Head Gardener's Notes
Our Gardens in October: Blooms and Maintenance
10th of Oct, 2022
Already in bloom
Blue & Yellow Border: Still showing good colour and form.
Jubilee Walk: Still abundant colour which should last well into October if we have no frost! Includes asters, chrysanthemums, salvias, dahlias and rudbeckias.
George Carter Walk: Caryopteris, salvia, erigeron and rosehips
Early Autumn Colour - leaves are starting to turn with spectacular results:
Acers: Church Terrace and Paved Garden
Tulip tree: Stableyard
Peonies: Peony Border
Virginia creeper: Flag Garden wall
Later Autumn Colour: watch out for colour change to start:
Gingko Biloba: South Lawn
Vine (Vitis coignetiae): the Pavilion in the Nut Garden
This has been the first full season of our new drip irrigation system being in place and what we witnessed through the drought was that although plants didn't flower, the irrigation system meant that they didn't die. Providing an 80% reduction in water use, this system has proved so successful that we will be looking to expand it to other areas of the Gardens. A second electric mower has just been ordered for the Gardens, meaning all our 'walk-behind' mowers will now be electric - good for the environment, for our gardeners, and for our visitors! You will notice that the Horsepond, next to the Lime Walk, is almost empty. This man-made pond is fed using a syphon from the spring-fed Lancup Well in the Parkland - during the recent drought an environmentally-conscious decision was taken to close the syphon for the time being.
You will notice during your walk through the Gardens that our apples are now ready for picking. After a significant cut back in the previous two years that saw many old and dying trees removed, it’s fantastic to see so much fruit on the trees this year. Apples were one of the first fruit trees grown at Penshurst Place when Henry Sidney created the walled design in the 1560s as a means of protecting them, and we have grown them ever since. You are most welcome to collect any tasty looking windfalls from the floor surrounding the trees, but please leave any fruit still on the trees as these will be picked and stored for use in our kitchens. Not to mention improper picking methods can damage our trees.
The fish in Diana's Bath and the Italian Garden pond start to need a helping hand from us at this time of year, in the form of topping up their food. The water supply in both of these ponds is fed from Lancup Well in the Parkland, and as autumn settles in, so the amount of natural food that filters down in the water reduces.
Garden Work this October
This month we're collecting seed from non-proprietary plants (those that have not been awarded patents), with the intention of making them available for sale in the Plant Centre at a later date. Some of the spent flowerheads will be left for structure but will be cut back by Christmas in time for our annual mulching. We'll also be dividing some of the herbaceous plants - now is a good time to do this whilst the soil is still warm but not too wet..
We'll be carrying out major, detailed, hand-weeding in the Italian Garden. Timing for weeding around the roses is crucial to avoid damaging the tulip bulbs planted between them. Areas of the box hedging that were already stressed by box blight have now died off due to the recent drought and will need to be removed. When weather conditions are correct (dry and still), the solid beds at the far end of the Italian Garden will be opened up in the same way as the beds nearer the House were opened last winter. The solid beds act as a repository for box blight and opening them up means treatment can be applied all around the remaining plants. The beds will remain empty for at least a full season before being planted with displays of annual plants in shades of pink and white. Interestingly this is a return to tradition, as records and historical pictures show that all the beds were open prior to 1945.
We've started on the annual hedge-cutting of the yew hedges that divide the Garden into its unique 'rooms'. With just over a mile of hedges to be cut, this will be one of our major maintenance tasks this month!
We're seeing a lot of seasonal dysfunction throughout the Gardens, with plants reacting differently to expectations and so it's quite possible that we'll see things we shouldn't be seeing - for example, last year we had roses flowering in winter! The 'Tall Story' roses in front of the Baron's Hall are still flowering and so only half of the normal winter reduction has been carried out. The reduction will need to be finished after the final flowering as this variety stands particularly high and is thus vulnerable to wind-rock. For the same reason the 'MacMillan Nurse' standard roses and the climbing roses in the Rose Garden, plus the roses in the Nut Garden, will all have any long 'leaders' cut back.
The Nut Garden
Grass in the Nut Garden has been left uncut for as long as possible to provide habitats for wildlife, but we will be cutting it this month to ensure the best possible growing conditions for the spring bulbs planted throughout the area. We'll also be carrying out repairs and replacements to the pergola, using chestnut taken from our surrounding Estate. This natural structure is a favourite with our resident green woodpeckers, greater spotted woodpeckers and nuthatches, in their search for food, as the numerous holes and grooves prove! The trellis between the Nut Garden and the Orchard will be shortened to allow mown pathways to align better - this will necessitate a wisteria and a honeysuckle being moved, possibly to the area at the bottom of Lime Walk, once they are fully dormant.