This Week from Norfolk School of Gardening - Rabbits & Loam

This Week from Norfolk School of Gardening - Rabbits & Loam

Ruth tells the latest from Ketteringham Hall - rabbits, Rhino raised beds and loam.

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This week has been taken up with lifting more turf to create beds for cut flowers, and to level the area around the greenhouse. As you may imagine, with such a large area to cultivate, our loam stack is growing fast as we add more turf to it daily. Within a few months it will have transformed into a lovely source of top soil, but in the meantime we are considering how we could create further loam stacks elsewhere in the Walled Garden which would become permanent features. We may, for example, create a semi circle around the garden throne which would become a grassy bank to sit on. Watch this space!

The newly levelled area around the greenhouse is in preparation for some coldframes from Rhino Greenhouses which will extend our protected growing options and give us an important area for propagation later in the year. Rhino delivered some wonderful raised beds this week which are now being filled and will be planted up next week. They are powdered coated steel, so will outlast most timber raised beds, and they are the same colour as the greenhouse so we are rather pleased with the overall effect. There are photos on Facebook and Instagram if you are interested.

Our other preoccupation this week has been with various pests. Blackfly have appeared on the cardoons and broad beans. We are giving them the garlic spray treatment on the cardoons. The best technique for the broad beans is to pinch out the top growth before the blackfly arrive as they prefer the new growth. It’s not too late if they are already there, along with the ants which milk them for the honeydew they secrete. Pinching out the tops will improve pod size, and the tops are delicious steamed and buttered.

A few rabbits seem to have made their way into the Walled Garden. We don’t think they live there, but they must have been coming in at night to feast on our new plants. So we have secured the one gate which was not rabbit proof, and we have put netting around a small pear tree which they had been munching. Sadly they seem to have completely destroyed the second pear we planted at the same time. We have also needed to protect plants from pigeons. They have stripped the winter kale in the brassica raised bed, so we have built a lightweight frame covered with fruit cage netting, and the kale is already recovering.

Don’t forget we have a stand at the Royal Norfolk Show in the Horticultural Area marquee. If you are planning to be there do come and see us. We would love to meet you and will be giving away a free course to someone who can identify 10 plants correctly (common names or botanical latin accepted!).

Courses with availability in the next month:

Happy Houseplants 29th June (includes a macramé plant holder workshop)
Better Borders 5th July
Planting for Year Round Colour12th July
Floristry Day with Sarah Hammond of English Peonies 13th July

Plant of the Week

Dianthus barbatus

Dianthus barbatus

Dianthus barbatus is commonly known as Sweet William. There are many stories to explain the origin of the common name. It could be named after William Shakespeare, St William of York or William the Conqueror. Sweet William is a favourite name for lovelorn young men in English folkloric ballads and when the Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011 she included Sweet William in her bouquet as a tribute to her bridegroom.

Whatever the origin of the name, Sweet William is a popular perennial plant in informal, cottage style gardens. It self seeds and spreads easily and is also a very useful cut flower which can often be found for sale outside garden gates around the county at this time of year. It is easy to grow, will flower in a range of pinks, reds and white, and butterflies, bees and other pollinators love the colourful, fragrant member of the carnation family as much as many of us.

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