Monday, 8 December 2014

Trees at Belvoir

If my salary depended on blog updates, the company would be in the drink!

As you gardeners know the 'back end' of the year is always a busy one!  We have just finished planting up a design in Lincoln that had a large Cedar dominating the proceedings.  I'm pleased to say he now looks part of the furniture, doesn't take centre stage any more, but still has all his beautiful sweeping branches.  Photos to follow:  

So what have I been doing... well the Cedar is the link..

Studying trees and reading up on my garden history.  This all started because we are currently listing and mapping all the trees at Belvoir Castle, as you can imagine there are some magnificent specimens.

This fabulous Oak, who has certainly stood the test of time was planted in Tudor times!  We do not have a date yet, but this gnarled old trunk supports one of the oldest trees on the estate.

The large tree in the background is probably one of the easiest to identify.  This is the Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana)  whose seeds were first sent from Chile to the United Kingdom in 1841.  The records at Belvoir show the tree was planted in 1842, so it must be one of the first to be planted in the Country.

From the same family as the Monkey Puzzle, this Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was first identified in Australia as recently as 1994.  This was planted at Belvoir in 2008, so again will be one of the first in the country.  I'm not sure what it will think to our harsh winters so we will keep a close eye on this one.

This is a Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), known in Japan as the Sugi which is their national tree.  But as this lovely old tree is not labelled the jury is still out on my nomenclature!

This is the fruit of the Magnolia (Magnolia campbellii mollicomata).  This large variety is one of the  first to flower in February with large, pink to rose-purple water lilies.  It can take 10 - 15 years before the first flowers appear - luckily this one now covers herself with a stunning display. (Pics to follow in Spring)

This superb display of autumn colour is from the Sorbus sargentiana.  If you look at the picture of the Monkey Puzzle tree you will see this one in the background.  Walk past this in the spring and summer and you just wouldn't believe what a spectacular display is about to unfold.

Well enough of my indulgence - if you see someone hugging trees you will now have a good idea who it is!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Autumn colours in Lincolnshire

4 months since I wrote a blog - what have I been doing!

The tennis court transformation is complete.  All the plants have taken, including the 25 year old pleached Lime, (whose roots were submerged beneath the court) it even had to be clipped this year.

The Cedar that was brought from Italy has grown at least 8 inches and is looking in the peak of condition.

The bright red shrub is an Euonymus alatus - I planted 3 and the one in full sun has done the best.  Doesn't it look terrific?  The Asters really add interest this time of year and create plenty of colour in October.

The yellow Indian Bean (Catalpa bignonioides) tree has thrived.  We have watered a couple of times as the area is quite a sun trap.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

More than one dragon at Belvoir Castle!

As you may have read we already have one dragon in Spring Gardens..

Here she is sitting behind the hydrangeas, which incidentally are looking superb this year, the blue varieties especially!

So to carry on with the theme of dragons, I planted some Dragon Arums (Dracunculus vulgaris).  They prefer moist soil, so the best place to try them was in Spring Gardens.  If some of you haven't heard of these they are quite striking, and a bit stinky too!   

The foliage is very attractive with speckled/marbled leaves, but the surprise is the flower (bract) which can grow up to 2m high.   Without getting technical this is one of nature's oddities as it is pollinated by flies not bees.  When ready for pollination the plant produces a smell like rotten meat to attract the flies!

Apparently it was used to preserve cheese by wrapping the leaves round it!!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Look what the Tree Surgeon and Gardener have done!

Congratulations....  We have a twig!

Unbeknown to you all, our Tree Surgeon Simon, and our trusty gardener Kerry have been doing a little more than the usual hedge cutting - a bit of cavorting in the bushes - might be suggested!  

I'm thrilled to announce they have just produced a little bundle of joy - we have all been calling him 'the twig' for the last 9 months, so it is a relief to see a healthy bouncing baby boy.  Knowing Simon he will soon be tree climbing and filling the shed with logs!

Congratulations to you both from the team.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Tennis Court Transformed to a Garden

In February 2013 we started our tennis court transformation.  

One of our lovely 'regulars' who we have now been working for for over 10 years decided his tennis days were numbered. The Tennis court needed re surfacing and he was unsure what to do; "What would we do?" my eye's lit up and one of our most challenging projects began.  

There were two stipulations;  Could we transplant one of the 25 year old pleached Limes, and could we plant a Cedar Lebanon.  The rest was up to us.

As the existing area was symmetrical it made sense to run with a formal theme.  The pleached lime running alongside the court formed a superb division and backdrop, but one of the Limes impeded our access for heavy machinery and had to be removed.  Transplanting a 25 year old tree half buried under a tennis court seemed out of the question, but our client desperately wanted to save the tree.  I didn't think for a minute it would survive, how happy I am to be proved wrong!

