Here's a note from Karl, Killerton's Head Gardener about the garden this month.
As many might already know, sad news came from the garden on the morning of Tuesday 11 February. The cork oak (Quercus suber) with its quirky shape, thought to be an original planting in the garden dating from around the 1850s, fell down in the stormy weather. There was another cork oak planted behind it a short way up the hill which blew down in the 1960s. As the two trees were planted and grew so close together, it is thought that the lower cork oak was forced to grow out to one side which contributed to its unusual forward-leaning shape.
Now that it has fallen, it can be clearly seen that there was a tremendous amount of rot going right through the centre of the trunk, so much so that you can see daylight through it. The tree has had some work done to it over its lifetime, including being pollarded during the 1970s, but now the only work left to do is a huge clear up. The garden team are currently masterminding a plan to dismantle & extract the giant tree from the centre of the garden.
Over the past month, the team have been busy carrying out some work to lift lower branches on trees such as Thuja plicata 'Zebrina'. Sometimes referred to as limbing up, it will allow more sunlight to plants below and improves traffic flow when trees are located near paths. Work to start cutting back borders has started but has been put on hold while the wet weather persists as damage to soil structure can be caused.
Elsewhere around the garden
Gardener Geoff has been very busy trying to classify and identify the many Narcissus we have here at Killerton. He has been working out which ones are historic (pre 1940) and has come up with over 20 so far including 'Carlton' and 'Lucifer' as they are part of a significant old collection on site. Narcissus are split into 13 divisions based partly upon flower form (shape and length of trumpet and petals), number of flowers per stem and flowering period amongst other things.
This important work allows us to understand and conserve our plant collections here, and it also provides the ground work for the garden team to be able to enter specimens into RHS shows such as Rosemoor coming up soon.
The team have been busy coppicing and bundling up hazel for use later in the year as pea sticks to support some of the plants, particularly on the herbaceous border. Birch and willow can also be used but all must be dried before use as they may start to grow once positioned in the soil.
Hazel (Corylus avellana) from the chapel grounds, Budlake Post Office garden and areas by the house have been harvested for this years supplies. This is carried out on approximately a 5 year rotation to give the new stems time to grow 3m by 3m so that they are strong enough.
We hope you enjoy your visit, and if you have any questions for the team please do stop us and ask.