Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tree of the Month (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Squeezing in by the skin of its teeth as tree of the month for February is the Giant Sequoia or Wellingtonia.  This tree hails from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.  It was first introduced to the UK in the early 1850s and there is some debate as to who was responsible, John Matthew and William Lobb have both been credited with bringing over the first seeds.  However, what we do know is that the trend for planting this tree took off with gusto - no large garden or estate was complete without one (or lots!).

Our Giant Sequoia in the West Glade

The Giant Sequoia Avenue at Biddolph Grange (NTPL)

At Scotney we have two significant specimens, one in the West Glade shown above and one on the top walk.  These look quite different to each other as one has lost most of its lower branches (West Glade) and looks quite bare whereas the other one is more typical in shape and has a more complete canopy (Top Walk).  Ours are just babies really and have a long way to go before they can get anywhere near the height, girth and age of their U.S. forebears.

The Giant Sequoia is the largest living thing by volume and mass and commonly grows to a height of 230–280 ft and 16–23 ft in diameter.  We estimate the height of ours to be approximately 120 ft.  This phenomenal height can cause problems as these trees are often struck by lightning as we saw recently at Sheffield Park  It also poses a problem to arborists who have to go to extreme measures to work at such heights.

Here's Ollie an Arborist from the Living Forest scaling one of our Giant Sequoias a few years ago.
The largest recorded specimen in the world is believed to be the General Sherman In the UK the largest specimen can be found in the grounds of Castle Leod in Easter Ross in Scotland.  One of the original seed stock, this was planted in 1853 and is now over 170 feet tall.  In addition to their great height they can also achieve tremendous age – some of the oldest American specimens are estimated to be in the region of 4000 years old.

Although they are not a native tree, they seem to thrive in the UK but we have yet to see them reach their full potential.  The thick spongy bark is popular with roosting birds and they exploit the holes made by shed branches.  Today, Catrin pointed out two Tree Creepers, birds we don’t often see in the garden, having a mooch about on the tree on the Top Walk.

Treecreeper (NTPL)
These are truly amazing trees and are really worth a closer look (and touch), so be sure to seek our ones out next time you visit.


Rule no.1 always look cool....

I'll start by appologising for the quality of the photos! I broke my camera last week and over the last year my smartphone has been taking a battering so the camera's not so good anymore! 

But anyway, here we go! Today Dave and I had another tree to climb. The tree was one of the oaks on the top walk, so sorry for anyone visiting the garden today to find that you could not walk the whole way on the top walk but we didn't want anything dropping on your heads. We had a few jobs to do on this tree, Dave wanted to give it a bit of a crown lift, and I wanted to check out a large cavity in the tree and there was also a hanging branch which needed taking down. 
The oak on the top walk
If you look really really hard you can
see the hanging branch!
While I was on the way up I tried to take some photos, to give everyone a view of a different perspective of Scotney although I got rather scared when getting my phone out, especially as I'd already dropped it once from around 12ft (Duncan very kindly went into the Rhododendron bush to find it for me!) So there are only a few photos, which are not the best but I thought I'd share them anyway!

View towards the old castle

 So while Dave concentrated on removing some of the lower branches I started my climb higher to check out the cavity. Once I got there I gave the cavity a bit of a prod, and while one side had some dead bark the other appeared to be perfectly healthy.
After inspecting the cavity I practised my "skills" in trying to get a high enough anchor point to try and get out to the hanging branch. This took me quite a while and I ran out of time as we ran quite late into lunch and we decided it would be best to carry on after lunch!
A view of the cavity and Dave. 

 After lunch I very kindly allowed Dave to climb up and get the hanger (I think I may need to improve my fitness!)

But getting back to the title of this blog. Dave, always looking to further my development and education, today taught me the three rules of climbing (which he'd seen on the tele the other day)

Rule no.1 - Always look cool!
Rule no. 2 - If you can't tie knots, tie lots!
and Rule no. 3 - Safety third!

