The weather so far this month has been lovely, and the gardens are enjoying all the sunshine we’ve had with colour blooming everywhere, and the garden’s wildlife coming to the fore as well.
I’ve been discovering lots of lost and hidden parts of the garden on my regular walks and works, including some really old Rhododendrons which I uncovered in an area of the garden marked on Horlick’s map as “First Garden”. These may have been some of the earliest plants that he put in at Achamore. One is a massive shrub with a label date of 1931 - Rhododendron “Mrs James Horlick” (named after his first or second wife?) with wonderful smooth, peeling grey bark and huge, showy pink flowers. We are lucky to have 15 or more of these rhodies at various ages scattered across Achamore, but her sibling, “Lady Horlick”, is proving to be far more elusive. The plant survey done in the early 2000s only lists two of these in the entire garden, and so far I’ve had no luck tracking them down but the hunt continues! I’m really hoping we find “Lady Horlick” as the last time she was listed on the RHS Plantfinder was 2003 so she may well be lost to commercial cultivation.
There’s colour to be seen all over the garden now, with the Rhododendrons and Azaleas being joined by many others. The candelabra primulas and the wildflowers are also playing their part in the tapestry. I’ve found four clumps of pure white bluebells which is incredible as they are quite rare – did you know that only 1 in 10,00 bluebells come up white?
Whilst the Rhododendron flowers are beginning to fade, their new foliage is a constant source of surprise and wonder. It comes in all sorts of colours - some of my favourties are included in the photos.
We’ve also begun work to cut back and clear the brambles, nettles, ferns, sycamore saplings and other assorted overgrowth around the gardens. We are concentrating on areas where plants are at most risk of succumbing to their thuggish neigbours and it’s slow (and sometimes bloody!) work, but hopefully you will begin to see the difference when you are allowed back into the gardens. Here’s just one of the areas that we have been working on, where two Rhododendrons were being swallowed up by the evergreen fern Blechnum chilense - a lovely, statuesque plant, but it can get a bit out of hand if it likes your growing conditions!
And finally here’s a wee good news story from the walled garden, where I’ve been keeping an eye on a pair of Chaffinches who decided to make their nest in one of the bushes. The eggs hatched around the 5th of May, and all four babies successfully fledged on the 21st May. Good luck wee ones!
Bryony White - Head Gardener - May 2020
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