas going in!

Moving right up to date, I selected and this week planted a good few Hydrangea quercilfolia ‘Snow Queen’. These I hope will join together in due course to offer a long season of interest that includes beautifully textured, oak leaf shaped foliage, that colours well in autumn. In addition, the large flowers will be of the colour that should go with almost every wedding under the sun – white!

Observations

This week, whilst based on observations, I’m going to deviate a little to offer some advice that might prove useful.

Many folks, myself included, grow regularly in pots and containers – flowers and produce and more. We spend lots of time and good money selecting plants, growing them from seed even, and plant them up with high hopes. We then go on to water and feed them with the best of intentions.

Sometimes though, despite the above, there’s cause to take our eye off the game, and watering might just get a miss here and there. Even the best of us have other, more important things to deal with once in a while.

Plants have what I know as a PWP, or Permanent Wilting Point. Science aside, it basically means that each plant needs a certain amount of moisture in the soil in order to retain its turgidity. Once the soil or growing medium dries out, and each plant has its limit, it can reach its PWP – from which it can’t return.

We’ve all done it, heck I still do frequently, and my potted Hydrangea would certainly have a few tales to tell on that score! But it can be really serious, especially if you have, as I said before, spent valuable time and money on a prize specimen. Right now however, when many of us have a range of potted plants in our gardens for summer, and especially with so much intermittent rainfall, it’s all too easy to think those pots are getting all the moisture they could want – although that’s not always the case.

Rainwater is often shed away from the surface of the pot, from its own leaves that create a rain shadow. Eaves of a house have the same effect too, and overhanging shrubs – there are lots of things that can keep that lovely, even frequently falling rain from actually dropping into the pot.

Don’t rely on the rain!

To conclude, all I shall say is be vigilant, and observe. Are the leaves wilting or discoloured? Are leaves smaller than usual or flowers slow to appear? Has the pot blown over unexpectedly because it’s quite light? These are some key signs that a container plant isn’t getting quite what it needs. Give the container a rock to see if it’s lighter than usual, and if it has dried out completely, try and re-wet it by sitting it into a trug of water until its sufficiently wet and heavy again – and pray that that PWP has been avoided!

Many thanks and well done for reaching the end of another of my garden journals. I do hope you’re enjoying your moments in the summer garden.

Kind regards
Gary Webb
Gardening Ways

Garden Journal 27.6.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’m writing about planting out all that summer bedding, I get all focused as I tune into topiary, and I finish with my regular observations on gardening and nature.

Planting Out


Following on I from my last journal entry where I talked about potting-on, I’m naturally drawn now to mention the very next step in the process which is of course planting out – in the garden at Sulgrave Manor.

Propagation there isn’t on the grand scale of course, with but two good sized glasshouses we have turned out a tidy number of annuals over the course of spring. Sowings of Cosmos, Tithonia and bedding Dahlias, Calendula, Rudbeckia, Nasturtium, Cleome, Helianthus and Zinnia have created a very busy glasshouse as you can imagine. This is of course in addition to plug plants that we’ve sourced and nurtured, over-wintered cuttings, tender plants and food plants for the Tudor Veg’ garden.

One of many wheel barrow fulls of plants heading out to the garden at Sulgrave Manor in Northants
One of many barrow fulls of plants heading out to the garden.

It’ll come as no great surprise then when I speak of the relief when each of the varieties find their way into the garden. Months of growing and nurturing has finally brought us to the point where the majority of the planting stock has been upturned, tipped from their pots and settled into summer quarters.

Every single plant has been turned to present its very best side to the front, they’ve all been puddled in, some have even received a few words of wisdom, but now they are largely on their own. Here onwards, except for some water when they really need it, a little seaweed feed when time allows, a few weeding sessions and maybe a cane here and there; they will be left to get on with it – and good luck to them!

Topiary Time

Another notable feature of the garden at Sulgrave Manor is topiary and hedges. As with the glasshouses, they may not be at the grand end of the scale, but each and every one plays an important role and contributes significantly towards the character of each area. These features are stand-out items, and so it’s necessary to keep them neatly trimmed – especially in summer after a strong flush of soft spring growth.

