Thursday, 30 May 2013

Man With Rake

Before I get to the main event I wanted to share a little anecdote. "I say - man with rake!"  This is was said by a visitor wishing to get the attention of a gardener in the rose garden, it was a few years ago now and the gardener in question was a colleague of mine who I am sure will be reading this. Many people may be offended if this comment was directed at them from across the garden, but not here, it has gone down in Mottisfont history as one of the funniest comments any of us has ever received. It still makes me smile thinking about it.

Moving on to the serious business of gardening, this past ten days has been really busy for us in the run up to the rose season. I can report that a majority of the wall roses now have at least one bloom fully open with the rest following closely behind. over the next couple of weeks we will see all the wall roses come into full bloom and don't worry you will receive lots of pictures as this happens! The shrub roses are following behind nicely and with plenty of buds over all the plants it is shaping up o be a stunning display.

Above is a picture of the beautiful Viburnum Plicatum 'Mariesii', this is situated in the first section of the Walled Garden known as the Frameyard. There are a few of these planted together to form a large clump and it's huge, in the picture is Matt and he gives a good idea of scale. This is a great plant which gives an amazing display of flowers every year without fail, I mean the whole shrub is literally covered in them. Not only does it flower well but the foliage also produces a beautiful dark 'burnt red' colour in autumn and looks equally as impressive.

Trimming the Irish Yews in the Central Garden has occupied Matt and Myself for a couple of days this week. You may be interested to know that this process is done completely by hand in the traditional way, we use shears and secateurs and take the time to carefully tend to each one. We even go so far as to use a spirit level on the tops to ensure that they are absolutely flat and level, I realise this may sound a bit extreme to some people but it's important to all of us here that they are pruned in this way. Keeping traditional skills alive is a necessary part of the job, it would take a fraction of the time if they were done with machines but in all honesty they wouldn't look half as good. And there really is a great amount of skill in being able to use shears and secateurs properly to produce an even, tightly clipped Yew.

And finally, here we have Victoria and her raised vegetable beds. The salad beds contain Carrot varieties 'Fly away' and 'Trevor', Radish 'Rudi',  Beetroot 'Boltardy', Onion 'Whit Lisbon', Lettuce 'Maureen', 'Rivale' and 'Tantan' and Rocket. Victoria is also producing an ornamental vegetable bed to contain Dwarf French Beans, Chard, Beetroot, Cabbage, Kohlrabi and Parsley. I will keep you updated on the progress of this.     

Monday, 20 May 2013


Hello to one and all. Last week saw us undertaking one of the last big jobs (there is one more big job that you can read about in the coming weeks)  before we really get into the swing of the rose season, this is trimming the box (Buxus) hedges that border the paths in the Central Garden. This job takes 2 people about two and a half  / three days to complete and believe me your back will not thank you for it! For this job we use battery powered hedge cutters mainly as it reduces the noise levels massively and means that we can work all day without causing too much disruption to visitors or our ears. I realise that some of you will be very sceptical about the use of battery powered tools, and to be honest with you so was I before we purchased them. However I can say that they do a fantastic job and are just as good, if not better than the petrol machines we used before (you will need several thousand Pounds if you want to buy though). The battery is worn on your back like a rucksack and is  very comfortable, all the straps are nicely padded and you soon forget you are even wearing it. The hedge trimmer unit is extremely light, nothing else can compete with it in terms of weight and that too is a great benefit. The reason for the bad back is not because of the trimmers, it's because the hedges are only a couple of feet high so you are bent over all day.

The hedges themselves were considerably reduced in size a few years ago as they had become too tall and wide. As a result of this there were a lot of holes and bare patches but now they are starting to fill in really well, and in some parts its hard to even notice what happened. Due to the slow growing nature of Buxus its still going to take a couple more years before they are perfect, but with each passing year they look a little better.

