Reveley Lodge

A Victorian house and garden

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Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Spring 2019

Well summer is here, according to the calendar at least !

All of the summer plants are now bedded in and hopefully stretching their wee roots and leaves out for the summer. The vegetable garden too is starting to come into its own. If you pop into the vegetable garden you will no doubt noticed the new pathways that have been put in during the spring. These were done with the help of our ever eager volunteers, including my son Michael, who got stuck in while down visiting from Scotland. The paths are mostly here to speed up access around the plot but they will also help with crop rotation.

This year we are growing our usual mixture of vegetables, soft fruit and flowers for cutting.

Our garlic collection which was planted with Lesley and Julia in November, is looking good for this year, but of course we will have to wait till July to see if things look as good as they seem! Once they have been allowed to dry out a bit, we hope to have garlics available for sale in early August. Although garlic may not do much for your social life, the garlics have proved very popular with our visitors here, with our stock selling out quite quickly. And it is a good revenue raiser for the gardens. If I am being really honest I really enjoy growing it. Garlic is up there with my pumpkins and Dahlias! 

All the team will be carefully watching to see if last winter’s tree reduction work will create the big changes in the vegetable garden, that we are hoping for. The idea is that with increased amounts of light, we will have greater yields with the fruit and vegetables. And a higher quality of cut flowers too. 

Meanwhile in another part of the garden, the conservatory is already looking fabby- do, with the walls inside looking splendid. And now the outside of the house along the terrace is getting a facelift too. With painting starting in a couple of weeks.

In the conservatory, Lesley has great plans for the coming season. Again she is growing melons, along with peppers, and for the first time here, kiwi fruits and cucamelons.  What’s a cucamelon I hear you say, well you will have to pop in and ask Lesley won’t you !

So with all this fruit salad growing away perhaps summer is here after all!

Enjoy your garden. 

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Winter 2018/19

With the passing of another Winter, I think it is fair to say that,  we are all quietly excited about the oncoming Spring! So again you are probably wondering what we have been up to in the garden at Reveley.

The short answer is quite a lot.

Believe it or not, I was getting a little bit concerned regarding the lack of truly winter weather. Its not that the Scot in me has been pining for another truly  Scottish winter, feet deep in the white stuff, but rather the gardener in me is  happy at the thought of many of garden pests get bumped off with the cold. Thankfully some arrived just in time. 

The biggest project to date in my short time at Reveley Lodge has been this winter’s tree and hedge reduction project. We started in Dec and called it to a halt in mid February, with the onset of the start of the year’s other duties. Last summer we took expert advice and selected a number of trees  to be removed from the woodland area. Previously a large number of trees were all planted up at the same time, and so just as in forestry, we needed to select and remove some , in order to let the best flourish and grow into healthy shapes.

Along with some of the volunteers, Lesley, Julia and I have taken down close to 20 small trees and reduced  a lot of metres of hedge line. Now granted, 20 sounds a bit drastic in anyone’s book but many were not much  thicker than your wrist. Soon we are having another  four taken down professionally. This work is being paid for from funds raised from the fruit, veg and cut flower sales over 2018. So a big thank you to everyone who has supported us with the Thursday pop up shop.

I am delighted to say that according to K C, our beekeeper, all four of his hives have survived the winter. Apparently this is the first time that all four have survived a winter,  in many years. He thinks that the previous year’s tree work to get some winter sunshine, warming  the hives helped keep the bees warm which has  been key to their success. All the team at Reveley are quite chuffed with the results.

The roses have already been pruned in January . This year as you go around the Rose Garden, you will hopefully notice that we are introducing some perennial planting to bring some bio diversity and change the character of this area and add other colours too. We can all do with a bit of a change every now and then!

And what lies ahead I hear you say! We do have a couple of new projects starting shortly, but you will have to come and see them for yourself. Well that would be telling wouldn’t it!

We hope to see you soon in the garden at Reveley.

