How does the garden grow?
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 email@example.com and they'll be happy to get back to you. So without further ado.....
Friday 13 March
This week has seen the gardeners and volunteers pull together in an extraordinary effort as part of the ongoing East drive project. Read about the mammoth task at hand.....
This week the garden team has been ‘all hands on deck’ to help spread the 400 tonnes of mulch that needs to go down onto the new borders which go all the way along the ‘East Drive’ towards the road crossing into the Woods.
The mulchis green waste compost which we have bought in. It is arriving in big lorry loads, and then we are ferrying it into the woodland area with a couple of hired 2 & 3 tonne dumper trucks. Then the raking starts!... We are aiming for a really nice deep bed of compost, which should completely block out the light from the ground and stop the growth of any and all weeds.
The weather so far has been its usual uncooperative self! A nice dry week would have been really handy - not more rain - which has made the ground ever more soft and slippery. Hard enough to walk on, but very tricky to get the trucks over. At times it has looked like we were trying to create the sequel to 1917!
So far I have steered clear of volunteering to drive the dumper truck! I had a nice little practice last Friday, learning where the controls were, and getting used to the size and strength of them. On the flat, in the dry it wasn’t too bad! - but now they are full of a heavy load, driving through ruts deeper than the wheels I’m a bit more terrified! I’m very good at raking!
While this job is carrying on the rest of the garden is starting to look much more spring-like. Lots of herbaceous perennials are pushing up the first fresh leaves of the year, the bird song is terrific and the lengthening days mean that everywhere is turning back to a very welcome green. We’ll be cutting the grass again soon!
Friday 28 February
It's that time of year when we start to think about spring and warmer times so when the snowdrops appear, there's definitely a moment of celebration. Gardener David talks about the recent Snowdrop planting that took place here and why snowdrops are so special.....
Yes, it is that time of year again the snowdrops are out and looking really good here at Wallington right now, so it is well worth doing our snowdrop walk around the woodlands. It is a sign that spring is around the corner and they are one of the first bulbs to flower of the year.
Over the last five years we have planted five hundred thousand, one hundred thousand each year and this year was no exception. During the February half term week, we welcomed many visitors who helped the gardening team with this annual task. We were incredibly grateful for your time and the help you gave us. The weather was poor at times, but you still came out to help. Thank you! Make sure you come back again this time next year not only to help again but to see if you can spot the patch the planted this year.
As the weather was so poor this year, we didn’t quite get the whole 100,000 in during the half term week. There were 6000 left over which the gardeners and volunteers put in the ground at the start of this week. Here’s hoping next year is kinder with the weather.
Snowdrops are not only beautiful, but they provide a much-needed early nectar source for insects. And if you get up close, the scent is gorgeous. They’re all round great plant and really life your spirits after a long winter. I’m already looking forward to next February when we can plant the next 100,000.
Friday 14 February
There's always a job to do, even at this time of year. Gardener Chris is busy, busy Find out what he to do list looks like in late winter.....
Despite the weather right now, it’s been a great start to the year. A lot of dry weather means lots to do. The garden needs quite a bit of attention and TLC before the Spring. There are plenty of seasonal jobs to be getting on with. Pruning for instance is needed for a lot of the shrubs in my section. Keeping these in check and reminding them that I am in charge is a regular task. I have a Wisteria, which needs pruning twice a year. The purpose of this is to encourage flowering for the coming year rather than lots of leaves and woody growth. Late winter is the first prune, which involves cutting the stems back to about two or three buds and then again in mid-summer. The summer prune is taking the stems back to about six buds. This just really keeps the Wisteria from growing too much.
Getting on top of the weeding is one of the main objectives for this time of year. You must get on when the weather is kind. Just creeping up on the jobs and chipping away makes the task less daunting. Having a thorough weed, clean and tidy really does make a difference for the months ahead. There is something very satisfying and rewarding in seeing a crisp clean and almost weed free border right now. Lots of dead plant material has been removed making way for the fresh green of new shoots. Spring is definitely on its way.
Tuesday 4 February
Gardener Sean takes us through the big project underway on the East drive at the moment. An exciting time with the team very much looking forward to watching this part of the garden grow.....
Developments on the East Drive
Over the course of the winter we have been working hard in the Woodland Garden: deer protection has been installed; the removal of the invasive non-native Rhododendron ponticum has continued; storm damage has been cleared; shrubs have been pruned for regeneration, trees and shrubs from the old Winter Garden have been transplanted and other general maintenance work carried out. Our focus, however, has been the development of the East Drive.
This area of the garden was overgrown and dominated by Yews, which blocked out the light preventing the development of the woodland understorey. Prior to my arrival in September 2019 the area was carefully and consciously thinned to allow more light in and to provide space for the valuable veteran trees to prosper in their later years. These trees are of high nature value providing habit for a variety of wildlife.