Topiary is defined as ‘the art or practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes’, and for me, even a standard form hedge brings out the perfectionist every time. It doesn’t matter how sizeable the feature, come trimming time I seem to mentally drop into slow-motion so that, by the time I’m done, I can walk away knowing I’m happy to look at it every day without wanting to nip another bit here, or shave a slither there.

Gary Webb, Head Gardener at Sulgrave Manor clipping topiary in June 2021
Getting my topiary game 21 underway!

It’s almost a meditative process given the focus needed, and to spend time with a good pair of shears can, even considering the physical effort, be quite relaxing. Every person practicing the art has their own approach and method. The shifting from machine to shears to snips, the brushing of the foliage to lift the stems, the tidying as they go; every step can be mesmerising to watch.

I’ll certainly not link myself to any of the masters out there, but I’ve assembled a little video of me trimming some box spheres at Sulgrave Manor to give an initial idea of how I tackle the task. They’re the first of a handful of topiary features that I have to work with, and if I can I’ll share more footage of work in progress over the next week or so.

Freshly trimmed spheres of buxus at Sulgrave Manor in Northants
The finished items, for a while at least…

In the meantime, I have no hesitation in recommending two particular topiarists who I follow on Instagram. They’re both specialists in the art, and both have inspired me to take my trimming even more seriously and to sharpen my game.


First up is James Todman who works from Worcestershire. I’ll pop a link to his Instagram feed at the foot of this post but rest assured, if you haven’t seen his work before you are in for an absolute treat. Be warned though – you’ll have a job to stop watching!

Secondly, I’d suggest taking a look at another topiary star named Andy Bourke, otherwise known as The Hedge Barber who works from Rutland. Andy’s work again is displayed beautifully on Instagram with perfectly formed topiary photos and videos, all combining to offer endless inspiration for new or established topiary fans.

If my efforts therefore aren’t quite satisfying your creative need, do have a look at the guys mentioned above, and do feel free to recommend any favourite topiary stars or gardens in the comments – I’ll certainly check them out.

Observations


I’m having to try pretty hard to narrow down my observations this week, such is the diversity of things I’m seeing and experiencing on a daily basis. Indeed it is all too easy to become overwhelmed by the incredible rate of plant growth just now, the speed at which the plants are going over, and the number of things that need attention.

At Sulgrave I have been encouraged to see my first common spotted orchids that have popped up in the thick orchard grass. “There’s more than ever before” is what I’m hearing from members of the garden team and of course; we’re all delighted. Elsewhere in the orchard Lotus corniculatus or bird’s-foot-trefoil is also flowering beautifully, a real favourite of mine and of course very welcome.

Bird’s foot trefoil

The established cow parsley that swayed serenely throughout the orchard just weeks ago has suddenly been ousted by some thuggish hogweed. When I tuned in to the first few hogweed plants I naively thought that I might weed them out with a chop here and there, but almost overnight their numbers grew to the point where all I can do is embrace their presence, and to leave them be for the pollinators who absolutely love them.

Looking away from the orchard, and just before the long hedge some roses just have to get a mention. Their buds over the last few weeks have been opening steadily with voluminous flowers of the type that are made for burying noses in. ‘Sweet Juliet’ and ‘Winchester Cathedral’ had sizeable lead labels leaning against their rough bases, but another rose, of which there are a good few, had no label at all.

A large creamy yellow coloured rose flower surrounded by a number of pink flower buds
Rose Identification…

It is a real beauty of a rose with a very full creamy yellow flower, and contrasting peachy pink buds; the whole structure is an absolute treat on the eyes. It’s aroma is pretty delicious too but I’m not gifted in being able to describe the scent – I often joke that they’re all either nice and sweetly scented or have no scent at all!

To my aid though I have a wonderful person from the British Association of Rose Breeders ( @rosesukroses on Twitter) who as good as confirmed my initial identification that the rose is indeed ‘Lichfield Angel,’ an English shrub rose from David Austin. Well, with no further ado I’ll declare this rose an absolute stunner and a firm favourite from here onwards!

