After a week of dry weather (well, at Selborne at least, I hear there’s been showers elsewhere) and some sunshine, I think we can be forgiven for thinking that spring is on its way! At least, it feels a little like that in the warmth of the sun, but really cold at times out of it. It means that we need to get everything in order and control those weeds that germinated earlier in the mild winter spells (it’s officially the warmest winter on record, if not quite the wettest) before they really take off by self seeding and spreading everywhere. So, we need you to come urgently as stem the tide!…and of course to do lots of other jobs that we rely on you for each month!
On the subject of weeds, a major part of my job over the last 40 years has been controlling them… looking up at the bookshelf in my study I see I have seven books totally dedicated to the subject. Do we hate them, love them, can we identify them? Is this a subject for a day course or a training session? Often volunteers have trouble deciding what’s a weed and what’s a plant in the garden here, and certainly the distinction can be blurred.
I would like to warmly welcome a number of new Weeders who came along to our volunteer day on 11th February. Access to the garden is via the back gates left of the museum main entrance, and you are very welcome to come on any (or all!) of the sessions outlined above. As you will see there is a job list at the end of this newsletter, giving you some idea of the range of jobs we are tackling this month. We also hope to have a list on the museum web site quite shortly.
The snowdrops are perhaps at their very best now. Each year we worry that they will be over by March, especially following a spell of very mild weather, but it only takes a spell of bright and frosty weather, such as we have just had, to hold them back and keep them in full beauty. There are around 20 clumps in the Dining room shrubbery, both Galanthus plicatus & G.nivalis, and these look splendid in the newly weeded and otherwise fairly empty flower bed. In the front there is a row of crocuses, both white & orange, which is colourful if not continuous!
The Ranunculus bed by the magnolia has been covered & remains covered with straw secured by willow hoops as frosty nights oscillate so frequently with mild ones: my only worry is the slugs, but I have checked beneath the straw and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of growth yet! Miller in his Gardeners Dictionary (1768) instructs gardeners to dig the soil 3ft deep for Ranunculus: If I attempted to do so in this location I think I would undermine the foundations of the house!! (That’s my excuse anyway!)
We have drastically pruned the Banksian Rose near the shop doors, and when I say drastic I mean drastic: but it was something that had to be done as the plant was becoming very overgrown: it will be a little while before luxuriant flowering recurs! On account of this, we have decided to just light prune the other Banksian rose, the one near the great parlour, it has a stay of execution until next year! In the meantime the trampled bed beneath the pruned Banksian will need quite a bit of attention.
Peter has now pruned all the Limes in the front garden which now look very tidy and under control. David (Blacklaws) has kept the paths beautifully clear of leaves and rubbish- we may, at last, have seen the last of those tulip tree leaves that seem to blow around the front from nowhere!
Shoots are appearing in the bulb bed by the shop doors, and Emma has done a great job hoeing the rows. The Crown Imperials have emerged and are now about 6 inches tall, but growing fast. Rose has added a potted plant where there was a gap, but we still need to note the position of the back row of tulips as once again they have been planted too close to the Crown Imperials. As I pass the lines of fresh foliage belonging to these bulbs, a gentle wind wafts the smell of…well what is it? Is it Spring? Is it Foxes? Is it some other musty, musky smell? Whatever it is the Crown imperial makes an impact!
Miller in his Dictionary says
‘As this is one of the earliest tall flowers of spring, it makes a fine appearance in the middle of large borders, at a season when such flowers are much wanted to decorate the pleasure-garden: but the rank fox-like odour they emit is too strong for most people, so hath rendered the flowers less valuable than they would have been…’
Rose and volunteers have been busy in the six quarters garden, and some bulbs are starting to emerge in the newly cleared SE quarter. We shall be planting the herbaceous plants very soon now that the soil is beginning to dry out a little. We have also commissioned a new design for the SW autumn quarter which is planned to be completed this spring. There are bright clumps of Dutch crocuses in the south rose quarter and under the tulip tree, where there also some double snowdrops, although not as many as in earlier years: it will be a good idea I think to dig up and divide the clump here.
The north rose quarter has the feathery edged leaves of the monkshood emerging, as well as pink and blue pulmonaria and primroses. The untidy narrow foliage belongs to the bulbous irises that were planted here some time ago, although I don’t recall the foliage being so persistent in previous years. It is in this quarter that the best wild tulips grow (Tulipa sylvestris) and there are some in bud here. Most of the roses have now been pruned, and tripod have been mended. In the SW quarter, soon to be renovated, the leaves of the autumn crocus are well through, and there are lots of bright red berries on some of the prickly Butchers Broom plants. In the giant reed quarter (NW) there is another drift of wild tulips, but without much sign of flower. There are also lots of hyacinths beginning to bloom in this bed, and we can put those bulbs that were in glasses in the house in here as well.
The herb garden is looking reasonably tidy, and awaits some new plants- some of which are annuals to be planted later, and some of which are needed to replace decrepit looking ones. New volunteer Abbey has recently done a marvellous job weeding one half of the garden, for which many thanks.
