Garden diary

Time travelling vegetable gardening

 

When I started my new role at Allt y bela back in September 2019, I was excited by the adventure and the challengers which lay ahead of me. I was particularly looking forward to growing vegetables again, having not grown a vegetable bean in many a year. Knowing Arne's love of fresh produce, I was hoping that my fingers were still green, and that I could successfully turn out a crunchy carrot or indeed some curly kale! At interview I had reassured Arne that I had grown vegetables before, albeit a few years ago, so no pressure!

Gardening is timeless for me, it is like time travel, the smell of tomato leaves is evocative and transports me back to when I was twelve.  I wish I could express the feeling that this gives me, it is both intimate and joyful. Over the years I have worked in and visited many gardens. Each has its own personality and energy, a reflection of those who have created, nurtured and cared for it over many years.

I am reminded of my time working at Chatsworth House, back in the mid-eighties and still relatively 'wet behind the ears'. I was shown some old photographs by the Head Gardener, Mr Dennis Hopkins, who had worked on the estate for 40 years. One image in particular caught my eye; a group photograph of the Victorian garden team standing in front of an elegant glasshouse and veg garden. The staff looked resplendent in jackets, waistcoats, shirts and ties and all were wearing hats!

I recall counting 50 plus gardeners in the image and wishing that I could step into the black and white photograph; back in time to converse with kindred spirits and share tall stories and gardening yarns. Dennis must have read my mind because he commented that we should always be respectful of the labours of past generations of gardeners and learn from their wisdom. Wise words from a cracking gentleman.

Whilst looking at the image I noted that they were a lean team, the labours of their life were etched on their weathered faces, a testament to their hard work and horticultural dedication. I was lucky enough to spend 12 months working at Chatsworth House with a much-reduced team of 18 gardeners. I discovered a range of new gardening skills including grape vine care and, naturally, Victorian vegetable cultivation.

At Allt y bela over the last 6 months, I have rediscovered the joy of growing vegetables. Arne's kitchen garden is the perfect plot, beautifully designed with a series of English oak raised beds, surrounded by a perimeter fence constructed from individual split chestnut pales. I understand that it took one person 3 months to complete the fencing. The chestnut pales have been individually wired onto metal bars, reminiscent of estate fencing, which are in turn supported by oak corner posts. The curved carving on each post top mirrors the raised bed support posts, giving the space seamless continuity and harmony.

Speaking with Arne, he explains that in his original design for the kitchen garden, the perimeter fencing had been constructed out of woven wooden panels. However, after a few years these panels had started to decay and fall apart. To refine the design, Arne decided on sweet chestnut fencing after finding a local artisan who could split chestnut to the desired aesthetic. Sweet chestnut by nature is exceptionally durable and is slow to decay, even when it is submerged in water.

I spent a few weeks many years ago harvesting chestnut with a woodsman. The chestnut stands were 20 plus years old and interplanted with oak, which is a traditional growing technique. Sweet chestnut grows well under the dappled shade of oak, and this combination of managed tree species was considered a productive method of growing quick hardwood timber and fuel. The woodland was tended by a kindly old chap who showed me the process of charcoal burning. His hands were tough as old boots, with thick skin discoloured by years of work. Each Friday he would roast a fish in the heat of the fire and share it with me, all washed down with a mug of creosote coloured tea.

Located on the outside of one perimeter of Arne's kitchen garden is a traditional 6ft - 4ft wooden glasshouse, which is surrounded on two sides by meadow and three mature multi-stemmed quince trees. When viewed from inside the vegetable garden the quince frame the landscape and fields beyond. They looked fabulous coated in heavy frost in January, with the low sun rising above the surrounding hillsides beyond.

I had the pleasure of pruning these trees for the first time back in winter. I thinned out the crowns to create structure, and spur-pruned back to healthy wood, whilst removing water shoots from the main stems. During early spring we had plenty of quince blossom, but unfortunately a late May frost polished this off, leaving very little fruit. Nevertheless, the bark on the quince is particularly beautiful and tactile with shades of grey contoured with lines and raised nodes. I am compelled to stroke these  trees at least once a week!

Growing crops in this space has been fabulous, the soil is fertile due to the previous layers of organic compost that have been applied. I tend to garden using a combination of 'No Dig' and light cultivation and I believe there are merits in both techniques, dependent on what you are growing.