I could very easily continue my ‘observations’ about Sulgrave, as there’s so much happening in the garden just now. I’m feeling the need though to round off my rambling observations with a mention of snow falling across my local area of south Warwickshire.

When I say snow, I mean snow-like really, with the steady falling of what’s best described as fluff. This fluff has been drifting down, across and around the houses for nigh on two weeks now and doesn’t look like stopping. Even now as I lift my eyes from the keyboard I instantly see some drifting past the window.

Poplar fluff and nonsense…

It is of course drifting from a very long line of view-blocking Poplar trees around a nearby field. This ‘fluff’ has collected on hedge tops, it’s caught up in cobwebs and corners, it’s matted across lawns and beds and even insists on floating into the house. In short it’s causing a right mess!

On balance though, I have to say that this has happened previously to a lesser extent, and there certainly isn’t a sign that any of the seeds germinate – or I at least haven’t spotted them growing wild anywhere around the houses. In summary then, whilst they’re a bit of a nuisance, they’re not a problem in the big scheme of things – they’re just dropping in to remind us of how incredible nature is in all its varied forms.

I think on that note, it’s time for me to finish up my garden journal for this week. I do hope you’re having a good summer, and have found or are planning some opportunity to visit a garden or three.

All the very best, Gary.

Link to my topiary trimming at Sulgrave Manor.
Link to James Todman’s Instagram
Link to Andy Bourke’s Instagram

Garden Journal 14.6.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’ve been potting-up, repotting in my home garden, and there’s a mention of a brief run out to Canons Ashby. Also, for my observation section this week I’ll be focussing on the longest day.

Gorgeous white lupin spires at Canons Ashby

Potting Up


I’ve written in recent weeks of spring flowers that have cheered us through a somewhat turbulent spring. Many of the plants I’m proud to say came about through my autumn efforts alongside the garden team at Sulgrave Manor. Time passes by quickly though, and so even before the spring flowers had reached their stride I was planning for their late-spring changeover.

As we moved through May, “when will those tulips finally go over?!” Was never far from my mind. The tulips gave great value I have to say, but hung on just long enough to cause an awkward jam in the glasshouse, cold frame, standing out areas – we don’t have an awful lot of useable space in our nursery yet.

Still, the time finally came when I could start calling in the larger containers in order to clear out the bulbs and their fading foliage, to refresh compost, and to begin planting for the summer season. Plugs, self-sown specimens, over-wintered tender plants and tubers were all assembled and have waited patiently for their opportunity to stretch their roots deep into some fresh compost – peat free of course!

Bright red flowered annual plants being potted into a large terracotta container in June, at Sulgrave Manor.
Out with the old, in with the new!

At this stage of the game all of the main terracotta containers are planted, the faux lead cubes and a few baskets and ironwork troughs; their predecessor bulbs laid out around the nursery to dry – gone but certainly not forgotten.

How the summer containers will perform remains to be seen, but with a few reliable classics such as Salvia, Petunia, Bidens and Verbena; we should have a comfortable display. Beyond these standards though, in a bid to stand out a little, I have some tuberous Begonias and Nasturtiums, some Tradescantia, Cannas and even some Colocasia – although the latter seem painfully slow to make an appearance!

Whatever happens, I’ll definitely share the results both here and on social media, warts and all as they say!

On the Home Front


Gardening at home continues to be at a calm and sedate pace, for reasons mentioned in my last post. I have though tackled the repotting of some topiary and a standard olive shrub recently that was long overdue.

Getting physical with Olive…

Now I have dabbled, but I’m not really one for ‘how-to’ videos at the moment, and there seems to be a lot of folks out there doing a very good job of that already. I do though have a personal challenge to become more comfortable in front of the camera and so for the olive shrub, I set up the camera and ended up with a two minute ‘highlights’ video for my efforts. Think less ‘Gardeners’ World’ and more ‘odd bloke in his back garden potting a plant’ kind of style – the link if you wish to watch me work is at the bottom of this post. (Monty Don has nothing to worry about!) 😂

Out and About


Last week I enjoyed a lovely stroll around the near-ish Canons Ashby garden, which is just across the hills from my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor actually. It was one of those warm days when a slow pace was called for, which allowed good time for some plant focussing between moments in the shade or, as fully intended; in the tea room.

