So many thanks to all of you who helped in the garden and at the Plant Fair! Your help has made a tremendous difference and enabled us to have an attractive garden and a successful Plant Fair. The weather has now turned hot and weeding, annual planting followed by copious watering are the order of the day! We have just had the hottest July day on record, and our irrigation system isn’t working, so all isn’t exactly going to plan we certainly need help!!
Weeders sessions in July start this Friday, 3rd July, then there is the Sunday meeting on 5th July, 9.30-1.00pm as usual, then Monday 6th, Friday 10th, Monday 13th, Friday 17th, Monday 20th, Friday 24th, then The August Sunday meeting is brought forward a week onto Sunday 26th July. (I am on holiday from 1st August), then Monday 27th July and Friday 31st July.
Weeders had their annual outing last Monday to Stowe gardens. In the end, due to various reasons, there were only five of us on the trip: three volunteers and two staff. But it was thoroughly enjoyable and I felt we learnt something of what Gilbert White would have experienced when he visited in 1752, the year after Lancelot (Capability) Brown left his job there as head gardener. White seems to have visited twice in this year, once in early June, dated June 5/6 , when he visited Blenheim too (and possibly another garden-that of Sir Cl: Cotterel, about which I can find nothing)
‘Expenses in going to Stow gardens, sr Cl: Cotterels, & Blenheim with Nan Yalden, Benjn & c 00 15 06’
And again couple of months later in August, August 11/12
‘Expenses to Stow Gardens with ye Mulsos 00 14 01
He was clearly impressed with Stowe as he went at least twice. By this time Lord Cobham had established the garden’s framework and started its ‘naturalisation’. He landscaped 205 acres, built over three dozen temples and laid out eight lakes or ponds… and much, much more. In the early 1750’s, when White visited Richard Temple (Earl Temple), the new owner, was continuing to ‘naturalise’ the more formal areas of the garden. The grandeur and sheer scale of the site must have sent Gilbert’s imagination whirring as to what he could do at Selborne. If only he had the fortune possessed by the owners of Stowe! White may have referred to his visit in a letter to his friend John Mulso, but sadly the letter did not survive. Mulso does remark in a letter written later that month, August 19th 1752, that
‘the spirit of the excursion was over’
when they went the longest way to Oxford (presumably via Stowe & Blenheim the week before) but that
‘Sir Francis Dashwood has made vast Improvements at his Seat at West Wiccomb …’
Another garden to visit and one we mentioned on Monday!
Anyhow, in 2015, we had a fine time being guided around the site by Susan’s knowledgeable friend Michael Abbott , deferring lunch to later in the visit meant that we didn’t eat until about 3pm- perhaps the time an eighteenth century meal would have been served! Perhaps the most memorable part of the visit was the vista stretching from the centre of the house’s south front down to the lake flanked by two pavilions and on to the triumphal arch just above the town of Buckingham. Or was it the intriguing grotto made of tufa? Or perhaps the long distances we walked to find everything! Quite an experience anyway.
To return to a garden on a humbler scale, the Dining room shrubbery is full of colour from the French Willows or rose-bay willow herb, the pretty pink Stahl rose is there, although some seems to have reverted to the common form with pinkish purple flowers. The white variety seems to be very much diminished and not yet flowering. All of these are very invasive, as I have remarked in previous newsletters. My original attempt to confine the root systems to large pots failed miserably-the roots find their way over the top of the pot, which inevitably has to be sunk into the ground a little to make it less visible, and then make a huge network several inches below the surface. Rather like mints, not an easy plant to control. The great clumps of sweet rocket need cutting down, although in a way the texture of green seed heads give an extra dimension to the border. However, this will not last as they go brown and we do need a cutting down session, as has been done in the six quarters. There is a good clump of white Campanula, C.latifolia, and the
white rose Unique Blanche is in bloom. There’s also a spangling of single red opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) here, each one with black markings on the base of the petals. They arrive uninvited, but not unwelcome: I remember years ago fully double pink (Peony flowered) single red (the commonest form) and an unusual form with frilled petals (Laciniatum) all self seeding in cracks and crevices around the field centre (now the gardeners HQ) from whence I do not know! Not only are the flowers decorative, the seed pods are attractive too. So unless you adhere to the strict rule ‘there’s too many of them, they all must go’, which clearly I don’t, they are jolly good news! When they get out of hand in the vegetable garden (unlikely now, with Keith at the helm!) we have been accused of starting opium production, which I hasten to add, has not been the case. Poppies grown in Europe, I understand, contain virtually none of the opium drug, which is obtained from plants grown in the East. I am not investigating!
