Our sense of time is a bit out of alignment these days – lockdown has meant that many of us have been looking inwards and at our gardens. We’ve been noticing change and growth perhaps more acutely than ever before. But even so .. we lockdown and the beginning of spring and now summer is well on its way… how did that happen?
Here in the garden at the start of the month we are busy finishing the summer bedding displays. Risk of frost is surely passed and the summer plants that went in a few weeks ago have established and are flowering. It is really important though to water these temporary residents if rainfall is lacking. They won’t put on their best show if they are struggling to survive and desperately thirsty.
We have all rediscovered our love of hanging baskets this year. All kinds of improvised and hand nurtured baskets and containers are seen around peoples front doors and on balconies. Now, just because you can go out, don’t neglect their love and care. Any reserves of goodness in the compost, or within the plants themselves, are being used up for growing and flowering. A regular feed with some water soluble fertiliser will ensure your baskets keep looking vibrant. You’ll need to water your baskets everyday by now as the sun dries out the compost very quickly. So feeding them while watering is no extra work for you.
‘Dead heading’ …
Flowers, just like bird song, are not there to please our eyes – or ears. The plant produces flowers as part of its main job – to reproduce itself for next year. It is merely a happy side effect that we humans like the look of flowers. So, armed with that knowledge we can intervene and try to help the plant produce more flowers for our benefit.. Once a plant has flowered and set seed it’s job is complete, so will relax …and die back. The answer for us humans is to fool the plant by removing all the old flower heads and it will keep on trying to reproduce by pushing out lots more lovely flowers.
A time of plenty in the Veg. plot
In the vegetable patch you can now start to reap the benefits of all the extra time you’ve been able to put in over the last few months by harvesting some of the crops you have been caring for.
Items such as salad leaves, peas and beans should be ready to eat and weeding around the vegetables becomes easier. With the heat of the sun any small weeds can be hoed off and will frazzle and die. Happy eating and keep growing your own food… Hyper local is good!
Gardener’s Tips for May
It is now time to give your borders some attention. All the sunshine and showers means the garden should now be at its vibrant best. Remove any faded spring bedding at the end of the month, it’s served you well but it’s time for a change and old bedding can be put in the compost bin to go back on the garden next year as mulch.
Once the risk of frost has passed (what do you think?), plant out summer bedding and ensure it is kept well watered so it can establish.
Ensure any perennial weeds are swiftly removed and hoe off any annual weeds , don’t let them get the chance to flower and seed as this will greatly increase your workload. Tie in any shoots of climbing plants in your border. Plants like clematis are easier to manage when offshoots are short and young, if you allow them to get too long it’s almost impossible to prise them away from other plants they get tangled up in without snapping.
If you want hanging baskets plant them up now and allow them to establish for a few weeks in a frost free space make sure that when you put them out you keep them well watered, pick off the dead flowers and give them a liquid fertiliser feed every few weeks this should keep your hanging baskets flowering throughout the summer.
You can start to harvest rhubarb this month, twist the stem at the base of the plant but ensure you leave a few stems on each crown.
Don’t strip it bare as the plant needs to be able to feed its own crown. Continuing with this theme on the vegetable plot, if you have asparagus ensure that you stop cutting to leave some spears to grow at the end of the month. They produce a lovely ferny foliage which is
needed by the asparagus crown to capture sunlight to replenish its crown for next year. Potatoes that were planted in April (oh yes they were!) can now be earthed up, by drawing up mounds of soil up around the plant this will help the potatoes create more tubers from the buried stems and increase your crop.
You may have been mowing for a few months now, but it’s time to establish a regular routine. Mowing weekly will ensure you get a denser turf. A denser turf means a better looking lawn and less opportunity for weeds to establish – No don’t be tempted to do it too often because your ‘just want to get out there!’
For further tips follow the link to view the RHS Gardening Tips for #nationalgardeningweek https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/national-gardening-week/
A few hints and tips from our excellent Gardener’s for the month of April:
Things should be moving along pretty quickly now the highlight at the start of the month has to be tulips and with April’s sunshine and showers plants are growing at pace but there are a few things that you can do at the start of the month to reduce your workload later on.
Applying a layer of mulch around trees and perennials before the warmer weather arrives not only will keep the moisture locked in but it will stop a lot of weeds from emerging saving you valuable time later on in the season that can be spent doing other important garden jobs .
Give your plants a feed, trees shrubs and hedges will benefit from a slow release fertiliser. Roses are especially greedy plants feeding will aid flowering in June. You can buy specialist rose fertiliser but any fertiliser that contains a mix of potassium nitrogen and phosphorus will be beneficial.
Sow any hardy annuals now in their final positions these fast growing plants are a cheap way to fill a border with colour during the summer plants such as pot marigolds, Californian poppies and cornflowers are good choices. Those annuals that are a little more tender and don’t like the cold can be sown undercover now in pots and placed out once the risk of frost has passed.
In the vegetable garden it’s time to plant out your potatoes, early crops can be planted at the start of the month and main crops at the end of the month. Courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can now be sown individually in 5cm pots undercover and tomatoes, aubergines chillies and sweetcorn should now be sown undercover as they need a long growing season to produce their fruits. Don’t forget to thin out any seedlings that were sown in March, in order to reach their full potential plants need space as well as sunshine and showers.
It’s a good time to completely empty any compost bins for mulching. Hibernating animals should now have woken and moved on, but still be careful as you don’t want to spear any frogs or hedgehogs with a garden fork.
Stay safe all, and hope to see you again soon. The next Gardener’s tips will be posted at the beginning of May CBHGT x
All three organisations are doing imaginative and interesting things while closed to the public. Although most of this years RHS shows either cancelled or postponed, you can’t keep a professional gardener from wanting to show off. So the first virtual flower show of the year is run by from fellow Partner Gardens down in Truro, Cornwall. Our Assistant Gardener Tanya, who also trained in photography, has entered some pictures of the Gardens she has taken over these last three weeks tending the site.
She has entered us into 4 of the ‘classes’. Feast your eyes on our and everyone else’s scrumptious pictures on Gary Long’s (of Trewithen Gardens and Parks and Cornish Professional Gardeners Guild) facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/760964517350697/
You can also find shared posts on our own facebook site here.
We’re told the prizes are virtual and will need to be returned before next year’s show 😊. Cornwall is of course ahead of us climate wise and their photos are stunning … but we give them a good run
Some of Tanya’s views below:
The classes are:
Class 1 A view of the garden.
Class 2 Woody plant.
Class 3 Herbaceous plants or bulbs planted or in a pot. The whole plant or single flower
Class 4 Wildflowers, the whole plant or single flower, any plant you see growing wild on your exercise route
Class 5 “Extraordinary Times”
We’ll announce who the winners are after Tuesday 14th – wish us luck 🙂
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
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
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..