Sudeley Castle Gardens: History of an English Castle Garden: From Tudor Knot Garden to Eliza

The first thing you see when you walk into Sudeley Castle gardens is a pretty meadow with a few trees, and then, unexpectedly, the vast ruin of a honey-stoned tithe barn. Roses and Clematis pour from its roofless walls and self-seeded foxgloves dot the ground nearby.

The effect is undeniably romantic – and nostalgic – but walk closer and you’ll see there’s more to Sudeley Castle gardens than nostalgia. Pass through the barn and you’ll come face to face with the 21st century as drifts of silver balloons float above the carp pond towards you.

Like nearly all the outdoor art at Sudeley Castle, Tomas Saraceno’s “flying garden” is inspired by the English gardens that surround it without being in any way held back by them. If you’re not ready for a flying garden, Sudeley’s earth-bound gardens also offer new takes on old garden styles. These, it has collected throughout its long and action-packed past.

Rise and fall of an English castle

The present Sudeley castle was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, nearly destroyed in the 1640s, left to fall down for the whole of the 18th century and finally rescued in 1837. The rescuers were the Dent brothers, and their ancestors have been restoring this English castle and gardens ever since. Many ruins remain though. Most notably, the Banqueting Hall Ruins, an atmospheric backdrop for Sudeley’s ten small connecting gardens.

These include a parterre, a secret garden, a white garden, a knot garden, and a Victorian kitchen garden as well as the Hall itself, which has been sympathetically planted with alpine plants, climbing Roses and Clematis. All the gardens are organic.

The Mediterranean Garden

Although the massive ruins give a romantic cast to all these gardens, many have a modern edge too. In the secret garden, this is by way of the contemporary Mediterranean garden design. Here the designer, Charles Chesshire, has used half-hardy Mediterranean plants, which benefit from the shelter of the garden walls, to startling effect. In July, soft Allium seed heads contrast with the striking yellow spires of Foxtail Lilies. Other Mediterranean plants are used to draw out the flowering season from spring to early winter.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden

Behind the Mediterranean garden, Sudeley’s Victorian Kitchen Garden also breaks new ground, combining Victorian taste, organic know-how and rarely seen heritage vegetables. This scaled-down version of Sudeley’s original three-acre kitchen garden was created in partnership with Garden Organic, Europe’s largest organic charity.

Also in miniature is Sudeley’s white garden, an unusual arbor against a church. Regale lilies and the Tea Rose, “White Wings” Madonna are a reminder here of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary that once stood here.

The Parterre

Beyond the white garden is the Queen’s Garden, inspired by the original Tudor parterre and created by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. Today, its ancient yew hedges enclose beds of herbs and old-fashioned roses.

The Knot Garden

Fearnley-Whittingstall has also designed the Knot Garden, taking its intricate design from the dress of Elizabeth I in the painting, The Tudor Succession. This refreshing and original approach to garden restoration is typical of Sudeley Castle, where visitors can see just about every major English garden style of the last 500 years in a brand new way.

Fruits in the News

With the new gardening season beginning, it’s time for a look at the world of fruits. If you need another health-related reason to eat more fruits, you’ll be interested in results from a Tulane University study.

This research found that the fiber in vegetables and fruits can help lower blood pressure. For this result, you’ll need to consume at least seven grams of fiber from fruits and vegetables per day.

A USDA study is touting blueberries as a means of lowering cholesterol. Their researchers found that pterostilbene, a particular substance found in the berries, lowers cholesterol in cells. In addition, they say it may lower triglycerides as well. Though this work did not specify how many blueberries one has to consume to get the desired effect, this topic will be addressed in future studies.

Could fragrance minimize the chances of road rage? A recent study found that the use of car air fresheners had beneficial effects commuters. The researchers singled out two scents in particular-strawberry and pine. In addition to keeping drivers calmer, these also led to improvement in overall driving performance.

Cornell University researchers came up with a way to make plastics from citrus. They started with limonene oxide extracted from the fruits and added carbon dioxide.

Plant breeders at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is part of USDA, are working to create new low sugar watermelons that can still provide a healthy dose of lycopene.

They hope to reduce the overall sugar level from about 14% down to around 5%, which would make it more acceptable to diabetics and others on low sugar diets. They expect seeds of the new varieties will be available in a few years.

On the pest and disease front, there is good news and bad news. State agricultural officials in Pennsylvania lifted the plum pox virus quarantine for certain areas of York County. However, some areas of Adams County, Cumberland County, and York County still remain under the quarantine. Under the terms of the quarantine, it’s forbidden to plant stone fruits in the affected locales until they’re declared free of the virus.

