Category: From the Garden

Monthly Gardener’s Tips

In an effort to provide some #mondaymotivation for you, we will be posting Gardener’s tips the first Monday of each month. To catch us all up, we start with March – check back in with us on Easter Monday for tips for April!

Spring has sprung and warmer days increase garden tasks but it is also time for the cheery daffodil to take centre stage. A true herald of Spring, it is also the national flower of Wales and is often worn on St David’s Day on the 1st of March. In the garden once the daffodils have started to fade remove the developing seed heads, the plant will then put all its energy into replenishing itself rather than trying to reproduce. Also don’t cut off any leaves or tie into bunches, yes the leaves may look a little untidy but they are doing an important job in helping the bulb underground to gain valuable reserves to help with flowering next year.

It is time to cut back winter shrubs. Those plants used for their showy stems such as dogwood can be cut down to the ground to encourage new vibrant growth. A good rule of thumb is to take out a third of the oldest stems. The older stems start to lose their colour and by taking out the older stems you will always have bright newer growth waiting in the wings to take its place. 

It is a good month for planting shallots and onions. If the weather turns slightly warmer you may be able to start to plant early potatoes at the end of the month. You can check the temperature of the soil by using the back of your hand or by noticing the germination of weed seeds. If weeds are germinating then the soil must be getting warmer so hoe them off and start to plant the hardier salads such as radish and beetroot. 

Now the weather is warming up, you can start to reseed any grass areas that show signs of wear, gently scuff the surface you wish to seed and if there are hollows or dips you can add compost to the seed to even out the surface. You may find you need to mow the lawn, wait for the ground to dry out a little and raise your mower blades for the first cut, you don’t want to stress your turf at this time of year by giving it a short cut. 

Birds are nesting now and starting to have families, it’s a good idea to remove peanuts from feeders now as they can choke baby birds. If you want to feed the birds then swap the peanuts for meal worms they are a good choice as they are packed full of protein. 

Join in with the whole family and have a walk locally and see what plants are springing up. This doesn’t have to be in the wilderness – see what plants are poking out of pavements, gardens and window sills. You could always take some photos to practice drawing later on. 

We would love to see your photos! Please feel free to send and share any through to us via email marketingcbhallgardens@gmail.com, or direct via social media and we would love to feature your gardens, nature spotting and creations.

Stay safe from all of us at Castle Bromwich Historic Gardens x

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Farewell for now … The Temporary Closure of the Gardens

 Despite the best efforts of all, the Gardens will remain closed to the public until it is safe to re-open again. An eerie and strange feeling has engulfed us, with a globally collective fear of what may come; we recognise the benefit of fresh air and green space in the Gardens and the comfort and solace this brings to many of you.  With this in mind, we will keep you updated regularly in a digital sense – writing blog posts, posting to social media, suggesting activities on various topics in the coming weeks and beyond. We will tend to the Gardens in the most reduced way, maintaining what we can during this time. The Gardens team have been working flat out to plant, sow, build, chop and mow, but for now it’s tools down to keep the population safe. Here is a round up of the year so far and what’s happening now: 

We began the year with a wonderful Wassail, the Green Man joined us with hot cider and apple juice as we celebrated and wished for a bountiful apple harvest later this year. An unusually warm and sunny afternoon, with much merriment. February half-term saw the first of our planned activities in the Gardens. Spiderman and Elsa joined us for a special visit in the Orangery, Unplug and Play family activities took place in between Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis – well done to those who braved the winds. School groups came to learn all about the natural world in the Gardens and our troop of wonderful volunteers continued to work in the vegetation, help fundraise, run the cafe and ticket desk and work behind the scenes on history gathering in preparation for our planned ‘Big History’ day. We have also been looking at the future of the Gardens in its 35th anniversary year, harnessing what we can to develop and grow for many years to come. 

The Gardens have slowly been awakening in the past few weeks, the first buds and greenery have begun to appear, including the beautiful snowdrops, daffodils and just now a sprinkling of blossom. With the promise of new growth and life creeping about the walls, the plants have been reminding us that “they can’t cancel Spring!”. With wildlife also emerging, our night camera had spotted heron’s dipping for the frogs in the ponds, plenty of frogspawn bobbing in the spinney pond, foxes padding about and a couple of house cats who snuck in too.

With the recent uncertainty in the world, we have made a change to our Memberships. Those who have a current Membership, have recently renewed, or would like to take a new Membership out in the next 3 months, will receive 15 months access instead of 12 months. We will review this as we can in order to give people extended access where they may have missed out during the restrictions. 

As a charitable trust, we rely quite heavily on funding and income from visitors. If you would like to support us from home and feel that you can at this time, we would be grateful for any donations via our page on Just Giving. https://www.justgiving.com/cbh-gardens

We will leave you with this image from illustrator Charlie Mackesy – “When the big things feel out of control … focus on what you love right under your nose.”

Thank you for reading, keep safe at home and join us online again soon for more news and updates from the Gardens

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Water water everywhere

The numbers are in. Yes, March was indeed the wettest month. In fact the wettest for 8 years.

Our Education Officer Ann Brookman has been keeping records and sharing the readings with our school visitors for a while now. Her figures certainly bear out our own gut (wellboot) feelings that its been a drearily damp month.

This March we had a whopping 92mm. The driest year was way back in 2012 with a mere 14.5 millimetres

No doubt some of those extra millimetres come from this year’s snow melt but, even so, the hike

from the previous high (60mm in 2013) is pretty spectacular.

Our grass has certainly suffered this month too. The gardeners have been spending this week

tamping down and reseeding some of the paths that have been churned up by traffic in the snow

and rain.

