The Garden Diary
The Seasonal Diary is updated by the Head Gardener on a regular basis. Check the website again during the Rhododendron flowering season (mid April to early June) for updates from The Marquis of Lansdowne.
Rhododendron Gardens - Tue 14th May 2013
Oh what a fickle climate we live in! My last update was twelve days ago. Then the temperatures had leapt into the high teens! Since when they have plummeted, coupled with strong westerly winds. However, there is a silver lining to this reversal. Three quarters of an inch of welcome rain. February, March and April were dry months, so there was a deficit. At this time of year, plants need maximum moisture to meet the enormous energy required for florescence.
The purpose of this short review is to help direct you to some of our specialities. Rather like the “dish of the day”! Stick to the “walk of the week” signs. With your leaflet, navigate either down Pauline’s, David’s or Simon’s Ride. They all meet up on Lady Lansdowne’s Ride. The bluebells (all native - no Spaniards!) are at their zenith. A stunning sight. The Rh. “augustinii” groups are also “au point” - an amazing mix of blues fading to lilac mauve, discovered by Augustine Henry, a medical officer in China, and subsequently Professor of Forestry in Dublin. His Grand-daughter is a friend and lives in Bath! At the far end of Pauline’s Ride, you will find a collection of miniature Rhododendrons surrounded by a low fence to keep the muntjack out. We planted these in 1986. A carpet of “Cornus canadensis” has spread from end to end! Within this “room” was an old Rh. Hybrid “Meg Merrilies”. She was going back. However, before she died, I collected dozens of seedlings from around her. They all had similar characteristics. Who the other parent was, remains a mystery? After several years in the nursery, they began flowering. A variety of colours, but predominantly pink, some tinged with yellow, others cream. They are all show stoppers. You will find about a dozen on Lord Shelburne’s Walk. They are known as the “Bowood Group”.
The next port of call I would draw to your attention is the Quarry. Go past Robert Adam’s Mausoleum wishing peace to those within, and follow Lady Shelburne’s Walk. This half acre amphitheatre is an Aladdin’s cave. One of our rarest original Hardy Hybrids Rh. “Currieanum”, is bursting into life. It has a rosy lilac flower with a broad blotch. Crossed by Waterers of Knaphill pre 1851.
Look out for the stunning yellow plant Rh. “Crest” developed by Lionel de Rothschild in 1953. A cross between Rh. “wardii” and Rh. “Lady Bessborough”. John Anderson of Exbury told me Lionel sadly died a year before he saw it in flower.
Another favourite of mine is Rh. Hybrid “Yellow Hammer”. She has been covered in flower this year. Bred at Caerhays, she often has a second burst in the autumn.
On the left heading back out of the Quarry, don’t ignore Rh. “Mrs. W. C. Slocock”, a “campylocarpum” hybrid. The trusses are a subtle apricot/pink. It never fails!
Every day for the next six weeks, a new treat is bursting forth; don’t miss them. They only flower for a couple of weeks.
In my next missive, I will tell you about the Jubilee Garden. Give it another week to ten days. The same applies to our groups of Azaleas and Hardy Hybrids - be patient; nature is running a fortnight behind this year.
Happy gardening, and we hope to see you here soon.
May Garden Diary - Mon 13th May 2013
What a difference a bit of warm sun can make! The garden has suddenly come alive after a slow start. Over the bank holiday weekend everything has grown and the trees went from winter to spring with the new lime green leaves appearing.
The tulips on the terraces and in the borders are looking fantastic. On the top terrace we have the brilliant white tulip ‘purisima’ mixed with the darkest of all tulips ‘Queen of night’ and in the east border the tulip ‘red impression’ is looking amazing.
The new north border, found in the walled garden, is the most advanced and the tulip ‘atilla graffitii’ goes extremely well with new growth on the standard photinia ‘red robin’.