Thinning has given more space for out veteran and near veteran trees, such as this magnificent Oak, which allows our visitors to appreciate the scale of these trees
The overall vision for the site is to create a diverse nature-inspired woodland understorey. Where there were once two dominant understorey species - Yew and Ivy – there will be around 50 new species, with the Yew and Ivy forming part of that mix but not overpowering it. In selecting plants for the area, we have looked to create interest 12 months of the year opting for shrubs that provide winter structure and flowering and colour well in the autumn to create a rich display. The herbaceous layer will be comprised of bulbs, ferns, perennials and woodland grasses, which will flower from late winter right through until autumn providing a wealth of flowers for pollinating insects. The architectural seedheads of some species will persist throughout the winter creating interest in the darker months too.
To deliver this project it all starts with ground preparation. Over the last few weeks we have been removing invasive non-native species from the site; transplanting shrubs and perennials into the wider Woodland Garden; weeding out Ivy, Buttercup and other pernicious plants; relieving the veteran trees of the Ivy that has consumed them and gently breaking the soil surface to remove compaction. This work will continue over the next month or so to ensure that the site is ‘clean’ of weeds. We will then apply a fine grade garden compost mulch to about 20cm, which will prevent any weed-seed on the site from germinating. At this stage we will be ready to plant, which is where the real fun starts. I find nothing in gardening more satisfying than putting a plant in the ground.
This photo shows opening up the canopy which has the added benefit of increasing light levels on the woodland floor which allows us to develop an engaging woodland understorey
Over the next few months I aim to track the progress of this project through this blog going into more detail about the tasks as they happen and plants that we are using.
Friday 17 Jan
Too early for a Spring clean? Nope, not here. Gardener Beck is busy while the garden is quiet getting all those jobs done that you just can't find the time for once the garden kicks in.....
A lot of time in the winter is spent cleaning and tidying the bits we haven’t had time to do over the frenetic months of the summer and autumn. So now we are busy cleaning the garden tools and machines - giving them a proper scrub and polish - getting them ready for the next season of hard labour.
At this point in the year I can often be found up in the top of the Conservatory and the greenhouses cleaning the windows - you’d be amazed at how filthy they get - and how much slime the frames can hold onto! Ughh! The poly tunnel needs a good scrub. There are a million pots to wash from the many planting schemes that were carried out in 2019. There are benches to clean and paint... sheds to tidy... it can feel endless, especially when everything you touch turns to mud!
So it’s sometimes a good idea to dry your hands off (on your trousers I would say!) and head into the garden to check what’s happening out in the real world. We have Snowdrops just starting to show the white promise of their flowers, some Winter Aconites are already flowering, the spidery flowers of the wonderful Witch Hazels are appearing and the birds on the garden pond are starting to look like they are thinking of pairing up! And even on the nastiest of the cold days there is always something good to see - the picture below is a fantastic display of frost on the flagstones outside the Conservatory - even ice has a good side!
Friday 3 January
Happy New Year! My how time flies when you're having fun. We're into 2020 and gardener Pete is introducing the topic of the weather in this week's entry. We are going to be taking a closer look at the weather this year and how it plays its part in the garden here at Wallington. Did you know that we take weather readings every day here on behalf of the Met Office? Have a read of Pete's blog, some interesting weather-related facts.....
Gardens are not just to be enjoyed from 9am to 5pm on balmy summers days of sunshine and warmth. Anyone who works or visits a garden at any time of year, at any time of day and indeed in any weather, will be aware this.
Specifically, when we one of us gardeners opens-up the garden at the first of the daylight, we get to appreciate that new world freshly revealed. Winter offers the last of the fruits and subdued colours of shaded russets and dark greens. Some plants still offer interest in bright stems or bark, or of lichen and old seed heads of fantastical shapes. There is still the flow of birds through the trees, blue tits and bullfinches this morning or moorhens on our lakes and the indeed the flower buds of some winter plants such as irises and hellebores are just starting to emerge.
At Wallington, we record the weather daily and so can tell you exactly how the weather relates to all this. We know we’ve had a very wet autumn but what does the start of winter look like so far; how does this December compare to an average December? If you think it’s been slightly milder than normal you’re right. An average December day time high is 6.7° C and this year we’ve had an average high of 7.3° C. The average low temperature that we would experience is 0.7° C. This year our average lowest temperature was 2.1° C. Consequently, we’ve so had fewer frosts and less ice to deal with- normally 40% of December days are frosty, whereas it’s only been 25% of days this year. All this means better walking days for visitors and less de-icing and gritting for us gardeners!
This mild weather also means we can get on with jobs such as dividing perennials and working on the borders in the garden, which are more sensitive to walk on. We can catch and concentrate on jobs such as weeding and cutting back the ornamental yew hedges.
We can also focus on some of our project work. Indeed, a project for our next year is to redesign and replant the winter garden as a new storytelling or imagination garden. The intimacy and secluded aspect of this space will remain and lots of exuberant and wonderful plants will be planted here to inspire new stories and creativity. Part of this is about ensuring that a greater range of people can appreciate the beauty of the garden in a different way. However, for the people who love the existing plants, we have just moved these to other spots in the garden and indeed some of these old lovely shrubs are just starting to flower!
