Thursday 8 April 2021

It was a chilly start but gradually more Gardeners drifted in as the sun rose in the sky.

The Nottages were first in the Gardens and had brought with them some Cowslips, which Linda was busy planting in the Meadow. You may have seen us working in this general area: we are trying to enhance the flowers this year and for the future.

Linda planting Cowslips that she had brought from her own garden – thank you!!
One Man went to mow . . .
Well, not quite yet, but Rob cut back some of the thick grass in the Meadow to give the emerging flowers space to breathe and spread

Alison and Sue were busy pruning the yellow- and green-stemmed Dogwoods. The same principle applies as for the red variety featured previously: follow Richard’s instructions to prune back hard to just above two nodes!

It never ceases to amaze me how fast these Dogwoods grow! The photos below show us holding the stems of just one year’s growth!

The cuttings are too good to waste: Richard took some home as supports for his plants, and Julie arrived just in time to help carry some up to Biga’s allotment where they will be used as supports for climbing beans.

Biga holding up just one year’s growth of Dogwoods!

Dick probably drew the short straw today, but the compost he dug out and spread over the border he’d been tending put the finishing touch to a job well done. The Epimediums are looking very happy.

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ with its heart-shaped leaves has delicate pale yellow flowers in springtime. It is an excellent ground cover plant. Also known as Bishop’s Hat and Barrenwort

Meanwhile the Tulips lifted their heads to enjoy the spring sunshine.

Glyn-the-lens captured these Tulips beautifully

And Tadpoles have appeared in the pond!

Happy Easter 2021

Glorious sunshine over the Easter weekend brought plenty of visitors to the Gardens. The Daffodils were gently waving in the breeze, and the Fritillaries and Cowslips are now in full flower, as is the Pasque Flower on the ramparts.

Pasque Flower heralding Easter

But probably most magnificent of all is the Magnolia.

Magnolia in full flower

Flat tyre!

John had the bright idea of checking on the wheelbarrow in our shed and found that it had a flat tyre! He hoped it could just be pumped up but the air didn’t hold. Clearly, the inner tube had gone so he limped it home to be fixed.

It was quite a struggle to get the tyre off, and a couple of days to wait for a new inner tube to arrive through the post.

A successful repair brought a smile to his face.

A repaired wheelbarrow ready for action


It’s time to prune the Cornus (generally known as Dogwoods). You may have noticed these during the winter months, with their brightly coloured stems: red (the brightest I think), and yellow and green. We use the cuttings to decorate some of the benches.

Dogwoods can be grown as a thick hedge (you can see an example at one end of the Bear Field in Cowbridge). But we like to grow them as free-standing shrubs. Cutting them hard back around end March / early April, just as the leaves are starting to appear, will promote strong growth of more vibrant colours than if they were left untended. By ‘strong growth’ I mean shoots of more than 5 feet (that’s over 1.5 meters!) since the previous pruning a year ago. Amazing!

Red Dogwood showing strong growth since last year’s pruning

If you’ve not pruned Dogwoods before, this will seem drastic to you. But rest assured: ours have grown long new shoots every year by following Richard’s instructions.

With a sharp pair of secateurs, cut back to just above the second node of each long stem. The ‘nodes’ will be quite clearly visible as a ring and possibly already sprouting new leaves.

Tangled growth of thick and wispy stems
The yellow circles indicate nodes 1 and 2 on two thick stems. Cut back to just above the second in each case

Keep cutting back in this way, and take out the very thin wispy shoots completely. Then stand back and look carefully at the shrub: you need to cut out any cross-over shoots.

Criss-crossing shoots – you will need a pair of loppers to cut these thick stems!

We use the long shoots to decorate the benches.

Pam decorating a bench with cuttings of Dogwood

If you’d like to try and grow some new shrubs from cuttings: simply cut a length of stem a few nodes long, cutting just above a node at the top and just below a node at the bottom. The convention is to cut at a slant at the top, and straight across at the bottom – when you’ve cut a few, you’ll see that this helps to know which way up they go! Push your stick securely into the ground – and watch it take root and produce new growth for you! Some of the Dogwoods in Old Hall Gardens have been grown in this way. Good luck!

Pruned Dogwood. It still needs some tidying up of criss-crossing branches, but you can see how hard we have cut it back

Thursday 23 March 2021

We woke up to rain, and wondered whether anyone would bother to turn up today. But then the sun crept through and several of us crept out of bed to enjoy a sunny morning of gardening.

