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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park March – The Walled Garden

I shall post two reports for our March visit to Attingham Park, the first about the Walled Garden followed by one about the walk we followed, the Woodland Walk.

We walked our usual track beneath tall mature deciduous trees to take us to the walled garden. We had a detour to look at the nut walk, lined with coppiced Hazel trees and to have a look at Attingham Park’s famous old bee “building”, the Georgian Bee House. It is a very decorative wooden construction painted white and featuring fancy trellis-work.

    

On route we discovered naturalised Daffodils and native Celandines glowing bright golden-yellow beneath magnificent mature trees. The lawns and borders of the gardener’s cottage looked neatly prepared to celebrate Spring. A Clematis alpina displayed deep purple buds fit to burst. Species Tulips were already in flower among emerging growth of herbaceous perennials.

    

Approaching the gateway into the walled garden we noticed colour on the trained fruit trees, the white and pinks of blossom.

  

Once we were within the walls we could appreciate the extra warmth and protection afforded by the tall red-bricked walls. Leaf buds were opening on fruit bushes and canes and perennial plants were emerging strongly now the soil had some warmth to it. Bulbs were already flowering and sharing perfume.

   

We were sure that the gardeners, who like to garden organically, were delighted at the sight of emerging Ladybirds.

We were so pleased to find the glasshouse doors open to allow us to wander inside to study their structure and mechanisms as well as allowing us to check what the gardeners were up to.

             

The informal decorative and cut flower borders surrounding the glasshouses were most colourful, with Primulas and bulbs taking full advantage of the extra degree or two of warmth afforded by the walls.

 

A quick look into the gardeners’ bothy showed us that lots of seed potatoes were chitting nicely and we noticed that the volunteer gardeners had plenty of jobs to challenge them.

When we return next month we look forward to seeing big changes in the productive borders.

When we left the bothy we continued to walk beneath tall trees along the way marked track taking us towards the start of the Woodland Walk. This walk will be the subject of the next March Attingham Park post.

 

 

 

 

 

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birds diy garden photography garden wildlife gardening gardens grasses hardy perennials ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs roses Shropshire shrubs

My Garden Journal 2016 – January

I will once again be keeping my garden journal during 2016 recording my thoughts on our own garden here at Avocet in the tiny hamlet of Plealey situated just inside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the South Shropshire Hills. I will share the sounds, sights and aromas of our garden and make mention of the wildlife that shares the garden with us. In 2015 I found a quote every month from a little book, ” Led by the Nose” written by Jenny Joseph. In 2016 I will look back at what I recorded in my first garden journal which I began in the first full year of living in Plealey. Although we moved here in August 2004 my journal began in January 2005. It will be interesting to compare 2005 with 2016.

So, welcome to our “Avocet” garden in 2016. I hope you enjoy the journey through the months with me.

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My first page for 2016 features my gouache painting of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few words about this charismatic garden visitor.

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“The Great Spotted Woodpecker makes its presence felt in our garden. It is black and white with splashes of bright red. It announces its arrival with a loud call as it flies in with its undulating flight. It hits the bird feeders hard so they swing around. These hungry birds stay feeding for far longer then any other bird.”

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On the opposite page I write “Gardeners often pose the question“What is your favourite season in the garden?” It is easier for some to answer this question and they quickly give a definitive answer, while others find the choice impossible to make. For me? Well, I admit  I always answer “The one we are in.” Not many gardeners will say “winter” viewing it as a “non-time” in their gardens. Many put their gardens to bed for the winter by chopping a huge percentage of the plants to the ground. Their interest only returns when spring bulbs burst into flower. I absolutely love the winter garden!”

I illustrate the page with my watercolour painting of two hips from Rosa “Graham Thomas”, a David Austin New English Rose which we grow as a climber. It gives joy to the gardener for many months of the year with its profuse golden sunny yellow blooms and when it finally gives up in December it begins to produce its green hips which quickly turn to yellow then orange.

