How does the garden grow?

Wallington's gardening team on a visit to Cragside

Every second Friday, throughout 2019, you can visit the website to find out what's been happening in the gardens; which jobs the team have undertaken, what wildlife they've spotted, what has caught their eye, what is shining in the gardens at that time as well as lots of other details and special moments. It's the chance to find out more about what it takes to maintain, grow and develop the beautiful gardens of Wallington that so many visitors enjoy. And if at any point you have any questions for the gardening team here, just drop them an email askthewallingtongardener@nationaltrust.org.uk and they'll be happy to get back to you. So without further ado.....

Friday 12 April

This week we get a special insight into why Head Gardener Simon, chose the career he did. What is it about gardening that drew him in? Have a read, it's really rather lovely.....

So why do we garden? And why am I a gardener? I’m sure there are many reasons, but for me I think it’s about moments.

Being a gardener gives you the ability to create moments for the garden’s visitors and for yourself, if you’re lucky some of those moments will last a lifetime.

Within a garden these moments come in all shapes and sizes, it might be the day you see something that inspires you so much that it changes you and gives you the confidence to take a new path. It also might be the day that the world is too heavy and entering the garden space gives you sanctuary and in turn a better perspective with what’s important.

Creating places where this is possible is part of being human and it’s exciting trying to find different ways to create an experience that might produce a moment.

Last week I was reminded of this way of thinking twice.  Firstly, I spent a couple of hours with a lovely family planting 2 memorial trees in Eastwood. Two of them had been visiting the garden for 60 years and the trees were a way to mark the past, connect with the garden, and then importantly as gardens do, look to the future. My time with this family was special, I explained my plans for the future of the planting site, they bought in to my dream and through that shared connection with place there was a moment…. this one will not be forgotten.

The second moment was entirely different, towards the end of the day I was strolling through the walled garden, trying to see through the work that was still to be done and enjoy the magical space, suddenly I discovered a tree, it’s always been there, on the lower terrace but today at this time it decided to let me truly see it.  The tree is an Amelanchier and on that evening we had a moment, it brought on a simple but deeply felt smile; that’s why I’m a gardener.

Amelanchier in the walled garden at Wallington
Amelanchier in the walled garden at Wallington
Amelanchier in the walled garden at Wallington

Friday 29 March 2019

This week we introduce you to gardener David, who is celebrating spring with a stunning display of Daffodils on the West Lawn.....

Hi my name is David I am one of the gardeners at Wallington and this is my nineteenth year at Wallington! Last year I, along with a team of volunteers, planted two types of Narcissus (Daffodils) on the West lawn by our new path. We planted two types, Narcissus “Ice Follies”, which have creamy white flowers with primrose yellow cups, which fade to nearly white. These ones have now just begun to flower and are starting to look good. The second type is Narcissus “Poeticus Actaea”, which have fragrant white flowers with supposedly a red/yellow cup although the red part is closer to orange in colour.

You may have seen the hooped fencing we put up to protect the area. This was made from lengths of Hazel which is nice and flexible. If we need to use small amounts of fencing, we try to make it as subtle as possible and in keeping with the surroundings. The only downside is they are rather appealing to little hands and the temptation of a good stick can be too much hard to resist!

I hope you enjoy the colours as you walk past the West lawn towards the West wood. Daffodils are so gorgeous they brighten up the dullest day and the mix of the two Narcissus here looks to be a really good combination.

Daffodils on the West Lawn
Daffodils on the West Lawn
Daffodils on the West Lawn

Friday 15 March 2019

Meet Chris, who this week talks about a project that is currently underway with one of the large borders in the walled garden….

Hi, I’m Chris the next gardener share my thoughts for our blog. I’ve been at Wallington for ten years now, working mainly in the Walled Garden. Working everyday within the garden, seeing it change and grow, not just seasonally but often daily, really gives you that emotional connection with the garden. Gardening without love just seems too much like a chore and no-one likes that. Continual assessment of the borders in my areas is a must. Not just the upkeep, weeding etc, but also their development. We are not a botanical garden so changing and enhancing sections if needed holds no problems.

 

Last year it was decided a big change was needed in one of my areas. The section from the Mary Pool towards the Blue and Yellow border was in need of some TLC. Plans were drawn up and approved, work began last spring. Conveniently the 100 meter long border is split in two so half was finished last year. A grass strip was removed and replaced with a flower border. Much nicer to look at and also much better for insects and beasties. The next half of this border revamp is underway right now! Plants and shrubs are being taken out and rehoused. Some will go back in later on this year. The boulder wall will be rebuilt and the grass removed. Hopefully plants in the ground by September. So watch this space.

 

All change for one of the borders in Wallington's walled garden
All change for one of the borders in Wallington's walled garden
All change for one of the borders in Wallington's walled garden

Friday 1 March 2019

March already! In this week’s diary entry we meet senior gardener Alex, who gives us a bit more information on the recent snowdrop planting activity….did you come along and lend a helping hand?

In the spirit of introducing ourselves, I’m Alex – Senior Gardener here at Wallington. My role is quite varied and it’s that variety that originally enticed me into being a gardener for the National Trust. The core of my role is the daily management of the volunteers as well as responsibility for the woodland areas of the designed landscape that makes up the majority of the 65 acre garden.

As I write this, it’s half term. Coupled with the unusually fine weather, we’ve seen a fantastic number of families enjoying the grounds. Visitors to the garden have been invited to help us plant 100,000 snowdrops and if you’re reading this blog, chances are this was already on your radar.

