Head Gardener, Richard Squires, shares his Autumnal Winter news from

Antony Woodland Garden

 


Just coming into my second winter of managing Antony Woodland Garden and still thoroughly enjoying the job. Even though I’ve been here nearly two years I’m still discovering things about the garden and the plant collections.

I’ve made good progress on establishing appropriate maintenance regimes for the garden. Lots of debris from storms and tree work has been cleared with frequent bonfires and I now have a small woodchipper which has speeded this process up considerably. I’ve been doing a lot of pruning to open up areas and let in light so that the plants can thrive and be seen at their best. In some cases, we have had to take hard decisions and fell selected trees to allow others to flourish.

We are aiming to preserve a balance between woodland and garden and as well as maintaining the trees, we need, also, to maintain spaces between them so that they can be seen clearly as well as creating a contrast between wooded and open areas. I also think it’s also important that the underlying topography can be seen amongst the planting. The slopes, valleys, and streams which along with the man-made glades and rides make up the structure of the garden.



Gardens never stand still; they are constantly changing. Plants grow at different rates and the more vigorous plants can swamp others, block views and shade out grass paths. Decisions have to be taken as to whether to let this happen and possibly accept the loss of less vigorous plants, opening up alternative views and replacing grass on paths with woodchip or removing the stronger growing plant to maintain a vista or keep a path as grass. These decisions always depend on the particular circumstances as well as the effect we are trying to create.



Whilst maintaining and regenerating the existing features of the garden is my main focus, I also aim to keep moving forward by doing a certain amount of new planting each year. This year I have planted several Scots Pine on Jupiter Point to thicken up the existing planting there which is providing some shelter for the Hydrangeas. I also cleared some overgrown Cistus from here and replaced them with a group of Kalmias. I have planted several specimen trees this year including a group of 3x Pin Oaks, Quercus palustris, which were donated by Wilcove Women’s Institute in commemoration of their 70th Anniversary (pictured). This donation was very much appreciated.

I have also been adding to the Magnolia collection, planting several of these in Westdown and have planted a group of three Schima argentea in the Camellia Valley. This is a plant of the Tea family related to Camellia which is native to southern and southeastern Asia which I first saw, and was most impressed with, on a visit to Caerhays.


 


As part of the management of the plant collections within the garden I aim, ultimately, to check and replace all plant labels. Eventually every specimen plant in the garden will have a new label. With 600 varieties of Camellia, and 250 varieties of Magnolia as well as numerous Rhododendron and many other specimen trees and shrubs this will take some time.  I have to list all the plants area by area and check existing labels.  Some of the plants have lost their original labels and can only be identified by their position on a map and some of the plants have died and are no longer there.

I have been fortunate to have the assistance of a dedicated volunteer who has printed the vast majority of the new labels, and this has meant that I have been able to make quite a bit of progress.



One of the big issues we have had to deal with in the gardens this year is Ash dieback. This is a chronic fungal disease of Ash trees characterised by leaf loss and crown dieback in infected trees. It is now widespread in Europe. According to the Woodland Trust, Ash dieback will kill around 80% of Ash trees across the UK. We are currently in the process of felling the majority of the Ash in the Woodland Garden and Woodland Walks. This drastic action is necessary now because as the trees decay, they become unpredictable and thus dangerous to fell.  We can’t risk leaving large Ash trees standing, even if they look healthy, unless they are well out of the way.

Most of the Ash has been felled by forestry contractors using large machinery which has made a great deal of mess which now has to be cleared up, but we are hoping that most of the debris will be cleared and the undergrowth will be growing back by next summer. We will then need to start thinking about re-planting the glades with a mixture of other species.

There is some hope on the horizon as Initial findings suggest that there may be some trees that are tolerant of Ash dieback, meaning that the population could eventually recover over time.  Within the garden there are several smaller, currently healthy-looking Ash trees which I intend to retain in the hope that some of them might have some resistance to Ash dieback. As the disease originates in Asia there are some Asian species of Ash which it is suggested may have developed resistance to the disease and we might consider planting some of these in future.


If you visit the gardens, you may well see me and I’m quite happy to chat about the garden and what we’re doing. If you want to hear about the garden in more detail, I will also be leading regular garden tours. (Please see the website for details.)

Volunteering at Antony Woodland Garden

I do have a couple of volunteers who assist me in the gardens and their work is extremely helpful. I’m also looking for more volunteers to help in 3 different areas.

  1. Assisting with tasks such as clearing brambles, pruning and disposing of debris by bonfires or chipping, maintaining paths.
  2. Helping with plant records and labelling of the collections.
  3. Guiding our visitors around the gardens answering their questions and possibly leading occasional garden tours.

If you feel you have appropriate skills for any of the above, or a willingness to learn those skills, and are interested in helping out please contact richard@antonywoodlandgarden.com

Richard Squires
Head Gardener
Antony Woodland Garden
December 2021


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