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Garden Newsletter: September


The garden is starting to look a little tired- perhaps the gardeners are too! The bright fresh colours are giving way to autumnal tints and seed heads. Heavy rain as brought those tall perennials that ‘didn’t need staking’ to the ground. Dead heading, cutting down and tidying are the order of the day- and with all this rain the grass is very green, but very long. As weed vigour declines (hopefully!) the secateurs become more important than the fork- but both tools will be needed this month as we try to sort the garden out to an acceptable standard. Thank you to all of you who did such good work last month- no complaints re the garden from members of the public than I’m aware of- (except regarding the plastic bay trees on the front ramp! They have been removed!) so well done everyone for keeping at least some semblance of order at this difficult time of the year!

The weeding sessions this month are Friday 4th, then the Sunday Session is this Sunday, August 6th,9.30-1.00pm as usual then Monday 7th, Friday 11th, Monday 14th, Friday 18th, Monday 21st, Friday 25th, and finally Monday 28th. The October Sunday session will be the first Sunday in October, 4th.

Marel has very kindly given us several large urns for use in the pond garden and to beautify the rather dull view out of the Tea Parlour windows- for which very many thanks!

The Dining Room shrubbery needs a lot of attention at the moment- even though we know it will be all change when the new development in the yard takes place next year. One plant that has taken the eye is what appears to be a single plant of ragged robin, a fine pale pink flower with finely shredded petals. Where it came from I do not know. I will research it. There is a little colour from the fading ‘French Willows’- all three types here- the white, the pink (Stahl Rose) and the purplish, common variety, but it is only the latter which provides a little colour now. Incidentally, flower arrangers please note, ‘these flowers are very proper to cut for basons to adorn chiminies in the summer season’ (Millers Garden Dictionary 1768) But when they go to seed they definitely need cutting down before the seeds spread throughout the garden! The nearby evergreen groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia) will need to be removed to make way for the new path connecting the stable yard with the garden, so now is definitely the time to take those cuttings. It’s not a dramatic evergreen bush, but it is unusual- there’s only a couple of nurseries listed in the current RHS Plant Finder that stock it- and it was grown by Gilbert white, which makes it special to us-so it could be a good item for the sales table too. I understand it’s reasonably straightforward from cuttings, but we shall see. The bush by the old kitchen windows was originally raised from seed I bought many years ago, and has been cut down several times.

There are still flowers on the catmint by the old kitchen, and the Tobacco plants nearby are starting to grow away well. The marvel of peru behind are in flower. There is a fine tall white sweet scabious in flower nearer the shop doors. The Banksian roses are definitely in need of renovation pruning; I think they will need to be taken off the wall and thinned out, a late autumn job I think- and a big one too! Many of the hollyhocks are now over and have been cut down: there is no shortage of seeds! Rose has been very busy collecting seeds from all around the garden, with the help of volunteers, and of course there are still a lot more to collect as they ripen. Then there is the processing, which takes a long time this is a job that can be done at home- perhaps whilst watching the television!- so if this is something you’d like to do, please give me a ring on 07779 068431.

Whilst on the subject of chrysanthemums I have grown a few C. serotinum this year. Known as the autumn oxeye or giant daisy the Chiltern catalogue says ‘together with Mich. Daisies, it provides one of the season’s last flowering highlights’. Although not specifically mentioned by White (on the other hand he doesn’t specify exactly which Chrysanthemum he grew) it is in Millers Dictionary 1768 where he talks about it’s fast spreading roots as well as its large flowers, saying it ‘hath long been preserved in English gardens’. Am I about to introduce a thug? But we do need more autumn flowering highlights. We shall see. Incidentally, of course it’s not a chrysanthemum anymore, it’s now Leucanthemella serotinum!

We still have a good range of plants for sale, if somewhat buffeted by the recent rainstorms, and having recently renovated the stands by the shop doors we are now moving on to improving the larger plant sales area beneath the tulip tree. Plant sales are a great aid to the garden, and house in general, so when you’re thinking of buying plants, think of us first!!

At this time of the year plants with a long flowering season are particularly valuable as many of the summer subjects are now out of bloom. The first quarter is designed as an early summer bed, and so it is not surprising that it is now less colourful. In fact it is in need of major renovation, and this will be a big job this month. We will have to dig everything out and re-plant new material in the autumn/winter/ spring. Surprisingly the Goats Rue (Galega) is still in flower, cutting back has helped a great deal. Also in flower here are the white spider plants and the red wall valerian which liven up the dissplay. The rose quarters are now also fairly devoid of colour. The Tithonia, or orange torch flower, provides a lovely splash of orange in the annual garden. They are large upright bushy plants, and it is a new annual in this garden, but it was introduced very late eighteenth century or early 19th century so unfortunately we can’t really use it as a Gilbert White plant on a regular basis! The Morning Glory climbing up the arch is also colourful. The marvel of Peru, the big old tubers put in the rear of the annual garden, have not done well- perhaps they are now just too old and will need replacing with younger tubers.

