The Week That Was: 13th – 17th May

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 13th

The Arid Bed, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

On Monday, the Garden Team were hard at work planting the outdoor Arid Bed with different species of Agave and Aloe ready for the summer season ahead. At the end of the summer these tender succulents will be dug up again, re-potted, and over-wintered in our Nursery Area waiting for good weather again the following year.

It’s a labour intensive process but well worth the effort giving visitors the chance to see many more cacti and succulents in the summer than we ordinarily have room for under cover in the Arid House. This year, to help the Arid Bed make even more of an impact, we’ll be under-planting the larger specimen plants with a carpet of Mesembryanthemum.

“Mesembryanthemum grow quickly, stay low and  form a good mat. Arid beds can show a lot of soil, so hopefully they will add interest at ground level through (bright!!) flowers and foliage. They will be killed by the winter outside but are so easy to germinate that it’s best to grow them from seed each year. You get to try lots of different cultivars that way as well.” Abby Gulliver, Glasshouse Area Supervisor


Tuesday 14th

Leighanne re-stocking Plant Sales, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

Outdoor Area Supervisor Leighanne is having to re-stock the Plant Sales benches several times a week now as plants are snapped up by visitors wishing to make use of the good planting weather in May. This year she’s selected a range of colourful summer flowering perennials for sale including dahlias, oriental poppies and catmint.

Our very own Plant Hunter’s Range has made a return too with straw foxgloves (Digitalis lutea), bugle lilies (Watsonia pillansii) and Tasmanian flax-lilies (Dianella tasmanica) already on sale, with sausage vines (Holboellia coriacea), Dalmatian geraniums (Geranium dalmaticum) and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) still to follow later in the year.

The Plant Hunter’s Range is made up of rare and unusual plants propagated exclusively from the garden, so if you see something that you like when you’re visiting, don’t forget to check the Plant Sales Area before you leave – you might be able to take one home and try growing it for yourself.


Wednesday 15th

Meryl planting Brussels sprouts in the Walled Garden, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

On Wednesday Garden Volunteer Meryl was busy planting Brussels sprouts in the Walled Garden. This year we are growing a variety called ‘Bosworth’, a British sprout which has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. It is a mid-season variety reputed to hold it’s crop in good quality condition well into February (which is useful because they always taste better after a frost).

Young Brussels sprouts plants are best planted about 2ft apart in mid-May when they have grown several true leaves already. They should be positioned in full sun and benefit from some shelter from the wind as they can sometimes be toppled over or snap in gusty weather.

Otherwise, Brussels sprouts are susceptible to a number of other problems that afflict the brassica family. They make great bird food so netting them is prudent, and club root (swollen roots and yellowing leaves) is never far away. Good drainage, the addition of lime, and a strict system of crop rotation will help keep the dreaded fungal infection at bay.


Thursday 16th

Dan feeding olive and bay trees in the Walled Garden, photograph by Maggie Bucknall

Most multi-purpose composts (unless they include added slow-release fertilisers) will start to lose much of their nutrient content about 4-6 weeks after planting, so feeding with different fertilisers following this period is absolutely essential if you want your plants to thrive.

Of particular concern are established plants that remain in the same pots for a long period of time, often for several years, before they are re-potted into fresh compost again. So, on Thursday Head Gardener Dan was feeding our potted bay and olive trees with a balanced soluble food – a process that will be repeated every 2 weeks until the end of summer.

“If you’re using a soluble fertiliser make sure that you soak your plants thoroughly. If they are very pot bound, water on the feed, let it drain through, and then water it again to make sure you are reaching the roots right at the bottom of the pot. Once you see water draining from the bottom, you can be sure you’ve done the job.” Daniel Cartwright, Head Gardener


Friday 17th

The team from PwC taking a break on the Japanese Bridge

We finished the week by hosting a team of volunteers from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) who were willing workers on a ‘get out of the office’ day. We were also supported on the day by Groundwork West Midlands who aim to help people and organisations make changes to create better neighbourhoods and to live and work in a greener way.

The team from PwC arrived at 10 ‘o’ clock and after a quick cup of tea and a biscuit were split into two different groups and soon put to work. The first group joined Glasshouse Area Supervisor Abby on the Trials Field where they helped weed and tidy up between rows of feverfew plants grown for use in experiments by University of Birmingham researchers.

The second group helped Head Gardener Dan fill 6 huge half barrels in the new Garden Exhibition space with a blended mixture of top soil and compost ready for planting later in the month. The bottom of the barrels were filled first with broken terracotta pots to aid drainage and then lined with turf that was lifted when we created our new Arboretum Lawn Borders. Everybody got stuck in and had a great day. Many hands make light work….


Don’t miss a thing! Enter your email address below to get ‘The Week That Was’ delivered straight to your inbox every time we publish a new post on Digging for Dirt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.