This Week in the Garden... 21st February 2022
It has been an extremely mild and dry January and February so far. It feels a little as though we have gone from autumn straight into spring. Us gardeners are wary though that the cold and wet of winter must come….we just hope it doesn’t arrive too late in the season when it might batter the emerging seedlings and soft new growth.
We spent all of January, in the bright sunshine and light frosts, renovating the Master’s Lodge garden. It was an extremely satisfying project, weeding all the borders and vegetable garden and clearing the rampant golden rod and ivy. We were able to divide lots of clumps of perennials (asters, hardy geraniums, alchemilla mollis, sedums, shasta daisies) to fill gaps and move many plants that had self-seeded over the years into better positions (hypericum, mallow, pheasant grass). The freshly limestone-gravelled paths and the newly built composting area have rejuvenated the whole garden.
In the main gardens we have been preparing the ground where the three large conifers were removed ready to replant the space with more native mixed hedging. This will complete the full run of hedging along the Great Stour side of the meadow. The logs and chippings from the conifers have all been retained and we’ll use them to make wildlife habitats and to re-dress the paths in the Cutting Garden.
On the other side of the meadow the long border has been weeded and tidied. It’s very satisfying work, the soil is loamy and light and it’s good to see to see the plants that we planted there in autumn 2020 have established. The tall dry stems and flowerheads of filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet) have been cut back to sturdy clumps of new green growth beneath, the rosa rubiginosa (sweet briar rose) are showing fat little buds on the wiry stems and the lime green flowers of helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) look at their best at this time of year. Cutting back hard the old overgrown cornus “Flaviramea” (yellow stemmed dogwood) last spring has resulted in a bright flush of vivid yellow stems which give height and impact to the border. There are spreading clusters of jewel-like anemone blanda (blue wood anemone) and anemone nemorosa (white wood anemone) and the clumps of crocus flavus (Dutch yellow crocus) light up the grass. The pretty pale yellow flowerheads of the primula veris (cowslips) are just unfurling in the meadow.
We are also busy planning and sowing seeds for the Cutting Garden. The greenhouse and conservatory at home are full of seed trays. We have sown salvia sclarea (clary sage), hyssopus officinalis (hyssop), saponaria officinalis (white soapwort), calendula officinalis (pot marigold), foeniculum vulgare (fennel), allium porrum “Lyon” (leeks), and smyrnium olusatrum (alexanders). These will all be grown on and planted out in spring. There are sturdy ammi majus (Bishop’s flower) cota tinctoria (dyer’s chamomile) and lathyrus odorata (sweet pea) plants that we grew in autumn which are ready to be planted out in March. The “Bishop” dahlias will have a new companion this year too, we have tubers for “The Bishop of Leicester” to join the Bishops of Canterbury, York, Llandaff, Dover, Auckland and Oxford which are currently overwintering in situ under a deep layer of mulch.