Purple days

Betrayal, remorse, death: and yet such beauty. Cercis siliquastris is said to be the tree on which Judas hanged himself after turning Jesus in to the authorities having identified him with a kiss, and in return for 30 pieces of silver. The Judas tree as it is commonly called is planted throughout the various gardens of the Alhambra in Granada: in those beside the Nasrid Palaces, the ramparts, the monastery of St Francis (now a hotel) and across the valley in the Generalife which my guidebook translated as ‘the garden of lofty paradise.

When I visited in the third week of March, few deciduous trees were in leaf, highlighting the many evergreens across the estate, notably the ranks of cypresses silhouetting the upper terraces of the Generalife. Consequently, the deep mauve flowers of the Judas tree stood out boldly in the landscape. Close examination reveals that the pea-like blooms erupt from branches, twigs and even trunks of these remarkable trees, with the heart-shaped leaves emerging several weeks after the flowers making the colour of the trees  all the more prominent.

IMG_7192

Shades of purple predominated in many of the plants in flower during my visit to Granada: the irises in the foreground of this view of the city from the Generalife Gardens and the wisteria clothing ancient walls and perfuming the air with the unique fragrance which in this country I associate with mid to late April.

And it wasn’t only the purple flowers which were in bloom at least four weeks before those at home. The palest of pink peonies dominated a bed surrounded with clipped myrtle in one of the Generalife’s upper gardens, the Jardines Altos.

This garden was beside the intriguing Escalera de Agua, where instead of a banister rail, water flows along stone channels on either side of the steps leading to the wonderfully named Mirador Romantico. This feature reminded me of William Kent’s early 18th century landscape garden at Rousham House in Oxfordshire where the shallow zig-zagged rill’s source is in a woodland glade leading to the cascades and pools which eventually flow into the River Cherwell. In the Generalife and the palaces of the Alhambra the numerous rills connect the pools and fountains at the centre of the patio gardens, many of them cloistered with elegant pillared arcades, off which lead chambers decorated with intricately worked plaster and ceramic tiles in vivid colours.

In the final week of April, at home in west London, the two notable Judas trees in Kew Gardens have been in full flower. One spreads its branches dramatically at the foot of the steps from King William’s Temple in the centre of the Mediterranean Garden and the other overhangs the perimeter wall beside the Queen’s Garden at the rear of Kew Palace. The former forms a backdrop to some of the glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly now erected in many parts of Kew Gardens, and to which I shall return in future posts. In my back garden at home I have been delighting in the extravagant purple and mauve swags of the wisteria, as well as its gorgeous perfume.

87cbc7f5-8281-4600-b5ad-3c1b657a274a

IMG_7914

A sacred strawberry tree

In a secluded area behind the Garden House at Osterley stand two tall trees with richly russet coloured peeling bark: they are Arbutus menziesii, a species of strawberry tree whose fruits are distilled in Portugal into a spirit known as ‘Madrone’. When I visited Seville Cathedral a fortnight ago I found in one of the numerous side chapels a relief called La Virgen de Madrono, the Madonna of the Strawberry Tree. A kneeling angel offers the infant Jesus a dish brimming with the fruit of the Madrono. I read that the tree originates on the western coast of North America, from British Columbia to California and can reach a height of 25 to 30 metres.

Rolling along within the walls

After a few months lying dormant, having been cleared, weeded and mulched, the four beds which occupy the centre of Osterley’s Tudor Walled Garden are beginning to be planted for this year’s display of edibles and ornamentals. On 8 March gardener Ed rotovated the plots and the Friday team of volunteer gardeners raked the surface with landscape rakes to create as fine a tilth as possible. The next step was to even out the surface still further using a faded green garden roller, the ‘Ogle Roller’. This venerable machine was made in Derby at the Castwell Foundry but I’ve not been able to find an approximate date when these might have been in production. We discovered that it is easier to pull not push a garden roller on soil and that it required two of us to keep the roller steady and the lines straight, as well as achieving a neat turn at the end of each row. The latter involved a tricky manoeuvre where the two barrels of the Ogle came into play, with one remaining stationary and the other turning to help swivel the roller to a position alongside the previous ‘stripe’.

While we were occupied with this task, colleagues erected the hazel pole bean supports. Whilst the Climbing and Runner Bean plants will not be planted for a few weeks, we did plant a couple of dozen Broad Bean plants. These are the first of numerous vegetable and salad crops being raised from seed to be planted out when both weather and soil are a little warmer.

