Autumn Gardening Tips from Head Gardener, Anna Chaffey

Following our wonderful Late Summer Garden Tour, a number of you asked us to share some of our best gardening tips as we move into autumn. With the September equinox marking the official start of autumn, and the ivy on the Hall turning its beautifully distinct rust red, we sought out Head Gardener, Anna, who was delighted to accommodate the requests. Below are a few of her top tips for any gardeners out there wishing to prepare their plots for autumn, winter and beyond…

“Autumn is the perfect time to get planting, the soil is warm and the moisture levels increase to allow plants to get comfortably established – all great gardeners know that planning well in advance is the key to creating a garden that is beautiful 365 days a year.” 

  • Consider what bulbs you want to plant this season, this will make for a truly rewarding spring display.
  • Collect and sow seed from perennials – seeds sown quickly fare better than those stored and sown later on.
  • For early blooms next year of sweet peas/ Ammi majus or other annuals sow in a greenhouse now.
  • Sharpen your secateurs ready for cutting back winter pruning (or send them off to a company for sharpening) – you’ll thank me when there’s a lot of pruning to be done!
  • Prepare a compost area for leaf collecting – it can be turned into beautiful leaf mulch for your garden. Leaf mulch prevents runoff by soaking up water and shelters plant roots from harsh sun. Trace minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, are also found in leaf mulch. It improves soil texture, too, making it friable and hospitable to helpful organisms.
  • Clean out cold frames ready for autumn and use them for any newly propagated plants.
  • In the vegetable patch, pick autumn raspberries, dig up any remaining potatoes to prevent slug damage and harvest and store onions to prevent them from becoming rotten.
  • If any dry periods occur (not that likely here in Yorkshire!) remember to keep watering new trees and shrubs with rain or grey water where possible. 
  • As the weather cools water indoor pot plants less, check to see if they need a water by seeing how light the pots feel or how dry the soil is to avoid overwatering.
  • For lawncare apply an autumn lawn feed (high in potassium) after scarifying and aerating.
  • Now is the ideal time to create a new lawn from either turf or seed!
  • If you suffer from vine weevil insects in your garden/greenhouse, now is the time to apply biological controls such as nematodes which are very easy to water on to problem areas.

Make sure you post any pictures of the Estate gardens with the hashtag #bowcliffehallgardens so we can share them, and look out for future dates for our garden tours and winter wreath making over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Winter Gardening Tips Part Two from Bowcliffe Head Gardener, Anna…

Crunching across frost-covered grass on a crisp, clear winter day can inspire even the sun-worshippers amongst us to enjoy our gardens in winter, but on grey days it’s easy to only notice the many flowers and plants which have been battered by the hard British winter.

To our Bowcliffe head gardener Anna Chaffey though, February is the perfect time to appreciate and prepare for warmer days ahead – signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase are all indicators that we should be paying more attention to our gardens, not less. Here, we chat to her about protecting our plants from the continued frost, how to secure your boundaries and the beautiful seasonal flowers she chose for her own big day…

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How should gardeners encourage and help sustain positive garden wildlife throughout winter?

Feeding birds a combination of seed mixes, suet balls and fruit on trees is always a good start. Leave some perennials with seed heads in the garden. If possible, allow some untouched areas of the garden to develop for more natural habitats for example for hedgehogs.

Consider planting more wildlife friendly plants in the year ahead, hedges, trees or flowers for garden pollinators. The RHS have produced a scientifically analysed list of plants, perfect for pollinators.

Bowcliffe hall

If possible, check for empty nest boxes that are worth cleaning and rinsing out.

Frost and snow are clearly challenging to many plants – is there anything gardeners should be doing to try and protect them?

Either consider growing plants that will tolerate the types of microclimates you have at home with the ‘right plant, right place approach’, or tending to more tender plants, winter protection will be needed. If they are in pots, bring them into the greenhouse.

For tree ferns or banana plants, you can wrap them up with fleece, straw and hessian with a plastic membrane to keep winter wet out. With outdoor tender succulent plants such as Agave, make a small tent over them to keep winter wet off them.

Winter plants protection

When it’s snowy in the garden, it is worth getting a big stick or brush and carefully clearing snow off the tops of box hedging, topiary, shrubs and small trees. This will help reduce the weight on the branches to reduce the chances of them snapping off from snow damage.  

