Tuesday 8 October 2013

A splendid last planting (but not the last post)

Tues 27th Aug
Weather: Hot, a day where the sun felt like it was beating down on us. Up to 21°C.

One of the jobs given to me in my last week at Dixter, was the delightful task of planting up The Solar Garden, which was more than I could ask for. I have seen it through many phases, from planting tulip bulbs, to peasticking over a hundred antirrhinums in which Leo Böhm joined me in this painstaking task. And to whom I would like to dedicate the first pictures to:

We have had a fair few days of very windy weather this year, and even when the garden was being blown apart. These Antirrhinum majus 'La Bella Bronze & Red Series' remained proudly standing and barely ruffled.

I worked with James and Siew Lee. We placed boards over the lawn and methodically & almost meditatively we went through the whole bed taking out all the snapdragons and peasticks. Some of the better peasticks we saved, in case we needed any that season, and 10 - 12 strong plants of each colour of antirrhinums, which we put in recycled compost bags in crates. We dug out and collected bulbs of Tulipa 'Daydream' to store away for winter and then dug the bed over very thoroughly, so that it was a lovely fine tilth.

We looked at what stock we had and brought up a handful of things to try out, including a lot of Salvia Splendens 'Bonfire' and 'Flares' (shorter than 'Bonfire') which we had originally grown with that area in mind, Coleus palisandra and Erigeron annuus. We played around with these and made different combinations, even laying them out fully to see what they would look like. The Coleus palisandra although a wonderful deep dark purple plant, we decided was too dark, it seemed to just absorb colour and just got lost in the planting, and we didn't have enough of it to make something of it.

Lining out Salvia splendens 'Bonfire' and 'Flares'. Bonfire is a taller plant, Flares is smaller but
with a lot of flowers and is also a bit brighter. 

In the end we decided to definitely start placing out the taller Salvia splendens 'Bonfire' at the back. Then using this one and 'Flares' we tried to create an undulation of red. This type of Salvia would not usually be my obvious choice, my first gut reaction to them I had to admit was that I found them hideous, but I always like to challenge feelings like this. If anywhere can do it, it is Dixter who can show me how a typical council bedding plant can be totally subverted and made into something extraordinary. And it was not an exception this time. Even I could see what an amazing impact they made when they were all lined out. We laid them out in the bed, then Fergus came and gave his magic touch and made them even better. Then he had the idea of putting some Euphorbia donii amongst them. Surprisingly the bright lime green of the euphorbia actually seemed to mellow the colour of the salvias.

Close up of Salvia splendens 'Bonfire' and Euphorbia donii. 

In the end we decided to plant some Erigeron annuus at the back at various spots, to spray out. The whole planting is very experimental - it is to be seen how long the salvias and euphorbia will last, and it is an area where we want the plants to go on for as long as possible.

The Solar Garden bed after planting.

Tidying up the garden stock

Weds 20th Aug
Weather: Hot. Around 20°C.

Today we went through the garden stock, getting rid of, weeding, tidying up and organising. Siphoning off excess for sale in the nursery and to donate to Northiam Horticultural Society. As a trial we did some radical cutting back of some very well furnished Hosta sp.

Thurs 21st Aug
Weather: Sunny, up to 22°C.

Still going through the garden stock, including repotting a monster sized Geranium maderense. We left any dead stems as they help to prop up the plant. We organised a lot of unknown Hedychium and was able to at least identify Hedychium forrestii as they have slightly hairy leaves.

Fri 22nd Aug
Weather: Hot
We did more freshening up of the kitchen driveway by weeding and taking out brown bits.

Mon 26th Aug
Weather: Dull in the morning and hot later in the day.
Nursery duty.

The meadows have started to be cut in the last week or so. It signifies the approach of autumn arriving, which though beautiful in its course is melancholic. I can't help for it to reflect my sadness for the eventuality of my leave and the end of my scholarship here. But that is because I have had a good time here, it is part of the cycle, it is an end as well as an exciting beginning where I can't wait to take the skills I have learnt at Dixter out yonder.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Furnishing the Exotic Garden

Mon 12th Aug
Weather: Fair
Maria Castro who is the current HBGBS trainee at Fulham Palace and my peer has come to work with me at Dixter this week, and it was great to have someone with so much energy. We did more staking in the Exotic Garden - more Eupatorium capillifolium, Amicia zygomeris and Dahlia australis. And took out overly brown leaves of Musa basjoo and Tetrapanax papyrifer. The routine has started now, where every gardener is assigned an area to brush up and deadhead up until the garden closes again for winter. My responsibility is the Exotic Garden - a full circle to where I began when I started my scholarship. After that we staked up some Amaranthus 'Autumn Palette' in the Peacock Garden - this is a great amaranthus, as it starts off a light rusty orange and goes deeper, darker and more prominent as it matures.

