Category Archives: Garden History

Ellie & Agnes Who?

Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver' along the entrance path at Chartwell

Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ along the entrance path at Chartwell

Although here in the gardens of the Churchill family we are rightly proud of all of the plants in our collection, at various times of the year, us gardeners will be asked by our visitors for the identity of a core group of recurring plants. During the Summer it might be the Phytolacca americana in the Herbaceous Border with its corn on the cob-like purple fruits. During mid Spring it might be the masses of white flowers of our Exochorda macrantha bushes on the Kitchen Garden banks that catch the eye. And in the depths of Winter the alien seed heads of our recently introduced Cardiocrinum giganteum might be stealing the show. Right now however, the delightful vanillary scent of the yellow flowers of our Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ plants are grabbing a great deal of the horticultural headlines.

It really is a shame that scratch and sniff computer screens haven't been invented yet!

It really is a shame that scratch and sniff computer screens haven’t been invented yet!

Also known as the Silver Bush or Wolf Willow, this Elaeagnus originated in England as a chance hybrid seedling, recognized and named by celebrated British plantsman Roy Lancaster. Roy actually suggests that he thinks it may be a hybrid between Elaeagnus angustifolius and Elaeagnus commutata.

Popular with bees as well as human Chartwell visitors!

Popular with bees as well as human Chartwell visitors!

E. ‘Quicksilver’ displays striking silvery foliage on this deciduous, fast-growing shrub. It likes a fertile, well drained soil in full sun, and works well as a specimen plant, or in a shrub border. It can tolerate open or sheltered sites and grows just as well in clay, sandy or loamy soils of virtually any pH. It is considered drought resistant and also thrives in salty coastal conditions, requiring little or no maintenance, although it can reach up to 8ft in height and spread if left completely to its own devices.

We have another group of 'Quicksilver' bushes near the Croquet Lawn overlooking our Orchard

We have another group of ‘Quicksilver’ bushes near the Croquet Lawn overlooking our Orchard

‘Quicksilver’ has none of the hazardous spines of E. angustifolia and it is sterile which means that won’t seed itself about like other Elaeagnus shrubs. Although it can sucker itself, it doesn’t do this too vigorously and so doesn’t run around where it isn’t wanted. If I may keep singing its praises, it is also deer-proof, fixes atmospheric nitrogen and can also be pruned back hard to form an attractive silver dome!

The silver leaves are matched only by the golden hues of the young stems

The stunning silver leaves are matched only by the golden hues of the young stems

Anyway, don’t take my word for all this, come and have a look and a smell for yourselves and enjoy one of the unsung heroes of the gardens of this country…

Jamie

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All Hail The President!

What better way to take a breather at Chartwell than in Lady Churchill's Rose Garden beneath a gorgeous Clematis?!

What better way to take a breather at Chartwell than in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden beneath a gorgeous Clematis?!

If you asked a cross section of garden lovers and enthusiasts to name their favourite plant, I’m betting that quite a few of them may well plump for the good ol’ Clematis. But with so many varieties and types to choose from, which particular one would be the most popular? Well, here in the gardens of the Churchill family home we have over 20 different choices of Clematis, but there is one in particular that is blooming like crazy right now, so perhaps Clematis ‘The President’ might be top of the pops for some of you! Found against one of the surrounding stone walls in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden, it also provides a perfect back-drop to any pictures taken of friends or family sat on the rustic stone bench beneath.

When glimpsed through the group of standard Wisteria trees you can see how the flowers compliment each other perfectly

When glimpsed through the group of standard Wisteria trees you can see how the flowers compliment each other perfectly

‘The President’ was introduced by Charles Noble in 1876, a nurseryman credited with introducing many Clematis cultivars mainly by crossing C. ‘Standishii’ with C. ‘Fortunei’ and various forms of C. patens. Born in 1817, Noble followed in his father’s horticultural footsteps and set up a nursery with John Standish in Bagshot, Surrey. Noble also forged links with celebrated plant hunter Robert Fortune, selling some of the plants he brought back from his trips to China for the first time in the UK. Little is known of him after he retired in 1989 but ‘The President’ still holds its own among many modern varieties and is the holder of the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM) since 1993. So popular is ‘The President’ that it is often used by breeders as a base for creating newer varieties today.

The flowers start off as this striking vibrant blue/purple colour...

