Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Volunteers at Belvoir

Some of the work being carried out......

Volunteers rebuilding the surrounding Castle walls

As you may have seen from previous blogs, over the last few years the BTCV have been doing a fantastic job helping restore some of the walls surrounding Belvoir castle. A lot of these are in quite a state, with years of erosion and saplings, now enormous trees, which have literally grown through the stone work.  

The old stones have to removed, the soil behind dug out, the roots cut back and then the rebuilding starts using the old stones.  It is much harder than it looks as the walls have become misshapen over the years, so it all has to be done by eye.

Steps that have been hidden for years have been unearthed from thickets of nettles, brambles and thorny undergrowth. The volunteers come armed with sturdy sets of gauntlets, and a lot of good humour.  The Spring Gardens are now beginning the show the true beauty of their unique landscape.    There is always more to do as we have only just scratched the surface, but progress is good.

At the end of August the volunteers had a day off from rebuilding walls and gave us a day in the gardens.

The new rockery has been sprayed throughout the summer to keep the weeds at bay; this has done a good job but now the soil needed preparing for spring planting.  So it was fantastic to have 12 people helping me with the task.  It would have taken Martin and I over a week to achieve what the volunteers did in a day.

An army of weeders climbing the steep banks of rockery.

A well earned rest.....

The final result, some pulmonaria, a few narcissi, and a couple of Daphne shrubs, and a clean bed for spring planting.

Part of the smiling team....

We also have volunteers who come on a regular basis and have moved mountains in the gardens close to the castle.  They have helped with everything, from watering the pots, creating a veg garden and looking after the rose garden, all of which look wonderful, and without their help would be a much poorer place.

A really big thank to all our volunteers.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

September at the Castle

After months and months of rain, suddenly everything is now starting to look dry!  The pots need watering every day and some of the trees are beginning to look rather autumnal.  But the roses have loved it and come into their own again, not quite as spectacular as the June flush, but pretty good.

The hedges are now well overdue for a cut and as we are behind, we have brought in team 'Tree Taylor'.  Simon and Geoff have helped us many times before and so I know they will do a fabulous job. At Belvoir there is a wide variety of hedges including Beech, Hornbeam, Box, Yew, Holly, and a snaking tapestry hedge to name but a few - so their work is cut out for them.  

Simon Taylor
Tree Taylor 
                 (I will get some pics of the boys next month!)

They started in the rose garden and look at the difference between 2011 and 2012.  A lot of these hedges are relatively new and still filling out, so next year we will have two cuts, one in May (before the birds start nesting) and again in September, to encourage fuller growth.

This is a Yew hedge in the rose garden which needs to have sharp lines to contrast well with the roses and tie in with the Topiaried box and Portuguese Laurel lollipops.

They also had time to cut the hedge along the drive and take out some unwelcome suckers.  Like we always say, cut the hedge, cut an edge and mow the lawn; you will transform most gardens - it is the frame around the painting.

The Lavender hedge

After the haircut

This is fairly drastic cutting - so lets hope for a mild winter

The top of lavender trimmed

The Lavender is now looking straggly and has grown out of shape, killing the lawn where it overhangs.  I have taken a bit of a gamble and cut quite hard into old wood (which is not recommended).  In days of old they always used to say you had to wait until April to trim.  But in order to keep its shape I find it best to give it a good hair cut now so that it has time to put on growth before the cold winter sets in.  Lavender augustifolia is one of the hardiest and should stand a fair cut - but we never know what the winter will bring, so don't expect miracles if you are being severe.

The fountain has gone green... so I will try a bit more chlorine.

Yellow Wave Phormium with annuals in the summer pots - look how hairy the Yew hedge i