Maria staking Amaranthus 'Autumn Palette'

Tues 13th Aug
Weather: Hot, bright and sunny.
We planted in the last layer of the Exotic Garden to 'furnish' it. First we laid out a selection of plants underneath the cow shed next to the Exotic Garden, mainly from the greenhouses, so we could see what we had for our palette.

We planted in Hedychium sp, Tibouchina urvillieana, Musa Basjoo, Tagetes lemonii 'Martin's Mutant'. ferns including Adiantum sp.

Planting of Tibouchina urvilleana

Weds 14th Aug
Weather: Changeable but comfortable, moments of sun and overcast. Up to 20°C.

We carried on with more planting in the Exotic Garden, using more Tibouchina urvilleana & Tagetes lemonii (they're a great foliage plant), Persicara virginana 'Tobara'...

Persicaria virginia 'Tobara' next to what I think is a type of Dasylirion  

- Begonia metallica and a Phormium cookianum subsp. hookeri 'Tricolor'

We also replaced a Impatiens bicaudata, as the previous one that had planted had become sick and dying.

The beds in the Exotic Garden is like mounds, so when we are planting at the edge, we dig a sort of diagonal hole down and tip the plants forward, so that it sits more naturally.

We helped Fergus but mainly observing him plant out Gazania sp. and Tagetes cinnabar in the High Garden. It's always a pleasure being able to see Fergus at work, as he's so fast yet precise & intuitive. He trimmed the Tagetes in a way that created an undulation which is highly unusual, but it works!

For a section next to it we brought up some Tagetes patula 'Cinnabar' from the garden stock in the nursery, and positioned them out ready for planting, using stakes and string to make a temporary structure to prevent them from falling down.

Thurs 15th Aug
Weather: Warm. Up to about 22°C.

We planted in the Tagetes patula 'Cinnabar' we had 8 or 9 plants and had to bring up almost the double again, space always absorbs more plants than you think.

The patch of Tagetes Patula 'Cinnabar' that we planted.

James gave a talk on his Japan exchange at the Millenium Park Forest over lunch.

Then we weeded the much needed back of the Education Room, where it is still a rough space, where excess garden & nursery stock has been temporarily planted, and where students like me can use to grow their own - I have been using it as a space to grow a few bits of my own vegetable and to do plants experiments (growing things that I have never grown to see how they grow).

We weeded in the education room but left nice self-sowers like these magnificient
Dipthrascus fullonum

Fri 16th Aug
Weather: The nice summer weather continues.
I started the day with my morning routine of brushing up and deadheading the Exotic Garden. As we had finished the last main level of planting in the Exotic Garden we put all the unused plants back. Then we repotted some Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana.

Gardeners get the best perspective

Mon 29th July
Weather: Windy & rainy.

Right in the midst of the jungle. 

It was very windy and we had to do emergency staking all around the garden of plants that would be affected and that we had not got round to staking yet. So we went round stabilising all Verbascum olympicum & Verbascum 'Christo's Yellow Lightning'. It was a rare opportunity to go into the middle of the beds at this time of the year, which are so dense that it was quite a feat to go in and out of them and for them to remain looking undisturbed. It was great to see the border/ garden from a perspective that one usually doesn't get to see - gardeners get the best perspectives.

View within the border, well and truly surrounded and encompassed by plants. 

For the stakes we malleted in short chestnut poles, recycled broom handles or thick canes, then tied two sets of tarred twine around them, using the clove hitch knot and figure of 8 technique around the plant.

Tues 30th July
Weather: Similar to yesterday

We finished staking all the verbascums (there's a lot of them!)
Then I went to stake a Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity' & Rudbeckia sp. The rudbeckia was actually fine, but we were just pre-empting its need for support soon. With these we used the usual staking method (just with usual green twine and a single string around the plant). We don't use many varieties of Cosmos, only tried and trusted ones, as we demand from them to be tall and evenly floriferous, and not many are. 'Dazzler' & 'Purity' are good reliable ones, and I have seen 'Candy Stripe' doing very well at Gravetye as well.