We treat all the tulips as annuals and plant new stock each year. However, the tulips are lifted after flowering, dried out during the summer and the best are replanted in grass under the apple trees in the walled garden. This year these tulips, in a mixture of lollypop colours, are looking amazing especially when mixed with daises in the grass and with the beautiful apple tree blossom.
The greenhouses and cold frames are at bursting point and I am watching the forecasts for any late season frosts but hopefully we can start planting the summer bedding within the next few weeks.
Rhododendron Gardens - Thu 02nd May 2013
At last, at last – that moment we have been waiting for! The daytime temperature has finally settled into the mid teens. The brakes are off; the plants are exploding. Nature has an amazing capacity to catch up.
Fifty metres after entering the lodge gates, follow the signs marked ‘Walk of the Week’. Using the map on the reverse of the leaflet, you will see there are three routes which branch off ‘Abbots Ride’: first Pauline’s, then David’s (named after our retired Head Groundsman) and, finally, Simon’s after my eldest son. All three rides run through a sea of bluebells which are just beginning to appear in bud. So too are the majestic Rhododendron ‘loderi’. The original hybrid was developed by Sir Edmund Loder in 1901 after he had bought Leonardslee estate off his wife’s family in 1889. He crossed griffithianum with fortunei. The fortunei parent is responsible for the scent. There are at least twenty five subsequent loderi hybrids, many of which are to be found throughout the garden. Look out for a towering group of five pure loderi at the top of David’s ride. These are over thirty feet high and covered in blooms.
Another interesting and less common plant, which again flowers early, is Rhododendron ‘Kewensis’. We have several groups of these beautiful pink flowered hybrids which seem to baffle the experts. I must hastily add I am an amateur! However I learnt their name over forty years ago and have stuck with it! They may be entirely different! But that’s what’s such fun about this particular genera. There are over 25,000 registered hybrids! Some of our earliest hardy hybrids which were planted in 1854, are generally extinct and only to be found in this garden. Their identification can cause a conundrum! Many are named, some are not!
A brief word about the Mausoleum which stands on the high ground at the western end of the garden. This exquisite small Palladian building was designed by Robert Adam in 1762. It was commissioned by the widow of John, the first Earl of Shelburne who bought Bowood in 1754. It dominates the Park; a mile away can be seen a corner of the House and, in the middle distance the belfry of St Mary’s Church, Calne. On a clear day, the eye can pick out three clumps of beech trees hanging over the Vale of the White Horse. Sit for a moment on the bench in front of this classical building and absorb this intoxicating spectacle.
The plants are still at least a week behind their normal flowering date. Yet there are so many gems to be found throughout the 65 acre garden. Don’t miss the Magnolia Star Wars on Keepers drive, sourced in 1994 from Eisenhout garden centre on the Italian border. Or the stunning magnolias in the Quarry.
Every day new plants will be exploding into flower. There are only so many Springs in a lifetime, don’t miss a minute of them!
Seasonal Diary - Bowood Rhododendron Woodland Garden - Fri 26th April 2013
My last review was on the 9th April when, indeed, we were still in that vicelike grip of those unpleasant easterlies. Two days later I saw our first swallow flitting over the lake. That said it all - the weather was on the turn, and so it was. Since when, although it has been dry, average temperatures have been about normal for April. So, for better or worse, we are opening our woodland garden as planned tomorrow. The plants are obviously well behind. However, there are gems to be found. Let me try and help our visitors to locate particular plants of interest:
Head down Pauline’s Ride (all the walks are way marked). At the top of the walk, there is a group of Pieris. One in particular is worth noting - Pieris Formosa Jermyns “Bowood Cascade.” It has beautiful long drooping racemes which sparkle like pearls in the sunlight. A few metres on, a Viburnum “furcatum” given to me by Roy Lancaster ten years ago is in full flower with pretty scented white palmate blooms. Off to the right are two stunning Magnolias - “iolanthe” in full glory, already twenty five feet high and only planted in 1994!
