Helping hands for a National Trust garden treasure
PUBLISHED: 11:15 01 February 2018
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In The Countryside: Blickling Hall's beautiful gardens don't just happen by themselves, says Rex Hancy.
“It looked as if Time Team had been here,” said gardener Stephen as he gazed over the formal borders and beds at Blickling Hall he tends year in and year out. He was discussing the intensive work carried out during winter months to ensure we will be able to stroll over the summer lawns and enjoy the wealth of colour we have come to expect.
Why the excavations? Feeding the plants to encourage prolific flowering also helps wild relatives to thrive. One such is bindweed which entangles itself where it is most difficult to remove, as much growth goes on below the surface and reaches to a yard in depth. “It’s such a pity it has to be removed,” he went on. “Bindweed flowers are so good for the hoverflies.”
That casual remark did sum up one of the joys of the garden. If he wished to see bees, hoverflies and so many more creatures of the wild in abundance and glorious colour, the naturalist would fare better there than in many a nature reserve.
Abundance of bloom and the vigour of the plants is due to generous feeding. I have been given a figure of 50 tons of compost with a judicious mix of natural aids like bone meal thrown in. That massive pile of compost, by the way, is made on site by collecting fallen leaves plus trimmings from the plants themselves. There is much vigorous, warming work entailed in all of that - which is just as well in the depths of winter when chill winds blow over the estate.
Even the decorative plants themselves would soon become an entanglement of ever-reducing quality if left to their own devices. Flowers there would be but far fewer in number and of far less quality. So each root has to be assessed, spilt and the best sections replanted so when we arrive with the summer sun on our backs the quality of the display is as fine as ever.
Essential pruning can be a finger-numbing task when the weather is unkind but must be done at the right time. Every year is different so no plans can be made far in advance. Each bush must be treated just when ready.