Friday 20 December
In the last edition of 2019, find out what Head Gardener Simon is so excited about when he looks ahead to the New Year.....
So, this is Christmas.
Well Ding Dong merrily on high, it seems to be Christmas and as normal I’m excited. There’s lots to enjoy about this time of year, here at Wallington we’re right in the thick of it. The decorations are up, inside and out, the café is rolling out a fabulous festive menu. We even have a certain Mr Claus settled in his grotto to listen to the ever-hopeful kids popping with excitement.
The garden feels calm and reflective at the moment, the colours are more muted, and the shape of the Landscape and trees dominate.
So why am I excited, well yes, it is Christmas, but very soon after that the garden team and I can take a purposeful step forwards with my vision for this unique garden. For the past couple of years, I’ve been planning, consulting, thinking, talking and even scheming to work out the right destiny for all the different components of this designed landscape. If I said that I’d sorted it all and I have a detailed masterplan I’d be lying, but this year with the help of my team I’ve got to a point were I’m now certain in the direction we should be taking (it was a Eureka moment) (Really, it was).
Any of you that have visited Wallington over the last couple of years will have seen various places where we have been thinning and cleaning out sites that have become too dark, dreary and bad for wildlife. After Christmas we can start putting things back together, I have a cunning plan! and with the help of the gardeners and volunteers we will be preparing and improving the ground in places, beginning with the borders on East drive (in front of the Mansion).
Once that’s done we can start planting, and that why I’m really excited, we’re going to plant this area in a new way for us, it will be great for wildlife and inspiring to look at (I hope). The best way to describe what you’ll see is “Exaggerated Nature”. Its going to take a while to settle in and I’m sure it won’t all go to plan, but the team are up for the challenge and I think this project will suit the garden, complementing what we have already.
For the rest of this year I’m going to carry on enjoying my garden as it displays its winter face, if you have time, come for a walk, bring your friends, I guarantee your day will be better for it. Meanwhile I will enjoy my Christmas and look forward to the new year and all the possibilities that will bring.
Monday 9 December
These last couple of weeks, the team here have been starting to put the gardens to bed for the winter. Gardener David has been hard at work and has some tips on how to tidy up the garden at this time year.
It’s that time of year again when a lot of plants and shrubs have died back and gone to sleep for the Winter, so what we want to do is try and tidy it so that there is still something to look at as bare borders can look a bit empty and boring.
If there are still some things of interest that even though they have died off, still look structurally interesting, we can leave them alone as they can also provide a bit of interest in height for example. Other things can be cut down to about two inches or so above ground level or near budding points to give the new budding points protection and so you can see where your plants are. There are a few simple steps to follow when doing your winter tidying:
Step one - clear your leaves first. It’s best to compost these separate to any plant material, also any branches need to be picked up and made into habitat piles for wildlife if possible and to help save the environment from release of co2 from burning.
Step two - do your cutting back then weeding.
Step 3 - dig over if you need to but if possible, simply tickle the surface so not to risk disturbing any spring bulbs. If you can, use a rake to scratch the surface on big borders as it’s quicker and still leaves a satisfactory finish.
This is a picture of one of the borders that I, with the help of volunteers, have tidied this week. Do you know where it is?
Happy winter tidying!
Friday 22 November
Ta dah....gardener Chris has finished one of the biggest garden projects of the last year down in the walled garden. No rest for the wicked though, this garden is stil keeping him busy even as winter approaches....
From Planning to Planting.
Hurrah! The Lower Terrace is finished. It’s been over a year since the project was started. A real labour of love, as all gardening should be. I say finished, no border is really finished, it is planted let’s just say that.
The Mary Pool end was planted last year about the same time. September is a great time to get things in the ground as it gives the roots time to settle in before the harsh winter weather. Lessons were learned about the spacing of plants and which ones are the more vigorous. It is not until you get plants into ‘your’ bit of ground that you get an idea of how they will grow. The info on plant labels and in books give you an idea but its not an exact science.
The Lower Terrace is split into two by the Lions Head fountain in the middle. This doesn’t mean there are two separate borders. The design of it is one long border. It should flow as one as you walk or look along it. You can view it by looking down on it from the top as well so many of the plants have been chosen with round flower heads or flat tops. It is important not to just rely on flowers for the design as they fade, so leaf shape is used to good effect on this border. Large leaves of various shapes and textures add more interest throughout the year. The colour scheme is purples and pinks, so gentle on the eye, with the odd splash of bright hot colours later in the year. The colour palette borrowed from the surrounding plants, i.e. Wisteria on the walls as well as Hydrangea on the border opposite. This all helps with the harmony and flow of, not just the border, but also the the garden. Grasses punctuate the design and help to draw your eye along the length. Also, they provide interest throughout the year. Overall, I’m happy with the look and feel but time will tell.
Friday 8 November
This week we introduce the newest member of the gardening team, Sean, who has just recently joined the team here at Wallington. Find out how he's settling in and what has stolen his interest in his first few weeks.....