The overlapping sepals of the large flowers start off as this striking vibrant blue/purple colour…

...before maturing to this paler and perhaps more interesting mottled mix

…before maturing to this paler and perhaps more interesting mottled mix

This Clematis can tolerate full sun or partial shade, is fully hardy and likes a well-drained soil, preferably alkaline but either heavy or light in structure. It can grow to 3m in height with a spread of around 1m. This relatively compact habit makes it ideal for smaller gardens or borders or even in a container. One of the big plus points of ‘The President’ is that the impressively=sized blooms can last from late Spring right up to early Autumn in ideal conditions.

Look, there are still plenty more blooms to come on our specimen!

Look, there are still plenty more blooms to come on our specimen!

Not as many people as you might think actually grow Clematis in their own gardens, partly due to the fact that there is an air of mystery surrounding their pruning. It is true that Clematis fall into three pruning groups but the process is relatively simple as long as you know your particular variety:

Pruning Group 1 consists of early-blooming clematis that flower on shoots produced the previous season. They require little regular pruning except for the deadheading of faded flowers. In later years some training and perhaps thinning might be necessary. If renovation is required, plants can be cut back to 15cm from the base after flowering, although this will affect flowering and should not be carried out again within three years. Prune mid to late spring, after flowering and once the risk of frost has passed.

Pruning Group 2 (which includes our C. ‘The President) comprises the large-flowered cultivars that flower from May to June or beyond on short shoots developing from the previous year’s growth. Some (such as our subject in this blog) flower again in late Summer on new growth. Prune dead or weak stems in February and remove flower heads, back to a large growth bud immediately below the flower, as soon as the first flush of flowers is over in early Summer. They can also, if preferred, be left un-pruned except for the removal of dead shoots in Spring.

Pruning Group 3. This group comprises clematis that flower from mid to late Summer on the ends of the current year’s growth. If this type is left un-pruned growth will continue from where it ended the previous season, resulting in a tangled mass of growth, flowering well above eye level with stems bare at the base. These late-flowering clematis are best pruned back hard in February each year to the lowest pair of buds.

Even the flower heads that have lost their petals have a stark charming beauty to them

Even the dark red anthers on the flower heads that have lost their petals have a stark charming beauty to them

So whether you have a Clematis of your own; you think you might chose a Clematis as your fave plant; or whether you just want to see the the loveliness of ours in close up with your own eyes, get yourselves down to Chartwell again soon and swear horticultural allegiance to ‘The President’!

Jamie

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An Azara Amongst The Azaleas

The oft-overlooked Azalea Banks at Chartwell

The oft-overlooked Azalea Banks at Chartwell

Everyone who comes and pays us a visit here at Chartwell will have their favourite part of the gardens, probably depending on what time of year they dropped in. For some it might be a walk in the woods or a mooch around the Kitchen Garden while for others the blooms within Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden or the views from the Top Terrace might be highlighted. But not many people will perhaps put forward the Azalea Banks which at this moment especially is a great shame. As you leave the driveway in front of the house via the far roadside corner and head down towards the Croquet Lawn, most peoples’ eyes will be drawn by the Croquet Lawn itself and the sweeping views of the Kent Weald beyond. But turn your head 90 degrees and you will see the part of the garden I’m talking about. The grassy banks don’t lead anywhere, apart from our dark and dingy long-term compost bays which are chained off from the public (don’t worry, you’re not missing much!) but a little amble around this area might just be worth your while.

Rhododendron 'Magnifica'

Rhododendron ‘Magnifica’

Of course, the name ‘Azalea Bank’ itself throws up the old question, “what is the difference between a Rhododendron and an Azalea”? Well, all Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons BUT not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas. Confused? Rhododendron is a genus (a group of plants with shared characteristics) and Azaleas are a group within that genus, rather than forming a genus of their own. To clarify a little more, an Azalea has 5 stamens (pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower) while other Rhododendrons have 10 or more. Furthermore, Azaleas are often smaller and may be deciduous or evergreen while other Rhododendrons are all evergreen. Either way, the Rhododendrons in the Azalea Bank beds are looking blooming marvelous right now as you will see above and below…

Rhododendron 'Daviesii'

Rhododendron ‘Daviesii’

Rhododendron 'Irene Koster'

Rhododendron ‘Irene Koster’

Stunning as they are though, it wasn’t these Rhodies that prompted me to write this particular blog entry. No, there is another plant in this area that is just as pretty, just as interesting and a lot less well known. The other day I was in the gardens with a visiting friend of mine, a gardener from nearby National Trust property Scotney Castle and he asked what the yellow flowered shrubs against the wall here were. And the answer was Azara serrata. Heard of it? If you have, well done! But if you haven’t I wouldn’t be surprised.

