A tour around Townhill Park House and Gardens

Tricia WorbyGardening guru Tricia Worby takes a tour around Townhill Park House and Gardens, and offers us some seasonal gardening tips.

Well we are just coming to the end of the most miserable summer in living memory.  Last year I was talking about automatic watering systems to counteract the drought, but no need for that this year! This wet season has had both losers and winners: losers were the Mediterranean plants which revel in sunshine, some of which are looking distinctly lack-lustre, some suffering from mildew and other fungal diseases — horse-chesnut trees went brown by mid-summer for this reason; winners were the lawn which did not suffer any browning off but stayed green throughout. Indeed most things carried on growing so that my normal August break from trimming and pruning simply didn’t happen. Other winners were slugs. Millions of them. I’m sure you’ll have noticed.


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Talking of slugs, I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour of Townhill Park House and Gardens, West End at the beginning of September, and despite a rainy evening it proved a fascinating visit.

We had a very knowledgeable tour guide in the shape of Rosaleen Wilkisnon, who has almost single-handedly planned the restoration, along with some hardy volunteers and one part-time gardener. The estate once belonged to Lord Swaything and has a long and varied history.

It was designed by the great garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.  It is now owned by the Gregg school but is a very high quality landscape that deserves recognition.  The evening we visited there were slugs everywhere helping themselves to some very delicious planting. If that isn’t enough they have a deer problem too! This has forced some deviation from the original planting schemes devised by Jekyll — the only things that deer won’t eat seem to be grey and hairy leaved planting so this is used extensively. It isn’t fenced so deer (and locals) can wander in at their leisure — this has caused some problems with vandalism and trampling.  They have a couple of open days per year where you can go and view when it is at it’s best. See my pictures for a taster…

Townhill Park Gardens

Townhill Park Gardens

Townhill Park Gardens

So, perhaps I should return to what to do in the garden at this time of year. Well, it’s a perfect time for planting — containerised shrubs and trees and also splitting and dividing some of the lower-growing perennial planting which has finished flowering.  If you do lift bits throw away the weakest parts of the plant and replant the remainder with some new compost around the roots — this will encourage them to romp away. Plants at their best now are the Japanese anemones, Heleniums (large yellow daisy flowers) and Michaelmas daisies and all manner of grasses — the much-maligned pampas grass in a garden I designed 7 years ago has had its best flowering year ever. Also looking good are japanese anemones - an invaluable flower for semi-shade.

japanese anemones
japanese anemones

It’s also time to think about planting spring bulbs before the soil gets too cold. Group them in clumps according to final height rather than dotting them about everywhere — it’s a much more effective display. Avoid the very large daffs unless planting in longer wild grass areas — their foliage is too ugly when over.  The dwarfer alpine varieties such as ‘Tete a tete’ are much more successful in town gardens.  I noticed that there was a splendid selection of bulbs in a local German supermarket (which shall remain nameless) for half the price of local garden centres.  You can plant tulips right up until Christmas but daffs and other early bulbs should go in before the end of November to give them time to put down roots.

And don’t forget to mulch — yes I know I always say that but you can never have too much!

That’s all for now folks.

Don’t forget I offer one-off consultations, advice and help with planting as well as a full design service - see my website for more information.  Look forward to hearing from you - happy gardening!




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