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Garden Newsletter: December

The last newsletter of the year! With many thanks to all garden volunteers- without you the garden would look very different- and much less interesting!!

Last month we picked apples and medlars, weeded, cut down perennials, dug and composted annual beds, planted bulbs, finished cutting Bakers Hill, collected and packeted seeds, cleared and tidied our maintenance area (tidying however is always an on-going procedure!), and had bonfires- and much more!

In the Dining room shrubbery there is nothing in flower- the purple toadflax has been cut down and the Viburnums removed: so it is in a pretty sorry state as regards winter decoration. A re-think and re-plant perhaps? There’s still grey green foliage on the catmint by the old back door, but no flowers, but it hasn’t been blackened by the frost yet. The tobacco plants in the bed near the house have only just been removed, together with some French Honeysuckles (Hedysarum coronarium) which have been potted and put in the poly tunnel.

At the time of writing the Banksian roses Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ on the house are being ‘tamed’, long shoots heading skywards either trained back down through the foliage or cut off- there just isn’t enough room for all the growth. These roses are evergreen and thorn less, and have double yellow flowers with a gentle fragrance in May- an early flowering rose, but all is usually over by the end of June, earlier in warm springs. Graham Thomas, the great rosarian advises pruning out very old shoots, five years old or more, to ensure a continuous production of young shoots – flower production is greatest on 2-3 year old side shoots produced off these new, long stems. That is however, easier said than done, as extricating such shoots on mature plants such as ours is nigh on impossible. The technique we have used in the past is to take the entire plant off the wall every few years and have a drastic thinning! Bill Andrews, who gardened here at the Wakes for sixty years, tells me that when he did this to the rose (the one by the Great parlour windows- the one nearer the shop was a layer that Jim & I made in the 1980’s) everybody thought that he had killed the rose. Fifty years on the rose is still thriving: excellent evidence that this is the right treatment!! The ideal time to prune is in the spring- unfortunately, as this is a very busy time for gardeners. A definite plan needs to be made, otherwise good intentions soon never convert into actions. The rose nearest the shop doors has been trained round onto a north wall (North West to be precise) and still flowers there, albeit less profusely. These roses are only really happy in sheltered positions, as they can suffer badly in very cold weather. I’m sure the lack of insulation in the walls of the Victorian part of the building, combined with central heating in the house helps protect them in very hard winters.

The fruit wall has been planted with tulips. The autumn colours on the hanger and around the garden have been very good this year, yellows and oranges with red highlights from the sumachs in the orchard walk. In the gale, despite having been deeply staked, the obelisk on the lawn blew over and was somewhat damaged, but Richard has mended it carefully and it is now temporarily secured to the ground with much larger stakes. It will be re-painted shortly. The leaves of the glossy leaved Laurestinus, Viburnum tinus ‘Lucidum’ shiny out in the murky grey autumn light, as do the wild rose hips and a scattering of late scorpionsenna flowers. The narrow leaves of the evergreen Hare’s ear, Bupleureum fruticosum, and the purplish pink fruits of the coralberry also look splendid at this time of the year.

In the vegetable plot there are young green shoots on the Good King Henry and big green leaves persisting on the monk’s rhubarb. The two remaining sainfoin plants look to be surviving. Jean planted some leeks when the ground was very hard, they are now looking good so all that effort was worth it! We need to dig and manure plots here, we have an old rotavator now working and new tines on our cultivator attachment for the motor scythe, so after clearance here and in the cutting beds, we can do some mechanical digging!

So here is this month’s selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden   

  • Clear out the pond continued- cut around edges so detritus of pond can be left for wildlife to escape!
  • Continue weeding in six quarters,
  • Finish cutting Yew hedges
  • Finish cutting hedges on Bakers Hill
  • Continue Vegetable Garden weeding- throughout,
  • Fit last dipping platform in the pond when possible
  • Continue to clear out frames of unwanted plants
  • Clear cutting beds and rotavate, adding compost
  • Attach fixings for greengage on Fruit Wall 
  • Cut out old rasp canes & Weed pits in orchard walk 
  • Cut down Danes Elder in pond garden
  • Rotavate and manure veg plots 
  • Pot on perennials for next year’s sales table
  • Plant new Quincunx 
  • Keep sweeping up Tulip tree leaves, and removing them from plant sales area 
  • Put Lathyrus haulm around Arundo crowns 
  • Put hay/straw on cardoons and artichokes 
  • Continue to Water front troughs as needed 
  • Plan and order seeds for vegetable garden 
  • Work out a plan for next years hot beds 
  • Clear cornfield weeds area in pond garden and lightly rotavate
  • Sow wild flower seeds in pond garden
  •  Colour seed packets and process and packet seeds.

……..and much, much more!