As I start to write up our blog for last year, I have to firstly reflect on what a strange year it has been. The pandemic caused so many problems including of course the freedom to freely visit gardens. Those that were able to open were by ticket only, which takes away the spontaneity of a day out that we are used to.
We had lockdown end March – beginning May, social distancing restrictions from then until another lockdown in November. We then had Tier 3 restrictions until going into Tier 4 just before Christmas. We had to cancel both our Open Garden days, and were unable to take group bookings either, which led to a drop in the amount we usually raise for the charities. We did have a plant sale (we normally sell plants at our open garden days, and had a lot of plants ready to sell), which we held in July, on our front drive, socially distanced, sanitizer available and managed to raise £750 which we were delighted with. This was shared between NGS and Hospice in the Weald.
As we didn’t have any visitors to the garden, we took the opportunity to give some of the beds a bit of a makeover! The front garden beds all had everything apart from the shrubs taken out, we removed, divided and replanted the perennials that we wanted to keep, and discarded to the composted heap those that didn’t merit being either potted up for selling on or planting elsewhere. All the beds had the soil improved and by the autumn where looking good.
In the top back garden part of the largest bed had a good sort out, removing a lot of crocosmia that I thought I had dealt with in 2019! A few years ago in this bed I had planted what I thought was a rather nice little ground cover plant – Waldesteiner – oh dear, how I wish I hadn’t! We have dug a lot out, but I have a feeling, like with the Crocosmia, it will continue to make its presence felt during this coming year as it propagates by underground runners.
In the lower garden, 2 beds were cleared (again, apart from the mature shrubs), dug over and soil improved. These have yet to be replanted. In one of them we are trying to dig out some of the bluebells, don’t get me wrong, we love English Bluebells but not where they have completely invaded an herbaceous border. We will continue to still have bluebells in the garden though! I will now continue our 2020 blog month by month. I would have to say though, that the weather patterns were slightly unseasonal at times, and we found that growth in the garden was about 2 weeks ahead of usual.
January; A mild, wet and windy start to the year, with some cooler days and frosty nights mid - month. We finished clearing all the leaves off the beds and borders, but the soil too wet to work on. There are signs of growth on the roses and hydrangeas, and the tips of the daff leaves just beginning to show. As always, the perfume of the Sarcococca was a delight, and wonderful during this rather gloomy month to see Primroses, Hellebores, Snowdrops and the first Camellia flowers.
February; Started off sunny and dry, followed by a spell of wet windy and mild weather before returning to cooler, dry and sunny but little frost. Following the brief windy spell, there were quite a lot of twigs blown down along with some small branches in the lower garden. Over the weekend of the 8/9 th storm Ciara blew in, with gusts up to 70mph, there were lots of twigs and small branches down in the garden as well as local flooding. This was followed over 15/16 th by storm Dennis bringing gusts of up to 60mph, and lots of heavy rain. The garden was waterlogged with standing water in the beds and borders and again twigs small branches to pick up. The hellebores are now well out and looking wonderful, along with the snowdrops especially in our side bed in the front garden. The first Tete a Tete daffs now out and bringing their cheerfulness to the party. The roses, clematis, apples and pears all pruned. By the end of the month the snowdrops had mostly gone over, and replaced by the pretty pale blues and pinks of the Symphytum, irises and crocus. The end of the month also brought storm Jorge, which fortunately was not a bad as the previous 2 storms.
March; Started with a very short respite from the wind and rain which returned by the middle of the first week, although not a windy as previously. It then turned warmer, drier and sunnier at last…..up to 15’C! Again briefly, it was very cold and windy for the last couple of days of the month. The Spring flowers were gloriously doing their thing, with the doom and gloom of Covid-19 on the horizon we really needed the bright and cheery colours of the daffodils, crocus, camellias, anemones, scillas, muscari and pulmonaria. Lots of the plants shrubs and trees now beginning to break leaf and the perennials showing growth. The lawns had their first cut of the year, Hosta dividing and re-potting started, Agapanthus and other tender perennials were tidied up and re- potted if necessary. From March 24 th we were in Covid-19 lockdown, events cancelled and told to stay at home………thank goodness for the garden and walks through the woods.
April ; Gradually became warmer and drier, with Easter Sunday on the 18 th was very warm with a high of 22’C! We had another high of 24’C at the end of the month and some much needed rain on the 28 th . Lots of weeding now needed doing, with the weeds growing faster than ever, but with lockdown there was plenty of time to be getting on with it! Bergenias now in flower, along with Magnolias Stellata, Epimediums, Pieris, Euphorbia, Brunnera, Clematis Montana, Davidia, and Libertia. The plum and damson blossom at the beginning of the month was a bit sparse, but the apples and pears were smothered in beautiful blossom at the end of the month.
May; For the most part a warm dry month, just a very few days of showers – not enough for the garden – it got very dry and we had to start watering the pots much earlier than usual. The mail order plants started arriving and along with dividing more Hostas and Cannas there was a lot of potting going on! Weeding continued and we started re-vamping some of the beds. We had a load of topsoil and re-seeded a few areas in the lower garden. With most of the Spring flowers gone over the Erigerons, Rhodi’s, Azaeleas, Choisyas, Aquelegias London Pride, Hardy Geraniums and Honeysuckle all provided the next wave of colour.
