Gardener's ramblings: November 2017

A Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) with scarlet leaves in a clearing in the woods

Stowe gardener Anna Tolfree tells us the joys of naming your plants and the trials and tribulations of autumn and winter gardening.

Don’t judge me but I have a confession to make…..I name my plants. By this I don’t mean latin names or common names. Let me explain… meet Simone…she is a Spindle (Euonymus europaeus). I first noticed her two years ago in autumn on the edge of Sleeping Wood on the right hand side of the path leading up to Rotunda. She was beautiful in all her scarlet glory and dripping with bright pink and orange seed heads, which complimented her beautiful leaves. Every year she produces a stunning display at this time of year alongside the other shrubs around her, although no-one else can compete with her. I prune her gently to keep her shape for the coming year whilst offering words of encouragement. 

There are other plants within the garden that have become my favourites too, like the Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarkii) on the edge of the cascade. In Spring when many of the trees are still just coming to life she puts on a majestic display of snow white flowers all over that look like tiny stars, before she comes properly into leaf and against a blue sky she looks stunning. I am well aware that I may sound a little strange or maybe even odd but I am sure you all have plants, shrubs or trees in your own garden that you love more than others. Every year you look after them and nurture them by pruning, weeding, watering and mulching. By doing this you form an attachment which is deepened when they produce a beautiful display to be enjoyed by you in your own garden. So I would like to believe I am not alone in the relationship I have with the plants within my area and my garden in general as for all of us it is a passion which is deepened every year as our gardens develop into their full potential and give us year round enjoyment.

I am well under way with my pruning in the garden and have focused first on the Sleeping Wood. This is quite a different area to the rest of the garden as the whole area is surrounded by a tiered hedge which is a mixture of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees. The first tier (nearest the path) is pruned to a height of roughly 1.5m with the row behind being just over 2m. The trees are dotted through the tiered hedge and have the lower branches removed every couple of years as they grow to give a distinct definition between the tree and the understory of shrubs beneath. 

It takes a long time to prune it all as some things only require a small amount of pruning while others will get chopped right back every few years as they become too overgrown, for example the field maples. Having said that I absolutely love this area as it gives a beautiful display all year round due to the various different varieties of trees and shrubs within it. 

All of the prunings we generate are either chipped or mulched in our big composting machine and taken to our yard and put in one of our four composting bays. This is then left for about six weeks and once it has reached a temperature over 70c it can then go back out into the garden and is used as a mulch on the beds around the gardens. In this way we can recycle all of our garden waste including weeds, leaves, grass clippings, ash from the biomass boiler at New Inn and our cuttings.  It’s great to know that we can look after the environment whilst looking after the beautiful Grade I listed landscape garden too.

Happy Gardening!