Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sycamore felling - brave stuff!

The sycamore is finally down.  It was sad to lose a 100ft tree; it always is.  However, it wasn't in a great state with a fair bit of rot, and it was threatening the surrounding buildings, and indeed our visitors!

Now, here is some brilliant tree surgery.  This wasn't an easy job.  After chopping off the top hamper, the team had to thread the main trunk through a small gateway such that it fell clear both of a water tank on the one side, and Harold Peto's casita building on the other.  Skill indeed.  Here it is:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

First day of the season - and removing the old sycamore

What a glorious day to welcome the summer season - 18 degrees at its hottest, with a slight breeze, bright sunshine... wonderful.

But it was also a sad day, as William Waldren's team of tree surgeons arrived to begin a two-day 'sectioning down' of the old Sycamore above the Oriental Garden, photos below.  The tree was condemned as dangerous (to people and buildings) when it was found to have a broadly hollow trunk, and with the high winds this winter we were crossing our fingers rather!
The loss of this tree will certainly affect the structural look of the garden, but as with all living elements of gardens, as one thing is lost, others take over and the focus shifts.

In addition one of the false acacia (robinia) trees in the main yard was taken down as it was showing signs of leaning in a rather uncontrolled manner.  Attractive stumps!

Monday, 31 March 2014

A busy day, planting, casting and mowing

A hive of activity today helped by the warm dry weather.

On the back terraces, Joff and Shane have been casting the concrete foundations for the posts which will hold up the second run of Peto's climbers for our historic reconstruction of his rose garden.  
Rose expert Robert Mattock of has managed to track down old forms of roses that Peto would have used, based on the the metal plant labels which we have dug up in the borders over the years.  Planting should be taking place at the end of the month - so watch this space (phase 1 on left, below, with phase 2 on next terrace up, to the right)
Rob has been laying down some very smart lines (above, and below) with the mower in the first big cut of the season. The smell is glorious, and the results speak for themselves:

And Shane has also planted out two venerable, old rosemary plants, one garden form (left) and one wild form (right).
It is a challenge to know what to do when a structural element is forcibly taken away from the garden.  The design must adapt for sure, but there are a lot of considerations.  The rockery here has been built following the demise in the winter storms of one of four lime trees, and whilst we wait to see whether there is any residual disease, or other factors, the rockery is a good 'for the time being' solution.
The surrounding wild flowers will fill in the bare patch above the rockery.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Season begins on April 1st

A series of spring images to lighten the mood.  The borders remain unplanted owing to the late weather, but we anticipate the bulk of the planting will be done in late April.  The cherries on the main lawn are having a great year, the wisteria looks to be on course for late April, air-frost permitting.

We open on April 1st for the season - more info at


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spring: sprung.

Following months of rain, the grey warmth of the March sun has awakened not only the songbirds and pheasant, but also the early blossoms.  In particular the camellia by the loggia is on fiery form.
  The old, venerable rosemaries...
 and the cherry blossoms are early:
and the beautiful pink one on the lawn will be out in force in a couple of weeks.
 The optimistic shoots are coming through on the great terrace...
 Although the weather has meant that the borders are only being planted out in the coming fortnight, as we continue with Alison Jenkins' exciting planting scheme:
Iford opens for the year on April 1st - we look forward to seeing you!

Monday, 24 February 2014


It hasn't been a particularly warm welcome to 2014 from the weather gods.  Our thoughts are with our farming colleagues in Somerset - underwater for weeks now.  At Iford we have had our own challenges to deal with, but not as devastating as theirs.

The river Frome here is very 'flashy' in that it can come up and go back down again in a very short number of hours - this makes it less predictable, but also means that floods tend not to last long - as was the case back in December and again after New Year when we had a couple of fairly deep inundations.  Nothing reached the main house, but the Mill was flooded and of course the pasture which may in time affect our farming (although it might be quite beneficial if the fertility increases. We shall see).

We lost one of the four lime trees in the middle of the garden, weakened (worryingly) by honey fungus, and brought down by gales.
 Here was what was left of the stump.
We lost a Horse Chestnut on the top road to Freshford and this morning we had to bring down a Sycamore and an Ash which had become too weak to support themselves safely.  Recent wind and super-saturation of the soil had meant they were now leaning dangerously on their neighbours. 
Elsewhere the wet weather has meant it has been almost impossible to get any border work done in the garden.  Rob and his gardening team have found plenty of things to do in the greenhouses, repairing paths and such like, but fundamentally we just want to get the plants out in the borders so we have something interesting for April to complement the blossom.

The spring flowers are out in force, and the daffodils even are starting to come out - more on the plants in our next garden report next week.  All we need now is a dry-spell and some sunshine!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Britain's Most Special Places - HHA short film

Did you know that around three quarters of the UK population makes a visit to a heritage site every year?  Or that the top reason for coming to the UK given by foreign visitors is to visit our castles, houses and gardens?  Heritage tourism is an important economic driver in the UK.

To highlight the importance of the heritage sector and the role played by private owners and guardians of our historic properties, the Historic Houses Association has commissioned a short film.  It's well worth a look; please share it with others.