'No Dig' is truly fascinating, and a technique that I encountered a few years ago whilst attending a course by Charles Dowding. The method of not digging the soil and applying and building up layers of well-rotted compost to form raised borders for growing crops makes good sense. When you think about similar remarkable biodynamics found within mature woodlands, where mycorrhizal fungi interconnect the trees and woodland flora to create a mutually beneficial network, this is truly miraculous. In practice, I can confirm that minimal cultivation at Allt y bela appears to be successful in the vegetable garden.

To be honest, I am very much in favour of refraining from double or single digging, particularly having a few miles of toil on my Yorkshire shoulders. Regular application of well-rotted organic matter, combined with direct sowing and the close planting of crops, has also proven to be successful at Allt y bela.

In spring Arne and I discussed what vegetables and flowers we were going to grow for the table and house. We both love crops that you can pick or cut whilst they are young. In fact, many lettuce varieties can be cropped by removing the outer leaves each week. Over a period of time the lettuce plant develops a long stalk producing young leaves at the top of the plant. I have seen this technique recently at a local market garden where the grower was producing weekly salad bags for sale in the local community.

My first direct sowings were two rows of broad beans, one of Arne's favourite vegetables. These were sown in late February, followed by a second sowing in late March. Despite a milder forecast, we experienced 3 days of late frost from 12th - 14th May which nipped out the growing tips of the potatoes, broad beans and the dahlias. The temperature dropped down to minus 3C, so I was glad that I had covered the main crops with some horticultural fleece. I had overwintered the dahlias in the ground, so for added protection I covered them using glass cloches. I had however, already planted out the sunflowers, so they had to take their chances. Thankfully they survived and are currently flourishing.

Despite the late frost, I was able to harvest our first crop of broad beans during the first week of June. With the subsequent second sowing, I have been able to harvest broad beans throughout June and complete a final picking for Arne this week.

Other direct sown vegetables and flowers have included carrots, radish, lettuce, nasturtium, scabius, poppy and cosmos. Arne also sowed some Calendula seeds into cells which I was able to plant out as plugs to form the underplanting for the flower beds within the garden. The vegetable flower borders are a combination of Calendula, Cosmos, Delphinium, sunflowers, Rudbeckia, roses and dahlias.

Crops that we have growing in the vegetable garden this year include the  following:

Runner beans, courgettes, turnips, potatoes, peas, mangetout, lettuce, fennel, radish, leeks, sweetcorn, purple sprouting broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale cavolo nero, winter cabbage, kohl rabi, agretti, asparagus, french beans, red onions, garlic, beetroot, pak choi, chicory, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Crops which have been harvested so far during April and through to  mid-July include: potatoes, spinach, carrots, broad beans, lettuce, beetroot, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, kohl rabi, kale cavolo nero, asparagus, beetroot, mangetout and peas.

Not too shabby a return, to vegetable growing…… but still lots to do.

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Vegetable Garden Daily Care

I tend to spend 30- 60 minutes each day in the vegetable garden. On arrival my first job is to check through the greenhouse and water the tomatoes and cucumbers. Now that they are in full growth it is important to maintain regular watering so that the fruits can develop. Always check the pots to confirm moisture, too much and over ripening can lead to splitting. Pick ripened tomatoes regularly to encourage other fruits.

I also tie in any long growths or stems. Cucumbers in particular grow like the wind and need good support to encourage the new growths to flower and develop fruit. During the summer months I can leave the door of the greenhouse open throughout the day and night to encourage good air circulation and prevent mildew developing.

My next port of call are the vegetable beds. I check each crop for any signs of pests or disease, remove any yellow foliage and tie in crops where required onto vegetable supports. If it is needed, I water by hand using a hosepipe and a long lance. I find it best to irrigate early morning so that the crops can grow away during the course of the day. I try to avoid the soil from drying out or cracking, because dry soil conditions can check vegetable growth and also encourage the plants to flower and set seed.

I tend to weed the vegetable garden at least twice a week, either by hand or using the back of a narrow spring tine rake or three-pronged cultivator. This task also helps to break up any surface soil compaction due to heavy rainfall or irrigation.

This is not as tiresome as it sounds, because the weeds are usually very small or just emerging. I find spring to be the busiest time for weed growth, but if you maintain regular weeding, when the crops start to develop, weeds develop less frequently.