It was Day 1 for Pam, who was one of the first to arrive. And she was lucky enough to be given a spare “official Gardener’s Gilet” so she looked the part from the start.

Alison and Lyn hid behind the Library – actually they were busy pruning.

Alison and Lyn enjoying the sunshine
What do you think this could be?

And what is this? Could it be a new species of Daffodil?

The camera gives him away, even as Glyn does his best at camouflage amongst the daffodils!

You have to hand it to him: Glyn took some great photographs when he got on his feet – see below.

The delicate colours of Quince blossom along the wall near the Library
John has started to make some signs for us, using pieces of slate that we find lying around
Our magnificent Magnolia has suddenly burst into bloom

It felt as though Spring had truly arrived.

Thursday 18 March 2021

There was a slight air of ‘the morning after the night before’ as the BBC crew of Casualty looked like they were just waking up from spending the night in Old Hall Gardens. But they assured me that they did leave for home around midnight and had just returned to clear up their equipment.

We are very grateful for their location fee for using the Gardens as part of a romantic setting – perfect in yesterday’s evening sunshine!

We look forward to watching this episode of Casualty on 24 July 2021
The BBC film crew hard at work

Thursday started as a frosty morning but the sun soon changed that and brought with it a good turnout of Volunteers. Lyn joined us for the first time this year, and worked hard with Margaret to prune a shrub near the compost and generally tidied up that area. It’s surprising how quickly everything grows when our backs are turned!

The Daffodil Tete a Tete bulbs that we planted in the pots back in October have burst into flower.

Glyn continued his battle with the Pyracantha which right at the end speared him with one of its vicious spikes, cutting through his thick gardening glove to draw blood. He limped off for a reviving coffee, threatening to uproot the entire shrub next time.

Actually, although he made light of it, his arm became swollen later that day. It’s a reminder to us all that gardening is not always just a gentle past-time. We may be allergic to certain plants (I know I am) and sometimes a cut can result in something serious like sepsis. Stay Alert!

Thursday 11 March 2021

One of our benches blew over in the gale last night! But luckily the fruit trees we planted recently have all survived.

Despite the inclement weather, a few of us turned up to do some gardening this morning, including Alison who is staying in Cowbridge for part of this year. She has been enjoying Old Hall Gardens and is happy to lend us a hand – you’re very welcome!

Betty and Richard were busy weeding around the Dragon; Julie and Alison worked in the south border; Glyn continued wrestling with the “spiky” shrub (Pyracantha) in grouse corner; and Biga extracted Wild Arum (also known as ‘Lords and Ladies’, and ‘Cuckoopint’) that was swamping bulbs beneath the Wisteria.

Roots of Wild Arum

Thursday 4 March 2021

We had a good turnout again. Beverly put the finishing touches to planting the Peach Apple tree (see also ‘Ivory Towers’ post), Dick continued working along the wall by the meadow, Biga planted some Irises, while John and Glyn were busy putting the world to rights – and somehow still managed to make an impact on the overgrown ‘grouse corner’. Betty and Margaret were also hard at work, and of course Richard kept an eye on all the proceedings.

‘Ivory Towers’

It was ten years ago that the huge Ivy tower by the South Gate was planted – and in that time it had spread to become the focal point at that entrance to Old Hall Gardens.

The idea had initially been to provide some replacement ivy for that which had been removed when the town walls were renovated – to attract the insects and birds that had made it their habitat. In the meantime, a nearby ash tree had become covered in luxurious growth of ivy, full of berries.

Nearby Ash tree covered in Ivy with masses of berries

It was time to recognise that the Gardens have been evolving, and the massive ivy tower was being massively outperformed by more naturally growing ivy. There are so many berries that the birds can’t keep up with them!

So, on the day when we planted our fruit trees, we decided that one of the Apple trees would make a suitable replacement, with another Apple tree in front of it, making a little ‘orchard’ area with the Crab Apples behind. Furthermore, it would open up the Gardens from the South entrance.

We were astonished at the thickness of the ivy!

A group of us started to cut away, but it took many hours, over two weeks, before we got to the root of it. A plastic bottle wedged in the crown was impossible to dislodge without getting the saw to the thick woody stems of entangled ivy!

There was a tinge of sadness when the wooden structure had to be taken down – it had been carefully and securely crafted, and bore all the hallmarks of John Sherwood’s handiwork. It had definitely been built to last!

Finally, it was left to Beverly to plant the Peach Apple tree on Thursday 4th March.