Hello Readers. My name is Sean and I am a new member of the Wallington Team taking responsibility for the Woodland Garden. I have spent the last few years working on the West Coast of Scotland so I’m excited to be working in a different part of the country but still focusing on woodland gardening which is where my passion lies.
I have arrived at a fantastic time of year. The beautiful Eucryphia ‘Nymansay’ with its abundant white flowers lit up the Serpentine Walk in early September and from then the autumn colour kicked in. The garden has been moving through various phases with yellows, reds and brown foliage replacing the variety of green that made up the summer tree canopy. These colours are best picked up on bright, crisp days when the late season sunlight enhances their vibrancy. The Beech trees have made a fantastic display and look superb when reflected in both the China and Garden Ponds. Along our Acer glade group plantings of Japanese Maples are showing a striking red which catches the eye through the woodland as it opens-up after leaf fall. The form Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ is particularly impressive.
I have spent the last 8 weeks getting to know the garden and the team. We get a lot of help from our volunteer group who have assisted me in weeding and, with support from the Home Woods Team, clearing the invasive Rhododendron ponticum and self-sown tree species. We have also planted a long-flowering Geranium ‘Rozanne’ along the Portico Walk and Daffodils through the woods to add spring interest.
This week we have had a bit of drama due to heavy rain. The deluge earlier in the week resulted in a blocked drain which caused the China Pond to flood and a torrent of water to crash through part of the woods. Thankfully we were able to clear this and set the water on its desired course without further incident.
My first few weeks at Wallington have been very enjoyable. There is much to discover and learn here and I look forward embracing that over the coming months and years.
Friday 25 October
Autumn is such a busy season down in the garden. Gardener Beck fills you in on what's keeping her occupied at the moment.....
Autumn is when many wild creatures are frantically busy gathering, eating and storing enough supplies to see them through the lean winter months.
We are also busy harvesting - but we are concentrating on making sure the Plants themselves survive the cold and wet that is definitely coming!
At the moment we are busy lifting and storing - hopefully away from the mice and anything else that could be hungry! - many of the tender perennial plants. Plants such as the dahlias, begonias, salvias and cannas have been glorious over the last few months, but as they aren’t hardy enough to survive out in our fierce Northumbrian winters they need to come out of the ground and get put into a protected environment. They are cut back as they are lifted, gently put into a bed of compost and go into the Peach House where they can quietly wait out the winter in a dormant state. The Peach House thermostat ticks over on frost free setting, which means they don’t freeze, but also don’t try to grow when the light levels are too low - (why many house plants look decidedly leggy over the winter!) They need minimal attention - I check they aren’t being eaten! and that they aren’t becoming too dry - they mustn’t become desiccated. Like all things in hibernation - they really don’t need to be disturbed!
Many of the other tender perennial plants such as Argyranthemum, Pelargonium and Bacopa are stored as cuttings, taken over the summer. They are just small, but full of vigour, so when spring comes they are ready to jump into growth.
As the propagator here I am always thinking ahead to the next season - so while dismantling the garden may seem a bit sad - it’s really just a little part of the cycle that results in masses of summer colour next year!
Friday 11 October
This week, read about some of Gardener Pete's favourite autumn treats in the walled garden and what project he has underway.....
One of the areas of Wallington which I look at is right at the bottom of the walled garden. The area is surrounded by trees which give it a lovely secluded feel and yet at sometimes of the day it is a perfect suntrap. There are a couple of plants down there which are shortly at their stunning autumnal best and I really must talk about…
Cercidophyllum japonicum (katsura tree) is a magical tree with heart shaped leaves that grow right the way down its tree trunk and branches. What is very strange and rather lovely about this tree is that on a sunny autumnal day the golden leaves smell of burnt sugar.
Growing through this is the crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae), a massive climber which at this time of the year shows off its large leaves as they turn a cool crimson shade. What I like particularly is that this vine, as well as some Wisteria at the top of the garden, threads its way through the trees and shrubs outside of the walled area. I like to think of this as the garden growing out of itself, trying to spread itself to the world and love the idea that plants subvert their space; they certainly don’t need to respect the structure of a wall a mere 12 feet in height!
We’re also planning for a change in this bottom area. Just next to the kiosk behind the enclosed four walls of a yew hedge we’re planning to update one of our themed gardens. Our plans are to rejuvenate the old special winter garden space. We will maintain the shelter and intimacy but now add a twist; that of an imagination space. This new imagination garden will be full of inspiring plants and remarkable features and will be a perfect space to read a book or tell a story. We will move out many of the old scented winter flowering plants so hopefully this theme won’t be lost. However, the new garden will be something special for all ages and is something I’m sure will be loved just like the old winter garden.
Friday 27 September
Rain, rain go away....but do we really mean that? Head Gardener Simon fills us in on what the weather, particularly the rain, means to the garden.
It’s raining today, it was raining yesterday, and it looks like it will be raining tomorrow. To work in a garden means developing a relationship with the weather. Firstly, there is the horticultural side of this, we need the right temperatures and the right amount of rain at the right time, as gardeners we spend a huge amount of time pretending we can predict this.