When weeding I always check to see what is growing. There may be a beneficial self-sown annual which will, in time, grow, flower and soften the display. It's all about creating plant layers which appear to be completely natural.

An example of this in practice: I noted some poppy seedlings emerging in some of the beds in early spring. Rather than weed them out, I thinned them and left the remaining seedlings to grow. The soft purple poppy is now in flower with our cream sunflowers and lavender larkspur, this makes for a lovely colour combination.

With regards to crop feeding, I have been using a combination of granular and liquid seaweed fertilizers. I also check the developing crops daily, which gives me an opportunity to harvest and taste (YUM) and also to plan new sowing and planting for the weeks ahead.

There are still plenty of crops to come over the next few months, and I will be doing repeat sowings of salad crops and carrots.

Gardening on this scale allows time for observation. I recently trimmed the spring growth off the step over apples to reveal the emerging fruits and to remove aphids from the shoot tips. Whilst working, I noted lots of bee activity around the tips of the new apple shoots. After closer inspection I could see that the bees were harvesting the honey dew which had been produced by the aphids feeding on the young apple leaves. I understand that bees feed on honeydew in early spring when other sources of nectar are scarce but hadn't noticed a mid-summer feasting before. Anyway, I thought it wise to retain 20% of the aphid covered tips, the aphids were not doing too much harm and the honeydew was good for the bees and we all know that BEES… are the bee's knees!

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I have counted my blessings over the last few months. I have been very fortunate to be able to continue to work in the garden and enjoy a fabulous few months growing vegetables again. My hands are back in the soil, and I am sowing seeds, planting out, nurturing vegetable plants into full growth so that they can shine throughout  the summer months. The jobs are numerous, and time flies by. I am right where I was destined to be….in a garden and smiling!

We are now looking forward to the end of lockdown so that we can share the garden again through guided tours and courses. We hope to welcome you again soon.

Happy gardening to you all…….Dean

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Words: Dean Peckett

Photographs and films: Dean Peckett and Arne Maynard

For more spring inspiration from Allt y bela with Arne and Dean, follow Arne Maynard Garden Design on Instagram.

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A gardener's journey

 

I journey to work each day on my bicycle. It is only a short twenty-minute ride from our home which is located in Usk, a small community town in Monmouthshire. (By the way, I'm a road cyclist, so some Lycra is worn, apologies!)

I tend to extend my journey by doing a couple of laps around the town and along the road next to the river. The last few mornings have been fresh to say the least, so I am thankful of a few layers to keep out the chill.

Notable features on my route include a prison with the most incredible Wisteria growing on the exterior walls.; a beautiful arched stone bridge which spans the picturesque river Usk; a Norman castle which overlooks the town and river meadows beyond.

I can see the castle walls from our bedroom window each morning, along with three mature magnolia trees which are currently in full flower. There is also a rather lovely topiary figure, standing sentinel on the castle wall, which has one raised arm, normally aglow in the early morning sunshine. I wake most mornings full of energy and looking forward to the day ahead. During my working career I have tended to start early, which I never minded because those early hours from sunrise onwards can be magical.

When I think back over the years, gardening and cycling have been constants throughout my life. From those early days gardening with my father on his allotment. And the many cycling adventures that I enjoyed with my friends, during long summers exploring the seven hills of Sheffield and glorious Derbyshire. Of course, these were ancient times, before the invention of road safety and intergalactic communication! We travelled without a care in the world, carrying a sandwich and a drink to keep us from starvation, no money, riding without safety helmets and free from mobile phones.

There was one job I had where I worked on a private estate located at Elstead in Surrey. At the time we were living in Cranleigh, which was a 30-mile round trip each day. I recall arriving for the interview on my bicycle. After the interview the owner offered me the job commenting that anybody prepared to cycle that distance for a job, deserved an opportunity. I worked there for just over a year before securing a job working at RHS Wisley

I have always enjoyed an intimate connection with nature, and I have taken comfort that whatever happens, life will endure and will always find a way to inspire and surprise you. During these very challenging times, gardening is a safe haven for many. I appreciate that some readers may not have access to an open space or a garden at the moment and with this in mind, I would like to share Allt y bela with you, starting with my journey to work each morning.

