• Another successful annual plant sale

    Friday, May 26, 2017 - 09:01

    The Reepham & District Gardening Club’s annual plant sale in Reepham on Saturday 13 May was a huge success (regularly the second Saturday in May every year), raising more than £400. The Committee thanks all those who donated and bought plants.

    The money raised goes towards the running of the club and covering the costs of the excellent speakers the club attracts for its monthly meetings, which non-members are always welcome to attend.

    So, thinking ahead in the long term, as all gardeners must, perhaps you could pot up any “extras”, self-sown seedlings or surplus stuff ready for next year’s sale? Well-grown and settled plants will always make a better price than those crammed into a pot the night before the sale.

    This year’s day trip is to Knebworth House and Jordan’s Mill on Thursday 13 July. Please speak to Celia Else at the next meeting on Tuesday 20 June (7.45 pm) to book, or check the website for details as there are a few seats available.

  • If you go down to the woods today

    Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 20:14

    For 30 years I have walked or ridden past the mausoleum at Blickling Park and wondered what the dark and mysterious interior was like, so I was very pleased when walking there, on a Friday morning, to find the building with its heavy iron doors open.

    The dark and forbidding mausoleum was inspired by the Grand Tour in Rome, and is a four-sided pyramid, its height and breadth being of equal proportions, built in 1794.

    You will notice that the Caen stone blocks used to build it appear smaller as they get higher up the edifice, a perspective device to imply a bigger structure than is actually there. (Gardeners employ the same device by planting small-leaved plants at the end of a “walk” to provide the illusion that actually the plants were large-leaved, which just appeared small because of the huge scale of your landscaping – I do this.)

    But inside, the shape changes to a beautifully echoing and airy dome with walls rendered, and then painted, over brickwork (locally made bricks, of course), but sadly damp has done damage and rendered the render and plaster very delicate.

    The atmospheric building houses three magnificent ornate marble sarcophagi to John Hobart, his first wife Mary Anne and his second wife Caroline, which stand empty because the remains are actually interred within the brickwork behind each one.

    A staunch volunteer is on duty on Friday mornings this summer, from ten to two-ish to allow you access.

  • Inspirational economy at Blickling Estate

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017 - 21:41

    In March, the Reepham & District Gardening Club enjoyed a fascinating talk from Mike Owers, instigator of the extensive five-year plan to regenerate the walled garden at Blicking Hall.

    This area was in constant use for 400 years until it fell into disuse in the early 20th century when ownership went to the Marquis of Lothian, who was an infrequent visitor and therefore did not require the garden to be productive.

    Uses have been various and years of neglect have had to be remedied. Now crucial groundwork has been completed, the area has been drained and an irrigation system installed, the last utilising part of the redundant Blickling Hall sewage system for water storage.

    The greenhouses (south-southwest facing for maximum light) use kiln-dried cedar wood, and the original Boulton and Paul fittings have been re-erected on the original brick work-bases, which have been neatly repointed.

    Years ago the clay for these bricks came from digging out Blickling Lake and were made on the estate. This displays the same neat economy as the way that an amount of funding for the current garden project comes from the profits (£126,000 last year) from the second-hand book shop located in the Lothian Barn.

    Detailed records of garden use in the past are patchy, but extensive listings of East Anglian fruit varieties are providing inspiration for new espalier, fan and cordon-grown apples and pears, plums and gages against the walls and also lining the newly laid paths.

    Historically, three men were needed to work each acre, and that acre would feed 12 people. However, many part-time volunteers are now called upon for their labours in addition to the full-time professionals, and as much produce as possible will be used in the hall café, providing another example of the neat economy which a microcosm, in this case the Blickling Estate, can illustrate.

    I look forward to seeing the progress of this interesting project over the next few years.

    Don’t forget the Gardening Club’s annual plant sale from 8.30 am on Saturday 13 May. Take your spare plants to be sold to the Bircham Centre on Friday 12 May at 6.30 pm.

  • Stop these immigrants spreading

    Monday, April 24, 2017 - 23:28

    It's late March and my fritillaries (Fritillaria imperialis) are growing inches every day, but already there are holes in the luscious leaves – and the culprit has to be the lily beetle (pictured). Bright red and rather attractive, they are little blighters.

    When I first discovered them I could not believe such gorgeous creatures could be the bad guys, but their voracious gobbling will strip the leaves of fritillary and lily before you can reach for the most noxious poisons in your cupboard.

    And you would be wasting your time because what you must do is to pick each beetle off the plant and slice it in two with your fingernail, or grind it under foot with your heel to really destroy it.

    The lily beetle has a cunning strategy: when it senses danger (which of course is you bending over to get a closer look) it will throw itself to the ground, upside down so that the black underside, so well camouflaged that you will never see it, allows it to escape and when you have gone it will climb back up the plant to start chewing again.

    So adapt your technique this way: creep up quietly and cup your hand beneath the beetle. Reach for it gently with your other hand and if it is quicker than you it will throw itself down, but will be caught in your cupped hand so you can then kill by your chosen method, nails or heel.

    Poisons do not work, and it is really important to catch these beetles every day as they bask in the sun on your best plants. This pest has no predators in this country and none of our poisons affect it.

    I naively thought my early vigilance would rid my plants of this nemesis, but the breeding cycle is quite quick so you must keep at it as long as you have breath in your body or the snow begins to fall, because brood after brood will be clambering up your stems without cease.

    Do not be tempted to throw it over to your neighbouring garden. We all have a duty to do anything we can to stop the spread of this immigrant, which is moving north at nine miles a year.