IMG_6895

As an experiment this year, on 22 March one of the walled garden’s plots was sown with ‘green manure’ seeds. In 12 to 14 weeks’ time the plants will be chopped down, dug in and the bed planted with crops in the cabbage family for harvesting during next winter. The plot was first divided off into four triangular sections the interior of two of which were sown with Alfalfa and the other two with Purple Clover, with Black (Japanese) Oats being sown along the intersecting lines.

Whilst this part of the garden looks slightly bare at this time of year, these preparations are the foundation of the second of Osterley’s three garden zones. The Osterley garden is virtually divided into three principal zones, both for seasonal interest and to make it as easy as possible to manage with a small workforce of one Head Gardener and two full-time gardeners, albeit supported by a large team of volunteers. From now until mid-summer the first zone or Mrs Child’s Flower Garden (about which more in future posts) will dominate the scene. The Tudor Walled Garden will be at its height from mid-summer to October, followed by the third zone, the Winter Garden.

I shall plot the progress of the planting in the Tudor Walled Garden in this blog over the coming months.

 

 

Dickie’s Border

My last blog post included a reference to a clock and ‘Tick Tock’ is the nickname of the gentleman after whom a very imposing border in the gardens at Osterley is named. Dickie Denton was a gardener at Osterley from 1948 who lived in a flat in the stables, a short distance from the border, and looked after the clock in the stables.

In this brief image-based post I share images taken last Monday 25 February of a few of the shrubs featured in the middle tier of the planting scheme in Dickie’s Border.

IMG_6673
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ : Winter daphne
IMG_6676
Rhamnus alarternus ‘Argenteovariegata’: Italian buckthorn

 

IMG_6678
Arbutus unedo f.rubra:  Pink strawberry tree
IMG_6681
Teucrium fruticans:  Tree germander

Prunings

Secateurs poised, we stood, two students per rose bush, listening carefully to our tutor Mac. We could hear the traffic six lanes deep just a few yards from where we were standing . Tutorial over, we tentatively began to prune the Queen’s roses. Tidying up the plants in your own garden is one thing, but cutting into Her Majesty’s specimens is another matter altogether.

This was on the last Friday in February three years ago, the first day of the RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture course at Capel Manor’s centre in the Regent’s Park. After a morning in the classroom we had been marched through the park to the Crown Estate garden which consists of two half moons, north and south of the Marylebone Road, linked by a tunnel above the platform at Regent’s Park Underground station. We began to work, inwardly reciting the 3Ds pruning mantra ‘Dead Diseased Damaged’. I don’t think I made more than five cuts in my rose that cold afternoon. What with identifying the potential direction of stem growth to prevent crossing (which can encourage powdery mildew) and searching for the outward facing buds over which to cut (to maintain an open shape) I concluded that pruning is as much about looking as cutting.

I was reminded of this lesson this week when I pruned a mature Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree in the garden of clients. It’s a beautiful tree, gnarled and branching out from waist height, with numerous fruiting spurs. ‘Achieve a good mix of useful wood of different ages’ counsels the RHS ‘Pruning & Training’ manual. I pruned the weak growth hard and the stronger growth lightly, and cut out a couple of older branches which were growing out so far from the central trunk they were in danger of splitting under their own weight. Again I found that I spent more time scrutinising the stems, spurs and buds than applying blade to branch.

IMG_6579

If the apple tree prune was conservative, that of its neighbour, a tall shaggy barked Deutzia, was definitely radical. The deciduous shrub needed renovation pruning to encourage it to produce its whitish pink flowers which I saw described on a label at a wholesale plant nursery I visited this week as resembling fairy’s dresses. Those juvenile specimens were a far cry from the much older plant I pruned on Tuesday. I thinned out older woody branches, cutting to as close to the base as possible, and lowered its height by a couple of feet so that the apple tree beyond it can now be seen from the house.

A day’s pruning was the perfect opportunity to try out the folding pruning saw a friend thoughtfully bought me for Christmas. It was ideal for taking out the medium sized branches. My sturdy Felco secateurs made light work of the slimmer stems. Coincidentally, the following morning, a friend demonstrated a very impressive long handled tree pruner made by Fiskars, with which he had recently pruned the magnificent Wisteria which clothes the house at ground floor level. He had not had to resort to using a ladder and was delighted with the by-pass pruner. I confess that when I tried to use it I found that I did not have adequate power in my arms to both hold the pole steady enough to make a cut and ‘pull the trigger’.

