A Stinking Hellebore!

Spring always arrives in a garden with extra demands in terms of activity. The grounds at Compton Verney are no exception, although spring as you’ll quite rightly point out isn’t quite here yet…

Activity in the grounds at Compton Verney traditionally slowed for the cooler January and February months, meaning the volunteer team took a well-earned rest, whilst the core staff team of two continued with essential maintenance; preparing for spring. This winter however, there was a willingness to continue with the full team right through the season, and we’ve certainly responded to this and have been very busy!

A visual treat to keep us going back in January was the Winter Aconites, which cloaked the ground around the Lime trees on the West Lawn. These however have now given way to our lovely snowdrops that are massed on the bank of the Middle Pool. These will continue in flower for when we open on March 14th.

There has been some pruning in the Ice House Coppice and clearing of dense weed growth in preparation for further planting over the coming weeks, and this work is also set to continue well into spring. We’ve taken the opportunity to retain good quality, decaying timber, which has been arranged artistically (if this is possible with sticks?!) to continue rotting down as dead wood piles, which as we know provides good habitat for tiny bugs and beasties!

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Bird boxes for Compton Verney! © Compton Verney / Adam Webb 2015

In addition to various maintenance tasks has been the welcome addition of more nesting boxes. Although timed perfectly to coincide with National Nest Box Week, we were unfortunately too busy to blog about it, but I wanted to publicly pass on our thanks to Alwyn Knapton, who constructed the boxes voluntarily for use at Compton Verney. Alwyn and Adam toured the Ice House Coppice looking for appropriate locations that offered shelter and nearby food sources. The guys also positioned a number of boxes nearer to the main buildings, clustered in the hope of attracting sparrows – who often nest in groups. We’d certainly encourage you to add a nest box or two at home (There is still time!) and there is lots of information available via the link above.

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Alwyn fitting the first box! © Compton Verney / Adam Webb 2015

Continuing with birds, Alwyn has also been busy adding new bird species to his growing list, which is now up to 81 different types of birds recorded over the last two years or so. Of particular interest in the following image is a single Wigeon that was spotted amongst some Mallards – not usually seen at Compton Verney. Alwyn: “The fly through of the Peregrine in December, and the Golden Plover in January was a welcome sight and the brief visit of the lone Teal kept the count moving forward.”

Hidden amongst the Mallards - a Wigeon! © Compton Verney / Alwyn Knapton 2015

Hidden amongst the Mallards – a Wigeon! © Compton Verney / Alwyn Knapton 2015

Looking again at grounds team activity, we have also helped with artwork installation, surveying trees, and we’ve welcomed a renewal of drainage channels in the courtyard; where contractors finished the job with a fresh coating of gravel – yes we’ll be back to gravel raking each open day from now on!

And to finish this rapid post with one of my favourite flowers, snapped yesterday – a Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) , one of many that we’ve planted naturally amongst the woodland garden area. We’ll be pretty occupied over the coming weeks, but are looking forward to seeing people around the grounds again.

Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)  © Compton Verney / Gary Webb 2015

Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) © Compton Verney / Gary Webb 2015

Until next time…

Gary Webb, Head of Landscape & Gardens, Compton Verney.

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