Please be assured that I am totally isolated throughout my journey and do not encounter any other individuals. In fact, all flora and fauna are completely oblivious to our human plight. It makes you reflect on what is truly important during our everyday comings and goings, and the fundamental changes we will experience during the months ahead.

The road to Allt y bela is a single, uneven trackway, surrounded by mixed native hedging, fields and trees. This provides a feeling of enclosure and mystery as you approach. The final section of trackway heads in an easterly direction towards the early morning sunrise.

The hedgerow is currently in flower, with delicate flowers of wild plum, and there are signs of the first shoots of life developing on hawthorn and hazel. The lightest of soft green, like a delicate mist cast from a wand. Most mornings I usually hear the call of a Kestrel on patrol looking for an early breakfast….lucky rodents.

A small stream meanders to the left of the trackway providing a reminder that water brings life. Indeed, during the last couple of weeks, the banks of the stream have been carpeted with wood anemones and celandine, long established and undisturbed. These delicate beauties blanket the margins of the stream leading out into the dappled shade and the fields beyond. If you look beyond the fields and the grazing sheep and lambs, and within the surrounding woodlands, the anemones continue, an ocean of white as far as the eye can see. The woodland canopy is still bare in late March, allowing just the right amount of sunlight to sustain the growth of the anemones, which produce this small wonder of nature.

There is something magical about these few fleeting moments of the day where I ride along in peace, whilst enjoying the sights and sounds around me. I suspect that during the day to day rush of life we do not always appreciate our sensory abilities. I try to take some time out of each day to explore my senses, by closing my eyes for a few moments and just listening to the sounds of nature. The bird song at Allt y bela is so energetic and vibrant, it washes over you like an elixir of life.

I am also making the most of the spring fragrance and blooms with some deep breathing exercises. Plants are particularly showy at this time of year, attracting insects and birds to sample their nectar. Standing in the garden you can feel the vibrance of spring all around you. Funnily enough, Arne and I were exploring the garden together recently and enjoying the fragrance of a viburnum located behind the vegetable garden. Arne commented that it reminded him of a lovely smell you encounter when you visit an old stately home, a fragrance evocative of wood wax and old England! This evoked the same sensory memory for me, having worked many years ago at Chatsworth House. I recall going into the house occasionally to assist the Head Gardener. We were always greeted by the housekeeper either polishing floors or cleaning silver! I wonder how many other sensory memories we all share, but never mention to others.

Of course, Arne and I are taking the best precautions during the working day to maintain a safe distance at all times. We are very fortunate in that we can both work independently in the garden and in the fresh air and away from others.

My brief journey to work is not all plain sailing though. I have to dodge the odd pothole, squirrel and pheasant, all seem to take great delight in either running or flying out in front of me. I swear they wait for my arrival each morning, judging by the frequency of my encounters with them.

For those that do not know, Allt y bela nestles in an isolated valley surrounded by hills, open field and trees, so the final approach is slightly undulating. On arrival, I crest a small rise and I pass through the softly corroded metal gates of the house and garden and my day of gardening begins…..

Whatever the weather, Allt y bela gleams…rendered in a vibrant shade of rusty ochre. The contrast with the landscape is striking, yet totally in harmony with the planting and structural topiary. Shadows from larger trees, backlit by the sun, cast playfully across the building, providing both depth and texture. Over recent weeks Allt y bela has come to life with elegance and grace.

The magnolias have been particularly good this year providing an abundance of flower. A frost did catch one specimen in mid-March, but we still had a good few days where the blooms were at their best. Over the period of a few days, I enjoyed observing the large downy magnolia buds bursting open, to reveal opulent flower petals. The flowers themselves look translucent with heavy dew and back lit by early morning sunlight. Observing these subtle changes is a real joy, and I would encourage us all to take time to enjoy the moments that nature shares with us.

The garden that Arne has created at Allt y bela is truly beautiful. Arne possesses a remarkable awareness regarding planting, subtle texture, colour and how these intertwine with the landscape. It is both playful and elegant.

A recognisably striking feature of the garden is the topiary. I particularly like the subtle changes in tone and texture of the Fagus (beech) that occurs through winter and into spring. Through sunshine and cloud, frost and rain, the topiary provides structure and continuity with the landscape beyond. The leaves of Fagus are a rich copper in early winter and remain abundant on the plant, very much like a winter cloak. By the time spring arrives the leaves have endured the elements and have bleached and faded to soft taupe. They are now starting to fall off the plants as though autumn has returned once again, if briefly. This is to make way for the emergence of soft green foliage which is most welcome and refreshing to behold after their winter dormancy.