With perfect timing, the Osterley volunteers were treated this morning to a rose pruning refresher session with the head gardener, Andy Eddy. He ran through the basic principles of rose pruning before taking us to see the various roses throughout the garden most of which he has already pruned. Many of these are climbing roses and he showed us a beautiful Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ in the courtyard outside the Study Centre whose stems he has encouraged outwards in a gentle curve so as to encourage new stems to develop along its length.

IMG_6562In the seating area behind the cafe red flowered R.’Etoile d’Hollande’, a climbing hybrid tea rose, climbs several metres up and across, supported by a series of taut horizontal strainer wires, around which the rose’s stems are tied with a double loop of green horticultural twine.

IMG_6564In the Magnolia Bed, beside the Cutting Garden, Andy demonstrated a method of creating a beautiful rounded shape to a hybrid tea or floribunda rose by training it onto a framework of hooped hazel stems.

IMG_6567The  deep bed which backs onto the American Border sports two species rose, R.Banksiae and R. Glauca, both of which are left alone and not pruned. Until this morning I hadn’t appreciated the range of roses in Osterley’s collection and will enjoy seeing them clothed in blooms having studied them this morning in their naked winter state.

 

Wool gathering whilst gardening

Of the many benefits of gardening- fresh air, exercise (what one RHS course tutor dubbed ‘the outdoor gym’), an outlet for creativity- the opportunity to let your thoughts wander at will is for me one of its principal virtues. The meditative state that can arise, particularly when carrying out a repetitive task such as weeding, can sooth anxieties or, as it did when I was working in a client’s garden a week ago, trigger memories. Whilst we are counselled against ‘looking in the rear view mirror’, remembering the gardens we grew up in or the first gardens we created, is a delightful route along which to allow one’s thoughts to meander.

As I worked my way methodically around the garden, knee pads in situ and weeding fork in hand, I recalled the pleasure I derived from making a tiny ‘garden’ at the first flat I owned. The little studio flat in South Kensington was on the top floor of a five storey white stucco building which had once been a hotel. A property developer had converted it into dozens of studio and one bedroom apartments of which mine was probably one of the smallest. Although its one window was behind the parapet which crowned the handsome building, the room had a very bright east-facing aspect. For fire escape purposes, a small flight of wooden steps led from the window sill to the valley behind the parapet. Having grown up in a suburban house with a generous proportioned garden which I had taken little interest in helping to maintain, I suddenly discovered an enthusiasm for growing plants. I indulged this new passion with baskets suspended on decorative ironwork lavatory brackets (from said childhood home) on either side of the wooden steps. In those days, the early 1980s, there was a small garden centre on a triangular plot immediately above Gloucester Road underground station: now occupied by a branch of Waitrose and a large office building. It was in this unique plant centre and at Rassells on Edwardes Square off Kensington High Street that I bought the geraniums, lobelia and Black-eyed Susans (Thunbergia alata) with which I filled the baskets. I revelled in the gaudy colours of the display which decorated my climb to the parapet valley from which I could survey the London skyline. From left to right: Hyde Park , the roof of the Albert Hall, T E Collcutt’s Queen’s Tower in the heart of Imperial College’s campus and the Natural History Museum. I also had a small collection of houseplants including a highly temperamental shrimp plant whose botanical name I discovered whilst researching this blog post is Justicia brandegeana. 

The shrimp plant gave up the ghost when four years later I loved to a larger but altogether gloomier basement flat in West Kensington. The flat did, however, have the advantage of its own garden, albeit one that could not be seen from the flat since it was on the same level as the raised ground floor flat upstairs. In my six year sojourn there I did battle with a compacted clay soil and rather moth-eaten lawn. The garden was surrounded by high brick walls (which I would be very happy to have surrounding my current garden). It was overhung at the rear with a burgundy leaved tree I believe may have been a purple beech, Fagus sylvatica Atropurpurea Group. In my first autumn in the flat, I remember a trip to a garden centre near Maidenhead with my dear friend Pat, where I bought several shrubs and climbers which I had carefully selected from Dr DG Hessayan’s ‘The Tree & Shrub Expert’. These included Spiraea japonica, Choisya ternata and Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’, the latter chosen more for its Dublin associated name than for its beauty, but which romped away despite the dry shade in which it was expected to grow. I was also given Kerria japonica and a witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis. Another gift was Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’. I moved before it flowered and have often wondered how it fared after I left.