The beech hedge was removed in the centre to make way for the centre isle.

The Cedar of Lebanon arriving from Italy - poor thing it was so cold here.

Careful manoeuvring over the pleached Lime

Digging out the central beds whilst leaving hardcore in for the paths

Many tonnes of Top soil added to make up the levels (one of the best things we did as the soil adjacent to the house is shallow)

Marking out the paths using wood and stakes for the edges

We used Everedge, steel lawn edging to create the inner circles

The final design with the Cedar centre stage.

One year later.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Spring Flowering Shrubs at Belvoir

I love this time of year in the garden... just look at these colours

See the dragon at the bottom of the garden, with a yellow Magnolia in the front which was planted only two years ago.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Hermitage Garden Renovation

Martin and I arrived early … I had been awake since 5am… why?  Today was D-Day, we were to plant up 11 acres of cleared woodland with a collection of rare trees and shrubs.  If this project proves to be as successful as our last planting in 2012, in ten years time Belvoir will boast one of the most spectacular Spring gardens in the country.  Centuries ago Belvoir was famous for its Spring Bulbs, 150 years later it has gone one step further.

A Garden??

The heavy work started 2 months ago.  This area hadn't seen the light of day since before the wars.  Many old and dangerous trees were felled, rogue saplings removed and an area once thick with brambles, docks and nettles started to look something a little more garden like!

Our collection of trees to be planted were chosen by Charles Williams, from Caerhays Castle, houses the National Collection of Magnolias.  Charles has undertaken many projects on this scale so his knowledge is invaluable to our plan.

As you can see the area we are talking about is on a very steep slope.  The original path at the top will be renovated and a new path made at the bottom; this will give unusual views of looking down on flowering trees.

We started in dense fog.  Charles and his team arrived early with two lorry's of plants plus a delivery the day before of trees they couldn't fit in!  2,000 stakes, 8 rolls of wire fencing (each tree and shrub must be protected from deer, rabbits and squirrels with a circle of fencing), 150 bags of ericaceous compost and a team of planters. 

Charles started by placing out the large trees, these will provide the backbone to the planting.

Once the Magnolias were in place, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Acers and many more were given homes.  Charles told me to watch the  Rhododendrons as they are prone to give up easily, they were immediately given extra compost! 

Some of the shrubs were already in flower, the colours were so bright and vibrant; the Camelias were in full bloom, as were some of the Azaleas.  Other specimens had just missed selection from Burncoose the Chelsea Flower Show where Charles exhibits - we really were having the creme de la creme!

7 hours later we were all done (literally).  We both went home and put our feet in a bath of cold water.  The Cornish team probably wouldn't be in bed before midnight.  I'm sure Capability Brown had it easier than this! 

Tomorrow our next project starts, 20 Gunnera's to plant in all our lakes, just to start with…….

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Garden of inspiration

…. and a touch of self indulgence.

Here are pictures I took of a garden that was designed 10 years ago, and a garden whose custodian I have admired more and more.  

The custodian to whom I refer is my mother, Gweneth Grantham, who sadly passed away last night.    

'You are a hard act to follow mum', but if I achieve half what you have done, I shall have done well.  I will miss you very much.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Hellebore Heaven!

The 1st of March and a beautiful spring day, and I have a new camera!  It has been a strange winter, not very cold, considering the last few years; but I worry about a hard frost coming.  

Over 200 camellias are in bud at the castle just about to burst into life so a hard frost would render them brown and miserable.   Brambles, nettles and docks are now a thing of the past in the Japanese garden which now devoted only to Camellias, bamboos and some specimen trees. Lets hope Nature is kind.

Today we were working for one of our regular clients, who wanted a woodland shade garden.  This was planned about 5 years ago and today looked quite spectacular.  Planted with Hellebores, snowdrops and Tulips which come to life early in the year.

Next year I would like to add some of the lovely black varieties to compliment the collection.  Hellebores take a long time to bulk up but are certainly worth waiting for.  Plus they produce a lovely glossy textured leaf for the rest of the year which can provide a great foil for white, grey and yellow flowers in the summer.

By mixing snowdrops amongst the hellebores, they create a natural light underneath the flowers as though someone has left a trail of tiny lanterns through the border.  

Look at this!  It shows you how versatile and tough some plants are.  In this stone wall a Brunnera macrophylla has set itself, I didn't have the heart to take it out!  I will give it one year of glory before the glyphosate comes out!