Further down the walk, the visitor will pass a dramatic red Rhododendron “shilsonii” with smooth tactile bark. Between David’s and Pauline’s Rides are a number of tall Magnolias “kewensis”, a cross between “kobus” and “salicifolia”, also “veitchii”. Towards the end of the walk on the left hand side, Magnolia “mollicomata lanarth.” This plant is over seventy feet high. Finally, at the end of the path is a truly wonderful species Rhododenron “fargesii.” Discovered by a Catholic missionary, Pere Farges - hence its name. Sir Joseph Hooker brought seedlings back twenty years later. This year it is covered in flower. Not only is it a visual feast, but it is also a gastronomic treat for hundreds of bumble bees, which are enjoying the succulent pollen.
I have only taken you down one of countless rides. I hope to write another “pointer” in a week’s time. There is a threat of more cold weather at the weekend. Frost would dramatically alter the pace of spring’s progress, and damage the flowers. So there will be more to report next week.
I suggest only keen gardeners should visit this week. There will be so much more to see as each day unfolds.
April Garden Diary - Fri 12th April 2013
Will it ever warm up?! I am starting to lose patience. This cold weather has been with us for weeks and the garden is a bit slow to wake up. However I am told the wind direction is changing and temperatures are going up. Many plants are on the brink of bursting into life and I have high hopes for the garden with a fantastic spring bulb display.
Most of the activity in the garden is in the glass house with seed sowing, pricking out and potting up. The wild flower garden has been prepared with the rotavator by Jack our work experience student who is with us one day a week for the season.
In the few gaps in the cold weather the team have been busy mulching the borders with rotten horse manure or leaf mould compost collected from the trees on the estate. I must never underestimate how important this is, not only to feed the hungry soil but also to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
During the autumn we have been busy dividing many herbaceous perennials and potting up any excess plants. We hope to have these plants on sale by the entrance kiosk during the season.
Bowood Rhododendron Woodland Garden - Wed 10th April 2013
It has been a long winter, and as I write this on the 9th April, it is not over yet. However, we are assured by the Met Office that, by the end of the week, the battle between the anti-cyclone coming from Northern Europe will be retreating, in the face of our more usual and benign gentle westerlies.
Last year’s rainfall at Bowood was just over 43” - our average is 32”. Conversely, our March rainfall was just over 2” and so far we have had no rain in April. Those continuous east winds have penetrated through even the most sheltered corners of our woodland garden. Rhododendron sp. “rirei” was flowering in January! Followed by the hardy hybrid “Nobleanum Venustum” and Rhododendron sp. “eximium” in February. These were the courageous few which broke cover before the February snows. Since when there has been a moratorium - nothing has moved.
However, due to the excessive rainfall last summer, I have never seen the plants looking healthier, or more covered with buds. It is going to be a bumper year. We are still planning to open on the 26th April. Nature has the most extraordinary ability to adapt and catch up. The Magnolias, so long as they haven’t been frozen in the bud, should be a stunning sight to see when we open, with a mixture of exciting and early Rhododendron species. Rho. “calophytum” and “fargesii” to name just a couple, so long as we don’t have any more severe frosts.
It is going to be an exciting year, and I will keep writing these short garden notes during the six weeks or more that this oasis is open to visitors. I hope you will have a chance of coming to enjoy it.
Autumn Has Arrived! - Sat 06th October 2012
As I write this blog all I can see from the desk is the fantastic deep red and bronze colour of the Virginia creeper surrounding the west side of Bowood House. Autumn is a wonderful time of year at Bowood, the borders have lost their summer bloom and taken more autumnal colours of dark reds, yellows and the occasional blue. As the views from the garden are changing from lush green you can see the hint of yellows reds and oranges. This is going to be another fantastic colourful autumn.
Work has started on the annual lawn revival. We started off with a little broad leaf herbicide. Dave and Rob are in the process of scarifying any moss out of the lawn. I will complete the treatment with some liquid ferrous sulphate (iron) to control any remaining moss and some autumn lawn feed. This should keep the lawns in a good condition throughout the winter and into the spring.
