In the south of England we have been enjoying a warm week and now it feels like we are in summer. The weather forecasters have told us that the weather should be warmer than normal for the next month at least.
With the sunrise the birds are singing their hearts out and seem to be chirping for most of the day. Then there’s the tap-tap-tap of the woodpeckers in Heath Wood and in the early morning and again in the evenings the occasional sound of an owl.
There are Canada Geese that come to graze on the Golf Course grass each day and it’s good to see the pair of Egyptian Geese that regularly come and have at least one brood each year near the lake on the 3rd hole. On the canal there is a pair of swans, which is really good news as last year there was only the one swan. On the Wetlands Lake there are a good number of coots nesting, and in the Formal Gardens a few duck nests have appeared mainly in awkward places, for us, like the box hedges. At present we have 10 little ducklings on the Grand Canal water feature in the Formal Gardens.
Bees are enjoying the warm weather and doing their thing pollinating the blossom that is starting to cover the walls of the Walled Garden and various other trees on the estate and producing honey for the chefs to use. Although it’s still early, butterflies have been visiting too.
Tree of the Season: Pyrus Calleryana Chanticleer, or Callery Pear
There are so many wonderful trees at this time of year and they all look so beautiful. Around the Green Garden we have 8 Ornamental Pears that are clothed in flower and looking the best I have seen them. Pyrus Calleryana Chanticleer, or Callery Pear, will grow up to 12m (40feet).
Flower of the season: Tulip
One of my favourite tulips just coming into flower now is Tulipa Olympic Flame with its small red flames on a yellow background. One that we are trying this year for the first time is T. Banya Luka, which has more red than yellow, and another new one for us is T. Affaire, which is white with a raspberry edge. For me though, the “Tulip of the Month” is T. Saigon – deep rich royal purple in a classic tulip shape.
Herb of the Moment: Box – (Buxus sempervirens) “Common Box”
Lemon Verbena is my favourite herb and is filling The Glasshouse with it’s wonderful lemon scent, but my Herb of the Moment is Box – (Buxus sempervirens) “Common Box”. Normally it is associated with hedging and topiary work and is not often thought of as a herb. We have just planted some, which is why it is ‘of the moment’.
Once used medicinally, box is most sought after for its wood, which is twice as hard as oak. It was considered a ‘wonder drug’ in the 18th Century for the treatment of fevers. It is recommended for patients who do not respond to cinchona (quinine). A decoction made of grated root, or wood, is recommended for all types of influenza, for sluggishness of the liver, and disorders in the urinary tract, for rheumatism, gout, oedema and skin disorders. It was considered useful for dyeing hair red and encouraging hair growth. Box woods used to be widespread in Europe but because it is twice as hard as oak much of it was felled for the manufacture of boxes and chess pieces and instruments. A volatile oil made from the wood was once used in the treatment of epilepsy, haemorrhoids and toothache. Perfume was once made from the bark. The leaves were once used as a substitute for hops.
Warning: Animals have died from eating the leaves and it can be a skin irritant.