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity' on a good day, with its billowy grace. 

Weds 31st July
Weather: Fairer, more still weather.
We decided that the string tying I had done on the Cosmos & Rudbeckia was too high and now as it was easier to see (not fighting against wind and drizzle) I went to adjust them. Then work started again in the Exotic Garden.

Thurs 1st Aug
Weather: Really hot up to 28°C.

In the Exotic Garden we are now preparing it for the third and last layer of planting - thinning out more Mysotis sylvatica 'Royal Blue' and Verbena bonariensis and staking Eupatorium capillifolium & Impatiens bicaudata.

Weds 7th Aug
Weather: Cooler, up to 20°C. Cloudy & overcast most of the day, slightly humid but not uncomfortable.

More weeding around the Hemerocallis trial bed. Many have had their moment now and are over.

Thurs 8th Aug
Weather: Up to 22°C but felt hotter.

I did some planting throughout the Long Border and plugged some gaps with the Dixter classic Tagetes patula 'Cinnabar' and some Geranium × riversleaianum 'Russell Pritchard'. I cut back some spent Geranium pratense leaves, and took out some spent Centaurea cyanus 'Blue Diadem', that still had a lot of colour going for it and had only just turned.

Fri 9th Aug
Weather: Similar to yesterday.

Some tall Silphium perfoliatum at the back of the Long Border was leaning onto the yew hedging. So I drove some tall stakes at intervals behind the mass of plants and threaded a none slip rope between them, to prop the silphium up.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

The day of the Hemerocallis trials

Sat 20th July
Weather: Warm, overcast but dry.

Listening in on the experts. The swathe of daylilies on the bottom are Dixter's own stock of Hemerocallis
'Marion Vaughn'. These were not part of the trials though, as they are already 2 or 3 years old,
and all plants were in their first year. 

It was a much awaited day, where the British Hemerocallis & Hosta Society came to judge the Hemerocallis, They couldn't have picked a better day, overcast but warm & dry, most of the Hems had come into flower just over a week ago. The RHS Herbaceous Perennial Committee had separately come to do their meeting and it was interesting how their judging criteria are different. The BHHS society set about deadheading the flowers as they felt that they needed to be seen in the best light, whilst the RHS committee group felt it was important to leave the dead on the plants, to see how they die. I agreed that the dead should be left, as it did make a difference if they quietly shrivelled and dropped off, or melted like a flaccid balloon in a horrifyingly showy way. Also to see if flower colours faded early. But I feel both methods are valid can be accommodated in one trial, and the Hemerocallis did look a lot better deadheaded. It just went to prove that working out what set of criteria you chose to judge and measure a plant was important and not straightforward.

Being presented the almighty Hemerocallis 'Barbara Alsop' and receiving on behalf of Fergus & Dixter.

It was one of those days that I learnt a lot through listening - what made good flowers - spacing of scapes (flowering branches) were important. How they held themselves above the foliage. The different trends of flowers. Producing red flowers have been one of the latest achievements of breeding, it was good to consider if the throat of your plant was green and yellow, as that can make a difference to how it offsets a colour, another plant when used in the border and in combination with other plants. How there have been moments that indentations or textures on a flower has been all the breeders rage. The latest trend is producing spider type daylilies with 'teeth' (indented edges). Then there are terms diploid, tetraploid and triploid used for daylilies, which basically define how much chromosomes they have and is significant to a breeder. Diploids have 22 chromosomes, tetraploid 44 and then triploid have triple that amount. The more chromosomes they have - the more they can do to it - so this is where breaks in colours, two tone and extra frills for example is able to be possible. Triploids though is rare because they are usually infertile and cannot be pollinated.

Photos courtesy of BHHS.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Exciting planting

Mon 22nd July
Weather: Hottest day of the summer so far, apparently up to 34°C!
Me and Ellen finished clearing the space behind the Lupinus arboreus in the Peacock Garden, including taking out weeds and digging it over. Then we planted in Cosmos bipinnatus 'Dazzler' - a tall dark carmine pink one and watered them in well. Meanwhile setting the sprinkler on the Aster latiflorus var. horizontalis hedges.

At the back of the Peacock Garden near where we planted out the Cosmos. (Left to right) Lilium lancifolium, Phlox sp. Eryngium sp. Behind these are bright pink tufts of Persicaria orientalis and Verbascum sp.
Tues 23rd July
Weather: Thunderstorm - first rain in weeks, heavy showers but it didn't last long.

