Monday 25 March 2013

Pollarding, parasites, carbonised poles and a whole lot more

Apologies to the people who actually read my blog that there are often long gaps periodically between posts, but life gets incredibly hectic sometimes and I get a bit behind. In the next few days there will be a few bumper posts to get up to speed of what I have been up to in the garden. I'm also sorry if the posts are sometimes a bit technical & dry, as this is part of the way that I have to keep my journal as part of my scholarship. Hopefully the photos keep it interesting!

Weds 13th March
Weather: Cold but sunny, still a bit of snow present from the past two days (there was a blizzard on Monday). Very dry. 5°C going down to minuses again in the night.

Worked in the nursery - learning the best and easiest ways to do things. I cleared out a lot of sorry looking ferns that were to be repotted from a large cold frame. I dug out the old grit from this frame because the level of it had gotten too high. Initially I thought this would be quite a hefty task as I found the grit knotted with roots that had grown underneath, but Fergus showed us how to skimmed it off with the spade by using it horizontally so that the surface remains as level as possible too. Using a small flat board after to smooth it over, like plastering or concreting. I poured the old grit into the old soil pile, and put a fresh layer of new grit on top. Again levelling it out like plaster with the board.

Thurs 14th Mar
Weather: Cold & frosty to begin with, but went up to  5°C. Sunny. It's now already much lighter at 6am and lasts well up until 6pm.

Three Salix, an elm is in the back 

I pollarded some salixes (cutting off all their stems) in the Long Border. Usually I don't like this method, but they were such old & gnarly knuckles of beautiful shapes, that again it made me appreciate that it is how you do things and what context the is.

Salix pollarded

Above are the buds of the curious parasitic plant Lathraea clandestina aka Purple Toothwort that mainly live off the roots of salix and poplars. It is part of the family Orobanchaceae (the broomrape family).

We made poles out of chestnut wood to replace ones in the Long Border for a Lonicera & a Clematis. I didn't realise we used a really old but effective method to make them. We stripped off the bark off the chestnut to the paler part. Then we 'carbonised' the end of the pole by burning it until a snake skin like pattern appeared. This makes it water/ rot proof. It was most important to ensure that the 'collar' is carbonised - the section that is just below and above the surface of the soil. With this method the pole will lasts about 7 years which is more than your average fencing, which is about the same as creosote (banned now) or the stuff that they use to treat wood commercially now.

Carbonised pole on the left, the stump on the right is what is used to help keep the pole just above the fire. 

Fri 15th March
Weather: It was about 4-5°C but felt much colder as there was a really biting high wind today. Even the hardiest of gardeners winced today.

We finished helping to put the poles in the ground, and I pruned a Rosa chinensis 'Bengal Beauty' a beautiful deep pink rose that blooms on new wood.


  1. Hello! This just to congratulate you on this fine blog and the interesting post you come up with. I do really appreciate the details of your work at Great Dixter (having been there last September and liked it so much). It's a great job that you also keep this blog as a diary, I know it is so time consuming whilst outside there is also so much to do. Best regards from a cold and snowy Belgium.

  2. I also like reading about the details. They give insight into the workings of a large, public garden. Plus a reason to google random shrubs and read more about pruning! Cheers!


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