The autumn clear up continues in the garden this November!
The Dining room shrubbery is now in a state of limbo as we await the new lottery project to take place. It is planned to remove the yew hedge, or at least part of it, so that a view of the garden will be revealed for tea parlour visitors taking refreshment on an outside table. Brrrrr, not at this time of the year, I guess, although up until the time of writing this it has been remarkably mild, even warm, especially in the autumn sunshine. However, before any re-planting or otherwise is now done, it would be foolhardy to do much to this border until work is at least underway on the yard and what sort of barrier will be needed here. Because of this limbo, all that we have is some trimmed rocket & columbines, a solitary bush of Laurestinus (in flower) and the pinkish flowers on the groundsel bush. This is an October flowering bush, but because the flowers are rather insignificant, you would be forgiven for having missed it. And miss it or not, it is on the winter job list to remove it. We have taken some cuttings, which is just as well, as it is a Gilbert White Shrub!
Down by the old kitchen the catmint is still in flower, and in the border next to the Magnolia, the tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum ‘Tobaco Rosa’) are quite striking, being 9ft tall and topped with red tubular flowers. The species described by Philip Miller in his garden dictionary ‘seldom rise more than five or six feet’ and in some other reference books 3-5ft. Incidentally Miller says it’s called by some ‘the sweet smelling tobacco’ but whether this refers to the flowers or the leaves is not clear. I must say you have to be tall to smell the flowers closely! A more familiar species N.alata, the jasmine tobacco, was introduced in the 19th century, and definitely has sweetly scented blooms!
The bed outside the shop has been cleared of its annuals and has now been planted with bulbs. We have also planted the usual ‘broken’ tulips from Bloms in seven large pots and placed them, each covered with a board and a brick to stop marauding squirrels, behind the gardeners’ barn. We must remember to keep the soil in the pots moist.
In the six quarters the Cup & Saucer vines have done well on their tripods in the first (SE) quarter, with both purple and yellow flowers dotted over a mass of dark green foliage. The saucers are really deep frills and the cups deep enough to be called a mug, I guess! They are quite showy plants in their own way, although the mass of foliage does water down the impact of the flowers. Sadly, introduced from Mexico in the year before Gilbert White’s death, Gilbert White is unlikely to have known this plant. (These notes were written before the sudden frosts of the last couple of nights, after which I guess these tender plants will not be looking so good.) A large, much branched plant of the hardy vipers bugloss (Echium vulgare) makes a fine show of blue, and Gilbert White’s ‘Venetian Mallow’ (Hibiscus trionum) is also flowering well near the tripods.
In the other quarters everything is rapidly losing colour, except for the autumn crocus (Colchicum) clump in one corner of the autumn quarter, the purple Verbena, late flowering catmint and a few late Mulleins in yellow and white, and an odd late flowering red hollyhock. There’s also a few late Tradescantia flowers on the plants in the North Rose Quarter.
There are lots of Swan’s Egg pears and a few Catillac or Cadillac pears. Pears were very popular in the eighteenth century, and Miller in his dictionary lists 80 varieties, ending with ‘there are many other sorts of Pears, which are still continued in some old gardens: but as those here mentioned are the best sort known at present, it would be needless toenumerate the great quantity of ordinary fruit…’ By 1860 Robert Hoggs Fruit Manual was listing nearly 300 varieties and many more synonyms, so we can get some idea of the British (and French, very many varieties had French names) with this fruit. Gilbert White’s fruit, of course, or even just his pears, could be the subject of a book, and there is far too little room to make much coment here. Gilbert mentions 12 varieties of pear, several of which we grow in the garden, mostly as espaliers, but there is one free standing Cadillac pear up Bakers Hill, a tree dating probably from the 1950’s if not earlier. Hogg describes the Swan’s egg pear as a medium sized fruit with tender flesh, very juicy and having a sweet & piquant flavour with a musky aroma. ‘A fine old variety’, he goes on to say, ‘ripe in October. The tree is very hardy, and an excellent bearer. We need to get picking before they are ruined by frost! On the other hand Cadillac, Miller says ‘will be good from Christmas to April, or longer’ Shaped like a quince, it is a large pear, yellow changing to deep red on the side next to the sun. ‘The flesh is hard, and the juice austere, but is a very good fruit for baking, and being a plentiful bearer, deserves a place in every good collection of fruit’ Indeed, it is still recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society as the best baking pear. By next year we should have somewhere to store them!
In the herb garden we have excavated the soil from some of the mint segments in the centre circle (which were suffering from mint rust) and replaced it with new top soil from the car park area, left as requested, by the contractors. We have other jobs in the winter to do with the top soil! We have more to do! The herb garden in general is looking quite neat and tidy, due to the hard work of staff and volunteers.
The pond garden does not look at its best, perhaps at this time of the year, and the long grass and cornfield annual weeds meadow need cutting down and in the case of the cornfield, clearing and the soil prepared for spring re-sowing. There have been very good crops of apples on all the trees here. The Wheelers Russet tree are the lower end of the pond bridge has a good crop, but rather like the Cadillac pear is not ready until much later. It needs picking now, but its sugary, rich, vinous and aromatic (quoting Robert Hogg) qualities do not become evident until December or January. In fact they are horribly acid right now!
The hanger at the time of writing is looking at its most colourful, with the greens of the ash trees contrasting with the yellows and oranges of the beech trees. Later in the day the cloud of white mist hangs just above ground level in the middle of the park, giving a very eerie appearance to the scene. There are tracks across the grass where we have been taking hedge trimmings and other garden rubbish down to a huge Bonfire in the Ewel for Bonfire night.
In front of the fruit wall the Marvel of Peru are setting seed steadily, and are being patiently collected by volunteers. The grass will probably need one final cut. The shining sumachs in the orchard walk are of fine red and orange colours, sadly only the lower pair survive, the upper ones have died(except for one sucker): I suspect Honey Fungus. There is a fine crop of apples on the three golden pippin trees at the bottom of the orchard walk- they have obviously responded well to my wassailing activities in past years!
The kitchen garden is in good order with globe artichokes, skirret, liquorice and a forest of leeks for use in the tea parlour. The leeks have done really well and there must be over 100 plants and there have been double that number. The green manure phacelia has done well, although the tares or vetches didn’t work as well. The brassicas, now un netted as attacks from marauding pigeons seem to be minimal (is this tempting fate?) included Russian kale, dwarf green borecole and red drumhead cabbages.
Best Wishes & Good Gardening