(ok we don't quite follow all these rules except for the first one obviously! but I thought this was quite funny)
A photo of Dave looking "cool"


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Discovery of lost Scotney Poem

The Gardener's Bothy (our tea room) is being redecorated next week and in the last few days we have been removing all the furniture and other contents so the work can take place. One curious discovery was the yellowing manuscript of a poem found wedged down the back of a book shelf. It appears to be Nineteenth Century and the work of a poet who, unsurprisingly due to the quality of his verse, has been forgotten, meriting not even a footnote in the celebrated Oxford History of English Horticultural Doggerel. In the possibly vain belief that there may be readers of this blog who possess an antiquarian interest in such obscure Victoriana, the poem is reproduced in its entirety below. Any information about the poet would be much appreciated.

Hymnus Scotniensis

Being a previously unpublished poem by the late 19th Century Parson Traveller, Rev. Horace Philpotts D.D. Oxon, taken from his manuscript, ‘Stray Blooms from a Clergyman’s Posy’.

Where ‘ere I walked cross Down or Weald,
Through bosky wood or sheep-grazed field,
From country folk I oft heard tell
Of Scotney hid within a dell.

Its ancient walls fair seem to float
Upon the gleaming, fish-filled moat.
As if it was not built, but grew
From out the dark, umbrageous yew.

And lo! upon the quarry’s crest
A mansion, new, doth grandly rest,
Surveying from its lofty seat
The picturesque vision at its feet.

In Spring azaleas flower bright,
A source of beauty and delight.
And down below, a sight far holier,
Pink mounds of Kalmia latifolia.

In Autumn children gaily clamber
‘Pon the boughs of a Liquidambar.
And Acers give the sylvan scene
A burnished, copper-coloured sheen.

Come, bring your huddled masses hither,
Whose futures lie, they know not whither
And ‘midst the Pleasure Grounds they’ll find
Sweet solace and rare peace of mind.

Come, workers in bleak lives enmeshed,
Let Scotney your parched souls refresh.
And leaving aft dark urban vice
Drink deep of Hussey’s paradise.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Eviction for two unsavoury characters...

Last week there had been a report from a couple of our visitors about two goats being in the garden. While a couple of our staff had a good look round no goats could be found. However today, while Dave and I were heading towards the spring walk to get some stakes for some new trees which are going to be planted we saw something rather odd. As we walked closer Dave pointed towards a large shape laying on the grass, first we thought it was a sheep but as we walked closer these two cheeky goats got up!
We found out that they had snuck through a small gap in the fence at the very end behind the Thuja. We herded the goats back towards the gap where they happily jumped back into the field. They clearly knew where they were going and had probably been using this entrance undetected, luckily however they had not done too much damage while they enjoyed the beautiful garden! However these are visitors which we'd prefer stayed out of the garden and in the field where they belong!


A picture of the Castle

David Gabriel has sent us a photo from one of his previous visits to Scotney which you can see below. This beautiful panoramic view of the Castle was taken 4-5 years ago and by the looks of it was taken in the spring.

Click on the photo for a bigger view of it......

Thanks David, great photo!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Photographs from Anona Gabriel

More photos from the weekend

Anona Gabriel visited Scotney at the weekend and took these beautiful photograps from the garden and managed to capture beautiful reflections of the Castle in the moat. Huge thanks to Anona for sending in these photographs and sharing them with us, they are definately worth posting up on the blog.

The Roundel through the trees

The reflections of the Roundel

A view along the Moat

Beautiful day for photgraphs

The Roundel from another angle

Reflections of the Oak Tree on the Bowling Green

Monday, 20 February 2012

Pictures from David Neary

New photographs

David Neary visited Scotney this weekend and took these beautiful photograph of various parts of the garden that he has kindly sent in for us to put up on the blog. A big thank you to David, if anybody else has visited Scotney and have taken any beautiful photographs then send them in to and I can add them to the blog. 

I have more photographs to add to the blog from Anona Gabriel, I will post these up tomorrow.

