Hedge-cutting season is in full swing, and my team and I are working hard on the formal hedges that dress up the Hilltop Garden around the informal plantings. Their structures add a formal backdrop to the beautiful David Austin Roses that continue to flower all summer in the modern rose garden.
Surrounding the mixed borders, they partition the different colour-themed bays beautifully with their deep green structural shades.
Last year we hard-pruned the front of each section, as they had started to encroach on the grass beyond the mowing strip, and now after one year they have started to fill in the bare ends with fresh green foliage. Next year, no one will ever have thought that we had done this.
New Zealand Garden
More recently, my team and I have taken on an extra area to maintain, and so I find myself with new challenges. The New Zealand Garden that sits on the west side of the hilltop garden has a very different feel to the rest of the hilltop. It has a range of plants that are relatively new to me – unusual shrubs and perennials, cascades of grasses that weave themselves in and out of the shrubby plantings, and large trees creating some much-needed shade here and there.
So with this new area I find myself as I once did in the Hilltop Garden many years ago learning a whole variety of new plant names. It has benefitted me to assist the plant records officer with placing her newly made labels out in the area, so that I can see just what I have inherited.
Watering has been a constant challenge this summer, and I would be lying if I said that we hadn’t had some issues with the lack of rain. No matter how many sprinklers we put on, the inevitable has happened and we have lost a few plants here and there. The soil is clay-based and has started showing real signs of stress, opening up and exposing plant roots.
Of course when I talk about watering, the average visitor won’t know that we have our own reservoir, which is filled by rain water during the winter months, holds 10 million gallons of water, and pumps up all we need into two tanks at the top of the hill, which gets distributed around the pipes in the entire garden. We can then plug into them and water as often as we like so we don’t need to waste mains water. But it also comes with its own problems – if everyone tries to water the pressure drops, and at times the odd digger has broken a pipe and caused a very high water fountain.
The late-summer colour is doing its best to impress, and our staff and volunteers are working hard in the heat to keep everything neat, tidy and well behaved. One of the plants we are most often asked about is the Campsis grandiflora on the side the house. It grows vigorously each year and produces the loveliest orange trumpet flowers in the full sun of the Farmhouse Garden reaching as high as the roof and more.
The borders in that area are also performing well, benefitting from the addition of organic matter that we dug deeply into the beds last spring. The plants are more lush, vigorous and showy because of our efforts. Plus, I have been watering them throughout the night once a week with small, gentle sprinklers. During this heat this area will suffer, never having a break from the intense sun.
Come and visit us soon, and see what the late summer and autumn colour has yet to offer.