Returning back to work after an extended break

Returning back to work after an extended break always evokes emotions. Good ones are I’ve missed the garden and what has grown or come into flower. Less enjoyable are the concerns, are the team OK, has some machinery packed up and are all the plants well and thriving?

A bit early but welcome.


Far too soon for this young Oak, it will end in tears.


The Christmas break is different, not just because the team have had a well-earned break, so no worries there. It’s the sense of time and the looming awareness of ‘Opening Day’. What’s all the fuss some may ask. We are exactly half way through the closed season, no need to panic yet. In the last 14 years at Newby since I took over as Head Gardener I have learnt many things and forgotten quite a few too. One perennial reality is January to March passes far quicker than October to December. There are many factors that make this so, usually a short January on our return followed by February another short month. Then there is the weather which typically causes more issues post-Christmas.


I promised myself I would not mention the weather…… The ground is so saturated which limits where we can go and what we can do. We are fortunate, it may look dramatic when the river bursts, but it is only that garden where debris is left behind which can easily be cleared. Our homes and lives are not devastated by the water and anything it brings with it.


The one thing I am so thankful for is that we completed the border renovation last year-phew.

Since we closed at the end of September some of the many ongoing tasks have included hedgecutting, ‘putting to bed’ garden areas and mulching all essential jobs to enable the garden to look its best in the summer months.

One significant and big job which began on our return is cutting down the Herbaceous Borders. With 1,120m2 of plant material to cut down it will be all hands to the border for the team and our amazing volunteers. This will keep us occupied through January so long as we can get on the land.

Oh for crisp frosty mornings and blue sunny skies.


We will also need to fit in pruning of Laburnum and Roses. The latter is more problematic this year than ever. Traditionally in the past rose pruning could take place in early spring when the worst of winter had passed. In recent years buds are already well advanced by this point and are easily knocked off, especially climbing and rambling specimens which need to be taken off their walls or supports so old spent branches can be removed and new growth reattached to flower in the summer. We will aim to get as much done in the next couple of months so we have the opportunity to do lots of planting when the ground conditions are more amenable.

Over the next few months I will be sharing my thoughts, hopes and issues as we go through a gardening year. Also each month one of the team will pen an article personal to them and their garden responsibilities. I hope we can share what we love and pass on some ideas and highlight many wonderful plants with you.


Finally on a dank gloomy day here is a reminder of what we are yearning for when we welcome you back into our garden in 2016.