As fortune would have it I bumped into an old friend of a plant that I haven’t grown for twelve years or more now; Geranium madarense. It was quite peculiar for, having not seen it for years, one of my volunteers had brought in a few seedling plants for the collection at Sulgrave; and so to bump into a mature specimen growing happily at Canons was a real treat.

Having returned home I was quick to look up the information relating to the plant, and was surprised to learn that its common name was Giant Herb Robert, at which point I connected the volunteer’s mention of it seeding around with that of its smaller relative Herb Robert, whose spreading exploits are very well know!

A close-up image of a pink flower against foliage from the host plant Geranium madarense, commonly known as giant herb Robert
Giant herb Robert, or Madeira cranesbill
The choice is yours! 😉

I wasn’t deterred though as the giant form has all the beauty of the smaller version but is bigger, and possibly even better depending on your viewpoint. In any case, depending on who I’m with when I introduce our newly planted Sulgrave specimens, I might even refer to its other common name of Madeira cranesbill, which sounds a good deal more exotic!

Observations – a garden, plant or seasonal perspective

In a week’s time we shall hit the longest day of the year; the Summer Solstice. Yes we’re nearly there already! Which means of course that from next Monday, just when we’ve become accustomed to long and useful evenings; we’ll actually have reached the peak from which a steady view down towards autumn can be seen.

Allium’s time to shine!

It’s all very strange when I stop to think about it, that just as things seem to be getting going, I’m writing that the end is nigh! It is though one long continuous cycle as we all know, and from my own gardening perspective the shortening of days gives real hope that gradually over the weeks ahead, the frantic pace of growth will slow and we shall be able, soon, to take the foot off the gas a little.

I never feel sad at the prospect of days getting shorter, but reassured that the planets are indeed still working together. I feel heartened that both plants that are growing their hearts out right now, and my fellow gardeners who are wilting in the heat, aching under the workload and desperate for a rest; might indeed get their chance once the days shorten and the pace slows.

I look forward to the Summer Solstice, always, and I’m hoping to be out in my garden with a glass to raise a toast. Let’s hope it’s a good night for it!

Until next time, many thanks for stopping by 😊 If you’ve enjoyed my journal I’d be really grateful if you could like it, engage with me through comments or recommend through sharing.

Links: Repotting an Olive Shrub

Garden Journal 29.5.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’ve written about fading tulips, the day the rains came and general glasshouse busy-ness. I also mention a garden move on the home front, (as opposed to a house move,) and introduce a new section about observation.

Tulips Fade


I last updated my garden journal on the May 19 when tulips were very clearly stealing my show. In some cases they continue to flower well but, I’m sad to say, many have now gone over. It has though been a dazzling year for them with cooler temperatures playing a useful role in slowing things down, although now it does seem like the show is nearing its end as each tulip one by one gracefully bows out.

Bright yellow Tulip ‘Yokohama’ flowers fading towards the end of their season
Tulip ‘Yokohama’ on the slide…

The Rains Came


I say gracefully, but for the second week in a row the weather has been all over the place; in fact the whole of May has been. Monday last brought very heavy and prolonged showers with added hail for good measure, and at my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, following a morning of it, all I could do was head indoors, again, to dry out.

Looking on the bright side!

Tidy gravel paths became murky streams, hollow and low lying areas within the garden pooled with water – some still standing days later, and hail decorated the corners of the glasshouse window panes just like the fake snow we used to spray on our house windows each Christmas. When the storm had moved on through, aside from the standing water, only the floored petals from apple tree blossom was left to tell the tale.

Glasshouse Busy-ness


Still, it is what it is, and being May with its increasing temperatures and day length, there’s usually more than enough to keep a gardener busy indoors. Indeed, at the moment the glasshouses at Sulgrave Manor are full to overflowing with pots and trays at all stages of growth, so there’s never an excuse for idle hands.

Young plants covering the benches in a small glasshouse, with lush green foliage
Pots of fun in the glasshouse!