img_6369

I went to a very inspiring talk by garden designer Dan Pearson at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on Monday evening, ‘Journey of a Plantsman’. As he described his evolution from schoolboy botanist and horticulturist to world renowned designer and plantsman, I was struck by the detail with which he recalled the plants he included in the first flower border he created in his parents’ Hampshire garden 40 years ago. Hardly on the same level, but when during the gardening session last week I allowed my mind to focus on my own 1980s gardens, I found I too could see those gardens and the plants in them as if it were yesterday.

In other news, I spent today at Kew helping, along with many other volunteers,  to prepare orchids and bromeliads for the Orchid Festival which starts in early February. Attaching moss to the plants pots with elastic bands was a fiddly process but very satisfying and the horticultural chat around the table was fascinating. During a break I took a look at the progress with the installation of the exhibits and it’s already looking very impressive. The theme of this year’s festival is Colombia and the fauna of the country is being highlighted alongside its botanical treasures. A sloth, donkey and turtle caught my eye today. More orchid festival impressions to follow in a future post.

 

‘Blow Gabriel Blow’*

* Cole Porter ‘Anything Goes’ 1934

When, at New Year, I walked into the museum in Prague devoted to the artist Alphonse Mucha, the last thing I expected to find was the inspiration for Weeds Roots & Leaves’ first blog post of 2019. But there it was, amidst the stylised theatrical posters and advertising material, almost always portraying beautiful young women in dreamy poses dressed in flowing gowns with luxuriant hairstyles. In a section devoted to the artist’s drawings I found a couple of botanical studies. One featured the Czech national tree, Tilia cordata, the small leaved lime or linden, the latter somehow more appropriate in central Europe. Its layout and precision reminded me of the remarkably detailed botanical art in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

But the drawing that most attracted me was of Brugmansia or Angel’s Trumpets. With fine pencil strokes, Mucha illustrates the elongated trumpet of this tropical tree/shrub’s flower. Subtly, the image transmutes into designs for lampshades and light fittings and what might be a rather lethal looking hair ornament. In turn of the century Prague, as in other European cities, Art Nouveau drew inspiration from nature, most notably in the art and designs of Alphonse Mucha.  Having seen the detail of the study of the Angel’s Trumpets I can appreciate the accuracy of the plant-inspired decorations in Mucha’s work. Further examination of the other images on display revealed that the majority include floral motifs, either entwined in the subject’s hair or as a decorative border to the painting or print. I found sunflowers, irises, scarlet geraniums, poppies: on an overcast late December morning an art gallery turned out to be the best garden in the city!

Finding the Brugmansia study spurred me into delving further into the genus of which I knew very little, other than being able to recognise its large and distinctive trumpet or bell-like flowers. Brugmansia is a member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and like its relatives potatoes and tomatoes, originates in South America. Sadly the seven species in the genus are now known only in cultivation and it is classed as extinct in the wild. In tropical areas Brugmansia can grow into a large shrub or a tree up to 11m high. Its spectacular flowers exude a strong fragrance, usually most intense in the evenings to attract pollinating moths. In southern Colombia the plant has been used as a hallucinogen in spiritual ceremonies. Whilst most parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested, it has been found that some of its properties have medical value, including as an anaesthetic. Numerous cultivars of Brugmansia have been developed including B. ‘Alphonse Mucha’!

The images which follow are of the specimens on display in Kew’s newly restored Temperate House, which I plan to make the subject of a future post.

On the subject of art inspired by natural forms, from this April the works of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly are to be displayed in Kew Gardens for the second time in 14 years. I remember that first exhibition clearly and recall fantastically entwining ‘chandeliers’ comprising numerous hand-blown tendrils in an array of vivid colours and a canoe moored near the Gunnera on the banks of the Palm House Pond brimming with multi-coloured glass gourds. Sinuous blue and clear glass forms resembling some exotic aquatic creature arose amidst the Nymphaea in the pool in the central zone of the Princess of Wales Conservatory. For me the 2005 Chihuly exhibition has been one of the most effective art installations at Kew in recent years. That is not to denigrate more recent events such as the garden-wide exhibition of the works of Henry Moore in Kew’s 250th anniversary year 2009. And Kew proved an ideal setting for David Nash’s sculptures in wood in 2012.