For the first time we decided to grow gourds which are growing over a hazel frame. These are non edible fruits similar to courgettes. Gourds are the most peculiar fruits that grow different shapes, colours and textures. They will be used for autumn displays in the house and the Bowood Hotel.
Time is flying by! - Fri 07th September 2012
Whatever happened to August?, I cannot believe we are now in September!
This has certainly been a season of growth, due to the wet summer no doubt. All the gardeners have been extremely busy with the summer pruning which we havejust about finished. In the past the lawns have grown slower and the weeds in the borders have slowed down during the summer months, but not this year! And I have certainly felt the pressure.
Yew hedge cutting is almost completed, just the Irish yew trees on the terraces to finish. This year all the yew clippings have been collected up and bagged and sent toLimehurst yew clipping’s where they are processed and turned into cancer treating drugs. It is good to know that this waste product of ours has such a valuable use.
Considering the season the gardens are looking extremely well and all of the 105 urns on the terraces are looking outstanding, They contain one dark red pelargonium called ‘Voodoo’ and are surrounded by three White pelargoniums called ‘White blizzard’.
The wild flower garden has changed colour so many times and is currently yellows and dark reds from the ‘black eyed Susan, tickseed and red flax’. This has been a great success that we will repeat again next year.
Finally there is hope on the horizon in the form of a summer! - Fri 20th July 2012
I was beginning to think this wet weather would never end. Unfortunately the early roses that flowered so well were affected by the rain; however the next flush including ‘the Fairy’ on the terraces are just coming into bloom.
The east lawn herbaceous border is looking fantastic, the campanula ‘Lactiflora Blue Cross’ and ‘Loddon Anna’ are in full flower and the ‘Alstroemeria Freedom’ is doing extremely well.
The kitchen garden is in full swing with early potatoes, broad beans and cabbages all being harvested. The first gooseberries have gone to the hotel along with strawberries and raspberries. Our biggest disappointment has to be carrots, poor germination and weak growth has greatly reduced the yield. Overall the kitchen garden is looking well but two weeks behind.
What a month! - Sat 07th July 2012
Our total rainfall for June was 5.51 inches, our wettest month since November 2009. Fortunately with sandy soil the rain water soon disappears and has allowed the plants to put on a huge amount of growth.
The terraces are in full bloom, the top terrace rose ‘flower carpet’ under the yew trees looks fantastic and the rose ‘the Fairy’ is just about to come into flower. The lower terrace rose beds look amazing with roses ‘Frencham’ and ‘Iceberg’ and at either end the scent from rose ‘Gentle Hermione’ fills the air.
The walled garden is full of colour, the new north border is full of strong vibrant colours including lupin ‘Masterpiece’ and achillea ‘Moonshine’. For its first year this border is showing great potential.
Suddenly the wild flower garden has exploded into colour from various types of poppy and many shades of toadflax. The new wild flower garden is a fantastic new addition to the walled garden and I am expecting it to continue to flower until November.
Unbelievable Weather! - Tue 19th June 2012
Things have been a little slow here in the gardens due to this unbelievable weather. We have had all extremes from very dry to very wet and very warm to very cold and to top it all, strong winds that have caused havoc in the borders. Amazingly a few warm dry days and we will be back on course. The team have put on their wet weather gear and battled on. Amazingly, the gardens are looking fantastic, however mowing lawns in wet weather has to be my least favourite gardening job!
The terraces are shortly going to burst with colour; the roses are all healthy and in bud but require a little sunshine to bring them on. The east lawn border is looking green and lush with the odd poppy ‘Cederic Morris’ and ‘Pattys Plum’ poking through.