Rory’s Blog

24 February 2019

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Autumn 2018

As I sit here today  in the garden at Reveley,  soaking up the splendid Autumn afternoon sunshine on offer,  I am taking the time to reflect on a few of the  things in the garden that I have enjoyed.

Gardeners often have a new favourite plant. And one of mine this year is Colocasia ‘Black Magic’. Now, it’s  well known in the  circles at Reveley that I like a bit of colour! So it may come as a shock to some that this isn’t shouting with loud colours. Indeed, it’s just striking black stems and green leaves. The leaves can grow up to 52cm long, which is 20 inches in old money. And it is relatively easy to grow and adds an exotic touch to it’s surroundings. My bulbs arrived by ship, all the way from India no less!

They worked well along side their cousins Alocasia calidora which are all green in colour. If you are visiting Reveley next summer, don’t be too surprised if you see these popping up somewhere.

Things have been happening at  both the conservatory and the pond. And I don’t just mean the conservatory repairs nor the large amounts of tree surgery work at the pond area. Instead Lesley one of the two WRAGS trainees this year, has had great success in growing melons, in the conservatory. A lot of folks were surprised to see melons growing here in the uk. They sparked a lot of questions. The amazing summer conditions certainly helped, but no doubt the careful attention of Lesley secured success.

And lastly, if you go to the far corner of the garden in the pond area you will see there has been quite a bit of work taking place there. The difference in light levels is huge compared to what they were just a few months ago.  We are aiming to create a reflective space for visitors to be able to sit, chat, read a book or eat a sandwich in the peace. There is still a lot to do, with  new planting planned, further reduction of some of the trees and a new seat.

Speaking of the garden pond, I often pondered in the past, why was the pond at Reveley  built in a faraway corner of the garden? And then I was reminded that the garden is now only half the size that it used to be. Mrs Chewett having sold the other half off many years ago. And so the pond was originally on the central axis of the old garden layout, which makes  sense. So there you go, another mystery solved!

Hope to see you again soon at Reveley, and enjoy the Autumn colours.

Rory’s Blog

25 October 2018

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Summer 2018

What an extreme last six months of weather we have faced this year. If you cast your mind back, remember how cold it was over the late winter months and then in the spring we had quite a lot of rain, although that is difficult to remember now! In fact the Spring was so wet that at one point, I couldn’t work on the lawns or borders due to the ground conditions, but as people say every cloud has a silver lining. In this particular case, it gave me the opportunity along with some of the volunteers to powerwash the house terrace. The difference in the light levels on the terrace is quite marked and it is looking a bit smarter too.

Needless to say we have all been facing big challenges this summer, trying to keep things going in the garden, with record-breaking temperatures and levels of dryness. Phewww. For me that is meant watering in the mornings and evenings, moving pots about, and standing for longer and giving pots a lot of water.

The weather has definitely suited the roses and the large rhododendrons that we have here. In the three summers I have been at Reveley, this year was most definitely the best for roses.  All the hard work removing the three trees on the edge of the Rose Garden seems to have paid off with the roses suitably responding by growing bigger and healthier than ever before.

At present, we are having a lot of work carried out on the conservatory structure. As you may have noticed the timber frames have been in quite a sad condition over the last few years, but the Trust have courageously decided to rebuild all the side panels. We are quite excited about having a smart new looking conservatory and course filling it with plants, as you do! This year my assistant Lesley has melons in the conservatory along with a host of other new plants.

In the veggie garden the pumpkins and squashes are having a far more successful year than last, due in part to the amazing weather.  But other things like my Fennel has been bolting due to the heat, and I noticed some of the ‘Bushey Grove‘ apples and crab apples have started to ripen early, probably due to the heat.

But lastly, being Scottish as I am, and never one to miss a wee break of good weather, I have been painting the outside greenhouse. So when completed it should be looking a bit smarter, and just in time for our National Garden Scheme Day, Sunday 26th August. Hope to see you there.

