Suddenly it is December – and the year is rushing to a close. On the 17th of the month, we shall have been the legal owners of Bannockburn House for the first of what we hope will be many years to come.
The Big Hoose
Owing to the shorter days, it is a time for any gardener to look back on the months gone past, clear out greenhouses and flower beds look at the highs and lows of the recent growing season and plan for the sunnier months ahead. In some ways it feels like we have always been coming up to ‘The Big Hoose’ and yet in other ways it feels as if we have hardly even scratched the surface as there is always so much to be done.
Many visitors to the house, volunteers and the gardening team, are longing for the day when we shall have summer flower borders and well-kept vegetable beds. They will come in good time but (and it is quite a large but) there is still a lot of surveying work to be done in the more sensitive, historical areas of the gardens which means we cannot dig or disturb the soil in those areas.
Many of the trees in the vicinity of the house are either self-seeded and need removed or are overgrown and in need of much attention. There is a lot of wild rhododendron to be removed which has created large, blowsy plantations and of course, we need to begin the huge task or restoring our Holly Hedges.
What have we achieved in 2018?
Most importantly, we have built up a garden team from a core of three to a regular team of eleven with weekly, extra help from students at Stirling University; in summer we had grass cutting carried out for us by young men from the Community Payback Scheme and volunteers from the Royal Bank of Scotlandhelped us out in the week before the Summer Garden Party. A visit from Stirlingshire Young Archaeologistsin September, helped us to find a lost path along the side of the Walled Garden.
So, I’d like to give a huge thanks to all those people who have given us their time and energy, our dedicated Garden Team, professional experts and other enthusiastic volunteers.
In January, when we began our work, many areas of the garden looked like the backdrop for a film about Sleeping Beauty or the Lost World of the Werewolf. We began gathering fallen branches and dead wood, kindling bonfires and clearing the immediate area of woodland closest to the house.
This clearance work helped us to discover several, large drifts of Snowdrops inFebruary. They have lain undisturbed for decades and so have spread into dense carpets in some sections of the garden. But Candlemas day was ‘bright and gay’ and so it was that Winter decided to have another go and the ‘Beast from the East’ was to be an unwelcome visitor to the Bannockburn House.
As Marchprogressed, the snow melted, and we watched as the woodland came alive with Daffodils and Narcissus. We have at least 27 different species of Daffodil and many of these have still to be identified but we know the garden was famous for its Daffodils in the 1940’s and we hope that will be the case again in future.
Bannockburn House officially began life as a publicly owned building on Easter Sunday, April1st, 2018. Co-incidentally, this was also the 100th anniversary of the death of Lt. Col James Mitchell. DSO, Croix de Guerre, who was a son of the House and died from wounds sustained in France in 1918. To mark these events, we planted a Laburnum tree and are grateful to the Rev. Liz Robertson from the Ladywell Church, Bannockburn, for helping with the ceremony.
May & June
Then the weather went hot and dry and Mayand Junevanished under weeks of grass cutting, weeding and watering. The sun was warm, the days were lengthening, and everything was growing especially the weeds. The Rhododendrons were in full flower and the gardens looked beautiful but still we carried on clearing and discovering some of the secrets of this amazing place.
Julybegan the lead in to the Victorian Garden Party in Augustand we worked hard to make the gardens as neat and tidy as possible. We cut the ‘Maze’ into the rear lawn transferring the pattern from the Main Ceiling onto the grass. The weather held and a great time was had by all who turned up for tea and cakes in the marquee on the lawn, a BBQ at the Chauffeur’s Cottage, mediaeval archery and guided tours of the House and Gardens.
The weather broke by the middle of August and sadly so did one of our oldest apple trees. The branches were overladen with fruit and the high winds in August caused two of the largest limbs to break off the tree leaving large wounds and a mass of immature fruit. The tree has survived but we hope to take cuttings from the live sections and graft them onto a new tree to preserve the variety which we believe is ‘Royal Jubilee’ (named after Queen Victoria). Watch this space.
September & October
Septemberand Octoberpassed in a blur of apples, brambles and autumn leaf raking. We spent a lot of time working on the east side of the ‘walled garden’ cutting back dense weeds and brambles and wild raspberries. As a result, we have now opened up this area and found the ancient path that runs along the garden in this section. We have also cleared the path where it changes direction and heads west, past the wooden glasshouse and alongside the Holly hedge, still inside the garden wall. We hope to excavate these paths this year and create new walkways around this part of the garden, but we still need to clear some trees and bushes before this ‘circular’ path will be operational.
We were fortunate to win a grant from Paths for All in September which has enabled us to have some tree work done near the Gate Pillars. We are trying to find some of the old pathways which wend their way through this section of the garden and removing a lot of the damaged Laurel was a necessary part of this search. So, in Novemberthe Professionals moved in and to the sound of revving chainsaws the massive Laurel shrubs were cut down. It is always sad to see any tree or shrub cut down but many of these shrubs had already sent up young shoots and we shall use these to produce new bushes and replant some of the area – but this time we will keep them under control!
One dramatic result of the tree work has been the exposure of our five stunning Redwood trees, now fondly called ‘The Five Sisters’. For your information, working from left to right they are:
‘Lizzie’, ‘Peggy’, ‘Molly’, ‘Jean’ and ‘Katherine’. It turns out that Katherine is the largest of the five with a girth of 17 feet/ 5.20 metres. We have not yet measured their height but hope to get some help in January 2019, from enthusiasts involved with the Redwood trees at Gillies Hill, Cambusbarron. You can read more about the sleeping giants by clicking here.
So, we have cut the greenery, decked the hall with boughs of Holly, Ivy and Cypress, mulled the wine and although we cannot have the Yule Log burning inside the house, we have had our December bonfire outside. It only remains to thank you all for reading this blog and visiting the House and to wish you all a Merry Christmas and All the Best for the coming year.
Please visit us!
Please come and visit us and if you feel energetic, you are always welcome to join in as a volunteer. We are always looking for enthusiastic people to come up to the House and get involved.
This House and the gardens are for you all so please make your New Years’ Resolution to join us up at ‘The Big Hoose’. We look forward to meeting you in 2019. Slainté!