Twin Azara serrata shrubs on the Azalea Banks

Twin Azara serrata shrubs on the Azalea Banks

The name may sound like a Harry Potter spell, but these shrubs originally from the also lesser known Flacourtiaceae family but now re-housed in the Salicaceae family, come originally from Chile, not Hogwarts! Also known as the Saw-toothed Azara, these shrubs may look fairly innocuous for most of the year, but right now they are flowering their South American socks off, covered in masses of fragrant, intricate bright yellow blooms. In fact, the sweet chocolatey scent can be smelled from some distance away.

Blue and yellow.  Good colour combo!

Blue and yellow. Good colour combo!

One of the few fully hardy South American shrubs, Azaras are in fact reasonably common in large collections of plants open to the public but virtually unheard of in private gardens. Which is a shame because after hot summers these shrubs can also have a show of round white berries to extend their season of interest. They prefer moist, fertile, humus-rich soil where possible and even grow with their roots permanently in water in their native Chile where they are called ‘Corcolén’ or ‘Aromo de Castilla’. They tolerate full sun but are equally happy in part or full shade, mimicking their woodland habitat of origin.

Our Azaras are offered good shelter from the Chartwell roadside wall

Our Azaras are offered good shelter by the Chartwell roadside wall

In 1794 the genus of Azara was named after Félix de Azara (1742 – 1821), a Spanish geographer and naturalist who did fieldwork in South America from 1781 to 1796. Azara serrata was discovered and named in the same year by Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez who are jointly cited as the authors of many botanical names. Between 1779 and 1788 these Spanish botanists (together with the French botanist Joseph Dombey) visited Chile, Peru and other South American countries, discovering many new plants. Why not do some plant hunting of your own and come and discover us here at Chartwell soon…!

Jamie

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Another Brick (Not) In The Wall

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill's Rose Garden

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden

Recent visitors to Churchill’s gardens may have noticed that all is not well with the walls of our Rose Garden! Earlier this year, a couple of our gardeners here at Chartwell, Ann and Rhiannon, were working on our stunning Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana shrub in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden when all of a sudden part of the wall surrounding the area collapsed! Luckily they were not in danger of being injured but this part of the garden was closed off for a time while we assessed the damage. More recently I was in the area pruning some of the roses when a further section of the wall again fell away. We think that the months of heavy rain that we had last year and this year combined with the heavy winds of the new year storms was probably the cause of the problem but we started to reach out for further advice when more cracks were spotted in the brick work.

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

...did not provide good news!

…did not provide good news!

The couple of excavation pits as seen in the pictures above allowed a local archeology team to determine that the foundations and footings of the walls were not as deep or as substantial as we had hoped. The walls were extensively rebuilt by German POW’s in 1946 under the supervision of Sir Winston Churchill himself from the already existing walls dating from pre-Churchill owners, the Colquhoun family. It is even said that he used to bring the Germans out glasses of whiskey and water while they worked! Whoever was responsible for the section of wall that is currently suffering, they were perhaps not as good at building walls as the great man it seems. Churchill’s own handiwork around the Kitchen Garden is still standing strong yet this is not the first time that repairs have had to be carried out on the walls of the Rose Garden since the National Trust took over at Chartwell in 1966!

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads: POW WORK GERMAN 1946

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads:
POW WORK
GERMAN
1946

The most important thing to do next was to make the wall safe and ensure that it didn’t crumble or collapse any further, putting staff, volunteers or visitors in any danger whatsoever. This process was achieved in a couple of ways:

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Work was completed today by our regular building contractors...

