The warm weather in February has brought the spring bulbs on, the snowdrops have finished flowering this year and the early daffodils are blooming. Hellebores and cardamine provide splashes of colour. Along with winter flowering shrubs, interesting tree bark, shapes and textures there is much to look at when you venture into the garden. However, March has seen much rain, wind, sleet and some snow, so winter returned.
Recently we have been busy with winter pruning. Adam has done some fruit trees and bushes. Richard has pruned the wisteria to 2 buds to encourage flowering, and tied in and shaped a Clematis Bill McKenzie to encourage it to scramble on a wall in the ruins. Geoff has completed the Buddleia. I have worked on roses and some shrubs around the garden. I am sure there is more that could be done, after completing some training in early February I am noticing areas which would benefit from some attention.
We have nearly finished a first pass over the borders, cutting back and clearing last year’s growth. This gives us the opportunity to review their contents and decide if we want to make any changes. Some plants have been moved, a few have been removed and some new ones have been added. Over the next few weeks we will work round weeding, feeding and mulching ready for the growing season ahead.
We have had several projects underway through the winter and these are now in their final stages. Last autumn we started to install a water supply to the cutting garden and electrics to the potting shed. A trench was needed to carry the pipes and cable from the greenhouse and this resulted a change to the design at the top of the rockery. The hard landscaping has been completed and the rockery extension is being planted as new plants are acquired.
When the mini-digger was here we took the opportunity to clear a patch of Symphocarpus that had spread and taken over an area of the Wild Wood. It was encroaching on an area where Martignon lilies grow; it also hid these plants from view, you had to know they are there and make a special effort to seek them out. We have extended the bark pathway to lead to the lily patch and have sown a woodland flower seed mixture into the area the shrubs occupied. It will be interesting to see how the area progresses this year.
Finally, on the rear drive there is a border which is heavy clay and difficult to work. Several Ilex plants had failed to grow, so these have been moved to a different part of the garden. Soil conditioner and composted bark has been dug into the border and it has been planted with winter heathers which will provide both colour and ground cover. The heathers chosen are Erica carnea and Erica darlyensis as these are happy in neutral soil. They should be happy there as it is a sunny, open position.
I have been very pleased with the opening of the garden under the National Garden Scheme in 2018 and have decided to continue in 2019. Clearly we can’t predict the weather, but I am hoping that the 2019 season is not as slow to start and have decided to have an open day in April again. I think it’s great to get out and see the spring bulbs after the winter and if I leave it until May then many of the daffodils could have finished. The dates planned for 2019 are:
Visitors are welcomed between 11 am and 5 pm and the garden opening will be supported by local groups providing refreshments at Millhouse Village Hall.
For those interested, our final figures for the 2018 NGS openings are:
The glorious summer was very welcome, it is much easier cutting grass when it is dry. Some things suffered, I was not able to water extensively, but I am optimistic that a lot of things will have come through. There was some vibrant late summer colour which I was able to capture. A selection of images is included here in the blog and I will add some to the gallery.
In August we started cutting the meadow area, after which I extended the area with yellow rattle by sowing more seed, just to help the spread of the plant. This is a parasitic plant, attaching itself to the roots of grasses which weakens the grass over time. This allows more wildflowers to compete in the meadow environment. At Deer Rudding the meadows are pasture, not cornfield. In managing the meadows you need to let the seed of annual plants that you want to return set seed before cutting. When cutting you need to let the cut grass lie to dry off, then move it around to disperse the seed, after which you remove all the clippings. These are not left on as you do not want to feed the sward, otherwise grass grows more strongly at the expense of wildflowers. There will be a further cut in late autumn to make sure the sward is short for the benefit of early bulbs.
There was a major loss this year, one of the mature beech trees was toppled by the gale that hit Cumbria on 19th September. There was quite a bit of work to clear it up, but no major damage was caused.
On a more positive note, we have red squirrels visiting the garden again, this is the first time I have seen them here for about 4 or 5 years. I was very lucky to be walking round with the camera in hand and I got this shot in the Wild Wood area, (see bottom of picture).
During September I improved the lighting and power supply to the greenhouse and I am busy cleaning it and getting organised to bring things in for the winter. I am a little late due to my recent holidays, but I will sow some hardy annuals and take some cuttings in the next few days. My approach at this stage being nothing ventured, nothing gained. Another project which got underway this week is to take power to the potting shed in the ruins and water to the cutting garden. It will result in a direct path from the greenhouse to the potting shed, the trench carrying the pipes and cables is underneath the path. Geoff is leading this activity.
Bulbs are an important component of the spring garden, they are a wonderful sight after the winter season and I like to add a few each year, so we will now turn our attention to bulb planting. I am going to add more of the species daffodils to naturalise in grass, there are 3 that I have chosen, Lobularis, Obvallaris and Pseudonarcissus. I have also decided to add more allium tp one of the long grass areas. Two varieties, A. atropurpureum and A. nigrum, flowered well from the 4 varieties I tried in 2018 so I am going to increase these. They are a combination of large white and a slightly smaller dark purple blooms which are attractive to pollinators and should flower in May - June. This year I have decided to plant more tulips straight into the ground, rather than in pots. I have selected varieties that I am hoping will be perennial in this garden. The visitors who come to the NGS open days will benefit from the displays of spring bulbs.
At the beginning of the June we held our final NGS open day for 2018. Despite the uninspiring day we had 158 visitors and raised £745. The refreshments provided by the Penrith and District Red Squirrels Group at Millhouse village hall were successful, raising a further £473.
The total funds raised so far this year now stand at £3483.80 through the open days and ‘by appointment’ visits. The open days have raised:
The ‘by appointment’ visits to the garden have raised a further £475
So many thanks to the people who helped make this possible.
The grass cutting season is well underway and that now is a regular routine to keep us busy. However is is very pleasant to observe your surroundings whilst doing it, so it a job I enjoy. As the plants grow there is more weeding needed to keep the garden tidy, hoeing out young seedlings can save much work later. Cutting back wild flowers that grow within the garden before they set seed, such as Campion and Cow Parsley, prevents them taking over.
The warm weather throughout May and early June has changed the scene within the garden very quickly with different plants coming into flower daily. The Hesperis and Forget-me-not planted with the Paeonia area very colourful and I am pleased with this combination. These follow on from spring bulbs, including hyacinths and chionodoxa which are planted between the paeonia, so that extends the period of interest.
The cobbled yard is looking colourful with the muted pastel pinks of self sown Knautia and the architectural Teasels filling the space.
The meadow area on the green lane is looking very beautiful and this leads down to an abundance of ox-eye daisies
Other colour is provided by rockery plants and Candelabra Primulas and lighting up the borders. Poppies make a splash of vibrant colour to draw your eye into the scene. Cirsium Rivulare attract the bees with their open flower, they can be observed moving from flower to flower. June is a lovely month to working outside.
At the beginning of the May we held our second NGS opening. We were very fortunate with the weather, it was a glorious day, the first in a memorable bank holiday weekend. There were some umbrellas evident again this month, but acting as sun shields. It was wonderful to see people strolling and chatting leisurely in the garden. We had 159 visitors and I was able to give the National Garden Scheme £770 from the fund raising.
The refreshments provided by the Friends of Fellview School at Millhouse village hall were very successful, raising a little over £500 for the local charity which is great. So many thanks to the people who helped make this possible, and in particular to those who helped me at Deer Rudding.
At the next opening on Saturday 2nd June, Penrith and District Red Squirrels Group will raise money by providing refreshments at Millhouse Village Hall. The admission charge for the garden will be to raise money for the NGS.
In the garden, the Tulips have been a highlight for the month: