Gardening Reflections ’21

So comes the end of another eventful year in horticulture for me. It has been one full of success, lots of learning, and ultimately a year ending with an exciting new chapter in my gardening journey. I just wanted to take this opportunity to briefly cast my eye back on the last 12 months to pick out some of my personal highlights.

After the disappointments of leaving the Walled Garden at Hanbury somewhat empty in 2020, it was joyous to see it back to its productive best this year. It was a successful season growing a range of vegetables, with highlights including some whopping onions, a bounty of courgettes, and impressive beetroot. Also seeing the borders full of flowers and the tunnels bursting with crops like tomatoes and cucumbers was immensely satisfying. The veg and flowers were loved by visitors and, as usual, were a hit when put on the stall for folks to take home. I spoke about the successes in my Walled Garden Diaries blogs this summer.

However, it is two main crops that stand out in my memory. Firstly, the squashes and pumpkins grew in large numbers and produced some absolutely huge stars of the show. The ‘Atlantic Giant’ which got massive really impressed visitors and became a talking point around the property, and on social media. Secondly, it was the runner beans and in particular the success of their inventive, and novelty, ‘S’-shaped serpentine supports.

It was a rollercoaster year for the allotment, starting with the early months in which most of Plot 1 stood underwater. That was a shock to the system, but thankfully (and to be honest surprisingly) it did not stop the onions and garlic that were sitting bathing in January from growing on and strong. You can read my blog post on how to deal with a waterlogged allotment.

The allotment did produce a good amount of food and flowers for us throughout the summer, though admittedly it was a bit more of a struggle this year to keep on top of the weeds fitting it around gardening full-time. Ultimately, it is a shame to have to give up Plot 1 in October due to moving away from the area.

I really enjoyed writing blogs for my Grow with the Pros series, and I am thankful to all those who helped me out with these articles. I was fortunate enough to get some really talented growers to spare me some of their time and answer questions and I learned a lot from their answers. Hopefully, some readers also got some good tips and inspiration to help them at home. I definitely think the series has legs and I do intend to write more next year.

Those who read my recent blog will know I left Hanbury for a fresh challenge and a new role as Kitchen Gardener at Netherby Hall in Cumbria. It has been a whirlwind end to 2021 moving a long way up north and starting an exciting chapter in a new Walled Garden. I have wanted for a while now to specialise in growing edibles and this has given me that chance, primarily growing vegetables, fruit, and herbs for a local restaurant called the Pentonbridge Inn. The job has everything I could have wanted, an impressive Walled Garden, greenhouses, scope to grow a wide range of produce, and a high-quality outlet for the crops. I am able to experience the full journey, from sowing to planting to harvest to plate – and that is exciting!!

Although not a long list I have visited a number of great gardens this year, such as:

  • Lowther Castle – a lovely garden around the ruins of the Castle near Penrith being restored as part of a 20-year plan from garden designer Dan Pearson. The planting within the ruins is spectacular and complimented by a parterre out the front and a rose garden. A work-in-progress, as in development is a Japanese Garden and Rock Garden due for completion in 2022. The header image is us posing by the parterre with the imposing Castle behind.
  • Canons Ashby – A National Trust garden in Northamptonshire with formal gardens and parkland. It had sloping terraced gardens with topiary, parterres, vegetable garden and more.
  • Hidcote Manor Garden – A garden obviously close to our hearts having both worked at Hidcote. A world famous arts and crafts garden with garden rooms, spectacular borders, crisp hedges and stunning vistas. Always a fantastic place to visit.
  • Kiftsgate – A neighbour to Hidcote and often overlooked, but definitely worthy of a visit. Fantastic designs with areas that have evolved over the eras, from traditional borders bustling with blooms to modern sleek rooms. It also has amazing views over the Cotswolds.
  • Rousham Gardens – A hidden gem of a garden in Oxfordshire showing the best of 18th century garden design. It is a mix of parkland and formal garden that has treats around every corner and it was an excellent experience as well as a surprising one, as I knew little of Rousham before visiting.
  • Cambo – The 2.5 acre Walled Garden in Fife was a wealth of colour during summer with its abundant and naturalistic plantings. It has masses of interest including veg garden, cutting garden, grass garden, prairie garden and woodland walk, and you can even walk from Cambo right down to the beach.
The formal gardens at Rousham

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and fingers crossed 2022 will be a fantastic gardening year for everyone.

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