Hi everyone, its been ages since I posted! Apologies for that, since January of this year life has felt relentless and I just haven’t had the energy to write. I have tried, I have 3 unfinished posts in my drafts which I may or may not come back to at some point but I figured if I wasn’t finding it fun to write others may not find it fun to read!
So whats been happening at work? Those of you who follow Team Ulting Wicks twitter accounts of Phillipa, Rachel and Myself will perhaps be up to date on some of the more momentous things that have occurred but lets think back to January when we were still fully into the pruning and the tulips hadn’t even showed their faces!
With pleasant dry but cold weather it was a fab start to the year, fresh back from our Christmas break everyone was raring to go!
Rachel and myself had bought Philippa a Groundbreaker spade for xmas and it was soon being put through its paces as the swimming pool pots got a much needed revamp.
Meanwhile, id been given permission to train the unruly fig tree to the wall which gave me great joy! When I first arrived at Ulting wick it was a bit of a monster, as fig trees often are, taking over the entire corner and making the path in front of it practically a no go zone. If you want your fig trees to be productive AND tidy its often quite daunting and they too often get left till the point where everything gets cut off to start again, which of course means you lose the crop for the year but this doesn’t have to be the case!
My first summer I cut back the new growth to where the crop of that years figs where forming, just leaving 2 figs max per bough. This means they are more likely to ripen and get nice and fat and juicy! That winter whilst dormant I took out 50% of the whippy shoots that where coming straight across the path and couldn’t be pushed back against the wall. The rest I pruned back to where I could see next years baby figs forming. I repeated the summer prune again in 2018 and by January 2019 the monster that had once sprawled entirely across the gravel path was beginning to look like this!
As you can see there’s a great fan trained framework from the original prune but its still looking slightly mental, especially up top! There are wires fixed to the wall behind it and so with patience and a bit of time this whippy growth can be tied, in serpentine forms, to the wires. The benefit of serpentine forms, which is the same with all flowering fruiting plants, is that once you take a shoot to the horizontal, or below, you break the apical dominance and encourage it to produce fruit and flowers.
Training your figs this way ensures you sill get a crop every year, new shoots can be trained in to replace older boughs before removing them, it can be kept to a more confined space and it looks really cool!
Another bit of pruning best done when dormant is the Grape vines in the conservatory. This gives us a chance to clean up the leaves which are still hanging on, Checking for any overwintering bugs and renewing the framework for next years fruit!
The short, dark days in January are always a bit of a trial for us gardeners, its hard to believe they’ll ever end but one thing cheers me up immensely and that’s Snowdrops!
Started fair and bright and as we had, had a relatively mild winter a lot of the roses which were due a prune had continued to hang onto their leaves. Now Philippa adores rose pruning, however this year we were all in for a horrible shock and poor Philippa the worst possible outcome!
We had just started to prune the road roses, which are planted on the outside of the barns next to (as the name suggests) the very fast road that goes past Ulting Wick. With safety in mind we duly put out the cones to warn drivers and keep us safe…. however, disaster! Just as Philippa started enthusiastically tugging an old branch she was removing she stepped backwards, her heel caught the cone and before either Rachel or myself could react Philippa had gone flying backwards. Her left arm went back to try to break her fall, which it did, and in the process she broke it, although initially we didn’t know that!
Now Philippa doesn’t make a fuss, ever! So you could tell straight away this was bad. My initial reaction was to try and get her to stay down as standing up after a bad fall can cause you to faint but she was in the middle of the road and so she leapt up, went to the verge and sat back down. I was desperately trying to remember my first aid training. Had I heard it break? no. Could she move her fingers/hand? kinda… I ran to my car thinking I had a bandage in my first aid kit, nope! Dammit!! By this time Philippa had got herself to her feet and came round the side of the barn, her face ashen, she said she was going to go sit down and I knew Sharon was in the house and would look after her but the sight of her in so much obvious pain was heartbreaking.
Cut a long story short, I checked in with Sharon a half hour later, she had bandaged Philippa up, given her tea for the shock and she was lying down. A bit later we went up the hospital to get it x-ray’d … it was broken!
This meant 6 weeks of ‘light’ duties for Philippa! Most people would sit on the sofa at this point, not Philippa and full credit to her within 2 or 3 days she was back out in the garden. I became the annoying mother hen who tried to get her to slow down and she took it with great patience despite the frustration it caused her! For me it became a game of trying to keep up with the amount of bags and buckets of weeds she produced whilst one handed gardening plus trying to do everything else that needed doing. I could tell how frustrating she found it and tried not to make it harder on her although several times I did threaten to gaffa tape her as I was worried she would do herself more damage. Thankfully we all managed to keep our sense of humour and the roses finally got finished!
