Archive | September, 2012

Looking forward to a colourful spring

25 Sep
Early colour: Spring bulbs in Wordsworth House garden

Early colour: Spring bulbs in the garden at Wordsworth House

Spring might seem a long way off but if you haven’t ordered your bulbs yet, now’s the time to think about it. Amanda has already started her planting – and it promises to make a gorgeous display in a few months.

If you want the maximum colour in your garden, plant the widest possible variety to extend your flowering season from February right though to the end of May.

Thanks to a generous grant, we had an extra big bulb planting session a couple of years ago. It was a lovely opportunity for members of the indoor staff and room guiding team to get involved.

Gloved up: Room guide Margaret helps with the planting

Gloved up: Room guide Margaret gets busy

Inside out: Liz, one of our hard-working housekeeping assistants, gets dug in

Inside out: Liz, one of our hard-working housekeeping assistants, gets dug in

Helping hand: Barry, our longest serving room guide, assists with the planting

Helping hand: Barry, our longest serving room guide, assists with the planting

Hips, haws – and itching powder

17 Sep
Ripe for jelly making: Rosa rubriginosa, or common sweet briar

Ripe for jelly making: Rosa rubriginosa, or common sweet briar

It’s time to dust off your recipes for apples, hips and other seasonal fruits.

The Georgians made a wide range of jellies, using everything from haws and sloes to rowan berries and quince.

My friends the Wordsworth House costumed servants have found out, through a process of trial and error, that some 18th-century recipes taste better to modern palates than others. This is because, rather than eating them on bread or toast, they made these seasonal treats to serve with a choice of cold meats, so they aren’t as sweet as we would expect nowadays.

Rosehips, quince and crab apples make particularly good jellies, which have a naturally less bitter edge, more suited to 21st-century tastebuds.

Some people say that rosehips should be left until after the first frost, but we like to pick ours when they are looking their best – they do need a little more cooking but they are higher in vitamin C.

Even if you’re not planning to make jelly, it’s well worth growing a selection of wild roses, as the hips create a colourful autumn display.

And if you’re feeling mischievous, squashed rosehips make excellent itching powder too!

Dark and handsome: Rosa pimpinellifolia, or burnet rose

Small, dark and handsome: Rosa pimpinellifolia, or burnet rose

Red letter day at Wordsworth House

10 Sep
A young visitor puts pen to paper at Wordsworth House

Writing by candlelight: A young visitor puts pen to paper at Wordsworth House

We’re all very excited about our new exhibit – a letter written by William and Dorothy Wordsworth in August 1805 to their friend Lady Beaumont, which is on display in the house. It’s wonderful to see their actual handwriting and to read their thoughts.

There are some very touching passages, particularly when William shares his poem To the Daisy, written in remembrance of his brother John, who drowned when the ship he captained went down.

In the part written by Dorothy, she recalls their early childhood spent in the house and talks about my lovely garden. She mentions the terrace, where she and William played, remarking that it was “a spot which I remember as vividly as if I had been there but the other day”.

She explains that she left the house to live with relatives, aged just six, after their mother’s death, and didn’t return until a visit at the age of 23. Then, she found: “The terrace-walk buried and choked up with the old privot [sic] hedge which had formerly been most beautiful, roses and privot intermingled – the same hedge where the sparrows were used to build their nests.”

I wish she could see the terrace as it is now, with the privet and wild roses intermingling once again and our new summerhouse, with William’s poetry wafting on the breeze from the audio unit – I think she would love it.

Documents on display at Wordsworth House

Paperwork: Documents on display in the office at Wordsworth House

Season of mellow fruitfulness

6 Sep
One of the costumed servants picking apples for our working 18th-century kitchen

Harvest: One of the costumed servants picking apples for our working 18th-century kitchen

We keep finding apples with bite marks lying on the paths and in the beds – the Greenup’s Pippins look ripe and delicious because they’re a large variety, but as anyone who tastes one quickly realises, they need to spend a couple more weeks ripening. Hopefully, the Indian summer will last and do the trick.

A lot of people have been admiring our apple crop because, nationally, it’s been such a bad year for apples. Here we have the advantage of being fully walled, which helps protect the garden from the inclement weather, making a better environment for our pollinating insects.

The other advantage we have is that we grow a wide variety of cottage garden plants spread over a long season, providing an ideal habitat for insects, particularly bees, which are one of our main pollinators.

For those who haven’t got high walls, to boost next year’s apple crop, put in as many traditional cottage garden plants as you can. Globe thistle, borage, marjoram, cone flowers and hyssop are particularly popular with bees. For more ideas, have a look at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.

The apples are a key feature of Amanda’s autumn garden tours, which are on every Wednesday in September at 11.30am – if you’re in the area why not drop in?

If you’re able to visit us on another day, we have fascinating talks in the house at 11.30am and 2.30pm every day. They’re given by the costumed servants, who will be premiering some new subjects this autumn including Meet the Bigwigs (the weird world of Georgian fashion), Capon Ale and Turnip Wine (the story of 18th-century drinking) and Etiquette and Excess (the glories of Georgian dining).

Heritage apples in Wordsworth House garden

Healthy crop: Heritage apples in Wordsworth House garden

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