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‘The wettest on record!’ Abbot’s Hall Walled Garden

January 2014

All this rain has not stopped play in the walled garden where we have been busily preparing for a new growing season. The seed catalogues have been pummelling the doorstep bringing with them hope and inspiration for the year ahead. Hot favourites are the Heritage Seed Library, The Real Seed Catalogue, Thomas Etty, Kings Seeds and Moles. We have been reviewing what grew and sold well last year, and where we could do better. We will certainly be trying for some Christmas sprouts and parsnips, none of which germinated last year, as well as upping our numbers on carrots, beetroot, tomatoes and salads. We are also looking at expanding our range by growing flowers for cutting to supply the café with table decorations as well as sell on our Walled Garden stall.

One task we have started this January has been to coppice, bend, bundle and store hazel and willow for use in the garden. These two readily available woods are invaluable – coppiced now they can be bent and tied into shape, forming a rigid structure once dry. Last year the willow bent into a ‘U’ shape was fantastic for supporting our protective netting, but if not sufficiently dried-out can root easily. Below, Terry and Jo test their strength and patience bending willow.

January is a great time (soil conditions allowing) to plant bare-root shrubs and trees. Keen to introduce some local heritage varieties of fruit in the garden I have been in contact with East of England Apples and Orchards Project (EEAOP).

EEAOP’s a non-profit company working to ensure the future of around 250 local varieties of apple, pear, plum and cherry that come from the East of England. These varieties and their orchard habitat need to be preserved for their local significance, genetic diversity, as local food sources and their landscape and wildlife value.

Last week volunteers to the walled garden planted local varieties including ‘St. Edmunds Russett’ (Syn. St. Edmund’s Pippin) – a desert apple raised by Mr Richard Harvey of Bury St Edmunds pre 1875, ‘Lord Stradbroke’ (c.1900) -a cooker raised by Lord Stradbroke’s head gardener at Henham Hall, and ‘Sturmer Pippin’ (Essex c.1800) – a dual purpose apple which is a good keeper.

Next month I hope to add a few more local varieties to the list.

Lucy Skellorn

Heritage Garden Intern


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