Monday, 30 April 2012

Richard's April Garden Notes...

We thought it was going to be a dry spring, but thankfully we were wrong. I’m a firm believer in a good growing year being built on the foundations of a moist spring, and April hasn’t let us down. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the garden or on one of the lanes, saturated vegetation is ‘pumped up’ and displaying every intensity and shade of green… to experience the garden at  just such a time  is one of the boxes on the calendar I need to tick. At a busy time of year this can prove almost impossible, but it’s important for the gardeners to enjoy the garden; especially after it’s been dusted and bejewelled by rain. So this we did, late afternoon on the 20th April, whilst it rained!

Looking back at the house, standing in the middle of the central Yew lined path you are surrounded by four beds; Bed 1 is in front and right, Bed 2 is in front and left, Bed 3 is behind and left, Bed 4 is behind and right. The bright yellow Tulip in Bed 1 is ‘Bellona’ as well as the orange ‘Princess Irene’ and the Lily Flowered (pointed petalled) ‘White Triumphator’. In Bed 2 we have Lily Flowered ‘Burgundy’, ivory white ‘Alabaster’, rosy pink streaked ‘Flaming Purissima’ and the smaller Tulip bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’. A good patch of purple Honesty can also be seen near one of the corners of this bed. In Bed 4, under the tall Lawsons Cypress ‘Elegans’, is a good clump of the Periwinkle Vinca hirsuta with its blue purple flowers. Tulips here are the blackened red ‘Jan Reus’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘White Triumphator’, ‘Alabaster’ and the green and white ‘Spring Green’. 

The re-laying of the original paving in the Temple Garden is finished and I’m very pleased with it. Masons Tom and Will, helped by Phil and Ryan, lifted up the old paving and re-laid it. The gardening team followed on behind, re-working the beds. We started halfway through Cheltenham Race Week and finished on the 14th April. The schedule was tight, but the whole project was executed amidst an atmosphere of good humour; I will remember it for that most of all. The paving had become uneven and loose over time and it was necessary to relay it. We opted to retain the original stones for two main reasons… firstly we wanted to retain as much of the character of this part of the garden as possible, giving it that ‘old’ feel; secondly it could have been a waste to throw such beautiful old stones away. Many of the original stones came from a pile at Ampney Downs Farm in about 1974, when Mrs Verey owned it.

I think the paving looks old, as if it has been down some time; but the new planting needs to establish. Quite a few Roses have been added to the borders in the Temple Garden in response to one of Mrs. Verey’s aspirations (to have a rose garden if she had more time and space) and we have chosen ones that repeat flower well, and have good disease resistance; as well as having old rose style and fragrance. It is not all roses, we have added Paeonies (seed grown from Barnsley plants), more varieties of Viola cornuta (a real Barnsley stalwart), and other bits and bobs that have been gathered together at Barnsley. The old favourites are still there- Paeonia delavayi (Tree Paeonia), Magnolia x soulangiana, the shrubby Ivy given to Mrs. Verey by Nancy Lindsay. We have also brought back Lavatera ‘Barnsley’ to the garden via Ed. The old Fig, Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’ and Rosa ‘Seven Sisters’ also remain and will thrive after the removal of a dominant conifer. We also need to bolster the water plants and I fancy adding Water Avens along the narrow pond beds that also hold the Siberian Irises.

Leave the Temple Garden via the blue gates and walk on down the grass until you reach the stone path, and turn left onto it. Here is a pair of weeping Crab Apples, Malus ‘Red Jade’ under planted with Dog’s Tooth Violets, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ (the bulb is the shape of a dog’s canine tooth; albeit bigger). Turn immediately right and walk down the Lime Walk with its base punctuated by Snakes Head Fritillaries.
As you reach the end of the Lime Walk you will be entering the Laburnum Walk and its wall side neighbour the Winter Walk. Any time of the year this place is just lovely, words can’t do it justice. This is horticultural alchemy. Mr and Mrs. Verey created an almost church like corner of the garden. 

Carry on to the sundial - its inscription more apt to the modern world then when it was written over three hundred years ago.  The late playwright Dennis Potter said very much the same; but used the term ‘seeing in the present tense’…. don’t see back to the past and how beautiful it was nor to the future or how beautiful it can be; but see the present and how beautiful it is!  