Rory’s Blog

29 July 2018

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Late Winter 2018

For certain this winter has been full of surprises, with three different periods of snow and a lot of frosts and chilly winds. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some warmer weather. Never the less, we have been busy here in the garden. And here is a wee taste of what we have been up to…

Last summer in the vegetable garden, it became quite noticeable that some shrubs and a few of the trees along the back fence were stealing a lot of the morning sunlight.  In fact direct sun doesn’t appear in the sky overhead till after 1 o’clock.

 As time goes by we often miss the gentle developments in a garden, and within a few years things are not going so well. It is a common problem: plants start to struggle in the garden and you are scratching your head wondering why! This situation is normally pointed out to most of us by somebody else who has a pair of fresh eyes!

So throughout January and February, the team reduced a lot of laurels and the tree surgeon took off a small limb from a large beech tree, to improve the light levels. So hopefully this year, we will have better results from the veg patch.

The ongoing project in the Rose Garden has kept us busy too. Here the tree surgeon took down two trees in February, to open up the rose garden to a lot more light and increase the air flow. This work hopefully will reduce some of the dreaded black-spot we suffer and has opened up a new vista into the Mulberry Beds and beyond.

And lastly just to say, next time you are in the gardens, you can’t miss the fact that the limes surrounding the main lawn have had a bit of a ‘hair cut’. The Limes have been pollarded in the past with two very different styles. One side has a pole style and the other created by Nick Boyes, more of a framework approach. You can decide which style you like best.

Rory’s Blog

22 March 2018

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Winter 2017/18

From time to time you may be wondering  ‘what to do gardeners do in the middle of winter? Pouring over seed catalogues armed with endless mugs of steaming hot tea! Sounds good to me! But no, it is a very busy time of the year and we are very much out and about.

Today for example, with the help of my chums, the garden volunteers, we planted 3,000 bulbs, before lunch into the garden here at Reveley.

The weather was a bit “dreich” as we say in Scotland, but that didn’t stop us or dampen our spirits. And it’s amazing how a cup of coffee and a piece of cake at half time can do to spur you on.

The day was only possible thanks to the very generous gift from our friends at Jacques Amand International at Stamp Hill, just on the other of Bushey.

We still have quite a few to go in but we’re nearly there.

The team are looking forward to seeing the fruit of our labours sometime in the spring, when we hope to be seeing many of you!

By the way: Dreich (a very Scottish word) has several meanings when applied to weather, including wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, dreary, miserable or any combination of these. Today it was all of these!

Rory’s Blog

15 January 2018

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Autumn 2017

It seems the sunny weather has gone south of the equator once again, it’s foggy outside today as I write, the Foxgloves have all been planted out, tulips chosen and pumpkins harvested, so it must be autumn!

Here is a wee look back at just a few of things that have happened in the garden here at Reveley Lodge.

You may remember I mentioned in the Spring blog about the Straw bale method, and why I was trying it out. And although we didn’t get massive harvests from our pumpkins, most of the plants did produce several fruits, which given their less than perfect situation, I was quite happy with. I used my favourite French heirloom variety ‘Rouge vif D’Etampes’. And now the plants are all gone, the bales continue to useful, as I am left with some great mulching material of around the garden.  So perhaps I will  try it again next year.

Regarding the weather, it has definitely been a tale of 2 summers, with the first part quite warm and dry, but the second was mixed to say the least, with subsequent harvests.

But despite the variable weather, we had some really good event days. The Canada had exceptional weather, the National Garden Scheme Day was again very well attended, and special thanks to all those behind the scenes who made them happen and to those who came to support them. And then there were the memorable Open Air Cinema Nights which were fun with dancing on the lawn, in the dark, to the Mama Mia musical! I wont forget that in a hurry.

If you were at any or indeed all of these events, it can’t have escaped your notice that the main lawn was in very poor condition. And so would you be, if you had hundreds of people walking all over you in a day!

