Our unique Garden

Just before Christmas I posed a question for everyone, asking what you think make Charlton House Gardens unique. I had a good number of replies, and I’m pleased to report that most of you DO think they are unique! But I have had a real challenge trying to consolidate them into a single idea.

Here are just a few extracts from your replies:

  • “The gardens are rooted in their sense of time and place, where you can imagine them as Jacobean gardens but where you can also see modern day planting. There is a passion and desire to keep these gardens relevant for future generations.”
  • “The House is an architectural gem, whose early inhabitants played a significant role in the revolutions of the seventeenth century; today, the gardens are an oasis of beauty and peace in the midst of the urban sprawl of London.”
  • “The gardens are small but contain as diverse and exciting planting as you might expect from a much larger space.”
  • “The gardens are public but very community focused, beloved of local gardeners creating fabulous displays and running special events.”
  • “Not unique, but certainly rare, in that they still have the atmosphere of the Jacobean age. Planting with a “nod” to the Jacobean era.”
  • “An unexpected historic oasis in a desert of modern housing”
  • “They play to a sense of history and yet have a contemporary design adapted to change of climate.”
  • “Unique because they are community-run but following professional design principles.”

So, at then end of all that, let’s go with:

Charlton House Gardens: an historic oasis of beauty and peace in the midst of the urban sprawl of London, where local volunteer gardeners work together to ensure the gardens stay beloved and relevant for future generations.

If you can say it better, please let me know!

Kathy

January 2023 Talk: ‘Perennials in the Garden’

Anne Barnard from Rose Cottage Plants, a nursery that has won several RHS medals, following on from her successful talk last year on dahlias, gave an informative  and useful talk on some of her favourite perennials. She also brought some bulbs for sale which were snapped up.

Although the nursery is known nowadays for specialising in dahlias,  when it first  started some 25 years ago, they specialised  in perennials. Starting her nursery came from her involvement in the National Gardens Scheme.

In her presentation, Anne referred to and described a  large number and wide range of perennials and the conditions they need to grow well, as well as showing a range of perennials that partner well together. Some of the perennials she mentioned are listed here and some of them her nursery  sells. They also sell bulbs.

Continue reading January 2023 Talk: ‘Perennials in the Garden’

A Unique Question – one for you!

As a Garden Volunteer at Charlton House Gardens, I was recently asked to explain what makes the walled gardens and estate “unique”. The question was born of a genuine desire to understand and perhaps help the gardens become better known. Of course, it’s one of those questions that you go away and carry on thinking about.. and wonder what you should have said. 

I asked our regular Volunteers what they thought (they keep on coming back, so they must love it for some reason!)

Peace Garden in snow
Peace Garden, Winter 2022, by Head Gardener Jason Sylvan

Lots of great ideas came up around biodiversity and pollinators and sustainability. But you could argue that every garden is unique – what makes this particular combination of place and plants so special? We kept coming back to community spirit – particularly as the gardens have had only a tiny amount of external funding – the majority of their transformation has come from community fund raising and effort, and crucially, the use of a professional garden designer.  

A good point was made that if you compare Charlton House Gardens with, say, Greenwich Royal Park, Charlton attracts mostly local people and not your average tourist – so there is an great feeling of ownership and responsibility. They may attract the discerning tourist in future (we certainly hope they do) but for now they are in “our” Trust.

We often call the Old Pond Garden the “Secret Garden”, after Frances Hodgson Burnett’s childrens story, but one Volunteer suggested the Lost Gardens of Charlton (Heligan) might be a better comparison now, as we re-discover and re-imagine the original spaces.

What do YOU think? Send in your ideas of why Charlton House Gardens are unique, we would love to hear from you (anyone, not just members) to cabahshortisoc@gmail.com. We will encapsulate your ideas into one “unique” statement in the New Year – and hopefully answer that question.

Old Pond Garden in snow
Old Pond Garden, Winter 2022, by Head Gardener Jason Sylvan

Kathy

OPG Diary – November/December

Welcome to Winter in the garden, and all the many lovely shades of brown. So many seedheads, grasses and winter leaves are keeping the Old Pond Garden looking beautiful. November was incredibly wet but the Volunteers tackled some great projects. The shrubbery in the front car park has benefitted from a comprehensive weed and some marathon pruning. A soakaway was dug by the steps to the Montessori Nursery, so that parents can pick up the kids without needing waders. Then it was on to bulb planting – we predict a River of Purple (Alliums) through the beds next year!

