What’s Happening Here?

Join us each month as we go behind the scenes and ask what’s happening here? There will be sneak previews of projects and events, exclusive news from the garden and plenty of tips and ideas for you to try out at home.


The Japanese Bridge

We’ve been busy over the last few weeks hard pruning out-of-control Rhododendron ponticum in order to open up the view to and from the Japanese Bridge. This historic structure was installed in the 1930s by our final private owner, John MacDonald Nicolson, in addition to other oriental-inspired garden features such as the Japanese Tea House and Japanese style planting around the Sandstone Rock Garden.

The Japanese Bridge photographed in the late-1930s, What's Happening Here?, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

The Japanese Bridge photographed in the late-1930s

“I much prefer the aspect now the rhododendrons by the Japanese Bridge have now been pruned. It has really opened up the view towards the Japanese Bridge and I think it looks great!

Rhododendron ponticum can sometimes be a problem in gardens because it is extremely invasive, non-native and will compete with the other cultivated plants in the garden at their expense.

The Japanese Bridge today after hard pruning of Rhododendron ponticum, Photograph by Maggie Bucknall, What's Happening Here?, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

The Japanese Bridge today after hard pruning of Rhododendron ponticum, Photograph by Maggie Bucknall

You can control the size and shape of your rhododendrons by taking out any branches that are dead, damaged, diseased or crossing over. They can also be pruned 30 to 40 cm from the ground if they require a complete regeneration.

Deadheading is important because it directs energy into strong growth ready for next year’s flowers. If deadheading is not done then more energy will go into developing seeds at the expense of flowers. Trim to no more than 40cm below the blooms that have finished and to a strong, new bud. This will help prevent them from turning into monsters.

Keep your rhododendrons happy by feeding them with Ericaceous feed – they are acid loving plants. It is also important to plant them in acid soil in the garden. If you don’t have acid soil then they can be planted in pots in John Innes Ericaceous compost or similar.

The Japanese Tea House now visible from the Japanese Bridge, Photograph by Maggie Bucknall, What's Happening Here?, Digging for Dirt, Winterbourne House and Garden

The Japanese Tea House now visible from the Japanese Bridge, Photograph by Maggie Bucknall

The best varieties for the garden are the small species such as Rhododendron ‘Praecox’ which is a mauve purple and the earliest to flower. It can be seen at Winterbourne near the Tea Room and the Japanese Tea House. It gets to around about 1.5 metres in height. R. ‘Ptarmigan’ is even smaller with pretty white flowers and grows to 0.5 to 1 metres in height – perfect for a pot in a cool spot if you haven’t got the room in the your borders.” Jude Lynes, Horticultural Practitioner


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