What are your favourite three winter plants, trees or shrubs?

  1. Hellebores in shaded woodland areas because they have such a long flowering season from winter through spring and offer beautiful shades of white, plum, greens and pink shades as well as yellows. They also add beauty to winter planters.
  2. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – a plant which bears fragrant pink flowers before leaf growth.
  3. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ – following autumnal leaves, the winter flowers are strongly scented and bright.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

Are you currently producing any micro herbs from the Potting Shed? 

We slowed down on that front so that we could have a deep clean in there, but towards the end of February we will be seed-sowing again. What we grow will depend on an annual discussion with the chefs.

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Would you advise checking boundaries and structures such as fences at this time of year?  

Winter will certainly test your boundaries, it’s often when you find out how strong they are, so be prepared to fix some old ones once gales start. It is a good time to improve rabbit fences and fix any broken panels. I often have my annual holiday in the winter and come back to find the gales have blown down another part of the fence, I plan to plant more tough hedging at home!

For those planning a winter wedding – what are the best seasonal flowers available?

I would suggest hellebores, evergreen foliage and dried seed heads, such as hydrangeas.

Bowcliffe hall winter gardening tips

You’ve recently got married – congratulations! What flowers did you choose, and why? 

Thank you, we had a fantastic day and the flowers were stunning! For the central table arrangements, we went with a combination of floating hellebores flowers (my favourite) with floating candles and wreaths with tall church candles.

Bowcliffe hall winter gardening tips

Along with the hellebores, the main flowers in the bouquets and wreaths were subtle antique shades of hydrangeas, Astrantia, and deep velvet red roses. Soft evergreen foliage added a garden style and snippets of mistletoe offered a touch of Christmas. The flower arranger grew the majority of the flowers in her own patch back in Shropshire where we got married, which was also why I chose these flowers as the majority were British grown!

Bowcliffe hall winter gardening tips

Anything else you want to add that is relevant to winter gardening?

If you are looking for inspiration for winter or simply want to wrap up and enjoy a day out and visit some gardens, some top ones for winter gardens across the UK include:

  • Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge which has a pathway meandering through winter plants followed by a grove of Himalayan silver birch
  • Bodnant Garden, North Wales, with a colour-packed winter garden planted in 2013.
  • Sir Harold Hiller Gardens, Hampshire, A 4-acre section offers winter garden splendour amongst beautiful views.
  • The RHS gardens all boast winter walks the nearest at Harlow Carr, Harrogate, also at Rosemoor, Devon, Wisley in Surrey and Hyde Hall in Essex
  • Cambo Gardens, nr St. Andrews, Fife, A 70-acre woodland wonderland filled with Aconites and snowdrops
  • Osterley Park and House, Isleworth, London demonstrates bold winter colours planted 5 years ago

What can we look forward to in spring on the Estate?

We are keenly awaiting the anticipation of spring! This winter our garden team had a busy time planting thousands of tulips and Muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinth) bulbs. Unique varieties have been specially selected to offer statement blocks of colour for spring interest!

Got a gardening question? Comment below and Anna will come back to you!

Winter Gardening Tips Part One from Bowcliffe Head Gardener, Anna Chaffey…

After the last – hugely popular – blog on gardening from our own horticultural genius, head gardener Anna Chaffey, we decided it was high time she once took time out from her gardening gloves and pruners and treated us to a masterclass on everything winter gardening. From top tips to topiary and the ‘must see’ winter plants across the estate, there was so much brilliant information that we’ve actually split Anna’s winter gardening blog in two, so look out for the next installment in February…

First things first – what are the must see winter plants, trees and bushes which tenants and visitors should make an effort to see around the estate?

The flowerbeds offer some prominent perennials displaying a winter show. The finely structured and textured plumes of Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens‘ become illuminated on beautiful sunny mornings.

