If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1
This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.
After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!
1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.
Transition to ‘Big School’ can be a nervy time for many pupils. The Gardens’ education department is offering a fun day out for Year 6 with a purpose.
A Taste of KS3 History gets the kids out of the classroom into the open in 10 acres of open space. Our historic garden gives us the opportunity to touch on topics across the KeyStage3 curriculum.
Sessions during the day include The Black Death and early medecine (our medicinal herb borders show the real plants), ‘Dig for Victory’ in our veg. plot and the opportunity to play like a Victorian on our Archery Lawn. They’ll also be the chance to taste ‘knot biscuits’ (shortcake based recipe) and carrot cookies (wartime recipe).
A day aimed at looking forward with confidence. £4 per pupil
As well as some delightful period tulips and daffodils in the Gardens we have, this year, introduced the ‘wild tulip’ … the mummy of all those later fancy ones.
Tulipa sylvestris, known as the ‘wild’ or ‘florentine’ tulip is a species tulip noted ‘somewhere in Italy’ as early as 1594. Our suppliers Thomas Etty esq describes it thus
“Violet scented almond-shaped lemon yellow flowers in mid April. Naturalises well in grass. Said, by some, to have first travelled to these shores attached upon the roots of grape vines brought from Italy by the Romans.”
Volunteers have been deadheading the daffs along the Holly Walk bank revealing the wild tulips and allowing them to make their mark. A really special addition to the month.
Other varieties of note this year are;
the jolly scarlet and yellow of Kaiserkroon (‘kings crown’) from 1620,
the 16th century double white poeticus plenus and pheasants eye
and of the later varieties we have sneaked in – Queen of the Night tulip (pre 1939) and Rinjveld’s Early Sensation daff., 1926.
To celebrate our 17th century Gardens’ new ‘Auricula Theatre’ feature we are holding a day with specialist growers HillView Hardy Plants.
On Easter Bank Holiday Monday, the nursery people from HillView will answer questions, give advice about growing, and of course sell you some of their lovely range of plants, which will be at their height around this time.
The Primula auricula is usually known as auricula, or by the folk names of mountain cowslip or bear’s ear. The upright stalks and colourful headed flowers were popular, and coveted, from the early 17th century. Rare beauties were so prized that they were sometimes presented to a seated and expectant audience, appearing from behind a curtain, with many ‘oohs and ahhs’.
As growers became ‘enthusiasts’, this approach led to the practice of displaying the plants on layered shelving or within a framed arch – just like a theatre. Some ‘ auricula theatres’ were modest others,
As a 17th/18th century Garden, there would undoubtedly have been auriculas grown here.
In the Music Room this summer we are displaying a reproduction of a flower painting (from around 1712, by Dutch painter Jan van Huysum). We already grow most of the flowers that appear in his picture … but not auricula. So…
Our, modest but authentic, Auricula Theatre will complement the season of mini-flower exhibits reflecting the picture in the Music Room.
Come along on Easter Bank Holiday Monday to find out more.
Part of our #GrowtheGardens fundraising this year.
There will be a guided tour of each site including (for those who wish it) a tour of the tower and famous bells in the church tower. Although the Hall is accessible to guests, this is a chance to see some of the magnificent plaster ceiling work and other areas not easily accessible otherwise.
Tours can be taken separately or in series.
The main series: 1pm Hall, 1.45 Church , 2.30 Gardens (please start at the Garden entrance to purchase your ticket and tour ‘tokens’)
There will be second tours at the Hall: 2pm. Gardens: 3pm and the Church will take informal tours all afternoon.
Please note the Tower can take only 4 or 5 people at a time – ask the Church wardens on entrance.
Normal Entry fees apply £4/£4.50 (plus Gift Aid). Tours free
You will be given ‘tour tokens’ to exchange at the entrance to each tour.
Can’t make that day?
The Church will be open on Sunday 11th September in the afternoon for drop-in tours and trips to the tower…also as part of Heritage Open Days.
..and don’t forget the Gardens have regular , free guided tours around the Gardens on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (2pm) during the season.