Happy New Year to you all!
Another year passes and another begins; a time for reflection on the past year and a time of looking forward to the new seasons in my winter gardens blog.
In early November 43,180 bulbs arrived for our 2015 display. Having that many bulbs in front of you is daunting, but our Gardeners potted and planted a whopping 42,000 of them by Christmas. Now, if all goes to plan, which is very weather dependent, the first will start to bloom in February and the last will be flowering in June. Time (and weather!) will tell…
Here at The Grove, we produce a large amount of ‘spent’ coffee grounds and have started collecting this on a regular basis to use in the gardens. It is great for the raspberries and blueberries as it helps with the acidity of the soil as well as being a useful mulch and source of organic matter. We have found however that squirrels do not like the taste of coffee – especially old coffee – and as they seem to be partial to our tulips we have been mulching the bulb pots to deter them. It seems to be working and in time we will know how successful that caffeine inspired deterrent has been!
The borders are in ‘winter mode’ with some of the Walled Garden beds dug over and left for the frost to work the soil, whilst others have been covered to keep them clean. In the Formal Gardens the Great Border (130m long herbaceous border) is clean and tidy and waiting for the new shoots to appear.
Winter solstice has now passed and with each new day we’re getting a bit more daylight. In all the gardens, now is the time to make the final preparations ahead of the spring rush when there are just not enough hours in the day!
A Tree for winter: Yew Taxus baccata
Yew has been used in the landscape for thousands of years and the timber is good for English long bows, furniture and some musical instruments; and also for the cases of timepieces during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Yew is most commonly used in the garden in hedges and topiary. The clippings of yew can be made into an anti-cancer drug (Taxol). At The Grove we have hedges and topiary of the dark green yew, but also columns of the Irish Yew – Taxus baccata fastigiata, and mushrooms of the Golden Yew – Taxus baccata Aureomarginata. Most parts of yew are poisonous.
A Herb for winter: Rosemary rosmarinus officinalis
There’s not much stirring in the winter garden, but Rosemary is one that stands out. Rosemary is a perennial evergreen with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or ‘dew of the sea’; but also it seems the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the ‘Rose of Mary’.
Rosemary is used in gardens as a decorative plant and also in the kitchen to flavour various foods. Medicinally the leaves and flowers can be used to make a tea, said to be good for headaches, colic, colds and nervous diseases as well as depression. Rosemary has also been used in herbal remedies for relieving asthma. And it is said that it is good for the memory: In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Ophelia says ‘There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance’. Rosemary was often made into garlands for students at the time they were sitting their exams.
A Flower for winter: Christmas Rose Helleborus niger
Christmas rose is native to mountainous and woodland regions in Southern and Central Europe, particularly in Southern and Eastern Alps and Northern Italy. It is one of the first flowers to show itself early in the year and we have some near to Colette’s terrace that always produce a good show at a time when there is not much colour in the garden. Hellebores come in a range of colours. All parts are poisonous.
I am looking forward to a great year ahead here in our Gardens at The Grove and hope all our guests enjoy wandering, admiring and exploring them too.