Miscanthus sinensis 'purpurascens'

Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’

These tall grasses contrasted with the narrow seed heads of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and saucer shaped like seed heads from the Sedums make beautiful winter viewing…



Silvery white PervoskiaBlue Spire’ stems truly embrace the ‘look’ of winter, adding a graceful aesthetic especially on frosty mornings.

silvery white Pervoskia ‘Blue Spire’

Silvery white Pervoskia ‘Blue Spire’

Beautiful snowdrops will be popping up around the estate so it’s worth a walk to spot them! Last year they were fantastic between the far lawns under the evergreen glaucous Cedrus atlantica tree. Bluebells form a sea carpet behind the West Wing which frame the grand ballroom windows, followed by daffodils and pretty native primroses.

Bowcliffe Winter Garden - Blackburn Wing

Christmas has been, but what is your number one gift for the avid gardener?

A must for every keen rose grower are a pair of strong gloves, the RHS gauntlets have protected my hands from thorns for years. As a bonus, they are big and yellow so you can’t lose them either!

RHS gloves

How does your job change in winter? Is there less to do or is it a case of shifting priorities to different jobs?

There is a myth that gardeners sit around with cups of tea in winter with nothing to do! It couldn’t be further from the truth – winter provides key opportunities to focus on the aspects of the garden that there has been no time to do during the growing season. Winter objectives can include winter pruning; of apple and pear trees, tidying, mulching, power washing, tree planting, bare root hedge planting, seed sowing, and general annual garden planning. I’ve found the more active projects you complete the warmer you keep!

Pruners bowcliffePruning and tending to trees Bowcliffe Garden

If you could get every amateur gardener to do three things in the garden in winter, what would it be?

Pruning badly is a common mistake seen in a lot of amateur gardeners. Poor pruning can result in a loss of flowers, fruit, and structure. It can also increase the chances of infection, and the general health and vigour of a plant.

Wisley winter 2010. Although this may look like a cold job, it’s one that I find most rewarding!

Wisley winter 2010. Although this may look like a cold job, it’s one that I find most rewarding!

Before hacking back your garden plants without thought take some time to research the individual plants through books or online. The RHS offer some good and clear advice pages on what to cut back when, how and why.

I would suggest they learn how to prune back fruit trees and roses! Additionally, with any climbing plants, it’s worth checking what types you have in your garden as some require hard pruning, whilst others prefer none.

What should gardeners be thinking about in winter for coming months? Is there lots of planning to be done on the estate or is everything in place for spring?

  • For keen fruit and veg gardeners, now is a great time to choose what produce you wish to grow for the year ahead. Consider crop rotations to keep yields healthy, and carry out soil preparation of vegetable gardens to replenish the nutrients in the ground. Spread organic matter (manure) to the areas except where you are planning to grow root crops. This matter can be left on the surface to break up particles from the winter frosts. Remember to rotovate this in by the spring.
  • Cut back perennials when they become leggy before spring to allow for fresh new growth. Keep bases clear of leaves and debris to reduce pests and diseases harbouring amongst them.
  • Winter is a good time to power-wash slippery paths from algae build up. You can also clean greenhouses and clear gutters/drains. Sterilise last years used pots ready for seed sowing to help reduce pests and diseases.
  • Prune back roses. Keep secateurs sharp and use an antiseptic between cuts to reduce cross-contamination of disease.
  • When the ground is dry and frost-free, edges of lawns can be sharpened up or re-aligned using edging irons/half-moons and edging shears.
  • Between November – March is the best season to plan and plant any bare-root plants, such as hedges, trees or roses – make sure it’s done when the ground isn’t frosted over.
  • Check tree ties, tree supports, and rabbit guards. Tree ties that are wrapped around plant stems or trunks hold tree supports in place and often need replacing annually to ensure they don’t rub and damage the bark

Winter can be seen as a rather dull month in terms of colourful plants – how can gardeners add splashes of colour to gardens through the winter months?

There is so much to choice from bulbs, perennials, shrubs, trees or climbers for colour with consideration to foliage, stems, texture, berries, shape, and scent! Make sure you do a bit of background research to ensure you have the right location and soil pH conditions for the plants you choose so they will thrive. If you want any specific recommendations, don’t hesitate to seek me out and ask!

Hellebores (Christmas Roses) offer real value to the winter scene, with long lasting beautiful flowers that grow in shaded areas. Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ offer showy all year round foliage – this variety has a purple leaves. Bergenia is another good winter foliage that will flower towards the end of the season. Traditional winter pansies offer cheerful splashes of colour for planters. It goes without saying that bulbs like snowdrops and early varieties of daffodils and winter aconites can give rewarding impact en masse.

