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…
Horticultural Practitioner Jude kicked off the week by giving our citrus trees their final winter feed of the season. Many of the plants in question have been in pots for a long time and have exhausted the compost they are potted in. A regular feeding regime ensures that the plants get all of the nutrients they require to grow healthily and produce lots of fruit.
In summer we feed the citrus trees fortnightly with a specialist fertiliser high in nitrogen to help encourage lots of strong new growth, but from October to March when the plants aren’t growing as fast, we use a more balanced fertiliser once a month.
Otherwise, winter is a critical period for citrus plants. They must be brought inside and protected from frost. A greenhouse or conservatory is ideal. However, once inside they are vulnerable to attacks by pests and diseases that thrive in hot and humid conditions. Keeping plants cool on sunny days with lots of ventilation and air flow will help keep any nasty bugs at bay.
On Tuesday Head Gardener Steve was busy creating a path through our new Woodland Border on the Arboretum Lawn. Steve used large round log sections from a Weymouth pine that was cut down in 2017 as stepping stones and covered them in chicken wire so they don’t get slippy when wet.
Creating a simple path like this is really quick and easy. Choose solid, flat pieces of wood that will last a long time and ensure that the stepping stones are level and evenly spaced. Avoid any sudden and dramatic changes in level and instead grade out the surrounding soil into a gentle slope that can be more easily navigated.
“The new path will enable visitors to get in amongst the plants in what is quite a wide border. It will also reduce footfall on the adjacent turf path which should help it to survive. Over time we will plant plenty of shade-loving plants around it to give structure and flowering interest throughout the season.” Steve Haines, Head Gardener
All of the exciting new developments on the Arboretum Lawn have inspired the Garden Team to give the adjacent areas a bit of a spruce up as well. So, on Wednesday garden volunteer Mike got to work straightening the edges of the long borders either side of the Pergola.
Mike first installed a string line, taking measurements from a fixed point, to ensure that he had a straight line to work to all the way along. Next, he positioned a long, straight plank behind the line and cut away the edges of the turf using a ‘half-moon’ spade, with the flat face always kept parallel to the plank.
Now the borders are nice and straight, and a little bit bigger, there is room for the hardy salvias planted within them to be split and replanted, making even more plants and a bolder display when they flower next summer. This is best done in spring when the danger of frost has passed but before the plants have put on lots of energy-sapping new growth.
On Thursday garden volunteers Mike, Maya, David and Anne were working hard in the Walled Garden cutting back the herbaceous borders. Lots of weeds and mossy ground have been exposed in the process. Now is the ideal time to give the borders a thorough tidying up before the plants begin to grow and cover the ground again.
Moss can be easily removed with a hand fork. Although, it is unlikely to harm the surrounding plants, it can look unsightly and is an indicator of poorly drained and compacted soils. The best course of action is to incorporate lots of organic matter and cultivate regularly.
“The dead stems were looking rather tired, so cutting back on a warm, sunny day was a real pleasure – the beds look much tidier and you can now see the new spring growth coming through. I have been doing the same thing in my own garden over the last week, so have had plenty of practice!” Mike Foster, Garden Volunteer
The Garden Team ended the week by collecting specimens from the garden for Jeni Neale and her students to paint at another of her popular botanical art workshops. This time, Jeni was focusing on painting with gouache and specifically requested samples of our favourite white winter flowers.
Of course, we were spoilt for choice with so many snowdrops in full flower at just the right time. But there were plenty of other things to help inspire the group. We were able to collect vases filled with flowers from a Japanese quince in the Walled Garden and lots of different types of hellebore as well.
“White flowers on white paper can be tricky to portray! Gouache is an opaque watercolour that produces flat washes without streaking so it can successfully be used on dark backgrounds. It makes painting white flowers simpler and creates stunning images.” Jeni Neale, Botanical Artist and Winterbourne Tutor