Tag Archives: Horticulture

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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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 Holly & The Ivy

Festive frosty Photinia berries at Chartwell

Festive frosty Photinia berries at Chartwell

The morning frosts, brisk winds and crisp, sunny December days are really letting us know that Winter is here at the moment. And at this festive time of year it seems fitting that in this week’s Chartwell Garden Blog we are going to have a look at a couple of Christmas-shaped plants that you can find looking lovely here in Churchill’s gardens right now. We may be a little short on mistletoe but we more than make up for that with some dazzling Ilex and Hedera, or holly and ivy to you and I.

There's a question over this Quercus...

There’s a question over this Ilex…

If you take a walk around our estate you will doubtless spot plenty of red-berried holly trees in the woods which the birds are very happily munching on as their other food supplies begin to dwindle. In the gardens themselves however there are a couple of slightly more unusual holly specimens that I’d like to point you in the direction of. Firstly, on the banks above the Croquet Lawn you will find a stunning variegated holly shrub that might even change the minds of those who normally eschew the variegated forms of garden plants. Unfortunately none of our garden records tell us the exact variety of this holly however. We’ve done some research but nothing has been conclusive. Personally I like to think that it’s Ilex aquifolium ‘Golden Milkboy’, just because I like the name!

Some of the leaves a predominantly green with a splash of yellow...

Some of the leaves a predominantly green with a splash of yellow…

...while others are mostly the opposite.  All have striking purple stems.

…while others are mostly the opposite. All have striking purple stems.

Holly is obviously very intrinsically linked with this time of year. In fact in some parts of Britain holly was formerly referred to merely as ‘Christmas’, and in pre-Victorian times ‘Christmas trees’ actually meant holly bushes. Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus’ crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity’s salvation, as is related, for example, in the Christmas carol, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’. In some pre-Christian celebrations, a boy would be dressed in a suit of holly leaves and a girl similarly in ivy, to parade around the village, bringing Nature through the darkest part of the year to re-emerge for another year’s fertility.

Ilex aquifolium 'Bacciflava'

Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’

The other holly doing its thing here at Chartwell right now is this yellow-berried variety called ‘Bacciflava’. Perhaps my favourite of all the holly’s, the yellow baubles really sing out during late Autumn and through Winter every year. Birds often target red berried plants before all others so often this yellow holly has a longer shelf life than some of the more regular types.

Another gratuitous close up!

Another gratuitous close up!

Holly was often brought into the house at Christmas to protect the home from malevolent faeries. Whichever of prickly-leaved or smooth-leaved holly was brought into the house first dictated whether the husband or wife respectively were to rule the household for the coming year! Incidentally, the prickliness of a holly leaf usually decreases as you go higher up the tree. In Celtic mythology the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule for the time until the summer solstice again. The Holly King was depicted as a powerful giant of a man covered in holly leaves and branches, and wielding a holly bush as a club. He may well have been the same archetype on which the Green Knight of Arthurian legend was based, and to whose challenge Gawain rose during the Round Table’s Christmas celebrations.

Hedera colchica 'Dentata Variegata'

Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’

Apart from it’s Christmas connections, you may think it a little strange to be writing about something as supposedly uninteresting as ivy on this blog. The particular one that I’ve chosen to highlight this week though is a bit of a corker. Also known as Persian Ivy, this example we have growing up the side of the Marlborough Pavilion is a beautiful feature in its own right. Often used for brightening up shady corners, it is less vigorous than some of the thuggish green-leaved varieties and was awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) for its troubles.

One of the windows of the Phillip Tilden-designed Marlborough Pavilion, framed in pretty ivy

One of the windows of the Phillip Tilden-designed Marlborough Pavilion, framed in pretty ivy

The fact that ivy, like some hollies, stayed green throughout the year led some to believe it had magical properties and led to its use as home decor during the Christmas period. It symbolized eternal life, rebirth and the coming Spring season. In some cultures, ivy was a symbol of marriage and friendship, perhaps due to its tendency to cling. In ancient Rome, ivy was associated with Bacchus (known as Dionysus in Greek mythology), god of wine and revelry, again connected to the Christmas festivities! Though not as popular as holly, ivy was still used in festivals held during winter by many cultures. For a period, ivy was banished as festive decor by Christians due to its ability to grow in shade, which led to its association with secrecy and debauchery. Nevertheless, the custom of decorating with holly and ivy during Christian holidays was eventually accepted and obviously still stands today.