Work was then completed this week by our regular building contractors…

...resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

…resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

While we are happy that the area is now safe, obviously the aesthetics of these temporary measures are not what we or our visitors really want to see when walking around the gardens at Chartwell. With this in mind we will be working hard to plan the best way to restore the wall to its former glory as soon as possible. During the residency of the Churchill family, the Rose Garden was simply called the Grey Walled Garden but it was one of Sir Winston’s favourite places to entertain and relax as the following pictures show perfectly…

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden (picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine - February 7th, 1965)

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden
(picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine – February 7th, 1965)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep! (picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep!
(picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we've been talking about in the background over Sir Winston's shoulder! (picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we’ve been talking about in the background over Sir Winston’s shoulder!
(picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Keep reading our Chartwell Garden Blog for more updates on the progress with restoring the Rose Garden wall in future weeks…

Jamie

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How The Mighty Have (Nearly) Fallen

Down but not out

Down but not out

Regular readers with an elephantine memory may remember a post I produced back at the start of January about some of the damage the gardens here at Chartwell had suffered as a result of the Christmas storms. Well, although one of our more treasured trees managed to survive that festive battering, it did unfortunately fall foul of some high winds a little later on in the Winter. The constant heavy rain we’ve experienced over the last 12 months certainly wouldn’t have helped either, but a few weekends ago an ancient Field Maple tree (Acer campestre) in the Parkland on the other side of the lakes sadly lost some major sections.

Our Field Maple in all it's glory last Summer

Our Field Maple in all it’s glory last Summer

Sir Winston Churchill himself would have enjoyed the view of this tree during his tenure at Chartwell. In fact we think that the tree was probably introduced by the previous owner, John Campbell Colquhoun, who was a keen planter of trees as you can read about in this here blog from January 2013. Because of the historic nature of it, we are keen not to lose the tree entirely. With this in mind we have decided to try and preserve the old girl, instead of removing the remaining sections as perhaps we might have done in another instance. Steve, our Estate Supervisor, is particularly fond of it and wants to make sure that our visitors can keep enjoying this Field Maple for years to come.

Our Acer campestre in the Parkland has been fenced off

Our Acer campestre in the Parkland has been fenced off

The Estate team of Steve, Ben and Georgie together with some help from a bunch of hardy volunteers have therefore been spending quite some time erecting a permanent fence around the Acer campestre, constructed themselves out of spare and coppiced timber. The benefits of this are that it keeps our visitors safe from any further falling branches as well as protecting the tree itself from any undue human (or indeed bovine when the field is used to graze cattle) intervention.

Steve, Ben and Georgina, our Estate team here at Chartwell, hard at work building the new fence

Steve, Ben and Georgina, our Estate team here at Chartwell, hard at work building the new fence

Two of our volunteers, Chris and Howard, doing their bit

Two of our volunteers, Chris and Howard, doing their bit

The tree itself doesn’t appear to have split because of any disease that we can see. It seems as though it is simply old age combined with the accumulative effects of the nasty weather that has done for the poor old Maple. It comes to us all I suppose! We plan to plant some young Acer campestre saplings in and around our exisiting specimen so that when it does finally fall there will be a new generation waiting to take its place. In the meantime, the area inside our new fence will be planted up with wildflowers to make a feature of the site that plenty of visitors will walk past on their way up to the woods.

This split in the trunk was observed and noted as part of last year's tree safety surveys

This split in the trunk was observed and noted as part of last year’s tree safety surveys

This picture clearly shows the extent of the rotten trunk

This picture clearly shows the extent of the rotten trunk

The name Acer means “sharp” or “pungent” and campestre means “of fields”. Acer campestre is actually the only native Maple tree in the UK. Also known as the Cat Oak or Dog Oak, the Field Maple can reach up to 90ft in height in an ideal situation. Good for wildlife and easily grown, this vibrant native tree has autumn foliage which turns a beautiful clear yellow, or sometimes flushed with red. A good foraging tree, supporting over 50 species of wildlife, the small flowers are attractive to bees and insects, whilst the seeds are eaten by mammals such as wood mice and bank voles.

This shot of the grand old trunk was taken before the recent damage

This shot of the grand old trunk was taken before the recent damage

In folklore the Field Maple is associated with the heart and love and is said to bring contentment to those with heavy responsibilities. Carrying a child around this tree or passing it through the branches was also believed to bring long life to the youngster. In Alsatian folklore it was said that bringing branches of field maple into the house would protect against bats and keep nesting storks safe from disturbance! Very handy, I’m sure you’ll agree. The wood of the Field Maple is traditionally used to the turning of masers, or mazers, the ceremonial drinking bowls associated with the ritual of wassailing. In fact, Acer campestre is sometimes called the Maser Tree.

This new fence should help preserve the poor old Acer for years to come...

