Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10.30AM to 5PM & Bank Holidays

Garden Newsletter: November

We’ve had, so far, a glorious autumn- but the rains are now starting to come and we need to hurry on to get the garden up together before the more difficult winter weather sets in. We have had good attendances during the week but rather less at weekends: so don’t forget to come if you are a weekend weeder!

In the last few weeks staff and volunteers have been busy weeding & cutting down perennials in the six quarters and the herb garden, collecting & processing seeds, hedging, clearing annuals, edging, mowing,  raking leaves (on-going!) and working on the basons & kitchen garden. There is much more to be done!!

We need to rebuild the structure of the Dining Room Shrubbery, as there are gaps at the back where we have taken Viburnums out: thus in a border designed to have flowers all the year round we only have a few flowers on the one remaining Laurestinus, and a few blooms on the purple toadflax. The purple toadflax has a long flowering season- usually described as June-August, in fact it often flowers right into November in a small way. Long flowering plants are so valuable to the gardener trying to provide year round colour- even though its self seeding ability cause some to pronounce it a weed! A native of Southern Italy & Sicily it was brought to Britain the sixteenth or perhaps early seventeenth century  (It’s found in Lyte’s herbal of 1554, but this was of European plants, perhaps growing in Belgium) and as Miller says in his 1768 Gardeners Dictionary when

the seeds ripen in the autumn…if permitted to scatter, will produce plenty of young plants without any further care

 They have done this to great effect over the centuries, so much so that is now naturalised, especially in the South of England. It is certainly mentioned by the authors of early floras of the Isle of Wight and Hampshire by the 1850’s & 1860’s.

Under the Banksian Rose there is a quite an attractive plant with blue and white flowers. After quite a bit of investigation this mystery plant turns out to be the Somerset skullcap, Scutellaria altissima, which was introduced as a garden plant in 1731  from the Levant (according to Aiton’s Hortus Kewensis). In 18th Century Nurseryman’s catalogues it was known as Nettle-leaved skullcap, or in Philip Millers Garden Dictionary as ‘The tallest Eastern Skullcap with a Nettle leaf’ It’s now naturalised (like the purple toadflax) in England- but only some parts-Somerset in 1929 (hence the name) and Surrey since 1972- but also I see from my records I bought some seed of it in 2004, so is it possible the plant came from that? Whatever it’s origins, it’s certainly quite a surprise- especially as it’s unusual and of the right period!

Rose, aided by volunteers, has being doing a superb job in the six quarters and herb garden, controlling weeds and cutting down perennials. In the wall border (still in need of some attention) the old musk roses are still in flower. This is the vigorous climber that was later to be confused with the rampant giant Himalayan Musk: a mistaken identity that was later to be sorted out by the painstaking work of Graham Stuart Thomas. The bunches of large white flowers  have covered the plant for the last couple of months. In the first (SE) quarter there’s sweet scabious and  sweet rocket still in flower. The leaves keep falling from the tulip tree, and will I fear for quite some time. Many of these fall outside on the pavement and blow along to the front door of the museum, along with those from the sycamore on the Plestor (the green opposite the Church). Volunteer David has swept these up carefully for the last few weeks and made the front of the house look so much better, as well as sweeping many leaves at the back of the house as well. In the tulip tree quarter there are bright red berries on the butchers broom, whilst in the nearby annual garden there are still some sweet scabious and marvel of Peru in bloom. The gourds did not produce many sizeable fruit, sadly. Some lifting of the canopy of the tulip tree will no doubt help bring more sunlight into this part of the garden. Some of the annuals have been cleared, but it’s always difficult to remove colourful plants when they are at such a premium at this time of the year. The box hedging has box blight, we will have to see whether it can be controlled or else we will need a re-think on the edgings here. Recent evidence points to some optimism that the blight can be controlled. A single pink spike of bistort stands out in one of the rose quarters, and likewise a small bloom of wall valerian shines out in the rose quarters.

The hardy hibiscus by the black gate still has buds on it but has lost all it’s leaves. It has flowered well this season. The nearby laburnum arch will be in need of pruning this month, and training wires added. The border with the stone wall will need modifying and soil added. The wild flower meadow has been a triumph this season, and once seeds have been collected we will need to cut it down. It will then be interesting to identify the perennial wild flowers & grasses that have been undersown with the annuals!

More clearance is needed in the pond, and I intend to purchase more waders so that this can be done more easily and safely!  We have been harvesting apples here, but mainly from the ground as most have been blown down before we got to pick them. When we have our new fruit room we will be able to pick and store them! There are also lots of crab apples on the ground at the lower end of the pond which needs raking as a safety measure.

On the main lawn we have protected the ‘stump’ of the sundial prior to repair, which is now due to take place in about a weeks time. The field landscape is now animated with sheep who are making a good job of reducing the wild flower sward to a suitable length. Against the fruit wall we have planted a Royal George Nectarine, in place of the ‘Newington’ which Gilbert White planted in the exact same position. He purchased a copy of Thomas Hitt’s ‘A Treatise of Fruit trees’ in the year it was published, October 1757, in which the Newington was described as

both large & beautiful; its colour is almost scarlet without, also within near the stone, to which the pulp adheres closely, and is very melting and full of a pleasant juice

Sadly this variety no longer seems to be available. Marvel of Peru is still in flower in front of wall, together with one or two self seeded shoo fly plants. The cherry on the main lawn has now shed most of its glorious red and orange leaves. Richard has been busy clearing Gilbert’s historic brick path of weeds and leaves, and edging it- it now looks splendid and when we trim/prop the yew boughs we should be able to walk down it as Gilbert once did! Eventually we may be able to uncover the full length of the path.

Amanda, peter and others have been renovating the cutting beds and are well on the way to achieving this aim. The clary still has some colour, as do some of the calendulas, but most annual cutting crops have been cleared and we are starting to dig and manure the empty ground. The nearby apples ‘French Crab’ will be used with Medlars to make Medlar & Apple Jelly, so these will need to be picked and put into boxes this coming Sunday!

There are, as usual, many more changes than I’ve space to report, some come and see for yourself… I look forward to seeing you all this month at this very important time of year for gardens and gardeners!  The weathers good and the garden needs YOU!!!

Best wishes & Good Gardening

David Standing


Just a selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden in


  • Pick Medlars & Apples this Sunday
  •  Finish trimming Yew pinnacles in Pond Garden
  •  Clear vegetation from pond near dipping platform
  •  Clear up under tulip tree
  •  Cutting bed work continued!!
  •  Grass edging continued
  •  Six Quarters wall bed weeding and cutting down continued!
  •  Cut back Laurel  & Rose growing through Fire Escape steps
  •  Continue to Collect  seeds
  •  Strim weed under all hedges, in pond garden under mulberry, and by kissing gate mulberry
  •  Remove ivy from wall on corner by house/six quarters
  •  Continue to re-organise Compost heaps
  •  Continue planting/design work in pond garden: add water tub and bee skeps
  •  Continue digging Veg garden using hot bed manure
  •  Continue  work on Bakers Hill hedges
  •  Check, de-slug & water plant stands regularly
  •  Expand bed by Laburnum arch with new soil
  •  Clear plastic sheet under Holm Oak in the park
  •  Herb garden pruning & clearing (Elecampane, Mugwort)and weeding Bay & Rosemary Tubs
  •  Train new laburnums
  •  Complete new interpretation boards & start to print new stick in labels

 And much, much more!