The varying colours of the top and underside of the foliage makes a great spectacle in close up too

The varying colours of the top and underside of the foliage makes a great spectacle in close up too

The gardens at Chartwell are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but be sure to come and join us again from Boxing Day onwards when we’ll be open every single day until December 24th next year! I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year from all of us in the garden team at the family home of Sir Winston Churchill…

Jamie

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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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Putting The Golden Rose Avenue ‘To Bed’

There has been plenty of work done in the Golden Rose Avenue recently

There has been plenty of work done in the Golden Rose Avenue recently

As the Autumn days start to turn a tad wintery, one of the big jobs in any garden at this time is to tackle to your roses. At Chartwell we have around 100 different rose varieties and over 1000 individual rose plants so as you can imagine this can take some time! At the moment we are all busy pruning and training our climbing and rambling roses for another year, a process I discussed way back in January 2012, which you can read again by clicking right here. In fact, I think I’ve covered almost every aspect of rose care at Chartwell in this blog over the last two years or so. An overview of our roses can be seen by clicking here while a blog about the beauty of the humble rose hip can be read here. Today I want to let you know about the process of wind rock pruning in our Golden Rose Avenue. I have already written about the more specialized pruning which is done in early Spring in this blog post here, and the story behind Golden Rose Avenue itself can be discovered in this post here.

Matt gets to grips with wind rock pruning one of our standard roses

Matt gets to grips with wind rock pruning one of our standard roses

The wind rock pruning of roses is done after flowering and before the harsh winter weather sets in. Essentially it involves reducing the height of the new growth on each rose by between a third and a half, depending on the individual plant and the growing conditions/microclimate in which it resides. It is done to stop the strong winter winds from uprooting or loosening the relatively shallow-rooted roses so easily and also to reduce the damage that heavy snowfall might do to long, soft stems. Wind rock can create a small circular hole around the main stem of the rootstock. This exposes the tender root structure to freezing weather. It can also tear some of the fine feeder roots of the rose and may damage some main support roots. Winds can also snap overly long stems and branches right off the plant causing damage to the stem which in turn could allow disease to enter the plant. In theory, the wind rock prune could probably be done very quickly with a hedge trimmer even, because the ‘proper’ pruning is still to be done in the new year (see above). We stick to the tried and trusted secateurs however, although we aren’t overly fussy about outward facing buds, slanted cuts etc at this stage. It should be noted that we also remove all fallen leaves from around the base of the roses at this stage as they can allow fungal diseases such as blackspot to over-winter and then re-infect the plant next year.

A sign letting our visitors know what we're up to

A sign letting our visitors know what we’re up to

Here you can see how the roses on the right side have been pruned, while those on the left are still to be done

Here you can see how the roses on the right side have been pruned, while those on the left are still to be done

Now, this wind rock pruning isn’t the only horticultural practice being done in the Golden Rose Avenue right now. Once the roses have been snipped and chopped we take the opportunity at this time of the year to give them a good ‘feed’ to make sure they put on a dazzling display next year. Roses may be pretty but they’re also pretty greedy when it comes to nutrients, which is of little surprise when you consider how much effort they must put in to produce those brilliant blooms all summer. We use an organic seaweed-based foliar feed during the growing season but we also like to give them a good boost now too. This is done in two stages…

Firstly a granular feed such as this is used

Firstly a granular feed such as this is used

We sprinkle it around the base of each plant like so...

We sprinkle it around the base of each plant like so…

.. and then once this has been lightly forked in, we mulch around the base of each plant with a good helping of our home made compost

.. and then once this has been lightly forked in, we mulch around the base of each plant with a good helping of our home made compost

OK, so that’s the actual roses taken care of, but what about the other plants that you’ll find in this part of the gardens here at Chartwell? Well, to complete the tidying process of putting this area ‘to bed’ for the Winter, we also take some time to cut back, divide and replant the Nepeta racemosa (Catmint) and the Stachys byzantia (Lamb’s Ears) at this stage too. These great little growers are supposed to act as our edging plants along the path but over the last twelve months they had become total ground cover for the whole border! We don’t want them competing with the rose roots for water and soil nutrients so we have removed them from everywhere but the front couple of feet. We also hope to substitute some of the larger varieties of Nepeta for a more suitable dwarf type next year to stop them getting too out of hand.

Here you can see how the Nepeta and Stchys in the border on the right has been tackled, while the plants on the left are still to be reigned in!

Here you can see how the Nepeta and Stachys in the border on the right has been tackled, while the plants on the left are still to be reigned in!

We've also recently tightly clipped the beech hedging Fagus sylvatica around the Golden Rose Avenue too so the whole area is looking pretty spic and span!

We’ve also recently tightly clipped the beech hedging (Fagus sylvatica) around the Golden Rose Avenue too so the whole area is looking pretty spic and span!

The gardens here at Chartwell are open every day of the year, apart from Christmas Day, and there is still plenty to see and do here so make sure you come and pay us a visit soon, not forgetting to take a stroll down our very tidy Golden Rose Avenue while you’re here! You might also be also be pleased to know that the 2014 Chartwell Garden Calendar is available in our shop now and includes pictures of the roses here and the Golden Rose Avenue in particular. It’s available to buy on line too by clicking right here.