This new fence should help preserve the poor old Acer for years to come…

...and keep our visitors safe from further falling branches

…and keep our visitors safe from further falling branches

In medicine a concoction made from the sap of the Field Maple has been used to treat sore eyes, and the astringent bark used to cure gallstones and high cholesterol. Like all Maples, the sap contains sugar, which can be concentrated into a syrup or used as a sweetener for food. It can also be used to make wine. I’ve not tasted it but if anyone wants to offer me some I’ll certainly give it a go! The wood of the Field Maple is fine-grained but the trees are too small to supply large pieces of timber. It takes a high polish however, so is valued by cabinet makers and wood turners. It has an attractive curving pattern of growth rings and has long been used to make musical instruments, such as violins and cellos. Harps have been made from it since Saxon times and in fact a harp frame made from Field Maple was found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Field maple is efficient as firewood and also makes good charcoal while the roots of the tree are sometimes used to make snuff boxes or pipes.

Jamie

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Featured Plant No. 11 – Primula vulgaris

“And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace –
Throws out the snow-drop and the crocus first,
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumbered eyes.”

From Late Spring by James Thompson (1700-1748)

As the above poem extract so beautifully hints, a few weeks ago it was the likes of Snowdrops, Crocuses, Hellebores and Winter Aconites that were lifting the spirits of the soggy, wind-swept gardeners here at Chartwell, as a long wet Winter looked like giving way to the first signs of Spring. But now as the March sun finally starts to warm both the garden soil and our pasty skin, it is another of the plants mentioned in Thompson’s poem that I would like to talk about this week: the humble Common Primrose.

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

Primula vulgaris, or the native Primrose, is familiar to and loved by so many people that perhaps we sometimes overlook it or take it for granted. Every Spring without fail it sprouts and spreads its way around both the beds and wilder areas of Churchill’s gardens, brightening up the day for staff and visitors alike, as it teams up with the Daffodils that emerge at the same time.
Native to western and southern Europe, Primroses thrive in full sun or partial shade such as the edges of a woodland area. A single plant usually only reaches 10cm in height and spread but it’s a case of being small but perfectly formed.

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

The Primrose is a must have for any garden as it well grow happily away in any soil type and any aspect, although it will prefer a sheltered spot if possible. Awarded the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) Primula vulgaris are pretty hardy when it comes to pests and diseases but the likes of slugs and grey mould may have a go at them in wet conditions. Wild specimens are a lovely pale yellow although cultivated varieties come in a huge range of colours, and both single and double flowers. Here at Chartwell a few non-yellow plants have crept in, possibly from pollinating bees who have visited nearby domestic gardens. They are now freely crossing with each other here which leads to some interesting colours…

...like this pure white with a cute yellow centre...

…like this pure white with a cute yellow centre…

...these pale pink ones...

…these pale pink ones…

...or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some!

…or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some! Pink and red flowered primroses growing in natural conditions in western Europe are usually naturalised from garden escapes, though a pink-flowered form is reported locally as a wild plant in Wales.

They are sweetly scented and are even suitable for cutting and displaying in small vases, as long as you’re not picking from the wild! In more populated areas Primula vulgaris has sometimes suffered from over-collection and theft so that few natural displays of primroses in abundance can now be found. To prevent excessive damage to the species, picking of primroses or the removal of primrose plants from the wild is illegal as stated in The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 13, part 1b.

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

The name ‘Primrose’ is said to derive from either the old French ‘primerose’ or medieval Latin ‘prima rosa’, both meaning “first rose”, celebrating the fact that it is among the first signs of Spring each year. The common name ‘Primrose’ is sometimes lengthened to ‘Common Primrose’ or ‘English Primrose’ to distinguish it from other Primula species that are also called primroses. The species name ‘vulgaris’ simply means ‘common’.

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

An old tradition in England is that a six-petaled Primrose flower is lucky for marriage and love, while in Germany the Primrose is supposed to grow where there is hidden treasure and that it has some power to open locks! Primroses were also very important to farmers long ago. The butter-making season began in May and in order to be sure that the cows would produce lots of milk for butter, primroses were rubbed on their udders on May eve! In other areas primroses were scattered on the thresholds of farm houses before dawn on May day to protect the butter from the fairies. Primroses were also historically associated with hens and the laying of eggs. It was considered unlucky to bring primroses into the house if eggs were being hatched there. Primroses have also long been given as gifts. However it was once considered to be very unlucky to give just a single primrose, whereas a very full bunch would be a protection against evil spirits. In old English folk medicine, rubbing a toothache with a primrose leaf for two minutes was said to give relief from the pain. It was also widely used as a cure for jaundice. Both the flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. Not just a pretty face then!