Looking towards the Old Castle

Water on top of the sundial

Beautiful reflections on the Sundial

Oak Tree by the Castle

Comments from the weekend

"Fantastic, absolutely magical. Came here as an art student when I was 17 and fell in love with Scotney Castle, have never been back till today (now 38!). Took lots of photos and hope to draw/paint some nice pictures"

"What a lovely place to visit. We loved the moat and found out the ages of the trees thanks to your staff"

Friday, 17 February 2012

Pictures from last weeks Working Holiday

Scotney in the snow

Gaelle who is a volunteer who was on the working holiday last week has kindly sent us in some of the pictures that she took whilst she was here, and as you can see we had a fair bit of snow!

Cedar Tree weighed down by snow

The Castle through the snow

Looking at the Old Castle

Thank you Gaelle for sending in your pictures, they are beautiful. If anybody else has pictures that they have taken whilst at Scotney and would like us to share them on the blog then send them to me at 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Two unexpected visitors!

While the garden opened for the new season yesterday and we expected to have visitors in the garden once more these two little critters were an unexpected find today!
The day started with us continuing the work we had started yesterday down at the red border. We noticed a large hanging branch in the Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) we got this down before the gardens opened, however on returning after break we found this little guy on the path. We wonder whether he had got dislodged from his winter roost when the branch had come out of where ever it had. We think he's a Common Pipestrelle, we carefully encouraged him back towards the tree in case he got trampled by any visitors and he quickly found a nice crevice in the Sequoia to hide in and we hope he will continue his hibernation until spring is here!
Our second find today was this beautiful frog. We unfortunately disturbed him while cleaning out the inlet to the moat. After posing for our photo we found him a nice damp area for him to hide out the rest of the winter until the spring.

Tree safety......

The National Trust takes tree safety very seriously, and here at Scotney we're no different, so when a hanging branch was discovered in one of the Beech trees on the side of the main drive into Scotney the climbing team was called into action. 
The hanging (I put the arrow so it could be
easily identified!)
We're lucky here at Scotney to have a few qualified tree climbers on staff so there was no need to call in tree surgeons to deal with it, or as Dave likes to say "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The Arb-Team" and as I have newly qualified I get to be a part of this team! 
Getting ready
Dave shoots the throw line into the tree
So we got kitted up, checked our ropes and then Dave showed us his big shot (an oversized catapult) skills by getting the throw line on a high branch. Then it was time to get going......

Dave showing us how it's done
Paul came to join our arb team as chief grounds men and was ready to stop any cars which may be in danger of any dropping branches, and he looked very fetching in his lovely orange hi-vis vest! He was later joined by the lovely Duncan who helped Paul both with the traffic management and the heckling of the climbers, especially the new climber!

 Paul, ready for action!
Duncan and Paul "working" hard!

The Beech tree was not as easy a climb as I had been lead to believe! I had been told it was dead easy, however this was a bit of a lie and as my first official climb at Scotney this tested my abilities to its limits. I allowed Dave to test his skills to get the hanging branch down, while I tested my ingenuity and hone my new climbing skills. Although when I finally caught up with Dave he was "working" hard, although to me it looked like he had found a natural hammock and was laying about!

Dave, very successfully managed to dislodge the hanging branch after a little persuasion and the branch came down with quite a thump! So much so that Anthony in the Walled garden heard it come down, he told us when we saw him later on that day. 

Paul and Duncan clearing up the debris
Me about 20meters up!

This was the highest and most challenging tree I've climbed so far, Dave estimated that we gone about 22meters high (about 70 feet), we knew this as a single rope was only just long enough to get us to the floor and our ropes are 45meters long. This was definately a good tree to test my fear of heights on, but with the support of such a great team my confidence is growing more and more every day, I just need to figure out how to get more branches stuck in the trees so I can go climbing again!
A big thanks has to go to my very own Obi Wan Kenobi (Dave) and to Duncan and Paul for all their support! You can all sleep easy knowing that the trees of Scotney are being well maintained!


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Scotney Garden is now open

Scotney is now open!

