Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Belvoir Castle - June

The garden is now showing its true colours and bursting into life.  Martin and I started in November, when the beds were mostly full of debris, so it is exciting to see all the different plants emerging;  some wonderful delphiniums, and it looks as though there are a large variety of Agapanthus, and more unusual shrubs (that I have to look up!).

All the compost added in the rose garden has paid off and the flowers look stunning.  We had a frantic morning tying in all the climbing roses as the clusters of flowers were so heavily laden they were carpeting the floor.  It was like working in a perfume factory with so many scents drifting on the breeze.  It is at times like this, that I love my job and memories of winter, working in the snow and rain disappear! 

Rhapsody in Blue floribunda rose 

The magnificent back drop of the castle gives the rose garden a magical feel.   

We have five volunteers now helping in the gardens and with all the wet weather weeding is top of the list. All the volunteers have their own part of the garden; by doing this none of us feel too daunted by the scale of the project.  Without their help the gardens would be a much poorer place. So a big thank you to Jennifer, Ken, Jodie, Roger, and Harriet.   

Ken's veg patch - looking delicious already

As the gardens are spread over such a massive space we are tackling the larger areas with sprays that target specific weeds, especially in paths and woodlands.  The paths have been a constant battle this year with so much rain; weeds growing at twice their speed and no dry time long enough to get some roundup on, (thank goodness Martin was an agronomist in his previous life!).

All hands are on deck at the moment as the Game Fair is only three weeks away.  Fields, meadows and lawns are being manicured and edged - there is now a sense of urgency about the place.  I am willing my pots to grow quicker, the annuals seem quite far behind this year which I can only attribute to the lack of sunshine. 

Susie's Garden

Another wonderful garden that I have worked in for over 10 years.  This garden never stands still.  Many mornings when I arrive I am greeted with "I've had an idea - what do you think?"  And as Susie travels the county looking at gardens most weekends, the ideas come thick and fast. 

 The garden has a beautiful long herbaceous border, a veg garden, a woodland garden, a bog garden and a small orchard surrounding a lawn with some established yew trees in. 

Most years either a new bed is made or an existing one changed.  We are often trying out new planting schemes using colours and shapes.  Here are two that Susie tried out last year which I think are stunning....

The Woodland garden which was started 4 years ago....  it is amazing how quickly a garden can be established.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Lizzy's Garden

This garden has played an enormous role in my gardening career.  Lizzy was one of my first clients, and not only has she become a dear friend and mentor but has opened my eyes to some wonderful colours schemes and planting ideas.  

During the first years of my gardening training, Lizzy's garden was first in line to the secateurs.  It bears a few scars from my early days in using her garden for my homework – my first day I hoed up all the spring flowering anemones (thinking they were weeds) and secondly I pruned a Montana Clematis to within an inch of its life! 

Eleven years later and we are opening the garden for the 6th time to the public and the new Montana now looks old again!

I really believe a garden is a reflection of the person who creates it, and this is a perfect example.

This garden is full of colour, fun, intrigue, passion and exuberance - all in abundance!  

It is open on June 24th – send me an email if you would like to come and see it and I will send directions.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Belvoir Castle - May

Look what we found....

Whilst on one of Matin's endless spraying campaigns (this time attacking the docks buttercups and ground elder) he came across, what looked like, pieces of paper on the floor  - lo and behold...

Davidia involucrata - The Handkerchief Tree.

This beautiful tree has small pom-pom like blooms that appear in mid-spring and are held between two uneven, pure white bracts that are up to 15cm (6in) long - hence the handkerchief name.  These trees can take up to 20 years before the bracts appear.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Belvoir Castle - April

April’s drought at Belvoir castle!

In spite of the pouring rain and the wettest April on record, progress at the castle continued.

The rockery was now in it's final stages and looking like a bog - as always time was against us so we had to press on.  The sides of the rockery were finished but the final plan incorporated some large steps down the centre to complete the view from the top of Spring gardens right down to the lake at the bottom.

We had three days to complete and the steps had turned into a waterfall.  With days of constant rain the steep slope became a quagmire, and maneuvering a large digger with over a ton of rocks in the bucket was precarious at best.    

With the gardens now open to the public, the clock was ticking and largely thanks to the skillful work of Mark (Digger maestro!) we managed to finish. 

The plan is to leave the rockery fallow for a year to clean out both annual and perennial weeds, and then plant up in the autumn/spring.

Thanks to the rain, the new tree planting in March benefitted enormously, with no casualties yet.  The terraces of peony’s in front of the root house are looking magnificent and lush, the only difficulty now is getting the lawn cut without losing the mower in a bog!

Belvoir’s logistical challenge!

May should hail the end of the frosts, so planting the pots was top of our list and with 24 dotted all over the gardens, there were plenty of plants to move.  

The formal gardens span over seven levels from the top of the castle to halfway down the hillside.  This makes the use of machinery limited, so everything is moved by hand and carrying barrows down steep narrow stairs.

This challenge also applies to all the lawns as many are on steep slopes and become impossible to care for in the wet weather.

Weddings are held at the castle all year round so in the summer the formal gardens need to look their best.  Two of our wonderful volunteers have kept the weeds at bay in the rose garden and it looks ready to burst into flower – come on sun…

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cottage in the Woods

This garden was created 7 years ago.  It started out as a small house in the woods and was converted into Belinda's retirement home.  One of the most difficult problems to contend with were the crows! In nesting season - a hat is a must!  They are also rubbish builders as most of the twigs end up flattening the plants.

With a garden in so much shade, planting is quite difficult.  The large Horse Chestnuts above take every drop of rain - this year will be the biggest test of all with the hose pipe ban.

End of the Builders 2005

First trees planted - Betula utilis jacquemontii 2006

The soil round the house was imported, but the beds further away from the house are yellow clay and full of ground elder.  Once these had been sprayed and dug over - we marked out the beds.


In order to make the most of the woods in the background I created a meandering path leading the eye away.  The Birch trees with their lovely white bark stood out against the dark background and 7 years later the garden looks part of the woodland.  The trees have struggled a bit with the large Horse Chestnuts above.


The result of going to Chelsea Flower Show 2012....

...... my new topiary shears!