Tuesday, 11 February 2020

There's plenty to do before the Garden re-opens on 14th March

Andy Stevens, Head Gardener at Borde Hill, says…

The garden is still closed to the public for the winter but it’s not long now until we re-open on 14th March, and there are plenty of jobs the team and I need to tackle before then.

One of the key tasks is pruning the wisteria that covers the front of the garden entrance building. We do it once at this time of year, before it starts into growth, and then again in August to keep it tidy and in check. We’re also about to start renovating the deciduous mixed hedges around the Azalea Ring and at the edge of the Garden of Allah, thinning them out and cutting back old wood to encourage new growth. The big deciduous hedge all around the South Park has already been cut back by a farmer for us, so that now has nice straight edges and looks so much smarter.

As winter-flowering shrubs like wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) have finished flowering we’re beginning to prune them back to keep them in shape, and deciduous grasses like Miscanthus and Molinia that we left over winter to add interest and structure to the Grassy Knoll are now being cut right down to the ground.

There are Cornus on the South Lawn by the tearoom, on the West Bank and in the Garden of Allah and it’s the colour of their new young stems that we grow them for, so we’ll soon be cutting them back to ground level too, a process that’s known as ‘stooling’.

And it’s time to start all our dahlias tubers into growth, so we’ve begun to bring them out of their storage crates and into the Propagation House, where they’re going into trays of slightly damp compost. Dealing with dahlia tubers is always a bit nerve-wracking – when they come out of the ground at the end of their flowering season the trick is to keep them moist enough that they don’t dry out, but not so wet that they rot while they’re being stored over winter. We always put them in a cool outbuilding known as the Boiler Room (though there’s been no boiler there for years), which is slightly damp and stays at a relatively constant temperature and, so far, they’re all looking good.

By far the biggest job of all at this time of year, though, is pruning the roses. We have over 1000 here at Borde Hill, so it’s a major undertaking. We’ll spend several hours each day on it over a three-week period – so if anyone reading this has just a few roses to prune, spare a thought for us! It will be worth all the hard work, though, when they come into flower – the Rose Garden is always a glorious sight in early summer.

One last thing I’m champing at the bit to do this month is mow the lawn. It’s been such a mild winter that the grass hasn’t ever really stopped growing, but we are on clay here and it’s just too wet to get out there with machinery, so grass-cutting is going to have to wait until we finally get some prolonged dry weather. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait too long.’

Although the Garden isn’t yet open to the public for spring, there are plenty of bulbs and shrubs in flower for the Stephenson Clarke family, the Tennants living at Borde Hill and the gardening team - to enjoy themselves this month before they throw open the gates on 14th March:
  • Crocus
  • Narcissus
  • Galanthus
  • Camellia
  • Rhododendrons
  • Hamamelis
  • Garrya elliptica
  • Daphnes
  • Mahonias
  • Skimmias
  • Sarcococca
  • Osmanthus
  • Azara

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

January in the Garden

The seasonal cleaning mission starts long before spring has sprung at Borde Hill Garden and it’s all hands on deck.

What we get up to this month is very much in the hands of the weather, but can range from dispersing worm casts from lawns in drier conditions, to turf repairs if it’s suitably mild. If it’s still chilly, (which is fairly likely), it’s important we make sure all the greenhouse heaters are in working order too. The glass must also be checked, to make sure as much light as possible is being let in on these shorter days. 

If conditions do turn out to be frosty, we must be extra vigilant not to walk on icy grass, as this can cause burn or scorch marks. Whereas if we’re not frozen or waterlogged, ground conditions will be suitable for established deciduous trees and shrubs to be moved. 

Elsewhere, regardless of the conditions we’ll be inspecting stored dahlia and begonia tubers for signs of fungal rot, and taking hardwood cuttings of Cornus and Salix.

We’ll also remove old and diseased hellebore leaves and continue with all the regular tidying and weeding of beds that happens year-round.

Beyond that any vacant plots will be dug, while in terms of planting we’ll be putting in bare root deciduous hedging plants and bare root roses. Like we said, no resting on our laurels around here.  

What to look out for in the garden this month 
Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’
Sarcococca spp
Chimonanthus praecox
Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
Cornus mas
Iris unguicularis var. angustifolia
Abeliophyllum distichum

Friday, 6 December 2019

December in the Garden

The weather can’t seem to make its mind up at the moment, but at Borde Hill Garden we’re well-prepared for any circumstance. The greenhouses all have heaters for days when the cold bites, and special vents that can be opened up on milder days. It’s the plant equivalent of a smart heating system – except in this case the smart ones are our dedicated team of gardeners, who are always one step ahead of the conditions. 

