Category Archives: Winter interest

Workin’ On The Wild Side

Every February the garden team escapes from the lawns and borders of the formal garden and heads off into the woods and the wild garden to coppice hazel (Corylus avellana). Ditching secateurs and spades we take up pruning saws and loppers to cut hundreds of pea-sticks which we’ll use as plant supports in our garden borders; hazel  branches are the ideal material .

Volunteer Wendy cutting pea-sticks

Volunteer Wendy cutting pea-sticks

So how do we coppice a pea-stick? Coppicing is a traditional term for cutting a tree or shrub down to ground level, or a low framework, in order to let the plant re-generate. The branches are naturally fan-shaped and with a little pruning to size are perfect for peas to grow through, hence the name, but can also be used as natural plant supports for tall annual and perennial plants in the border. Look-out for future blogs where you will see us placing the pea-sticks in the borders.

 Wendy with freshly cut pea-stick

Wendy with freshly cut pea-stick

This year we have the benefit of a new battery-powered chainsaw. This is much less noisy than a petrol chainsaw and less disruptive to the tranquility of the woodland setting so much so that while we were there we enjoyed the cries of two buzzards circling overhead and the occasional rat-a-tat-tat-ing of a woodpecker. 

The chainsaw doesn’t use forest fuels or emit any fumes and in future we’re hoping to re-charge it with solar panels as we already do with our battery-powered hedge-trimmers. . Nor is there any waste created because any material the Garden Team cannot use as  pea-sticks will be taken up by the Woods Team to make all manner of products in their workshop. Woodland products are available to buy from the Plant Centre all year round and surplus pea-sticks  are available from spring onwards.

Coppicing Hazel with a battery powered chainsaw.

Coppicing Hazel with a battery powered chainsaw.

Another benefit of coppicing is that it lets light into the forest floor providing an opportunity for our native flora to flourish. You can expect to see primroses (Primula vulgaris), celandine (Ficaria verna), wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) and our coveted English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) re-colonise the ground as the hazel re-generates. It’ll be at least seven years before we return to this same spot in the woods to repeat the cycle.

Rest and recuperation for staff and volunteers.

Rest and recuperation for staff and volunteers.

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Filed under Botany, Garden History, Garden jobs, Plants and Planting, Winter interest

Seven Wonders of Winter

Seven Wonders of Winter

You would be mistaken to think that winter holds little interest in the garden. As described in our previous blog there is much to grab your attention. Here are seven specific plants that are wonderful in the winter and can be seen at Nymans this February.

 

Winter wonder 1

Parrotia perscia

Parrotia perscia

Parrotia perscia is an elegant tree with steely grey branches that bare blood red flowers on bare stems in the depth of winter. You do however have to search these flowers out as they are not immediately obvious. They say good things come in small packages, and yes these little flowers are truly delightful.

 

Winter wonder 2

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum is a true stalwart of the winter garden. They have reflexed petals ranging from deep carmine to pure white, all with a dark purple blotch at their base. The leaves vary in shape and mottling to create a marble effect of pewters, silvers and gem like greens. They are a vision on a frosty morning peeping through a crispy frost to warm your spirits.

 

Winter wonder 3

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’

Camellia ‘Maud Messel’ is currently in full flower with its pink semi double flowers that have a centre of golden yellow stamens; this is set off by rich deep green foliage. It is a wonderful surprise as you exit the forecourt garden that Maud herself originally designed back in the 1920s.

 

Winter wonder 4

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’, it is not surprising that ‘Pallida’ is the most popular Witch Hazel with its profusion of wonderfully scented spidery sulphur yellow flowers borne on bare stems. Its flowers have an iridescent glow on a bleak winter’s day that is a sight to behold.

 

Winter wonder 5

Libertia peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans has fans of sword like leaves with a prominent orange midrib that set the borders a light. They originate from down under and bring a taste of the Antipodean to Nymans. Outside of winter they have saucer shaped white flowers and orange seed capsules.

 

Winter wonder 6

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has upright stems and graceful arching foliage; it is a grass that adds grace and stature to the winter garden. The cream and green foliage, together with pinkish inflorescences of summer, dry to golden hues in the winter sun.

 

Winter wonder 7

Tilia x europa

Tilia x europa

Tilia x europa, these stately Lime trees are situated on our east drive as you approach the burnt out ruins of the house. In the low sun they create great atmosphere with their long shadows and deeply fluted trunks. Nymans is all about drama and atmosphere and these grand old trees encapsulate that vision perfectly on a distinctly chilly February morning.

 

Why not visit us at Nymans to see these seven wonders? If you are having trouble finding any like the small blood red flowers of the Parrotia percsia just ask a gardener and we will pleased to point you in the right direction.

 

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Structure, Stems, Seedheads and Scent

Winter! A difficult season for us gardeners. Shortened days, cold weather and lots of tidying. A time of year when it’s easy to miss the beauty of the garden whilst scurrying around wrapped up like an eskimo trying to keep warm. You have to look closely to see the beauty of the garden in winter – it’s all in the detail. 

The bones of the garden really become apparent at this time of year; you start to fully appreciate the Messel family’s design of the garden. Structural hedging and tree placements come into their own, the pivotal nature of the cedar of Lebanon as a key view point down the central axis of the garden becomes a prominent feature.

Morning sunrise behind the Cedrus libani

Morning sunrise behind the Cedrus libani

We have a plethora of hedging around the garden which frames views and vistas as well as defining areas. These are enhanced with a light frost or flurry of snow and some winter sun showing the clean lines us gardeners aim to achieve throughout the hedge cutting season.

Light snow enhances the structure of the Toleberone hedging

Light snow enhances the structure of the Toblerone hedging

The cutting down of the summer borders allows the walled garden to be viewed as whole with the awakening of the bulbs brave enough to face the cold weather as they break through the frosty ground preparing themselves for our Spring display.

Galanthus coming up in the Walled Garden

Galanthus coming up in the Walled Garden

The bold planting of the many Cornus stems are a bright cheery burst of colour with the winter sun shining behind them at an otherwise dull time of year.

Cornus 'Midwinter Fire'

Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’

The many other stems around the garden which are often overlooked when there is abundance of other things to see are worth hunting out. The attractive peeling papery chestnut bark of the Acer griseum, the snakebark stripes of the Acer davidii, the shining white bark of the Betula utilis var ‘Jaqumontii’, and the beautiful shiny peeling bark of the Prunus serrula. Winter is their moment to shine and shout ‘look at me’.

Acer griseum

Acer griseum

Seedheads left up over winter bring a structural accent to borders as well as providing a much needed habitat for the bugs and food for birds. Compliment these with ornamental grasses and it will provide some much needed winter interest to any garden.

seedheads

photo

Wafts of scented Daphne bhoula, Sarcococca confusa and Lonicera fragrantissima float on the breeze whilst walking around the garden; these heavy scents are typical of winter flowering plants trying to attract as many pollinators as possible at a time when they are at a low. A slightly more unusual winter scented plant to try in your garden would be Osmanthus delavayi ‘Pearly Gates’

Osmanthus delavayi ‘Pearly Gates’

Osmanthus delavayi ‘Pearly Gates’

When next having a winter walk around Nymans look out for the four winter S’s and appreciate the more subtle tones of winter.

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Filed under Garden jobs, Plants and Planting, Winter interest