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June 2017 Blog

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The Walled Garden - June 2017 Blog

Head Gardener Mary Hamer reports on happenings in the garden.


Volunteers: Our new Wednesday evening session grew by two new volunteers last week. Both are people who work during the week and so wouldn't be able to come during the day, which is the main reason for the evening sessions. One current volunteer has taken on looking after the nursery area - this is where we store the containerised plants which are either for sale or for planting in the garden. It is an area of the garden that we haven't focused on much before but with 200m of new borders and lots more visitors, the Nursery Area is now a key place to get right: it needs to be tightly organised and we are beginning to record the plants: what we have, how many, and where they are destined to go. It's like running a tiny plant nursery alongside the garden itself and unlike 'proper' nurseries who are completely computerised we'll be using pen, paper and an Excel spreadsheet to keep our records!


Vegetables: The vegetable seedlings that have packed our prop houses over spring have been planted up in the veg patch and is "full to burst" according to the volunteer who looks after it! In fact we are just waiting to harvest some of the early veg to make some space to put even more seedlings in. The potatoes are growing well and have been earthed up - that is, soil has been put over their leaves so that more potato tubers will grow from the stems. Either potatoes or leaves will develop from the stem dependant on whether the stem is surrounded by soil or air. 

The space that was left in the prop houses by the transfer of the veg seedlings outdoors are taken up by our healthy-looking cucumber plants. The volunteer Garden Team were delighted to share the first cucumber of the season - a tiny piece each! There will now be cucumbers for sale in our Shop - both the traditional long cucumbers and the very popular mini-cucumbers which are great for popping in packed lunch boxes. The tomatoes are catching up, with green tomatoes showing at the beginning of June and by the end they will be filling the shop no doubt! Out in the garden another red fruit that we're looking out for is the strawberry - a few have been spotted and as we're sure the birds will spot them too, they have been covered in netting to keep them safe for the shop!

One of the prop houses is know historically as the Melon House and we are proud to have melons in there once again. They sit next to the cucumbers as both melons and cucumbers belong to the same family and need very similar treatment - lots of water and space. In fact both cucumbers and melons will be trained up and over the inside roof of the prop house and should be quite a sight across the summer. 

One of my personal favourites, the sweet peas, have started to flower in profusion - the ones that were sown in the autumn rather than the spring have flowered first. They are cut to sell in posies in the shop and make a beautiful and fragrant display. Our popular bags of salad leaves continue to be harvested with the Propagation group of the Garden Team sowing more lettuce leaves every few weeks to keep up with the demand!

One of the flowers that has come into bloom that we certainly won't be cutting is the Malmaison carnation. They have beautiful flowers and an impressive scent of cloves. They are difficult plants to grow so we will be keeping their flowers attached - visitors can see (and smell!) them displayed at the end of the prop house near the Head Gardener's Office.


New borders: I've been trying to resist planting very much in the new borders as summer arrives - it's a bit of a challenge for a plant to establish itself when there's not much water around. However, dahlias are a bit different. They need to be planted once the last frost has past as they're a bit tender and they have swollen roots (tubers) which store water so they are not such a worry in terms of the summer heat. We have planted some out in the borders - the historic 'Bishop of Llandaff' states the colour code - red; also a couple of majestic orange varieties. There is also a dahlia area behind the prop houses which is for use for cut flowers - dahlias make excellent cut flowers. 

In the autumn we'll be planting many more plants in the new borders and we have delivery of 144 plug plants that will be growing through the summer to be planted in the autumn. The other consideration with the new borders is keeping them weeded and watered to get them through their first summer. 


Plant heroine of the week: Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' which is a variety of catmint. It is a very generous plant that once established grows so large that it needs trimming back in June (known as the 'Chelea Chop' - not just limited to Nepeta) to regrow with fresh vivid growth. Even from a distance, Nepeta makes an impact - its blue and purple flowers creating an iridescent haze that softens the borders and is a superb contrast to the spikes and spires of nearby plants. Close up to Nepeta you can see the hosts of bees which are very attracted to it. 


Available to buys in the shop: Lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers.


Meanwhile in the Woodland Walk the rhododendrons and foxgloves (photo above) are looking magnificent.