We cleared one side of the kitchen driveway, weeding and taking out dead/ brown bits. We collected some Leucanthemum vulgare & Papaver dubium subsp. lecoquii 'Albiflorum' (Beth's poppy) seeds.  Then we cut back the dead stalks of these, and of Euphorbia sp. & Geranium sp. We saved the offcuts of Leucanthemum vulgare & Geranium sp. that still had seed heads, and took them down to the farm complex to strew in cracks and barrens spaces there.

Weds 24th July
Weather: 24°C, mainly sunny. Nice and cool in the morning, especially moments when it was overcast.

Fergus was away today and he left us to do a juicy bit of planting by ourselves in a sizeable bed on the kitchen driveway that we had just cleared. This is really exhilarating because he usually likes to inspect the different stages of how we place out the plants and how they look after they have been planted, as he wants to keep a tight unity over the garden. So it's a quite a honour to just be left with a task like this, naturalistic planting can be quite hard and it's a great challenge. He did indicate what he thought we should plant out there - Amaranthus caudatus (Love Lies Bleeding) and Tagetes patula, but it was pretty much free reign of what we did with it.

Ellen feeling triumphant!

So with excitement and intrepidation I worked with Ellen & Yuka to place out plants, getting experienced opinion of gardeners like Graham who has been there for a few years. Ellen had a great eye (she is from a graphic design background, is currently training in garden design and is this years Ann Wright garden design scholar at Dixter), and we worked together well intuitively. We had done a good stint together already planting out the Cosmos on Monday, she has also been giving me amazing assistance with my Hemerocallis project. Yuka valiantly accepted our choices and contributed her commitment to ambitiously get it planted out before the end of the day (it took us the day just to get all the plants and to position them).

Planting in the kitchen drive - below Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) 'Valentine'  of
Tagetes patula & Amaranthus caudatus. One of the important things to consider
in planting is where the main vantage points are and how it looks specifically from those
views. Then you can work out best how to place out colour and shapes, how it jumps
at the eye etc. 

Close up of Amaranthus caudatus - these were really great to work with, as they
so striking you don't need much to make an impact. 

Thurs 25th July
Weather: It was cooler today - up to 24°C. More overcast moments & cool winds, the optimum weather to work in.

Our planting was rated by Fergus! In fact he paid us a high compliment (not given lightly), that we had planted it out better than he would have done?! As you can imagine we were over the moon. So with gusto we went round 'finishing' the area off, weeding, staking all the sunflowers, tagetes and amaranthus and tickled the soil of the whole bed to a satisfying finish.

I also gave a tour to the volunteers & workers of Dean City Farm.

Fri 26th July
Weather 23/24°C. Sunny with intervals of relieving clouds and breezes.

After out epic plant challenge, we were each individually given our own small patch to plant up by ourselves. Mine was a sliver of bedding in one of the Peacock Garden beds, which I planted up with a yellow Helenium Sonnenwunder & Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’. It is customary for us to place out the plants in the positions we want them before planting, and its usually a tight border space with lots of other plants going on, so one usually has to manoeuvre between what is being planted and what is already there. Sometimes the space is really tight, so one has to remove the plants mark (with canes) where they are to go and reposition them back in as we plant them. When you're dealing with different sized plants you also have to strategically think about how they are facing and are placed in relationship to each other and how big they are going to get. For example to make sure tall or bushier ones don't end up obscuring small, thinner ones. The general goal is to get them sitting there looking as comfortable as possible. The heleniums were hard to work with as they had gotten too big for their pot and were very brittle and had a tendency of toppling over as you position them.

What the Helenium & Aster planting looked like a few weeks later. 

Monday 30 September 2013

Grass ident 05/06/2013

Grass is so common, that it is often overseen. There are great showy ornamental grasses of courses that can really add to the garden, but the common grasses are interesting if you have meadows. Also if it is a weed it is good to know what you are dealing with. And personally I find the constituents of what makes up a lawn, agriculture leyland and meadows fascinating, it can say so much and their uses are often so fundamental. Once you start seeing 'the grass' is not one green mass anymore.

1. Holcus lanatus aka Yorkshire Fog (Poaceae family). Lanatus = Latin for woolly as it has a hairy texture. Distinguishable by its pink tinge, another way to identify it is the base of the stems are white with pink stripes/ veins. This grass is a common weed and is very invasive/ noxious weed in some countries like America and Australia. In Britain it can be part of meadows and hardy pasture grass.

