Monday, 8 July 2013

May Garden Notes

Monday was sunshine and showers, Tuesday was slow, steady, continuous rain; but today, Thursday, the fields were white with frost on my early morning walk across the water meadows of the Thames at Lechlade, an interesting week of weather. It’s the Festival on Saturday and ironically I don’t think the garden has had more to offer this annual event in the fourteen springs I’ve witnessed at Barnsley House. The cold early spring has made sure we will have a decent show of Tulips, even the Daffodils are well represented; the Laburnum Walk is way behind, more on this later. The ample rains and judicious light applications of a low Nitrogen fertiliser have made for green lawns that haven’t grown much this last week due to the cold nights, making Ed’ and Ben’s grass cutting duties much less involved i.e. not so much emptying of the grass box!

Looking at the house from the garden you will see, on the right, the lattice style ‘Herb Garden’ that has been cut back hard, in April, to get the discipline back into it’s layout. A topdressing of pelleted poultry manure, frequent seaweed foliar feeds and plenty of rain have stimulated regrowth. In the bed next to the Herb Garden Tulips ‘Bellona’ (yellow), ‘White Triumphator’ and darker flamed orange ‘Princess Irene’ hold court with the white collared and yellow trumpeted Daffodil  ‘Jamestown’. Nearby, left of the steps, is a small bed with a single pink Paeoni with yellow anthers, scented flowers too. The other day someone was frustrated that we didn’t know the exact name of it, it’s most probably Paeoni veitchii; but not knowing it’s correct name doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Many of the plants at Barnsley were gifts, cuttings, seeds…so quite a lot was lost in translation, with mystery comes magic.

At this time of year the biennials are the kings of the garden, powder blue Forget-me-Nots and purple Honesty, a real value for money plant. Barnsley wouldn’t be Barnsley without these two; but if they’re kings then Smyrnium perfoliatum is the Emperor. This shimmering combination of electric green and acid yellow is an exclamation mark throughout the garden; but it is in the Broad Border that it holds court. Also in the Broad Border is the purple leaved cousin of the Rhubarb, Rheum with Tulips ‘Havran’, purple, and ‘Jan Reus’ a blackened red. Nearby the Tulip ’China Pink’ sits comfortably with the pink flowers of Bergenia.

Opposite the Broad Border is the Laburnum Walk which is going to be late this year; still magical with red ‘Apeldoorn’ Tulips and thrusting Alliums amongst white Spring Snowflakes, Leucojums. Observers may notice that one of the Laburnums has had its major limbs removed; this tree has died and the time has come, I feel for decisions to be made. The Laburnum Walk is iconic; anyone who’s gazed upon the dappled sunlight on David Verey’s cobbled path can’t help but feel that it’s almost church like. A sympathetic plan to gently breathe life into this part of the garden is in its early stages, the aim being to have the Laburnum Walk for another fifty years.

Barnsley House is a special garden and place, it is also home to the early works of a sculptor, the pieces commissioned for Barnsley; not brought to Barnsley but created for Barnsley. The Sundial, the Gardeners, the Hunting Lady, the Obelisks all carved by Simon Verity. One such piece is the Frog Fountain, the Frogs were carved by his wife Judith and the head piece was carved by Simon. It depicts two duelling Cotswold Rams; but had become split and crumbling. We sought expert advice and on both counts it was said to be was irreparable.   On the morning of Friday the 17th of May a copy, carved by local masons from Purbeck stone, the same stone as the original, was put in place. The original will be kept at Barnsley House and displayed in such a way as to halt any more weathering or deterioration. I'm very pleased with the new carving and feel it is an accurate representation of the original, a little ageing is required now as they look quite naked in new stone!

We know all too well that in life change is a certainty, Barnsley House and it’s garden are not immune to this fact; especially when one works in a living, breathing work of art. Things die, wear away or grow out of scale. Our job is to respond to the changes that inevitably happen and help Barnsley House react to them in the most positive way; without losing the magic.

Over the lane is the Potager, Ed Alderman has cared for this part of the garden for nearly three years and this consistency is evident. Spinach, Mizuna, Summer Cabbage, Red Cabbage, Chervil, Sorrel, Calendula, Land Cress, Crimson Flowered Broad Beans all grow in the Potager with a background of really late Apple Blossom. He is also keeper of the Barnsley flock……

We acquired our hens from our egg supplier (Patrick Bournes of P&S Eggs), they are hybrids and a mix of colours…seven are quite dark birds, five are a golden buff and the remaining seven are white. These birds, like Patricks lay beautiful rich brown eggs, the Burford Brown egg, with bright intense orange/yellow yolks; it also helps that they are free to roam over eighteen hundred square metres of  ancient ‘ridge and furrow pasture’, home to Cowslips, Wild Sorrel, ‘Lady’s Smock’, Buttercups, Dandelions and of course grass. There are two exceptions to the egg colour….our darkest hen lays a pale green egg and the white hen that looks suspiciously like a cockerel lays a white egg; the other eighteen rich brown. They lay well and even through the winter we were normally getting at least ten eggs a day.  A lightweight electric fence wards off the fox and a henhouse for the night. We’d need to be farmers to be self-sufficient in eggs; but this is a wonderful way to showcase one of the many products of the local landscape and suppliers that we use at Barnsley. They really do look splendid and in great condition out in the field.

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