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Pictures and Snippets – April 2023


I now have four weeks left until the very first group of people are due to visit the garden under the NGS.

The weather has not been on my side. It continues to rain frequently, keeping me off the lower parts and the temperature is cold, subduing plant growth and seed germination especially. The annuals are going to be “weeklies” and I suddenly have to make a “short talk” about the garden that isn’t going to bore people to tears.

The patio is a mess and hasn’t been pressure-washed yet. The large tubs of Cannas that go beside the front door haven’t been split and the pots of Zantedeschia haven’t re-emerged and smell as though they’ve been used as a urinal by the foxes. We’re out of time to cut the hedges.

The borders haven’t even been edged. Nothing has been planted out, there are still glaring gaps.

I could go on and on with the list of shoulda-coulda-woulda, but I think you get the picture.

Instead of fixating on all that though, I took a few pictures recently while racing around the garden and have some snippets to go with them that will satisfy my very scattered, “scatter brain”.

Prunus Serrula – Tibetan Cherry

The Tibetan Cherry looks better every year. I meticulously pruned and shaped it in its early years, taking out spindly growth and exposing long bare branches to show off the best of the bark. I think it’s paid dividends in how it looks now. The tree is a lovely spreading dome shape that casts a dappled shade. The canopy is airy and light and there’s no congestion with the branches. The richly coloured peeling bark gleams in the sunshine and I haven’t even polished it yet (or ever)!

Bark chip paths and Landing Pad all topped up

It took three bulk bags of wood chips to top up all the wood chip paths in the garden. One entire bag was simply “lost” in the Landing Pad. The birds are having a fantastic time turfing out the chips into the borders and just generally making a mess and being a nuisance. Wildlife, eh? Of course, this also means that for the first time in many years, the front drive is clear and will remain clear as I don’t need any more material this season – especially after sorting out the compost heap.

The almost-finished re-done Compost Heap area at the back of the garden

Before the weather turned (again) I managed to finish decanting the contents of the old compost heap into bulk bags. All remnants of the old heap are gone. While the stark white of these bags is a bit garish, I do plan to get some willow or wicker screening to go around the bags to make them blend in a little more. I separated the material into “fresh” stuff, “cooking” and “done” to make it much easier to get to the compost I need (no more digging down through layers of rotting material and goodness knows what).

I expanded the bark chip path that runs along the back outwards to go around the sides of these bags and gracefully repurposed the old cast iron drain pipe as a retaining step (as you do). I’m very happy with the result and I hope it lasts longer than the old heap did.

As a final touch, we have some halloween bones and a headstone that I’ll put in the bags to equally amuse and terrify visitors on Open Days.

Rosa Kiftsgate slowly filling the Birch (right)

After several years, the Kiftsgate Rose is gradually filling the inside of the neighbour’s birch it’s grown into (right of the centre pine trunk). It’s difficult to see in the picture but all the green in the birch is the rose, as the trees are not out yet. Once you see a section of it, you can notice all the rest and how it seems to have filled the interior of the tree. The rose is still very flower shy, we keep hoping that it will suddenly burst into full flower one year but it hasn’t happened yet and it’s too early to tell if this year will be the year it does. Even if it is not, it is becoming rather large, rivalling even the Banksiae rose for size.

Kiftsgate is a rose that you use to hide aircraft hangers and hydroelectric generation projects. Despite ours filling one tree, it’s still considered “small” in the scheme of things. It will happily grow into the chestnut next to it and the beech tree behind it. Though it has taken years to get to just this current size, it is growing in one of the driest, poorest areas in the garden, and under a mature Scots Pine – very challenging indeed. The mass of green between the two sheds is a honeysuckle that has established surprisingly well for the conditions it needs to cope with. There is an arch under there, somewhere. I’ve printed a “Please Duck” sign.

The Garden is too wet to garden

It has been a month of “April Showers” and water often pools along the border edges. The wet ground keeps me off all but the upper parts of the garden. Handling cold, wet, claggy clay soil that sticks to gloves and tools is misery and makes everything much more difficult and tedious. It takes quite a while for the garden to dry out to the point it doesn’t squelch, I guess I won’t be complaining so much about it in late summer when we’ve had no rain for weeks on end and I’m struggling to keep plants from crisping up in relentless heat.

Ornamental Cherry and Daffodils

It’s going to be a spectacular year for the ornamental cherry. The pigeons haven’t stripped it this year and so it will have its full complement of blossom. The cold conditions have slowed it a little but there’s no doubt that it is only matter of days now. When we first inherited the cherry it seemed to flower OK, but grew slowly with a sparse leaf canopy and dying sections – basically it was looking its age and I was honestly thinking we were going to loose it (hence we planted another for the succession). It’s funny how creating a large border over half its root run and dumping several tons of new compost and manure along with literally buckets of fertiliser over the top has given it a new lease of life.

So there you have a quick race around the garden as it is right now, with four weeks to go before the first visitors. There’s a huge amount to do, and a lot will change in that time too. The sense of panic, though, probably won’t.

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author & gardener

Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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Wendy 23/04/2023 - 7:38 pm

Hi Sunil
When you cease to be concerned and feel panicky over the jobs still to be done, that will be the time to stop gardening, as that would mean you have lost interest and don’t care! I found the pictures of your garden interesting to look at, and there will be a lot more to see in four weeks time. With the edges of the grass trimmed for neatness, I still think there is enough to interest visitors. Any true gardener knows that the weather is a challenge and it’s been a very slow spring. So don’t beat yourself up too much.

I smiled at your description of the disturbed bark chippings. I too have bark chippings on all the exposed soil surfaces and every morning I have to take a wander round and kick back into place all the chippings that the blackbirds have flung hither and thither in their quest for dinner!

Excuse the long reply but I have been reminded of something by the picture of your beautiful cherry tree. When I was about 10 I lived on a farm and in one of the fields there was a cherry tree similar to yours. It was quite distant from the farm buildings so I think it must have self-seeded at some point. It was about the same size as yours. There were cows in this field most of the time and the cows had repeatedly used the tree as a scratching post. After years of this constant rubbing, the bark on one side had been polished to a smooth, glossy patina and glowed a rich, shiny reddish colour. I will never forget that sight. Thanks for the reminder.

Sunil 27/04/2023 - 11:10 am

Hello Wendy, that’s a good line to remember – that when I can’t care anymore is when I should be worried. Despite the continually overcast skies the garden does seem to be picking up speed. They cherry is very special and is particularly good this year. I love to sit under it and have the petals rain down. I time cutting the grass so I can leave a large pink circle of blossom petals around the tree as they fall. It’s a shame it will be over by the time the first group visit comes. I’m wondering if I should have a special “Hanami Party” open day with the NGS just for that – perhaps when the second cherry matures in a few years from now (at the rate its growing). I’m glad the Tibetan cherry took you back, it funny how the brain works like that. While there’s little blossom and the leaves are just a mid-green, it’s shape and the way the bark gleams in sunlight is unmatched anywhere else in the garden.


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