Its preferable conditions are wet and disturbed ground, it can be an indicator of poor soil, low grazing and poor drainage, so if these were reversed it would be less rampant. In Europe it does not survive trampling and though hardy can be killed by severe frosts. It is also a food source for the butterflies Speckled Wood, the Wall and the Small Skipper.

2. Dactylis glomerata aka Cocksfoot Grass. It is originally from North America and was known as Orchard Grass. When not open and in flower, the tufty heads do look like feet of cockerels.

It is interesting in that it has been debated whether it makes a good alternative grazing grass to Lolium perenne (Ryegrass). Lolium perenne is used a lot in conventional agriculture because it takes in high nitrogen fertilisers well, and a grass that still provides livestock nutritional value, so this can help increase commercial productivity. Whether conventional agricultural methods are the best is debatable. But the advantage of Dactylis glomerata in this scenario is that it is drought resistant, so it can still provide a source of feed with nutrition when it is very hot and dry especially when mixed with other plants like clover. Plus it is thought that its deeper roots might bring up more nutrients. Dactylis glomerata like Lolium perenne also put back nutrients into the soil, and hence the latter is used to keep the land usable.

3. (Left to Right) Cynosurus cristatus aka Crested Dog's Tail.  The seed head is a bit flattish. It is found in the wild in species rich grassland like purple moor grass and rush pastures which are good for biodiversity. But it is also used as an ornamental plant and for sheep grazing when young. It is drought & cold resistant and stays green in the winter. It is also used for straw plaiting.

4. Alopecuris pratensis aka Foxtail Grass. The seedhead is as its common namesake like a reddish foxtail that becomes silvery. It is found in meadow grass on clay or neutral soil. It is also a food source for the Essex Skipper butterfly. It is a early flowering grass.

5. Anthoxanthum odoratum aka Sweet Vernal Grass. It is  a short lived perennial. It is used as a lawn grass and can be found in meadows. It is the one that makes the 'grass smell' and induces hayfever because of its coumarin contents. It has short broad green leaves that are slightly hairy, and flowers in spring.

6. Festuca rubra aka Red Fescue is often used in lawn mixes too. It is found all over the world and is tolerant of all sorts of climates and conditions, especially shade. It is not used as a meadow grass because it is unpalatable to livestock and has low-productivity.

7. Bromus hordeaceus aka Soft Brome is an annual grass found in wastelands, meadows, dunes and verges. It flowers from May to July and sets seed in May to early August. It can be a problematic weeds especially in cereal crop rotations. It is closely related to the lineage of wheat grass family though of important economic crops like Triticum ssp (wheat), Secale cereale (rye) and Hordeum vulgare (barley). It's name also means oats - so that would probably explain it's resemblance to some of these crops. The smaller plant Bromus sp. is also a sister one.

8. Brachypodium sylvaticum aka False Brome is perennial. It is mainly found in forests and woodlands i.e. shady areas but can grow in the open too. it doesn't like wet and prefers calcerous soils. It was introduced into North America and has become an invasive species and now a threat to the native flora in the state of Oregon. In Europe though it is also a good food source for the Chequered Skipper and Essex Skipper butterflies.

10. Agrostis capillaris aka Common Bent. Agrostis = Latin for field. It's a perennial that grows in moist grasslands, open meadows, agricultural areas, roadsides and disturbed ground. It likes low fertility, neutral - acidic soils and is rhizomatous/ stoloniferous, so runs and produces dense swards of fine leaves. Their seeds germinate in Autumn and Spring. It is a good grass for the type of grounds like lawns & golf courses, but is also an important constituent of high diversity areas of purple moor grass and rush pastures and sheep grazing land in high rainfall areas. It is also grazed by rabbits which helps control its seeding.

11. Plantago lanceolata aka Ribwort Plaintain is a a red herring as its not actually a grass. It has hairy wide ribbed leaves that are very distinctive. It is a perennial weed of arable and grasslands (invasive in the US) and can be found on roadsides. It can tolerate high altitudes and was present in prehistoric times. It is very palatable to sheep and is a good source of calcium, phosphate, potassium and sodium for them, as well as having trace elements of cobalt and copper. So it has been used in grass feed mixes and in Wales has been valued as plant for hillside improvement. Hence it is also an indicator for land that has been or is used for grazing. As well as healthy animals it apparently makes the flavour of milk taste good! It is also used in herbal medicine and I have witnessed the fresh leaves being used to effectively sooth a wasp bite. A lot going for a little plant that's also a weed.

