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!
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
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.
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
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De Wit make garden tools – of consummate beauty
Two members of the amazingly talented garden toolmakers, de Wit, made a flying and unexpected visit to the Gardens today.
My, we’re all of aglitter and aglow!
Sietse and Derk-klass de Wit had just flown in to be part of the GLEE garden show at the NEC, but instead of hanging around their stall they hopped into a taxi for a quick whizz round our Gardens.
De Wit are a family firm based in the Netherlands, but their exquisite hand forged garden tools are known and revered worldwide. See their stunning site here The Garden Tool Factory. If you follow our facebook page you will see many shared photos by their brother Derk de Wit who takes the most inspiring photographs of gardens.
Dutch born Captain William Winde, cousin to the Bridgeman family, heavily influenced the design of our gardens in the late 17th century, so, Dutch style and quality is a long term companion for us.
We sell a small selection of the carbon steel and ash handled tools in our shop, they are not cheap but they do literally last a lifetime and acquire a handsome patina with use. If there is a serious gardener in your life, here is where you will find that special gift.
To top the day for me, Sietse also offered to support our volunteer gardeners by supplying them with some tools too. Our cup runneth o’er.
First visit of term for Hallmoor school pupils
We were pleased to welcome back Hallmoor school pupils today. A class of pupils comes every Friday to learn gardening skills, cultivate their patch of land and grow vegetables.
Before the summer break they had planted, hoe’d and weeded the plot….and today they saw it had all played off. A bumper crop of beans, onions and pumpkins and more to come.
Well done kids…next stop, planting the winter veg
Our holly maze is a favourite with everyone.
Managing the convoluted pathways and prickly hedges is a constant job. With fewer gardeners over the last few years and the sad loss of some of our ‘maze- expert’ volunteers, the poor maze has looked more than a little ragged. One of our education team volunteers regularly attacks the rampant pioneer brambles, just so our school visitors can still enjoy that last ecstatic run around the mysterious maze.
This summer we’ve had a bit of a boost…Our partnership with the small charity REEP led to us hosting three international horticultural students who designed and planted up colourful beds at the centre of the maze. (See more about it in the post we wrote earlier: here ) Spurred on by their beautiful flowers we have prioritised some work on pruning the maze.
Helped initially by some young helpers – our ‘prickle persecutors’ – and, this week, by Gordon our gardener and volunteers the maze has now had a full trim. The best haircut it has had for a couple of years.
Later in the year we will trim again and pay some attention to the compacted and starving root system. By next spring, we hope to have filled gaps and brought back healthy growth all round.
Getting around the maze may still be a mystery to solve, but at least the paths will be open and clear.
There has been a lot of work going on around the gardens recently and you can really see the changes
Just the other day over on our Facebook Page, North Arden Local History Society left a post for us with this photograph.
This is Peter Clarke, first head gardener at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens in 1985, the year the gardens reopened. The Photograph from the Birmingham Mail…
I wonder. Does anyone remember the gardens back then? Do you have photos you could share with us?