The Week That Was: 21st – 25th January

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 21st

Labelling plants in the garden, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Labelling plants in the garden

The week began with Deputy Head Gardener Dan installing lots of newly engraved plant labels in the garden. Each new label contains vital information about the plant including its botanical name, accession number, geographical range and sometimes a common name where applicable.

Keeping Winterbourne’s plant collection (which contains many thousands of plants!) accurately labelled is a mammoth task. Over a period of years, old labels may get lost or broken and as taxonomists make new discoveries about the classification of plants botanical names must be updated and changed.

“The accession number found in the top left-hand corner of every label is a really important piece of information. Each unique number corresponds to a database record that allows the Garden Team to track where each plant came from, when it was planted and why we have chosen to grow it.” Daniel Cartwright, Deputy Head Gardener

Tuesday 22nd

Huw pruning cordon apples in the Walled Garden, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Huw pruning cordon apples in the Walled Garden

On Tuesday, Horticultural Trainee Huw got to grips with pruning wall-trained fruit in the Walled Garden where we grow apples, pears, cherries and plums. Most of the trees can be found growing along the Serpentine Wall whose unusual wavy shape helps to create a micro-climate perfect for helping to ripen the harvest.

Apples and pears are usually trained as cordons (a single stem) or espaliers (a single vertical stem with multiple horizontal branches trained at right angles) whilst cherries and plums are better trained as a fan. Growing fruit in this way along a wall or fence is a great space saving device perfect for gardens without room for a full-sized tree.

Of course, pruning is essential to keep the trees in shape and cropping heavily. Most of this is done in the summer but some formative pruning of apples and pears is required in winter when fruiting spurs that have grown old and congested can be thinned or removed altogether. Cherries and plums however should never be pruned in the dormant season when they are most vulnerable to infection by silver leaf.

Wednesday 23rd

Jude collecting sausage vine fruits, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Jude collecting sausage vine fruits on the Pergola

When the Pergola was overhauled in 2015 two exotic sausage vines (Holboellia coriacea) were planted where they have romped away quickly covering their respective stone pillars. They have thick evergreen leaves and produce masses of fragrant pinky-purple flowers in summer, not unlike a jasmine.

We were extra excited when one of the plants produced a heavy crop of strange plum-purple sausage-shaped fruits and on Wednesday Horticultural Practitioner Jude set about finding out how to germinate the seed. She has since sown a batch from the ripest fruit in peat free compost, covering the seed with grit and placing them in our ‘prop house’ at 15-20ºC.

“I have never sown sausage vine seeds before. The fruit was very fleshy which made it really time consuming to clean the seed. It had already started to split so I used my pen knife to scoop the seeds out and clean them on a paper towel. I hope they grow! Look out for them on sale next summer as part of our Plant Hunter’s Range.” Judith Fildes, Horticultural Practitioner

Thursday 24th

Newly composted borders on the Arboretum Lawn, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Newly composted borders on the Arboretum Lawn

On Thursday Garden Volunteer Mike was working hard pushing heavy wheelbarrows of home-made compost down to our new Arboretum Lawn Borders. The compost is being applied in a thick layer on top of the already rotovated top soil. When all of the new beds are covered they will be rotovated again to incorporate the two together.

Elsewhere, Head Gardener Steve has been hand digging the edges of the new borders where we were unable to maneuver the rotovator earlier in the year. This is hard, laborious work and much care has to be taken not to damage the roots of surrounding trees. But all of this hard work will pay dividends later when we’re planting hundreds of new plants in the freshly dug earth.

This week, Steve has also placed an order for the first batch of plants to be planted when the beds are fully prepared. We look forward to receiving a delivery of Echinacea purpurea, Verbena bonariensis and Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ for the sunny side of the new borders, and Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’, Geranium phaeum and Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae for the shadier woodland areas.

Friday 25th

Leighanne tidying perpetual spinach in the Walled Garden, The Week That Was, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Leighanne tidying perpetual spinach in the Walled Garden

It might be the middle of winter but there’s still plenty to do on the veg patch in the Walled Garden. Outdoor Area Supervisor Leighanne has been digging up old cabbage, kale and chard plants, pruning gooseberries and finally she ended the week by tidying up our crop of perpetual spinach; removing old leaves and weeding around the plants.

Perpetual spinach (also known as spinach beet) is a really easy to grow cut-and-come-again crop. You can grow it anywhere with plenty of sun in either the ground or a pot. Seeds sown under cover in early spring can produce a harvest as early as late spring but they can be sown much later for cropping in summer and autumn.

Like all of our veg we struggled to keep them well watered through last summers heat wave but they are usually hassle free. Perhaps the most important thing is to keep harvesting the leaves (best picked when they’re still young) as regularly as possible and pinch out energy sapping flowers as and when they appear.

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