The Walled Garden is really exciting, the mixed ‘long border’ is full of colour from shrubs like the Kolkwitzia ‘amabillis’ and under planted with a selection of heuchera. The new north border is starting to fill but is currently dominated by the vibrant poppy ‘Beauty of Livermere’. Dave has been busy in the kitchen garden with all the beds filled. We have just finished harvesting the asparagus and the first broccoli, early cabbage and some early potatoes are ready. The new wild flower area is very exciting currently lush green with the odd red orache showing through I suspect a few warm days and we will see the first poppys.
David Glass, Head Gardener
Rhododendron Walks - Sun 17th June 2012
The Rhododendron Walks are now closed for the 2012 season.
Rhododendron Gardens - Mon 11th June 2012
Normally the rhododendron gardens closed at the end of the first week of June, but due to this unpredictable spring (absurdly hot in March, followed by continual rain and cold since the 3rd April), the flowering season has run about two weeks behind. So it seemed logical to remain open until Sunday evening, the 17th June. Little did one imagine that we would have a continual downpour, not only through April, but right up to the present day. Alas, the continual heavy rain has bruised and damaged the plant trusses. So in all respects the season is indeed now over, but what a wonderful season it has been. There are still the remnants of the late flowering “Griersonianum” species and hybrids, “Tally-Ho”, “Ann Aberconway” and a number of “Fabias”, but the majority have now passed their best. So we will remain open for the rest of the week, closing on Sunday evening, the 17th June. The kiosk won’t be manned, but visitors are welcome to come in free of charge.
Once the garden is closed, preparations begin for next year. The invasive ponticum is dug out, dead wood pruned, and over hanging growth cut back. The continual annual cycle of aftercare, maintenance and re-planting starts once again. Sadly, the flowering season is such a short window - approximately seven weeks. This is what makes this garden so special. Of course, there are a few plants that start flowering shortly after Christmas, and others which continue right through until July/August, but they are relatively few, and would not particularly interest the majority of the visiting public. What we have been doing since 2006 is developing a new garden off Keeper’s Drive which, one day, will be open to our visitors. This will extend the visiting period considerably, thanks to hydrangeas, late flowering cornuses, and different genres of plants.
For those of you who have been kind enough to read these short blogs during the season, thank you for your interest. I hope you have enjoyed your visits, and much look forward to being in touch with you again next year.
Seasonal Diary - Fri 01st June 2012
As I am sure you will have guessed, I am not a natural blog correspondent! I sometimes feel one is simply writing to oneself! Who is interested in reading these weekly bulletins? I would particularly enjoy receiving any feedback. Lifting the lid on the woodland garden’s sweetie jar and dipping in for a nibble, gives me much pleasure, which I hope is reciprocated? As, needless to say this garden has been a lifetime’s work, and hence I am totally biased.
The early flush is now behind us. We are in the main season. The hardy hybrids raised by famous plantsmen such as Standish and Noble and the Waterers family at Knap Hill are the plants now mainly in flower. This collection was planted here in 1854. They were the first Hooker hybrids known colloquially as the “ironclads” as they are tough, resilient, and stand both drought and frost. Many of them are now virtually extinct, although thankfully due to the foresight of Dr. Mike Robinson and other members of the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group, the national collection of hardy hybrids was established some 12 years ago at Ramster Garden in Surrey, thanks to the generosity of the Gunn family.
Reverting back to our garden, I have maintained the “walk of the week” route down Pauline’s Ride virtually all season as it continues to draw the visitor through the most exciting areas within the 60 acre garden. On arrival, the visitor will notice an unbelievable show of blooms of pure white “Ponticum” and a neighbouring burgundy red plant, the name of which I have not yet identified. Then proceeding on down the “walk of the week” it is the Azaleas perhaps above all which not only catch the eye, but also titillate the senses. Azalea “Luteum” the common yellow Azalea has an intoxicating scent which, on a warm day, is all pervading. Before descending down Pauline’s Ride look at the exquisite little single young Azalea called “Prunifolium”. It is such a delicate colour with bell shaped flowers - very unusual. Then proceeding on down the walk you can’t miss the enormous Azalea “Viscosum”. It is commonly known as the “Swamp Azalea” (not such a flattering name). Its parentage is from Waterers of Knap Hill, originally known as “Viscosephalum”, pre 1842. Then fifty yards further down the ride you come across a stunning group of “Irene Coster” given to my wife and I by very close friends some 25 years ago. They are part of the “Occidentale” group.