So immediately after the second Film Night we set to, to renovate the lawn. It has been a big team effort with Barry, myself and my trusty team of volunteers.  We levelled out hollows and hills, scarified, aerated, fed  and reseeded the lawn. It is starting to look more the part ready for next year.

This autumn we will be doing some more Laurel bashing to increase the daylight into key areas. We are continuing with our Rose Garden Renovation Project, and planting out the tulips.

Enjoy your garden this autumn.

Rory’s Blog

18 November 2017

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Summer 2017

Well things never stand still in the garden, especially in the summer time sometimes at the speed of a snail & sometimes as fast as the wind as we will see! Here are just a few highlights of what’s being going on in the Reveley Lodge gardens this summer so far…

We have had a good year in the rose garden, and although the first flush with it’s heady perfumes and soft colours has already past, but we are awaiting the second flowering. Although the Rose Garden was planted with mostly old rose varieties, the rose garden was carefully planned to have a number of the later Old Roses which were developed to produce the much desired second flush! Such as the Portland & Bourbon roses. So there is still much to look forward to.

We are trying to develop the rose garden by underplanting with Stachys byzantina  and Stachys lanata with their soft “touch me“ leaves. We grew these  from seed in the greenhouse. Also adding Nepeta “Six Hill Giant“ and “Six Hill Gold“ for a softer fill look.

The vegetable garden is in full swing as you would expect. We have tried to pick varieties for both colour as well as for taste, for example a red tasselled mini sweet corn beside Purple French Climbing Beans. And although much has been relatively fast growing, one of our snail harvests has been our garlics, which was started in October and lifted at the beginning of July and won’t be available till August.

We tried 4 varieties: Carcassonne Wight, Solvent Wight, Vallelado Wight and Elephant Garlic. At the moment they are all curing in the potting shed and will be ready for sale later in August. It is always interesting to see which plants do well in a garden and which, for whatever reason, don’t. Vallelado Wight was our clear winner, each head producing big fat cloves, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding, so we will just have to patiently wait till they are ready.

And finally sadly in the recent summer storms we lost the very old apple tree beside the ‘Secret Garden‘ , it collapsed very unexpectedly. I think it must have been over 100 years old. It had rot issues which couldn’t be seen externally, but also it was having a bumper crop of apples. Added to this, the weight of the very heavy rains was just too much for the old tree to cope with.

Sad but true. I hope you continue to enjoy you garden and the rest of the summer.

Rory’s Blog

9 August 2017

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench – Spring 2017

Well… Spring has definitely sprung once again, and as all good gardeners are aware, that also means the arrival of our arch enemies the slugs and snails! Due to the exceptionally dry past few months there has been little sight of all these guys, but now they are out en masse. You can almost hear them as they dine at all the local salad bars in Bushey! 

I am very excited about the new season ahead. Over the course of last winter and the early spring I have been working with volunteers, both local and from further afield, to carry out a lot of background work , particularly with the laurels. We also had the tree surgeons in, taking down a large dead sycamore in the Rose Garden. The hope is that with the removal of this tree there will be a lot more light available, so hopefully more and better blooms.

One of the nice things about the taking down of this tree was that we were able to create five seats that are now hidden in the Rhododendron Dell. And if you are wondering where the dell is, you will just have to come and explore a bit to find it! The Rhododendrons are looking magnificent at the moment.

Over the Autumn and early Spring we have also been busy in the treated part of the Clay Lane beds. The replanting is almost complete but we are waiting to see if we have managed to completely eradicate the Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) before completing the planting.

One of the systems that we have put in place to prevent the Ground Elder from returning was a plastic membrane (or wall), which was dug into the ground. It is something similar to that used to prevent bamboos or Japanese Knot Weed from running amuck.

A highlight of the Spring so far for me has been the Tulip terrace display. People have remarked on it and it seems it gave pleasure to many this year. Of course, like all gardeners, there is something I would have changed or tweaked. We are never satisfied are we!

Another highlight of the Spring was the great success of the St George’s Day celebrations. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the gardens, the weather and all that had been laid on.

