Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Laburnum Walk

June 9, 2021

Three weeks later than usual, our laburnum walk is flowering at its absolute best. The blooms are far, far too high up sadly, because the laburnum walk went unpruned for a good many years before we moved in here. We are trying slowly to renovate the laburnums and hope that, in a few years, we will have a ‘laburnum walk’ worthy of the name!

May downpours bring forth Summer flowers!

May 19, 2021

A bone dry and rather cold April has been followed by what has been, to say the least, a damp May. We’re now at least in a period of sunshine and showers here on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border and the garden is loving it. Just in the last few days we have seen the first iris’ open together with the beautifully delicate polemonium ‘Giant Lilac’. In a week’s time the borders are going to be filled with colour with lupins and alliums now on the brink of flowering. This really is a very lovely time of year and the plants are loving the rain-sun-rain weather pattern. Gardeners on the other hand might prefer to see just a little bit more sun!

Green is a colour too …

May 10, 2021
The Long Borders – early May

We were strolling around the garden yesterday evening, cups of tea in hand, noting all that is still to come. When we reached the Long Borders, we commented that they don’t really ‘get going’ until late May, with lupins and alliums. Then we took a second look. Although nothing (other than the euphorbia) is in flower yet, the borders already look rather lovely. It’s not just that we know that all those fast-growing perennials represent so much promise, it’s that the variety of greens, is itself beautiful. Sometimes we forget that green is a garden colour too!

Tulip Season!

May 5, 2021

We’ve had some lousy weather the last few days: rain, hail, high winds and yet more rain. The rain is needed however, as we’ve had an exceptionally dry (if cold) Spring. The rain and wind has battered the garden somewhat of course, particularly the pots of tulips which, together with tree blossom, are the main interest in the garden at the moment.

As I have often mentioned, we garden on heavy clay soil. We’ve found it very difficult therefore to naturalise tulips (any tips very gratefully received!). We’re currently trying to naturalise Tuilpa ‘Springeri’, which is thriving in similar soil at Stocktonbury, a local garden which we love.

In the absence of naturalised tulips, we liberally place tulips in pots around the garden. Photographs of some of them are above. We love experimenting with new shape and colour combinations, although sometimes, it’s hard to beat the dazzle of a single tulip, en masse, in a large pot.

Preparing For Garden Visitors

April 29, 2021
Pruning Pyracantha (and dodging angry bees)

Suddenly we’re almost at the end of April and the first May bank holiday is coming fast into view. This is the time of year when we start to divide the number of jobs that still need doing, with the number of weekends until our garden opening (nine incidentally) and then try to suppress the mounting panic. We take the responsibility of opening the garden for visitors very seriously. After all, people are paying money, albeit in support of an excellent charity, to visit our garden and we don’t want to disappoint them. That means that, on top of the ‘usual’ gardening jobs, weeding, pruning, sowing and pricking out seeds etc., there’s also an awful lot of sweeping, tidying and repairing. We also are pleased to welcome groups for private visits to the garden and the first of these this year is booked for the first week of June, further shortening the time available for all that prep.

We know though, that in the midst of making lists of jobs and crossing them off, it’s important not to lose sight of why we do this: because we love gardening and we love our garden. Every now and again therefore, glass in hand, we just wander, invariably followed by both cats and both dogs and enjoy the garden that we’re creating.

Opening for the National Garden Scheme

March 10, 2021
Tea and cake are an NGS institution

We’re opening our garden in aid of the National Garden Scheme again this year. All being well, we’ll be open for visitors on the weekend of 3rd and 4th July.

This will be our 4th year of welcoming visitors to Wharf House and it is something we greatly enjoy doing. As many readers of this blog will know, the NGS raises money for a variety of nursing, end-of-life and gardening charities. The premise of the scheme is very simple: private gardens open for the public, at a modest charge and the money raised goes to support fantastic charities. The range of gardens which open for the NGS is vast, from city courtyards to rambling country acres. The vast majority of gardens are the creation of keen amateurs, like us. Perhaps this is the reason why we have always found NGS visits the best way of provoking new ideas for our own garden?

For obvious reasons, last year was a tough one for the NGS. Many gardens were not able to open at all. Others had to open with a much reduced capacity. We had roughly the same number of visitors as in 2019 but because we weren’t able to sell refreshments, our taking were down by about 50%. This means that terrific charities like Marie Curie, Hospice U.K. and Macmillan Cancer Support, received less money than had been planned.

This year, we hope to have our best year yet. We know that many people are desperate to get out and about again and with the fantastic success of the vaccine roll-out programme, we hope that, by July, a stroll around a garden, followed by a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake, will be just the thing!

Making Raised Beds

March 5, 2021
Practical But Not Pretty!

It’s fair to say that neither of us came to gardening with the construction skills that are so often necessary. Over the years, particularly since we started to make the garden at Wharf House, we’ve nevertheless had to turn our hand to all sorts of building jobs. Every Spring we have to repair the weir on the stream, which raises the water level around our little island. We’ve made a lot of raised beds, mainly in the veg garden but also in the working area (photographed above). We rely on help from family and friends with more demanding projects: pergolas, gates and the covered dining area which we love. Like anything though, with experience and practice, one does get better. You may not agree when you look at the two latest raised beds pictured above but we’re pretty pleased with them! Not least since they’re on a hefty double slope, dropping well over a metre from one end to the other.

This is the time of year when we try to get jobs like this done. The days are longer, the weather is a bit milder and the garden is only slowly waking-up from its Winter sleep. This weekend we aim to fill the new raised beds with top soil. We’re taking the soil out of the raised beds in our polytunnel, which are too deep and are showing their age. Before Easter we also hope to build a set of steps up a particularly steep bank; to put in a substantial post for a vigorous rose to grow-up and last but not least, to fix that damn weir once again.