A new plant virus was discovered in North America. The strawberry latent ringspot virus, which has been a problem for several decades in Europe, has made its way here. Experts aren’t sure how big an effect this could eventually have on strawberry growers.

ARS has been working on a new, natural way of dealing with fire blight. The researchers discovered a naturally occurring bacterium on fruit blossoms that can out-compete the fire blight. ARS has patented the substance, which they called E325.

When sprayed on the fruit blossoms, this bacterium limits the damage the fire blight can do. ARS officials are now working with a company to learn how this substance can be produced commercially. The company is seeking permission from EPA to market the natural substance for use on pears and apples. This commercial product will be called Bloomtime Biological FD.

Vine Time in the Garden

Vines in Movable Containers

Change the look of your garden-and its vertical space-on a whim by planting vines in movable containers. Here are some planting tips.

  • Support your vines by planting a trellis with the vines. Paint it a color to match the house or to complement the colors of the plant. Choose one that is the right size for your container: Once placed in the container, one-third of the trellis needs to be below the container’s lip for better balance.
  • Add pebbles to the top of the soil to add weight to the container and keep it from toppling over, and to keep the soil from spilling out when watering the plant.
  • Attach the vine to the trellis with plastic-coated training wires.
  • Black-eyed Susan, morning-glory, sweet pea, and bougainvillea are all vines that grow well in containers (see more ideas on annual vines for containers below).

Annual Vines

Annual vines grow fast, can be grown from seeds, and need to be planted after the threat of frost is past. Here are just a few you can grow:

  • Cup-and-saucer vine-The flowers resemble a fluted cup in a saucer; they start out as a pale green and then turn lilac or purple.
  • Black-eyed Susan-This vine boasts dynamic yellow or orange tubular flowers with black throats that sit amid arrowhead-shaped leaves; this vine requires full sun.
  • Cardinal climber-The dainty red flowers resemble morning glories. This vine also requires full sun.
  • Hyacinth bean-The leaves of this vine are a striking maroon color with deeper reddish maroon veins. It produces masses of purple or white flowers that become purple bean-like seed pods. Once again, this vine requires full sun.

A Stationary Vine Pole

Annual vines twining up a decorative trellis or post can make a dramatic flowering vertical focal point in your garden. Here’s a vine pole you can make for your garden:


8-foot-long pressure-treated 4×4 post

Two 8-foot sections of 1×2 for arms

#12 eye screws

2-inch-long screws


  1. From the 1x2s, cut seven 18-inch-long pieces for the arms of the trellis. Sand any rough edges.
  2. Drill a hole at each end of the arms to thread support wire through later.
  3. On the 4×4 post, cut 4-inch-wide by 1-inch-deep grooves into the sides to hold the arms. Stagger the grooves at different intervals and on different sides of the post.
  4. Place the arms in the grooves, offsetting them so they are not all the same length on the same side. Using two screws, secure each arm to the post. You may paint the vine pole, if desired.

Books for Michigan Gardeners

Several weeks ago I was visiting an annual Home and Garden Show in East Lansing, Michigan. While there I happen to come across Lone Pine Publishing. The quality of the books on display really astounded me.

I was familiar with this press because I have reviewed several of their books in the past. I enjoyed their books but was really surprised to see the many full-color field guides available in their show display.

Somehow, their on-line catalog had not done justice to the quality of their publications and had failed to inspire a strong interest in me. Today, I want to introduce you to just a sampling of the quality books currently coming off of Lone Pine’s presses. I am sure you’ll be as pleased as I am. Annuals for Michigan. Nancy Szerlag and Alison Beck. Lone Pine.

The authors’ passion for gardening shines throughout this book. They first introduce us to what an “annual plant” really is, how to use them in our gardens, finding which annuals fit our conditions, preparing our gardens, planting the garden with either store bought transplants or those we have started with seed ourselves, and of course, taking care of the plants. They also include a brief discussion of diseases and pests that can cause problems for us.

The majority of the book consists of 2-4 page descriptions of annuals frequently found in Michigan, including many of the newest plant genera currently available to gardeners today.

Each description includes a brief introduction to the plant, followed by planting and spacing information, growing information, and general tips. Recommended cultivars of the various plants and possible problems and pests are also covered. Each plant is illustrated with several pictures of the plants being discussed.

If you garden anywhere in Michigan or nearby states, you’ll want to keep this guide in your car when you are visiting nursery centers looking for plants. Once your garden is planted, move the book to your desk for easy reference during the garden season.

I can guarantee you this book will be worn out from being used! (Hint, you might even want a 2nd copy, 1 to stay in your car and used in the garden, and 1 for your bookshelves.)