Elsewhere the leaves are a job that needs constant attention at this time of year, and we’ll be clearing them from lawns and borders throughout the month. If the weather decides to gift us with a short warmer spell, we’ll also then mow the lawns to keep them looking neat and tidy. 

We retain perennial stems for wildlife to nibble at, or for winter interest, but where that’s not the case, we’ll finish cutting them all back this month. 

Similarly, we’ll be out pruning acers, birches and vines. We do this now rather than later to avoid them bleeding, which can damage the health of the plant.

It’s now also the right time for hardwood cuttings to be taken, in preparation for next season. On the planting front we will focus on deciduous trees and shrubs if the ground isn’t too frozen, and we’ll continue to dig over and incorporate compost to any vacant areas. Doing this now and leaving the ground rough means winter frosts will naturally break it down. The drainage on the outdoor pots will all need checking ahead of winter hitting in earnest, and we’ll be surveying all the over-wintering plants for pests – aphids in particular.

What to look out for in the garden this month
Camellia sasanqua
Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’

Callicarpa bodinieri Profusion
Liriope muscari

Monday, 11 November 2019

November in the Garden

As winter starts to approach in earnest, you’d think it’d be all cups of tea and extra layers to keep warm, but in truth we’re still a hive of activity.

This month we’ll be planting the tulip bulbs in tubs, in preparation for next season. The tender plants will continue to be put to bed, which is done by cutting them back and covering them to ward off the elements.

Now that we’ve had the first frost, the dahlia tubers can be lifted. Dahlias are always lifted once the foliage has been blackened by the first frost. We cut off the old flowering stems 5cm (2in) from the base and trim away any thin roots. These stems can then be composted. The hellebores will need some attention too before flowering, so this month we’ll be removing all their damaged and diseased foliage.

As the perennials continue to die back, we’ll carry on cutting them down. By autumn, many herbaceous perennials are running out of steam, with old foliage and flowers beginning to die back, which means it’s a good time to cut the old foliage back to the ground. The crown (the base of the plant) will remain dormant over winter and produce fresh shoots in the spring.

As the leaves merrily dance to the ground, we have a job on our hands this month to net all the ponds, to stop them falling in. And similarly, there’s a lot of work to be done clearing leaves across the garden – especially on the lawns. Any leaves that we have detected to be diseased will be burnt this much, such as rose leaves with blackspot, for example.

Elsewhere, it’s all about planting trees and shrubs across the garden, and cleaning the greenhouses out so that we can bring in any tender material for the winter. In that same vein, now’s the time to check all the greenhouse’s heating systems are working as they should, to make sure everything’s kept safe and warm inside.

What to look out for in the garden this month

Autumn leaf colour across the garden, in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues
Nerine bowdenii (Bowden lily)
Ornamental grasses
Berries galore, namely:
Callicarpa bodinieri (Bodinier's beautyberry)
Berberis (barberry)
Malus (apple tree)
Gaultheria mucronate (prickly heath)
Euonymus europeaeus (spindle tree)

Friday, 4 October 2019

Glorious Autumn at Borde Hill Garden

Our gardeners have got plenty to be getting on with. As glorious autumn hues spring up across the garden, new evergreens and a broad range of other trees and shrubs will be planted, (including new alliums and Fritillaria raddeana - see below photo), and young evergreen shrubs will be moved. 

There will be cutting back across the garden - the Buddleia, Lavatera and Cornus alba for example will need reducing by half to prevent wind rock. The essential pruning of the climbing roses and cutting of deciduous hedges will need finishing before November darkens our door. 

Also the ongoing task of dividing the perennials will continue. The more tender of these will need bringing undercover as the weather takes a seasonal turn.

As to the lawns, new turf will be laid and all lawns renovated, to allow them to bounce back at their brilliant best in the spring. Leaf clearing will be near constant through the month.

Halloween and half-term collide in spooktacular style this month, and to celebrate we’ll be opening the Borde Hill Academy of Witches & Wizards. Between 26th October and 3rd November, help Sapphire the Witch’s cat regain her magical powers on a bewitching garden trail full of spells, potions and mystery (£2 a child, free to Friends).

What to look out for in the garden this month
Late flowering perennials – aster, rudbeckias, 
Liriope muscari