All stops out for watering and weeding

Mon 15th July
Weather: Hot, 25/26 °C

Creating rainbows with sprinklers all over the garden.

Back at Dixter! The Hemerocallis trial is due to take place at the end of this week, so all day was spent weeding this area.

Tues 16th July
Weather: More overcast & sultry but still hot.
Weeding in the Peacock garden.

Weds 17th July
Weather: Hottest day so far! It went up to 28°C.
I continued weeding and taking out brown stuff from the Peacock Garden, and staked a tall growing Nepeta transcaucasica of amazing wild sprawling habit just to tame it a little and an Achillea cartilaginea 'Silver Spray', a very fine big flowered yarrow from De Hessenhof nursery.

Then I planted in some Persicara orientalis, and it's watering, watering, watering everywhere, everyone is moving sprinklers around the garden as part of their tasks.

Thurs 18th July
Weather: Hot
Continued weeding, clearing brown bits in Peacock garden especially where a Lupinus arboreus has been cut down and has left a lot of debris.

Fri 19th July
Weather: Hot
All day working on the Hemerocallis again to make sure they're ready for tomorrow!

A week at the Chelsea Physic Garden

I have always been interested in the Chelsea Physic Garden. It is the oldest botanical garden in the country, originating as an apothecary garden in the 1600s, it is a garden that retains a lot of character and an antiquated charm and is like a cabinet of curiosities for plants. It plays an tomey part in the history of horticulture and botany and now a garden specialising in ethnobotany, its significance still remains.

The Wardian case is one of many examples, used in up until the 1950s by institutions like Kew to transport plants, it was instrumental to the changes of entire countries. It was with this that Robert Fortune (one of the many curators of the garden albeit a brief stint) transported tea plants to India from China, hence causing a tide change of economy & politics within these two countries. The Wardian case itself was invented by Dr Ward in 1829 - once master of the Society of Apothecaries that formerly owned the garden.

My passion for Horticulture first began from wanting to grow my own food, and I have always been fascinated by people and how they work. When I worked as an artist my interest was in bringing people together and how to interact and elicit responses from them. So I have always been interested in the history of plants and how they have been used. It was only when I encountered Dixter that I found ornamental horticulture really exciting. As Dixter is such an all encompassing experiential place, it has given me a deeper understanding how plants can make people connect, use, think and feel about a space. My origin of interest is richer but still remains. I also love seeing lots of interesting plants and think of how they can be used in the garden! Anyway it was with this in mind I wrote to the Chelsea Physic Garden, asking if anyone there would be interested in an exchange, and their then trainee Tom Wells happened to be, so we swapped rooms and work for a week.

Mon 8th July
Weather: Very hot, full sunshine.

This handsome Tithonia rotundifolia was grown in the Peter Miller section & DOB.
Dixter has used this in the garden too, but it's hard to get good plants of it
because it needs good heat. 

I got an induction and brief tour of the garden. Helpfully head gardener Nick Bailey asked what I wanted to get out of the week, and without hesitation I told him that I wanted to learn more about glasshouse work, propagation and get a feel of how the garden worked.

My first task of the morning was to water the outdoor Canary Islands plant collection and deep water some big pots of mixed plants that had things like Brugmansia suaveolens in them. Then it was working in a team morning to strim the edges of the Dicotyledon Order Beds - DOB for short. I had to wear goggle over my glasses which misted up with condensation, making vision slightly difficult. I then helped Emma with the Peter Miller section of the garden. This involved picking up Magnolia grandiflora leaves including under some Abutilon sp., topping up soil along a Lavandula sp. hedging. Then I replanted some of the Lavandula so they were more evenly spread out and less gappy.

Tues 9th July
Weather: Hot, but not as hot as yesterday. Height of temperature around 26°C , min. 16°C at night. There was also a nice cooling breeze - gorgeous!

I worked with Kate manager of glasshouses on the 'Tropical Corridor'. I scrubbed scale insects off with a toothbrush and cleaned off mealy bugs with a powerful water spray using just water. She showed me the glasshouse check list, what she has to routinely go through once a week - checking each house methodically, to see if there any pests or diseases, if control is necessary, temperature etc, everything that ensured that they were in good working order and that the plants within them were happy. A feed is given to the plants once per week via a Dosatron - a non electric water powered chemical dispenser.

