Head Gardener’s July Blog

It has been a while since I have written a garden blog. These past three months, have been a bit of a whirlwind in the gardens. The gardeners were playing catch up from the unseasonably cool spring, and for much of the past two or three months the garden received very little decent rain for two or three months. So as you can imagine everything was much reduced in size and not at its full magnificence. The garden team had been working together towards to deadline; a large family wedding in early July was all anyone was focusing on. Thankfully the wedding was a huge success the gardeners and everyone across the site pulled together and the garden has looked the best it ever has.

It is mid-July and the garden still looks very sharp. All paths are weeded, all flower beds are weeded and mulched. The walled garden and cut flower garden are also very colourful. All lawns are immaculate. You would think it is time to pause for breath, but no. A garden never stands still and there is still much important work to do.



Hampton Hack

You all might be familiar with the Chelsea Chop. This is something that gardeners do to many perennials. Cutting the plant back hard in late May, delays plants flowering but results in sturdier bushier plants that flower much more prolifically than if left alone. We were unable Chelsea chop this for fear of affecting flower displays in advance of the big family wedding. Right now we are undertaking the Hampton Hack. The Hampton Hack, is done around the time of Hampton Court Flower show or Early July. It involves cutting down certain perennials that have finished flowering to the ground to encourage a lower more compact plant that looks green and neat long into autumn, which otherwise would have turned brown and look unsightly. Plants such as perennial Geranium, Nepeta and Salvias benefit from the type of Pruning. All of the Nepeta under planted along the vinery have been chopped back hard and received a good mulch.



Pruning Rosaceace

Many ornamental trees in the Rose family (Rosaceae), Fruiting Trees such as plum and cherry cannot be pruned in autumn and winter (the normal time to prune trees) because they can be susceptible to a diseases such as called silver leaf and Bleeding Canker. So we have been giving a mid summer prune to our Ornamental Prunus trees along the terrace. These trees have not been pruned for a long time and have become over grown. We are taking around 20% of growth off them to reduce in size.

Box Moth Caterpillar

Pests and disease can be a problem in any garden and are best dealt with quickly once noticed, especially given we are an organic garden and chose not to use chemical controls. We have quite an extensive amount of box hedging across the garden, hundreds of metres. It’s great it frames the garden and adds a touch of formality, however catepillars can within a matter of months completely defoliate and kill a mature box plant if left untreated. At Fairlight Hall we use a range of organic cultural and biological controls to suppress dreaded box moth, which target different parts of the catepillars life cycle.  In spring early April when the caterpillars first emerge we use a product called Dipel DF. Dipel DF is a fungus Bacillus thuringiensis that is sprayed onto the leaves of the plant, once eaten by the caterpillar it caused them to stop feeding and they basically starve to death. This product is 90% effect however some do make it to adulthood and are able to product new offspring. To target these we use a Phero pump, we apply a dollop of goo, that imitates the female pheromone and confuses the males to the point that they are unable to locate and mate with the females. Together this control is very effective at stopping the Box moth.

Honey Bees

Last month we had an epidemic of swarming bees! If you can catch them in time, you can rehome them. When I began in my role as head gardener at Fairlight in November 2022, Fairlight Hall had not honey bees left, and no honey had been produced. 2022 was not a good year for Bees. The long summer drought of 2022 put stress to bee colonies, which were then not in a  robust enough condition to fight off wasp attacks of late summer which seriously reduced colony size. The Bees went into winter 2022 with no reserves and subsequently died off. Which is why we took the decision To buy 4 new colonies in May this year. Our beekeepers have now grown this number to 6 colonies, by collecting the swarming bees. Very soon we will start harvesting from the hives to make the much loved Fairlight Honey.