The Week That Was: 10th – 14th December

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…

Monday 10th

Lee Hale with cacti collection volunteer Arthur Wilkes at the Christmas Volunteer Social. The cacti collection team were presented with the award for 'Outstanding Contribution', photography by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Lee with Arthur Wilkes at the Christmas Volunteer Social. Arthur and the rest of the cacti collection team were presented with the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution’, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

On Monday we gathered for our annual Christmas Volunteer Social. These events are a great opportunity for the whole team to get together and say thank you to the many volunteers who give up so much time and energy to help make Winterbourne such a special place to visit.

It’s also allows volunteers who work in different areas, or on different days, to catch up with each other and talk to staff about plans for the coming year. Head of Winterbourne Lee Hale revealed some exciting plans for 2019, including a new ‘Garden Exhibition’, before presenting awards for; Outstanding Contribution, Newcomer of the Year, Exceptional Achievement and Special Recognition. Winners received a certificate printed on our very own Printing Press and Afternoon Tea in the Tea Room.

“I can say with confidence that without a strong volunteer team Winterbourne would not be the top 10 rated visitor attraction it is today. I feel privileged to work with such a talented and enthusiastic group of people, who all share a vision of continually improving Winterbourne, and ensuring its long-term success as a leading heritage attraction.” Lee Hale, Head of Winterbourne

Tuesday 11th

Huw in the Sandstone Rock Garden, photography by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Huw in the Sandstone Rock Garden, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

The Sandstone Rock Garden is one of our most important original features and on Tuesday Horticultural Trainee Huw Morgan was hard at work putting it to bed for winter. Huw worked systematically through the different beds. First he cleared the fallen leaves before cutting back and weeding between plants.

Selectivity when cutting back is important. Dried flowers, fruits and seed heads can provide much needed interest through the winter, not to mention a valuable source of food for hungry garden birds. But in some areas it’s preferable to see the structure of the garden itself. So here, Huw decided to cut everything back and expose the huge, impressive pieces of sandstone instead.

This kind of task provides the ideal opportunity to identify and remove pernicious weeds that are otherwise inaccessible when the plants around them are in full growth. Herbaceous plants that are overwhelmed by weeds can be lifted now they are dormant and separated from the weeds tangled in their roots. Once clean, they can be planted again free from unwanted guests.

Wednesday 12th

New Zealand holly on sale on the Terrace, photography by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

New Zealand holly on sale on the Terrace, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

This winter we’ve been selling greenery on the Terrace for visitors to take home and make Winterbourne inspired Christmas decorations. Each week we top up the stock with new and exciting things cut fresh from the garden. There are always plenty of old favorites like holly and ivy, scented herbs like bay and rosemary and splashes of color from stems of willow.

The New Zealand holly (Olearia macrodonta) has proved an unusual but useful plant for cutting. We have several large plants growing in the garden. Its grey-green leaves are similar in shape and size to the much darker English holly and the two make an interesting contrast together. Despite the name they are not related at all. New Zealand holly is a woody member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) producing sprays of white and yellow daisies in summer.

“Any evergreens are good to cut if kept in a cool room or water. Otherwise the silhouette of bare deciduous branches can be very effective. Likewise, glossy citrus fruit or chilli peppers placed against a green foil – they’ll last for several weeks. Although they’re attractive avoid yew with arils on. They look very tempting but the seeds are extremely poisonous.” Stephen Haines, Head Gardener

Thursday 13th

Iris unguicularis 'Francis Wormsley', photograph by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Iris unguicularis ‘Francis Wormsley’, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

New flowers are opening every day on our National Collection of Iris unguicularis and staff are always quick to take a photograph when they do. In the future these photographs will serve as an invaluable identification tool. The many different cultivars can be difficult to identify. Subtle markings are often the only distinguishing feature and some are no longer sold or even widely grown.

I. unguicularis are native to a wide range of different habitats from North Africa to South West Asia. They are hardy in the UK but only truly thrive in very sunny, free draining and slightly alkaline locations. For this reason the standard advice is to grow them at the base of a south-facing wall. Once established, they will flower (sporadically) from December to March.

Our collection is currently being grown on a sunny bank in the Nursery Area whilst different cultivars are increased in number ready for propagation and re-introduction into the main garden. The easiest way to multiply plants is by division in autumn but too much can be counterproductive. They resent disturbance and flower most prolifically if left undisturbed for a very long time.

Friday 14th

Orchid seedlings in flasks, photograph by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Orchid seedlings in flasks, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

Glasshouse Area Supervisor Abby Gulliver ended the week by potting on some hardy orchids successfully raised from seed. Germinating orchid seed is a tricky process requiring specialized materials and equipment. First it must be placed in a sterilized petri dish inoculated with a cube of agar (a jelly-like substance derived from seaweed) and symbiotic fungi. Once germinated, the seedlings should be moved to a small flask also containing agar but this time combined with oats!

Our seedlings have now grown too big for their flasks so Abby has carefully potted them into ordinary 9cm pots filled with a mix of composted bark, loam and grit or perlite. The pots have been stood down on a bed of hydroleca (small clay ‘pebbles’ that absorb and retain moisture) under a propagator lid in a cool glasshouse to help keep humidity high.

“The orchids we’ve been growing are called the southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and the green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio). The seeds are germinated and grown this way because it’s a tested method with a good rate of success. They are being grown to increase the diversity of our hardy orchid collection and surplus plants will be offered to other botanical collections.” Abby Gulliver, Glasshouse Area Supervisor

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