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 week began with Horticultural Practitioner Huw, and Garden Volunteer Will, hard at work clearing fallen leaves from the Oak Border. This is always one of the last borders to be cleared in the autumn as the over-hanging beech trees in neighboring Edgbaston Wood are among the last to drop their leaves.
Huw has recently joined the team on a permanent basis following a successful 12-months as a WRAGs Horticultural Trainee. Huw will now put his newly honed horticultural skills to the test as a fully-fledged member of the team, with a focus on supporting Supervisors Paul and Leighanne in the outdoor areas.
“As I was studying both RHS Theory courses (Garden Planning & Plant Growth), the WRAGs traineeship allowed me to put the theory into practice and vice versa. The team at Winterbourne were all very supportive and the training very proactive. They also proved to be invaluable in answering questions that often arose from my RHS studies and helping me understand the theory in a practical way.” Huw Morgan, Horticultural Practitioner
Tuesday saw another new recruit, Horticultural Supervisor Paul, busy in the Winter Garden, giving it a good tidy-up and making sure it looks great for the peak season over the next couple of months. Paul originally joined the team as maternity cover in 2017 before taking up a post at Middleton Hall and Gardens.
Paul will be kept busy on his return with responsibility for maintaining key areas of the garden like the Red and Yellow Border, Sandstone Rock Garden and Geographical Beds. One of the first tasks at hand for Paul was cutting the old leaves off hellebores in the Winter Garden before they flower. This allows the flowers to be seen clearly in winter and helps reduce the spread of leaf spot.
“There’s so much horticultural diversity on offer at Winterbourne with fantastic facilities and themed glasshouses. I have an amazing opportunity here to expand my horticultural knowledge further, getting to know plants that I am less familiar with such as the alpines and the tropical plants in our Orchid House. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with our trusty team of garden volunteers, getting to know our new recruits and working together to make the garden even more glorious.” Paul Martin, Horticultural Supervisor
On Wednesday, the Garden Team were putting the finishing touches to some special wintry displays of garden foliage in the Old Kitchen area, in preparation for the delicious Christmas dinners that the Tea Room Team will be serving in there almost every day in December.
First, holly, bay, different species of conifer, willow and ivy were used to decorate the Old Kitchen Courtyard. The team even made two special Christmas cones made from willow stems and Portuguese laurel, all festooned with star-shaped, dried agapanthus seed-heads.
Then attention turned to the Old Kitchen itself where the team strung together dozens of brightly coloured home-grown chilies from the lean-to glasshouse and hung them above the Arger to dry, and Volunteer Florist Marie decorated the corridor with vases filled with festive foliage, berries, seed-heads and pine cones.
It might be winter but there are still plenty of plants to get your hands on in our Plant Sales Area. On Thursday Horticultural Supervisor Leighanne was hard at work creating a brilliant display of winter and spring bulbs all available to buy on the Terrace.
There is everything you could want to make a splash over the next few months; pure white snowdrops, colourful crocus, miniature iris and diminutive daffodils to name but a few. Each variety has been specially selected by the Garden Team and lovingly grown here on-site in the Nursery.
“Don’t wait until spring to buy your bulbs. Buy them in growth now, plant them up nice and early, and you will have all the pleasure of growing them for yourself. If you want to keep your bulbs in pots year-after-year plant them in a soil based compost mixed with a slow release fertiliser like bone meal. Water freely when in growth and sparingly when not.” Daniel Cartwright, Head Gardener
At the end of the week, Garden Volunteers Teresa and Sue helped clear the strawberry patch in the Walled Garden. The strawberries, which had grown too congested, and become unproductive, were first dug up and removed from the bed before the best, most vigorous of them were potted up ready to be grown-on in the Nursery and re-planted in the bed again in the spring.
In ideal conditions, strawberries can remain productive for about four years before they need lifting, thinning and re-planting. They prefer a site in full sun, relatively free draining and fertile soil. You can feed hungry strawberries with a balanced fertiliser or dig in well rotted manure before planting.
If you want to bulk up your strawberry patch, or keep yourself in a continuous supply of plants, then propagating by runners is the best course of action. This is really easy to do in late summer. Sink pots filled with compost next to mature plants and insert a suitable runner, pegging it down with a thin piece of wire. When the runner has rooted, snip it away from the mother plant and continue growing it on until ready for planting next spring.