Down by he house the six hills giant catmint continues in bloom. The self seeded columbines now have attractive seed pods. Do people love or despise this flower? I hope the former as we have pricked out over 200 of them grown from Wakes collected seed!
The hollyhocks are now coming into flower around the house, and with thunderstorms predicted, staking has become a priority! The dragon arums are now going over (as I now have quite a good sense of smell, miraculously returned- for a while anyway) I can’t say that I’m sad about that as the smell of rotting meat doesn’t do a great deal for the garden scene1 In the opposite border the display of sunflowers and marigolds has been carefully planted by Emily, who joined us for three weeks as a work placement from Sparsholt college. She became a popular and hardworking member of the garden team even in the short time she was with us, and we were sad to see her go. This years tiered display is similar to last, with tall sunflowers, followed by annual chrysanths, African marigolds, dwarf sunflowers, striped French marigolds and ordinary dwarf French marigolds. All these plants are now struggling in the immense heat and need to be copiously watered to keep them alive. 250 years ago Gilbert White wrote ‘Very hot dry weather & no rain yet. We are obliged to water very much to keep things alive.’ A familiar pattern!
Thinking of the tiered display, which is really the ‘theatrical planting’ of Mark Laird, you might be interested to know that Mark has written another book following on from ‘The Flowering of the Landscape garden’. This superb volume with beautiful contemporary illustrations is cleverly entitled ‘A natural history of English gardening 1650-1800’ and puts Gilbert White centre stage. Mark is a great Gilbert White enthusiast (there are quite a few of us!!) and the book will be officially launched to naturalists and gardeners alike at Gilbert White’s House at the end of August: date yet to be announced.
In the wall border the York & Lancaster pink and white blotched rose flowers well in the middle of the wall, with the old musk rose (Rosa moschata) just opening its clusters of large single flowers at each end of the wall. Elsewhere the centre rose quarters are full of rose bloom, included the well known striped Rosa mundi (White’s ‘Monday’ rose) and the dark old gallica ‘Tuscany’. There are lots more to see and enjoy, so- come on over and see them, and, of course, do some weeding for us! In the North rose quarter the purple tradescantia is in flower. This flower named after the plant hunter John Tradescant the elder. You may remember in the older editions of the RHS journal, now called the Garden, there was an editorial column called Tradescant’s diary. It was only years later that I realised this was the nom de plume of Hugh Johnson, the author of the ‘International Book of Trees’ which I purchased and greatly enjoyed in the 1970’s. He also became an expert on Wine, writing some renowned and very popular books on the subject. He came to visit Selborne wine society, and I greatly enjoyed taking him around the Wakes garden soon after the plant fair.
In the tulip tree quarter hollyhocks, yellow Jerusalem sage and fragrant day lily are all in flower or bud. Under the tulip tree itself the hedgerow cranesbill is flower, and the lanky wispy stems cover up the rampant ground elder rather well. Rose has been busy planting the annual garden beds, and we have larkspur, cornflowers and cleomes in one bed, and ammi majus and the Mexican Sunflower Tithonia in another. We have not grown Tithonia before at the wakes, but it was introduced in the late eighteenth/early 19th century so it just about qualifies. The intense orange flowers come in the early autumn, when some of the other annuals may be fading. In the south rose bed the purple flowers of Geranium macrorrhizum make a fine show in each corner, and are a good colour contrast to the roses above. In the autumn quarter the giant groundsel, Senecio doria is now in flower: looking like a huge ragwort, they are not beautiful, but the foliage is good. There are fine groups of blue Vipers Bugloss here. In the Arundo donax (Giant reed) quarter the cardoons tower above the rest, especially good this year with a fine display of finely divided silver-grey foliage, the everlasting peas are growing strongly up their supports and theArundo itself is sprouting from old canes. It would be good to re-centralise this plant, as it has gone to one side of the display.
