Head Gardener's Notes
Our Gardens in September: Blooms and Maintenance
1st of Sep, 2022
Visit Soon to See
- Apples in the Orchard (help yourself to windfalls but please leave the fruit that’s still on the tree, on the tree!)
- Wisteria second bloom
- Water Lilles
- Jubilee Walk colour (should last well into early October if we have no frost!)
- Asters on Jubilee Walk
- Early Autumn Colour
- Roses second bloom
- Jubilee Walk Chrysanthemums
To Bloom Later this Month
- Autumn Colour
- Asters in the Grey and White Garden
September is a reflective month in the Gardens as the bright summer colour begins to subdue, and golden mornings, autumn colour and cooler temperatures sweep the grounds and harvest time is in the air. There is still plenty of colour in the Gardens, most notably on the Jubilee Walk where our hardy Dahlias are a particular triumph this month. Now the drought is subsiding we have been able to begin managing the grass again, returning the Gardens to their formal appearance.
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 1560’s as a means to protect 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 where they are as these will be picked and stored for use in our kitchens. Not to mention improper picking methods can damage our trees.
We try to store our apples for as long as we can to use throughout the winter season. The best way to do this at home if you happen to have any apple trees, or simply to prolong the life of your shop-bought apples is ensure the apples you store are clean and blemish free, before wrapping them individually in paper (newspaper works well) and placing them on a rack for ample air circulation in a cool dark place.
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Impacts of The Drought
This year’s drought saw us record the highest temperature ever in the Gardens, at a massive 42c. This is due in part to the walled nature of the grounds incubating the heat. In many areas of the Gardens we won’t see the impact of this year’s drought for a year or more, so whilst we’re thrilled to be able to cut the grass again and see it begin to thrive in the cooler temperatures, the future of some of our older trees is not so certain. As they grow so slowly and go dormant in extreme weather, we will need to be patient to see the affect of this year’s lack of water on their future growth and health.
Elsewhere in the Gardens, we’ve noticed the Roses are showing more stress with some varieties suffering from grey mould. Roses need moisture to fight this mould and the hot air and dry soil has meant they haven’t had their usual resources to hand.
In the Italian Garden the box hedging is now particularly stressed as the box blight that we were already fighting off, has been further exacerbated by the lack of moisture.
Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
This month we’re restocking the Gardens with Spring flowering bulbs ready for their bloom in 2023. These include:
- Tulip “Mascara” on Church Terrace and Jubilee Walk
- 300 daffodils in various varieties to go in the planters and Orchard
which will be joining our regular Spring blooms such as snowdrops and crocuses.
The lavender in all the Gardens will soon be pruned ready for next year, to be joined by the Wisteria which we are waiting to do after its second flush is over.
On the Jubilee Walk we will be adding to and bulking out the Dahlia display ready for next year. Dahlia’s are a great plant to include in the border owing to the variety of size, colour and pattern we can source them in, not to mention that they’re a rather hardy plant and ensure longevity of colour.
We will be spraying the peonies with a copper-derived spray to control the wilt, which is a great alternative to hardy chemicals. If you’re looking after peonies in your gardens, remember they don’t need lots of food, but do need a decent amount of water! As such, we will soon be expanding our irrigation system to this border to help keep the peonies hydrated ready for next year’s display.
Tradition states that an apple tree is properly thinned out when one can throw one’s hat through it without it getting stuck on any of the branches! Whilst our trees aren’t quite this thinned out, we will be working on thinning on a number of the branches this September.
This year we will also be adding to the flowers that grow in the grasses around the trees. Ordinarily these include yellow rattle, vetch, moon daisies, snowdrops and daffodils, but next year you’ll be able to enjoy bright red poppies too.
This mini meadow is one of the more informal areas of our Gardens and we know our visitors enjoy seeing the informal display of flowers that grow there. Most truly wild meadows take hundreds of years to establish, and as our Gardens have already been around for over 6 centuries, those sorts of time scales are very familiar to us!
Clearing the Ponds
We regularly clear the ponds of weed, though we have to do it more frequently in the warmer months. If during your visit you spot a pile of weed on the side of the ponds and wonder why it’s not been cleared, allow me to assure you it has been intentionally left. When we remove the weed, ideally we like to leave it, so that any invertebrates who have been accidentally scooped up with it have time to return to the ponds before we compost it.