Gardeners’ Blog – Tales from the Walled Garden

It has thankfully become a lot more inviting outdoors.

The wonderful thing about nature is whatever weather is thrown at the garden, we are at awe at how mother nature carries on regardless.

Over the past four weeks, the tulips that were planted in autumn have been displaying themselves proudly in the raised beds, which are positioned in front of the orangery. The magnificent vibrant colours have been a welcome sight in the Walled Garden after the winter months.

Alliums, many of which have been highlighted in this months RHS magazine are gaining height and starting to burst into flower.

The wild flower meadow sown in April is turning the soil green with the tiniest show of growth. Sweet peas are planted in the centre of the 3 beds given the wild flower beds even more romantic appeal.

The Wedding border has a new look for 2016 with thousands of Muscari Valarie Finnes edging the border like lace on a wedding veil.

Blossom on the pear trees in the walled garden is giving the early bees a good buzz and the apple is not far behind with its soft pinks unfurling.

If you are passionate about peonies you will be delighted to see the many varieties we have in the walled garden and the long border.

The vegetables are waiting in the wings will be planted in the raised beds after the tulips leave centre stage.

The topiary garden has also seen big changes. The Portuguese laurel between the wedding and topiary garden has been removed; the bushes had outgrown their space and were hindering the health of the box hedging.

Gardening team member Kevin, explains a little more about box hedging:

Box (Buxus sempervirens, Buxus sufruticosa  ) is the quintessential Topiary / Knot garden/ Parterre edging plant and as we can see within the Knot Garden there are a lot of plants. The Peacock Garden and the charming ‘snorting dragon’ are two of the ‘Crown Jewels’ of the garden so care has to be taken to protect them.

Box can suffer from a combination of damp and lack of airflow, which allows the fungi that cause the dreaded ‘box blight’ to establish. Box blight attacks the leaves of the plant, turning them brown and gives the impression of a dead plant and where there is total defoliation – an actual dead plant.

Of all garden plants, hedging and specifically the Box are the most likely not to be fed or mulched despite our desire to cut them each year into nice clean shapes. Box is a hungry plant and like us humans, good nutrition makes us all the better to withstand disease and illness.

The box hedging at Houghton Lodge Gardens was dressed with a balanced fertiliser (Vitax Q4) in October 2015, ‘balanced’ means that the fertiliser contained all thirteen essential nutrients in the appropriate proportions. This hopefully sets the plants up for over wintering and early spring.

Over the last 5 weeks we have started foliar feeding the Box with a seaweed extract and tomato fertiliser (Maxicrop). This is a method of feeding via the plant leaves, which allows the box to take in nutrients faster and hopefully gaining a head start to the season.

We will continue feeding the box throughout the year, to promote more healthier plants and allow them to bounce back following being cut in June.

FlowerBlogWe will also be applying a Fungicide (Bayer Fungus Fighter) to the plants, which is effective against the fungus’ associated with box blight.

Only time will tell as to how effective feeding and treating will be. However you will see that the box is green, so it has leaves, and therefore is alive, so fingers (and toes) crossed.

Must Sees for May:

Wild cowslips
Marsh orchids 

Hazel, Kevin & Stella
Gardening Team at Houghton Lodge Gardens

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