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.
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!)
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 email@example.com. We will encapsulate your ideas into one “unique” statement in the New Year – and hopefully answer that question.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
September started off with the tail end of The Drought and as it became wetter the Volunteers were very grateful to get back to some proper gardening. The great news is that we hardly lost any plants at all.
The Peace Garden has benefited from our attention, with the last of the annoying stones on the path edges being removed, and work on the shrubs and climbers along the walls making them look much more defined and trim.
In the Old Pond Garden, many perennials went to seed earlier than usual, due to the drought, but the seedheads are quite spectacular.
The Volunteers were thrilled to receive a donation of jars of honey from the Charlton House Beekeepers. The bees had a bumper year, partly due to our lovely gardens. To stop any squabbling, we held a raffle to decide who got a jar and the happy winners are shown here:
We will have our usual stall at the Horn Fair at Charlton House this Sunday, October 16th, from 11am. This year we will be outside in the gardens, by the Peace Garden gate – hopefully in some lovely Autumnal sunshine!
Members have been very generous with their plant donations and we also have some great plants grown on by the Volunteers in the walled gardens. As well as plants, there will be lavender bags (from the Peace Garden), and seeds for sale, as well as some Notecards featuring the Old Pond Garden, painted by local artist Amabel Barlow. https://www.amabelbarlow.online/my-portfolio-1
Head Gardener Jason Sylvan will be running tours of the garden on the hour from 12, there will be loads of activities for kids including Bouncy Castles, Autumn crafts with Montessori Moments, and our very own Spooky Spider Bat and Pumpkin trail.