I also found time to visit the Garden Press event this year, last year snow prevented me from attending! Catching up with what’s new in the world of gardening and working with some fabulous suppliers with products to review throughout the coming year! Here’s a small taster!
From Dalefoot, their Organic Peatfree Tomato compost, they supplied biodegradable pots, Pennard plants heirloom tomato seeds and their own tomato compost to grow into. So far I have sowed 4 seeds, 3 of which have germinated and are about to get potted on. I will grow 1 in their compost, the other two I will grow into 2 other peatfree brands and hopefully we can compare results later in the season!
We are also trialling Empathy mycorrhiza fungi for our newly purchased snowdrop bulbs. After reading an article in the Alpine Gardens Society newsletter regarding this I was keen to see if it would help some of our new named varieties bulk up and establish. This will of course be a long term experiment, we may not see significant results for one or 2 seasons.
And from Marshalls a range of veg seeds, a bag of their lovely peat free compost and unexpectedly a batch of 5 Yakon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) which although labelled Sweet Potato is no relative of the traditionally sold sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Both produce sweet underground tubers but Yakon is far easier to get a crop from in UK conditions.
Although not from the Garden Press event we were also contacted by Donkey Gloves to see if we’d like to try out their range. Donkey Gloves are produced using no animal products, so great for Vegan gardeners and their profits go towards supporting the Donkey Sanctuary of their designer/ gardener Claire Cooke.
Back to the garden!!
By now the pressure was really piling on as the countdown to our open days was looming large in my mind. On a personal level I felt as if all I was doing was ditching tasks off the list that could be shelved without too much damage to the aesthetics of the garden and future maintenance. Mulching was sadly one of the first to go! However we were given an enormous hand up by the wonderful Tom from Pops Plants 2 who came to us for a day in March and worked like a trojan mulching the pink garden which desperately needed it! Thank you Tom we are eternally grateful!
There was also some fun! Philippa got a garden surprise for her birthday of a Henchman ‘Hi-step’ ladder which when fully extended reaches around 6ft making easy, safe work of trimming some of the taller hedging in the garden. I couldn’t resist having a go on the yew columns which even with the long reach hedgecutter and our other tripod ladder I struggled with but this was ace!
Disclaimer: Rachel takes credit for topping the yews, I literally only set the height, posed for a pic and then ran away to weed the pond beds!
Sadly one of the jobs that got shoved to the bottom of the list was the repair and reinstatement of Philippa’s beautiful Auricula house. At around 6ft tall its a bit of a windsail and needs properly affixing to a wall before loading it up with precious beauties!
So as a temporary measure we arranged some upcycled wine boxes near her kitchen window so she could enjoy them whilst she looked out over the garden.
Throughout April we watched closely the progress of the tulips, it had been a remarkably dry spring and despite trying to keep up with watering things were drying out fast! The main lawn which had been ploughed up and resown in September last year was still looking ropey so sprinklers and TLC were given to that. Pots especially in that really hot week leading up to bank holiday weekend became a constant source of worry. The grass started growing a million miles an hour and edging became something of a Forth bridge exercise!
Just before we opened though in late April it all came together!
The Kitchen garden Tulips looked magnificent…
The white garden cool and beautiful, the variegated Lunaria drawing many questions and compliments…
And the wisteria behaved perfectly its skirts fully clothed in flowers…
One last few things, I finally wrung up my courage to apply to the Garden Media Guild and I’m delighted to say I was accepted! Its taken me a few years to feel I had enough of a C.V. (in my own eyes) of public speaking and writing to feel I was worthy of joining the ranks of some of gardening journalisms huge names!
Here’s a link to my newly formed and not as yet tweaked probationary members profile!
Also, Ulting Wick is once again up against the big boys of public gardens, some of the biggest names in the world of horticulture with massive armies of gardeners and volunteers and then theres us with our tiny team of 3! We are definitely the underdogs in this but with your help we could repeat our performance of last year and come second once more in the South East category of the Garden News “100 Best Gardens” With only 1 vote available per device please make your vote for us and be in with a chance of winning a ton of gardening goodies!
Last thing to bring to your attention!
There’s our opening dates for NGS later in the year here
There’s also a competition run by NGS with The English Garden Magazine and Viking Cruises to vote for your favourite NGS Garden, anyone who nominates or votes for a garden will be in with a chance of winning a Viking river cruise for two, worth £4,990.
Now obviously it would be lovely if you voted for us but there are so many wonderful gardens that you might have (its possible, although I find it hard to imagine!) one that you prefer to us… So many NGS gardens are the hard work of just one or 2 people and they raise so much money for worthy causes. The joy that every owner feels at sharing their gardens with you and the massive amount of hard work that goes into it is absolutely priceless so please show your love here!