The spring meadows have been in flower over the last few weeks filled with iris, crocus, narcissus, cowslips and more recently delicate tulips. Arne and I took great pleasure  exploring the meadows together and counting the colonies of wild orchids that have started to emerge. Arne pointed out to me a parent orchid that had self-seeded. You could see a distinct curve of young orchids due to natural seed dispersal and growth.

A walk through the woodland and along the driveway banks reveals a wealth of growth and flowers from colonies of white and purple fritillaries, narcissus, cowslips and Cammasia.

I have been busy in the vegetable garden over the last few days constructing sweet pea and runner bean supports. I have made these out of coppiced hazel stems which I have been able to cut from two strong hazel stools located next to the stream. It's a simple structure to construct, using eight hazel stems to form a 60cm diameter circle. I use a small steel bar to create a hole, and then push each hazel stem into the soil 12cm deep. If you angle the hazel stems away from the centre, they can then be bent and tied together at the top to form a wigwam. Smaller branches of hazel twigs can then be inserted within the wigwam to provide finer twiggy support for the plants.

The weather has been particularly kind after a very wet winter. With the dry weather and warm sunshine, I have been able to plant out the sweet peas, chitted potatoes, shallots, beet, sea kale, and sow carrots, radish and broad beans. When you look out from the vegetable garden you can see the spring meadow beyond. We planted a collection of young plug plants in late autumn and these appear to be thriving.

The established cowslips on the driveway bank are particularly beautiful growing amongst moss, their soft yellow flowers greet me each morning as I come through the gate. If it were possible to be miniaturised, I would imagine a walk through those mossy cowslips and spring bulbs would be incredible. What a journey that would be…….

Wherever your journey leads over the next few weeks, please stay safe. Happier days will come, days when we can all enjoy gardening and the freedom of nature's beauty once again.

Best Wishes, Dean

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Words: Dean Peckett

Photographs and films: Dean Peckett and Arne Maynard

For more spring inspiration from Allt y bela with Arne and Dean, follow Arne Maynard Garden Design on Instagram. Arne is giving a daily walking tour of a different part of the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter rose pruning

 

With the start of the new year, I find myself reflecting on the previous ten and wondering, with eager anticipation, what the new decade will reveal. 

Within the fabulous world of horticulture a span of ten years can be incredibly diverse and the passage of time ebbs and flows with the passing of the seasons. Gardeners can witness and enjoy so many wonderful changes within the garden where flora and fauna intertwine and weave their magic.

Much can be gained by observing, enjoying and sharing the journey of the garden with others. In essence gardening can be a fabulous learning experience that can enrich one's soul for a lifetime.

No doubt, that the elements and the occasional pests and diseases can be challenging. However, in the grand scheme of things it's just nature reminding us who is the boss. As my lovely Grandma used to say, "Be patient Dean, it will all come out in the wash."

So here I am, once again embarking on a new year of gardening, fully immersed in the garden at Allt y bela....I would not have imagined this journey ten years ago!

January 2020

January is always a busy month in the garden and I have been making best use of the mild weather at Allt y Bela to undertake pruning work on our rose and fruit collection. 

Having previously lived in Berkshire for 10 years, I can confirm South Wales is without question, wet, wild and stunningly beautiful. The pruning work over the last couple of weeks has been rather damp, but very productive and enjoyable.

The weather may have been wet, but a brief moment this week between menacing clouds and heavy rain, followed by a band of crystal light as the rain passed overhead, gave me my first Allt y bela rainbow. Alas, after much searching there was no pot of gold underneath the Fagus.

Many of the roses at Allt y bela are grown on hazel domes to create informal structures within the borders. These domes complement and mirror the topiary. Our rose domes are constructed using hazel stems coppiced from the surrounding woodland which is rich in renewable material.

You need a good sharp pocket saw and a keen eye to select just the right stems. I have used birch stems previously, and they work equally well for dome supports. Birch is also excellent for staking herbaceous perennials. The stems have side branches which are flat by nature and they have a delicate appearance once they have been woven together to form a support. Whatever you have to hand, natural supports are a preferable approach and can be recycled without harm to the environment.