Jamie

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A Sorbus Story

As Autumn continues to drag it’s bronzy heels and the leaves of many of the UK’s trees stubbornly refuse to do their red and yellow dance, there are plenty of other plants taking their chance to perform on the horticultural centre stage instead. Here at Chartwell for instance, a couple of crackers from the Sorbus genus are currently drawing many an eye. As we enter November when the house here shuts down for it’s Winter break and the gardens revel in taking up the slack, our visitors should certainly have no trouble in spotting the trees that I’ll be highlighting here today.

Sorbus hupehensis

Sorbus hupehensis

On the Top Terrace overlooking the Churchill’s Walled Garden, the Golden Rose Avenue and the Kent Weald, you will find three Sorbus hupehensis trees. This site in the gardens was where Sir Winston originally plonked his greenhouses and potting sheds but because the view to the South East is so stunning, Lady Churchill made him move them to the other side of the garden wall where they still reside to this day! The Sorbus trees sit behind three attractive wooden benches which were designed by Clementine after she saw some similar ones at Hatfield House.

Sorbus hupehensis.  Check. Lady Churchill's bench.  Check. View of the Kent Weald obscured by fog.  Check.

Sorbus hupehensis. Check.
Lady Churchill’s bench. Check.
View of the Kent Weald obscured by fog. Check.

Sorbus hupehensis was first described in 1901 by the Cotswold-born Ernest “Chinese” Wilson, who found it in the Hupeh Province of China on his first plant-hunting trip to the Far East. Within a decade, it had been introduced to Western horticulture, and in 1984, it gained the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

The recent gales were almost too much for one of our S. hupehensis!

The recent gales were almost too much for one of our S. hupehensis!

Also known sometimes as Sorbus glabrescens or the Hubei Rowan, Sorbus hupehensis can reach up to 8m. As you can see from the pictures here, it is for the gorgeous white/off-pink berries for which it is generally grown. Three original trees here at Chartwell were lost in the storm of 1987 (along with 99% of the trees on our estate) and one of these new examples almost took a tumble during the strong winds we experienced a couple of weeks ago. We righted it again however and re-staked it so hopefully it will continue to thrive!

Sorbus 'Joseph Rock'

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’

Our Sorbus ‘Jospeh Rock’ can be found within the Walled Garden on the corner of the Cut Flower area. Less subtle perhaps than his siblings up on the Top Terrace above, Joseph’s bright red leaves and brilliant yellow berries are no less beautiful however. ‘Joseph Rock’ can reach up to 10m tall and is said to be a little prone to fireblight, although ours thankfully seems quite happy so far! The yellow berries nicely compliment the yellow flowers of the Golden Rose Avenue on the other side of the adjacent Beech hedge and the Autumn fruit of our ‘Golden Hornet’ crab apple trees at the other end of the Kitchen Garden.

You can just see the last of the yellow roses poking their heads over the hedge behind!

You can just see the last of the yellow roses poking their heads over the hedge behind our Sorbus ‘Jospeh Rock’!

This Sorbus is both a winner of the RHS First Class Certificate in 1962 and the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1950. It was originally collected from Yundshi Mountain in Yunnan in 1932 and was named after Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884 – 1962) who was an Austrian-American explorer, geographer, linguist and botanist.

Malus 'Golden Hornet' doing its best to rival Sorbus 'Jospeh Rock' for the coveted 'Best Yellow Fruited Ornamental Tree in the Kitchen Garden' award!

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ doing its best to rival Sorbus ‘Jospeh Rock’ for the coveted ‘Best Yellow Fruited Ornamental Tree in the Chartwell Walled Garden’ award!

Containing trees that you might commonly call Mountian Ash, Rowan and Whitebeam, Sorbus species’ are part of the vast Rosaceae family. The Sorbus genus contains about 100 species and they are generally found in woodland and mountainous areas of northern temperate regions. Tolerant of atmospheric pollution they are ideal for a small garden in urban or rural areas as they generally take a very long time to reach any great height. Historically they were also said to ward off evil spirits from wherever they were planted because this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother, so hopefully we’ll be alright here in the gardens at Chartwell!

'Joseph Rock' is quite a looker when backlit by the greying Autumn sky!

‘Joseph Rock’ is quite a looker when backlit by the greying Autumn sky!

Incidently, if you think either of the trees we’ve been focussing on here would make a good photograph, you might be interested in the first ever Chartwell Garden Calendar which contains a whole year’s worth of pretty pictures from around Churchill’s gardens and is available in our shop now or online here.

Jamie

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