I’d like to think that from April I might find a glass sculpture inspired by the frilly skirted blooms of Brugmansia. If so, I believe that Mucha, master at translating botanical subjects into works of art, would approve.

‘It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees’

Two years ago, in early December 2016, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in New York City, my first visit for eight years. At the top of my ‘must-sees’ was the High Line, the linear park which runs along a disused elevated railway track to the west of mid-town Manhattan. 30 feet above the city streets, the High Line is a perfect platform from which to survey the cityscape: the cross town streets and the canyon of Tenth Avenue.

The park’s landscaping is the work of Dutch landscape architect, Piet Oudolf, whose name is now synonymous with ‘prairie’ style planting where herbaceous perennials rub shoulders with numerous grass species. I have seen his work in the double borders at RHS Garden Wisley and hope to visit the garden he designed at the Hauser & Wirth gallery at Durslade Farm in Somerset in the coming year. Even on a cold December morning, the 1.45 mile long park displayed pockets of intriguing plants. I was especially struck by the unexpected sight of mature trees growing a few feet from the second storey windows of offices and apartment buildings. The site’s industrial past is embraced and grasses push up between complicated rail junctions. Every so often we encountered gardeners tending the planted areas and I saw a sign advertising for volunteers to help maintain what has become a major tourist attraction in the city.

Quirky sculptures and installations occur along the length of the High Line: here a car built of car tyres, there an alternative hand-typed political manifesto on a billboard several metres high. And in this park one has the rare opportunity in crowded Manhattan to stand and appreciate the monumental architecture of the city, the sky-scraping edifices of central Manhattan to the north and of the Financial District to the south. Craft plying the Hudson River glimpsed between buildings two avenues to the west are a reminder of New York’s maritime and mercantile foundations.

We were walking along the High Line on the way to lunch with a cousin and friends at Gene’s Restaurant on West 11th Street: a chance to catch up with dear people at their favourite Italian. En route I glimpsed Christmas trees for sale on a street corner and not for the first time in New York it felt like a scene from a movie. In this case ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Meg Ryan single-handedly drags the tree back to her apartment.

IMG_1975

I’m keeping it brief for this post on Christmas Eve and wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year. Here’s to plenty of gardening work, visits and writing in the year to come. And thank you for reading my posts thus far.

 

 

 

From Smethwick to Knightsbridge

I mentioned salmon pink geraniums in a children’s book in a recent blog post and have found a reference to geraniums in another work of fiction. In Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, the eponymous heroine visits her friend Raymond’s mother in a suburb of Glasgow: ‘We approached the front door and I noticed that she had red geraniums in window boxes. I find geraniums somewhat unsettling; that rich, sticky scent when you brush past them, a brackish, vegetable smell that’s the opposite of floral.’ Unlike Eleanor Oliphant I am not unsettled by geraniums, or more accurately Pelargoniums, but I agree the scent of their foliage is most distinctive.  I would however apply Eleanor’s description to the aroma of tomato leaves which for me summons memories of my maternal grandfather’s greenhouse in Smethwick which was always packed with tomato plants. Another of his horticultural passions was growing the pillowy red and yellow annuals Calceolaria, which are no longer fashionable. My only attempt at following his example and growing them from seed came to nothing, but I intend to sow the dust like seeds again next year (Suttons Seeds’ Calceolaria ‘Sunset Mix’) and shall hope for more success.

This post is a hotch potch of topics, reflecting the state of mind in which most of it was written a few days ago, jangled after a break in at home. One of the recommended deterrents is to plant something spiky around the perimeter of the garden. A friend who kindly carried out some urgent repairs for me in the garden suggested a thorny and prolific rambling rose to cover the trellis atop the fences. I have started researching potential cultivars and am deliberating between two. Rosa “Rambling Rector’ has thorny shoots and sprays of small white flowers which I can see would complement the two climbing roses which grow up the wooden archway at the entrance to the seating area in the sunniest corner of the garden: Rosa ‘Blush Noisette’ and Rosa ‘White Star’. But I am also tempted by the open and pollinator attracting white flowers of another rambler: Rosa ‘Bobbie James’. Both can grow to 25 metres: enough to protect at least two boundaries!

