Wednesday, 14 March 2007

This is such a busy time of year in the walled garden with so much to do getting it ready for visitors and propagating plants for sale. The picture shows part of the wooden, white painted greenhouse, daffodils blooming under the glass and rows of young herbs enjoying this week's sunshine. Original Victorian cast iron grilles make a decorative walkway, the little green leaves of mind-your-own-business growing up between their fretwork. Against the white wall, the pink-flowered nectarine is in bloom, buds are about to burst on the yellow Rosa banksiae and the heavenly rosemary 'Tuscan Blue' is covered in rich blue flowers.

Sitting having a lunch break, we are aware of the great variety of bird song. The old walls, ivy, shrubs and roses provide numerous nest sites and every day there is some little incident that I cherish; today it was having to encourage a robin to leave the tunnel before I lowered the netting, yesterday watching a goldcrest picking its jerky way along the espalier apples just a yard away from me.

I spent the afternoon cutting down the Verbena bonariensis in the two large formal beds. It was a wonderful fuzz of purple in late summer and autumn, much admired by visitors who had not seen it grown en masse before. I am so used to the idea that it might not survive up here in Northumberland, that I leave it until now to prune it back, but after such a mild winter, I wonder if I should actually bother to give it special treatment and cut it down with all the other perennials in the autumn. It does seed itself freely so I will no doubt have lots of seedlings to transplant into the borders if there are any gaps. I keep the large herbaceous borders cram full of ebullience; this helps to keep the soil moist and gives the naturalistic planting for which the garden is known.

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