Category: From the Garden

New plants from old

At this time of year a lot of plants are starting to go to seed, so it is a good time to go around and collect some of them so we can grow new plants for next year. Some can be sown straight away (as we are doing so in the greenhouses), others can be stored to be sown in the spring. We are also taking cuttings of some of the plants in the garden, and hopefully by next spring we will have lots of lovely plants to sell or plant back out in the garden.

We are trying seeds collected from plants including Alcea (hollyhock), Lychnis (rose campion), Lupin, Astrantia, Galega (Goat’s Rue), Poppy and Phlomis. Some, such as Lychnis, have already germinated, others we are still eagerly awaiting for signs of life! The interesting thing about seeds is the genetic variation that can occur, so often the resulting plants will show some variation from the parent, especially in the case of the hollyhocks, where the colour of the flowers on each plant will be a surprise!

Cuttings taken include Lavender, Rosemary, Jasmine and Philadelphus. These are all semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth, so the base is firm but with soft growth still on the tips. They are put in pots together, and then when roots start to show at the base of the pot, they will be separated and given their own pot to grow on. Unlike seeds, cuttings create clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you are going to get.

We look forward to seeing how our seeds and cuttings do, and in the meantime they have a trusty guardian to keep an eye on them!

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Harvest…

The Gardens are blessed with 2 apple and pear orchards and espaliered fruit fences all planted with over 60 heritage varieties dating back to the 1500s.

Like many fruit growers we’ve had a mixed year.

Normally we are able to produce a goodly number of single variety fruit juices for sale to our visitors. A radical pruning of the trees last year combined with the weather, has meant the crop this year is almost non-existent. (don’t worry it’s all to the good,we hope for an even bigger crop next year.

Undaunted, our annual Apple day this year will turn its focus to the urban harvest within our local community and the abundance of crab apples and other apple trees on the public land hereabouts. On 15th October it will be ‘Bring a Bottle’ and ‘juice your own’ – our three donated apple presses will be hard at work all day.

Our large veg plot – in 18th century ‘stylee’ the Batty Langley,usually provides a good crop of Cardoons, Artichokes, Squashes and Rhubarb. This year our younger visitors also planted up a runner bean tunnel …their effort have been rewarded with a great crop.

Earlier in the year visitors also helped us plant some special heritage potato varieties.

Early potato varieties, reputedly planted by local hero Sir Matthew Boulton, were re-introduced in the Garden but we have yet to test the taste of the tiny Yam and Congo varieties..

A good crop of Arran Victory, the potato named to celebrate the end of the 1914-18 war, has also been harvested – so we have plenty of seed potatoes for 2018 commemorations.

Together with Highland Burgundy red and Salad Blue, we’re hoping to produce red, white a blue mash!

Come along to our Harvest day Sunday 15th October 2017, 12.30 -4.30

(dont foget bring your apples, some clean bottles… and hopefully after a little elbow grease on the apple presser you’ll take home your very own juicy drink :_)

More details soon

 

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Cyclamen hederifolium

If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1  

Cyclamen coils

This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.

After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!

1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.

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New-bees … we’ve got a new queen

We have 4 hives on site. Two are owned by Norman and are well established in the Gardens. They have been joined by two new ones, owned and looked after by Malcolm.

They’ve been a bit feisty settling in and Malcolm realised they were missing their queen…”where did you go to my lovely?”

Today Malcolm fetched two fresh Buckfast Queens and they’ve now been installed… and Malcolm even dressed , from top to to toe, in white for the occasion.

Welcome to the Gardens queenies both.

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Head/Senior Gardener (p/t role)

Want to work in, and support, these amazing Historic Gardens?  We have an immediate vacancy for a part-time managing gardener who can help us plan and manage the next season or two.

Are you an experienced and trained gardener looking at a chance to ‘act up’  a grade, or perhaps are near retirement. 

The 10 acres of historic formal gardens – with wilder wildlife areas- in east Birmingham is owned and run by an independent charitable trust and staffed mainly by volunteers.

This is an opportunity for a qualified gardener (RHS level3 or equivalent vocational experience) with existing management and budgeting experience to extend or further practice their management skills.

See the attached Job description. Please ring or email us for an informal chat and more information.

Job Description (.docx)  Job Description P/T Head/Senior Gardener

Job description (pdf)  Job Description P/T Head/Senior Gardener

Please do share this with others.

 

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Beak Holiday Monday

The rain wasn’t much good for anything today ….but cakes were munched, masks were found, pompom flowers were made (and will be all week) … but this little family loved being fed all those lovely grubs that wet weather brings…

Bad photo with phone, but didn’t want to get too close and frighten them off. come and see them tomorrow, they’re growing fast.

