The snow has forced us to briefly close the gardens once again this week but it is not only our visitors that have been absent from Chartwell recently. Unfortunately I have injured my back which has meant that my only contact with Churchill’s gardens has been by keeping an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds from my bed!
Gardening is sometimes described as the outdoor gym. In fact if it wasn’t for all the biscuits I eat every lunchtime I’d probably be as thin as a (garden) rake! The physical exercise we get by gardening helps our bodies to build muscle strength and volume. And it has been said that an hour of steady gardening work such as digging, weeding or mulching, is the equivalent to walking about 5 miles or 10,000 steps! It’s only when you injure yourself like I’ve done that you realise how much we perhaps take our bodies for granted, whether we keep them in good condition or not. I know that I’m certainly missing not being able to get stuck with the rest of the gardening team right now.
So what should I write about in this week’s blog when I’m not at Chartwell to report on the latest goings on, you may ask? Well, I know for a fact that we have been in the process of replacing one of the rose beds in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden, removing the soil to avoid rose replant disorder and such like, but regular readers may (or may not) remember that already I produced a blog about a similar process we carried out last year. Talking of roses, all being well, I will be leading a rose event here at Chartwell on March 6th at 2pm where you can learn about the significance of roses to Chartwell and find out how we look after our roses throughout the year.
No, instead I want to point you in the direction of a plant that is growing particularly well in the Winter Border right now. I planted three Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ shrubs in April 2011 when the Winter Border was created here at Chartwell. In their first Winter I doubt if they had more then three flowers between them but this year they are all covered in long-lasting, sweetly scented pink and white blooms as you can see in the picture above.
Although relatively common in British gardens these days, there is a very good reason for that. And that is because it is one of the best hardy Winter flowering shrubs available! They can make handsome specimen plants or create more impact when planted in groups as we have done. Unlike many Daphnes, it is evergreen and much less pedantic about its growing conditions. It tolerates full sun or part shade and acidic or alkaline soils. Perhaps most imprtantly though, along with Sarcococca confusa, this Daphne produces one of my favourite fragrances within the gardens here at Chartwell. As you walk along the path at the top of the Winter Border, make sure you thrust your nostrills at the many blooms of ‘Jacqueline Postill’!
Raised by Alan Postill at Hillier Nurseries in the Winter of 1981-82, ‘Jacqueline Postill’ was named after his wife, another propagator at the nursery. It was created via a process of self-pollination of Daphne bholua ‘Gurkha’ which although also attractive, was deciduous and less hardy than the resulting cultivar. In the wild, Daphne bholua can be found in the eastern Himalayas, from Nepal to Bhutan, at altitudes of 2,000 – 3,000 m. Those at lower altitudes are evergreen whereas those at higher are deciduous but more hardy. Daphne bholua is one of the ‘paper daphnes’, so called because paper (and also rope) can be made from the bark.
We hope to have our blooms on these Daphnes until well into March with any luck. There are also some Daphne mezereum plants in the Winter Border as well as some Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ saplings that I propagated from established plants elsewhere in our gardens. We’ll keep you posted of when these are in their pomp but in the meantime here are but a few examples of some below ground gems that are also looking fine and dandy in this part of the gardens right now…