Ten yards further on is another group given by the same friends more recently “Delicatissimum”, originating in Japan pre 1920. Some of the more interesting Rhododendrons which are now coming into their own are “Tally-Ho” - a cross between “Facetum” and “Griersonianum”, and the “Fabias” both “Tangerine” and “Tower Court” - a cross of “Dichroanthum” and “Griersonianum” produced in the 30’s.
Without exaggeration, I don’t believe we have ever had a season like it. The profusion of flowers on every plant is just indescribable. Do please come and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. We may not ever see quite such a remarkable season for many more years.
More next week.
Third Week of Season - Fri 25th May 2012
We are now just entering the third week of the season. The high canopy of oak and the odd beech are now almost in full leaf, providing welcome shade to the plants beneath in this exceptionally hot weather following abruptly on the heels of an abnormally cold and wet spring.
On arrival visitors should pick up the “walk of the week” sign. It leads down Pauline’s Ride, named after Pauline Spender-Clay of Forde Abbey, who was my Step Grandfather’s Sister. The older plants along this walk were purchased by my Father when her property was put up for sale following her death in the early 60’s, to which I have subsequently added many over the past forty years. The magnificent “Pieris Formosa Forrestii” which stands five metres tall is in full bloom. Its smaller neighbour “Pieris Forrestii Jermyns/Bowood Cascade” has now flowered, but between the two is a magnificent vista looking over two stunning groups of Rho. Species “Mucronatum”, and beyond hybrid “Vanessa Pastel”, which is just coming into flower. In the far distance “Magnolia Wilsonii” and some late “Loderi”. Half way down the path on the left-hand side is a stunning group of scented “Decorum”. At the end of the walk on the right-hand side is one of the most magnificent “Davidsonianum” to be found anywhere. You can hardly fit a postcard between the multitude of flowers. “Davidsonianum” was discovered by Father Armand David, a Fine Naturalist of the Missions Etrangeres, between 1869 and 1874 in Sichuan, Eastern China. Incidentally, he also discovered “Decorum” which I mentioned earlier. The walk then takes us beneath towering Rho. “Companulatum Pictum” and “Pink Pearl” with a border running along the path edge of mauve Millers “Candelabra Primulas”.
The visitor is now in the valley bottom. On the gentle walk up towards the Mausoleum on the left-hand side is another boggy area flanked with “Primulas” and “Mucronatum”. Behind this is a relatively young bed of “Azalea Luteum” which gives off the best scent of all. I should have mentioned earlier that the “Azaleas” are now at their peak. We have been adding, adding and adding “Azaleas” to the collection over these past forty years. The delicate flowers and light leaves soften the evergreen foliage of the Rhododendrons.
We are moving now into the original area of hardy hybrid plants - “Doncaster”, “Sapho”, “Mrs. William Agnew”, “Dawn’s Delight”, “Betty Wormald”, to mention but a few. The gardens are exploding into colour. Don’t miss the Quarry - still a mass of surprises to be found around every corner. “Magnolia Liliflora”, Rho. Spec. “Oreotrepsis” and the excellent hybrid “Mrs. Lionel de Rothschild”. All at their prime. On the left-hand side, where Lord Lansdowne’s Ride crosses Lady Shelburne’s Walk, is a delicate pink and rare hybrid “Picotee” grown by Waterers of Knap Hill, opposite which is “Album Elegans”. Again, a hybrid grown at Waterers of Knap Hill pre 1847. There are so many more excitements in every direction you look. Don’t miss this incredible flowering year. I do hope you are enjoying your visits and have a chance to read this short introduction.