Colourful plants

There are plenty of winter flowering shrubs to choose from, such as Mahonia x wagneri ‘Pinnacle’ with scented yellow flowers and architectural foliage or Chimonanthus praecox ’Grandiflorus’ which is prized for its deep yellow fragrant flowers similar to Edgewothia chrysantha. A small winter flowering evergreen, which is great in shade, is the Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, or for a larger shrub in acidic soil Hamamelis (Witch-hazel) offer beautiful winter flowers. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ offers a pleasant flower display, which we have in the estate gardens planted in the large clay pots, under-planted with Heathers.Colourful plants

Some top winter flowering climbers include Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica or Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Variegatum’, Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ or Lonicera x purpusii.

What are your top tips for gardening through winter?

  • Buy some thermals, they make such a difference when it gets cold!
  • Keep your secateurs sharp for winter pruning, and between pruning cuts use some horticultural disinfectant (such as Hortisept) on your tools to reduce the chances of cross-contamination of diseases.
  • Enjoy having time to plan your garden for the year ahead, visit or research some gardens for inspiration.
Planning winter garden

Look out for part two of Anna’s winter gardening blog in February, and remember if you have any further questions about your own garden that you can add a comment here and we’ll be sure to get Anna to answer it!

Guest Blog: Bowcliffe Head Gardener Anna Chaffey Explores the Current Garden Delights

Bowcliffe Hall Flowers and Grounds

This month we asked our wonderful Head Gardener at Bowcliffe, Anna Chaffey, to hijack the Bowcliffe blog in the name of all things horticulture. As we say a final hurrah to the height of summer, we asked Anna to give us an update on what’s flourishing across the beautiful Bowcliffe grounds, plus let us know some of her top hints and tips for the avid gardeners amongst you. So without further ado here’s our official green fingered update…

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“Splashes and swathes of vivid colour have come to life this summer throughout the grounds as the schemes begin to take shape! I’ve witnessed the garden for a year now and it’s been a fantastic experience to discover what plants have come up through the seasons. I’m going share some of the loveliest plants with you, and suggest what to look out for around the corner.”

My current three favourite plants:


Bowcliffe Hall Flowers and Grounds

Latin name: Perovoskia ‘Blue Spire’
Common name: Russian Sage
Family: Lamiaceae


This is a late summer flowering deciduous subshrub/perennial reaching 1.2m in height. The foliage is strongly aromatic. Small tubular violet blue flowers on plume like panicles offer showy displays and the bold impact of colour and shape acts as a wonderful companion for other plants to complement and contrast beside it such as the ornamental grasses and perennials.

Bowcliffe Hall Flowers and Grounds

Facts of interest:

Perovskia originates from arid and open areas in the Himalayas and Afghanistan. Its name Russian Sage was said to be named after the Russian count (Count Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky (1794-1857), who introduced the plant to the West!

Growing conditions:

Perovskia grows in chalk, sand and loam soils and in poor but well drained soils, in acidic, neutral and alkaline pH conditions. It can cope with sheltered or exposed areas but should be planted in a sunny location. It has been awarded worthiness of a RHS AGM (award of garden merit).

Grow your own:

This is one Bowcliffe Hall resident that can be grown easily in home gardens as it is fully hardy and rarely gets pests or diseases. It fits into cottage garden styles or drought tolerant gravel gardens and seaside gardens. Prune back all the stem framework to about 5cm in late winter and new growth will emerge the following spring. Don’t give it any extra nutrients! To propagate this plant take semi ripe or softwood cuttings in late spring/summer.


This plant has been identified by the RHS as ‘perfect for pollinators’


Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Rosea’

Latin name: Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Rosea’
Common name: Red bistort ‘Rosea’ / Mountain fleece
Family: Polygonaceae

Description: A clump forming perennial with upright flower spikes. These soft pink flowers have been compared to graceful wands. There are a number of varieties with alternative shades in the Bowcliffe Gardens we also have a white flowering one called P.‘alba’. Planted on mass through Bowcliffe gardens they add blocks and swathes of colour into the autumn.

