Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Heuchera's enemy No. 1

As you may have seen from previous blogs we plant up a few summer pots.  

Lime Ricky Heuchera with Stipa arundinacea

As well as using annual plants which are good for vibrant colour and grow very quickly, I add some perennials to give height and substance at the beginning of the season.  The bonus of using perennials is that at the end of the season these can be moved into the garden beds in the autumn.

Heuchera obsidian

Phormiums are always useful as they give height and form, and there are many different colours.  I also find heuchera very good as this has evergreen qualities and there are many varieties with colours ranging from Lime Green to nearly Black.

BUT watch out.... for the pesky Vine Weevil

White legless grubs feeding underneath the heuchera

White grubs with light brown heads 10mm long

The Heuchera roots have been completely eaten off at the bottom

It is a common and devastating garden pest.  The adult weevils eat plant leaves during spring and summer, but it is the grubs that cause the most damage when they feed on plant roots, over autumn and winter causing wilting and often plant death.

There are various methods of dealing with this either non-chemical or chemical.  I use Provado Vine Weevil Killer, but remember you need to continue use to irradiate the problem.  

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Frosty Morning in Lincolnshire

These first three pictures were taken just by the roadside.  

The light was fantastic.

Nandina domestica - an evergreen shrub that has these lovely reddish purple leaves when young  and in the winter.  It is frost hardy, but can only stand temperatures down to -5C ..... 

... so no harder please Mr Frost! 

Taxus baccata fastigiata aurea - an upright golden Yew.  A great evergreen shrub that gives a garden real presence, with it's upright habit it looks like an exclamation mark in the garden.

Even the tennis court netting looked mysterious with the frost clinging to it!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Belvoir Castle's hidden secrets!

As well as maintaining the gardens, part of our responsibility is restoration and last month Martin and I were invited to join the Castle’s archivist to look at some garden plans that had recently been unearthed from Belvoir’s casket of treasures.

In a dark room, laid across a large desk were three beautiful hand drawn designs.  One of these was done by probably the most famous garden designer known to us all.  But you will have to wait for more information about him! 

Today I am going to tell you about the lesser known but equally inspirational designer, Harold Peto.  Originally trained as an architect, Peto turned to garden design in later life and was most prolific at the turn of the twentieth century.   The reason for his obscurity is the fact that little documentation is left about his gardens and designs’, so finding the plans at Belvoir is a wonderful discovery.  Peto made many trips abroad including America but was particularly influenced by the beautiful ornate Italian gardens and was possibly drawn to Belvoir because of its grandeur and terracing possibilities.

From the date on the plan we were able to trace two visits by Harold from the castle’s Visitors book.  It was so exciting to marry up the drawn plans with his documented visits.  Some of his drawings have pencil corrections over them, probably from gardeners working to his plans.  A lot of the design is in place but there is still some work to do to create the final picture.

If you have been following our progress you will know that we deliberated for some time over the shape of the yew hedges round the rose garden.  Now we have definitive plans of how they looked originally.  Thankfully Yew is one of the most versatile hedges and can be reshaped at anytime of its life.

Luckily for The Castle and for us all, the Duke and Duchess are very keen to reinstate the history of Belvoir gardens and programs are now afoot to bring together design’s from her Grace alongside Peto’s designs.

A great example of Peto’s work today is at Iford Manor which was his home in Essex. 

I long for some snow so I can sneak home and do more research on Peto!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Belvoir Castle - Happy New Year

Our first year working at Belvoir has flown by - and what a fantastic year we have had.  It has been a steep learning curve in many senses of the word - we are certainly fitter, and won't need to worry too much about working off the Christmas mince pies!

On a beautiful sunny New Year's day, we took our labrador Kizzie for a walk round the grounds to check out our 'work in progress'.

Spring gardens is always a magical place; very quiet, apart from the bird song and so picturesque.  We started on a new walk at the very top of the gardens which we are looking to open in 2013 to reveal another stunning view. 

Monkey Puzzle Tree

I took this picture from the top, showing the Monkey Puzzle tree; so called, after it is said 'the unusual branches would puzzle even a monkey to climb'.  The leaves are thick, tough and scale like, with very sharp edges. 

Because there are some beautiful and rare trees in the gardens, one of our projects is to name and plot them for the castle's records. 

The soil conditions here are quite unusual for this part of the country.  We have steep slopes with many springs and this creates ideal conditions for trees that like well drained soil that doesn't dry out, and also of course it is acidic; so mimics the conditions similar to the Himalayas'.

Acer griseum
This tree I could identify without reaching for the encyclopaedia!  It is the beautiful Acer griseum grown for its unusual peeling bark.  This slow growing tree suitable for small gardens will grow on most soil types, which makes it very appealing to many designers.  It has beautiful light green leaves which turn a brilliant red and orange in the autumn.

Acer Griseum  Paperbark maple

Acer 'Phoenix'
Acer Phoenix

This little beauty is called Acer x conspicuous 'Phoenix'.  In contrast to the last tree this is a rare maple with striped orange-pink and white bark.  It has large, cool bright green leaves in the summer which turn a fantastic fine gold in the autumn. This does need an acidic soil.

It won't be long before the Rhododendrons, azaleas, Camellias and Magnolias begin their display....  Please Mr Frost stay away!!