Benington Lordship Gardens

Gardener's Diary - January 2010

To view 2009 entries click here.

The long spell of very cold weather has held back the Snowdrops by several weeks, most of the varieties are only just starting to appear through the layer of leaf mould spread over the beds before Christmas. The relandscaping of the Rock Garden is almost complete with the addition of a new path, steps and bridge, planting around the pools will be changed over the next few months.


Nature Notes
Woodpeckers have started their territorial drumming this month & several Barn Owls have been seen hunting over grassland around the estate, the bird feeders in the walled garden have been very busy with large Tit flocks eating their way through lots of Black Sunflower seeds.

The photos below are a Robin, Galanthus "Washfield Colesbourne", gracilis "Highdown" and the Snowdrop Walk.


 

Gardener's Diary - February 2010

Unfortunately the continued bad weather held the Snowdrops back by many weeks and it wasn't until the end of our openings that they were at their best, the sun finally appearing on the first day we were closed.

The landscaping in the Rock Garden was finished at the beginning of the month including installing the new bridge. New plantings will be completed by Easter.

Nature Notes
The brief warm spell at the end of the month saw the first signs of spring with Buzzards and Dunnocks starting to display and a few Frogs and oads starting to move to the lakes.

The photos below are a Galanthus "Blewbury Tart", plicatus "Diggory", "Wasp" and a view of the end of the moat.


 

Gardener's Diary - March 2010

After the thaw much of the month was spent catching up with work in the kitchen garden, double digging the raised beds and completing work on the new area being used as a Snowdrop Nursery. More bulbs have been potted to continue with the Twin-csaling during the summer.

Early veg has been sown under fleece covers after keeping the beds covered with plastic for a few weeks.

Nature Notes
Blackcap and Chiffchaff were the first spring migrants to be heard singing in the middle of the month, Red Kite & Buzzards have been seen regularly around the park and garden.

The photos below include the Snowdrop walk, Rock Garden and Courtyard.


 

Gardener's Diary - April 2010

As with previous springs this month was warm and dry, all the formal lawns have been treated with Weed,Feed & Moss killer, the recently landscaped Rock Garden has been planted with a mix of Herbaceous plants and Ferns around the pools, unfortunately the dry spell has meant the grass seed put down has germinated poorly so it will be resown in the Autumn.

A long narrow bed below the Rose Garden is being widened and replanted along with new plantings by the front of the house..

Nature Notes
The warm weather marked the return of our Swallows which were unusually early although the Martins which nest on the house were later. There was also a noticable increase in the number of early Butterflies incluing Orange Tip and Brimstone.

The photos below include the Rose Garden, Rock Garden and Smilacina Racemosa.


 

Gardener's Diary - May 2010

The continued dry weather has left a slightly calmer May than normal but also meant a lot of time spent watering vegetables and new plantings. Most of the raised beds in the Kitchen Garden are sown/planted by the second bank holiday although some early vegetables did get hit by some quite severe frosts. The Chilli plants for our Festival in August arrived at the end of the month, raised by a commercial grower they are delivered in 1 litre plugs and potted into 2 litre pots.

Planting along the front of the house has been finished, some well established shrubs did suffer in the last big freeze, although when cut down a few looked dead they have started to produce signs of new shoots.

Nature Notes
The Barn Owls on the estate are sitting on eggs in one of two sites, Young Tawny Owls were out of the nest by the middle of the month & there were very good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers, for the first time in many years Great Spotted Woodpeckers have nested in the Orchard and spend most of their time on the nearby feeders.

The photos below include Spotted Flycatcher, G S Woodpecker, Young Tawny Owl and the Herbaceous Border..


 

Gardener's Diary - June 2010

A very busy month with the combination of long spells of hot weather and occasional heavy rain, the Chilli plants have all doubled in size in the ideal sunny conditions & a few fruits are already starting to turn, many plants have to be moved outside to make room in the tunnel & greenhouse.

The Herbaceous borders often look their best in early June with masses of colour and fresh growth, by the end of the month dead heading has already started but weeding eases off as the plants smother the ground. Long grass cutting has started later this year due to the hard winter which meant a later season for the Snowdrops & Narcissus, all grass cutting had to stop when the annual exodus of tiny frogs occurs & the lawns are covered in them for several weeks,

Nature Notes
Unfortunately one pair of Spotted Fkycatchers had their nest predated, probably by a squirrel but it is early enough for them to try again, Turtle Doves arrived at the end of June & the Red Kite continues to hunt regulalrly over the garden and park. The hot weather has meant very good numbers of Damselflies and Dragonflies & our Bee Orchid discovered last year produced two spikes.

