Go behind the scenes, meet the team and get some great tips for your own garden at home. Join us as we look back at the week that was…
On Monday we were visited by Linda Eggins, curator of the National Collection of Aucuba japonica – a medium sized evergreen shrub with dark glossy leaves and colourful berries. The collection is grown here at Winterbourne and displayed on the University’s main Edgbaston Campus.
Whilst she was here Linda audited the collection and made sure we had enough young plants growing on in the Nursery to replace any that were suffering in the beds on campus. Linda also brought along some water rooted cuttings from her own collection at home.
“For me the easiest way to root aucubas is by taking cuttings between July and September and rooting them in water. I pull off shoots with one or two nodes and a heal, and remove all but the top 4 leaves. When the roots are about 3cms long I pot the cuttings into moist compost.” Linda Eggins, curator of the National Collection of Aucuba japonica
Our Ipomoea lobata in the Walled Garden is still looking fantastic despite some recent sudden drops in temperature. Also known as Spanish flag, this half-hardy twining climber is closely related to morning glory and brilliant value late in the season.
We sowed the seed in May and grew them on under glass, using pea sticks for support, until the danger of frost had passed. Getting the sowing date right is important. Ipomoea are vigorous plants so sowing them too early may leave you struggling with giant unruly plants that are too tender to be planted outside.
Once in the ground they can be slow to get going, and even slower to flower, but don’t be tempted to molly-coddle them at this stage. Too much water and nitrogen rich food will result in a mass of foliage at the expense of future flowers. Treat them mean and they will soon catch up on their own.
On Wednesday we hosted 14 volunteers who all work together for Virgin Media. The team are granted one day a year to get together as a group and make a difference volunteering for an organization of their choice.
We quickly put them to work creating a new bark path through our Rhododendron Walk and weeding the Trials Field in the Nursery Area. The whole gang got stuck in, working alongside the Garden Team, and did a great job with lots to show for their efforts at the end of the day.
“In a team like ours that work all over the country it makes a huge difference to spend time together working on a task outsides of our normal team environment. It was great fun, the staff were excellent, the grounds were lovely and the work was hard but rewarding. I loved it!” Andrew Denner, Virgin Media
The autumn equinox may not have officially arrived until the 23rd but there has been plenty of autumn colour on show already for several weeks in different parts of the garden.
Perhaps the earliest of all to turn is Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, a dwarf spindle tree that turns bright red before anything else. Not far behind is a nearby stand of Rhus typhina which changes from salmon pink first and then to a softer red.
“Fallen leaves are the horticultural equivalent of gold dust. They make the best soil conditioner out there and into the bargain they are free, organic and great for worms! To make the best leafmould, shred the leaves, keep them moist and allow maximum air circulation. If this is done leaves will decay to a fine grade leafmould within 12 months.” Stephen Haines, Head Gardener
On Friday we began applying chafer grub nematodes to the Lower Lawn which in the winter of 2016 was decimated by badgers digging for tasty chafer grubs to eat. Chafer grubs are a lawn pest in their own right, feeding on the roots of grass, but the problem is exacerbated when other animals seek them out as a source of food.
Nematodes are microscopic parasites that seek out a host and feed on their poisoned flesh, eventually killing them before multiplying and moving on. They are a completely organic form of biological control, safe and easy to use.
Applications are usually twice a year in both spring and autumn when the weather is warm and the chafer grubs are near the surface of soil. Lots of water is required to keep the nematodes alive so we sprinkle the lawns heavily for at least two weeks afterwards.