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A new NGS Yellow Book garden, Longden Manor

It is always exciting finding a new NGS garden to visit and when we find one that is just a few fields away as the crow flies it is extra interesting. Longden Manor with its organic farm still had to be driven to though and we seemed to drive in a big loop before we got to its field parking. As we drove up the drive to the field we were amused by several topiary pieces as well as a beautiful bright patch of Azaleas.

The Manor House itself sits in such a dominant place with wide sweeping views out across the Shropshire countryside. A huge lawn sits in front of the house ensuring a clear view, a view framed by large specimen trees.

New areas are being discovered all the time, old parts of forgotten gardens which are now being unearthed. It was a privilege to look at a pool and bog garden area just cleared and being prepared for planting. The pool has been reinstated already but it looks as if there will be exciting waterfalls and streams to follow.

From the newly discovered old pool we wandered through established woodland into a small orchard, an unusual holly orchard and kitchen garden.

I shall finish off my report of our visit to this new National Garden Scheme garden with another piece of topiary created to make you smile. A rather happy caterpillar!

 

 

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A Walk in the Park – Part One – The Walled Garden

Near to us, a mere half hour drive away is situated the parkland of  a National Trust Property called Attingham Park, which is a place we often visit for an afternoon walk. The parkland affords us the opportunity of following different lengths of walk depending on the time we have and how fit we feel and of course on what the weather chooses to present us with. The parkland contains huge collections of trees and shrubs but few actual gardens, formal or naturalistic. It does however have the added element of a productive walled kitchen garden which the NT has lovingly and meticulously restored. So there is plenty to love about Attingham Park. We hope you will enjoy meeting the parkland and getting to understand its sense of place, or put more simply getting to know it like a new friend.

In 2017, rather than make monthly visits to a garden and reporting these visits in blog posts on a monthly basis we will visit Attingham Park each month of the year looking at both the Walled Garden and one of the walks. So there will be 2 posts featuring Attingham each month.

To help introduce you to Attingham Park we enjoyed a sunny day visit in November to take in an autumnal woodland walk and a quick exploration of the walled garden. Just a taster really for what we hope to share with you in 2017.

The Walled Garden

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After a half mile simple level walk along a woodchip track we found the Walled Garden. To reach it we walked beneath giant hardwoods and softwoods, deciduous trees and evergreens from many parts of the world discovered and brought here by some of the great plant hunters.

A first glance through the mature gnarled tree giants highlighted the gardeners’  bothy  framed in low boughs almost parallel to the leaf littered ground. What a setting!

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The walled garden features restored glasshouses, bothy, gardeners’ stores and outbuildings as well as an orchard and the main productive vegetable borders.

The glasshouses looked magnificent wrapped up in their thick coats of fresh white paint. The yards around them were clear but we will see great changes throughout next year’s visits. Sugar mouse pink Nerine blooms provided neon strip of colour along the bases of the glasshouses.

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The orchard hosts rows of ancient fruit trees gnarled and their boughs leaning low to the ground. On this visit it was home to a “Remembrance Tree” and a collection of photographs of the staff “then and now”.

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Displays in the bothy showed the plants of the season, the pumpkins in all their orange glory and they also were used as parchment for messages written in them all about the garden in wartime.

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The garden staff and volunteers had grown cordon tomato plants up against the inner brick wall of the productive garden, Tomato Andine Cornue. They were “forcing” chickory and endive to sweeten them and here we discovered even more pumpkins.

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As we begin our Attingham monthly forays early in 2017 we will have a look at the main body of the productive walled garden.

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Tree of Remembrance

In the words of the children’s song, “If you go down to the woods today are in for a big surprise!” proved to be true this week when we went for a walk around the National Trust property, Attingham Park.

And we were! I shall share these few moments with you when we felt very emotional by this surprise awaiting us. The gardening staff had created a “remembrance tree” by decorating, very tastefully, an old gnarled apple tree in the orchard abutting the old walled garden. It was a very special, personal way for the current team of gardeners and volunteers to remember the gardeners who worked at Attingham Park walled garden when war broke out and sadly never returned.

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A Week in the Lake District – Part One – Sizergh

We decided that it was about time we re-visited one of our favourite family holiday destinations from when our children were youngsters, the Lake District. So a week in early June saw us journeying northwards to re-find some old haunts.

The first place we visited was the National Trust property, Sizergh Castle, right at the southern end of the lakes, in an area described as the “gateway to the Lakes”. The National Trust is very much in evidence in this area owning many properties as well as lakes, hillsides, fells and farms. The Lake district was central to the Trust’s early development.

Sizergh Castle is a Medieval house with gardens, orchards, limestone pasture and semi-natural woodland. The garden features fern collections, a kitchen garden, a pond, lake and its main feature a massive rock garden.

We soon realised that this was going to be a place full of interesting plants which also looked after its wildlife.

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The little wooden sign clearly showed us the way!

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We followed the little wooden sign on a stone wall directing us to the garden and made our way towards the kitchen garden. On the way we stumbled across the “stumpery” where the garden’s fern collections are being re-homed. The variety of ferns was vast and we spotted many we had never seen before.

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The walls in the fernery and walled garden were home to so many different tiny plants as well as just ferns. We were soon to discover that this was a feature of the walls throughout the gardens.

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The kitchen garden was on a gentle slope and based on a strange shape somewhat like a long bent rectangle! The old wooden cold frames were still fully in use. We were fascinated by the raised hot beds where plants grew in soil covering heaped manure. This gave heat and later as it broke down fertility and structure to the soil.