The lovely new stretch tent (from Tentickle) on the lawn, while providing us and the public some good shelter, has been rather too efficiently gathering the water into little swimming pools on the roof. Good job it’s stretchy.

Ah well… April showers to come…..

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#wegrowtogether: a guide to companion planting

There’s a lot of wisdom out there amongst professional and amateur gardeners. Much folklore and science knowledge handed down from generation to generation. 

In the post second world war  ‘nuke everything with a chemical’ era, a lot of native knowledge about what grew well with what, was lost and indeed strongly poo-poohed as ‘magic’ and superstition.

Thankfully since then, largely due to the Organic Gardening lobby, a more rational approach and some good scientific studies have been instrumental in making the practice of ‘companion planting’ an accepted practice amongst mainstream gardeners.

In our veg. and herb garden (the Batty Langley), we tend to mix some pre-18th century practices with some modern wisdom. We don’t use chemicals and plant calendula, nasturtiums, borage, comfrey etc plants amongst the vegetables to encourage beneficial insects.

On the Schools plot we have also experimented with ‘Three Sisters’ planting. This is a techniques used primarily by native north american peoples and combines three main agricultural crops winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans.

“The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to        climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other  plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)

There is quite a lot of information out there on the web but we thought we would share a guide made by one of our helpful commercial partners, FirstTunnels.

Click here to be taken to their very comprehensive site

https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/page/Companion-Planting-Guide

 

 

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Love Drawing… make a date for our monthly sessions

We are delighted to welcome back the ‘flower fairies’ from Birmingham Society of Botanical Artists.

Birmingham Society of Botanical Artists logoLast year the talented artists from the Society sat in the Garden, the greenhouse, the visitor centre whichever was the most comfortable, and drew together, once a month.

They are back again this year starting on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday 14th at 1.30pm

They invite anyone to join them, in companionship, for a couple of hours each month

Each season has a fresh thing to discover; an early apricot, a humble seedhead or a spectacular flower. some decided to follow a tree the whole year around, others had a go at whatever they found.

Love drawing, but too shy to show anyone?
Well come along on these monthly Wednesday afternoons. Everyone is welcome to take their ‘line for a walk’, with pencil and paper in a relaxed and non-judgemental atmosphere. Draw in companionship.
And… if you do want advice and comment, then the artists are on hand to helpyou out.
LOVE drawing this Valentine’s Day …make it a monthly date.

The second Wednesday in the Month – 1.30 -3.30pm

Bring your own materials or take advantage of some basic pen and paper we’ll provide.

Normal entry fees apply but (basic)materials and support are free

 

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The Strawberry Tree

  The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a easy tree or shrub to identify, having both flowers and fruit present at the same time. The strawberry (or I think more like lychee) like fruit take up to a year to ripen, so as last year’s fruits turn red, the flowers that will form next year’s fruit start to appear. The fruit is said to be edible, although not very tasty, which may be hinted at in it’s Latin name ‘unedo‘; coming from unum edo ‘I eat one’ – meaning after you have eaten one you wouldn’t want another one? Having not yet tried one I couldn’t say! Which is good news for the birds, leaving plenty of fruit for them to feast on during the colder months.

A member of the Ericaceae family of plants, most commonly known as heather, the flowers bear a strong resemblance to those of heathers, with bell-like downward facing flowers in small clusters.

You may have also seen this plant in a well known Morris & Co. design, used in fabrics and wallpapers where you can clearly see the red fruits and white flowers.

Have a wander down to the Lower Wilderness to have a closer look at these interesting plants..

 

 

 

 

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Kale

This week I planted out 40 Kale plants in the Batty Langley vegetable garden that have been quietly growing along in the greenhouse since September. We are trying three varieties, ‘Red Russian’, ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Borecole – Green Curled Dwarf’.

Kale does well over the colder months, so will hopefully add some interest in the garden over the following darker months. As pigeons take a fancy to stripping the foliage off plants in the Brassica family, the precaution of placing net over the kale plants has been necessary to stop them becoming just tattered stems!

I have used two beds to grow the kale in, with 20 plants in each one, and to create a neat formal look the use of a tape measure was implemented to ensure even spacing.

The botanical name for kale is Brassica oleracea var. acephala, ‘Brassica’ being the genus consisting of cabbages, ‘oleracea’ meaning that the plant can be used as a vegetable and ‘acephala’ meaning ‘without a head’, i.e that the plant is loose leafed rather than with a head as many cultivated cabbages have. Kale has a long history as a food crop, being one of the most important green vegetables in Europe up until the end of the Middle Ages.

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New plants from old

At this time of year a lot of plants are starting to go to seed, so it is a good time to go around and collect some of them so we can grow new plants for next year. Some can be sown straight away (as we are doing so in the greenhouses), others can be stored to be sown in the spring. We are also taking cuttings of some of the plants in the garden, and hopefully by next spring we will have lots of lovely plants to sell or plant back out in the garden.

We are trying seeds collected from plants including Alcea (hollyhock), Lychnis (rose campion), Lupin, Astrantia, Galega (Goat’s Rue), Poppy and Phlomis. Some, such as Lychnis, have already germinated, others we are still eagerly awaiting for signs of life! The interesting thing about seeds is the genetic variation that can occur, so often the resulting plants will show some variation from the parent, especially in the case of the hollyhocks, where the colour of the flowers on each plant will be a surprise!

Cuttings taken include Lavender, Rosemary, Jasmine and Philadelphus. These are all semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth, so the base is firm but with soft growth still on the tips. They are put in pots together, and then when roots start to show at the base of the pot, they will be separated and given their own pot to grow on. Unlike seeds, cuttings create clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you are going to get.

We look forward to seeing how our seeds and cuttings do, and in the meantime they have a trusty guardian to keep an eye on them!

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