Friday, 21 October 2016

A fiery Euonymus on the Ribbon Beds.
The gnaw of the Maize harvester is the sound of October in the countryside and then you realise that the year is into it's fourth quarter! How did that happen? October is a great month for countless reasons.....great light, turning leaves, clement walking weather, bonfires, chilly nights, roaring fires, hearty food from the fields, last year's Sloe Gin, strong dark ales and the opportunity to attack those areas of the garden that need attention. Bed 3 is our main project this year and we've started, in our hunt for Bindweed and a perennial Chicory, forking over the soil and picking out offending roots whilst transporting 'must save' perennials in a barrow to the potting bench. These must saves include Lysimachia clethroides, Aster ericoides, Aconitum 'Sparks Variety', well at least I think it is. This particular Monkshood ticks all my boxes.....late flowering, deep tone blue and no staking!
Seven of our Copper Blacks seeking safety in numbers at Barnsley.

Yesterday morning I visited Oxford Poultry near Kidlington and met proprietor Sarah Smith, I was picking up ten Copper Black Marans. A hybrid Hen, glossy black plumage and Magpie iridescence, some show varience with copper 'capes'. They also lay chocolate/mahogany eggs that will complement the warm brown Welsummer eggs of the young Hens the gardeners hatched out and reared this spring and summer. Next spring we hope to get another ten birds from Gavin and Sarah; but ones that lay blue/green eggs. This is a project started earlier this year to have a flock of birds, up to forty maximum,  that produce a colourful array of eggs for breakfast boiling. I have also fallen in love with the White Leghorns at Oxford Poultry and I think I'll be back to supplement our flock soon. The White Leghorn is a stylish, perfectly poised little hen, out of Tuscany, that lays a surprisingly large porcelain white egg. In the meantime we have a twenty strong flock goverened by Cockerel Kurt and matriarchs Freda and Greta (parents of our young Welsummers) and may have, if it goes to plan, some egg production before Christmas.
Two Copper Blacks, one playing it cool; the other keen to know more about the Welsummers' dust bathing facility.

Friday, 23 September 2016

A great afternoon, on Saturday, spent mooching around friend Julie Dolphin's Miserden Nursery. She's obviously been hard at work with vineries cleared out  and healthy stock now holding court on the benches. It was also really nice to see and catch up with Ed' Alderman, who Julie has enlisted. Ed' worked at Barnsley House and then got a scholarship to work at Great Dixter, he's been back in Gloucestershire for a couple of years now and is a passionate plantsman and propagator. Julie is keen on her Pelargoniums and Ed is particularly fond of Salvias, Julie generously gave me some (quite a lot actually) cutting material of Salvia x involucrata 'Bethellii', a beautiful plant with bright felt tip pink blooms. Ed' proudly showed me a new propagating unit for cuttings which works on the 'dew point' principle, it's throbbing polar light signifying it's presence in the dark recesses of the potting shed like a scene from Professor Quatermass.
Clematis viticella 'Mary Rose' growing at Miserden...stunning!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Summer is over now with dewy mornings; but days still capable of producing a warm glow on exposed limbs. Early Autumn could, quite possibly, be my favourite time of the year, comfortable temperatures, leaves still on the trees and a lower, less fierce sun that casts shadows and lights up subjects from behind and through. Fruits too start to eclipse blooms as points of garden and hedgerow interest, Sloes, berries and hips. 
Rosa 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup'
The vegetable garden is ready for our harvest festival lunch on the 7th, Eleanor and Francesco have discussed a menu and, weather permitting, we will be able to dine outside. Mulberries have already been picked as an addition for a dessert ....there will also be Flower Sprouts, 'Crown Prince' Squash, Purple Carrots, 'Zebrune' Shallots.
3lbs of Mulberries.
I think I find walking across stubble one of the most enjoyable 'perks' of my life here at Barnsley. Stubble means many things to draws a line under summer, gives greater access to the land, holds Snipe and Plovers in Winter and re-awakens ghosts of Blue, Tam, Whistler and Walter,  companions of the past. 'Every dog has it's day' and each corner of a field prompts a particular memory of a past glory, a turn, heart in mouth acceleration, a near miss and the sheer joy of fast dogs being fast.

Walter the Deerhound....a very special, once in a lifetime, dog.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A busy bank holiday weekend with vegetables going to both House and Pub.

Barba di Frate (Monk's Beard), a terrestrial Samphiresque Italian greens, tastes quite salty and we'll definitely grow a lot more next year, very nice. Latin Salsola soda.
Carrots 'Jaune du Doubs'
A fine 7lb 'Crown Prince' Winter Squash between Sprout Tops & various Summer Squash with their flowers. Francesco's favourite Squash, with bright orange flesh that quickly cooks to a soft, creamy and sweet ingredient for Ravioli fillings or a base for a hearty Risotto. For me I like it roasted in large slices in olive oil with garlic, sea salt, pepper & finished with a knob of butter!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bed 1.....yellows, whites and blues.
A rampagous Gourd strapped to the rib of a polytunnel ....what will it become?
Bed 2.....blues, pinks and purples.

Bed 1.....yellows, whites and blues.
A rampagous Gourd strapped to the rib of a polytunnel ....what will it become?
Bed 2.....blues, pinks and purples.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Allium christophii.
May and June are relentless months for the gardener with dusty July forcing an extra gear and an even quicker turn of speed. Some one once said "you've got to move quick to stay in the same place" and it's no more appropriate than at this time of year in the garden. Gardeners with a few years under their belts could recognise these sentiments as well as knowing that each year throws up challenges different to that of the previous one. These last few weeks of June, with their rain, has added to our labours as we strive to keep the roses looking good (lots of rain on lots of petals makes mush!) as well as battling legions of slugs and snails.
The rain has made this year a good year for Astrantias, seen here on the Winter Walk with Geranium nodosum and an ancient Gooseberry.
After several seasons at Barnsley House, every year has been unique with both the first and last making me realise just how little I know. Head Gardener to Charles Verey was as unique a position as Head Gardener to my present employers, each offering challenges, satisfaction and the incidental opportunities to learn new skills that in turn afforded me career and personal development.

I came to Barnsley House having been 'blooded' by labouring in nurseries, a Nottinghamshire tree gang and being paid 'piece rate' the more trees you did the more you got paid (health and safety!) tree surgery in Frankfurt. I also had a wonderful three and a half year's in Fife and a year in an office in Dundee! All elements of my pre Barnsley House career; although unknowingly at the time, were useful preparation for the varied and ever-changing scenarios that have presented themselves to me as a Barnsley House gardener.

Despite this varied experience; arriving at Barnsley House was like the first day at a new school and no less daunting..."I was set down by the carrier's cart at the age of three (in my case thirty three) and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began" (Lee, L. 1959). New jobs, new challenges, new experiences can be petrifying; but for my father (a quietly competative individual) failure was all part of the learning process; it was always more important to have a go, take what you can from the experience and use this at the next attempt. Barnsley is a unique place, I can be bent double in the borders, looking at spread sheets in a management meeting or conducting a guided tour; my first guided tour was less than a year after the death of Mrs. Verey, no pressure! To be part of the team looking after the special garden that is Barnsley House, also now famous for being a highly desirable hotel, requires flexibility and a willingness to have a go. In the words of Samuel Beckett....

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Iris foetidissima under the Limes, veined flowers followed by bright orange seeds; also an impressive crown of dark green leaves that will look good through the worst of winters. A good self seeder.