One of the most common questions at this time of year is "when do you think the roses will be at their best?" So for all of you who are thinking the same thing I believe that we are on course for a traditional mid June display. The weather has been kind to us and we've enjoyed a more classic spring this year and thus I would expect the flowering season to reflect this. Of course if we have 4 feet of snow in the mean time then my prediction will be completely wrong, but let's hope not.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The First Rose in Bloom

Good morning from a slightly overcast Mottisfont. Here we have the 'Anemone Rose' and it's the first rose in bloom! Every year there is a bit of competition between this and 'Gloire de Dijon' as to which will bloom first. These roses grow along a large south facing wall and get a great deal of sunshine which is why they come out so much earlier than most of the others.

To accompany the first blooms on the roses we have a stunning display of Myosotis in the Frameyard, there are great swathes of powder blue mixing in with the roses and Tulips.

 Whilst on the subject of Tulips we have some beautiful varieties in the garden this year; First is a pink variety called 'Survivor', next is a pale pearl/white variety called 'Angels Wish' and below is 'Cairo'. I realise the picture at the bottom isn't the best quality but the 'Cairo' Tulip is a
 real winner in my opinion.

To continue on from my last instalment - below is a picture of some of the Lavender hedges that were trimmed a couple of weeks ago. You can see how much they have come on  in just a couple of weeks, its a really good comparison.

It's an exciting time to be out in the garden as everything is growing like mad (including the weeds) and I find myself being rewarded with the sight of plants that I had forgotten about over the long winter. What a great feeling! I hope you all have a good week and are able to get out and enjoy your own gardens.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Life Begins

Firstly I must apologise for taking so long to give you all and update. We have been super busy over the past few weeks as the beautiful weather has meant that we can get on and complete many of the spring time tasks. This time of year is one of our busiest times as the garden is bursting into life and it seems that everyday there is something new to see, also we are now rapidly approaching the rose season so ensuring the garden looks at its absolute best is a priority.

Here we have Cat working hard to get the mulch down and spread across the herbaceous borders. Lots of people ask what we use as a mulch, the stuff pictured here is called 'Pro-Grow'; this is produced by the local council from all the green waste that is taken to the dump or collected from your house. After people find out what it is the instant response is  " I've heard that stuff is full of weeds and unwanted seeds". I can honestly say that here at Mottisfont we have never encountered such a problem(and we use at least 5 tons per year if not more!), perhaps we are lucky enough to have a council that uses the proper composting procedures. Whatever the reason, this stuff is really rich and packed full of nutrients and I highly recommend it as a mulch or as a soil conditioner. We also use well rotted horse manure especially around the roses and in particular the Hybrid Perpetual varieties. I collect the manure from the local stables as they are more than happy to get rid of as much as they can.

Another big job that happens at this time of year is trimming the Lavender hedges in the North Garden, the hedges get trimmed twice a year; they receive a good hard going over now and a lighter trim after they have finished flowering. As you can see we take off quite a bit of growth now, this is so they keep a tight and compact shape. Many people tell me that they think we have been too hard and I must admit that it looks quite drastic. As many of you know Lavender shouldn't be cut back to old wood because it wont sprout from there, this is very true but  the problem that arises from this is often people are scared to prune or trim them in a way that keeps them manageable. The secret is to be fairly hard and do cut into the woody sections of the plant but make sure there are foliage breaks below where you are cutting and the plant will be absolutely fine. hopefully these pictures will help illustrate the point.

The Rose Garden lawns have had their 'spring clean' and they look spectacular even if I do say so myself. The spring time maintenance on these lawns consists of scarifying to remove any thatch and promote good strong re-growth, followed swiftly with a good low cut, then they are fed with turf fertiliser. They also benefit from being aerated and ideally this would happen at least once a year, but I will admit that it doesn't always happen with such regularity here.

Finally the paths in the North Garden have been graded and are receiving a new top dressing of crushed slate which is one of the finishing touches. The eagle eyed among you will spot Murphy posing for a photo, he's our garden cat and a favourite with visitors.