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Within the kitchen garden we found a small patch of multi-coloured Forget-me-Nots. We found lots more throughout the gardens.

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From the kitchen garden we wandered into the orchard with its bee hives, buzzing with activity. Beyond the orchard we came across a small lake. In the borders on the lake side were beautifully sculptural pollarded willows. They looked like a group of people meeting up for a chat.

 

 

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Wide open expanses of lawn opened up in front of us as we walked away from the lake. These afforded us views of the castle buildings themselves.

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Where there was a change of level the grass banks were sown as narrow wild flower meadows. They were full of life.

 

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Behind the main buildings we found the “Great Barn”, an agricultural building of a type we had never seen before. The barn was raised up on a bank to create two levels. In the lower level the animals were housed while carts loaded with cereals drove up the grass covered gradients to the upper level.

 

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One of the most famous sections of the gardens was the vast rock garden.  Acers gave this area colour and texture and provided great views back to the castle itself. Tiny streams wound their way through the rocky outcrops ans areas of planting.

 

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We found these appealing little carvings while we wandered around. The first was a yard high snail carved in wood while the second was a sculpture created by Mother Nature and again we thought it resembled a snail. The final piece was a wise old owl carved from wood.

Our first day in the Lake District was most enjoyable and we hoped our other days would be equally as inspiring.

 

 

 

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Queenswood Arboretum – Part Two – the Oaks

Having enjoyed the Autumn Garden we found a sign indicating a footpath to an “Old Orchard” and the “Readers Chair” which naturally took us in the opposite direction to our planned route. Diversions are good for you! Just see what we found by following this one!

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We followed the path beneath tall slender trees and found an orchard of ancient fruit trees.

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When we reached the centre of the old orchard with its sweet scent of rotting apples and fallen leaves we found out what the Reader’s Seat was. It was really a large piece of outdoor sculpture which was also a seat. I imagine the wood it was constructed from was oak as it was weathering to the most beautiful and palest of silver. The carvings were so beautifully sculpted into each face of the uprights which made up the canopy over the circle of seats.

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We sat a while appreciating the craftsmanship of the seat with its carvings before exploring further the old orchard itself.

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But where we we headed before the wooden sign post persuaded us to search for the Old Orchard and Reader’s Seat? We were off to find the Oak Avenue. We expected this to be a shaded walk between tow tall rows of ancient native oaks. How wrong we were! What we actually found was a small field with two rows of oaks from all over the world. Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, thin ones and even a shrub like one. There seemed to be an Oak from every corner of the world. But to get there we wandered through Cotterill’s Folly where huge Beech trees towered over the path and covered that path with their waxy tough leaves.

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Our first oak surprise was this narrow-leaved tree with slightly pendulous branches, aptly called the Willow-leaved Oak. Its foliage looked so fresh and full of vitality, which was in stark contrast to the Armenian Oak we looked at next. This oak had large leathery leaves already coloured for autumn.

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Our next oak was a small tree with leaves like those of a Sweet Chestnut.

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One thing that all oaks attract is lichen and we soon found this stunning glaucous example shaped just like stags antlers.

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Our next Oak looked just like an Olive tree – it was just the right size and shape with glaucous leaves just like those of an Olive. But when we got closer and noticed its bark we knew straight away it was some sort of a Cork Oak. The label informed us that it was a Quercus variabilis, a Chinese Cork Oak.

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We were so surprised to see the next of our Oaks as it was just four or five feet tall, a small shrub rather than a majestic old tree. Nuttall’s Oak, Quercus texana surprised us again when we noticed its beautifully shaped leaves, somewhat reminiscent of a Liquidamber.

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Close by we found another shrubby Oak but this one had a different growth habit. It was a solid looking bush with simple leathery foliage. This was a Bamboo Leaved Oak – very well named.

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This old Cork Oak had died but in death presented itself as a piece of textured sculpture. But it did frame another autumn coloured Oak on the far side of the green area.

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This neat small specimen on the left was an Algerian Oak and the equally neat one on the right was a Shumard’s Oak.

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After enjoying discovering so many different oaks most of them new to us, we began to make our way back to the car park. We passed a Wild Service Tree one of our rarest native trees before moving on through a little plantation of Betulas and made our way towards a stand of Redwoods.

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To share this last leg of our wander around Queenswood Arboretum just look at the third post in this series.

 

 

 

 

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Crab Apple Jelly

We have a beautiful and very productive crab apple tree at the bottom of our garden. It provides useful shade in the summer for the chickens but for us it provides a wonderful and very heavy harvest. Being a Malus “Butterball” it has pendular branches each giving us masses of small yellow fruits which are all blushed orange or red. It is a beautiful ornamental tree as well as being productive.

We never need to harvest many branches so the majority of the fruit is left for the local Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes early in the autumn and the few they leave will be gorged by visiting thrushes, the Redwings and Fieldfares from the colder continent.

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This year we have decided to make Crab Apple Jelly flavoured with cloves to use up some of the fruit.

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We have another much younger Crab Apple, a purely ornamental variety close to the path that meanders between the Bog Garden and the Prairie Garden. It has masses of scented pink and white flowers in early spring followed in late summer by orange/red tiny fruits. It grows among cerise flowered Lychnis coronaria and various ornamental grasses.

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In the communal gardens at our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community, we grow several varieties of Crabs as ornamental trees and to act as reliable long flowering pollinators for our orchard apples. And they work. Since we added these Crab trees the yields from the orchards have noticeably increased.

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