Flowering Season - Fri 18th May 2012
This is the second week our rhododendron gardens have been officially open.
The main flowering season lasts for approximately six weeks. This entirely depends on both temperature and moisture. We have now had welcome rains these past six weeks, topping 6.8.” but it has been cold. The northerly airflows have continually washed over the country.
I mentioned last week that the “Loderi”, which is one of the largest flowering hybrids, being a cross between “Fortunii” and “Griffitheanum”, has been outstanding this year. It was originally hybridised by Sir Edmund Loder of Leonardslee Gardens. From the original, there are now at least thirty more hybrids, of which we have ten. These great flowers have peaked, but are still showstoppers. As indeed are the magnificent species “Augustinii”, discovered by Augustine Henry in 1890 in Yunnan Province. Henry trained as a doctor and studied Chinese. He originally worked as a Customs Officer in Central and Western China. His brief was to collect information about medicinal plants. His curiosity and passion for plant hunting and identification became all consuming. He collected thousands of specimens for Kew, encouraged by his mentor, Sir Joseph Hooker, who was then compiling the “New Flora of China”. So, “Augustinii” was but one of many species which he introduced at the turn of the 20th century. His achievements were somewhat eclipsed by Ernest Wilson.
We have just one more week to enjoy this remarkable man’s legacy and, indeed, the same applies to our bluebells. Although, with the continuing cold weather, they are lasting much later than usual, so are certainly good for another full week. The common Azalea “Luteum” that wonderfully scented yellow plant, is just on the verge of exploding. If we get some warm weather, that intoxicating scent will be all pervading throughout the 60 acre woodland garden. We have planted many more groups of Azaleas over the past three years. There is a beautiful golden yellow out now in full bloom (“April Showers”) on Lady Lansdowne’s ride.
Next week, I will be introducing some of the old hardy hybrids, which are unique to this garden, planted in 1854. They are known as the “ironclads” - a fascinating and extensive group.
Try to visit this week. These moments only come once a year - savour them.
More next week.
Rhododendron Gardens - Fri 11th May 2012
This has been one of the most unusual springs I have known during a lifetime of gardening. Our rhododendron garden is heavily reliant on adequate rainfall. We have had a 7” average deficit over the past two years, and the start of this year was heading the same way. Coupled with an extraordinarily mild winter with few frosts, was all too confusing for the plants! Our weather is influenced by the positioning of the high atmospheric jet stream.
On the 3rd April, it shifted south, and with it has come a welcome deluge of rain. 6” in the past month. So the plants, which were languishing, are responding to produce one of the best flowering seasons for many years. During this past month, temperatures which have been well below average, have delayed the season by two weeks. So now the main flowering show stopper is just beginning. The bluebells are at their peak. The Loderi, of which we have ten or more varieties, are exceptional.
The translucent blue Augustinii are stunning. So, once again, nature has recovered to produce a stunning display. Don’t miss this magical moment. The rides are sodden, so come with appropriate footwear! Follow the “walk of the week” signs which will lead you round the hot spots within the 60 acre woodland garden. Remember these magical moments only come round once a year! So I do hope you will be able to visit and enjoy this little corner of paradise.
Rhododendron Walks Now Open - Fri 20th April 2012
Bowood Rhododendron Walks are now open and expected to be a great flowering season.
Rain at Last! - Thu 12th April 2012
Rain at last! Or at least a start.
All the trees and shrubs are coming into leaf in a fresh vibrant shade of green.
The lawns are receiving a slow release fertiliser which will hopefully keep them looking healthy all season, so long as we have plenty of rain.
I cannot remember the trained fruit trees in the garden being covered with this amount of blossom. Fingers crossed that they are not affected by the frosts and we could potentially have a good fruit season.
The tulips on the terraces are looking fantastic and with plenty more still to flower, the display should continue throughout April.
Today we have sown the seed in the new wild flower garden within the walled garden and with a heavy shower of rain just after it’s off to a good start.