Over the last two weeks I’ve sown trays of seeds, (including test sowings of old seed,) pricked-out seedlings into modules, potted-on young plants and moved trays of plants into cold frames to harden-off. I’ve even planted up three baskets and a couple of troughs. I can hardly describe how good it has felt to select seeds, sow and nurture them, with a view to using them in a public garden. In a professional context it seems to have been an age since I’ve been able to garden in this way, and I’m absolutely in my element!

On the Home Front


In complete contrast, my home gardening efforts continue to slow down. I might have mentioned before that we’ve been working towards a house move which was scheduled for late spring, but has now become late summer. Lets out a long sigh

Ordinarily I’m quite philosophical about these things, feeling always that things happen in their own good time, and for their own good reason, and I still feel that way of course. However from a gardening point of view I had already curbed most of my home based horticultural ambitions for the season, and now we’ve suddenly slipped into a holding situation. Ordinarily I’d be looking now to plant up some summer containers, but we’ll see.

It’s all very exciting of course, but whilst my head is full of ideas for the new garden, I know that there will more than enough to do with settling into a new house, without concerning myself too much with gardening, which will follow in its own good time. Hopefully from autumn onwards I’ll be able to post about some progress with the blank canvass garden project.

Observations


I thought I’d end this post with some observations from a garden, plant and seasonal perspective, which I hope to become a feature for this garden journal from here onwards. (But who knows, I might forget next time!)

Buttercups, they’re all over the place! I’m seeing them pretty much everywhere I look, and my favourite collection are lighting up the orchard sward at Sulgrave Manor just now along with cow parsley, bugle and speedwell; it’s quite a sight I can tell you, and the bees aren’t complaining a bit! (That reminds me, I’ll be in doing the #EveryFlowerCounts wildflower survey on Monday at Sulgrave – a great Plantlife initiative that has some great resources and tips for counting flowers and working out how many bees are feeding near you – do check it out if you haven’t already!)

Sunshine, daisies, buttercup mellow….

Daffodils are done except for the poet’s Narcissus N. Poeticus, which is holding its own very proudly. Camassias are running out of steam whilst peonies are blooming perfect. Grass has changed up three gears, Forsythia is all done and needs a prune, and box is so touchable with its luxuriant soft new growth – feeding and close observation is now on the agenda.

Herb garden growth just two weeks ago was slow and steady, whilst now some varieties are pushing beyond knee height. Inspirational Angelica flowers are forming and already shoulder high, whilst chives are preparing to flower just like the ornamental alliums throughout the garden.

Yew hedges and topiary that held their clipped forms all through winter and spring are now covered with bronze and bright green leaves and, as if to put one over the hedge, honeysuckle shoots have emerged from atop to joyously spoil the symmetry. Then down at ground level, hedge germander is finally shooting away after sitting there mournfully during the colder days. I mustn’t forget the Anemone ‘De Caen’ – they’re looking fab too! (The ones that survived winter that is…)

Vivid purple blue flowers of anemone de Caen
Anemone coronarius ’De Caen’

There’s more, lots more, but it’ll have to keep until my next journal entry… Until next time, thanks for stopping by, I hope you’ve enjoyed my post, please do let me know if you have with a little like or comment – so I know I’m not just writing for my own benefit! Regards, Gary

Links:

Garden Journal 19.5.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’m not afraid to say it’s Tulip Mania!

Tulip Focus

When assembling my journal entries I tend to look back across images I’ve snapped since my last post, and right now as I pause to look back there’s one particular plant that features heavily in my photos file – Tulipa!

There has been a good deal of gardening activity completely unrelated to tulips of course, but for this journal entry I thought I’d focus completely on these little beauties that by sheer fortune have bounced back into my life over the last few years.

Tulip ‘Sunlover’ at Sulgrave Manor

Looking Back

To track back just a little, in autumn 2019 I found myself planting many tulips in pots and borders for Rachel de Thame in her beautiful Cotswolds garden. It was a real treat being introduced to some lovely varieties, but more than that it was brilliant to see how they can work together when carefully selected by someone with a very keen eye. To say I learned a great deal would be something of an understatement!

