Thursday, 12 December 2013

Gunnera winter protection

A couple of my favorite foliage plants at Dixter are the Gunneras. Individual leaves can grow as big as 1-2 m (3-6ft) across! They prefer growing in wet soils, and are quite happy at water's edge, which is where they're found here. The slightly smaller leaved Gunnera tinctoria is growing on the bank of the Horse Pond, while the larger leaved Gunnera manicata grows around the boggy Lower Moat.  

Horse Pond before (August)

  Horse Pond after

Being native to South America, Gunneras require some winter protection in colder climates, such as the UK. Not only are the leaves aesthetically pleasing; they are also quite useful for protecting the crowns of the plant. Although I've seen this done at gardens in the past, this was the first time I've actually done it. 

Lower Moat after we finished

First, we cut the leaves off right at the crown of the plant. Then, we removed and composted most of the leaf stalk, which can reach 1.5-2.5m (4.5-7.5ft). Finally, we covered all the individual plant crowns by turning the leaves upside-down, and layering them in an interlocking fashion to hold them together.  

Resourcefulness at its best

We also cut pegs from old branches, which we used to anchor some of the smallest leaves, to keep them from blowing away during the winter.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Plant of Interest

Crataegus ellwangeriana


Origin: USA

Size: 6 m (18ft) x 6m (18ft) 

Flowers: white-pink, May

Fruit: Sept-Nov, bright red, 15mm (1/2 in), edible

Cultivation: Can be grown in a range of soil types. Prefers full sun-pt shade (fruits best in full sun). Hardy to zone 5 (USA). 

Observations: (As seen at Great Dixter) One of the showiest Hawthorns I've seen in the landscape. Fruit can attractively persist for 3 months in Autumn! Small, well-rounded specimen, suitable for wide variety of gardens. Not commonly used, but lots of potential. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Christmas Fair

Last weekend was our annual Christmas Fair. Having been closed now for a month, this is a unique opportunity to come and see the house and gardens. Not only that, but parts of the house that aren't normally open to the public, are accessible during the fair.  Inside, booths were set up in the Great Hall and the Yeoman’s Hall, where fires were crackling in the fire places, and local vendors were selling everything from art and crafts to clothing or food. 

Visitors shopping in the Great Hall

Outside, we had a booth, where we were selling some of our favorite bulbs and plants, as well as some fresh vegetables. In the Great Barn, there was a variety of homemade cakes and coffee, tea and special seasonal drinks, while sausages were being grilled on the barbecue outside the barn. 

The Great Barn

It was nice to have warm drinks on a cold day

It's a really fun atmosphere. There was a little something for everyone, and it was great to see people of all ages enjoying themselves. 

Even the kids liked Simon's woodwork