The giant reed quarters has colour from the tall Cardoons with their bristly purple tops on top of spiky ‘chokes’, there is also golden rod and pink everlasting peas here. The giant reed itself provides a useful foliage contrast. In the SW quarter the American Asters (Mich daisies) are just coming into flower, and there are blooms on the central hardy hibiscus, H.syriacus. The largest one appears to be as purchased the variety ‘Hamabo’ which is said to be a very old pink cultivar, or at least like a very old one. The other one in the centre has purplish blue flowers. Also here our some late flowering blue vipers bugloss.

In the pond garden the Laburnum trees continue to grow well into the new arch, and in the urn nearby we have an unusual but attractive arrangement of dry flowers- teasels & mugwort flowers. Part of the annual wild flower meadow, which was so colourful and attractive has been cleared, and seeds collected. Nearer the bottom of the garden the perennial section is full of a variety of species and has also worked really well- we will be scything it down very soon! In the pond garden the bulrushes (reed mace) make a fine display- the lesser bulrush has a separation between the top flower spike and the familiar brown felted ‘sausage’, the greater bulrush (one specimen visible) has no such gap between top and brown bottom. The bog bean is growing back after nearly being eliminated in our clear water clearance earlier. A lovely plant when in flower, Mark Laird pointed this out in the recent book signing event at the Wakes (Thank you to those of you who were able to come- the event was a great success!) . in fact it was Alton man William Curtis- whom Gilbert White knew- who described it in 1781 as ‘One of the most beautiful plants this country can boast…’ The pretty little white filigree blooms appear in the Spring.

We also have moderate-good apple crops on most of the trees in the pond garden, with the exception of the lemon pippin by the spindle trees. Memo: enquire about cider making!! Down at the bottom of the garden the Danes or dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus)- noticed by Gilbert White on the ruins of the old priory- continues to spread, but it is spreading even more vigorously down in the old sesspit area in the park. When asked by Surrey University to provide some material for research (apparently this elder has some interesting medicinal properties) I was able to happily supply them with a whole sack of shoots. In my herbal it says the dwarf elder has more drastic therapeutic action than the common elder (which appears powerful enough!) so stand by! We might be able to sell them a good crop if they do indeed find it useful in medicine! Susan has made a fine little fernery around the stone seat by the yew hedges and well head.

The main lawn has been the site of our big ‘60’ made out of people, some wearing white hats. Some of the older men amongst us reckoned our hair (if we have any!) was probably whiter! All has been beautifully photographed from a helicopter, and the picture will appear in the local press shortly. A great success to celebrate 60 years of museum opening, a brilliant idea of Steve & Judith’s.

On Baker’s hill there are some more good apple crops on most of the trees.,(more for cider as well as eating!) The kitchen garden is in very good shape .- In addition to maintaining it beautifully Keith has been supplying veg regularly to the tea parlour and added some informative slate sign boards. We have planted large numbers of leeks for winter supplies, the wheat has been cleared, some of the flax gathered, the deer have enjoyed the beans (not quite true, they’ve had the lower crops!) and potatoes have been dug. There are some fine globe artichokes, as well as cardoons. The Chinese Lantern plants make a splash of orange on the bottom edge of the biggest top border. There are some good large pumpkins- over 1ft in diameter some of them- and some Turks Turban Squashes nearly as big. Keith and team have also been tackling the tall hedges on Bakers hill- and have made great progress. We intend to reduce the height of many of them- and the width- to make the work a lot quicker and easier in the future.

On top of Bakers hill we have a good crop of Medlars and the warty ‘Knobbed Russettings- which look horrible but taste good. Beyond this we are planning a new garden maintenance area- watch this space!!

Len has been keeping the basons in order- there are flowers on the hardy hibiscus, and seeds to collect from the St Mary’s thistles. In the Melonry there are melons and cucumbers cropping in the hot beds. The cutting garden has had a good supply of cornflowers and calendulas and the clary has come on well. Sweet Williams have also been good, with more young plants in place. No space to describe so please come and see- & maybe help?!!

September is a vital month for clearing up the garden- much pruning and clearing to be done, as well as seed collecting & processing, so Please come and help!! The weather is often beautiful this month so come and enjoy yourself in this wonderful environment!!

Best Wishes & Good Gardening,

David Standing

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


  • Re-organise, Re-vamp, and generally make splendid the large plant sales area
  • Collect & Process Seeds
  • Tidy up the Dining Room Shrubbery
  • Prune Lavender in herb garden
  • Re-erect the obelisk on the main lawn
  • Continue to sweep front ramp
  • Weed front garden (continued)
  • Weeding& Hoeing everywhere!
  • Remove Willow herb in Rowan Bason
  • Continue to Cut grass edges everywhere
  • Take Ivy off Gingko in pond garden
  • Weed in Herb garden, esp under pear trees
  • Remove fennel seed heads before it seeds everywhere!
  • Prune rose arches
  • Remedial prune of Banksian Roses (drastic)
  • Thin Jasmine humile in centre of tulip tree quarter
  • Take shrub cuttings (including groundsel bush)
  • Check, de-slug plant stands regularly

……………………………………..And much, much more!