The photos below include Spotted Flycatcher, Bee Orchid, Privet Hawk Moth and the Rose Garden..


 

Gardener's Diary - July 2010

With the long dry spell continuing all the long grass around the garden is cut this month with the exception of the bottom pond which is maintained as a wildlife area, the late spring did man this hard to start later than usual due to the delay in bulb foliage dying back. Hedge cutting also starts in July with the many Yews taking several weeks to complete. .

In the Kitchen Garden the winter sown Broad Beans have made way for Leeks & there are successional sowings of Salad, Beetroot & maincrop carrots, a pupose built cage has meant very good Brassicas this year with very fine netting to keep Pigeons and Butterflies out.

Nature Notes
The spotted Flycatchers eventually managed to raise three broods, Butterfly numbers are up this year and there was a first sighting of a Silver-Washed Fritillary in the gardens.

The photos below are Silver-washed Fratillary, Comma, Red Admiral and Phlox paniculata "Harlequin".


 

Gardener's Diary - August 2010

This years Chilli Festival was a great success despite the wind and heavy showers, luckily the very heavy rain stopped just in time and the greener lawns coped well with the trampling of thousands of visitors. Tthe warm & wet weather led to the usual explosion of grass and weed growth not usually expected in August so the hedge cutting is now a few weeks behind schedule.

In the Kitchen Garden the Leeks have grown well and the Sweetcorn is just about ready after being battered by strong winds, the onions will be lifted and stored next month, the later sown veg is doing well due to the cooler, wetter spell..

Nature Notes
The low water level on the bottom pond attracted a Green Sandpiper for several days feeding on the exposed mud, this is a very unusual late summer visitor for the gardens,two Ravens were seen regularly for much of the month, we presume they are youngsters, A curlew was also seen flying over later one afternoon.

The photos below are from this years Festival.


 

Gardener's Diary - September 2010

The Yew hedges are almost finished and the first signs of Autumn are appearing with Crataegus and Liquidamber already in full colour.

In the Kitchen Garden the Onions have been harvested and set out in the greenhouse to dry before being stored, much of the summer veg and cut cut flowers have stopped producing, the raised beds will be cleared next month so digging can start.

Nature Notes
Two Ravens were regular visitors to the gardens for much of the month, flocks of House Martins and Swallows have more or less stopped going through, A female Sparrowhawk has been very busy picking off Wood Pigeons leaving piles of feathers all over the garden..

The photos below are Fly Agaric, Dahlia, Rudbeckia speciosa & Weigela florida.


 

Gardener's Diary - October 2010

The Autumn colour has been particularly good this year and noticably early, the milder conditions has meant grass cutting has yet to slow down. All the large clumps of Iris in the Rose Garden have been lifted and replanted plus a few new clumps added to the beds.

In the Kitchen Garden many of the beds with summer crops have been cleared, Autumn sown Broad Beans have replaced Runners and courgettes, the empty beds will be dug adding plenty of manure before December. The Autumn Snowdrops flowered very well but without their leaves always look a little out of place.

Nature Notes
The Winter thrushes arrived early this year in good numbers, with masses of Redwings and smaller flocks of Fieldfares, also good numbers of Siskin, Brambling and occasional Lesser Redpoll, the highlight of the month was four Crossbills being seen feeding in a Spruce, one a very bright orange male. The Two Ravens are still seen regularly in the garden and park.

The photos below are Rhus typhina, Galanthus reginae-olgae, Nerines & Eupatorium ligustrinum.


 

Gardener's Diary - November 2010

Most of this month has been spent clearing leaves and cutting back borders, planting this Autumn included new Yews, several specimen trees and Box, a few small areas of lawn have been changed with turf including some patching after a few areas failed to recover from the dry spring and Chilli Festival.

At the end of the month we were hit by another fall of snow.

Nature Notes
The hard waether at the end of the month bought in more birds stripping the berries of the many trees in and around the garden, there were also several sightings of Woodcock.

The photos below are of the November Snow.


 

Gardener's Diary - December 2010

The coldest December for 100 years has put a lot of work back with the garden either frozen solid or covered in snow for most of the month, the herbaceous borders were mostly cut down but mulching was postponed until the new year when the ground has thawed, leaves in the moat were cleared just before the snow although one bank has been left to let the Snowdrops grow through the leaf litter.

Late sown Broad Beans & Spinach Beet survived under fleece but the Leeks were looking very poor at the end of the month.

Nature Notes A large flock of Siskins were seen feeding in the Alders around the lake during the hard weather, there were regular sightings of Red Kite and Raven and a Water Pipit was found in the park feeding around the base of large Oaks.

The photos below are of the severe frosts and sunset.