Category: From the Garden

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

 

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).

 

Apple blossom v. Holly hedge

The Woodland Trust’s latest post on caring for apple trees is great advice. (Find it here: how to prune apple trees in winter)

We’ll be posting the date for our own pruning of fruit espaliers courses shortly, but it’s pruning on a much bigger scale that our gardeners will need to be tackling this coming year.

snow covered orchard https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blogs/woodland-trust/2017/01/how-to-prune-apple-trees-in-winter/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=blogs&utm_content=gardening
The Woodlands Trust advice on pruning and caring for apple trees

Last year, both of our two heirloom orchards got a much needed trim and we’re hoping to see much bigger yields as a result.  We did lose one or two trees this year, but there are others nearly ready to replace them.

There’s a bit of a battle looming. The Holly perimeter hedge has not had much attention over the last five years and has grown to 3 times the intended height and breadth.  It is now seriously  overshadowing the Apple and Pear trees in the ‘New Orchard’.

We’ll need to radically trim back this year if we are to expect our magnificent blossoms to shine again.  If you are able to help us (there is nearly  half a kilometre of hedge so, we’re tackling it bit by bit).. … keep checking back here for callouts.

Time for trees

Tree Dressing Day:A tree is not just for Christmas, but for … 

We have over 130 mature trees in the Gardens. Most of which are important enough to have Tree Preservation Orders on them.  Caring for them and keeping them in good shape – literally – is a responsibility we are proud to be able to undertake.

Although it’s financially expensive and time consuming for a small Charity like ours, without the trees framing our views, shielding us from the winds, sheltering our beneficial bugs and birds and yielding us fruit, we would be much poorer in spirit.

This year we’ve been drawn to the custom of Tree Dressing as a way to express our positive relationship with trees …. a little ‘thank you’.

Celebrated in the first weekend of December the custom was revived in 1990 by the group who re-invented Apple Day; Common Ground.

“Trees have long been celebrated for their spiritual significance. The simplicity of tying strips of cloth or yarn to a tree is universal and timeless. The old Celtic custom of tying cloth dipped in water from a holy well to a ‘clootie tree’ echoes the practice in Japan of decorating trees with strips of white paper, or tanzaku, bearing wishes and poems. The twenty-first century trend of ‘yarn bombing’ in Europe and North America transforms the local landscape with bright fabrics and yarns, like the Buddhist tradition of tying ribbons around the trunk or the annual Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan when coloured strings are tied onto trees and plants to call upon the power of nature to protect loved ones.

These deep and diverse cultural associations provide a rich basis for tree festivities across the world. The act of dressing a tree binds us to it and celebrates the unique role that trees have in our local neighbourhoods.”

Some of us went down to visit one of our lovely walnut trees that supplied us with shade during the summer family activities and supported our community art work ‘the knit knot tree’.

With paper lanterns, twig dreamcatchers and wool apples we decorated the tree. A ring of colour on the bare branches.

Why not come and visit it add your own decoration perhaps. So when you are decorating your Christmas tree this year, think about adding one of your decorations to a living tree on your street.

For more information and free  resources about Tree Dressing Day, see here Common Ground  and Charter for Woods, Trees and People

 

 

by Felicity Hallam & Glynis Powell

 

 

 

Flowers from the past

1760 was a long time ago, especially in flower terms.

Plant and garden enthusiasts develop hundreds, if not thousands, of new plant varieties every year. Here at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens we try to grow plants that would have been familiar to the gardeners up till the mid 18th century.

Sometimes, especially with simpler plants and herbs, there has been little change; looking at old drawings and engravings you can easily identify some plants we grow today. Others have been refined and developed far from their origins. Flowerheads are often bred for brighter colours and greater showiness.

Here we try to get a balance between pleasing our 21st century eyes and maintaining a period 17th and 18th century feel.

