Writing this blog at the end of the year gives me a chance to reflect on the last twelve months working in the gardens here at Ashburnham Place. This has been my second full year back on the staff here and I feel I have really settled into the job now, I think I understand what’s expected of me (!) and I am beginning to develop the Ornamental Gardens in ways that, I hope, respect the history of our wonderful site but also add a gentle contemporary feel to the gardens. I’ve begun to plant up the area at the back of one of the main West Garden beds where a large Holm Oak was felled a couple of years ago, opening up the space there. I’ve introduced some prairie style planting, including Echinacea and Verbena bonariensis along with other plants including Geranium and Nepeta. The plants have all settled in well and I’m looking forward to adding to it in the Spring and developing it further.
I’m also pleased with the way the blocks of Penstemon that I planted at the bottom of the West Garden have taken, they flowered continuously all summer and well into Autumn and provided a lovely splash of colour. I am planning to plant up other bare areas in the West Garden beds next year with a mixture of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals. The West Garden looks at its best in the late Spring when the Rhodendrons are out so I will be choosing some later flowering shrubs to extend the flowering season in the garden. I am also planning some changes to the bed around the Orangery Terrace and some of the beds on the Front Terrace, I don’t want to give too much away so you’ll have to come and visit next year to see what we are up to!
We have been able to carry on working in the gardens much later than some years due to the dry weather we’ve been having. There have been some hard frosts now but also many mild days when we’ve been able to get some jobs done such as re-cutting the lawn edges on the Front Terrace and weeding the paths in that area which all looks much smarter now. Myself and a team of local volunteers also spent a few days up at the main entrance to Ashburnham Place replacing the Lavender in the beds outside South Lodge. They had got rather out of control over the last few years and the whole area looks better for a good tidy up. We have planted Lavender Hidcote which is a super, low growing, dark purple lavender which we will keep closely clipped so it forms a smart hedge.
I have enjoyed the beautiful weather we’ve been having, the Autumn colours were particularly good this year and we had some lovely still days when we could really admire them. This shot of the lake was taken in November. The lake walks are still very accessible due to the dry weather and the silhouettes of the deciduous trees have their own beauty. It is also a good time to spot birds and other wildlife as the views through the woods are opened up now that the leaves have fallen. I saw a Kingfisher flying over Front Water recently, a real treat.
One of our Christmas traditions here is the making of festive wreaths using the greenery in the gardens grounds and this year I have hosted three workshops where I have taught guests how we make them and encouraged them to have a go. Everyone has gone home happy with a lovely wreath that they have made. We use materials available to us here from the willow stems that we use to make the shape for the base to the conifer leaves, pine cones and holly berries from the grounds. I love everything about the process and enjoy making something beautiful out of what we grow here. This year we have bought in some cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices which add lovely scents to the finished wreaths. These photos give you an idea of what we have been up to.
As this year draws to a close, everyone here on the Grounds and Gardens team sends you best wishes for 2017. We look forward to welcoming you to Ashburnham Place again soon and hope that, in the meantime, these blogs will keep you in touch with everything that is going on here.