16 Nov 2015

Winter is coming.

Watching the walled gardens evolve is a slow but very rewarding process. When we close to the public at the end of October we continue to be just as busy as we are in spring (much to non gardeners amazement), however the type of work we execute is different, it at this time of year we look at.

Lawn care, including scarifying, feeding, aerating and top dressing.

Building works such as path installation, repairs and maintenance (much harder to do safely when our visitors are present)

Pruning of dormant shrubs, climbers, fruit and perennials.

Cleaning and maintenance of glass structures.

Tree work

It is very easy indeed to keep busy through these months and as with anytime of the year a garden is subject to an almost cyclical series of tasks, for example you tend to sow your Tomato seeds, do the first mow, prune the vines and plant the Tulips all at approximately the same time of the year. This is true of any completed garden with the exception of perhaps some new projects or plants to care for. However as Holkham are in the process of rejuvenating the Walled garden we are finding that each year this changes as the project marches onwards.

The first year I was here a lot of time was dedicated to clearing of overgrown shrubs, which allowed room for new projects. In my first full close season we were mainly building paths and beginning our commitment to mulch, this allowed better access to the garden and saved some time in the growing season with less weeding needed in the mulched areas. The second full close season saw us build the last few pathways creating the extension to the veg patch, build a timber education centre and again up the ante on the mulching stakes.

So what does this mean?.

Well now that the majority of the construction is done we can concentrate a little more on plant care, ensuring the entire garden is mulched, renovation pruning of overgrown climbers is completed along with planting some exciting new ones (watch this space). The main benefit however won't be realised until spring and summer, extra time afforded by our mulching programme will allow us for the first time to tie in climbers as they grow, dead head more often and start to edit our borders.

The great thing is that the standard is rising and horticultural tasks that we had to (painfully) ignore and walk past will now have a chance of being completed instead of being ignored because of more pressing matters, which is the nature of a restoration.

The project reaching a much more interesting time is hugely supported by our team of amazing volunteers, subsequently the full time staff are drip feeding the volunteers with the knowledge necessary to progress in the form of short workshops based around horticultural tasks and plant identification sheets.

One of our volunteers Kate, emphasises the flurry or activity still happening behind the scenes.

"A friend of mine thought that as Holkham was now closed until the Spring and that my volunteering in the walled gardens was on hold until then.
How wrong was she! Although there is no requirement to turn up every week and certainly not when it's pouring with rain, this is a busy time of the year in the gardens. We're getting them ready for the Winter and making the most of the fact that the weeds are slowing down. This gave us volunteers time to dead head, tidy and prepare the soil for mulching. We also learnt a bit about hard wood propagation, from the experts.

This week Philip, the Head of Landscapes, had an 'important' birthday. So all the team, gardeners and volunteers got together at lunch time to celebrate with some lovely cakes. So yummy, it's not all hard work, but just enough to justify cake!"

The "Beyond the Walls" project continues at full steam towards our goal of restoring some of the derelict structures and improving our visitor offering, in the interim we aim to have the gardens looking as good as is humanly possible.

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