Autumn is usually a great time of year that helps us in our work, I always favour planting at this time of year, the ground is relatively warm, and the amount of rain around generally aids fresh planting.
The climate in all our gardens is very important as whether we like it or not, it makes all our gardens unique, and to me this is one of the things that makes working in a garden so interesting.
There’s a lot more to this when you think about it, the unique micro climate in my garden has decided which of the plants will grow and flourish and which will not. Next if we think about what makes Wallington feel the way it does, let’s consider it in terms of the Theatre.
Starting at the top the Weather is the Director, it sets the mood of the garden, daily. Today is damp misty and beautifully calm, last Saturday morning was bright, sharp and full of optimism. As a gardener no matter how hard I work I could not affect the garden as profoundly as a frosty January morning or that magical half light of a late June evening.
As gardeners, we are the cast of actors who are influenced greatly by our Director. On a daily basis, our moods are affected by the weather, which will in turn affect how we make the garden look. With any successful West End production, the actors and director need to work together, so as a gardener I need to embrace the weather and use it as a design tool, I need to experience all the weather when I’m out working in it and take note how it makes me feel and use that to help me influence the decisions I need to make.
Yes, it is raining today, as I cycled in today I can certainly vouch for the fact that it is very damp, but there is a special beauty in our garden on a day like this.
So, think about our wonderful varied climate and come and visit our garden in all the different weather that we can offer and I guarantee you’ll create some unforgettable memories, (just bring the right clothing).
Friday 13 September
For Gardener David, this week has been about turf. If laying turf is one of your gardeing to do's, find out how best to prepare the soil and lay the turf.
This week I have the job of laying turf around the outside of the stone circle seating area in West woods by the kiosk.
We have chosen to do it at this time of year as it is a quiet time now the holidays are over and there is still some growing time left
Preparation of the ground
The ground had been well trodden on and needed building up. So to prepare the ground with help from volunteers and staff we weeded the area first then added soil from rotted down turf that had been lifted from the lower terrace in the walled garden. We raked it taking out stones and hard unwanted lumps then we trod it down and raked it again to fill in any dips added more soil, then repeated the process to get the right shape and contours and to get it firm enough to lay the turf on.
It is important to tread down the soil to avoid uneven sinking and to take out any air pockets so that the turf roots in to the ground properly to get a good hold and to be able to access water for survival
Laying the turf
The turf is due to arrive this very day and ideally it needs to be laid straight away or as soon as possible to avoid it drying out and turning yellow.
The area that we are laying is curved making it a bit more tricky so we are going to lay the edges first the turf will bend a little bit but we will have to overlap and cut it in it is possible to cut and lay shorter lengths but there is a risk that shorter lengths will dry out more quickly and take longer to knit together so cutting a line on the inside of the bend on the turf will enable us to bend it more without the risk of it tearing and cutting off the overlaps.
Once the outer edge is laid we will lay the turf from the back to the front in straight lines starting from the middle and working to the outer edges over lapping and then cutting the ends and by pressing in the ends together so that they are tightly touching with no gaps.
We will be doing all off this working of boards on top of the grass so that we are pressing it in as we go making sure that it all has full contact with the ground without damaging it. Lastly, it will get really watered in, it is really important to keep it wet otherwise it will start to dry out and it will shrink pulling the edges apart which will leave gaps and it won’t be able to grow together.
Tuesday 3 September
This week, gardener Chris fills us in on the how his lower terrace project is going. Sounds like it's about to reach an important milestone....
Hi Folks, Chris again. I’m reaching the finishing post as far as the Lower Terrace project is concerned. The dry stone wall has been rebuilt, the grass removed (stacked to make a fantastic nutrient rich compost) and finally, the soil weeded, dug over and compost added. I will start planting by mid-September. This is a great time to put things in the ground anyway as the soil is warm enough for the roots to get going before Winter.
Last year the other side of the Terrace was planted at about the same time. The plants have come on so much in a year. It looks like the border has been there a lot longer. A wee bit of tweaking is needed, as is normal with a new border, but on the whole I feel the design has worked. This is certainly encouraging as the side I have been working on this year will follow the same pattern. Lots of gentle pinks and purple with the odd bit of bold reds and orange to keep you awake. The plants themselves have been on our nursery getting bigger every day. Some we bought in, some were on the border already others we had on our nursery just waiting in the wings. It’s always great to get things in the ground but it will take probably a week to do so watch this space. Stop and say hello and any questions feel free to ask.
Friday 16 August
Head Gardener Simon has been searching for space and time to help inspire his plans for the garden. What did he get up to on his recent 'walkabout'......
It’s been a while, some would say too long but at the end of August I went Walkabout for a few days. The point of this trip was research so that I can guide the garden more effectively over the coming years.
Before and after I returned there were many that referred to my trip as a holiday, I can see the point of view and I did enjoy my time but as many of you will already know a journey away also allows thinking time and perspective, which can be in short supply when you’re in the thick of the action on site.
The purpose of the trip was to find some good quality peat-free nurseries that grow trees and shrubs, and to find some gardens with interesting woodland gardens and unusual planting styles that might help me move forward back at Wallington.
