Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden & Orchard

November: Ninth Roman month (novem, Latin for 9).  Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, skipping 10 days that October, correcting too many leap years.  The Anglo Saxons called November ‘wind monath’ because it was when the cold breezes of winter set in.  We have already had a hailstorm, and our first frost.  The upside is that the frost picks out the fine detail on lichens and mosses; the downside is that the big bed of dahlias in the Kitchen Garden are now as black as the Tuscan Kale (Cavolo nero) which is strutting its stuff, together with Swiss Chard of many colours and a beetroot coloured Kohl Rabi.  The caterpillars on the winter brassicas have had a nasty shock, but the sterling volunteers are well wrapped up.

I prepared 9-cell trays and pricked out ‘a few’ wallflower seedlings for bedding out next year in the formal gardens.

I never got round to sorting the used pots out at the time of the RHS Show, as I have done over the past 12 years.  Now all the pots (estimated north of 200) used during the year are randomly mixed and gathered together in one big heap, forming a very striking modern art installation in the Frame Yard.  I ‘recruited’ a ‘willing helper’ and we spent a very cold day initially sorting the pots into sizes and then into the different patterns on the base.  It will take at least another two days to get them all sorted and in good order, ready for use next year.  We could be some time…… [Postscript: In fact it took the two of us three whole days, 28 man-hours – we have decided after 12 years of doing this to desist in future.] Most of the rest of the Team were sweeping up leaves from the Orchard and gathering the last of the apples.  Others were in the Kitchen Garden sweeping the paths and digging up vegetables for use in the Restaurant and Café: Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapaceum), Salsify (or Salsafy) Tragopogon porrifolius, Scorzonera hispanica [Be sure to wear surgical gloves when preparing Salsify and Scorzonera or your fingers may be stained black.]  Also Parsnips (Peucedanum or Pastinaca sativa). My mind loves to play with the word Pastinaca for some reason.

St Andrew’s Day (30 November) was bright and sunny, although only +2to4C; the winter midges were back-lit and amusingly doing an aerial highland fling above yellowing leaves.

December: Julian (Roman) calendar year’s tenth month (decem, Latin for 10).  The Oak trees seem to be hanging onto their leaves later this year.   Hopefully when we return in the New Year they will all be covered in snow so we can delay gathering 500 large sacks of Oak leaves for the Pineapple House until it is a bit warmer?

Our last working day started frosty but remained sunny.  Ferns used in the show garden were finally potted up and put in their winter quarters.  Once the frost had gone from the Kitchen Garden digging and manuring was rhythmically carried out.

Mid December sees the Volunteers’ Christmas Lunch, this year hosted by the Orchid House Stewards.  As usual it was a most enjoyable occasion and a chance to see and chat with members of the other volunteer teams.

Well, this is the end of my (still) long distance loneliness of (again) being the only blogger on the Grapevine for 2013.  I do thank everyone who had the kindness to say they enjoyed my Musings through the year and for them I shall continue in 2014.  I know you are all busy people, but in 2014 I would like to have a bit of company here and to read the observations of other gardeners about the gardens they love to work in. Believe me- it is not hard to write a few lines once a week.  I close with the following:

Quote by a Mr Reardon Smith of Joe Parham House, Essex: “Gardeners should not be control freaks; they should be passionate and imaginative, knowing when to step back and let things evolve.”

From an old Chambers Almanac: “January is the gate of the year, now open to let in the lengthening daylight.”

Walled Garden for sale

My parents own The Orangery, which is a house and walled garden with eight greenhouses, located at Hackwood Park near Basingstoke, Hampshire.

We are trying to sell the property, or find someone who would like to rent it and turn it into a business. I have put together a website for this here: www.orangeryhackwood.com 

I was wondering whether you could help by posting this on your website and telling your followers about it? Any help getting the word out would be much appreciated!

Many thanks,

Charlie Pool

The first Tuesday in January saw the volunteer team walking from the Mansion into Knutsford, via one of the Meres in the Parkland. Suitably refreshed with coffee, the team walked back via the old driveway to/from Knutsford to the Stable Yard Restaurant, where a hearty lunch was eagerly consumed, and the gift of mince pies from the restaurant staff was much appreciated.

The first working day the following week saw the Team down at the Rostherne Gate, near the Lodge, where rhodo-bashing commenced with gusto. The next week the Team were at the opposite end of the Formal Gardens, down past the Japanese Garden, rhodo-bashing there. All this walking certainly keeps the team fit.

Digging has commenced in the Kitchen Garden, with trailer loads of manure from the Home Farm heaps being liberally spread in the trenches. Hardy plants used in the Show Garden were potted on and moved to the Nursery.

February. The Chinese Year of the Wooden Horse was celebrated the first weekend. I hope you all had your candles blessed for use in the coming year on Candlemas (02 Feb), which was ‘clear and bright’, so ‘winter will have another bite’. There was certainly a chill in the Orchard, where two of us tied in the extension growth of the espaliered apples and pears, with increasingly chilly fingers.

The ‘coming of the light’ (longer day length) gladdens the ‘winter sad’ heart and brings forth the added joy of Hazel Catkins, Crocus, Snowdrops and early Primroses, with the promising buds of Daffodils beginning to peep from their foliage.

