Andrew Woodall gave us a fascinating insight into his career, from manufacturing stilts for picking tomatoes and keeping giant snails, working as head gardener at several locations to his current position at Broughton Grange.
Andrew touched on some of the challenges he has encountered during his career; interpreting someone else’s vision, working with designers and to budgets, the aftermath of landscaping with modern machinery and living and working in Italy’s daytime heat.
Andrew’s first job in 1992 at Pennington House was to reinstate its garden which had been untouched for ten years. As a big step up 2000 his next job was to maintain the established garden at Fort Belvedere. In 2003 Andrew moved to Il Palagio in Italy to work alongside Arabella Lennox-Boyd where his first job was to sort out drainage problems due to compacted soil.
In 2006 Andrew became head gardener at Broughton Grange, working with a team of four he manages a 25 acre garden set within 400 acres of beautiful countryside near Banbury. The Grange’s gorgeous three terraced walled garden was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith with the lower terrace’s low box hedging representing the cells in ash, beech and oak leaves. The rest of the gardens design is the work of the owner and Andrew. Andrew told us that time during lockdown was put to good use by digging out box with blight and replacing with 4000 Euonymus ‘Jean Hugues’. This took three weeks to place and plant in the lower terrace alone!
To start our new club year we were treated to a talk by Robin Pearce. Four years after retiring from the nursery trade Robin finds himself busy writing, giving talks and judging, including at this months Chelsea Flower Show.
Robin talked about creating a prairie garden in our back yards saying that lots of American natives blend well with our garden perennials, adding that we were probably familiar with several, such as Echinacea, Sanguisorba, Calamagrostis and Helenium.
Robin advised us that by providing a weed free, humus rich, moderately fertile site in full sun we could achieve a low maintenance, no staking, spraying or watering garden. To make it look natural he suggested choosing plants for a long season of interest, limiting the use of cultivars and species but repeating them, planting in drifts and curves and using winding paths.
Robin took us through some prairie plants, from the short and tall grassland areas to those at their woodland edges informing us of their height, suitability to our soil, health and vigour.
As well as looking beautiful, Robin said this style of garden would attract bees, butterflies and birds. Well worth trying a border or two.
A small group visited this interesting garden near Morton-in-Marsh. The entrance is via a beautiful 16th Century tithe barn which also houses the tea room. (Good coffee, tea and cakes.)
The exotic and tender nature of the majority of the plants is striking; Abutilon, Canna and tender Salvia in a verdant English Country House setting.
The garden is open from April to October. In autumn all the plants are removed from the borders, cuttings are taken or whole plants overwintered in the greenhouses.
2,500 tulip bulbs are planted which then welcome the first visitors in April before the tender plants can be put outside. This results in rather late flowering of many plants which makes August and September good times to visit.
Heather Godard-Key gave a splendid talk entitled ‘Fantastic Ferns’.
Heather’s talk was packed with historical facts, horticultural advice and amusing moments.
We were told how ferns, one of the oldest groups of plants on the planet, had evolved to cope with lots of different conditions and the varied and interesting ways they reproduce.
Heather mentioned how Victorian ladies, gripped by the freedom and excitement of ‘Fern-Mania’, harvested and wiped out some rare local species, leading to the foundation of a Pteridological Society with the aim of conserving them.
Heather recommended ferns to plant in damp and dry shade with growing tips for different soil conditions and gave advice on growing in pots.
All this information along with a tempting sales table, ensured that our first meeting in the Town Hall since March 2020 was a great success.
Our talk this month by Chrissy Ching was on Potagers.
Chrissy informed us that a Potager is a way of growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers together which must look beautiful and be edible. A Potager may be simple or elaborate in design and are traditionally symmetrical being laid out in rectangles and straight lines but curves are acceptable nowadays.
Chrissy took us through a few examples including the William Lawson inspired potager of Rosemary Verey at Barnsley House, where coloured cabbages grow beside lavender in beds that follow tradition by being edged in clipped box.
The Old Rectory Garden at Sudborough was designed by Rosemary Verey who added height by training fruit trees together whilst young to form arches which look pretty and also provide more fruit.
Chrissy talked about different coloured vegetables, stepover fruit, companion planting, the 3 sisters planting system and adding interest with pots, beehives, cloches, topiary and the pattern of brick paths.
I think we will all be looking at our plots in a different light from now on!