Pruning Rambling Roses

January 20, 2021
Pruning ‘Sanders White’

Our biggest and most pressing job at this time of year is pruning roses. Pruning climbing and rambling roses presents a particular challenge, not least because the job is so time consuming.

The principles of pruning established climbers and ramblers are simple enough. We cut out dead or diseased stems. We cut out old stems to give the newest growth more vigour and space. Last of all we shorten side shoots by about two thirds. That’s the most important part of the whole process really, since it’s from these side shoots that the coming season’s flowers will come.

We have made our life significantly more difficult by growing clematis through many of our climbers and ramblers. You can see the obvious difficulties this poses in the photograph. It makes the pruners job even more painstaking as they have to battle the wilder growth of two vigorous plants.

Having said all of that, there is something undeniably satisfying about having brought order to the chaos of an unpruned climbing rose, particularly one which is tangled with an unpruned clematis. I know it’s not fashionable these days to admire ‘order’ in a garden but for a few short months, I do let out a little sigh of satisfaction when catching sight of a neat and tidy climbing rose.

Jobs For January

January 14, 2021
Witch hazel coming into bloom

This Monday just passed was ‘Plough Monday’, the day which traditionally marks the start of the agricultural year. The days are already appreciably longer than they were at Christmas. We have a good 30 minutes more daylight in the afternoons now and as the month progresses, the days will lengthen at an ever-faster pace. I try to squeeze every ounce of usefulness out of the extra daylight. I refuse to come in from the garden until the light has completely gone. As the days draw out, we’re reminded that Spring really isn’t that far away at all. Jobs which in November we would happily put off with the words, “We have the whole Winter to get that done”, now seem suddenly rather pressing.

There are four big jobs which occupy us at this time of year. We cut back our herbaceous plants in readiness for new growth in the Spring. We prune the roses. We mulch all our beds with semi-composted bark. Finally, we cut down the trees which will provide our firewood next Winter.

Pruning roses is a huge job. In the Spring Garden we have 5 beds, edged with box which are entirely filled with roses. The Spring Garden has four paths, in the form of a cross, which are covered by pergolas. We have climbing and rambling roses growing over these pergolas. Their pruning alone, is the work of several days. We love roses so, needless to say, the rest of the garden also has dozens and dozens more roses, all of which need attention. Ordinarily, we are greatly assisted in this job by family at Christmas or New Year. This year of course, we are on our own.

Mulching may be the job which has to give this year. It’s another huge undertaking but we have found that it helps hugely, not just with improving our heavy clay soil but also with suppressing annual weeds. It would be a great shame if we can’t get it done this year.

Cutting back the herbaceous plants is not a difficult task and it’s one of those jobs which is instantly satisfying. I’m not a great one for a ‘tidy garden’ but there is something undeniably pleasing about beds which look ‘ready’ for Spring.

Felling the trees which will provide the fuel for next Winter is a job which can’t be shirked. We’re lucky enough to have 3 acres of woodland here and it needs managing. That includes thinning trees to allow others to develop and flourish. It is however, a big job. In normal years, it’s a job the family help with at Christmas but this year we’re tackling it alone.

With so much to do, we really do need these days to keep lengthening!

Why We Need Christmas

December 23, 2020

It’s been a wretched year. In the United Kingdom, even modest plans for Christmas gatherings have had to be cancelled as the virus rages in a new, more virulent form. Here on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border, the rain is hard and steady. It is merely the latest in a long line of wet, gloomy days. The sort of day when the sun never really rises and never really sets. The day just passes from greyer to less grey and back again. This of course, is not untypical of this time of year.

And yet, today has been rather a jolly one at Wharf House. We have spent it making mince pies and sausage rolls. We iced the Christmas cake. All of this to the accompaniment of Christmas carols. It is this great festival of Christmas that lifts the gloom and gets us though.

The Romans celebrated their festival of Saturnalia around the time of the Winter solstice. The pagan Anglo-Saxons are known to have celebrated ‘Yule’ at mid-Winter and the ancient Britons before them similarly marked this turning point of the year, from the dark, back towards the light. And well they might because if ever there is a time of year when one needs cheering up, it is now. To say the least then, Christmas is a well-timed festival.

There was a time, not so very long ago in our history when Christmas was actively suppressed. The puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries slowly worked themselves up into quite a frenzy about what they called ‘Old Christmas’. Disapproving as they did of pleasure, never mind excess, they looked with horror at the last vestiges of pre-reformation Christmas traditions, which still persisted. With the defeat of King Charles I in the Civil Wars of the 1640s, the puritans were able to impose their peculiar liturgical interpretations on their fellow countrymen. It became illegal to decorate one’s home with greenery. It was illegal to attend Church on Christmas Day. It was certainly illegal to feast, drink or generally to show any sign of festive merriness. Christmas Day was not only deemed to be a day like any other but was even made a day of compulsory fasting. It is fair to say that these ordinances were not popular. In 1647, the people of Canterbury rioted and demanded that they be able to celebrate ‘their Christmas’. Up and down the country, quietly and behind closed doors, people risked fines or worse by continuing to make merry. Fortunately for them (and for us) King Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660. As one contemporary noted,

“Now thanks to God for Charles’ return, whose absence made old Christmas mourn, for then we scarcely did it know, whether it were Christmas or no.”

So, although it may not be the Christmas we either wanted or expected this year, it is still Christmas and we wish you all a merry one!

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