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Garden Newsletter: October

The good weather continues meaning it’s excellent gardening time! At least it’s good for hedging, hoeing and pruning not so good for digging as the ground is very hard down to a spit or so. We’ve had a long spell of sunny weather with temperatures just above 20ºC with just the odd rain shower  So please come and help out before the autumn rains come with a vengeance and everything becomes more difficult! Volunteer days this month are Friday 3rd, Monday 6th, Friday 10th, Monday 13th, Friday 17th, Monday 20th, Friday 24th. No sessions planned for Monday 27th or Friday 31st (Half term) but next months Sunday meeting is November 2nd, 9.30am to 1.00pm as usual.

Near the house the tall tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum, known 200 yrs ago as The Virginian or Great Long-leaved tobacco)) are now 6ft tall, hopefully some of the pink flowers will appear before the weather deteriorates. Growing through the lower leaves of this line of plants are some fine magenta Marvel of Peru, making a most interesting display! Further along we have trimmed the Banksian Roses prior to a more radical renovation pruning in the winter.

To improve the Plant Sales area by the shop doors we have managed to buy a few of the old display units from Springfield nurseries and with a little adaption these will give us a larger, more attractive place in which  to put our potted plants- all in the style of the plant theatre which Julian made many years ago and which has lasted so well.

The annual garden is still colourful with spider plants (Cleome) in the back row and larkspur in the front. The spider plant, I’ve found, also makes a good plant for a tub- a spare pink one at home I potted singly in a tub and it has made a fine stately feature. The dry weather has helped no doubt, as there has been no rain to damage the flowers, and the tubs are regularly fed and watered. Another successful tub at home has been the bright orange Chinese lantern plant (Physalis) with yellow flowered creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) scrambling around at the base and flowing down the sides of the pot – the two are rampant growers but confined to a pot and given sufficient fertiliser they give a colourful display throughout the summer and autumn, the Lysimachia from June to August and the Physalis on into the autumn.  As the Lantern plant was introduced mid 16th century (although not mentioned by Gilbert White) and the creeping Jenny is a native plant (also a frequent garden escape)  noted by White, I think it’s a good idea for a colourful autumn pot for the Wakes. To return to the annual garden, there are many flowers on the gourds on the back wall  and pergola but I can’t see any fruits, maybe there will be if this weather holds on for long enough. Deep blue and purple Morning glories give colour, though, to the pergola.

Rose, Sarah and volunteers have been working hard on maintaining the quarters and they are now more up together than they have been for some time. Most colour, not surprisingly at this time of the year, comes from the SW or autumn quarter, where the American asters/mich daisies give a bright display. Some of the Espalier pears have fruited well, there are six large Cadillac pears, suitable for baking, so they will be offered to the tea parlour to see if they can make an use it in an 18th century recipe. There are also a good many swan’s egg pears. This pear is described by fruit expert Robert Hogg in the mid 19th Century as

medium sized fruit….flesh tender, very juicy, with a sweet and piquant flavour and musky aroma….a fine old variety…ripe in October… the tree is very hardy, and an excellent bearer.

Pears were very popular in the 18th century, Miller lists 80 varieties, far more than apple varieties. This years fruit looks top be of good quality, so when they are nearing maturity we should bag them and sell them in the shop.

The herb garden now needs attention, as you can see from the job list attached to this newsletter. Susan did a fabulous job weeding throughout a short while back, so now the emphasis is on cutting down, pruning and general tidying.

In the pond garden the Hop (actually planted in the herb garden, but spreading!) has some very attractive flowers suspended from a long stem on the wall behind the hardy hibiscus. The Hibiscus itself has a good covering of white flowers. We will need to start training the laburnums, and once all seed has been collected from the meadow garden, cut down and rake off the top growth. There is still some colour from the yellow corn marigolds and the blue cornflowers. Near the Laburnum arch there are some dark mullein in flower, Verbascum nigrum., and the white Marsh mallow, a variety of the pink Althaea officinalis, is in full flower by the pond. This wild plant has bright yellow flowers with reddish-purple centres. There is a good crop of the Apple Lemon pippin, not to everybody’s fancy, but certainly a favourite of mine.

Hogg describes it as

flesh firm, brisk and pleasantly acid

There’s also some King of pippins, but they are small and rather diseased. Unusually there’s virtually no Wheelers Russets this year- it usually crops heavily- and the Blenheim oranges seem rather small and not particularly plentiful. Apple picking is certainly on the agenda in October!

One place we have had some success with gourds is in front of the fruit wall, where the bottle and snake gourds mentioned last month continue to swell and ripen. Harvesting due soon! In front, some nicely striped flowers can be seen on the Marvel of Peru, including yellow & magenta and orange & red. The best ones need marking for reference. On Bakers hill the growth under both the yew and cedar trees needs cutting down as it is starting to look rather messy. The grass on Bakers hill has been mown with the tractor and needs one or two more cuts before the bulbs start pushing through.

Keith continues to greatly improve the kitchen garden, the raspberries have been plaited as last year, and war on weeds continues to be waged. He has taken some root cuttings of  Liquorice from runners that were spreading into neighbouring territory. This is an experiment, but as the roots seem quite thick and fleshy we hope we have a good chance. Liquorice is Glycyrrhiza glabra . Mrs Grieve’s herbal (1931) tells us that

the plant is a persistent weed in cultivated grounds where it is indigenous and exceedingly difficult of extirpation..

!!! Watch out Keith!!!! On the other hand she says

the cultivation of Liquorice is easy, sure and profitable, and if properly conducted, conducive to the betterment of soil

Better! Oh and by the way

the action of liquorice is demulcent, moderately pectoral and emmolient

In other words good for coughs!

Len continues excellent work in the basons which have looked better than they have done for many years. We need to make a plan for some late colourful annuals to bring more colour at this time of the year. The hot beds are now finished and the manure can be used in the kitchen garden Unfortunately I think we’ve run out of time to make a mushroom bed, but next year?  The cutting garden is still colourful, but needs tidying and keeping in order after the big clearance in the last few months. The medlar crop is good and will need picking in November. As you can see from the list, we need you desperately again this month, so, please, see you in the coming month..very many thanks…

Best wishes & Good Gardening

David Standing

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

  • Clear vegetation from pond near dipping platform
  • Clear up under tulip tree
  • Cutting bed work continued!!
  • Grass edging continued
  • Six Quarters 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
  • Cut down hogweed and other grasses etc near pond
  • Remove ivy from wall on corner by house/six quarters
  • Continue Hoeing & Weeding veg garden
  • Cut back herb garden vine
  • Continue to re-organise Compost heaps
  • Continue planting/design work in pond garden: add water tub and bee skeps
  •  Begin 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 (dead mullein etc) and weeding
  • Train new laburnums as they grow…
  • Complete new interpretation boards & start to print new stick in labels


And much, much more!