At Allt y bela I have selected hazel stems which are long and naturally curved; the stems should ideally be no thicker than 2-3 cm at the base and thin and wispy at the top. This size provides the best flexibility and the wispy top is pliable and easy to weave. 

Staking is all about providing support to the rose (climber or rambler), without the structure becoming the dominant feature. In summer the rose should be full of flower, and the staking invisible to the eye.

Step by Step - Rose dome construction

Cut a point on each of the hazel stems this makes it easier to insert into the soil.
If the soil is firm, you can make a hole in the soil using a wooden stake or metal bar.
Carefully flex the hazel stem across your knee or shoulder, this will encourage the woody fibres within the stem to stretch helping it to become more pliable.
Push the pointed hazel stem into the soil so that it is on a slight angle beyond vertical with the curve of the hazel bending inwards.
Push the stem into the soil as far as it will go, until it feels secure.
Repeat this process 4 - 6 times to form a circle around the rose plant.
Once the stems are in place, bend the stems to shape to form a dome 120cm - 150cm high (The domes we build at Allt y bela are approximately 120 cm in diameter.)
Weave the hazel stems together in pairs using string or rubber tie to secure them into place until you achieve a dome.


Rose pruning (climber or rambler)

January is an ideal time to prune rose climbers and ramblers, particularly if the weather is relatively mild. Avoid pruning on cold icy days, it's not much fun and it can be damaging to the rose stems and your spirit.

Roses respond favourably to a constant process of renewal, pruning helps to encourage growth and vigour. It also helps to build a strong framework and encourages lateral stems to grow, which ultimately produce beautiful flowers.

I always find it useful to review the rose plant for a few minutes prior to pruning. Look at each of the main rose stems carefully to determine what wood is old. If you have an abundance of old and new wood, you can remove a few of the old stems completely to ground level.

Pruning tip: when removing thicker rose stems always use a pair of sharp loppers or a pocket saw. Prune back the stems cleanly and tightly so that the base of the rose plant looks neat and you then avoid leaving unsightly stubs, which could potentially rot and weaken the rose.

If there are not many new stems, retain the old stems and prune these back to the strongest lateral.

Make sure your chosen secateurs are sharp and clean before you start. This makes pruning far more enjoyable and comfortable to complete, and you can be assured of clean, precise and satisfying pruning cuts.

Don't be daunted by rose pruning, take your time pruning each main stem carefully. Remove any dead or diseased wood and old foliage. The lateral growths (thinner stems growing from the main stem) can be pruned to 2 - 3 buds. 

Cultivation tip: Removing the old foliage off the rose stems and collecting it from around the base of the rose helps to reduce the risk of potential diseases.

Pruning cuts should be made 5mm above the rose bud at a slight angle. This may seem a bit prescriptive, but this is the optimum technique that helps avoid damage to the dormant bud and will help reduce future die back.

And now for the best bit, tying in and training.........

Once pruning has been completed, you can begin weaving the rose stems onto your newly constructed hazel dome.

Before you start weaving, look carefully at how the rose stems naturally cross or lie around the hazel dome. You can then determine an order of tying in, which will give you the best coverage and aesthetic. 

Pick up each rose stem and bend it around the framework of the hazel dome, tying it in as you go. Try and cross the stems over each other to form a simple basket weave. 

You may find that you have too many rose stems to accommodate onto the hazel dome. If this is the case, aim for light and airy; you may have to remove a couple of rose stems at the base so that the dome does not become too congested. 

I have noted over the years that light penetration and good air circulation is key and will make for a very contented rose plant.

Flowering tip: Bending the rose stems slows down the sap flow in the rose stem and encourages flowering laterals to develop.

Once weaving/tying in has been completed, stand back with a cuppa and admire your rose dome creation, think of long summer days, beautiful rose blooms and heavenly perfume.

During the summer months, revisit the rose support and tie in any newly developing long rose stems.

It is best to do this job in summer because the new rose stems are soft and pliable and easy to bend into place. These new rose stems are also valuable potential new wood for the following season's pruning work.

Dead heading is a useful weekly task to encourage repeat flowering on climbers. 

Rather than dead heading with secateurs, I use the snapping off technique whereby you snap off the rose bloom just below the short section of stem and the first pair of leaves. 

