Category: Latest News

#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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Sunday Saunters…special weekend openings for winter wanderings

Sometimes all you want on Sunday afternoon at this time of year is a bit of fresh air and a stretching of the legs.

No kitting up for a long walk in the hills, just a stroll around a green and peaceful place…

This winter we are having a series of special weekend openings at the Gardens with this need in mind. There are five ‘Sunday Saunters’ between the end of January and the beginning of the season in April.

Late Winter and early Spring is also just a fascinating time in our Gardens.. the snowdrops, aconites and hellebores begin to emerge. As the days get longer the birds (and the box hedges!) get more active. Soon our drifts of daffodils begin to shoot up. When we are lucky enough to have some sunshine the low raking light illuminates the walkways and creates intriguing silhouettes.

We like to share these transient treasures, so Sunday opening offers a chance for our busy visitors to have a couple of hours of healthy pootering outdoors.

Of course it’s still a bit parky, so we have opened our 18th century Greenhouse (sometimes known as the Orangery) for people to find shelter and get a cup of warming chocolate.

On some of the days we will also strike up the firepit and indulge in toasted marshmallows and have some simple family crafts too.

 

Here are the dates. Do check back to the events calendar on this site or on Facebook just to make sure.

Sundays, 11am – 3pm

£4 adults, £1 children. Free for Members

 28th January Snowdrops+ RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and family craft
 4th February Snowdrops
18th February
  4th March Daffs + Elite Tents Wedding Fair on site  (free entry)
18th March Good for Daffs

 

 

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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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Volunteering at our Lantern Events 2017

We are looking for willing volunteers to be Stewards and servers of hot chocolate and marshmallows to visitors at our upcoming Lantern Festival!

Here are some descriptions of the roles available (including other roles.)

The Gardens are largely staffed by volunteers and we’re looking forward to putting on this great family oriented series of events this month.

Volunteering will provide practical, rewarding experience of events management and organisation that will look excellent on a CV. Its a great way of giving something to a local community and a great group thing to be involved with. Travel expenses to and from the Gardens are also covered.

Volunteers MUST be available on one or (preferably) more of: Sunday 26th November, Saturday 2nd December, Sunday 10th December, Saturday 16th December as well as a training day, likely the 24th of November but relatively flexible.

There are some indoor roles, but you must also be comfortable working out of doors, working in the dark, directing visitors, and serving drinks. We will provide training , Hi Viz jackets, warming drinks and smiles :-)).

If you are interested please click the google form here http://bit.ly/2AWUaHz   to fill in your details and preferences.

Thank you! Please share with your friends  

Volunteer Teams -Brief role description

Hot chocolate servers and marshmallow toasters
Served from the GreenHouse  3.30pm – 5.45pm  each public day.
Sold on 3 days and given away (tokens) on the last day.
Tasks

·         Serve and take money for hot chocolate (instant)
·         Supervise outdoor firepit (small) and toasting marshmallows
·         Keep a track of supplies, safety and cleanliness
·         Source and tidy marshmallow sticks (twigs and barbecue)
·         Help families toast their own mallows.
·         Clear up during and at end of session

Stewards/site guides
Meet and Greets and Safety

·         Wearing hi viz jackets to welcome and point people in the right direction as the light fades.
·         Stationed at specific points around the garden to ensure people don’t get lost, miss out. etc
·         Able to readjust basic parts of the display if necessary.

Stewards/Gardens Ambassadors (for Stewards who like to talk)

Helping visitors understand what we have to offer as a whole and helping us raise more money
·         Provide info verbally – for the day and other activities
·         Get informal feedback
·         Take emails
·         Talk about memberships, events, activities and volunteering
·         Distribute 2 for 1 and free chocolate tickets as needed

 

Lantern makers and craft helpers   (INDOORS 12.30 -4ish )
·         Help families during the public days to make lanterns, decorate glass jar lanterns and to make twig stars and glitter cones.
·         Prep and tidy up

Site preparation and care (Fridays before the events)

Keeping it all looking pretty and safe -Various types of roles.
·         Checking lights/cables are safe
·         Replacing items and tidying after weather or public has displaced
·         Ensuring the ‘look’ of the installation is maintained (a bit of set dressing naus)
·         Replenishing supplies
·         Cleaning /drying seats etc
·         Making sure signs are in the right place.
·         Rubbish bins replaced etc etc
·         Clear paths, make safe etc
·         Looking after bits of garden – safe from public and safe for public
·         Maintain standard of presentation

Car park duties

Control and management of parking entry and exit, keeping everyone safe with special attention ‘cos of dark
(Training in teams essential)

Click the google form here http://bit.ly/2AWUaHz   to fill in your details and preferences.

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Work with us…Lead Gardener wanted

A rare opportunity has arisen.  Can you help manage and grow this magnificent historic Garden?

We are looking for a full time, experienced and qualified Lead Gardener to manage the Gardens alongside our volunteers and to play an active role in making the visitor experience of our 10 acre site the best in the city – and beyond!

See below for details and attached is a shareable document. Please circulate to those you think may relish this role (closing date 15th December).

A rare opportunity to look after a unique and well-loved historic garden nestled in the middle of a city landscape.

The 10 acres of historic formal gardens – with wilder wildlife areas – is owned and run by a small independent charitable trust and staffed mainly by volunteers.