Fleas and Ticks in your Garden? Probably.

Most gardeners don’t think to check for ticks or fleas after walking through their garden. However, once you are done planting, tending, or harvesting, you might carry home more than you bargained for. These are not a garden pest, per se, but they can really do a number on the gardener. Just as a cat or dog picks up ticks and fleas by walking outside, so too, can a human.

Fleas are worse because they are harder to see, however, a quick shower usually will get rid of any fleas you might have picked up. But by the time you make it to the bathroom, Mr. Flea probably has already leaped off into your carpet or furniture.

Ticks are more easily seen, but be sure to get a shower after every gardening adventure. Then have someone check your scalp, behind the ears, and any crevice you might have that you cannot check yourself.

If you don’t check yourself, you could find yourself covered in bites. Having a cat, I find that it’s useless to even check for fleas because we wake up with bites every day. However, my cat is staying in Mississippi after I go to California so I won’t have to deal with fleas much.

Some preventive measures include wearing long sleeves and long pants with socks that go over top of the pants leg. Also, wear a hat, not only to keep the sun off your face, but to prevent easy access to your hair by fleas. Ticks will generally latch on to the lower extremities because they are not grand jumpers like fleas are.

Use a bug repellent containing DEET to repel the pests. I can’t stand the smell of it so I’ll take my chances with the organic wintergreen smelling stuff I found. It doesn’t prevent mosquitoes very well but it did keep the fleas off my 4-year old at night. He became flea breakfast so I sprayed him down every night. It was some bio-control spray I got at Walmart. Smelled like licorice or cloves.

I wonder if putting baby powder all over yourself before donning garden-wear would prevent these pests from attaching. Hey, the worst that could happen would be your smelling good when you go back to the house!

If you do find a flea, try to catch him if you can. This may prove extremely difficult but not impossible. Sprinkle a flea and tick powder on your carpets, let it sit for a couple hours, then vacuum it up. This will prevent any possible mishaps later on from carpet infestation.

Organic Gardening — Grasses — Perennials

Organic Garden Design School Rodale Press is well known for publishing books about organic gardening. This past year they published Ann Lovejoy’s book, Organic Garden Design School: A Guide to Creating Your Own Beautiful, Easy-Care Garden.

The book divides its topic into 13 chapters. They are: Creating a Natural Garden, Organic-Design Principles, Gardening Where You Are, Green Architecture, Seeing the Possibilities, Creating a Natural Backdrop, Sandwich Gardening, Combinations and Vignettes, Seasonal Flow, Care and Feeding of Your Garden, Making Beautiful Dirt, The Art of Mulching, and Troubleshooting in the Healthy Garden. An Organic Garden Design School Workbook follows the chapters.

This book is lavishly illustrated with full color photographs. I must admit that I am disappointed in the quality of the text. I felt the chapters should have presented more in-depth information. This may be simply because I already have extensive gardening experience and possess an associate’s degree in horticulture. For me, the most practical portion of the book was the workbook. Here the gardener goes through the design process, making notes in the book as they complete the activities. The gardener is left with everything necessary to successfully install their newly planned garden (except for the plants, of course!).

If you are an experienced gardener, I do not recommend this book for you. I would suggest it as a present for someone just starting to experiment with doing his or her own gardening. I suggest you spend your money on books about specific plants or an in-depth book on some other garden-related topic.

The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses

John Greenlee and Derek Fell collaborated to produce this book. Rodale published it in 2000. This is a required book for everyone who enjoys using grasses in their landscape. The authors present information on 250 different plants, which guarantees you will find some just right for your garden.

The book is illustrated with quality pictures of the plants discussed. An introduction to how grasses live and reproduce is presented in the section before the encyclopedia begins. This section also talks about soil needs, fertilizing needs and of course, possible problems. I found this section quite helpful and easily understood.

The information in the encyclopedia portion is arranged alphabetically using the Latin name for the genus and species of each grass discussed. One neat feature is the box (light green background) presenting the botanical name and its pronunciation, common names, USDA hardiness zones, country of origin and preferred growing habitat. Their descriptions and suggestions for using the species in the landscape are excellent. Information on propagating the plants and potential problems are also given.

Garden Varmints

And then there were the voles. I used to attempt to make life difficult for them by shoving stones down their burrows. The following morning they were just pushed out.

I would also stick the garden hose down a burrow and flood the ground in a vain attempt to make them take up abode elsewhere. They did not mind the mud. Several mothballs topped with stones were also inserted in burrows to discourage them. Nothing worked.

The critters always pushed the intruding objects back out again. I guess that they just held their breaths when they were removing mothballs. Once I left gobs of peanut butter around. I had read that when eating peanut butter it would stick in a voles throat and choke it to death.