For the last 5 years, we have been helped by the public during the February half term, to plant thousands of snowdrops ‘in the green’. This means they are actively growing and in flower when we plant them, which is fairly unusual for bulbs. This year, we will have planted a total of half a million snowdrops in the woods at Wallington. One advantage to planting them in the green is the instant effect you get. Another is that the chance of them succeeding and multiplying is greater over the long term.

The bulbs come to us from UK growers in trays of 1000, lifted directly from the fields. We received two deliveries of 50,000, spaced throughout the planting week so that we can get the freshest bulbs we can. We then split these down into smaller quantities that visitors can easily plant. The team of garden staff and volunteers then equip willing participants with gloves and a bulb planting tool, then show them to a suitable spot and give them a planting demo. Once happy they are left to enjoy being surrounded by nature while planting snowdrops that are slowly turning the woodland floor white in late winter.

Gardening team getting the snowdrops ready
Gardening team getting the snowdrops ready
Gardening team getting the snowdrops ready

Friday 15 February 2019

This week’s diary entry is from gardener Beck, who looks after some of the most fragrant parts of the garden, both inside and out….

This is Beck here, I look after a patch of the Walled Garden called the Cut Flower Border - which I will tell you about a bit later in the year - and the greenhouses.

I love this time of year in the Conservatory because it really is a different time zone you enter as you come through the door - almost like stepping off the plane into a mini-holiday destination!  Outside is winter, but inside there is colour, warmth and most overwhelmingly scent! Many of the plants that flower this time of year put on an extra special effort to attract a pollinator - and pump out huge amounts of fragrance. I often wish I could bottle this scent - ‘Eau d’Wallington’ would be up there with Chanel No 5!

At the moment the combination of Cyclamen, Jonquil Narcissi, Heliotrope, Primula malacoides and Hyacinths is wonderful - and I just love it when visitors come in, get hit with the scent and go ‘wow!’

I could have put in a beautiful flowery picture -the yellow Hyacinths are so pretty!  - but I thought I’d leave that to Chris and his Friday Flower slot - and instead turn this into ‘These are a few of my favourite things..!’ and share this picture of a squirrel who has been regularly visiting the feeder just outside. Actually maybe ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ would be a better choice?! 

Red squirrel in the Walled garden
Red squirrel in the Walled garden
Red squirrel in the Walled garden

Friday 1 February 2019

This week’s diary entry is from gardener Peter. Seems some things just aren’t as simple as you’d like it to be….

Winter is always the time for projects in the garden, or catching up with jobs before the rush of spring. The project we endeavoured to undertake this week was to remove the stump of a lime tree at the bottom of the walled garden in the section I maintain and develop. The tree sadly had to be felled during the previous year due to disease. Removing the stump would also give a chance for a dead yew hedge to be cut back and the potential of new project planting within this year.

However, as no project is ever simple an electrical cable of course had to be found beneath the tree stump and all work has been stopped and the area closed by barriers until we can assess further. Frustratingly although safe the area won’t look at its best until we can refill this hole and start to consider planting.  

My section of the garden has some really wonderful features- the Italian wrought iron Menagio gates, blue Himalayan poppies and giant Himalayan lilies naturalised in the borders, scented plants and an informal wall as protection. We have completed a lot of new planting so far this winter, undertaken rejuvenating pruning of shrubs, planned projects and improved the soil. The garden will look fab in the spring, and the sooner we complete this task from mine and the visitor’s perspective, the better…

Hard at work in the Walled Garden
Hard at work in the Walled Garden
Hard at work in the Walled Garden

Friday 18 January 2019

Today's entry is by gardener Iona and it just so happens to be her last day here. Thank you for everything Iona, good luck with your next adventure and make sure you come and see us soon! 

It's been a whirlwind working the last six months at Wallington, but now it's finally time to say goodbye. It seems fitting to leave with a bonfire, baked potatoes and cake. A lot of my time here has been spent removing Rhododendron. This has cleared space in East woods for some exciting new planting. I will be returning to see; Cornus florida 'Rubra', Acer palmatum 'Tropenberg', Halesia Carolina and Amelanchier alnifolia 'Obelisk'. Surrounded by colleagues and volunteers I was struck with how friendly the team are, that keep the gardens developing and looking just lovely. Having spoken to lots of visitors, staff and volunteers during my time here I am aware how personal people's reactions to the gardens are. My favourite feeling is of walking past the infinite vista of garden pond, glimpsing the gate to the walled garden in the distance. My best experience has to have been meeting three otters walking up the same path towards me.  

Bonfires and baked potatoes - a Wallington farewell
Bonfires and baked potatoes - a Wallington farewell
Bonfires and baked potatoes - a Wallington farewell

Friday 4 January 2019

So I’m Simon, Head Gardener here at Wallington (more about me another time). Wow, it's 2019 already, spring is round the corner, the garden here is poised ready for action and so are my garden team.

A garden is only as good as its team and I am lucky to have a bunch or troop (what is the collective term?) that are dedicated to the task of looking after this unique garden.

Over the coming year I’d like to introduce the whole team as they contribute to this regular column allowing us to give you a snapshot of our world and let you see what it takes to run our garden.  As we tell our stories, we hope to make you our visitor feel part of the team too because without your feedback and participation, we wouldn’t be inspired and driven to develop and conserve this special place.

Well, let’s get on with 2019 then and see what we can achieve.

Snowdrop sculpture in Wallington's East woods
Snowdrop sculpture in Wallington's East woods
Snowdrop sculpture in Wallington's East woods