Tulip ‘Cummins’ down int’ Cotswolds

Then, last autumn, I found myself at Sulgrave Manor where I was challenged with another significant bulb planting project that had the aim of making a colourful start to the 2021 season – an important centenary year for the Manor. Two autumn planting seasons, more boxes of bulbs than I dare to remember, but incredible opportunities nonetheless to learn and play.

Here Onwards

Fast track to 2021 then, and where am I where tulips and their jazzy spring displays are concerned?

Orange Tulip Sunlover flowering in a pot outside Sulgrave Manor
Tulip tarda

Well, the garden at Sulgrave Manor has been flowering now since the end of winter, and has looked fabulous thanks to the serious input of pre and post winter labour from the team. On top of that, when tuning in to Rachel’s Cotswold garden tulip webinar recently, it was a real treat to see many of the tulips I planted in 2019 still flowering strongly in their second season – joined of course by many more beautiful specimens besides.

Rembrandt’ tulips at Sulgrave Manor

I don’t think for those reasons I could now seriously consider moving through any future winter season without knowing that I had at least one pot of tulips waiting in the wings or, in an ideal situation, numerous borders planted deeply with well chosen, top quality bulbs; all ready to brighten the new year. Beyond this, and new onto my ever-growing bucket list of places to visit just has to be Keukenhof – how could I not?!

Reality Check

Mind you, before I get too carried away with a personal tulip mania, I have to bring things down to earth with an a dose of reality gardening; my home containers. Both of the last two images show containers that were due to feature five flowers each of one single tulip variety; ‘Ice Cream’ and Tulip ‘Sensual Touch’. The bulbs were fresh, from a good supplier, and were planted efficiently last autumn.

It takes horticultural flair to restrict a full pot of tulips to one single flower! 😉

All winter I waited patiently, and whilst I feared something was amiss many weeks ago (with a less than average foliage display), all I could do was sit and wait – not literally of course. One of the pots features just three flowers, the other just one. But wow – aren’t they stunners!

Tulip ‘Ice Cream’ – 3 out of 5 isn’t that bad…

I have my suspicions that drainage for the pots just wasn’t good enough to cope with the winter rain, but I live and learn, and I’m not deterred in the slightest from trying again next year as that’s what gardening is all about; living and learning.

I do apologise if I’ve bored you senseless with my tulip ramblings, I can but hope that either I’m preaching to the converted, or in the very least you’ve simply enjoyed a few lovely flower pictures – I do promise that for my next garden journal entry; normal service will be resumed!

Until next time, do enjoy your garden, and be sure to make the most of those late season tulip displays!

Garden Journal 2.5.21

Hello and thanks for taking a few moments to drop by and read my garden journal. This post covers National Gardening Week, Heritage Open Days, Sulgrave Manor, and a short update about my own plot at home – honestly I don’t seem to have had a spare moment – but it’s all been about gardens so I haven’t minded a bit!

Oh, and you presently find me writing outside in my garden, moving my little table around every once in a while to stay in the warmth of the sun – long may it last today!

National Gardening Week

I’m presently writing at the end of a pretty active and thought provoking National Gardening Week, which I’m glad to say encourages people to get their dose of green or ‘Vitamin G’. It wasn’t without a buzz of joy when I heard Continue reading

My Gardeners’ World Video

I’m delighted to record that after watching BBC Gardeners’ World on my screens for what seems like an eternity, I finally made it onto the screen myself! Okay, it was a video I’d sent in about me and my garden but still – I’m very chuffed for my clip to have been selected, and I’ll be walking around with a rosy glow on my cheeks for the weekend at least!

At home, Spring 2021

Last Spring

I’ve written in my journal before about how the pandemic impacted my gardening world, in as much that whilst enduring the first lockdown I was fortunate to be able to continue working. I say fortunate because I live for working with, in and around gardens, and to think of having to stay indoors, or to have been restricted to a small space would likely, well, I can’t even begin to think.

A peculiar time was spring twenty twenty. My family were housebound, as were so many others – working and learning from home. Each day I’d get myself up, prepare for the day and carry myself along largely deserted roads whilst listening to the constant dialogue about keeping safe. I’d then spend the day working solo in a beautiful garden, lost in a perfectly imperfect world that I was trying very hard to comprehend.