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Turning the page over I write “As the weather turns colder at the end of the first week of the new year we are delighted to see the garden full of birds. Often we hear our feathered visitors before we see them. While spending a day in the garden cutting down soggy perennials we heard the Buzzards mewing over our heads and the grating call of Mistle Thrushes defending their favourite berried trees. The high pitch calls of Goldcrests are barely audible” Below these words we find my gouache painting of a pair of Goldcrests.

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Foliage features on the opposite page where I write “In winter flowers generally give way to interesting foliage on both shrubs and evergreen perennials. There is such a wide variety of shapes, colours and textures to be found in our January garden”.

A selection of photographs which I took in the garden on the same morning follows.

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Turning the next page my text is all about the scents of winter flowering shrubs.

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“Scent is such a powerful force in the winter garden and it is shrubs that put in a strong performance. We plant these scented shrubs close to paths so that we can enjoy them close up. On still days though their perfumes can be appreciated all over the garden. Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, has a delicate scent but striking flowers of a bright yellow to which sunlight adds a hint of lime green to make it really zing.” 

A much more strongly scented winter flowering shrub grows close to the main path in our back garden and is generous with its scent spreading it all over nearby borders, is Daphne bhuloa “Jacquiline Postill”.

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On the page opposite I put the spotlight on a plant called “Physalis alkenengi” as I had come across the skeletal remains of its fruiting head while gardening in the Hot Garden.

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I write “Physalis alkekengi is a strange little plant. It is inconspicuous for most of the year apart for twice when it gives splashes of colour. We rarely notice its off-white flowers in mid-summer but bright red papery “lanterns” soon follow. Inside its lanterns are hidden glossy orange berries. The wet decay of winter breaks down the papery cases which turn biscuit coloured before the flesh falls away leaving a lantern shaped net within which sits the orange berry.”

I illustrated this page with a watercolour painting of this little garden treasure. It was a great challenge!

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My next page is about two gardeners at work. Jude the Undergardener and I produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our crops which we grow on our allotment plot.

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“Bean Poles and Pea Sticks

We have reached the stage now where our garden has matured enough to allow us to produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our allotment. Our two Hazels provide us with the majority, but other shrubs add to our stash when we prune them.”

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On the page opposite I share my photos of the first frost of 2016.

“The first frost of the year arrived in the third week of January. It added a new white dimension to foliage which sported rims of tiny white crystals.”

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My final words and pictures in my January entry in my garden journal look back at my 2005 garden journal and a current garden project.

“Looking back at my January entries in my garden journal of 2005, I notice that I was then building a heated propagator in our new 14 foot by 8 foot greenhouse. This has served us well over the years making seed germination so much easier. This year I am making a much bigger propagating bench. For this version I will need support of my Undergardener, Jude.”

I hope you enjoy my photographic journey through this most enjoyable two day project. It was a good task to do while the weather outside was too cold, windy and wet to get any outdoor gardening done. The greenhouse was warm and snug so a good place to be working.  When describing our efforts I used short captions for each photograph.

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Using recycled wood we made a new bench. We checked it was perfectly level.”

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“We fixed in a double layer of insulation boards after adding an edge of 6 inch board. Then we fixed on a layer of plastic sheet.”

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“We added a 2 inch layer of soft sand. The control box, thermostat and probe were fixed to the box.”

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“Then we laid out our heating cable carefully. The cable had to be covered in soft sand.”

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A second layer of soft sand was added to a depth of 2 inches. We carefully made it level. The final touch – a layer of capillary matting”.

Here ends the entries from the first monthly entry into my Garden Journal for 2016. See you in February when we will start to use our newly constructed heated propagation bench.

 

 

 

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The Botanic Garden of Wales in the Rain – part one

We have come to love visiting gardens in the rain. We put up the brollies and huddle together for protection and just defy the downpours. But on a November day at The Botanic Gardens of Wales the rain was so heavy it beat even us! It was horrendous! This beautiful piece of sculpture managed to glow out in the gloom. It looked like the bark of a tree or the structure of ivy climbing a wall or …….. whatever you wish.

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We did though enjoy a little time in the rain but soon escaped by making for the magnificent glasshouse. The glasshouse emerges from the gently sloping landscape like an armadillo. On this visit it was barely visible against the low deep grey clouds.