I tidied and watered an area that the Natural History Museum rents out to keep plants they are doing experiments on. There were a lot of fallen leaves. The plants were a brassica (possibly Arabis), Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English bluebells) & ferns. Near there was greenhouse that had some interesting smelling Aloysia sp. that smelt of mint.

Soleirolia soleirolii in the bottom right corner.

Then I scraped and hand forked out a weed called Soleirolia soleirolii aka 'Mind Your Own Business' in The Fernery.

Weds 10th July
Weather: Hot
I worked with propagation manager Nell Jones and did some semi-ripe & heeled cuttings of Salvia officinalis. For both type of cuttings some we cut the leaves in half, some we left as small whole leaves. Of each set, we put one under the automatic mister, the other outside of it to be hand watered. This was because the last ones she had tried the leaves had rotten off.

The sage was taken from the Superfoods exhibition, that showcases food labelled in such a way.
To better inform people about them and to dispel any marketing myths. 

She showed me how to search for plants on their database, and informed me what their accession numbers were (an unique sequential number given to every plant, so they can be tracked) and how to label using these. I learnt about the meaning of 'species' in the context of this garden & standard botanical gardens. At Dixter we talk about any plants that is not a cultivar as a species, here they are talking about the unique DNA that every plant (and person) has. Two plants could both be labelled Salvia officinalis but they could be genetically different even though they are the same type of plant, because they have different parents, unless they are clones. This is why species used in the Dixter context could be confusing. This reveals another function of a botanical garden, which is helping towards conserving a more diverse gene pool so that plants don't just come from a limited set of parents.

After that we set about clearing & watering an area called the nursery, which is currently a store of stock for the garden or unused plants.

Nell is inspiring in that she started out as a recruitment consultant and wanted to change careers. She started volunteering at the Chelsea Physic Garden and applied for their one year traineeship. After that they employed her as the Propagation Manager. She hardworking, committed and not fazed by anything she doesn't know. It is this attitude to keep trialling and observing like we did with the Salvia that given her success of propagating many different types of plants. She treats them all the same at the start, she tells me, then observes and start asking questions.

Thurs 11th July
Weather: Hot! At least 26/ 27°C.
I helped trainee Joe with his Pelargonium greenhouse, taking off any dead bits, weeding pots, brushing up and generally making sure the collection is presentable.

When to leave the dead - At Dixter we are meticulous about taking dead bits out if it affects the overall visual picture, but we also meticulously leave the dead when we are doing trials, so that we can see if a plant dies gracefully or not. In a botanical garden they sometimes do the same but coming from a different angle, the dead is left on specimens plants for another kind of educational purpose.

The Brassicarium, one of my favourite things in the garden, showcases
many different types of brassicas - one of the
food groups that is labelled a Superfood. 

We fed beans and peas in the Superfoods area with Miracle Gro that is in the form of a bright blue powder - 2 scoops to 10 gallons of water. Then I helped do some weeding, feeding and watering of the 'Brassicarium' also in the same section, designed by Tom the trainee whom I had swapped with, and who I still hadn't met yet.

Then I helped do some planting around and near the Edible garden, helping to fill in any holes in the display. I planted some Amaranth viridis, Arachis hypogaea (peanut) in the plants used to make oils and Aztec sections, Apium graveolens var. rapaceum (celeriac) and some Francoa sp. in the woodlandy area. After that I helped stake some Cannabis sativa plants (botanical gardens have to obtain a special license to display these) and tied up a Vitis sp.
The Aztec section. 

Fri 12th July
Weather: Hot.
Friday at the Chelsea Physic is teamwork day and they usually pinpoint a job that particularly needs doing and would be good if lots of people did it together. This included filling up a skip of general rubbish that had built up in the boat yard, wire brushing weeds out of cracks in the paths and weeding DOB.

Thursday 26 September 2013

The HBGBS study tour

At the end of June there was a study tour for all of the HBGBS trainees. It was a chance to meet everyone again before they all went off in different directions to do further other things, get some careers advice & mutual support, and get passionate about seeing gardens and plants together.

Here are photographic highlights of the my favourite parts of each garden we visited:

A privately owned ex-Jekyll & Lutyen Edwardian 20 acres garden. It is open to the public on special open days. It has a formal garden with a lily pond, terraced lawns, a special fountain by Lutyen, a large landscape rock garden & arboretum with a stream meandering through it, and a kitchen garden with new sections being developed, including a rose garden.

