The Wild Garden at Doddington Hall: Bright-bulb moments

Spring bulbs are scattered across the lawns of the Wild Garden at Doddington Hall – the Lincolnshire home of Mr. and Mrs. James Birch – in a perfectly natural spectacle. However, it’s actually a carefully selected variety that blooms in three different stages, says Tilly Ware. Photographs by Clive Nichols.

Located on the western edge of Lincolnshire, Doddington Hall has remained in family ownership since it was built in 1600. An ornate copper engraving from 1707 depicting the estate of Johannes Kipp illustrates a group of outbuildings, including a gatehouse and a church, alongside tightly controlled geometric gardens. : a chessboard of clear parterres, ordered gardens and cruciform paths. Today, when I drive into the entrance, this formality seems untouched. A pair of topiary unicorns dominate the East Garden, where huge yew domes echo those of an Elizabethan building. On the opposite side of the walled West Garden, there are neatly trimmed box-edged beds filled with irises and roses in summer.

However, walk through the west gate on a brisk February morning and the atmosphere is completely different. Huge arrays of spring bulbs adorn the lawns, as sumptuous as the bejeweled portraits in the three-story brick house designed by Robert Smithson. The distance and color shades are so harmonious that they seem completely wild and natural. The stone-paved path, surrounded by yew columns, is washed on both sides by continuous waves of fabric – thin, silvery. Crocus Thomasiniana

Crocus tommasinianus, snowdrops and Cyclamen coum have spread throughout the Wild Garden – Wild Garden at Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. ©Clive Nichols

“At first, my parents planted several varieties, such as Crocus ‘Barra Purple’ and ‘Whitewell Purple’, but they have evolved into species,” explains Anthony Jarvis, who inherited Doddington in the 1970s and has been gardening here for over 50 years. His eldest daughter Claire and her husband James Birch took over the estate in 2007; Mr. Jarvis now lives in a house adjoining a walled garden, his shovel constantly propping up the back door. All these immeasurable drifts of flowers, which seem to have existed for centuries, are all his handiwork.

When Mr. Jarvis first occupied the garden, the inventory was meager: those few crocuses, thickets Galanthus nivalisA handful Cyclamen arborescens and splash Erythronium denscanis. He worked steadily in the Wild Garden, in the northwest, next to the parkland and forest, “breaking snowdrops and scattering them, creating patches of landscape among trees and open grass.”

Blanda Anemone with Victorian Narcissus – Wild Garden at Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. ©Clive Nichols

In the 1870s, the site was conceived as a recreation area, lined with Lebanese cedars, cork oaks, and various rhododendrons; large-leaved trees such as magnolias and catalpas followed in the 1930s. Using a Finnish instrument known as pot pipeoriginally intended for planting forest tree seedlings, and with a bag of fresh snowdrops on his shoulder, Mr. Jarvis could produce 500 bulbs an hour.

Fortunately, the tommies spread on their own, the wasteful seed got into the mower. Cyclamen kum What followed was this: Mr. Jarvis bought 100 plants and, knowing they could be finicky, tested them on different plots. All of them took root, so another 500 pieces were planted among the growing snowdrifts of snowdrops and crocuses.

Daffodils follow the waves of Crocus tommasinianus – Wild Garden at Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. ©Clive Nichols

Now, after many years of careful digging and growing seedlings, their number is in the tens of thousands. This trinity of snowdrops, crocuses and cyclamens flows irresistibly in all directions: under the disordered branches of gnarled sweet chestnuts, hopping along mowed paths, oscillating between witch hazel X intermediate And daphne bholua and teemed with avenues of cherry trees. It’s mesmerizing, especially the infinitely subtle variation of all three. The curled, snub-nosed petals of cyclamen range from dark purple to soft pink and rose-white. All together and illuminated by the winter sun, the crocuses form one shimmering, almost transparent smoky mist; upon closer examination, each of them reveals its own individual and intricate shading on the inside of the goblet. The metallic snowdrop leaves and the marbled tin in the cyclamen foliage blend beautifully together, heightening the sense of hazy delicacy.

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None of the plants exceed 4 inches in height. Crocus Thomasiniana And C. chrysanthus those grown in Doddington have lighter branches, are more prone to variation, and are generally more elegant than the more domineering Dutch crocuses. C. spring Most of C. chrysanthus the varieties Mr. Jarvis tried were destroyed by the voles, but the few survivors intermarried and produced beautiful, unexpected children. Anyone who dares to be too flashy will be sent.

The second act of Mr. Jarvis’ spring show is heralded by Lent lilies, early-blooming hybrid daffodils and erythronium “Pagoda”. The finale features pools of soft, discreet Victorian daffodils and Poetic Narcissus. was. curvedwith grouse and Camassia leuchtlinia in wetter places near a stream. Historical daffodils have hybridized so many times that they cannot be accurately identified. Mr. Jarvis sorts them into groups of the same type and color, allowing the greenish white to fade into a pale yellow, and digging out the distractions that spoil the impression. “I am very free to move things around,” he admits. “Any time you can see them is a good time.”

Cyclamen coum that needs good drainage, with snowdrops and Crocus tommasinianus – Wild Garden at Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. ©Clive Nichols

Many of them were taken out to garden beds during flowering and transplanted at a later date. copper Narcissus “King Alfred” is banished; graceful Triander N. “Ice Wings” introduced. Little wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus, scatters in a spotty manner, moving the gaze. Some of the beauties that Mr. Jarvis hoped to grow, such as tulip clousian, Iris reticulated And Erantis winter— failed to take off, but that could be a boon. The impact of these hypnotic bands depends on a colossal number of several types. Too many shapes and colors and the spell is broken.

It is important to note that this area does not try to be everything in all seasons: once the daffodil leaves turn yellow, everything is cut and mowed every week until the last possible moment in December. There are no hungry large grasses or flower meadows competing for water and fertility. Bulbs can sit quietly all summer long, full and well rested, gathering strength for their next amazing performance.

How to naturalize bulbs in grass

  • For a wilder bulbous meadow look, stick to the three S’s: small, specific, scattered. Divide spring into three parts—early, middle, late—and plan the sequence accordingly. Most spring bulbs (with the exception of camassia and some grouse) grow in dry, rocky areas and will not appreciate a sprinkler or irrigation system.
  • Crocus leaves develop rapidly after the flowers have faded and feed the new corm that develops on top of the old one like a pile of pillows. The new corm must grow to a certain size in order to flower the following year.
  • Mice have always been enemies of crocuses: an engraving from a 1614 nursery catalog depicts a mouse hiding happily in a corm. They are hungriest and are more likely to attack freshly planted corms in the fall rather than during active growth. If petty thieves are a problem, try planting five corms in 5-inch pots, placing them in a refrigerated greenhouse, and then planting out when the first green shoots appear.
  • natural habitats Cyclamen kum These are the beech and pine forests of the Caucasus, Turkey and Syria, but with good drainage they can frolic in open grass and their flowers appear from Christmas until March. K. Kum grows more slowly and more unevenly than C. hederifolium, without the formation of tall dense clumps of foliage. It is best not to mix the two species, as the autumn flowering species is a tougher beast and will outcompete its quieter spring counterpart.

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