One of the climbing roses I just mentioned, Rosa ‘White Star’, grew tremendously last summer. It has glossy dark green leaves and open ivory blooms. Touching wood as I write this, it also appears to be resistant to disease. It gleams in the dusk of a summer twilight and is graced with a strong perfume.

IMG_5644

When I visited the Faringdon Collection at 28 Brompton Square in Knightsbridge a couple of weeks ago, I was interested to see the different window boxes around the square. I was dismayed to note the plastic box ‘plants’ (in both ‘hedge’ and ‘ball’ form) on display at several properties, but when I noticed the parched brown remains of a blight affected box hedge in one of the window boxes, I began to understand (though not condone) the owners’ rationale in installing such monstrosities. Another house sported a prickly affair of cactuses and succulents which was certainly eye-catching, and perhaps protected from frost in this central London location.

IMG_5931

The most attractive window boxes were outside our destination: immaculate white pelargoniums. This was not surprising given the high standard of horticulture at Buscot House in Oxfordshire, the National Trust run property owned by Lord Faringdon. A visit to his London home to see part of his art collection (£10, booking required) does not include a visit to the garden but there is ample opportunity to survey its  symmetrical design from the upper windows of the house. One of my favourite places in the house was the ‘Gazebo Room”, decorated with a trellis design and comfortably furnished with two chairs and an elegant writing desk overlooking the formal garden. Of the two garden sculptures visible from the house, one, a stylised figure of a young man, came from the Commonwealth Institute.

It was a wet and gloomy November afternoon, but the strong structural design of the space remained evident. An arcade of green metal arches draws the eye along a brick herringbone path to a small classical statue. To one side of this is an area of low growing box balls of equal size clustered at the foot of a smallish tree, almost naked of leaves: a Mulberry?

On a balcony at the front of the house I noticed two fleece covered containers. I learnt from the caretaker who showed us around, that the pots contained Agapanthus. In such a sheltered location I would not have thought such a precaution necessary, but the neatly fleeced and pegged structures were themselves an intriguing feature.

IMG_5930

Next time: I plant winter themed containers for the front garden and recall a winter visit to the High Line in Manhattan.

 

Toads and more

Imagine being woken from a deep warm sleep by someone wielding a shovel. This was the experience of the four toads we unearthed from a mature leaf mould pile in the gardens at Osterley two weeks ago. We were excavating the leaf mould to use as mulch in the Winter Garden. The amphibians had snuggled themselves into this dense and dark environment presumably with a view to remaining in hibernation until next spring. Each time we found a toad we carefully deposited its plump brown and understandably trembling body in the neighbouring leaf compound where last years leaves are slowly rotting down into a rich dark substance which will be ready to harvest in a year or so.

Recent work at Osterley has been varied and very satisfying. We have cut down to ground level the Asters and Heleniums in the American Border, the long deep area which backs onto the Tudor Walled Garden planted with specimens of shrubs and herbaceous perennials originating from North America. One of these is the towering herbaceous perennial American pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, which bears racemes of crimson-black berries in the autumn. This too was cut down to the ground. After weeding we planted a scattering of tulip bulbs between the crowns of the plants we had  cleared, which in some cases were already fringed in the first of next year’s leaves.

A week ago, in one quadrant of the Tudor Walled Garden, we grubbed out the Castor Oil plants, Ricinus communis, which provide height and drama amidst the Dahlias and Mexican sunflowers which two months ago were still thriving colourfully in the glorious open location. I described working in the midst of this bed in a blog post a couple of months ago and at its height it is truly a kaleidoscope of varying shades of orange, red and yellow. One of the Osterley gardeners explained that the Castor Oil plants have been particularly successful this year, having been started under glass in February in preparation for planting out after the frosts have ceased. Their success was demonstrated by their unwillingness to be extracted from the soil. Each spot plant had formed a tough knuckle of root from which radiated several anchoring roots necessitating some persistent spade and fork work for every plant. The waste material was shredded that afternoon in the work yard area near the Gardeners’ Bothy ready for composting. Out too came a few remaining stands of Rainbow Chard, a reminder that the planting in this bed deliberately mixes culinary and decorative specimens. Over the coming months the now empty bed will be rotavated and spread with a leaf mould mulch,  toads optional

IMG_5539 2
The profusion of growth in the Tudor Walled Garden in September
IMG_5536
Castor Oil plants in the Tudor Walled Garden on 14 September 2018

.