Susan has been very busy improving the corner by the new laburnum arch. Another excellent job! A narrow curving border has been taken out by the wall straight ahead of you as you pass between the herb garden rock walls. The rock walls themselves have been weeded and we have planted some of our old fashioned pinks there. We can add more species as I grow them from seed this year.
The pond garden has beautiful drifts of snowdrops and daffodils in the top ‘woodland meadow’ as I call it. There are several sorts of small ‘wild’ daffodil’ here, including Narcissus obvallaris, the Tenby daffodil, and N. lobularis with paler outer petals than the yellow trumpet. The pond water is beautifully clear here: we haven’t seen any newts yet, presumably they are still hibernating? Peter has now put chicken wire on all three of those slippery dipping platforms (we feared somebody might go for an unexpected dip otherwise) and re-levelled the one that was slightly tilted. We
have also resurrected the blue, green and yellow arrows which direct visitors on three different routes around the whole garden: I have now made some changes to the leaflet guide which could soon be ready for production. Under the Gingko in the bottom border are some fine snowdrops: the Daphne mezereum is also in beautifully pink bloom.
The tulips in front of the fruit wall have made a little more growth, but not a great deal. The bed will need hoeing and edging. In front of it we will need to sort out the gravel path, and find again the piece that used to be under the laburnum arch. The main lawn, having been quickly topped off with the mulching tractor mower, has not grown much at all. Looking out across the park there’s a feel that spring might be on the way, but hasn’t quite made it. There are some drifts of snowdrops under the great oak (the one with a seat under it), and a couple of pheasants and a small flock of pigeons busy themselves on the short turf.
Out in the park Peter & Arnold have been busy mending fences and clearing up fallen trees. Arnold has fitted a new gate to the Ewel (car park) field, whilst Trustee Liz Try & partner Andrew have taken on the tree survey work.
The snowdrops are now perhaps at their very best of Bakers hill, both on the upper to middle slopes and between the laurel hedge behind the cottages and the orchard walk, where there is a virtually continuous cover of these very beautiful flowers. The paths here are very slippery at the moment, and we need to seriously give some thought to improving these pathways so visitors can venture out to see the snowdrops in all their beauty in a wet winter (and let’s face it, most winters do seem to be pretty wet!). the orchard walk is virtually just mud at this time of the year.
Keith continues to improve the kitchen garden. Perhaps the most dramatic change has been the removal of the unsightly wire fence between this garden and the paddock nearest the alcove & HaHa. We are replacing it with some post & rail fencing, which should look far more attractive. We are also going to have some new field gates to replace the dilapidated ones that have been there for over 20 years. The raspberries at the top near the little gate have been removed and their bed amalgamated with the large bed beyond: the new raspberries have been planted in one of the lower beds in quincunx fashion: we have chosen varieties to cover the early, mid and late seasons. The autumn raspberries, exceptionally, have been planted in a straight line. The idea is to plait the stems together, eighteenth century fashion. We now have a new bed of gooseberries, all of which are old cultivars dating from the early part of the 19th century, being some of the oldest varieties available: Early Sulphur, Leveller, Whitesmith, Whinams Industry, Lancashire lad and Howards Lancer. Both raspberries and Gooseberries will be used (with great enthusiasm!) in the tea parlour. We have nearly used all the leeks, and new crops will soon be sown or planted.
The basons await Len’s careful attention when he returns from the other side of the world. But he has left them in good order, so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle. In the next paddock, due to the very wet conditions it hasn’t been possible to construct a hot bed until now. We now have quite a lot of manure, but it will need mixing with some lighter material before we can get the beds up and running. David Lloyd, his manure, trailer & tractor have been a great help, we will mix it with some old hay etc from Janette. Thank you everyone! We hope to land up with some very large and productive hot beds!
As spring is approaching we need you all to make time to come & help this month: it is impossible to maintain this garden without you, and we now rely upon your assistance. The job list only gives a selection of the jobs that need doing, there is, as you will know, always more!! Don’t let us down this month, please! I look forward to seeing you all very soon,
Best Wishes & Good Gardening
Just a selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden in March
- Continue to re plant the SE Quarter, top up with soil, mulch
- Make a list of plants at present in the frames & poly tunnel, tidy frame area
- Weed under the Alcove seat by HaHa
- Replace field gates
- Paint Alcove
- Mend Hercules base
- Take brambles out of orchard walk by barn
- Remove the Groundsel bush in the Dining Room Shrubbery (Cuttings needed)
- Finish tops of yew hedges & yew pinnacles in pond garden
- Continue to Re-organise, Re-vamp, and generally make splendid the large plant sales area
- Continue to Process & Packet Seeds
- Sweep front ramp & Weed front garden and weeds by pavement wall (continued)
- Continue to dig weeds out of the tulip tree quarter, and then finish leaf mould mulch
- Continue to Cut grass edges everywhere
- Continue to Weed in Herb garden, replacing & adding herbs
- Light prune on one Banksian
- Tidy up drastically pruned Banksian
- Hoe bulb bed by shop doors (continued)
- Hoe annual garden bulb beds
- Continue to Dig & manure vegetable garden plots
- Finish building new hot bed
- Prune Bason roses
- Finish painting newly re-made hot bed frame, & Danish oil onto old frames
- weed out tufts of grass in top section of kitchen garden
…And much, much more!