At work, spring 2020

Each evening I’d return home, usually exhausted, isolate myself until I felt clean and able to hug by boys, and before taking them out for their much needed hour of exercise and escapism. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that it was a spring that changed everything; the sort of spring that trained my youngest boy out of running to hug me hard as soon as I got home from work.

On the outside though, last spring was incredible. It was long and warm and extra peaceful due to an unprecedented drop in air traffic and vehicles. As such, my gardens, both work and home became different places; more peaceful yet louder, more lively yet restrained. It’s hard to describe, but my gardens became safe havens and contemplation spaces more than ever before, and places for me to process what was happening elsewhere.

Gardeners’ World Escapism

I remember saluting, mentally at least when BBC Gardener’s World took the decision to accept viewers videos, as a way I guess to obtain content. This couldn’t have been easy knowing the high quality of filming and production on the program. Home-style videos were requested, and subsequently for me and many others, became a firm favourite alongside more professional videos from the established presenters – largely filmed in their home gardens too I might add.

Viewers video content added, and still adds a raw and personal feel, often unpolished with the occasional gust of wind blowing across a microphone, or filmed from a wobbly phone camera – but it’s great. I have huge respect for mainstream presenters and the established program format, which has grown to offer an hour of escapism after the typically stressful week. However, the home video segments have by fault or design given us snapshots and glimpses of the lives and garden passions of so many other gardeners. Starting the video segment was inspired, and long may it continue!

My Gardeners’ World Video

Well, I guess all that brings me to my own contribution – around two minutes of home style lockdown gardening – and why not I thought! On reflection I might have made a little much of it, knitting clips from across the span of a week or so, but anyone who knows me understands that I love producing images and clips that show gardens in their best light.
Mind you, apart from my wobbles over the clarity of my voice over, I have to admit that I was really happy with the result, which came across well after some nipping and tucking from the GW team. So, without further ado, and whilst not wanting to overplay my part, I’ve borrowed my own clip from the program for you to have a quick look. Enjoy!

BBC iPlayer Link to Gardeners’ World Episode Six – my segment around 28 mins in 👍🏻

Garden Journal 18.4.21

Hello and thanks for dropping in on my garden journal. This week I’ve my own update on Sulgrave Manor Gardening, an important Peat Free April message plus a little Home Gardening for the sarnie filling.

Sulgrave Manor Gardening


Writing in my garden journal last week I talked about the pre-opening rush that the garden team and I were going through to make sure all was looking good for the opening day on Wednesday. If you’re a gardener you’ll likely be very familiar with the thoughts and feelings that are very present in the run up to the big day.

Is the garden as safe as can be – did we leave any tools out or gates unlocked? Have all the containers been watered and dead-headed? Has the play equipment been checked? Was the tree survey thorough enough? Are we on top of the edging-up and weeding? Did I get all the plant names correct on the ‘plants in flower’ notice board? It goes on, and on.

Flowers and a notice board at garden entrance to say what is in flower
Flowers all present and correct!

The answers to all those questions are of course “yes, to the best of our ability”.

I know, it can be something of a stock, cover-all answer, Continue reading

Garden Journal 11.4.21

Well it has been quite a full month since I last posted to my garden journal, after taking a break for a while to take stock. I’m back now though and keen as ever to resume the weekly posting of my horticultural happenings to this journal, which is part of my Gardening Ways blog.

I suppose then that I’ve four weeks of shenanigans to account for, but whilst I’ve scanned back across the weeks and selected some memory jogging images, I’ll spare you from the general daily going’s on. Instead, and from my chosen picture, I’m going to skip across the month all spring lamb-like, if you can picture that!

Sulgrave Gardening

In my last journal entry I was still harping on about the “ongoing pruning” in the heritage orchard at Sulgrave Manor, which I’m glad to say is now all complete. In fact it’s more than complete, as some of the volunteers have thankfully returned to the fold, coming to my aid with a very thorough clean up of cut material – I had stacked it nicely of course!

Amongst the branches of an apple tree in a heritage orchard Up amongst the branches…

In addition to completing the orchard, which is now resplendent with thousands of daffodils and a few Continue reading