To my surprise, when I tried it, I did find an expired vole. I have no idea whether it was the sticking peanut butter or just that the vole laughed itself to death. Nothing discourages them.

In the spring the burrows they make just under the snow wind all over, many ending under the bird feeder where fallen seed may be found. But who would have thought that the lowly vole could be the subject of an investigation into love and sex.

Kay and I like sugar snap peas. So do other critters including rabbits. For some years they ate them as soon as the plants appeared above ground. The peas never recovered. Then I planted a row of garlic alongside the peas. It worked.

Garlic starts growing in the fall and it is already there before the peas emerge. Rabbits have not bothered them since. Garlic is also good for keeping werewolves and vampires at bay. We have never been troubled by them. I wish I could say the same for deer.

Being adjacent to a state park, there is an unending reservoir of voracious deer that favor my shrubs above all else. Covering them with burlap for the winter did work but took a lot of effort. One year festooning them with Irish Spring Soap was successful.

But only for that one year. The next year it did not discourage them in the slightest. They enjoyed eating everything right up to the soap bars. This year I tied clothesline between the trees and shrubs across their favorite path to my garden. Long strips of cloth dangling vertically were tied to the lines.

Sometimes it is possible to plant fruit trees in the summer

Particularly in Western Australia, January is a month when watering is the most important part of the work in the garden. It is also said that January is not a good time to plant fruit trees.

However, I am going to have a go at planting a cumquat tree (sometimes spelt Kumquat). According to the specialists, the cumquat is not strictly a member of the citrus family but it is a very close relation.

The trees have small fruit with rind that can be eaten and a very acid pulp. The two kinds most commonly grown are the oval one, Nagami, and the round one Marumi. The leaves strike one as being dark and very ornamental.

The trees look very striking in a tub and they also make quite nice ornamental trees anywhere in the garden. I will plant the one I bought this morning in full sun.

Apparently at this time of the year, if the weather is cool and the ground has been well looked after, it is all right to plant them. As long as the soil around the roots is of good quality and one used plenty of sheep manure the tree will have a good start to life.

Also, the tree should get plenty of water and be looked after with kid gloves for the remainder of the summer, I can’t see we would have many problems with producing some good fruit.

I have had for some time a desire to produce a goodly crop of cumquats and marinate them in brandy. I believe they taste absolutely fabulous. So, watch this space for the results of the first bottling of the cumquat brandy. I make sure that all my fruit trees receive very regular watering and so far we haven’t lost any.

At this time of the month I tend to do a little training of the fruit trees; I trim those trees that make a lot of heavy leaf or develop a very dense center. I usually shorten or remove the extra growth.

It is necessary that citrus trees get a lot of general-purpose fertilizer and one should keep the surrounds of these trees well mulched, as the roots are surface roots. Which is what I will be doing with my newly planted cumquat for the rest of the summer.

One other point worth mentioning at this time of the year is the general mulching of the garden. It is best to be very generous with amount of mulch, use at least a depth of 40-50 mm (1-1.5 inches), even around the trees and the large shrubs.

Mulch acts as an insulator, keeping the moisture in and the sun out. You can prove this on a really hot day, stick your finger in the soil under the mulch and you could find it to be moist. That is just how the roots like the soil to be.

Grow a Millenium Garden This Year

The new year deserves something special in the garden. Since this is a planning time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, you may have time to put a little research into making a special millennium theme garden this year.

There are several ways to go about planning one. Read through these ideas and see if one appeals to you. Or maybe you will find your own special way to commemorate the millennium in your garden

The Research Intensive Version: This is the most difficult way to go, but the results should be something to be truly proud of. The national honor society at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, MN has planned and is planting their version of a millenium garden and sundial to beautify their campus. They have spent a lot of time researching flowers that were found throughout the millenium for the special garden.

They have planted flower bulbs developed in the 16th century to present times. They have plans to include a rose that was developed in the first century and plan to include the rose designated as the year 2017 rose as well as others of significance. Many other flowers will be planted as well with selection based on historical significance and other themes. Newly introduced plants of 2017 are likely to be included as well.

A sundial will be the center attraction and will give time as well as add beauty to the garden. The college is considering options for the sundial and has not made a decision as to what it will be. The garden will be completed sometime in 2017 and I hope to wander through it to enjoy their hard work!

The New Plants Only Version: This garden would include only plants that were introduced or given awards in the year recent years. This could be lots of fun as it would be the ultimate excuse to buy all the new introductions this year and next! Don’t limit yourself to flowers only. Plant everything you think you’ll enjoy!