Into the New Year at the Walled Garden

Herbaceous beds in winter (with Stig)

Simon says:

Sue’s been running one half of the walled garden at Langham Hall in Suffolk for a few years focusing on ornamentals and the Alpine Campanula national collection.

When the opportunity to take on the kitchen garden side came along in the summer of 2016, she persuaded me to chuck in the full time job that paid the mortgage and join her to run all 3.5 acres of walled garden.

Totally aware of the need for a solid and detailed business plan before jeopardising house and home, we promptly began to sketch out vague notions of how we might earn a living from the garden on scraps of paper, usually over a few beers. The results weren’t overly encouraging so predictably, we carried on regardless.

Six months on and I’ve left full time employment (with a cop out of doing the odd day’s consultancy to help pay the bills) and we’re now getting stuck into the garden.

It needs to be said that my horticultural knowledge is limited to knowing that when you plant something the green bit stays above the ground.

Frosty start to 2017 – a view of the kitchen garden.  Even the weeds look good with a touch of frost

Whilst Sue has managed to tame parts of the garden over the years, about half of it (mainly the kitchen side) comprises about 2 acres of bindweed, sorrel, dandelions, nettles and ground elder, some of which is partly controlled by the herds of rabbits that we also share the garden with. We’re not sure whether they’re migrants coming in through leaky gates from outside the wall or an expat community that has set up home in hidden burrows in the shrubberies. Either way, they’ve already chewed some of the newly planted raspberry canes so a solution of increased border security and expulsion is required; a sort of UKIP approach to pest control.

Weeding with Stig in winter sunshine

Sue says:

Into the new year full of optimism (and streaming colds) and plans to bring round the two acres ofkitchen garden, which have been neglected for a year or so in between tenants.  Simon leaving his job has been a tough decision to reach, waving bye bye to financial security sounds crazy.

Yet Bellflower Nursery is well established in the walled garden and it is a great, if indulgent, base for my garden design business, so with the bonus of space to grow edible crops, we are able to add to our range and hopefully encourage more visitors to the garden. 

Hopefully working together won’t cause too many fallouts or vying for post of head gardener.  With three-and-a-half acres of garden to cultivate, surely that’s ample space to lose ourselves and certainly we won’t have the energy to squabble. Plus we both like a challenge…

 

Pruned wall-trained Fig and black mint bed mulched ready for winter

To contact Sue and Simon, please email: campanulas@btinternet.com or phone 07879644958

Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hall, Langham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 3EE

February Flies By

Brassicas released from their fleece are now under fine mesh netting as the insects re-emerge.

In a month that has sent us snow, hail, severe frosts, flooding, rainbows, dramatic sunrises and sunsets and midteen-temperature sunshine, progress in the walled garden has continued steadily.

During the month, new strawberry plants have gone in, planted through black breathable membrane, Mypex. This fabric will encourage growth by warming up the soil and help to suppress weeds.  In fact we have been ‘Mypexing’ virtually every square inch of bare soil.

Weeding continues – where do they all come from?  We turned our backs (big mistake) over a couple of weeks and now we have everything: annuals, perennials, ephemerals.  However today the bees have been enjoying the tiny white flowers of the annoyingly spready chickweed (Stellaria media).  We forgive this one!

Lunch break in 18° in mid February sunshine

In the walled garden the temperature rose to 18 degrees which brought out one or two Red admiral butterflies and bees in this welcome sunshine.   A few dry days have enabled the first mow of the season – yes, the drone of the lawnmower has begun.

 

Simon says:

The successful formula for working together is approx. 30 metres. Sue on the cutting border and me on the brassica bed. And there’ll certainly be no vying for head gardener role – Sue’s a professional horticulturist and I’m not, but I am a bloke which means I can have lots of opinions on things I don’t know anything about.

Seed sowing of tomatoes and some salad and herb crops has begun.   Sue’s Alpine Garden Society and Scottish Rock Garden Club alpine seed allocation were sown in January to expose them to cold to aid germination. 

 

Early February, weeds’n’all, in the kitchen garden – 30m is a safe distance for harmony, says Simon

Breathtaking drifts of snowdrops and aconites in woodland outside the walled garden

Bellflower Nursery is having a makeover ready for the new season, which launches in mid March.  We are bringing on the best range of plants ever!

To contact Sue and Simon, please email: campanulas@btinternet.com or phone 07879 644958

Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hall, Langham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 3EE