I’m telling you all this because that elusive process of clear thinking, gaining perspective and becoming inspired are actually easily attainable if you allow yourself the time and remove distractions.
We’re all different so are distracted by different things. For me, I thought it best to travel alone (that was a first) so for my days away it was just me and my thoughts.
My revelation about this process was that the days/nights mingled together to become one single narrative that built and became clearer with every step I took. By the end of the week, I’d almost forgotten how to talk to people, but I’m excited, there is a grain of an idea that is growing quite nicely now. I know the garden at Wallington well, and I know what it could be, my little “holiday” will play a fundamental part in the next 10 years of our garden.
I will end by saying we all need thinking time but we can only do it well if we know ourselves, clarity of thought is amazing when we achieve it.
When needed, I will try a version of this again its important. If I’m not clear where I’m leading the garden how can I expect others to follow?
The bike picture is my mode of transport for some of the garden visits, my thinking being a day that involves riding a bike is always a good day.
Friday 2 August
What's Beck up to at the moment down in the walled garden? You couldn't be thinking about winter already?
The garden is looking as full as possible, as everything has had a huge growth spurt with the warm, moist conditions we have had recently. The herbaceous plants are putting on a vibrant display, this time of year the softer pastels of early summer start to give way to the bold and brilliants; the Phlox, Achillea and Dahlias are unmissable. Sadly the weeds also really enjoy the weather and are doing rather too well! Summer is really rushing past as the whole team busily try to keep the garden in good shape. The place is alive day and night with pollinating insects!
In my world this also means everything is ripening and seeding and needs picking! In between the rain showers I am busy harvesting seeds from the garden ready for my wonderful volunteer, Jane, to hand clean and package - we rely on the money we make from selling seeds for helping to run the garden. I do keep some of the seeds back though - especially many of the annuals and tender plants, and use this seed to propagate next seasons plants.
I’m also picking flowers - not to put in a vase - but to hang upside down in one of the dark, airy sheds to dry. These will come back out as part of the Christmas display. I am tickled that last Thursday - when it was 28 degrees in the shade I was thinking of Christmas! The flowers I pick for drying as mostly specially grown for this job - they are often called ‘straw flowers’, and are often quite papery even before they are dried. I like to experiment a bit and try new ideas each year - so that Christmas doesn’t get too ‘traditional’! This year I am hoping that a lovely little annual called Ridolfia might look good dried - it’s a bit like fennel, but more delicate.
Then of course there is all the picking of dead-heading; picking off dead and damaged foliage and flowers from the plants in the conservatory; picking pests off the plants; and picking out tiny weeds as we hand-weed the borders.
So then I go home and pick the ripening fruit - I do wonder if pincers might be more useful than fingers at this time of year!
Friday 19 July
Some of the jobs that the Wallington gardeners get up might surprise you! This week, gardener Peter fills you in one of his more unusual daily tasks and gives you an update on some new garden residents.....
Whether it’s pouring with rain or bright sunshine there’s always plenty that we have to do in the garden. In fact we know all about the weather…
One of the gardener’s unseen jobs is to record weather details for the Metoffice and rain details for the environment agency. We are one of hundreds of places across the country giving information to improve their forecasting accuracy.
At 9am we check details such as wind direction and speed, visibility, temperature and humidity. We record yesterday’s rainfall quantity and maximum and minimum temperatures. I find this an enjoyable job, partly because the walk up highlights some of the best views that Northumberland has to offer, and also because getting to know the weather impacts directly what’s happening in the garden.
All weather stations in the country are built the same with temperature gauges housed inside a familiar white Stevenson’s screen. This allows air to flow through the instruments but protects them from rain and radiant heat. We also have a rainfall gauge and ground temperature thermometer here as well.
We’ve been recording this information for over 25 years and rainfall for over 50 years. So what stories does this tell us? We’ve started to analyse and soon will be able to show trends and changes, what we might expect to experience as well as exceptional phenomenon. Of course this information could be pertinent now to see whether Wallington is recording any of the effects of climate change.
Here are some examples of what we’ve found out so far:
Our maximum temperature was recorded on the 21st of August 1995 and was a scorching 29.1 degrees! Our coldest temperature was recorded during the same year- the 29th of December 1995 and was a chilly -14.2 degrees. Our wettest day was on the 12th of September 1976 where we recorded 65.1 millimetres over a 24 hour period. Do you remember where you were and what you were up to during on these days?
On another note it’s exciting to say that we are about to move our honey bees into the garden. We’ve been constructing a dead-hedge fenced area inside the nuttery area of the walled garden, which will house our bee hives. Honey bees can fly up to three miles, but if we move the hive less than three feet they return to their original site! So our relocation of bees requires us to move the bees over three miles and then back three miles into their new home. However, when they’re here I’m absolutely certain they’ll be happy in their new home and all will be welcome to come and see them…
Friday 5 July
This week, Head Gardener Simon fills us in on what July has in store for him and the garden team....busy times!!
