Hugh Thomas has been head gardener at Little Malvern Court for 9 years, since the spring of 2012. During that time, although the fundamental layout of the garden has remained the same, there have been many changes and additions overseen by Hugh and the team of gardeners.
These have included the re-discovery of the stream garden, the replacement of the cascades between the second and third ponds, the creation of several new woodland borders and the design and planting of the fernery garden in the ruined north chapel of Little Malvern Priory.
As with any garden time marches on and plants need replacing as they grow old or diseased, or are battered by the weather. Hugh has added to the already impressive collection of trees at LMC, as well as many shrubs and flowering plants. And changes continue to happen. The latest project completed in early 2021 is the re-planting of the rose garden, originally laid out in 1983.
28th June 2021
So only three weeks left in our visitor season. Why is it that every year passes faster than the year before? It’s been a strange month of June, some hot days, some cool, some wet, some dry.
The rose garden is taking shape: the older roses we retained when we re-planted in spring have all flowered in abundance (many still are). The new roses, all planted as bare root, are looking quite happy but lack the height of their older cousins. The good news is they are flowering and promise to make the rose garden an overwhelming experience in years to come.
The wildflower meadow has been a great success. Whereas last year I could literally count the individual orchids (common spotted), this year there is so many more and too many to count.
The ponds are now covered in flowering lilies, and not for nothing is Little Malvern Court known as the Giverny of the North! If you don’t believe me come and see for yourself.
3rd June 2021
May finished with all the leftovers from March and April: wind and rain. Add to that the sunshine and warmth we’ve had since and it’s no wonder the grass is growing so fast, along with everything else.
The good news is the rose garden is showing signs of life and it won’t be long before we begin to see the benefits of all the hard work over the winter. The first roses are beginning to bloom with hopefully thousands to follow. It’s looking good.
This is the busiest time of the year because growth is so vigorous, but also the best time to visit the garden. There is so much to see and so much colour. The Iris in the stream garden and by the ponds are so beautiful, and well supported by many Primula and the fresh growth on the Hostas. The flower meadow too, is so bright and cheerful, a riot of yellow.
20th May 2021
Last time I finished by talking about the wildflower meadow and the amazing Camassia esculanta, which are looking fantastic. But even more exciting news from the meadow is the arrival of a new orchid, the green-veined orchid, Orchis Morio.
As everyone familiar with Welland village green will know, there is a beautiful carpet of green-veined orchids in flower at this time of year. Well somehow, but I’ve no idea how, one of these has appeared in our meadow. The wonders of nature! And of course, (orchids being a bit choosy about where they grow), if the conditions are right for this newcomer then we can look forward to more in future years as it sets seed.
However, my picture this week is not a flower, but another blue visitor to the meadow, a small blue butterfly, gracing us with its' presence in glorious sunshine.
10th MAY 2021
AT LAST! Not only has the frost finally gone after 4 or 5 weeks of very cold mornings, but we’ve had rain as well. Of course, the inevitable happens and the garden springs into life as never before.
Having fertilized the lawns they are shooting up and will need 3 cuts per fortnight. The herbaceous plants, which have been largely sulking up to now, have gone bushy overnight. Everywhere you look the amount of growth is phenomenal.
Funnily enough though, the cold mornings seem to have benefitted the bulbs: the later daffodils are still hanging on, and the tulips have never been better. Still flowering strongly with no sign yet of giving up.
The wildflower meadow, coming into its own, is on the verge of being very special. The Camassias especially are looking great. The taller C. leichtlenii always come first, but the shorter C. esculanta (posh Bluebells to you and me), are close behind. We planted 1000 about 5 years ago, and now each one is multi-headed giving us thousands of flowers to come.
27th APRIL 2021
Another dry week at the end of a very dry month. Who would have thought we would need to put the sprinkler on in April?
As you can see the tulips are looking great. We plant hundreds each year in the pots, arranged by colour. Top terrace is pink as pictured, lower terrace yellow and the rose garden white. They make a fantastic display in the sunshine.