More family activities all week – 12-3pm

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wild wild tulips

As well as some delightful period tulips and daffodils in the Gardens we have, this year, introduced the ‘wild tulip’ … the mummy of all those later fancy ones.

Tulipa sylvestris, known as the ‘wild’ or ‘florentine’ tulip is a species tulip noted ‘somewhere in Italy’  as early as 1594. Our suppliers Thomas Etty esq describes it thus

“Violet scented almond-shaped lemon yellow flowers in mid April. Naturalises well in grass. Said, by some, to have first travelled to these shores attached upon the roots of grape vines brought from Italy by the Romans.”

Volunteers have been deadheading  the daffs along the Holly Walk bank revealing the wild tulips and allowing them to make their mark. A really special addition to the month.

Other varieties of note this year are;

  • the jolly scarlet and yellow of Kaiserkroon (‘kings crown’) from 1620,
  • the 16th century double white poeticus plenus and pheasants eye
  • and of the later varieties we have sneaked in – Queen of the Night tulip (pre 1939) and Rinjveld’s Early Sensation daff., 1926.

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Auricula …not a very prim primula

To celebrate our 17th century Gardens’ new ‘Auricula Theatre’ feature we are holding a day with specialist growers HillView Hardy Plants.

On Easter Bank Holiday Monday,  the nursery people from HillView will answer questions, give advice about growing, and of course sell you some of their lovely range of plants, which will be at their height around this time.

The Primula auricula is usually known as auricula, or by the folk names of mountain cowslip or bear’s ear. The upright stalks and colourful headed flowers were popular, and coveted,  from the early 17th century. Rare beauties were so prized that they were sometimes presented to a seated and expectant audience, appearing from behind a curtain, with many ‘oohs and ahhs’.

As growers became ‘enthusiasts’, this approach led to the practice of displaying the plants on layered shelving or within a framed arch – just like a theatre. Some ‘ auricula theatres’ were modest others,

Theatre at Calke Abbey

frankly, ostentatious.

As a 17th/18th century Garden, there would undoubtedly have been auriculas grown here.

by courtesy of the National Galleries Scotland

In the Music Room this summer we are displaying a reproduction of a flower painting (from around 1712, by Dutch painter Jan van Huysum). We already grow most of the flowers that appear in his picture … but not auricula. So…

Our, modest but authentic, Auricula Theatre will complement the season of mini-flower exhibits reflecting the picture in the Music Room.

Come along on Easter Bank Holiday Monday to find out more.

Part of our #GrowtheGardens fundraising this year.

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donkey friend -https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/opening-times

Little Donkey doo’s mulch help ..

They say what goes around comes around, well its certainly true for two local charities.

With 10 acres of ground and over 600 species of plants, it takes a lot of compost to keep our soil healthy and productive. So we are really pleased to be working in partnership with the Donkey Sanctuary in nearby Sutton Coldfield.

Naturally, the donkeys produce a lot of poo… on a daily basis. With limited space on site the Sanctuary needs places where they can ‘recycle’ the recycled donkey food. As well as some very lucky allotment holders, Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens are thrilled to be able make good use of lots of donkey  ‘soil improver’.

Normally we add the fresh, straw laden donkey-doo to our compost heap to rot down into nutrient rich earth to use on the vegetable beds or in potting compost.  At this time of year it can go directly onto some of our Wilderness beds to act as a ‘mulch’; keeping in the warmth, suppressing any weeds that feel like poking their heads above the ground and, eventually, improving the structure of the soil.

Today, volunteers Jack, Roy and John kept themselves warm raking and spreading the new delivery from the Donkey Sanctuary. Thanks folks …. and donkeys  #wegrowtogether

Find out how to visit our donkey friends here The Donkey Sanctuary opening times

 

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White and Green – Snowdrops and a Green man

Celebrate the return of the light with the ‘sweet harbinger of Spring’, the delicate snowdrop.  Sunday 5th February  11am -3pm.

Our snowdrops have been increasing every year and they make a delightful show of sprinkled white and green in the Lower Wilderness. The first Snowdrop day Sunday 5th February is a family day out dedicated to welcoming back the longer days and brighter light.

For ‘gardeners’ there will be short guided walks and sales of plants, our Green Man will delight us with stories and song about spring and winter.

Join us in making simple lanterns to light our way round and fashion a traditional Brigid Cross to hang on your door.

Hot drinks and homemade soup will be available in the shop.

£4.50 (including optional Gift Aid), Children £1
RHS & Garden members £3.20

Come back to see the later flowering snowdrops on a second snowdrop Sunday (19th February).

 

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