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…
The Garden Team have been working hard over the last couple of weeks installing a new display of chilli plants in the Lean-to Glasshouse in the Walled Garden, and on Monday it was finally completed and ready to unveil to the public. The different chilli varieties, which come from all over the world, have even been labelled with their Scoville rating so you can tell how hot they are before deciding whether to grow them for yourself!
The Scoville Scale measures the heat of different chillies in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) based on the concentration of capsaicinoids and is named after the American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville who invented the test. Anything with over 80,000 SHU is considered to be very hot whilst some really mild peppers like the sweet bell pepper measure zero on the scale.
Chillies need a long, hot growing season so our south-facing Lean-to Glasshouse is the ideal spot for producing a bumper crop. For the same reason, seeds are best sown early (we sowed ours in February) and potted on several times. Stake young plants to prevent them toppling and pinch out the tops when they are about 30cm high to get really bushy plants and loads of chillies at the end of the season.
On Tuesday, Horticultural Supervisor Leighanne was busy summer pruning Wisteria on the Pergola. Leighanne was ably assisted by Clothilde who has joined the team for a month-long programme of work experience. Clothilde is a student of Landscape Architecture from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Paysage Versailles-Marseille, France, and is keen to gain lots of practical horticultural experience to compliment her studies.
Summer pruning Wisteria is important to ensure a good flowering display the following year. Long, whippy growths should be pruned to 5-6 buds in July or August, allowing the wood to ripen in the sun, before they are pruned again to 2-3 buds in January or February.
“Viewing how wisteria grows and how we can change its shape really helps me to imagine the place of wisterias in future projects. It’s also enabled me to understand the work of the gardeners behind these sort of plants. Winterbourne is a really beautiful garden. The shapes and colours have restored the spirit of the initial place with contemporary plantations, always renewing just like these wisterias!” Clothilde Hennion, Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Paysage Versailles-Marseille
There was a real treat in store for staff and volunteers on Wednesday as we were invited to visit nearby Middleton Hall and Gardens for a special behind the scenes tour. Middleton is set in 42 acres of North-Warwickshire countryside and spans over 1000 years of history. Its many famous residents have included all manner of people from Medieval Lords to Tudor explorers.
Senior Gardener Paul Martin led a tour of the beautiful, historic eighteenth century Walled Garden complete with original heated walls, bothy and a Herb Garden dedicated to two former residents, the naturalists John Ray and Francis Willughby. Paul had previously worked alongside many of the party during his time as a Horticultural Supervisor at Winterbourne.
“It was wonderful to get a chance to catch up with some familiar faces and to show them around in the glorious sunshine. It was nice for them to see where I went to after leaving Winterbourne. Middleton has a long and colourful history so there’s a lot to pack in! Everybody was really interested with our restoration story – of how an army of volunteers saved our site from dereliction in the 1980s and helped bring it back to life.” Paul Martin, Senior Gardener, Middleton Hall and Gardens
On Thursday we were joined by another former colleague Robyn Booth who volunteered with the Garden Team several years ago before re-training as a professional horticulturalist at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Robyn now works for the National Trust at Packwood House and was keen to link up with Glasshouse Area Supervisor Abby again to share tips on managing a Nursery and glasshouse range.
Abby and Robyn began the day by looking at the different compost mixes used for specialist collections across the site before discussing the different fertilisers and feeding regimes that can be used to improve plant health. Robyn is particularly interested in alpines so the afternoon was spent with the alpine collection, and in particular potting Cyclamen. Robyn left us full of inspiration and ideas and will be joining us again later in the year to see how practices change in the different seasons of the year.
“I developed a love of alpines whilst at Cambridge. It fascinated me how such tiny and seemingly delicate plants could withstand life on some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. Come snow, wind, rain and blazing sun these plants have to cope with it all, and as such are quite inspirational! I’m keen to develop a small alpine collection at Packwood that reflects the diversity of the plants available through the seasons and enhance the display in our Auricula Theatre.” Robyn Booth, Packwood House
Garden Volunteers Teresa and Sue ended the week by weeding in the Old Trough Garden which has been given lots of attention recently. This year the Old Trough Garden has been planted with white Agapanthus and sweet peas, and as they are now in full flower the Garden Team have worked hard to spruce up the area and show them off to their best.
Sweet peas need lots of support so we’ve planted ours on strong metal climbing frames and tie them in regularly to prevent vigorous young shoots straying from the frame. Lots of gardeners sow their sweet pea seeds in the previous autumn and plant out in spring for early blooms, but we find a spring sowing and early summer planting works just as well for us.
Whatever your method, one thing is for sure – sweet peas are hungry plants. They like a deep root run in a moist, fertile soil. Equally important is dead-heading spent flowers or picking fresh blooms for the vase. The more you pick the more they will flower long into the summer.