For our spring displays we have a mix of modern and older daffodils and tulips. This year we are particularly pleased to introduce two stunning early flowers both as it happens, supplied to us by Thomas Etty Esq. of Somerset.

narcissus-poeticus-plenus-alba-odoratus

The narcissus poeticus albus plenus odoratus was probably around before 1590 and sometimes is called the double Pheasants Eye or Gardenia-flowered narcissus. It’s all white (albus) with a full and ‘plentiful’ centre (plenus) and very fragrant (odoratus). We hope you will find it peeping over some of our box hedges on the North Border. On a sunny day you may even smell it  before you see it.

The second reintroduction is of tulipa sylvestris. Thomas Etty describes it as

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

Although ‘sylvestris’ suggests a woodland setting, we will plant them on the sloping bank
behind the Holly Walk, alongside the cowslips, primroses and daffodils. Magical!

 

 

2000 bulbs to plant….

It’s that time of year again. Can you help us out?

Tulips were a ‘really big thing’ for our Gardens’ founders. In the 17th century there was even ‘tulipmania’; massive fortunes were won and lost by enthusiasts and tulip traders.

These days we’re a bit more level headed, but we are mad about the beauty of our spring borders.

Many of our lovely ‘daffs’ come back year after year and naturalise in the orchard and img_20160331_194725_26185577776_ograssy banks. But like tulips, they need renewing every now and then.

This year we have over 2,000 tulips, daffodils and narcissi to plant before the cold frost comes.

Can you help us? 

trumpetYou don’t need to be an expert, just come and join us on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday mornings next week and be part of the planting team.  We’ll show you how.

We’ll be planting from 10am – 12.30 . on 29th, 30th November & 1st December. Weather permitting. Warming tea and coffee supplied.  Turn up at 10, or contact us in advance.

Plant the little globes full of flower goodness… stand back and wait for a spectacular spring! 

PS There will be a lot of kneeling and digging with a hand trowel

 

 

Pumpkin cook-up

It’s been an exceptionally good year for our pumpkin and squash crop. 

Some went to enliven Halloween, some have been sold to our visitors.

Traditionally – with the help of volunteers – we then turn them into delicious soup to sell to our customers in the colder months.

This year we’re going a little further. Our volunteers have had a group chopping and cooking session. The surplus soup and spare squashes will now be shared with some other charities.

We love growing these triffid-like plants in our South Kitchen Garden and chuffed that all the effort will not go to waste but will go to provide some warmth and sustenance to others who need a little extra.

 

 

Living Poetry

Well it’s National Poetry day...

There really is no other choice for a poem in the Gardens today. Keats definitely had it right autumn is ‘conspiring…. to bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees’ and more.

For your delectation then:  Colonel Vaughan apples (1600) and Keats’ poem To Autumn

colonel-vaughan-heavy-with-fruitSEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Dig, crush, drink, eat

Fresh as fresh as fresh… Our harvest apple celebration is fast approaching. It’s been positively Isaac-Newton-like here with apples from our heritage orchard plopping, heavy and ripe, to the ground.

This year, as well as all the lovely entertainment, displays and activities, we want to invite visitors to get some really fresh tastes from our,and their own, gardens.

You can have a go at crushing an apple and tasting the juice it makes.

Which is your favourite?

We’ll have up to 6 different varieties to choose from. We bet you have never tasted anything like it from the supermarket.

Some of this year’s harvest from our two heritage orchards has already been bottled for you to buy – stock up ready for mulled apple juice at Christmas.

Urban harvest20151005_151054_21978201021_o

Is there an apple tree in your garden or on a piece of public common land nearby?

Why not harvest some and bring along a bag to juice here?  If you bring along a clean jug or plastic bottle you can take it home to drink later that day.

(don’t forget to leave some on the tree for the birds).

Underground potatoes …

By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYes, its true. Potatoes grow underground, in the dark.

Don’t believe us? Come along on Sunday 16th, borrow a fork and dig up some of ours… and hey, you can even take them home and bake them for tea (£1 a large bag).