Thursday, 29 November 2012

Belvoir Castle

Caius Cibber statues cover up for winter

This morning was the first really sharp frost but was luckily accompanied with a beautiful blue sky - a pleasant change from the miserable week of constant rain.  So it is time to make sure the 17th-Century Cibber statues are protected from the harsh elements of the coming winter. 

Cibber Statues at Belvoir Castle

During their time at the Castle the statues have been moved a couple of times.  Originally they lined the drive and were moved by the 5th Duchess onto the terraces and then again by Violet, wife of the 8th Duke, who was largely responsible for the gardens that we see today.  

All this I have read from the present Duchess's book 'Belvoir Castle', and understand that the 8th Duchess had the help of Harold Peto, a notable Edwardian garden designer.  Harold Peto created some of the finest gardens in England, inspired mainly by the Italianate style. 

This winter we hope to do a lot more research into the history of the gardens and find out who did what, when and where.... we'll keep you posted....

It is a great responsibility to have such treasures in our care, so this year we are starting a program of upgrading the winter covers.  Materials for this job are so good now that the new covers have two layers of silver bubble wrap sandwiched between a special hardy canvass.  The statue's now look quite strange - like green space rockets just about to take off!

New Covers for the Cibber Statues

More Statues in the rose garden

We will find out the history behind these two.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Results of an English Winter

In March 2010 Aimee asked me to help her create a New Zealand garden.

We were presented with a long mound of earth that had been placed to provide a barrier from the harsh winds and rain.  Some of the soil was extremely heavy clay where as part of it was complete sand – so another good challenge!

It is very difficult to plan a garden on such a steep slope, the soil will always erode and slide downhill which makes it is difficult to get plants established.  With this in mind we decided to terrace the whole lot.

As with all projects – it wasn’t plain sailing or should I say plain digging!  Some of the soil was so heavy, when you tried to throw the soil off the spade, the spade went with it!   A Mini digger was imported rather quickly and old railway sleepers were fixed together and used to hold back the soil. 

The workings were finished in the spring of 2010, some compost was added to the whole area and the planting began in April.  As you may know, there are some beautiful exotic plants that come from New Zealand, so it was an exiting planting scheme to create.  I used Hebes, Pittosporums, Phormiums, Eucalyptus, Olearias, and Griselinias amongst some of our own indigenous trees and shrubs.  We considered some tree ferns but felt the cold conditions of Lincolnshire would be too much of a test.

So where is the finished photograph...........

Aimee religiously watered the plants all summer, and they came on in leaps and bounds with no casualties by autumn.  However, on 22nd November 2010, extreme cold conditions hit England causing disruption on our roads and devastation to Aimee’s garden.  Many garden plants can tolerate temperatures down to -5C and some down to -15C; but on the 28 November -17C was recorded, and one of my clients, (north of Lincoln), recorded -22C for 5 days.  Of the 8 Eucalyptus that were planted only one survived, Aimee lost all of her other New Zealand plants.

I returned with some trepidation to Aimee’s garden this autumn and was thrilled to see how the plants that had stood the extreme conditions, had blossomed. 

Did I mention the rabbits!

It was an extreme winter and a harsh lesson.  Beware when you go to garden centres and see the beautiful coloured exotic plants that come from warmer climates.

I guess we made a good decision about the Tree Ferns!