A few weeks ago I had a lovely morning wandering around Quarry Bank’s gardens on a tour for staff and volunteers, by Sarah Witts (below), the Head Gardener here at Quarry Bank. There certainly have been a lot of changes and huge effort has been put in, by both the garden staff and volunteers, to get the garden ready for our visitors this February. I was lucky enough to get a preview. On the tour, Sarah updated us on what’s been happening over the winter period. Sarah explained that the first task was the mammoth job of clearing all the leaves, cutting back, mulching and general tidying. Garden kiosk staff were very pleased to see that the Holly trees in the Lower Garden have been cleared. In a happy coincidence, they have let more light into the kiosk, as well as restoring the view across the meadow and helping to link the garden, the Greg house and the Mill together into one landscape, as it would have been when the Greg’s lived at Quarry Bank. The rockery, below a small hollow in the rock, known as the cave, has been meticulously dismantled (I’m told rock by rock) and reconstructed by volunteers, ready for fresh alpine planting very soon. In this area a stone bench is also being built, which, come Easter time, will offer a fantastic view over the garden, across the meadow and towards the Mill.
Of course, we were all bursting to know about the next restoration steps, now that Quarry Bank has received a huge boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards our fundraising target for the project. As the exciting prospect of opening the Greg house will be realised over the next few years, Sarah explained that the grass above the rockery, leading to the house, will be made into a path, once more giving access to the garden. I had a lovely image in my head of the lucky Greg children rushing out to play in their sprawling garden, when Sarah told us this.
As we climbed up the path, I got my first glimpse of the Upper Garden. Thanks to the Oglesby Charitable Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other generous supporters this area will gradually be reclaimed as the kitchen garden, a plot which once fed the Greg family. As we looked back towards the Mill, admiring the 350 Hypericum plants (Rose of Sharon), which have been planted on the cliff top, amongst a coir membrane to stabilise the bank, a group of volunteers told me that what they found most satisfying was knowing that, thanks to the generous support we have received, all of the speculative plans for the garden will be happening, in the not so distant future. The next big task is to raise the remaining money we need to restore Quarry Bank’s neglected cast-iron glasshouse, in the right of the picture below, to its former glory. Every little helps, so if you’d like to donate to the glasshouse appeal click the link below: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/our-work/article-1355850074351/
In the Upper Garden, there are also plans to remove the apple trees, as they no longer bear fruit and replant a row of heritage apple trees along the walls of the plot. The mulberry tree will be kept and more planted alongside it, the idea being to encourage people to enjoy eating mulberries once more. Now out of fashion, mulberries were once very popular and used as a remedy to cure all sorts of ills. Dr Holland (the Mill’s Doctor) may well have used mulberries to treat the apprentice children. Look out for the ‘humble mulberry’, as Shakespeare described it, at Quarry Bank soon. Beyond the kitchen garden, in an area, which was known as the West wall slips (a space for growing extra vegetables for the Greg’s, which didn’t need the shelter of the three walls enclosing the plot), the gardeners have planted a nuttery, containing 23 Filbert Nut trees. Looking at the plans of the garden it is assumed that the Greg’s would have had a very similar nuttery, which you can see in the 1872 map below. The nuttery is located to the left of the glasshouse (the building coloured red). Underneath the nut trees the gardeners have sown wild flower seeds and 5000 Daffodils, which will look absolutley stunning come Spring. Sarah also pointed out a new shrub border, which features: Viburnum tinus (Garrya elliptica), Cornus alba (Westonbirt), Myrtus communis and Ribes sanguineum (White Icicle). Stefan Roberts, one of Quarry Bank’s gardeners, shares his knowledge on what to look out for in the garden this Spring: Spring bulbs are emerging in the lawns, as well as the borders. First to arrive and open now are the native Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemali), which is a little yellow flower above a ring of leaves. There are also Snowflakes (Leucojum verum), similar to a Snowdrop, but the petals have a spot of green at the tip and the flower shape looks like a lampshade, Winter Iris (Reticulata), in blue and purple varieties and finally Crocus, which are beginning to emerge around the Tennis Lawn. Winter and early spring flowering shrubs include spicy scented Witch Hazel and the show stopper, our pink Camelia, growing along the riverside, which is always the first to flower. Other plants to look out for include, hardy Ferns, flowering Hellebores and Cyclamen. Pansies and Bellis (daisy), in the formal Ladies’ Garden, will also soon begin to bulk up and flower. There has also been progress up at the Apprentice House Garden, which is managed as a working allotment, once tended by apprentice children, so don’t forget to take a look before or after an Apprentice House tour. Ann Gaughan, Assistant Head Gardener, explains that the focus has been on tidying and clearing beds ready for Spring and making sure that the repairs to the drains have settled in. New edging boards have been put in around the vegetable beds and this year some of the beds will be given time to dry out after the particularly wet winter. Don’t forget to check out the Snowdrops in the orchard, which Ann tells me are looking lovely at the moment. Here’s a sneak-peek from Ann below. Why not come along to visit Quarry Bank gardens, open right the way through until Autumn. For children there is a tracker pack, including binoculars and magnyfying glasses, which can be picked up from the Garden kiosk. Sophie x