Scotney Castle has now opened for 2012, the Garden and House are open Wednesday - Sunday 11am - 3pm and the Estate is open every day of the year.


If you are planning on visiting Scotney and you want to know some of the plants and trees that you may see on your visit, click on the 'Current Plants of Interest' tab at the top of the page and you can see what's in flower.

More photos from the Working Holiday

Last weeks volunteers on the Working Holiday   

I have finally managed to get some pictures uploaded of the working holiday group from last week and some more of the work that they carried out for us at Scotney. Despite the snow and the cold winds the group managed to get through all of the jobs that we lined up for them so we managed to get a few extra bits and pieces completed which was a great bonus.
The volunteers getting stuck in and pruning overgrown Cherry Laurel

Having cleared the Rhododendron along the Top Walk the volunteers started clearing overgrown Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) which had taken over and was nutrients, water, and light from a large clump of Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestis) and other trees such as several Wild Service Trees (Sorbus torminalis.)

The same area after pruning  

Once the overgrown vegetation had been cleared it was then dragged by hand to the bonfire close by and burnt, ideally we would have chipped the material and reused it to mulch the beds or provided a surface for a path on the estate, but as it was so cold the fire provided a bit of warmth to the group whilst they were working.

Loading the fire and keeping warm.

A huge thank you to all the group for all their hard work last week, without you guys we wouldn't have achieved half as much wanted to this winter so from all the gardening team at Scotney - THANK YOU!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Exit Sick Sycamores

You may remember I recently spoke up for the much maligned Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).  So this following post may seem a little contradictory.

A phrase often used in arboricultural circles is “The right tree in the right place.”  Trees should be planted with due consideration to many factors, e.g. location, size at maturity and specific needs (soil minerals, sunlight and shelter etc).  This is particularly important in a garden like Scotney where space can be at a premium.

Our problem was a stand of nine large Sycamores that were simply “the wrong trees in the wrong place.”  They were shading out an area containing other trees with greater horticultural value including a Silver Lime (Tilia tomentosa, a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) and a beautiful young Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea).  They also produce hundreds if not thousands of seedlings that germinate all across the garden causing a headache for our gardeners and volunteers.  Finally, but perhaps most significantly there were signs of ill health and the possibility of failure could not be ruled out.  Taking these factors into consideration we decided to don our black caps and pass sentence.

A lot of people were involved in this project and it took several weeks to complete.  First into action was our volunteer ‘King of the Strimmers’ Chris who did a great job brush cutting around the base of the trees.  This is where it became obvious that there was serious decay present.

As you can see from the picture above one of the trees was completely hollow at its base.  Our next task was to carefully delimb and take the tops off the trees.  As we were working in a fairly confined space straight felling was not an option.  The most efficient way was to do this was to use climbing spikes and to sectionally fell the trees.  The use of spikes is confined to tree removal and emergency rescue only as they cause considerable damage to the tree, as you can see in this picture.

So, once at the top of the tree we got started (after taking a few minutes to admire the view). 

After battling through the ivy we could secure a central work position allowing safe access to all areas of the tree that needed removing.

By removing the entire canopy and all lower branches we were left with a series of trunks.  These were then reduced in sections to a manageable height for normal felling.  This is the point where we once again call on our own ‘Saw for Hire’.  Anthony The Terminator was now able to start felling the remaining trunks in situ.  Here he is hammering in a wedge to get one to topple over.

Duncan and the rest of the gardening team took care of the huge clear up operation and the sound of chainsaws rang across the garden for several weeks.  Having these trunks standing also gave us a rare opportunity to practice our spiking technique and to give others a chance to try it out.  Here’s Cat and Charlotte having a go.

This unique totem pole collection will soon disappear as The Terminator will continue to remove these trunks over the next few weeks.

The removal of these trees has transformed this area of the garden.  Views have been opened up from many different aspects and the general gloominess created by the dense canopy cover has disappeared.  Longer term development of this area will continue over the course of the year, so keep an eye on this blog to see how things pan out.