Nice mixed bag this month, I hope you enjoy it.
Forget the Dancing Pony and Shrek's donkey and get down with this sheep. A very nifty mover. Made from iron and then galvanised, she makes a distinctive character grazing in the garden. This one was supplied by the Stour Gallery in Shipston on Stour .
Waterperry Gardens.I took a visit recently to Waterperry Gardens at Wheatley just south of Oxford towards the M40.
Waterperry has a long history since starting out first of all as a horticultural school for ladies which produced some of our very best gardeners.Things have changed over time and rather than me tell you all about it here take a look at the link above. Take a particular look at the courses they offer, because of the strong connection with the art and crafts there is a particularly wide range of topics on offer. Waterperry is also home to Art in Action and 25,000 people in four days obviously know something you don't if you have never been. Check out the link.
When I visited some ten days ago the east winds were still blowing and the weather was still cold and not much had started to grow albeit we are well into April.
There was a lot that took my eye but this was one of the most impressive features. It is a superbly trained rambling rose. It has always struck me as something of a self defeating exercise to train roses, particularly climbing roses, over a pergola where the best view is had by the birds that fly over and not the person who walks under.The elaborate training of shoots in the picture below gives the whole thing a new perspective. Sure you need some space but if you have it then this must be one of the best ways to show off some of the more choice climbers and ramblers and it sure looks good at a time of year when roses otherwise look pretty awful.The long stems have been splayed out and trained around, whirlpool style, to short posts in the ground. .
Below are other examples of careful tying in but this time to hazel hoops pushed into the ground. The story behind this seems to be that after the felling of a row of large trees the task of getting out the stumps was going to be too expensive so roses were grown over them. As time went on the stumps rotted way and this elaborate but very effective style of pruning developed. Not so good if you don't like spiders.
The Gardens have one of the best museums of garden tools I have ever come across. It seems that if there was a task to be carried out in the garden the Victorians had made a gadget to make it easier.
Some of the exhibits are of a more agricultural nature such as this display of boots for sheep. I kid you not. As you can see they were made by Dunlop and were to help avoid foot rot. I cant see a Welsh hill farmer having much truck with this idea at nearly three shillings a pair.The real dandy little boots at bottom right were for goats and more for those on regimental mascot duty rather than for everyday wear.They are in a glass case which gives odd reflections.
You might be able to read the label on this instrument but if not see if you can guess what this and the object in the picture below were used for.
Answers at the bottom of the blog.
The curious bunch of green painted twigs had a very specific use. Gathered through the winter they were selected for evenness of thickness and length and each had to have a fork at the top. These were painted green and kept for the great strawberry display. They would be pushed discreetly under the strawberry plant and the 'trusses' of strawberries laid over the forked end to show them off to their very best.
Another treat tucked away in the garden is the national collection of Kabschia Saxifrages. This is a group of species whose name commemorates Willhelm Kabsch ( 1835 - 64) who unfortunately, at a young age, fell to his death from a cliff while studying phytogeography (concerning the distribution of plants) in the Alps.
In their native habitat plants from dry, high altitudes are designed to cope with the cold but they don't experience the cold wet weather we get here in the UK so to help them keep dry and so prevent them rotting they are grown under cover to keep off the rain.
Its no good hiding in the bushes behind the bench - we can see you.
First class molehills at Waterperry.
We did lichen a couple of issues back but I have since found a very useful site to help you identify some of them. It was particularly aimed at lichens found in old orchards but I am sure it has a more general use. The site is at OPAL which stands for OPen Air Laboratory and is to encourage everyone to look out for and study all things in their local natural world. It is first rate.
Box Root Pruning
You may have bought Box plants, the shaped ones in a pot some twelve inches or so across, expecting them to be well established and rooted into the compost but having knocked them out of their pots you realise they are not rooted into the compost at all and in fact the bottom half of the pot is new compost and the root ball is just sitting on it . This is something between a root balled, open ground plant and a containerised one. When I first came across this I was a bit miffed thinking that I had been done, a bit like you do when you buy a potted rose plant in late winter or early spring and tip it out of its pot and all the compost falls off the two or there fangy roots because it is a bare root plant that was probably potted only a fortnight before. However don't despair with your box plant it is a recognised way of producing potted box and if left in the pot they will root into that fresh compost and if planted in the ground they will root out just the same. Because they have been field grown they are well nourished and you get a very good looking plant. I have planted very many and they have all survived. That is not to say they have all survived Box Blight and three I planted only last year came down with the blight and I had to dig them out and burn them. One of the things I noticed when I planted them was that to get them into their pots some fairly thick roots had been cut through which was a bit worrying. But when I dug them up I was surprised to see just how much new root had been made on those cut ends and it gave me greater faith in recent research which showed with the species trialled that when planting plants where the roots are running round the pot rather than trying to tease them out it is better to cut into the roots with secateurs which helps produce new roots from the cut ends which then grow out into the surrounding soil. You can see how much root is produced in just a season from the pictures of these box roots.
A severed root the thickness of your forefinger had sprouted a healthy thicket of new roots when dug up thirteen months after planting
If you have to move a shrub in the garden mak sure any thick roots that have to be cut through are cut cleanly to help prevent disease and die back and to encourage the formation of new roots.
Most of the roots that had to be cut originally to get the plant into the pot produced masses of new roots but the one at the bottom of the picture decided not to.
A dead ringer?
We are told all our gardening life that if you strip the bark off a plant then you have removed all the tissue that conducts the sap around the plant and it will die.
So when I discovered this small Acer palmatum with the damage you can see below I was a bit worried. The bark had been nibbled of by some small creature and as you can see from both pictures it is right round the trunk. You can also see where the cambium has healed the edge that has been nibbled so this has been damaged for some time and , hand on heart, this plant lives quite happily like this and apart from the usual bit of dieback suffered by Acer palmatum varieties it is a healthy plant. I am confounded . Is it a blinkin' miracle ? Let me know.
It wasn't me who left the tree tie on too long , honest.
Got it covered.
The covers of the Winter and Spring issues of Hortus show before and after of one of my favourite small tulip bulbs Tulip batalini 'Bronze Charm'. Glorious as downy skinned , tufted bulbs and even more gloriousas bronze tinted , soft yellow flowers. I have found T. batalini to be very easy to grow, a very reliable flowerer and utterly charming. Give it a go.
P.S. You can read a piece by me in both issues.
Bits and Bobs
Yer godda laff!
We have all seen it. A road sign modified by some wag with a spray can; No Entry signs turned into to Ban the Bomb signs (Those were the days), thirty speed limits made into eighty speed limits, the sign for a bumpy road given nipples and letters of place names sprayed out to turn them into something rude. Today I was driving near to Lower and Upper Slaughter in the Cotswolds when I came across an adulterated sign that made me chuckle as I drove by. Part of the joy of it was that it had obviously been thought through because this was no hastily squirted aerosol job but a neatly cut piece of white adhesive tape placed very neatly over the capital S on the sign to The Slaughters.
Another witty sign was on the road outside a golf club not too far from Devizes . It was in the the style of those brown tourist signs if I remember right. It said Golf Club 100 yds and under the the 100 yds. was, in small writing, Par 3. Much better in the seeing than in the telling but it was thoughtful of someone on the Sign Committee to think to offer a little cheer to us passers by.
The top picture is of a device for bunching daffodils in bud and the picture below it is for bunching daffodils in flower. Brill!
That's all folks.