The amount of colour elsewhere in the garden continues to increase. Crab apples are beginning to show, soon to be joined by Wisteria and Clematis. The later Magnolias too are blooming lovely!
It is such a lovely time of year, with all the fresh new growth. Come and visit the garden on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon and see for yourself. The Tea Room is now open. Hooray!
10th APRIL 2021
Who can believe this weather? In the last few weeks we have gone from +22C to -3C. Crazy. And for the first time in my experience our lovely Magnolia soulangeana ‘Alba Superba’ have suffered. Not from frost, but SNOW! Looking absolutely superb one day, brown the next. Luckily the magnolias in more sheltered positions and the cherries, which are already in blossom, were unaffected.
The Amelanchiers by the first pond are looking their best, clouds of soft pink and white, sparkling in the sunshine. And all around, trees and shrubs have burst into leaf and flower. On the ground bulbs and woodland plants provide a tapestry of colour.
To illustrate the above two pictures this week, taken within a day of each other.
25th MARCH 2021
In 2017 the Magnolia soulangeana ‘Alba Superba’ broke bud and started flowering before the end of February whereas in 2018 (beast from the east!) they waited until early April, fully six weeks later. Then in 2019 it was back to February. 2020, and now this year seem to have resumed normal service: mid-March. And they really do look impressive. Come and see for yourself. Once they start flowering, they go for up to six weeks so there is plenty of time left to enjoy them.
Thankfully the weather has mostly been kind to us recently and with plenty of sunshine the ground is drying and it is possible to get lots done. Which means all the routine gardening jobs: grass cutting, weeding and hoeing, the last of the pruning, moving plants and putting in new ones. Those ground cover and companion plants that came out of the rose garden to make way for the replanting of the roses are going back in, looking better for being divided, and making the whole space look new and interesting.
We have been open for two Fridays already for the National Garden Scheme and how nice it is to welcome back visitors. This Friday is the third and final afternoon for this month so if you can, try and make it along. The colour is really starting to come back into the garden. Hooray!
16th MARCH 2021
This year, like every year, I am surprised how quickly Spring takes hold. A few good days of sunshine, the ground starts drying out and all of a sudden leaves are appearing on trees and shrubs, shoots are popping out of the ground all over the garden and primroses, daffodils and magnolias at last fill the garden with colour.
Talking of daffodils, each autumn we plant some more to bolster numbers of existing varieties, or in new locations. This year we put planted 2000 on the roadside bank just outside the garden by the Priory. Five separate varieties that will flower in sequence, giving a show to brighten the way for weeks to come.
We had our first NGS afternoon last Friday. The weather was kind to us and it was great to see the first visitors of the year enjoy the early Spring colour. Coupled with the bulbs and blossom is the terrific sense of anticipation of what’s to come.
We are open the next two Fridays for NGS from 2pm onwards. The weather forecast is good so I hope to see you here.
5th MARCH 2021
New year, new blog.
As we emerge from winter it’s about time I provided an update on the garden. Following a fairly standard winter, (some wet some dry, some sunny spells some cold snaps) the garden is ready to spring into life. The snowdrops have been good this year and now the daffodils seem ready to follow suit. Buds are fattening on the trees and before we know it our long period of spring blossom will be under way.
The magnificent Magnolias at the heart of the garden have yet to flower. I have known them break bud as early as 20th February and as late as early April, so this year looks like a return to normal in mid-March. Cyclamen and hellebores continue to perform well, both spreading further every year.
The biggest change undertaken in the garden this winter has been to replant the rose garden. Originally laid out and planted in the early 1980s, not surprisingly many of the roses had lost their vigour. We have opted for major change, removing and replacing about 30 roses. We have not done a like-for-like replacement but instead chosen many different David Austin roses that are in keeping with our colour scheme but provide repeat flowering and greater scent. At the same time the companion and under-planting has been refreshed so the whole rose garden will have a very new feel. I will keep you posted on progress.