A shower of rain did not put off the Team from tackling the cutting down the long rows of the Autumn Raspberries, and they were rewarded with sun for the rest of the day. The Summer Raspberries were also similarly spruced up to good effect. The six giant ‘vines’ of the Marionberry (blackberry/loganberry cross) were reduced down to six sinuous ‘canes’ each, to try and curb the vigour of the stools.

‘Came a mighty rushing wind’ and the 80mph winds certainly spring-cleaned the Parkland and Gardens. The deer and the sheep appreciated the bark from the fallen branches before the Rangers cleared up the debris.

Trees in Charlotte’s Garden were damaged by the fierce gusts, so were expertly pruned and trimmed back into shape by the Gardeners. The resulting wood and brash were hauled to ‘the back woods’ where the bonfire burned merrily, turning the wood into charcoal and wood ash for use in the gardens.

Invitation from Susan Campbell
Plans to celebrate The Tercentenary, in 2016, of the birth of Capability Brown, began to be made about a year ago, but right from start one thing was clear.  No one was taking account of the fact that Brown had designed numerous kitchen gardens and ancillary buildings within the parks and landscapes for which he is so famous. 
It was then that Fiona Grant and I resolved, with the help of the Walled Kitchen Garden Network, County Gardens Trusts and any other interested bodies, to identify and list as many of these kitchen gardens as possible, and pass the knowledge on to those responsible for the Celebrations. 
This task can, alas, no longer be shared with Fiona, but I fully intend to see the job through to the end. The organisers of the CB300 Festival have agreed that I should collate all the information that can be gathered on Brown’s kitchen gardens, and this I have begun to do. I must have visited at least 50 parks or gardens that have, or might have, kitchen gardens designed by Brown but I have very scrappy data for all but a few. 
I would be very grateful therefore, for any information from anyone within the Network who has anything to pass on. Please contact me at susan.campbell@walledgardens.net

Fiona. . .always curious.

This one from Jeremy Milln was taken at Bettisfield.  She is holding up a cast iron wall eye from the vinery, by Henry Hope, 1845.

This one from Jeremy Milln was taken at Bettisfield. She is holding up a cast iron wall eye from the vinery, by Henry Hope, 1845.

Fiona. . .always curious.

After wading through waist high brambles she finally climbed up on this old railing in an attempt to peer over the wall.

Susan Campbell’s


Westhope Green Burial Ground, Craven Arms, Shropshire,

Friday 24th January, 2014


I am honoured  to have been asked to speak  today about my dear friend Fiona, but I fear I am inadequate. We worked together for thirteen years, and yet I know hardly anything about her.

 I don’t know where or when she was born, or even the date of her birthday. I do know that she doted on her family; her two loving sisters, her adored son and daughter, her fine son-in-law and daughter-in-law, her three gorgeous grandchildren and her darling dog. I know that she went to a posh boarding school and was for a time a glamorous model for Belinda Belville, that she had a rackety spell as a High Bohemian Hippy and, by the time I met her, had studied Art and was teaching Garden History. But literally that’s it.

 Ignorance of a person’s private or past life may be quite usual when people share an intense love of their work. It’s true that we hardly talked or communicated about anything else during the many happy years we spent working together on the Walled Kitchen Garden Network. This setup was entirely Fiona’s idea and, if you have never heard of it, it’s an internet organization that enables people to email us, and each other, if they have questions about walled kitchen gardens (their history, restoration, funding, future uses, planning issues etc. etc). Also, through our Workshops, Talks and Annual Forums (which Fiona also organized), it puts faces onto those people.

 She and I had huge fun inspecting the venues for those events (I think she held the record for the number of times anyone could drive round a roundabout before finding the right exit). We met and interviewed garden owners of all sorts – community leaders, property developers, herbalists, health spa managers, horticultural therapists, dukes and earls, schoolmasters and hoteliers – with overnight stops in a wide range of hostelries and B&Bs. We’d send cautious invitations to potential speakers about whom we knew very little, or not enough, but by whom we were often happily surprised (indeed, thanks to Fiona, I married one of them) and over the years we dealt with more and more questions, and more and more people wanting to come to our Forums. Moreover, the Garden History Society, the National Trust, English Heritage and Garden Organic all wished to be affiliated with us.

 So I’d say Fiona’s baby was a success, even though when I first met her she was quite unnecessarily unsure of her own abilities. But lately she really shone. She worked without stint on the welfare and history of these marvellous gardens. I have had dozens of messages admiring the charm, efficiency, friendliness, humour, intelligence and energy with which she handled the affairs of the Network. She also gave many talks and lectures, organised garden tours, provided reports and management plans, edited newsletters and booklets for her local County Garden Trusts and only last summer published a small book entitled ‘Glasshouses’ which has all the hallmarks of a serious, relentless researcher, and is a classic of its kind.

 I know people in organizations such as ours say ‘no one is indispensable’. That may well be so, but she was also a friend and, dear Fiona, as a friend you are irreplaceable. 




A lovely recent photo taken by Paul Richmond for her Shire book promotion. Thank you very much Paul!


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