Facts of interest: The botanical name Persicaria is said to originate from the Latin associated with a peach tree Persicarus for the foliage likeness. Amplexicaulis is derived from the Latin amplecti meaning ‘surround, encircle or embrace’ in respect to the way the leaves clasp the stem. This is native to the Himalayas in boggy damp areas.

Growing conditions:

They grow in sun and shade from well drained to boggy locations. At Bowcliffe they are one of the plants that have taken well under the dry conifer woodland bed in front of the Blackburn Wing. They are said to do best in clay and loam, but despite our chalky soils they are establishing well here! They will also cope well with a range of pHs from alkaline, neutral and acidic in exposed or sheltered areas.

Grow your own:

They are very robust to grow! Persicaria have a strong rhizome roots acting as a ground cover and a prevention for weed growth. Although not classified as ‘invasive’, perhaps be aware they do have a tendency to spread and the root system can be difficult to remove once established! Propagate by division in autumn or spring. They suit a range of garden locations, beside ponds and streams, informal areas, cottage gardens, wildflower gardens and flower beds. Cut them back after flowering.


We have noticed busy honey bees are flying in from afar to take nectar from these plants as they are full of them!



Bowcliffe Hall Gardens

Latin name: Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’
Common name: African Lilly
Family: Amaryllidaceae

Description: An outstandingly beautiful and glamorous exotic perennial. The African Lilly is hardy for most of England apart from inland valleys where it sometimes suffers from extended frost damage. The eye catching flowers last for a long period and usually offer two flower heads per stem. We also have a beautiful blue Agapanthus ‘Charlotte’ at Bowcliffe, which has a deep blue vein on the centre of the petals, which also complements the colour scheme beautifully. By the chapel double borders the Agapanthus stand tall behind the charming Calamintha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’ the combination is simple yet wonderful.

Bowcliffe Hall Gardens

Facts of interest: Native to South Africa (Northern, Western and Eastern Cape)

Growing conditions: Ideal for a sunny, spot in a moist and well-drained soil. They will grow in clay/chalk/sand or a loam soil structure. Again this is not a not a fussy plant and will grow well in acid/alkaline or neutral soils. It can withstand temperatures down to -10°C, add winter mulch to give added protection.

Grow your own: Plant in a border or container. African Lilly is very easy to maintain, simply re-pot container plants every 3 years with fresh compost. They look great in most garden settings and suit gravel gardens, cut flower beds or borders and seaside gardens. Cut back any yellowing leaves after a hard winter and it will flourish again in spring. Please note they can take two or three years to start flowering once planted so be patient it’s worth the wait! The seed heads can be left uncut after winter for their architectural qualities.

The wow factor pictured above displaying Agapanthus in front of Plumes of Perovskia and Echinacea heads!

The wow factor pictured above displaying plumes of Perovskia and Echinacea heads (pallida and purpurea)!

Planting time: Spring or early autumn. If planted in a pot pop them in a greenhouse for overwintering. For container planting use a loam based potting compost like John Innes no. 2 or 3. For the best displays feed them with a balanced liquid feed regularly once a week or fortnightly through the spring until the flowers begin to form.

Pollinators: As a bonus they are also a great plant for bees, butterflies and they attract birds.

Flowers and plants galore…

We have a buoyancy of wonderful plants and flowers across the Estate at the moment so it’s very difficult to only name a few! Some beauties are the Echinacea ‘pallida’ and E. ‘Green Jewel’.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.39.31 Bowcliffe Gardens

As well as the Rusty foxgloves (Digitalis ferruginea) and Verbena bonariensisI also have to acknowledge the ornamental grasses as we have a number of worthy ones across the gardens such as the Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which is a light green shade with narrow leaves finely edged with a cream margin.

We also have the compact low growing bright lime green Sesleria autumnalis which brightens up darker pockets of borders. The movement, texture and structure produced by the fine Molinia caerulea ‘transparent’ creates soft delicate plumes, which can be seen in the turning circle at the front of the Hall – stunning!

Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ Molinia caerulea ‘transparent’

Future garden planting projects:

Autumn and spring are the best times get planting. I have recently discussed the planting schemes with the landscape architect, Alistair Baldwin and we have bounced ideas off each other to continue to improve the Bowcliffe garden establishment. I plan to tweak a few areas and bulk up some of the flowerbeds now we are improving the rabbit protection! I also have some planting ideas for the front of the hall, but I shall leave those as a surprise! We had success with some soft tip cuttings this summer, which may be large enough to plant out in the autumn or spring and we are also aiming to plant some more trees around the Blackburn Wing for the enjoyment of future generations.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.39.43 Bowcliffe Flowers

What to watch out for in the next few months:

The grand parkland trees across the estate are offer pages of stories, history and curiosity! I shall have to save those for next time! Meanwhile watch out for the beautiful scenic colour changes as autumn approaches, I have now observed the garden for a year and it’s witnessed its hidden gems unfold. The parkland setting presents some stunning photos in different light levels through late summer and autumn.

Woodland Bowcliffe Estate
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East Park, early autumn 2015

The first signs of autumn have already began the Lime trees (Tilia x europea) have glimpses of golden yellow leaves, the copper Beeches are beginning to drop their first stage of crispy leaves. Last year I enjoyed watching as the coppery tones revealed themselves theatrically around the Blackburn Wing taking the picturesque landscape to a new level.

Bowcliffe Gardens Autumn 2015


This year’s new arrival border is bursting for autumn to arrive to present some blazing red tones! I would also like to pay homage to the horticulturist that once planted our favourite Acer trees around the South and West aspects of the Hall. They steal the show with magnificent autumnal tones. We’re waiting in anticipation for the explosion of colour ahead…

Autumn 2016!

Whilst the weather is still lovely, I urge to you take a lunchtime stroll through the Estate, please do snap pictures of any plants you particularly love and seek me out if you have any gardening questions!


Head of Bowcliffe Gardens, Anna Chaffey

5 minutes with… Bowcliffe Hall Head Gardener, Anna Chaffey


Anna is Bowcliffe Hall’s Head Gardener, responsible for keeping the beautiful grounds and gardens looking immaculate all year round. We chatted to her about her top tips for keeping the estate flourishing, her favourite flower and her advice to budding horticulturists…

Anna Chaffey

What’s your job title?
Head Gardener at Bowcliffe Hall

Tell us a little about how you got into gardening – what inspired you and have you always loved plants / seeing things thrive and grow?

My earliest garden memories consist of playing outside near my parents bedding nursery amongst a field of flowers taller than myself. From a young age I was filled with gardening inspiration from my surroundings and my parents. Looking back to our home garden it clearly changed and developed with our family. The site of the original greenhouses later came a football pitch filled with our group of neighbourhood friends. As we grew older this was re-designed into a series of vegetable, fruit and flower beds. A large character near the front of our home was a commanding Beech tree with a tyre swing and rope ladder. The Beech was later removed due to the close proximity to our house, and that opened up masses of light levels through the windows. Where we once had goats and sheep in the field, we later had an orchard and the vegetable patch increased further for wider production.


Your education and career history in a nutshell please – was there a single moment when you knew that you wanted gardening to be your full time profession?

Whilst at school I had a lot of career paths I was interested in such as teaching and nursing. Following my A levels I discovered the option of garden design which I pursued at degree level in Falmouth, Cornwall.


Have you ever worked on estate gardens before?

As a post-graduate I was seeking further practical gardening experience and I progressed to do a two year RHS diploma at Wisley. My first gardening position took me to a large estate near Thirsk. Here I took responsibility for the walled garden supplying local chefs with seasonal produce. I have also worked on a large garden in East Yorkshire as a sole gardener on a restoration project.

When did you start working on the Bowcliffe grounds?

I began my post at Bowcliffe in early October 2015.


Is there different considerations for looking after such a huge estate space rather than smaller garden spaces? (If so, what are they? What do you have to do more / differently)

On a large estate it’s about balance of managing the macro and micro tasks to achieve high standards.  I need to consider the larger scale operations such as the woodland management, lawn care, large planting borders, hard-scapes such as garden structures and paths etc. An eye for detail is a must looking at the finer aspects of smaller scale work such as planters and propagation. Unpredictable weather can completely dictate what jobs can be achieved, so you also have to be good at being flexible for the unexpected.  It’s important to be organised and appreciate it takes a good first year to fully get to know the garden, from then you can begin stages of future planning for the garden to evolve. In a smaller garden managing these elements may not need such balancing but you can potter and focus your interests in greater detail. Sometimes it can take some working out how to fulfil your ambitions in a smaller garden fitting your garden requirements and wishes to achieve the best from the size available.