Something new at Reveley this year will be the trial use of a straw bales within the Vegetable Garden. I first saw this in Germany and then also at a display at RHS Harlow Carr.

The Straw Bale gardening technique has been around for some years. It is very popular in America, and is now used in France. It is being taught in Cambodia to help the poor farmers raise extra food crops during the monsoon season, to feed themselves and their families.

My particular reason for trying The Straw Bale technique here at Reveley is because we have another weed problem, this time called Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana ).  It was treated in the early autumn to no avail, so rather than just spray again, we are trying a more organic approach by covering over the ground with a Mypex membrane and creatively continuing gardening over the top while the Nightshade dies off.  That is the theory anyway, ask me if it worked this time next year!  

So…  you are warmly invited to come and explore what’s new, what’s in bloom, see what’s hopefully not growing where it shouldn’t and what is growing in the Straw Bales.

Rory’s Blog

20 May 2017

Thoughts from the Gardener’s Bench- Autumn 2016

What a summer it was. It started slowly, damp and cool but developing into a lovely long  warm season. I can only remember 3 or 4 really wet days. And coming, as I do, from the West of Scotland, it has been amazing. What a blessing!

 For my first summer here at Reveley Lodge, the weather has afforded me a great chance to spend a lot of my time out of doors, working in the borders and beds, cutting the grass and getting to know the garden a bit better. I have moved garden several times over the past years and have come to learn that it doesn’t matter how brimming over I am with ideas, you need to be patient! It takes a full year for a gardener to just start to get to know a new garden. Learning the different soil types in the various beds, where it’s windy, what is the hottest area of the garden and so on . . .

 I am very thankful to Nick, who retired earlier in the summer, for all his patience and humour as he handed over the gardens to me. The garden at Reveley Lodge has some great structural ideas and some wonderful plants, it’s quite an inheritances to take over. It is a big responsibility to take over someone else’s work, when they have worked so long and hard at developing something wonderful.

 I started at the beginning of July and the months have flown by and now we are in November. Part of taking over a new garden includes asking questions like “Where do you find…?”, “Who do you ask…?” or “What’s the chances of…?”. And so I would like to say a big thank you to all those who have been so patient with me as I have been learning.

 Perhaps one of the highlights of the Reveley garden’s year has been the successful National Guard scheme Day in August. All of the volunteers and trustees worked tirelessly to help to make it a great day. And thankfully the weather lent us a helping hand too, as it was a beautiful sunny day. Many people enjoyed the gardens and helped raise funds for the different charities and met and made new friends that day.

The Hedge backing onto the secret garden and bee hives

As you can imagine all large gardens have ongoing projects and challenges. One tall challenge for me has been the high hedge belonging to the Secret Garden. Behind the hedge lies the bee hives. We had the job of significantly lowering the high hedge this summer as sadly last winter three of the four swarms were lost due to the cold. It seems the high hedges had kept out the essential warmth of the low winter sun which helps keep the bees  alive over the cold season. Now the job is done, you will see the hedge is looking a bit sad at the moment but that’s okay as it should bounce back soon.

 Another challenge has been the pernicious problem of ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) which has been running through the two Clay Lane flower beds. The main problem with Ground Elder is it chokes out the other plants in that area. So if you can forgive the pun, we decided to grasp the nettle and deal with one of the beds.

 This involved digging out as many good plants as possible and putting them into a stock bed. Firstly the plants were removed then the roots were washed clean and inspected, removing all of the ground elder roots which were mixed in with the good roots. Then we transferred the plants to the stock bed to rest and be watched to see if any cheeky wee roots of the elder have been missed and pop their heads up again! Only after this can they be put back into the main garden next year. We’ll have to wait and see if this will be an ongoing project or not! Again without the help of the volunteers it couldn’t be done. Thanks folks.

What lies ahead for the next season? A lot of leaf lifting from the lawns . . . and of course planning for next year. Whatever you are up to today enjoy your garden…

Rory’s Blog

28 November 2016

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