Continue reading OPG Diary – November/December

A candle pot heater

A useful DIY way to heat up the greenhouse! You just need two terracotta pots, a large nut, bolt and washers, a couple of bricks and a nightlight candle. Watch the video on YouTube to find out how (skip the ads!). Remember, this is for the greenhouse only and be careful not to have fleece or anything flammable near it.

The video suggests using small nightlights, but they don’t last through the night – better to use 8-10 hour nightlights.

Have any CABAHS members tried this? Does it work?

November meeting: Rose Growing made easy – Simon White

Simon White is the President of Norwich Horticultural Society and Sales Manager for the RHS award winning Peter Beales Garden Centre in Attleborough, Norfolk, where he has worked for 41 years.

He gave an entertaining and informative talk on growing roses. He said, if provided with the right conditions, it was not true that roses were difficult to grow. Simon said Beales had the largest collection of roses in the world. They primarily sell bare root roses and many old traditional classic roses. They grow from seed some 250,000  a year in fields rented from a local farmer and he described how they grew them.

He then went on to show how we at home could grow bare root roses:

1.THEY NEED GOOD SOIL PREPARATION: Ideally bare root  roses should be planted from November to March. Good  quality fertiliser,  including horse manure which is at least six month old, should be used. Do not use mushroom manure.

Continue reading November meeting: Rose Growing made easy – Simon White

Gardening for Moths Too

Kathy’s post about Gardening for the Bees was interesting – particularly because I love honey! But it made me want to encourage a similar interest in Moths. There are at least 2,500 species of moths in Britain and very few will eat your clothes!

Joe and I have been monitoring moths for the Garden Moth Scheme since 2013 when we were invited to enter a raffle for a moth trap. We think we were tricked! One of our fellow Volunteer Rangers at Jesmond Dene in Newcastle is a GMS Regional Coordinator and he was looking for new recruits! We didn’t win the raffle but he lent us a trap and a book and, as they say, the rest is history. We transferred to the South East Branch when we moved south and now we even continue through the Winter Moth Scheme…

The moth trap is a simple box with a light above it. The light attracts the moths and they end up in the box below with lots of egg trays to rest in. They are not harmed. In the morning, we open the box and identify and count the different species, taking photos of unusual ones. How different are our moth records here and in the North? For the last full year we were in Newcastle (2018), we recorded 290 moths of 61 species. Last year here, we recorded 844 moths of 143 species. Moths that hadn’t reached the North at that time were the Jersey Tiger and Box Tree Moths and we get more migrants here – some moths fly over the Channel!

Continue reading Gardening for Moths Too

Gardening for the Bees

My husband ( a beekeeper) recently treated me to a visit to the National Honey Show, which is sort of like going to RHS Chelsea if you are a beekeeper. Apart from an enormous number of jars of honey, there were talks available, and we attended one  from Dr Nick Tew on “The role of gardens in supporting Insect Pollinators”.  It was a really good talk, with scientific research explained in easy terms.

Title slide

A few slides stood out for me – for instance, the time period for flowering plants in a garden, compared with a hedgerow or pasture. Most gardeners love to have something in flower all through the year, so although the volume of nectar/pollen in a garden might not be as high as in a meadow or hedgerow in full swing, it is available for a much longer time span. So in fact such a garden is more useful to insects.

There are some downsides to a garden – Nick calls it “horticultural bling”, a lovely phrase which unfortunately can be applied to a few parts of my garden (but luckily not many!)

 A version of the talk is on Youtube, the link is below, it’s a good watch.

The Show was held at Sandown Park racecourse, and it was huge. It reminded me of a Horticultural Show in that it not only had classes for honey, but also eg craft and baking classes. The sunflowers shown here are made of wax!

I bought some sparkling mead from one of the stalls, took down a recipe for “Gin & Tonic Honey cake” and bought a couple of seed packets to convert my lawn into a meadow at some point in my dreams. The final stall we visited worried me a little, as it is giving my husband ideas!

Bee suits for the family

YouTube talk if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdLvAxNuEms

Kathy

Poppies to Remember

Poppies for Remembrance on the gates

Thank you to all our volunteers, members and local residents who donated plastic bottle bases over the past year – look what we did with them! It might not be quite Tower of London level, but our poppy cascade makes a great “Stop and Remember” point on your walk around the park this week.

We also added some to the Peace Garden gates.

Kathy