The Trust is going through a period of change and development in order to ensure the long-term future of the Gardens.

We are looking for a full-time Gardener who can take a lead role in maintaining the standards of the 18th century styled Gardens and work positively with the Trust to ensure the success of its growing visitor engagement programmes and other charitable business developments.

You will be a qualified gardener (RHS level3 or equivalent vocational experience) with existing, and proven, management and budgeting experience.

As well as having hands-on horticultural and grounds maintenance skills, your experience will also include working with a diverse volunteer workforce.

Terms

Salary: £19,500 – £22,000 commensurate with experience

Hours: based on 37.5 hours per week

Ability & willingness to work certain weekends; bank holidays & event days essential

This is a permanent contract, on completion of a satisfactory probation period.

 Purpose and scope of the role.

You will be responsible, in partnership with the Trust’s other staff, for the overall management and development of the Gardens, ensuring the highest standards of horticulture and visitor experience.

  • You will supervise, mentor ‘junior’ staff, foster good relations with contractors and manage our varied community of volunteers, fostering a culture of good teamwork.
  • Volunteers in the gardens currently range across all abilities and time commitments. Some are solely project based, temporary, have additional needs or come in groups as part of partnerships in the community. Others provide a committed, stable and often highly skilled regular commitment.
  • Managing and balancing workload tasks with volunteers is a major aspect of this post
  • Health and Safety: You will ensure that you and the working teams comply with procedures to manage risk to the public, staff, volunteers and contractors.  Ensuring that risk assessments are carried out in line with Trust guidance for works you are supervising and monitor compliance with safety procedures.
  • You will be involved in supporting quality visitor engagement within the Gardens to deliver the best possible visitor experience.
  • Our growing programme of events, hire and family friendly activities are core aspects contributing to the Trust’s long term future.
  • Your active participation in planning and positive support for preparation and delivery is key. This will involve some weekend and bank holiday working – by negotiation.
  • Alongside the General Manager, you will manage the modest gardens and maintenance budget and plan for appropriate purchases and growing tasks throughout the year.
  • You will monitor and control the resources delegated to you, improving cost efficiency wherever possible.

 Knowledge, skills and experience needed

  • Significant practical experience in horticulture, with qualifications to RHS Level 3 or equivalent.
  • A good level of plantmanship/plant husbandry skills with a good range of horticultural techniques. A practical knowledge of conservation and historic gardens will be a distinct advantage.
  • Leadership skills including coaching, motivation and excellent communication.
  • Experience of working with volunteers is essential. Volunteer teams at the Garden are varied in experience, skill and ability. The post holder will need to quickly grasp what can be achieved and find how to lead and motivate them.
  • Proven track record of managing small budget, finances and small projects.
  • Experience of assessing and managing risk. Knowledge of all Health and Safety and relevant compliance requirements.
  • A practical understanding of the needs of the visiting public. The Gardens are open 7 days a week to paying visitors. We run a public programme of small events, largely at weekends, as well as extensive schools and family friendly activities.
  • An entrepreneurial streak. We are looking to expand our ‘growing to sell’ projects as well as other ways to help financially support the Gardens.

About the Gardens

The Gardens are a restored, formal garden in the 17th /18th century style. There are formal lawns and box, yew, hornbeam and holly hedging throughout (2.5km in total)

  • Formal beds (upper and lower wilderness) with trees, shrubs, evergreens and annual underplanting.
  • Formal and semi-formal bedding areas, again in the 18th century ‘block’ style.
  • Two box and yew parterres, a 17 metre x 2.5 metre holly walk and a holly maze.
  • Two heritage apple and pear orchards with further espaliered wall fruit and trees.
  • A formal vegetable garden and medicinal /culinary herb borders.
  • 2 acres of the Gardens exist outside the 18th century walls. These are mainly cultivated for wildlife and used extensively for family and schools activities. There are 3 ponds (one formal, 2 natural).

Closing date for Applications  15th December 2017

Interviews … week commencing 8th January 2018 (tbc)

Please contact us with your cv and covering letter. For more information or for an informal chat ring Glynis Powell 0121 749 4100, gen.manager@cbhgt.org.uk

Click on the link below to download a shareable .pdf document of the information aboce

FT lead gardener Castle Bromwoich Hall Gardens

 

 

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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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Cyclamen hederifolium

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  

Cyclamen coils

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.

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Traditional family fun day

Nearly time again for our amazingly popular low-tech family fun day.

Skittles, sack races, hopscotch and egg and spoon races  bring three – or more – generations together this Thursday (11-3.30pm).

We run this event every year in conjunction with the local branch of the U3A (University of the 3rd Age) as a fundraiser for us and them.

We love that every year this generation’s kids are thrilled by such old fashioned games as hook-a-duck, quoits and skipping. Grannies and granddads feel extra special showing them how to play.

These activities run all day alongside, fabulous face painting from GlitterCreep, dances from the Lawrie School of Dance and sing along fun from the Generations Choir and  shanties  from the Lichfield LightHouse choir. Meet the RSPB, explore the maze, follow the trails…

All for £2 each for everyone over 5years. Old fashioned prices too!

Cafe and shop open. Picnics welcome

  • All tickets  £2  (under 4s free)
  • £8 for a family day ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
  • Free for Family Activity Annual Pass holders (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults, including named cardholder). Pass costs £40 and lasts 12 months.
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