Are there any gardening jobs that require constant attention on the estate?

Keeping the grounds looking at their best is a daily job all year round for example ensuring driveways are free from debris, paths are raked, and straying gravel is removed from outside path edges. Cutting back perennials, mulching and winter pruning is a significant task. Once the weather warms up regular weeding is required, this can be reduced to a manageable amount by applying a layer of mulch on an annual basis. Successional seed sowing, watering, pricking out and transplanting is a regular job once the season has commenced. The lawns also have to receive an annual maintenance programme to keep them looking at their best. Once autumn and winter arrive again leaf clearing is a daily task across the estate.

How big is your team?

Other than myself the garden team is currently made up of excellent contract gardeners and Bowcliffe’s superb maintenance team. Together everyone is working hard as a team to maintain the gardens best potential.


We’re almost into spring, what is the main priority for the estate grounds at the moment?

Seed sowing, weeding (it’s best to keep control of the weeds whilst they are easy to hoe off as they are small and before they flower and disperse more seeds). We are also continuing with mulching the flower borders, weekly garden event preparations, lawn cutting, the last stages of perennial cutting back and the last stages of winter pruning.

What should we look out for, plant wise on the estate this year? (Any favourite, particularly colourful plants, unusual species)

Now spring has arrived it’s a rewarding time to enjoy an amble through the estate to see the Snowdrops, Daffodils, Crocus and Hellebores.  Since I have started working in the estate a few people have asked me the name of the majestic trees around the front and back of the Hall known as the Evergreen Oaks (or Holme Oaks). The parkland trees play a significant role in the landscape at Bowcliffe Hall and there are also some impressive Acers and Cedars in the ornamental gardens and mature sweet chestnut trees near the over flow car park.  We shall be planting a number of new trees in the next few years for future generations to enjoy.

The new perennial planting will be a continual development across the gardens to see what works well and which are the tougher plants that can with stand the rabbits and other cheeky pests! When the perennials are flourishing I can offer more information on them at the time

Do you tend to draw up schedules and plans for the work / planting / on going maintenance on the Bowcliffe Estate?

I keep organised using a computer outlook calendar that I print off weekly for the tasks ahead as well as keeping a diary and liaise regularly with hospitality and events staff. Plans can alter depending on the weather conditions, but there are always other jobs that can be completed. I write a horticultural diary to record the garden on a regular basis. It’s an invaluable record to compare differences for future years

Charlotte-Gale-Bowcliffe-Hall-11x7-5385Do you have a favourite flower?

This depends on the time of year completely, however I do love Hellebore flowers due to their subtle longevity through winter and spring!

Biggest problem when dealing with the Bowcliffe Estate gardens?

There are no such thing as problems, just challenges. After the fiery autumn display the mature   parkland trees, and woodland pockets create a significant task for leaf clearance- especially after storms – one of the big challenges this year! I am researching into more effective solutions for next year to reduce the manual labour.


Tell us some facts about the gardens and work that goes into them…

Since I have started we have planted 1000 crocus bulbs. We have spread around 1,560 bags of mulch, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many areas worth of football pitches of leaves we have cleared! Restoration and maintenance of the lawns are currently taking on average 28 man hours per week.  A number of projects are happening this spring in the gardens – watch this space!

What’s your favourite part of working on the Estate grounds?

As it is my first year in the garden it is an exciting discovering what hidden gems lie around the garden through the seasons. As parts of the garden are in their infancy it is also exciting to see them establish and imagine the future possibilities!


One favourite garden fact

One way to identify a horse chestnut in winter is to look closely at its bare stem and you will see a horse shoe shape over the leaf scar.

How can staff and visitors help the establishment of the gardens at Bowcliffe?

One of the new Yew tree hedges by the coach car park and main driveway is extremely temperamental to environmental factors. One way you can help is by avoiding soil compaction- please walk around the hedgerow or across pathways. It would also help if people are aware not to park your car too close to the hedge!


How can you help with any questions staff and visitors might have about the gardens?

For those interested I will be happy to run a few masterclasses or talks during the year. I have recently carried out a seed master class and have had a request for a demonstration on hanging baskets nearer the summertime.