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Once inside, the curving lines spanning overhead immediately drew our eyes upward. When architects get greenhouses right they can be dramatic and powerful but still gentle and full of beautiful curves. This is one of the best we have ever visited if not the best of all. It looks so good from both inside and out. From the outside it emerges from the countryside as if it is meant to be there, enhancing the undulation it sits on. From inside it cocoons the visitor in an atmosphere of warmth and greenery.

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The plant life housed there sits happily in micro-climates made for them. Greenhouse often seem to contain big blousie blooms with too much colour and all full of drama but here things had a subtle beauty. Very stylish. Often the colours were very delicate.

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Bright colours weren’t altogether absent though with plenty of fiery oranges and gaudy pinks. We were taken aback by the size of this Leonotis as it soared to over head height alongside the path. At home in our garden we get it to grow to about two feet tall.

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Blue flowers are often not a pure blue but these definitely were as blue as could possibly be.

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We enjoyed studying the foliage here as much as the flowers, with so much variation in size, colour, texture and shape.

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This Robin was enjoying reading the info on this sign but we were more impressed by those signs which relied on simple symbols demarcating each zone.

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We were amused when we came across this warning triangle, not the usual red unfriendly type found on roadsides but a green edged warning that gardeners were at work. The gardeners were very friendly ones too!

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After wandering around the giant glasshouse absorbed in the beauty of plants from around the temperate world we deserved our lunch break. We shared our break with our red-breasted friend who seemed to have followed us from the glasshouse.

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Some original and colourful craftwork graced the foyer. This piece was created using broken pottery shards. Join us in part two when we braved the heavy rain for as long as we could.

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Overwintering.

The greenhouse is a true haven when the temperatures drop so low that your hands feel the cold even with your gloves on and the top of your head feels it through your hat. We have just switched on the propagating units allowing the temperature in them to settle around the 18 degree mark in readiness for seed sowing. This should start in earnest any day now. The veggie seeds are all in their air-tight tin in sowing order. It won’t be long before we are transplanting some into the prepared soil on the allotment – just a couple of months!

But the main function for the protection the greenhouse affords us is to look after our less delicate specimens. With night-time temperatures varying from minus 1 to minus 12 this overwintering security is essential. Working away in the heated end of the greenhouse is a real relief from the cold outside. The unheated end still gives plenty of protection for half-hardy plants but still requires coats for the gardeners.

The Euphorbia mellifera enjoys having glass and bubblewrap over its head. This is our second Honey Spurge as we lost one even under cover last winter. We hope to keep it this year so that we can enjoy its wonderful honey scent when we return it to its place in the Secret Garden.

Aeonium and Echeveria keep us on tenterhooks through the winter months, as we have lost them so many times. Aeoniums are succulent sub-shrubs and those we have now are the largest  and most long-lived we have ever had. The green leaved Aeoniums below are a variety inknow to us before we found these so we are unsure of their hardiness. We bought them as single rosettes – they have flourished in the Rill Garden. They are possibly Aeonium haworthii and if so we have every right to pamper them in winter as they hail from The Canary Isles.

The black leaved version is Aeonium arboreum “Zwartkop”, is a native of Morroco. The leaves get blacker as the summer gets hotter and drier, so as it rests in the greenhouse after a long dry summer it looks very dark. The early morning sun streaming in through the glass lights the rosettes from behind and tuens them fleshy red.

In a heated propagator cuttings are also being protected. this gives us another chance to keep delicate plants over winter. Salvias, tender Buddleia and the odd houseplant such as Kalenchoe.

Outside, salad leaf seedlings sown in December, are holding on until warmer weather. We cover them each night with fleece. Once better light and warmer temperatures arrive they will be triggered into rapid growth. We look forward to tasty, colourful mixed leaf salads.

So whenever it is too cold or the ground too frozen solid outside we always have the welcome of a warm greenhouse. After all the greenhouse isn’t just for overwintering plants, it overwinters the gardeners too! Hopefully within the next few days we shall revel in sowing seeds in there.