The Week That Was: 18th – 22nd March

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 18th

Some plants have already been planted in the shadier areas of the new borders where leaf mould not compost has been added to the soil, photograph by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Some plants have already been planted in the shadier areas of the new borders where leaf mould not compost has been added to the soil, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

The week began with a daunting task as a huge pile of compost was moved from our service area to the new Arboretum Lawn Borders. Most of the journey was made by tractor before garden volunteers Nick, Alison, John and Katerina (who joined us for her first day) transported the compost by hand over the lawn itself, which was too soft and wet to drive accross.

Once the compost had been delivered it was raked level and rotavated into the existing soil. This process has been repeated several times over the last few months with the Garden Team keen to incorporate as much organic matter as possible to an area of the garden that hasn’t been cultivated for a long time.

“On my first day I had an induction and gained lots of information about what it’s like to work in the gardens. I started by moving compost and also had the chance to talk with the other volunteers who told me about their experiences and thoughts. I’m really looking forward to helping with any work that is about to be done and taking care of the gardens.” Katerina Stamou, Garden Volunteer


Tuesday 19th

Mark and his 'Bumble-ator' at work in the Winter Garden, The Week That Was, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Mark and his ‘Bumble-ator’ at work in the Winter Garden

On Tuesday we were joined in the garden by wildlife sound recordist and University of Birmingham PHD student Mark Ferguson. Mark is the creator of Bumble, an ongoing series of location-based audio recordings following his  quest to capture the sounds of the UK’s 25 bumblebee species.

Mark headed straight to the Winter Garden on his first morning of recording at Winterbourne where he hoped to find plenty of activity to capture using his own custom-built recording device dubbed the ‘Bumble-ator’. He hopes that these recordings will help to raise awareness of the bumblebees plight. Faced with habitat loss and damaging pesticide use the bumblebee population is in serious decline.

“I recorded an early bumblebee queen — Bombus pratorum — foraging very industriously through a rhododendron. I also captured the flight sounds of a male hairy-footed flower bee moving amongst pulmonaria: not a bumblebee, but still worth recording. It’s a very tricky species to follow, since it darts back-and forth very rapidly between flowers and is easily disturbed.” Mark Ferguson, Wildlife Sound Recordist and creator of Bumble


Wednesday 20th

Old garden tools being readied for use in the new Garden Exhibition, photograph by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Old garden tools being readied for use in the new Garden Exhibition, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

Have you noticed some changes outside the Courtyard Gallery recently? On Wednesday we asked volunteer photographer Maggie to photograph our new Garden Exhibition as it begins to take shape in that area. When it opens later in the spring the Garden Exhibition will tell the story of the gardens creation using interesting objects from the past and oral histories told by the people who helped to make it happen.

This new exhibition will cover the entire span of the garden’s history from its Edwardian beginnings to the present day, and everything in between, including the post-war period when the University of Birmingham’s Department of Botany transformed Margaret Nettlefold’s Arts and Crafts creation into a hothouse of academic activity.

In addition to the Courtyard a new area never before opened to the public will be transformed into an exciting indoor exhibition space; an old cow shed next to the Book Shop has been renovated over the winter ready to showcase the many weird and wonderful objects curated by our Collections Officer, and put on display for the very first time.


Thursday 21st

Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete' planted alongside the path leading to the front door of the House, photograph by Maggie Bucknall, The Week That Was, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ planted alongside the path leading to the front door of the House, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

On Thursday, garden volunteers Mike, Anne, David and Maya  were hard at work giving the Visitors Car Park  a spring clean and raking up fallen leaves from the surrounding lawns. Perhaps the most important job of the morning was feeding and dead-heading the hundreds of dwarf daffodil bulbs (Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’) that we have planted alongside the path leading to the front door of the House.

Now in full flower, these bulbs will benefit greatly from some care and attention before they die back and enter dormancy until the following spring. Feeding will promote healthy root growth and abundant flowers, as will dead-heading, ensuring that the bulbs don’t expend valuable energy on unnecessary seed production.

“Fertilising spring bulbs now is really important if you want to maintain a good flowering display in the following year. Use a soluble fertiliser high in potassium – tomato food is ideal – from early spring until about 6 weeks after your bulbs have finished flowering. For larger areas where soluble food is impractical, an application of a good balanced sow-release granular feed is the next-best option.” Daniel Cartwright, Deputy Head Gardener


Friday 22nd

The small, scaly rhizomes of Achimenes, The Week That Was, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

The small, scaly rhizomes of Achimenes

Glasshouse Area Supervisor Abby ended the week by showing Horticultural Trainee Huw how to replant congested Achimenes rhizomes before they come into growth. Otherwise known as the hot water plant, Achimenes are trailing perennials closely related to the African violet (Saintpaulia).

They produce brilliant pink, purple, blue and white flowers and make great houseplants if given the right conditions. Achimenes need minimum daytime temperatures of 16ºC and lots of bright but indirect light. They should be watered freely during the summer. However, once they have finished flowering, they will die back altogether and should then be kept completely dry.

Achimenes grow from small, scaly rhizomes that multiply quickly beneath the surface of the soil. They can crowd each other out if left to their own devices so Abby and Huw were reducing the number of rhizomes per pot before the plants begin to grow again. Once reduced the rhizomes were then re-potted, but this time using fresh multi-purpose compost ready for the season ahead.


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