Oh no it’s July!! July always scares me, until this month the garden can be very forgiving, we can rely on all those fresh green leaves and exuberant blooms; everything is new and perfect. The garden team work very hard but up until the end of June they have the “Spring effect” as backup.
From July onwards, Spring is a distant memory and it’s down to pure skill and determination from the team to prolong the magic. It’s fair to say that how the garden looks from July onwards is also down to a large amount of preparation from the team during those earlier months as well.
This takes me right back to skill and training again, without well trained and enthusiastic gardeners I’m in trouble.
Recently we’ve been advertising for a new Senior Gardener to join the team and by the end of a rigorous process I had the pleasure of promoting one of my existing team. This was very satisfying for me because my new senior gardener began her gardening career on a National Trust training scheme and through training, practice and shear hard work has become a gifted plants-woman and a valuable accomplice in my mission to reveal the full potential of our garden. From now on it’s all about detail; deadheading, pruning, weeding, mowing all need to be performed diligently, creatively and relentlessly. If we manage to achieve that together then maybe, just maybe, it will be alright and the garden will drift seamlessly into summer and our visitors won’t notice the effort it’s taken to get there.
So this year, with my Senior Gardener at my side along with my creative team of skilled gardeners, maybe I should try not to worry so much about July, although October keeps me awake at night, but that’s another story……
Friday 21 June
What's starting to grow on the south side of the House at the moment? Here's David to fill you in on what he's been up to recently.....
Hi. Part of gardening is about planning ahead as things don’t happen spontaneously like we would want them to. So back in May with the help of volunteers, we dug up the red tulips on the south facing borders. We then weeded the borders, dug them over but not too deep as wildflower seeds don’t root to deeply, then raked the soil until it was really fine and even just like you would have finely riddled compost in trays for indoor seedlings. This enables the wild flowers to root and bed in better to get a better hold.
The Red Tulips were called Il de France, apart from being a nice bold colour for that position, Charles Trevelyan used to hold labour rallies in the courtyard so it is nice to use plants to link up with and represent the history of Wallington and its occupants.
I measured and marked out the borders on each side in to quarters using canes. I used mugs full of seeds for each quarter and so that I could spread the seeds evenly, a bit like feeding chickens, so that you don’t end up with lots of wild flowers at one end and hardly any at the other.
Choosing a nice calm dry or damp day is always a good idea for sowing seeds; it is quite tricky sowing seeds when it is windy so if it is a bit breezy, it is best to sow with the direction of the wind. When the seeds are sown water them in to help to bed them into the soil. We have had rain lately so I have been lucky that way and have not had to water the seeds since. They took about a week to germinate.
I then put up hooped fencing using Hazel sticks, hopefully to keep little feet from going on the borders. After all a bare looking border can be fair game and seedlings can look like weeds. Unfortunately, those little four legged furry things with white tails have been doing a little digging but it is minimal and the flowers will cover those patches.
Working with the volunteers in another part of the Garden this week, I was asked the question why is it sometimes a bad thing to dig the soil too deep. After I explained, their reaction was a one of delight and they requested that I put the answer in my blog, so as requested here it is.
There are many things lurking and growing in the soil and not all of them are bad as one might assume. One of the good things growing in the soil is a fungus called Mycorrhizae. It spreads out in the soil like a gigantic root system and grows in to plant roots where ever they have any kind of damage or weakness. Rather than harm the plant it helps to prevent pests and disease getting in and the plant can use it to draw up water through the fungus from further away beyond where its own roots cannot reach when the ground is dry around its own root system enabling the plant to stay nice and healthy. When you dig up the soil too deep, you break up the Mycorrhizae and the extra support system to the plant. Digging shallow above the roots or tickling the soil as we like to call it is less likely to disrupt this set up.
Friday 7 June
It's all about the Hot Border for gardener Chris at the moment. Read how he manages the planting in this gorgeous, large border beside the Conservatory....
Hi again. Time marches on. Spring has definitely sprung and bounced away. The seasonal changes in the garden still have the power to take your breath away. Where once was bare ground a few months ago, six foot tall perennials are now flowering like mad. It’s almost hard to keep up with what’s coming on!
One of the biggest changes is in front of the Conservatory. The ‘Hot Border’ was a riot of Tulips and Polyanthus. A fantastic Spring display with bold blocks of colour. The Tulips, all 2000 of them, I treat as an annual. So they have to be dug up and removed. I use tender perennials in the design so they had to be taken out last Autumn and kept in a frost free place until now.
With the Tulips removed, the soil was improved with our home made compost and then planting began. The Canna, Dahlia and Begonia are the first to go in; big bold plants that flower all summer. Then the annuals. The annuals we use are all grown on site from cuttings or from seed. A very intensive thing to do, lots of space and care needed to make them look their best. Hopefully this year will be sunny and bright so they can put on a great show. Fingers crossed.
Friday 24 May
If you love to garden, you'll know all about pesky pests! Gardener Beck let's you know how she keeps on top of things in the greenhouses here at Wallington in this week's blog entry......
