Wednesday 27 November 2013
Agapanthus seed heads in the Sunk Garden. These are as stunning as when they were in flower.
The Red Hand has been planted up with Cheiranthus Vulcan, crimson, and two different red tulips – Tulip praestans Bloemenlust and Unicum. These were all placed very precisely by Louise, which can take hours of work and volunteers helped to plant them. I am always tempted to plant a white tulip at the tip of each finger of the Hand to see what it would look like with finger-nails but this should not be the thinking of a Mount Stewart garden volunteer. Jonathan, always determined that we won’t get bored, had various jobs lined up. Working on the West Terrace we were digging hundreds of shoots from the four bay trees, cutting down all the summer growth of perennials on the pergola, raking leaves, weeding and generally giving it all it’s winter clear out. Then up to the nursery to prune about 60 rose bushes which had been donated by the company filming Dracula in the Spanish Garden in the summer. This is a random mix of very healthy roses so it is quite difficult to decide where to plant them when the colour is unknown.
A very mild no-coat day with lots of visitors making the most of a dry day.
Wednesday 13 November 2013
Jonathan and Alan directing operations in the Lily Wood
This may not be the prettiest of photos (no I don’t mean Jonathan and Alan) but it is all part of vital work that goes on behind the scenes at Mount Stewart. A new, additional drainage system is being installed in the Lily Wood, starting at the Memorial Glade, so it is all hands on deck (the volunteers were not asked to join in and we didn’t argue). New drains had been made in the lower part of the Lily Wood in 2011 and this new system will connect up with it and hopefully that will solve all the problems.
The water drains down the hill, into the Lily Wood and up out of the ground. The drains are now blocked up with roots, silt and general debris, the last time this had been cleared was probably in the 1980’s. An 18” trench is being dug, then the drainage pipes will go in and the trench filled in with clean 1” stones and the sods replaced. It is an enormous job but the Lily Wood is always damp even in fine weather so this will make it more pleasant for visitors to walk around.
Wednesday 30 October 2013
This was the buzz in Mount Stewart today. Neil brought us over to see this Lardizabala biternata on the pergola at the Sunk Garden. My photograph isn’t very good but Lesley the Intrepid climbed up on the wall to get her photo, with me holding on to her, so look out for her great shot on her board in the courtyard.
It is a rarely cultivated plant, little known outside Chile, where many locals crave its sweet sausage-like fruits. It is an evergreen, perennial, climbing woody vine with tiny brownish purple flowers. Best grown under frost free conditions but is quite happy in Mount Stewart gardens (aren’t we all).
Wednesday 23 October 2013
The figure on top is a rampant lion, holding a flag which doubles as a weather vane. It is a very delicate structure so the Muehlenbeckia needed to be removed to avoid damage. It was a difficult task for Jonathan, using scaffolding and a long reach pruning device. It took all afternoon gently pulling the plant away from a very relieved looking lion. The plant will be fed and it will continue to clothe the walls of the summerhouse, where it will be kept in check.
Wednesday 16 October 2013
Putting up scaffolding at the dovecote in Mairi Garden
The Dovecote in the Mairi Garden has been taken over by Muehlenbeckia complexa, commonly known as maidenhair vine, a deciduous climber, very pretty small leaves, hardy with a creamy white flower in summer. This hasn’t been cut down for about ten years. Jonathan is going to cut it down to below roof level, I don’t think I can bear to watch. I had hoped to get a before and after picture but the heavens opened at lunchtime so couldn’t get the after.
We were on maintenance work along the entrance path from car park to reception and at the lookout. This ongoing work is not as interesting as a lot of the work we do but is vital for keeping Mount Stewart in tip-top condition for visitors and that in itself makes it a very satisfactory job for us. The volunteer teams have become old hands at this and Jonathan just lets us get on with it.
Rain stopped play at lunchtime. I hate this and went home in a huff.
Wednesday 9 October 2013
James and Lyndon clearing out the bed on the West Terrace
This bed along the West Terrace had to be cleared out completely and all the Rhododendrons and Camellias taken out to make room for scaffolding for the on-going repairs to the house. What a job that was. One of the Rhododendrons was so big it took four gardeners to lift it onto the trailer. The smaller ones will be put into large pots and the larger ones will be planted out at the nursery until the bed becomes free.
All the Wednesday volunteers were here today which was just as well as there was a lot of work to do in the Sunk Garden. Two to a bed, we staked up plants blown down in the storm, dead headed, cut down plants that were over, trimmed the grass edges around the beds and filled dozens of barrow loads. I don’t know what the others did when they got home but I had my usual chocolate cake and fell asleep until 7.
Wednesday 2 October 2013
Ever since I started volunteering at Mount Stewart I have been trying to get a photo of a squirrel in his natural habitat. Well, just look at him, he posed for me and looked me straight in the eye. (Can you see him?). I am very excited. My work here is done. I don’t need to write about anything else today.
Thanks to James who has been helping me for months, by putting nuts everywhere.