Right at the sundial you will see the Frog Fountain that will soon be treated to a spot of pampering from a local stone conservator called Graham. Turn up the grass allee and the Broad Border will be on your left with lovely clumps of the pale yellow Viola cornuta, ‘Pat Kavanagh’, on the corner and at the base of a variegated Portugese Laurel; a stunning patch of Comfrey ‘Crug Gold’. This Comfrey was brought to Barnsley by Charles Verey and after various transient plantings around the garden it seems to be in a settled position. It is at its best now and will become greener as the season progresses. At the edge of the border, before the central path, are groupings of Bowle’s Golden Grass (Millium effusum ‘Aureum’), again at its best now- so intense canary yellow; displaying taller diaphanous flower heads as the season progresses.  

Both corners either side of the central path are studded with the powder blue Grape Hyacinth Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’. Past the central path and just before the Rose is the dark leaved Cow Parsley ‘Ravenswing’ and the tight budded double Tulip ‘Lilac Perfection’; another Charles Verey introduction and a personal favourite of mine. Although, ‘Flaming Purissima’ is staking a claim! Just before the next path that curves, there’s a tiny tapestry of ‘Raven’s Wing’ and Dicentra foliage, filigree! Next look under the canopy of a large Osmanthus and the blackened red Tulip ‘Jan Reus’ threads its way through various perennials, including Tellima, onto the perfect foil of the purple Rheum (ornamental Rhubarb). Sky blue Brunnera brings you to the end of the Broad Border with a corner of Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’. Walk on to the stone path, turn right between the weeping Crab Apples and then on through the iron gate, across the lane (incidently one of the most important trading roads in southern England during the middle ages), through the second iron gate and shortly on your left you will be in the Potager.


The first two beds, the ‘entrance beds’ as I like to call them, are planted with the Shallot ‘Golden Gourmet’ and Lettuce ‘Rougette Du Midi’. Just to your left is a long bed that exemplifies the colour green… jade green Crimson Flowered Broad Beans, yellow washed green Lettuce ‘Buttercrunch’, pea green Welsh poppy, grass green Jacob’s Ladder and green, green Box! All upstaged by the frilly edged Tulip ‘Fringed Elegance’. Opposite this bed is a bed of overwintered Caraway. To your right, in the long bed against the wall, are three teepees (made from the red shooted tops of the Lime Walk) planted up with the short growing Sweet Pea Cupani. This smaller and dark flowered Sweet Pea has an exceptional scent- think Sweet Pea overlaid with soft fruits. Opposite this bed is a well filled bed of overwintered Chard and self seeded Chervil. Another nearby bed has a lush planting of Sorrel.

Ed has also planted more beds containing over wintered Red Russian Kale, Long Red Florence onions, Parsley, Spinach ‘Bloomsdale’ and ‘Reddy’, Salsify, ‘Litte Gem’ Lettuce and ‘Bull’s Blood’ Beet. In addition, an over wintered bed of ‘Dwarf Vate’s Blue Kale’ is about to flower. One planting I’m looking forward to, is that of a long bed of the Chards ‘Fordhook Giant’ and ‘Rhubarb’ with an edging of the Calendula ‘Coffee’ that (if all goes to plan) will have the apricot/peachy pink Rose as a foil, fingers crossed!

Out in the field Mark is either picking  shoots from ‘Red Russian’ or ‘Thousand Head’ Kales (a much underrated green vegetable) as well as Cima Di Rapa, Spinach, Spring Onions ‘White Lisbon’ and of course Rhubarb! Vegetables growing on for cropping later in the season include Broad Beans ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ sown in two batches (late autumn and spring) for succession. Mark has also just sown a strip of crimson flowered ones (seed collected from those grown by Ed in the Potager last year).

Cabbages ‘Red Drumhead’ for the start of the game season have just been planted and the Summer Cabbage ‘Golden Acre’ is also out in the strips. Jerusalem Artichokes are pushing through and won’t be harvested until the winter. Lettuces ‘Buttercrunch’, ‘Cocarde’, ‘Little Gem’, ‘Arctic King’ and ‘Marvel of four Seasons’ are romping away in the damp soil and all the sowings Mark has just put in should benefit too... Carrots ‘Atomic Red’ (pink), ‘Cosmic Purple’, ‘Jaune De Doubs’ (yellow), Hamburg Parsley and Beetroots.

One tunnel is now taken over by pots of early potatoes ‘Arran Pilot’, ‘Rosabelle’ and ‘Swift’; it will have tomatoes in it later, tried and tested varieties… ’Coustralee’, ‘Sungold’, ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’, ‘Green Grape’, ‘Gardener’s Delight’ and ‘Shirley’. The other tunnel will soon be cleared of its leaf crops and put down to some quick growing crops, then, more tomatoes.

What’s next? Chickens. They’re arriving on the 25th April, so the shed needs cleaning and moving and the electric fence (fox!) erected.

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