September 2022

We’ve finally started planting up the Cool Fernery now that the weather has cooled down and the blinds are up. The big tree ferns have gone in first and now the tiny alpine ferns. Next will be the epiphytes – the ferns that grow on logs and walls – then the lithophytes which are the ferns that like to grow in rocky places. Finally we will put in the bulk of the ferns that are the ones that just grow on the ground. The team have done a great job in landscaping to give the whole glasshouse a natural look. We’ve got some new aquatics and some interesting ferns in hanging baskets. I can’t wait to have it all done and see what everyone thinks.

Now for an update on the weather. You can tell by my monthly notes how much climate change and its impact is on my mind. I’m hyper aware of how much rain we are having and I’m constantly checking the forecast. This month, we have had rain, but is was 66mm over two days and then only 10mm over the rest of the month. So, a bit like British Rail, it’s the wrong kind of rain! We have a very free-draining soil so it doesn’t hang around for long and a lot of it just runs-off. What we really need is for it to rain overnight a couple of times a week; 2.5mm each time would do me fine. On the upside, it was a great opportunity to make a start on filling up the new rainwater harvesting tank that we have installed to collect rainwater for irrigating in the Cool Fernery.

August 2022

Well, I never thought I would get into work in the morning and feel relieved that the temperature was ‘only’ 27c! Our maximum temperature last Tuesday was 39.3c but of course neither the gardeners nor the plants can work from home so we were at the Garden just trying to keep the plants and the team alive. We are really feeling the effects of climate change in the Garden. Not only has it been exhaustingly hot, the rainfall has been pitiful. We have had less than 1mm this month. However, through it all, the team has been so calm and focussed on getting the job done.

On the upside, it feels that we are finally catching up on a lot of work that really needs doing. Much has been put to one side whilst we have focussed on our glasshouses restoration project and we are also catching up on work that didn’t happen because of the pandemic. Anyway, we are now turning to some fine tuning in the Garden and also new plantings which I hope you will like.

You will have noticed that last winter we had to remove the Mulberry tree near to the café and this had left a large bed of weeds (or as I like to call them, wild flowers). This week with a big team effort we have prepared the bed for the planting of many salvias. We propagated them last year from existing stock and we’ll also be adding some more. One of my favourite additions this year is Salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ which we have already planted on the original Salvia Walk. As well as being a great colour it is also a reasonable size – not like some of the giants that we grow – and this is quality that I really value in a salvia.

April 2022

The Garden is looking so good at the moment; everything is bursting into life and everywhere you look there are flowers, blossom, new shoots and bursting buds.  It really is my favourite time of year in the Garden.  I think the beds on the Embankment are looking the best they’ve ever been.  This is partly because we did a lot of pruning last year and opened up space for early spring growers to look great before the canopy closes over.  We’ve also put a few new plants in there too.

Last week we started cutting back all the dead growth from the perennials in the Garden – particularly in the dicot order beds.  Many people do this job in the autumn/winter but I like to leave on all the dead top growth throughout the winter and into spring.  It’s great for wildlife, in particular the birds who eat the seeds and then also use the dry material for nesting in spring.  I will always prefer to have something to see rather than bare earth; how the plants look in all the seasons is interesting to me.   If you look on the dicot order beds, about half way down and on the right, we have left a couple of our favourite dead plants in the asteraceae family – Scolymus hispanicus and Serratula tinctoria subsp. seoanei– to my mind they look better dead than alive!  We’ll probably only take them out when we have living plants to replace them with.

As well as cutting back the dead material from the perennials we also took down the peastick support structures because they become brittle after one season of use.  The old peasticks get shredded and then added to a couple of the wood chip paths around the Garden.  We usually take the bamboo canes that are part of the same structures out at the same time, but this year we’ve left them in.  It does look a bit odd but I thought that because the gap between us taking down the structures and putting them back up is so short, we could live with the aesthetic.  It will really save us a lot of effort in not having to put new ones in this year.  It will also show us the height at which we should build the structures again without relying on our trusty spreadsheet.  Today our delivery of new peasticks will be coming from a sustainably managed woodland on the Kent/East Sussex border and so it will only be a few weeks before we start building these plant supports again.