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.
10th April 2022
Last time I wrote we were looking forward to our NGS Open afternoons. As it turned out we were blessed with perfect weather and unprecedented numbers of visitors. Not being prepared for such numbers we ran out of cake and milk on the first Friday, but were better equipped a week later. Thank-you so much to those that came and enjoyed the garden.
As happens every April the garden is really taking off. The cherry blossom (Prunus shirtoae) and Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) and the riot of colour from magnolias, narcissi and primroses and a whole host of bulbs. Spring is such a fantastic time of year. And although there have been quite a few frosts recently, there has been very little damage.
Which sadly cannot be said of one of the cherry trees that was crushed under a pine tree that for no apparent reason keeled over last week. It would have been worse had the pine fallen at a different angle and crushed two or three cherries. Anyway, it is all tidied up now and presents an opportunity to consider making a change where the gap has opened up in the garden.
We are open for our regular garden visits (Wednesday and Thursday afternoons) just after Easter and there will be lots to enjoy. We still have Prunus ukon and P. shirofugen to come, and then the crab apples, clematis, bird-cherry, not to mention the spring-flowering shrubs and tulips, tulips, tulips.
The best is yet to come!
15th March 2022
Every year I seem to forget how quickly Spring takes hold. All of a sudden, leaves are appearing on trees and shrubs, everywhere millions of shoots are popping out of the ground and primroses, daffodils and magnolias at last fill the garden with colour.
We had our first NGS afternoon last Friday. The weather was not kind to usbut 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.
Occasionally I am asked what my favourite plant is. Impossible to answer – in any case it depends on the time of year – but without doubt one of the main contenders is our Leonard Messel Magnolia. It nestles in a sheltered part of the garden and is first glimpsed through the branches of other trees, but boy is it good? A lovely soft pink that illuminates the garden around it.
We are open the next two Fridays for NGS from 2pm onwards, light refreshments available. The weather forecast is good so I hope to see you here. Good gardening.
24th October 2021
It is “The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as John Keats so beautifully captured Autumn.
The garden is open this coming Friday for the NGS so why not come and enjoy some lovely autumn colours. The garden is looking very autumnal, a mixture of colours and tones, wet leaves and damp grass. The light is especially lovely at this time of year, much softer than in the summer. So with a bit of luck and some sunshine there is much to see and enjoy.
We open at 11am.
See Events page for more details.
4th October 2021
After a warm and sunny end to September it seems Autumn has actually arrived. The leaves are starting to make a nuisance of themselves, although on the plus-side the grass has virtually stopped growing, which means the end of mowing for this year is in sight.
Hedge-cutting is underway, with about half of all the yew hedges done. Only another three weeks to go! It is always a pleasure to see the straight lines and well-defined shapes emerge from the shaggy summer growth.
Our bulb order is in, and once they arrive the daffodils will go straight in the ground, although we wait until November to plant the tulips.
Autumn is such a busy time but also the best time for light levels and crisp, clean air.
Why not come and visit the garden on Friday 29th October. The colours in the garden and the hillside above are always at their best at this time. See EVENTS page for details.
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.