29 April 2011
Well-worn phrases are easy to ignore, as they can be blindingly obvious, and rather boring. Right plant for the right place might be the foundation for all garden knowledge but it’s more fun to experiment and put the right plant in the wrong place, until you get rid of it a year or two later.
Can brambles ever be the right plant? Yes, in a hedgerow or someone else’s field. But the decorative bramble… some people like them. They are worthwhile in late winter, their white stalks shooting upright, thorns shimmering in the frost. The really superior ones have good flowers. The deputy head gardener at Brooke Hall is trying hard to convince me: they are revered plants, she says, sometimes used in formal gardens. She also mentions that they are amongst the fastest growing plants, along with bindweed.
I spent part of yesterday and today cutting these good-looking brambles to the ground in the Wild Garden, and dug many of them out altogether where they reach out and threaten people on the footpath. I look in my encyclopaedia later and see that Rubus Cockburnianus holds an Award of Garden Merit and that ‘the flowers are followed by inedible fruit’. I will report back in January when everything else looks half dead and try to give it the benefit of the doubt. At any rate, it doesn't do any harm in this large semi-wild setting, if you don't mind being attacked when you walk past.
A golden hop, spreading happily over a walled corner at Brooke Hall, its acid green leaves not yet scorched by the sun, is already attempting to strangle a young magnolia and it has obliterated several shrubs at its feet. Funny that: I’m just removing a golden hop from my garden for the same reason. But on Monday I took a shooted root of it to a friend’s garden in London, to brighten up a dark corner. It will be in the company of over-run anchusa and dock and I feel confident that it will be perfect for that site, and will introduce some order, whereas at Brooke Hall it has the opposite effect. In London, under the shade of the hawthorn tree and against a city wall it will be the right plant for the right place. But in my own garden? well it really won’t do.
20 April 2011
Clipping lavender by a swimming pool can be a pleasant job, but next to a pool cleaning power jet it is not so nice. When that is turned off the drone of the strimmer floats over the warm spring air. A croak from a pheasant sounding like an old-fashioned motor car and the intriguing noise of sheep clearing their throats are a relief once the machines go on their way. As the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire writes in her page-turner The Garden at Chatsworth, ‘the garden is no longer a place for quiet contemplation’. Jobs once done by people, for instance raking, are still done by people but in a way that is quicker and noisier. I am given a lesson with the leaf blower, and equipped with earplugs. Getting it started and turning off the choke is what I’m concentrating on. It peters out pretty quickly and I can’t get it started again. So I get down on my knees and push the leaves under the hedge myself.
14 April 2011
which we would want if only we knew
where to find them.
No.1 Barr's Bulb Dibber
Pol Roger Champagne 1921, a very useful box.
12 April 2011
After this, a gardener who has been here for a few decades tells me that stripes do matter, particularly in the place where I'm headed next: it is a square garden with a round fountain in the middle.
Some time later, I ask the head gardener if he feels ready for visitors. He always seems so relaxed and is not in the least bit inclined to worry just because the public is arriving. All that people really mind about, he says, are neat edges and well-cut lawns.
A trainee gardener at a large country estate in the middle of Middle England. I'll refer to it as Brooke Hall. It's about flowers, double borders, box-less parterres and private enjoyment. The walled garden encloses a swimming pool and manorial pool house. The other kind of big garden, with visitors, Victorian glass houses, vegetables and flowers for cutting within its walls, that's 'Marsh Hall', where I go on Thursdays. Another perfect situation without really being one, as we Thursday people are volunteers.
The interview process at both places involves a phone call and a Can you start next week?