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

So the next time you come to visit us here at Chartwell, spare some time to look down and admire the little and yellow gems that lurk amongst the undergrowth. Let the Primulas brighten your day like they are currently brightening ours…!

Jamie

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The Calm After The Storm

Our two giant Sequoiadendron trees down by the Oscar Nemon sculpture weren't the only ones to lose limbs in the recent storms

Our two giant Sequoiadendron trees down by the Oscar Nemon sculpture weren’t the only ones to lose limbs in the recent storms

Twas two nights before Christmas,
And all through the grounds,
Lots of creatures stirring,
Due to the loud stormy sounds.

It will have escaped nobody’s attention that the UK has been battered by some pretty strong storms recently, and down here in West Kent it was no exception. I got to work on Christmas Eve to find the Chartwell gardens had taken a pretty serious pounding, some of which I’ll let you know about in this blog. Some of our staff couldn’t even get into work that morning due to some heavy local flooding so Tony, our Premises Assistant, and I set off with our saws and loppers to first clear all of the fallen branches from the surrounding roads. Once that was done it was time to have a proper look around the gardens to find out the full extent of the damage. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

The first sign that things were amiss was this window from one of our greenhouses that had blown over the wall into the Kitchen Garden!

The first sign that things were amiss was this window from one of our greenhouses that had blown over the wall into the Kitchen Garden!

This Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree) had fallen on the Orchard banks and a couple of its friends weren't looking too stable either.

This Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree) had fallen on the Orchard banks and a couple of its friends weren’t looking too stable either.

One of only two remaining Tilia x europaea (Common Lime) trees dating back from when Churchill had a whole row of them infront of the house lost a major limb that was still hung in the canopy.

One of only two remaining Tilia x europaea (Common Lime) trees dating back from when Churchill had a whole row of them infront of the house lost a major limb that was still hung in the canopy.

This large Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis salicifolius) inbetween the Top Terrace and the Pet Graves had fallen and completely blocked the paths in three directions!

This large Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis salicifolius) inbetween the Top Terrace and the Pet Graves had fallen and completely blocked the paths in three directions!

Amazingly even the ivy that I had been singing the praises of in last week's blog had been ripped off the Marlborough Pavilion wall.  When we try and cut it back we always have trouble prizing the aerial roots from this wall!

Amazingly even the ivy that I had been singing the praises of in last week’s blog had been ripped off the Marlborough Pavilion wall. When we try and cut it back each year we always have trouble prizing the aerial roots from this wall! The storm had no such problems!

The lake had burst its banks in the far corner of the parkland, meaning we had to rope this area off until it subsided.

The lake had burst its banks in the far corner of the parkland, meaning we had to rope this area off until it subsided.

As has happened before, our large Cedar trees shed lots of large branches.  This Cedrus libani was planted in the mid 1850's by Chartwell's previous occupants, the Colquhoun family.

As has happened before, our large Cedar trees shed lots of large branches. This Cedrus libani was planted in the mid 1850’s by Chartwell’s previous occupants, the Colquhoun family.

This smaller Cedar tree lost a particularly large limb that luckily fell right inbetween a Magnolia and an Amelanchier that would otherwise have been crushed.  Tony can be seen here helping to tidy up the damage.

This smaller Cedar tree lost a particularly large limb that luckily fell right in between a Magnolia and an Amelanchier that would otherwise have been crushed. Tony can be seen here helping to tidy up the damage.

Once we had cleared any of the fallen branches from the paths and roped off any trees that we thought it was potentially unsafe to walk beneath, we also managed to get a local tree management company that we use regularly called Down To Earth to come out on Christmas Eve and deal with the precarious Lime limb that you can see above. Once that was all done, the garden was at least ready to receive visitors again. The work of clearing the fallen Bay Tree that was blocking the paths at the top of the Winter Border has also now been cleared out of the immediate way. You will still see plenty of fallen trees and branches around the garden however until we can properly clear everything away but they are not unsafe for our visitors at all. The problem we have at them moment though is the ground is too sodden to drive our tractors over and until that changes many of the limbs are much too large and heavy to remove by hand. Plenty of our visitors are finding it quite interesting to see what the storm managed to do to our gardens and also the ways in which we are responding to the damage. Whether you come along soon to have a look for yourself, or if you visit in a few weeks once all of the debris has been cleared again, we look forward to seeing you here again soon…

Jamie

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