Fascinating fasciation - the vascular bundle of this Asparagus in the kitchen garden has been damaged, possibly by a viral infection carried by aphids. It is usually not re-occurring.

A lovely mass of scented Crambe maritima flowers in the formal garden. A garden that gives a great insight to the plant & colour palette of Gertrude Jekyll.

A tree with a face.

One of my favourite plants Cornus kousa seen in situ.

Barnsley House
A garden once owned by Rosemary Verey, now a boutique hotel. Rosemary Verey in the 1950s & 60s popularised English gardening including making kitchen gardens more ornamental.

The well known Laburnum Walk.

My favourite part of the garden - The Potager, a wonderful blend of flowers and vegetables, formerly managed by Ed Alderman, now the current Christopher Lloyd scholar. A man of my own heart - using heritage seeds from places like the Heritage Seed Library.

A beautiful companion plant and green manure Phacelia tanacetifolia

A great colour combination of red Latuca (lettuce) and Brassica.

10.5 acres of Arts & Craft styled garden set around a manor house. Created and belonged to rich American Major Lawrence Johnstone. Now a National Trust property. It is one of the few NT gardens where the plants are not labelled.

A view that gives you a peek at the many layers of rooms in the garden.

This satisfied my personal craze for chandelier primulas this year.

A large garden with the potential to stumble upon small pockets of rare and unusual plants like these black irises...

and double petalled red Helianthemum.

I'm always admire a good fruit cage and am interested in how people lay out their veg gardens.

Perrot's Brook - John Sale's garden
John Sales worked for 25 years as the National Trust's Chief Garden Adviser, a heavyweight in the world of horticulture. His garden consists of ornamental sections, woods and meadows, and as you can imagine not your average garden, full of unusual plants and interesting methods. Perrot's Brook is open on special open garden days.

His garden is up on a hill so is very well sited, as the frost drains away from them.

Different meadow management:
Dixter cuts their meadows twice, once around the end of July/ August and again in November for the spring bulbs. John has two 'squares' of meadows, one square has no spring bulbs and that one he cuts again and again, keeping it around 4" long up until the Chelsea Flower Show. At that stage he will leave it until September to help the Rhinanthus minor germinate, this one is classed as his 'summer' meadow. His other one has spring bulbs of Scilla, Chionodoxa, and Cyclamen. This one will have no cuts in the beginning of the year until September and then the grass is taken off for hay. Orchids have also come into the meadows of their own accord here too, the ones he has are similar to our spotted orchid Dactlylorhiza fuschii, they are also pyramidal but are a darker pink. He also has lots of Iris latifolia. For unwanted weeds in his meadows like Heracleum sphondylium, he manually digs them out.

Quote: 'Management makes gardeners not designers' - John Sales.

The man himself. 

Lilium martagon self-sowing everywhere. He also had the thinnest Buxus sempervirens hedge that I have ever seen, that he cuts during Ascot week, and the biggest Heptacodium micinoides tree in the country.

An amazingly rare saxifrage type plant that John does not know the name of.

He had a kind of gravel/ rock garden at the front of his house. I love how he had very niche specimen plants spill out of the trough and into the gravel or the cracks of paths.

Another special saxifrage type plant from the Crassulaceae family specific to the Cotswold: Chiastophyllum oppositifolium

Last but not least was my favourite garden, created from the 1920s by three generation of women, a romantic place, like an amazing silent refuge, that at once took one away in time and then to surprisingly modernist elements. Built almost on a cliff, a place that feel full of secrets with breathtaking moments. A real plants lovers garden too with an amazing array and choice of perennials. Temptingly they have their own little nursery selling their own unusual plants. The is only opposite Hidcote and interestingly the first lady who started it Heather Muir, was a good friend of Lawrence Johnstone, but instead of designing the garden first on paper, she developed it organically as she went along - which is probably what gives it its unique character. It is open to the public during the months April - September.

Before you get into the garden - an interesting red hedge.

Hidden and revealed views

One of the dramatic pools

Dictamnus albus - which Christopher Lloyd couldn't grow at Dixter but enjoyed at Glyndebourne Opera House. To demonstrate the volatility of the oils given off by the plant in the evening, he would light a match above it.

The first time I saw the moss rose Portulaca grandiflora.