The cold hand of winter arrived at Chastleton last week with low temps and a good dose of snow, banishing the wet and mild weather we had been experiencing over Christmas and New Year.
I did manage to get some tidying, pruning, managing of the wormery, setting mole traps, mending peach tree cover and hedge cutting done in the early weeks of this month before frost, snow and ice took over. John Poole came in and cut our autumn raspberries back on the 7th as well.
Matthew West (historic blacksmith) came and fitted the historic looking chain in The West Garden fencing with my assistance. He also measured up for a hand rail that we are having fitted by The Best Garden steps to make them safer to manage. This rail will be historically in keeping with the garden in its design and installed for the new season opening in March.
The West Garden Project is ongoing - the fencing is now completed and creates a discrete boundary that opens up the space. Next stage is to finish the new cold frames, paint the gate and fence blue and get engagement potting tables set up.
There is always plenty of office work to do as well and I have been busy planning and preparing for next open season. Some of the jobs include: updating risk assessments and health and safety, ordering, reviewing the short garden guide and proof reading the garden section in our new property guide book. I have been drawing up the designs and schedules of works for the expanded Kitchen Garden and making plans with the team. Here are some examples of some of the designs below:
The Roots and Alliums bed.
The Legumes and Salads bed.
The Potatoes, Brassicas, Pumpkin and Squash bed.
The first job will be to weed and prepare the beds for planting and start seed sowing in the greenhouse and planting out early alliums, fruit and asparagus.
Sadly, we have had more casualties with the garden walls. Two more sections of wall have collapsed - another one in The Forecourt, this time by the churchyard, and a section at the end of the garden in The Wilderness. So I have completed a survey of the walls of the garden and am working with the Visitor Operations Manager (Dawn) and the Regional Surveyor (Jo) to risk assess and prioritise repairs and provide interpretation information for visitors to the property.
The Wall between the Forecourt and church yard has fallen casualty to the wet weather last year.
The door from The Stable Yard to The Forecourt is due to have repairs to its hinges.
Snow meant I struggled to get in to the property today (Mon 21st Jan) as there has been about a ft of snow and the small lanes were icy to negotiate.
The lane outside the property.
The garden looked lovely in the snow and Dawn and I worked to brush the snow off the topiaires so that the weight of it did not snap the branches and it did not cause scorch marks on the leaves.
The Stable Yard.
The Rose Terrace.
The Kitchen Garden.
The Best Garden.
Anna carefully removing heavy snow from fragile topiaries.
There are lots of activities planned over the next few weeks - including recruiting a seasonal gardener assistant, wall repairs, path repairs, finishing off the cold frames in The West Garden, rose and shrub and climber pruning, building a leaf litter store, cutting back ivy, tidying the car park, starting propagation and bed preparation for The Kitchen Garden etc. I will keep you posted as always.
We are having a few garden open days for visitors over Feb 14th, 15th and 16th to see early spring flowers and snowdrops - please see the property web page, our Facebook page and local press for details. We have never opened the garden this early in the season - so it is an opportunity to see our snowdrop collection once the snow has melted.
The infra-structure of the garden came off badly to the wild weather we have been having in December. The Forecourt dry stone wall has crumbled in a couple of places following the excessive wet and windy weather. The wall has been made safe and the area roped off and we have booked for some builders to repair the damage in Jan 2013 - but a few plants and nice ferns have been crushed unfortunately. The wall will be sympathetically reconstructed to retain the correct aesthetic look and feel for the property- but be a lot more stable and strong.
On a more cheerful note John Poole and I planted up the apple cordons on the top terrace above the croquet lawns. John and I carefully chose bareroot, heritage varieties from Walcots Organic Fruit Tree Nursery and were very pleased with the results. The border was previously a rather lost, neglected rose border with very weak, old roses - so the new look is an improvement and appropriate for the garden.
Cordons are a great way to grow fruit trees in a small space. We support ours with hazel sticks coppiced from the garden.
The latest turf repairs around the garden and re-turfing in the West Garden was finished this month too.
A new year and new projects will start apace at Chastleton Garden in Jan 2013 and I will update you in my first entry of the year in due course.