In the orchard walk the honeysuckle and the quatre saison autumn damask rose add scent and colour. This has become quite a dark tunnel with some dense shade from the over-hanging shrubs, one of which is Buddleia globosa. This has now bright orange spherical flowers and was given to the garden (and planted by) long time volunteer Jim Brett. This is one of two buddleias introduced before the end of the eighteenth century, this one’s introduction date being given as 1774. The well known butterfly bush, B.davidii, was not introduced until over a century later. The yellow summer jasmine, Jasminum fruticans, is also has tiny but very attractive yellow flowers by the boards of the gardeners barn at the top of the hill. When you reach the top of the orchard walk the sight of Rambling rector rose ahead of you in full flower is superb, a great mound of colour, and as you pass it the scent is, well, delicious I think sums it up. Ours must be a mound about9 or 10ft tall, but up at Wheatham Hill where I work there is one that has climbed 25ft into a Catalpa (Indian-bean) tree! Graham Stuart Thomas describes it as ‘thorny, impenetrable and un-prunable’. I do agree, but magnificent too!
The kitchen garden is neat, well labelled and full of interest at this time of the year. Rampion is in flower (an unusual root crop- I must say I’ve never tried to eat the roots- we should attempt this?), there are some fine large globe artichokes, the skirret is growing well, the young asparagus plants are establishing (well, most of them!), the liquorice is thriving, brassicas are thriving under Keith’s hand-made net (Wheelers imperial cabbage and dwarf green curled borecole). Squashes and pumpkins are growing on well after looking a little unhappy at an early planting, and there are four good double rows of broad beans. The wheat is still upright, but the badger may come in to flatten it any minute, and the flax is looking good. There is much more to see and enjoy here. Keith has done a great job!
The melons are growing fast and if we had have had time we would have pinched them back. But Susan has done a great job in watering and ventilating the frames and the display is good. We should get some good fruit if this weather keeps up! The cucumbers are slower, but also growing well. In the cutting beds we have clary sage, sweet Williams, cornflowers in blue and white (bushier for being eaten by deer!) safflowers, bells of Ireland, sweet pea painted lady, English marigolds and many more, but we need rain (or as second best irrigation) to bring these things on. Amanda’s careful cultivation has kept the plots looking better than they have done for quite some time!
At this time of the year we need your help more than ever, so please come and help this month to help keep everything looking beautiful!
Best Wishes & Good Gardening,
Just a selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden this month
- Mend irrigation system in six quarters!
- Weeding& Hoeing everywhere!
- Cut back rose, laurel etc coming through fire escape railings
- Continue Prepare & plant annual beds, including fruit wall
- Carefully mow labyrinth
- Cut grass edges everywhere
- Prune rose arches
- Cut down sweet rocket in dining room shrubbery and Arundo donax quarter
- Continue to plant tubs of annuals, put one on pedestal at bottom of fire escape
- Continue to Tie in Laburnums on arch, cut grass at base with care not to damage trunks
- Clean all interpretation boards of dirt & green algae, esp welcome to GW’s garden sign
- Finish Cutting yew & laurel hedge by annual garden/plant sales area
- Control soapwort in autumn quarter (again!)
- Take shrub cuttings (including groundsel bush)
- continue sowing veg seeds as appropriate
- Check, de-slug plant stands regularly
- Water pots and plant stands regularly in dry periods,
- Planting and weeding in herb garden
- Plant ferns by stone seat
- Water front troughs, sweep and weed at front by wall
- Remove nettles and make a path by taking out willow hoop to dipping platform at lower end of bridge
- Ground elder control in pond garden
……………………………………..And much, much more!