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These photographs of snowdrops growing in semi-shade, in the area around the Maze, were taken recently by one of our regular garden volunteers.  They show some of the main plantings of snowdrops such as Galanthus  ‘Atkinsii’ (Imperial Group) and a display of Double Group snowdrops.

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Snowdrops (Imperial Group)

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Snowdrops (Double Group)

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Photo showing the 6 segments of the flower (3 outer/3 inner)

Come and visit the gardens during February to see masses of these wonderful and popular snowdrops in flower.

There is also an interesting display of our heritage seed potatoes in the Garden Bothy.

Chris Hitchcock  (Head Gardener)

The Exedra Garden in Spring

The Rococo Garden welcomes garden volunteers.  We currently have vacancies for new volunteers to join our existing groups on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the season.  Garden volunteers participate in a wide range of jobs, including:-

  • Border tidy and upkeep of our established ornamental mixed borders and shrubberies
  • Vegetable and fruit cultivation in our 18th century restored Kitchen Garden
  • Direct sowing of crops in the Kitchen Garden, and harvesting for use in the Garden’s Restaurant
  • Pruning of trained fruit (espaliers)
  • Heritage rose pruning

This list gives an outline of some of the jobs which our present valuable group of garden volunteers contribute.  If you are interested in joining this friendly team of volunteers in 2012, please phone the Rococo Garden for further details

Chris Hitchcock

(Head Gardener)

Pumpkins in the Bothy

We have had a good harvest of pumpkins and their botanical relatives – the squashes.  The gourds also did well on our small gourds tunnel in the Kitchen Garden.

Ornamental Gourds

The pumpkins we grew included, Connecticut Field (the traditional American pumpkin),  Mammoth, and Halloween.  Two of the most attractive were

  • The French heirloom variety Rouge Vif d’Etampes,  a  large deeply ribbed pumpkin which developed a deep orange-red colour
  • A small red onion shaped pumpkin Uchiki Kuri, with a hard skin, it gave us a good return from just a few plants
We also grew several squashes, including Pattison Sunburst hybrids, and Butternut squash.
The pumpkins, squashes and gourds are all on display at the Bothy in the Garden, together with the collection of heritage apples and pears, harvested from the garden, supplemented by historic local apples from the Gloucestershire Orchard Group
Our Autumn Festival at the Garden takes place on Saturday & Sunday 22nd/23rd October, and Saturday & Sunday 29th/30th October (in the Bothy).  We will be apple and pear pressing on all of these days.  All welcome – usual opening hours. 
Chris Hitchcock
(Head Gardener)

We harvested the main crop heritage potatoes by mid-August, and despite the dry weather for much of the summer, there was a good crop, partly because of our extensive mulching of the ground between the rows.

  • Gloucester Black Kidney (UK) – tuber skin colour blue, with cream flesh, produced some excellent medium sized kidney shaped tubers, with only limited evidence of scab.  Makes a nice baked potato.  I hope to save some of the stock to reuse next season

Gloucester Black Kidney

  • Vitelotte – (France -early 1800s), tuber skin colour black/purple, flesh purple, knobbly potato, producing some amazing shaped tubers.  I may look to replenish our stock with some new supplies of Vitelotte next season.
  • Pink Fir Apple (France/Germany – 1850), produced a wonderful crop of very knobbly potatoes.  Great flavour  as a  salad potato.  It is interesting to note that our Anya crop closely resembled the Pink Fir Apple potatoes this season.

Pink Fir Apple

Chris Hitchcock
(Head Gardener)

We use a range of green manures in the Kitchen Garden during the season to improve the soil structure, and soil fertility, as well as to inhibit weeds and reduce leaching, particularly during the winter period.  Some of the green manures which we have used include:

  • Phacelia tanacetifolia - which has feathery foliage and attractive blue oblong bell-shaped flowers, which are popular with bees.  We leave blocks of this green manure to flower to encourage these pollinators, as well as incorporating it before flowering in other areas to benefit the soil structure – good for sowing in early summer

Phacelia tanacetifolia

  • Mustard – this is quick growing and produces yellow flowers, we dig it in before flowering
  • Field beans – a valuable nitrogen fixer (member of the pea and bean family).  We purchase this green manure in bulk and sow in spare ground after harvesting some of the main vegetables.  It can be cut back overwinter to encourage further growth, and then dug in before spring.   Field beans are one of the most winter hardy of the green manures, and are easy to sow in rows on prepared ground – they germinate quickly from an August-September sowing.
Chris Hitchcock
(Head Gardener)

The sweet pea originated in Malta, where it grew in the wild, before being introduced to Sicily.  In 1699, a Sicilian priest Francis Cupani sent some seeds to Dr Uvedale in England.  These small highly scented flowers of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ were bi-colored with maroon-purple standard and magenta-purple wings.  It is thought that ‘Painted Lady’ sweet pea (1723) with its pink and white bi-colored flowers is a sport or ‘mutation’ from the original maroon-purple sweet pea.

Lathyrus odoratus 'Cupani'

Our method of growing old fashioned sweet peas

  • We save seed each year, but also purchase trade packets of 10gms of ‘Cupani’ and ‘Painted Lady’
  • The seeds are cold sown (in winter) after ‘chipping’ a small section of the outer seed coat.  We sow 5 seeds to a 9cm pot.  After germination the seedlings are grown on (protect against vermin like mice), before being transplanted to Clematis pots and supported with a wig-wam of small hazel sticks
  • The pots are planted out in late April-May, around wig-wams of hazels.  Usually I mass plant at least 10 pots of five plants around each structure – in both the Kitchen Garden and the Exedra Garden
  • In good sweet pea growing conditions – mixture of rain and sunshine – they should easily cover the framework
  • Keep cutting the wonderfully scented flowers.  We use them on the tables in the Restaurant and in a vase in the Bothy to give the rooms a special fragrance

    Sweet peas on wigwams in Kitchen Garden

Old Garden Roses

The highly scented old garden roses are starting to flower in the Exedra Garden.  We have Gallicas, Damasks, Moss Roses and Albas, and there is a species list/plan in the Exedra Garden which identifies the location of all the roses.

Two of my favourite ancient roses are:-

  • Rosa gallica ‘Versicolor’(1794) also known as Rosa Mundi, which is loaded with its attractive striped crimson and white flowers

Rosa gallica 'Versicolor'

  • Rosa ‘Celsiana’ (1750), a Damask rose which has very fragrant blush pink flowers which cover the shrub for up to 3 weeks – though only flowering once each season.

Rosa 'Celsiana'

Method of supporting roses

We support our old shrub roses on a post and lath framework, which helps to accentuate the form and fragrance of these attractive plants in the borders.

Pruning

I usually prune back the growth by a third of their length after flowering (in July).  Additional structural pruning takes place in winter to remove dead material and to generally clean up and reshape the shrub roses.

Chris Hitchcock (Head Gardener)

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