Winter Work

Even though much of our time here in Churchill’s gardens at the moment is being taken up with the continued rose care (see my last post here) and pruning and training of climbing roses in particular (see this post from a couple of years ago), there are still plenty of other jobs being jobbed right now. We’ve finally done our final lawn cuts of the year for instance. We wouldn’t usually do this as late as December but what with October and November being so wet and December being so mild, its all worked out perfectly. The grass will now remain dormant until the light levels and temperatures rise again next Spring.

Georgie helps our Tuesday volunteers to get stuck in to the Dogwood

Georgie helps our Tuesday volunteers to get stuck in to the Dogwood

Another task this week has been to cut back all of the weeds, nettles and thistles from in front of and amongst our Dogwood that grows down by the lakes. Probably Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ or similar, this large patch of Dogwood really draws the eye at this time of the year, appearing like a red hot fire at the bottom of the parkland slopes. Cornus can be deciduous shrubs or trees, or creeping, woody-based perennials, some, like this one, with brightly coloured young stems that are much prized during the Winter months. We cut these stems down to the ground in Spring to encourage new one, brighter stems to regrow.

This is what it looked like before our team worked their wonders

This is what it looked like before our team worked their wonders

And here is one of those brilliant red shoots that we're trying to show off

And here is one of those brilliant red shoots that we’re trying to show off

Our black swans keeping an eye on the work being done!

Our black swans keeping an eye on the work being done!

We have plenty of other examples of Cornus plants here at Chartwell. Some such as our Cornus kousa var. chinensis or Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’ are grown as trees for their Spring flowers. They can be found on the banks above the Croquet Lawn. The others to look out for at this time of year however can all be spotted in the Winter Border. Here you will find the likes of…

This amazing lime green Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea' which I propagated from nearby National Trust garden Nymans

This amazing lime green Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ which I propagated from nearby National Trust garden Nymans

This slightly more subtle Cornus alba 'Kesselringii'

This slightly more subtle Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’

And this crowd pleaser, the Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' which sings from lipstick red through burnt yellow to zingy orange

And this crowd pleaser, the Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ which sings from lipstick red through burnt yellow to zingy orange

Some of the 'Midwinter Fire' stems are still currently in leaf, although the foliage isn't unattractive in it's own right

Some of the ‘Midwinter Fire’ stems are still currently in leaf, although the foliage isn’t unattractive in it’s own right

The 'Siberica' Dogwood in the Winter Border is even displaying some beautiful berries at the moment.

The ‘Siberica’ Dogwood in the Winter Border is even displaying some beautiful berries at the moment.

The other big job for this week has been to get our compost area up together. It is one of my responsibilities to oversee this part of the gardens, and although it isn’t open to our visitors it is still very important to make sure that we keep on top of the area. So we’ve therefore been busy with our tractor and front loader, transferring and turning our brown gold from one bay to the next. The main trick is to get a good balance of nitrogen (which comes from green material such as grass clippings and herbaceous foliage) and carbon (from woody material such as branches and straw). As long as the heaps are kept relatively moist and warm, nature will do the rest via bacteria, fungi and worms for example.

Here is our compost area, all newly neat and tidy!

Here is our compost area, all newly neat and tidy!

We start with a mixture of material in Bay One on the left, which then gets turned into bay two in the middle before usable compost can finally be taken from bay three on the right.

We start with a mixture of material in Bay One on the left, which then gets turned into Bay Two in the middle before usable compost can finally be taken from Bay Three on the right.

Bay Four on the left is now empty but will be filled with woody material to be shredded and/or chipped soon enough.  Bay five on the right is for of our waste green material.  Both will fill up quickly even at this time of year!

Bay Four on the left is now empty but will be filled with woody material to be shredded and/or chipped soon enough. Bay Five on the right is for of our waste green material. Both will become full quickly even at this time of year!

We generate a reasonable amount of compost which we use for mulching, soil improving and also when planting. This is partly down to the amount of spent hops we add to our heaps from nearby Westerham Brewery. You might like to read more about this process by perusing this blog post here.

There is just enough time to remind you about the 2014 Chartwell Garden Calendar which is available in the Chartwell shop right now and was created using photographs from our visitors and volunteers. You can read about the process that went into producing it by clicking here or you can order a copy from our online shop by clicking here. They make cracking Christmas presents!!

Jamie

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