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Part 4: Maintaining the Garden

Part 4: Maintaining the Garden


Roy helped with regular advice on maintenance, walking the garden with Wilf and Jim to discuss further planting.

They used techniques in line with Jekyll's preferences wherever possible, for instance staking with brushwood, rather than canes or stakes.

From the outset, as each new area was planted up, plants were carefully named with black matt formica labels from Dolphin Products. Accurate plant information was felt to be an important part of the experience for visitors, and the team would have liked to have gone further in their interpretation of Gertrude Jekyll's work by producing a written guide to the planting, but the budget at the time did not allow for this.

Rabbits were a threat to the young plant growth. The presence of Ginger, a stray cat who had made himself at home, helped to deter them, and newly planted areas were further protected by a barrier of stakes strung with garden twine soaked in rabbit repellent.

The house, Grey Walk and
Great Plat in 1975.

The fire brigade's hoses came in useful to keep the planting watered, particularly during the severe droughts of 1975 and 1976.

Wilf and Jim would set up the hoses on the Plat in the early mornings, before visitors arrived, and water would be allowed to play against the walls and drip down into the beds below.

Jim remembers the wall plants as having a particularly high failure rate - larger ones such as roses and lavender succeeded, but smaller plants, such as rock phloxes, had to be replaced regularly.

Just mowing the lawns in the Formal Garden and elsewhere around the house took up to two days each week in the summer, and the gardeners had part-time seasonal help from Harry Parks.

The Grey Walk suffers in the
1975 drought.

When Jim arrived, there was a single mower with a broken handle, and a scythe was in use on the drive to the house.

These were replaced with a larger, second-hand mower from the council's playing fields section and a rough-cut mower.

Eventually Wilf and Jim obtained a ride-on Dennis mower, which made a huge difference to the time and effort spent on this task.


A gardener at work in the
West Rill border in 1975/6.