June; A mixture weatherwise to start the month, although generally warm. At the end of the month was a brief breezy period when a branch came down out of the top of our Liquidamber. Continued potting on, and potting up new plants for the plant sale which we were going to have in July – our Open Garden Days having been cancelled. With more plants in flower we were deadheading frequently. The hedges were trimmed – we knew that there were no nesting birds in our hedges. Plenty of colour and perfume in the garden courtesy of Roses (shrub, climbing and rambling) Honeysuckle, Pinks, Salvias, Achillea, Verbena, Thalictrum and the first lilies.
July; A quiet month with the weather being mostly fine and warm, with a high of 24’C, there were a few breezy days and a few showers. Deadheading continued as always to keep everything flowering and colourful, also some weeding but mainly in the lower garden. With the warm and mostly dry weather the pots dried out very quickly, often requiring watering twice a day. As there were no visitors to the garden we took the opportunity to completely empty the 4 alpine sinks as they had got very weedy and mossy, and not looking their best, this is a job I usually do every 3 years. Some of the alpines have been potted up for replanting, some divided and potted up….and a few consigned to the compost heap! They will be re-planted next Spring. Colour continued to be provided by Clematis, Penstemons, Echinacea, Lilies, Verbena, Salvias )of which I seem to have a growing collection), Gerbera, Zinnias, Agapanthus etc. The Hostas have done well this year, and don’t seem to have too much slug damage. Our hanging baskets are now looking their best, full of trailing geraniums, mostly in shades of pink and red. All other pots and troughs looking good too.
August; Started very warm with temperatures up to 36’C by day and 20’C at night. The weather broke mid-month with storms and high humidity – very uncomfortable, before becoming cooler with some light rain. The last week of the month saw some high winds with leaves and acorns beginning to drop, then became more unsettled. From late July, throughout August and into early September garden maintenance is kept to a minimum, just a bit of deadheading and mowing the lawns. The Victoria plums started ripening early in the month, but had to discard quite a few due to plum moth – not pleasant finding a maggot in a plum that you are about to eat!!! By the end of the month all the plums and damsons (quite a good crop) were picked. The Cannas are now coming into their own with their showy leaves and bright spires of flowers, Roses are still flowering, Salvias, Zinnias, Echinacea, Japanese Anemones all still doing OK. Got very excited about 2 rarely seen visitors to the garden – a Humming Bird Hawkmoth and a Wood Tiger Moth. From the sublime to the ridiculous, we then had one of the coldest Bank Holidays on record, with a max temp of 15’C!
September; From the cool of the Bank Holiday it then warmed up to 21’C and occasionally higher throughout the month until turning cooler, wet and windy at the end, which resulted in 2 more branches being brought down off the Liquidamber, fortunately not causing too much damage – we will need to get a tree surgeon in to tidy it up and make sure it’s safe .The Plum and Damson trees have been pruned – slightly later than ideal and the rather old lavender bushes around the fruit trees have been removed. Plenty of deadheading keeping us busy, along with raking up acorns (bumper crop this year!) cutting back spent perennials and tidying up shrubs. Also taking geranium and salvia cuttings. The salvias continued to flower their socks off, with the Cannas, Datura, Rudbeckias and Heleniums all still giving good colour.
October; A very mixed month weather wise, but it is Autumn after all! We had a max temp of 15’C but more often 11-12’C. We had rain, sun and wind but never very cold. We were kept busy with tidying, cutting back, top dressing and seeding some areas of grass and raking up leaves……and still more acorns! All the cooking apples are all picked and some stored. We had a good crop of pears, which we have started picking – we have to watch out that the jackdaws don’t descend mob handed and strip the trees. Our nerines, mostly in pots, have had their best ever year, flowering prolifically – beautiful. Salvias still going strong as are the Gerberas, Cannas and helianthus. All geraniums now taken indoors having dismantled all the hanging baskets and troughs. The leaves on the trees around the garden and surrounding woodlands are now taking on their autumnal colours, shades of yellow, orange, red and purple. We have planted some more crocus in the grass in the front garden and around the Armillary sphere in the back garden.
November; Still mainly mild for the time of year, but wet and windy at times interspersed with cooler spells – the nights are definitely cooler too! We had a 5 cubic metre bag of mulch (Corkers of Paddock Wood - recommended) delivered, which has been spread on the borders along with some of our own mix of compost and leaf mould. All the tender plants (agapanthus, cannas, Lantanas and succulents) taken either indoors or into the log store to overwinter - the fairly mild weather allowed them to stay out a little longer than usual. Colour now coming from the Hesperanthus (Kaffir Lilies), Callicarpa berries, Cyclamen, Mahonia Soft Caress, Clematis rhederiana…..and yes, Salvia Hot Lips just not giving up! The Sarcococca is just coming into flower and the wafts of its perfume are wonderful. We have planted up a few pots with tulip bulbs topped with violas which should look nice next Spring. Our tree surgeon Chris came and tidied up our damaged Liquidamber and a few other trees that needed a bit of management. Apart from the oak leaves which are still coming down, the garden is looking very tidy.
December; A very strange year is now coming to a close and with quite a bit of rain is beginning to be rather soggy, especially after Storm Bela brought rain and gales in just after Christmas. We are still clearing up a few oak leaves, sweeping the last of the up at the end of the month. The violas in pots are looking cheery and around the garden we have an odd primrose or polyanthus showing willing. There are buds just beginning to emerge in some of the Hellebores and the tips of the snowdrop leaves are just pushing through – the promise of things to come!