If you look carefully below the rose bloom you will see a small swollen section which is called the abscission layer. This is the place on the rose plant where the old rose bloom would fall off naturally, given time, and away from eager secateurs.

In January 2021 you can prune your roses while they are still secured on the old hazel rose dome. Once pruning has been completed, remove the entire rose from the old dome and construct a new hazel dome. The newly pruned rose can easily be tied onto the new support.

You can apply the same techniques to climbing and rambling roses located on walls or fences by bending and tying in the pruned main stems onto horizontal support wires.

Roses, in general, enjoy a dressing of blood fish and bone in early spring, lightly cultivated into the soil around the base of the plant. This can be followed by a dressing of mulch which helps to retain moisture and keeps the roots cool.

Closing Thoughts

Like all new gardening experiences, I am on a learning curve, exploring the intricacies of the garden and how the plants grow and respond to care at Allt y bela.

Every garden is unique, and over time you build up an intricate knowledge, which becomes a subconscious companion guiding you through the seasons……Whatever happens, it will all come out in the wash!

Happy gardening...

Dean

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Words and photographs: Dean Peckett

If you would like to learn more about how to observe and work with the changing of the seasons, Dean is running a seasonal gardening course at Allt y bela, starting in March.

For more details click here. 

 

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"I believe in fate" - introducing Dean Peckett

 

I believe in fate. Perhaps our lives and experiences are inter-woven like the roots and mycorrhizal fungi of an ancient oak, living within a boundless forest. These connecting roots carry each of us on a unique journey through life...I am grateful to say that my wonderful fate has been gardening.

When I look back over the last 40 years I cannot imagine where I would be without my love and passion for gardening. It has kept me safe when times have been difficult. It has also brought me much personal satisfaction and joy. I am also very thankful for the generous support of family, friends and colleagues who have helped to guide me along my journey.

It all started with a yellow dahlia! I did not realise it at the time, but that dahlia would be the catalyst for my future ahead. Let me explain....

My grandfather, Herbert (second from the left in the photograph), was a steel worker who made gardening tools. These tools were hand-forged using Sheffield's finest stainless steel, in an era of industry when craftsmanship was carried with pride. He was also a keen gardener with a passion for growing dahlias, which he lovingly cultivated in a small cobbled garden surrounded by brick walls, coal fires and industry. I like to think that gardening was a peaceful escape for him away from the factory floor, woodbines, dust and heat.

A few years ago, I discovered an old photograph of me aged two holding a yellow dahlia with a flower not much smaller than my head! This bloom, I am reliably informed, had been given to me by my grandfather after a hearty Sunday roast during early autumn. The image shows me staring at the flower in awe; I look at the image today and wonder what I was thinking and whether a spark of wonder was being ignited even then.

In later years my grandfather taught me how to grow dahlias, and so my journey started to unfold. He had many a tall story and a fondness for bacon sandwiches, both of which he was happy to share with me. From the age of ten I was gardening with my father, helping him tend an allotment. He frequently worked away from home, so I was responsible for the care of the vegetables and cut flowers.

These were very happy days because the other allotment holders were all older folk who looked after me and shared their passion and knowledge with kindness and generosity. I used to help out the allotment group every other Saturday, working in an old wooden supply shed selling discount gardening supplies and sundries. It was a fabulous learning environment and I enjoyed listening eagerly to their hearty chatter, gardening advice and humour, whilst sat, drinking dark brown tea in-front of a cast iron log burner!

I recall that the shed was located on a hillside and constantly creaked in the wind. The smell of blood, fish and bone mixed with log smoke was intense to say the least, but I loved it. When I catch a whiff of blood, fish and bone today, it is highly evocative, and the smell transports me right back to those moments where I experienced my first sense of belonging in an adult world.

Today I sit writing my introduction to the Arne Maynard Garden Design family. Since those early formative days, I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked in a number of beautiful gardens over the last 35 years. From the early days working as an apprentice for Sheffield Parks Department and horticultural training at Askham Bryan, York; followed by employment at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, RHS Wisley in Surrey and RHS Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire. More recently I spent time working at Fort Belvedere in Berkshire.

Working in these gardens has provided me with some excellent opportunities to gain knowledge in practical horticulture, to train apprentices and volunteers, lecture and advise visitors and fellow gardeners, contribute to outreach projects, garden design and manage teams of of staff in large gardens.

