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

Garden Newsletter: February

Welcome to a brand new year in Gilbert White’s Garden! Things are starting to grow already! It’s been quite a mild winter so far, apart from a few cold spells, and the bulbs are pushing through. Soil conditions are a little wet, but reasonably workable-weeding can, and has been done! (unless we have snow of course, which with current weather forecast, is not unlikely) And of course, there’s rose pruning to do, so we shall be busy and need your help unless weather conditions become too extreme!

Next months weeding sessions are Sunday 1st February, Monday 2nd, Friday 6th, Monday 9th, Friday 13th, Monday 23rd, Friday 27th. The March Sunday meeting will be on Sunday March 1st.

During the period without newsletters-does it seem an age? – We have continued to make progress, as you will see from the following notes. When all was frozen we took to the sheds & barn to do some rather overdue re-organising. The tool shed now has hooks for most of the hand tools- so please return them- cleaned (a brush hangs by the door!) – to their correct positions after use. Amanda & Keith have made a really good job!

In the Dining Room shrubbery there are some fine clumps of the large snowdrop, Galanthus plicatus: Rose has been busy adding further clumps to make the display have more impact, and this is exactly what Philip Miller suggests in his Gardeners Dictionary, for he says

‘these roots should not be planted single, as is sometimes practised by way of edging borders; for when they are so disposed, they make very little appearance’

Gilbert White is unlikely to have known this species, which comes from the Crimea, for although, according to plant historian Alice Coats, it seems to have been known to Parkinson in the early 17th century, it was lost to cultivation for many years until it was re-introduced in 1818.

There are a good many flowers on the one remaining Viburnum tinus at the back of the border. In the front, amongst the pinks, we have planted 100 Cloth of Gold crocuses (Crocus angustifolius) to complement those that were planted some years back when the border was first designed. This attractive species has deep yellow flowers striped mahogany on the outer petals and was introduced from turkey in the early 17th century.

The catmint by the old back door is continues to look rather bedraggled but we have not cut it back until the snowdrops beneath are nearly in flower as the foliage protects any young emerging shoots.

So far, the French honeysuckle has survived at the foot of the large old Banksian rose by the great parlour windows. It’s been planted in the raised brick planter which gives it improved drainage and protection from the worst of the weather. Fingers crossed it will survive and flower this year- the small red lupin-like flowers are most attractive, although they are sprawling and may need staking. Rosettes of Madonna lily leaves are still visible in the border near the house & shop doors, and yellow corydalis continues to thrive against the house walls. The bulb border opposite has some narcissus leaves emerging, but there’s also a small burrow in the middle which looks suspiciously like that of a field mouse or bank vole which is very bad news. It’s not really practical to protect an area like this from rodents- be they field mice or bank voles- so I shall let them be unless the problem becomes critical- we shall then have to think about trapping. I hope that it won’t come to this!

In the first (SE) quarter is a fine specimen of stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) in bud. Clearly self seeded we need to encourage more of this attractive hellebore that’s described nationally as ‘scarce’ and in the county flora as ‘rare’. The first record for this plant growing in Hampshire is that of Gilbert White, who describes it as ‘an uncommon plant in general, but very common in Selborne-wood’ Miller in his Gardeners Dictionary says that

‘seeds ripen in the spring, which, if permitted to scatter, the plants will rise without care and may be transplanted into woods or wilderness quarters, where they will grow in great shade, and make a good appearance at a season when there are but few plants in beauty’

He nearly says it all-except that for us, at least, its also suitable for garden borders- although not so well in full sun.

There are bulbs emerging in the annual garden, but also signs of more vole or mouse activities, and some tulip leaves have been eaten off. If it gets too bad we shall have to try trapping, but under cloches or similar to protect birds and other wildlife. The same applies to the Fruit Wall border, where rose has planted some fine purple & white tulips.

In the pond garden the Laburnums all look to be alive and making growth. There are lots of snowdrops in the upper, spring meadow, but only 4 winter aconites- perhaps there will be more later, he said hopefully! On the lower side of the pond there are also many snowdrops and another 4 aconites at present. Many of these bulbs were taken in turf from Bakers hill when the orchard walk beds were cut out- coinciding fortuitously with the construction of the pond. We’ve got some open water now in the pond due to Rose’s and Amanda’s hard work. Rose has planted the native yellow water lily or Brandy bottle (Nuphar lutea) as it’s sometimes known, due to the flask shaped fruit and the alcoholic scent of the flowers (used to attract small pollinating flies).

Volunteer David has dug over the patch behind the stone seat in preparation for the replanting of ferns, but I shall hold of until the spring to see if any ground elder or enchanters nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) emerges. The latter plant you may know as a weed from shady parts of your garden. It has a mass of brittle bright white roots below slender stems of heart shaped leaves and tiny pinkish flowers and was first recorded by Gilbert White as growing in Hampshire in 1765. He discovered it in ‘great plenty in the hollow lanes’ in October of that year. Note he didn’t find it in his garden- too well weeded??!! We no doubt ought to have a clump, but not invading the ferns thank you!

It’s nice to see the sundial back in its rightful place on the main lawn. Looking out across the park, now nicely mown by the sheep last year, reminds me that in the Ewel or car park field we have been busy cutting down a tenth of the blackthorn strip (the area right at the far bottom end, near the house called Wheelwrights) to encourage the brown hairstreak butterfly, as in our stewardship agreement. The farmer helped us move the spiky top growth away, but there is a spring here so the ground has become very muddy and rutted. Many thanks to all of you who helped with this very prickly job.

The Basons are in good order, thank you Len, and all the hedges are now cut (special thanks to Amanda!), except for that section we are allowing to grow taller as a screen. We need to be bringing in manure for new hot beds soon, so Janette, I hope all is well & I will be in touch shortly! The cutting beds are in pretty good order, Amanda has being paying special attention to these and so we should be ready in the spring to sow a variety of species for cut flowers, and maybe some textile or dye yielding species.

I look forward to seeing you all this month, which should be a very busy one for us, weather permitting. So do come along and help to get us off to a flying start in 2015!
Best wishes & Good Gardening,
David Standing
Just a selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden this month

  • Control weeds in bulb beds
  • Plant ranunculus
  • Prune all old roses as needed
  • Clean all interpretation boards of dirt & green algae, esp welcome to GW’s garden sign
  • Check new Dianthus collection for damage, keep watering when needed
  • Cut yew & laurel hedge by annual garden/plant sales area
  • Treat box hedge for blight
  • Tidy and weed herb garden
  • Protect Arundo (Giant Reed ) with straw
  • Repair honeysuckle tripod
  • Continue to process & packet seeds
  • Sweep leaves off entire length of brick path, esp near alcove
  • Weed out ivy etc under all hedges
  • Remove ivy from wall on corner by house/six quarters
  • Continue to keep front garden looking spic & span! Weed & re plant foxgloves by tea parlour window
  • Continue planting/design work in pond garden: add water tub and bee skeps
  • Continue digging Veg garden when not too muddy using hot bed manure
  • Cut down Chinese lantern plants & weed Liquorice
  • Cut laurel hedge by way leave on Bakers hill (furthest away section, inside & out)
  • Check, de-slug plant stands regularly
  • Expand bed by Laburnum arch with new soil
  • Mend irrigation system & drain it
  • Order new interpretation boards & start to print new stick in labels

And much, much more!