We are in the exciting process of appointing a new senior gardener to replace Alex (he left us a little while ago to go and be a head gardener in Devon) - so in the interlude I thought I would tell you some more about what we are doing down in the Walled Garden.
Last time I was admiring all the beautiful spring growth - and inevitably many creatures have had their hungry eyes on this too! In the greenhouses I wage a weekly war against the pest population - which includes all the usual suspects such as aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs - by spraying the plants with a horticultural soap. This seems to be the most effective and sensible way of trying to keep pest numbers in check here. The soap blocks the breathing holes of insects - spiracles - which is a grizzly way to die really! But at least it doesn’t poison the air or the water or the plants themselves. My greenhouse volunteers and I also do a lot of squashing and washing pests off plants. We accept that the plants will probably never be pest free - but as long as they look clean and healthy we are happy! And even inside you can watch the balance of nature trying to swing the right way - the spiders, the beetles and a resident wren - who seems to be nesting in the Ficus that creeps up the wall - are all helping to keep the pest populations under control for me.
We don’t use any pesticides outside - and in general nature finds a good balance. Of course - some years are better or worse for particular populations - last year we had so many ladybirds that I hardly saw any aphid. Some years we have hordes of frogs and generally we have a lovely big flock of birds who feed in the garden. We are also very lucky to have a resident population of hedgehogs who do their bit. They can sometimes be seen pottering about hunting at dusk. This one was doing his bit for Wallington the other night by hoovering up some of our insects! He was found as an autumn juvenile by a visitor last year. He was far too small to survive hibernation at that point - he was only 180g which is tiny- so we bundled him in a box and he lived in the shed and ate dog food and calciworms all winter. He was happy to potter off back into the garden in the spring, but he still has a taste for dog food!
Friday 10 May
However busy gardener Beck gets, she always makes sure she takes a moment to take everything in. Such a special time of year and so much to enjoy if you take the take a little time to look.....
This is a great time of year in the garden- as the place is so full of new life. All the spring growth is so lush and perfect - the new leaves are vibrant shades of green and are so fresh looking (good enough to eat you can hear some hungry little creatures thinking!) You can almost see things growing in the beautiful May light. I always find it amazing how the tiny little seedlings have their own character from the start - so when you prick out basil or coriander the smell you get leaves no doubt about what the little two leaves are going to become!
At the moment I am busy potting on seedlings, getting cuttings to root and potting on plants that are destined for the garden or woodland. The glasshouses and the nursery are getting fuller by the day.
No matter how busy I feel, I try to make time to appreciate the signs of renewal and new life that are appearing each day in the garden. I rejoice when I see the moorhen chicks, the first huge queen bumblebees emerging from their winter sleep, the swallows arriving home from their epic migration, the hedgehog poo on the mown lawns, which shows they are up and about after their long winter in hibernation... some of the new life is a bit less welcome - as the weed seeds are germinating well, and the slugs are also waking up - but I have to remember it’s all part of a bigger cycle where it’s all needed to feed someone.
One of the bits of working in the garden at Wallington that I really appreciate is the chance to get so close to some of the amazing creatures who share this special space. So while I am trying to fit another few plants into the propagator I am also busy rescuing butterflies who have been lured into the glasshouse by the gorgeous smells - but who can’t work out how to escape; while I’m watering I am avoiding tripping over the tiny froglets who are pottering about in the Conservatory - far too small to be out on their own!; and while I am weeding I am helping the cold, exhausted bumblebees get back into the air by giving them a little drink of honey and water.
Friday 26 April
This week the gardening team have been putting winter to bed in some parts of the garden. It certainly feels like a lifetime ago given the glorious Easter we've just had.....here are a few words from Gardener Peter...
Anybody who’s been experiencing the lovely sunshine over Wallington during the past few days would know that winter definitely seems over. In fact we recorded over 21 degrees at the weather station at the weekend- perfect for enjoying our garden!
It seemed apt then that in terms of jobs we would be cutting back the winter stems border and saying goodbye to this area for the summer.
Perhaps we don’t always appreciate the different types of ornamental interest that plants offer through the many periods of the year. Of course we all love beautiful flowers and the delicious scents and colours they offer. Or perhaps we like the design lines that lead the eye onwards to create that sense of intrigue and distance.
How about the ornamental interest offered by coloured bark or winter stems to brighten up the garden though? Here at Wallington we have both. One tree that certainly sparks attention throughout the year is our Acer griseum or paper bark maple, found in the orchard square. This tree with peeling papery bark, hence the name, is bright orange and soaks up the southern light during all seasons.
We also have a border whose theme is winter stems and includes plants such as willow, Cornus and ghost bramble (Rubus cockburnianus). When kept low even leafless their stems are bright reds, oranges and in the case of the Rubus dusty white and are perfect for brightening up a winter’s day. So it was these stems that it was time to cut back now.
By some canny pruning we allow these shrubs to regrow and for their fresh new shoots to provide the colour for next winter- and while we enjoy the sunshine we can also marvel at the cyclical nature of the gardening year!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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…
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.
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.