The friendships and experiences that I have gained during my career remind me of those interconnecting tree roots. Every generous encounter, pearl of knowledge and new experience has enriched my gardening awareness and has intensified my sense of wonder over the years.

I am still excited by plants and the swiftness of plant growth, seasonal changes, plant interactions, and how gardens enhance the senses. There is a perceptible ebb and flow in all gardens which you have to respect and encourage to achieve success.

For me, working with Arne at Allt y bela, is a new chapter in my life and fortunately we share much in common. Arne is a passionate  plantsman and he possesses a wonderful awareness of the natural landscape and how gardens can interact in harmony with their natural environment. We have much to share and learn together, particularly with the development of the garden and planting at Allt y bela over the next 12 months and beyond.

My role within Arne Maynard Garden Design is broad, encompassing the care and development of Allt y bela, whilst providing horticultural advice and expertise to Arne's clients, skilled gardening teams and the wider AMGD team. I am also looking forward to providing training to keen amateur gardeners through a series of garden courses at Allt y bela during 2020.

My first impressions of the garden here at Allt y bela are magical. The garden is intimate and tranquil and, together with the medieval farmhouse, it rests at ease within the landscape. Nature encroaches like soft waves on a wild shoreline…..Arne has worked his magic, and I appreciate his awareness, attention to detail and love of plants.

I know that these words may sound whimsical, but this is why gardening inspires me, and why I love it so much. It brings out feelings of contentment and a desire to share with others. We are truly spoilt for choice in the UK, where diverse landscapes and gardens are numerous. In our busy lives we sometimes forget what wonders and delights lie on our doorstep ready to explore.

I already feel a positive connection with Allt y bela and the AMGD team, who all do a fabulous job in supporting Arne. South Wales and Monmouthshire are proving to be a real inspiration, with natural beauty in abundance. I am currently exploring the coastline, valleys, hills and castles with my family.

I am looking forward to working with Arne and his team and we hope to share our passion for gardening with you all in the months ahead.

Happy days!

Dean

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Words: Dean Peckett, Head of Horticulture at Arne Maynard Garden Design

 

Photographs: William Collinson, Amber Reglar and Dean Peckett

 

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A fond farewell

I'm sitting on my favourite blog-writing bench at the top end of the kitchen garden looking back down the main path to the cottage garden. It's a good spot because it's tucked up out of the way but it still gives a great view of the garden and the wider landscape. The concept of a protected, private growing space is almost as old as gardening itself and perhaps explains, at least in part, my choice.

This week my feelings are rather conflicted, autumn is a time of change in the garden and this week it is for me personally as well. This is my last week gardening at Allt y bela. It's very hard for me to sum up my experiences here over the last three years; as with any gardening job there have, of course, been some disappointments and a fair share of hard graft but my overriding feeling is one of privilege and gratitude. I've learned so much and gained in confidence over my time here. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in horticulture to work in some extremely beautiful places with some incredibly talented people.

Allt y bela is less of a garden and more of a family and I have come to rely on the good people here a great deal. I will miss those I have worked with even more than the beautiful garden. I'm not going to list everyone who has supported me here because it would be rather tedious for you to read, suffice to say they know who they are and they will always have my deepest gratitude.

I would also like to thank you, for reading and supporting this diary; it's been a real pleasure to write and to have time to reflect on this ever-changing and wonderfully evolving space.

My next adventure is going to be down in west Dorset in the beautiful secluded Combe where Mapperton House resides. It's another incredibly special garden with a strong sense of place within the rolling hills of rural dorset.

How do I sum up my time working with Arne at Allt y bela? I'm not sure I'm entirely equal to it; the garden reflects the man, it is energetic, thoughtful and inspiring with a strong grounding in landscape and history. I think the garden at Allt y bela is one of the great modern gardens, it has beauty, elements of modernity, traditional craftsmanship and a very strong relationship to the house and landscape. I feel in many ways that Arne is leading a modern day arts and crafts revival in the garden, and it's been thrilling to have been a part of it.

Click here for a selection of Steve's favourite shots, taken by Britt Wiloughby Dyer, from the Garden Diary over the years.

Words: Steve Lannin, former Head Gardener, Allt y bela

Photos: Britt Willoughby Dyer

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