Sunday, 13 October 2013

Interlopers & more 18th century planting plates ...

interlopers in the orangery field

One of the best things about working at Gibside is that you never know what might happen on any given day. Saturday proved a case in point, as we arrived at work to find 4 horses happily munching away at the clover in the field in front of the orangery. Fortunately Vicky, one of our rangers, recognised the horses and was able to contact the owners and let them know about their escapees. The horses had managed to get through a gap in the fence, cross over the river, and find their way to that fabled land where the grass (or the clover at least) is greener.
Vicky holding the first "recaptured" horse
The horses were surprisingly easily cajoled away from the clover once their owners arrived with softly scolding voices and a big bucket of corn. The four were put into halters and led through the gate and back into their horse box with the minimum of fuss, and Gibside's Saturday morning returned to normal again.
more 18th century planting plates exposed
Regular visitors may have noticed that we've been doing more digging in the walled garden behind the Community Farm plots. A group of Newcastle University archaeology students have been in to practise their fieldwork skills and help to expose 8 more of our original 18th century planting plates (see this post for more detailed information). Whilst our geophys survey suggested there should be 8 plates, we've only managed to find 4. One of the plates we've found actually has stone slabs missing, which leads us to conjecture that the missing plates had all their slabs removed, possibly for use elsewhere on the estate. After the plates have been recorded and the holes refilled, we plan to replant this edge with apple cordons.
herbaceous border re-vamp plans
With the arrival of October comes the slowing down of the growing season, and our thoughts are already turning to next year. We'd like to give our large herbaceous border a bit of a make-over, as some of the plants are becoming congested and others have really outstayed their welcome. It's an exciting process, mapping the existing plants and deciding what should stay and what will go, before the real fun starts and we can choose what new perennials will replace them. We need to restrict our choice of plants to those that were introduced into the UK before the mid 1800s; this allows us to offer a glimpse into what the border would have looked like in its heyday.
Kniphofia rooperi
This week I leave you with the fizzing bright yellow and orange spikes of the red hot poker, Kniphofia rooperi, just coming into flower in the orangery. It's a garden plant that looks exotic but is quite capable of withstanding our cold winters and putting on a dazzling show when most other perennials are past their best. Its flowers and sword-like leaves look particularly impressive against the brickwork and they should be in full bloom over the next week or two.

This October take the chance to see our 18th century planting plates before they're buried once more, and catch our red hot pokers defying the autumnal chill with their warming glow.

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