The impressive magnolia ‘conspicua’ is in full bloom on the east lawn border and the earliest wisterias are starting to flower on the top terrace.
Rhododendron Gardens - Wed 28th March 2012
I am writing this in what feels like mid-summer with temperatures in the low 20’s, remarkable to think it is still March!
Everything in the garden is growing well, the magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ and Osmanthus‘burkwoodii’ are smothered in flowers and the Prunus ‘kojo no mai’ look fabulous. The tulip ‘purissima’ is first to show itself between the lush green roses on the terraces with the rest close behind.
The Park is looking fantastic with drifts of daffodils, surrounded with freshly mown emerald green grass, under trees that are bursting into life.
Dave, our Kitchen Gardener, is busy planting the first early potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips and is filling the green houses with seeds hoping to get an early start with the rest of the vegetables. Our harvesting has started with forced rhubarb, most of which will go to The Bowood Hotel.
The Garden is About to Explode! - Wed 14th March 2012
Buds are breaking, new shoots are appearing and plants like the Aconitum’s are emerging after months of hiding beneath the surface. The Spring garden is beginning to look fabulous with amazing blossom over a carpet of daffodils.
The tulips must be able to sense when the gardens open to the public on the 28th March - their timing should be perfect!
All staff are busy in the gardens and grounds in preparation for opening. Leaves and twigs are being collected from the Pinetum and stored in heaps; this will make fantastic leaf mould compost in the future.
Work is continuing well with the new wild flower garden within the Private Walled Garden*. The soil has been rotavated and prepared and I anticipate sowing the seed in the coming weeks.
We have just completed our first lawn mow of the season and trimmed all the edges. For the first time in months the garden is looking respectable again.
*Tours of the Private Walled Gardens are now available for individuals on specified dates. Please check the website or call us on 01249 810961 for more details.
Springing to Life! - Wed 29th February 2012
Having only just written about the cold temperatures, here I am writing this blog in near record breaking 17 degrees. The garden is just starting to spring to life, early daffodils are in bloom and the east walk is carpeted with aconites and snowdrops. My favourite place in the garden right now has to be close to the Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ - the intense fragrance is overwhelming.
Mulching is the order of the week with all the rose beds and mixed borders having a good application of well rotted horse manure.
Having just installed a sprinkler system for the new hot border in the Private Walled Gardens* I can’t help but wonder where the water is coming from to supply it. I am told the estate springs have never stopped flowing, but then nobody can remember a drought lasting so long!
*Tours of the Private Walled Gardens are now available for individuals on specified dates. Please check the website or call us on 01249 810961 for more details.
Snow - Tue 14th February 2012
After temperatures of minus 10 degrees and 2 inches of snow, the garden is looking a little sorry for itself. I am sure we will have a few plant fatalities but it always amazes me how most plants recover.
Stephen is working hard pruning the roses on the Terraces in preparation for applying a mulch of horse manure. Meanwhile Dave and Rob are busy fixing wires to the walls of the walled garden to help us to train the climbing plants up the walls.
This week we will start our preparation for the next project which is to create a wildflower meadow within the Walled Garden. This is something I am particularly excited about and I will keep you up to date with our progress.
*Tours of the Private Walled Gardens are now available for individuals on specified dates. Please check the website or call us on 01249 810961 for more details.
Winter! - Fri 03rd February 2012
Well, winter has finally arrived with temperatures of -5 degrees. This will slow the plants down enabling us to get on with our winter pruning. Bulbs are popping up all around the garden reminding us spring is on its way.
Currently we are installing irrigation systems for the new hot border created this year in the Private Walled Gardens*. Hard to believe that in a few months, the ground will turn to dust and require watering! Glass houses are all cleaned and seed orders have been placed heralding the start of a new year in the garden.
The grape vines have been scraped and loose bark removed to expose all pests hiding beneath, a thorough clean with winter wash, a feed, fresh mulch and first watering sets us off for another year.