It has been several months since I have sat down and written the Head Gardener’s Blog. That is not to say when lockdown happened Marwood completely stopped, far from it.

Regrettably like other businesses many of our staff were furloughed. At the time of lockdown all the hard work had been done and our plant centre was full of a fantastic range of plants ready for sale and the garden was looking immaculate. After a week of trading the door was duly shut again (mid March). Despite this’ always keen to focus on the positive’ the Marwood Team viewed lockdown as an opportunity. It was the ideal time for us to set up the Online Shop. Boxes were sourced, couriers were chosen, and the Online Shop was developed. Much needed income started to flow into the business.

In many respects the lockdown was advantageous, the quiet time gave the garden team time to complete disruptive tasks without the need to block areas of the garden off. Much needed regenerative pruning in the camellia house was able to occur, these camellias have responded well, the space is light and airy, the new growth perfect to take cutting material from. We also developed a garden area at the bottom of the Wistera Pergola steps, a new grass path has been sown. Where once a black bamboo blocked the view, now a sea of candelabra primula rub shoulder to shoulder with other bog plants framing a spectacular view across middle lake.

A wet spring with magnificent displays of Camellia, Magnolia and spring flowering shrubs was followed by a dry summer. During lockdown certain garden tasks were prioritized. Looking after our plant sales stock was a big priority, keeping them watered, pest free and weed free was a constant battle. Whilst the plant nursery received a much needed tidy and re-sort, many hidden plant treasures were re-discovered, languishing in overgrown weedy corners. Popular plants of the past were rediscovered and re-identified, Amsonia hubrictii, Hesperantha ‘Mrs Hegarty’, Hesperantha coccinea f. alba and Phlox ‘Blue Evening’ Many of these plants will be propagated and added to our plant catalogue list.

Amsonia hubrictii

Amsonia hubrictii (BUY NOW)

In mid-July we finally felt ready to re-open the garden on a 5-day week basis. Despite being closed for our three most profitable months. Customers came flooding back, heading to the Garden Tearoom and Walled Garden Nursert with great motivation, in a socially distanced way of course.

In the wider garden, tasks such as mowing and strimming took priority. Depending how you view it lockdown was a great opportunity for wildflowers (weeds). Weeding occurred but the focus was on the upper parts of the garden, the herbaceous border and around the Garden Tea Room, Astilbe beds and scree beds. Regrettably the three B’s Brambles, Bindweed and Balsam took control of the top lake area, the bog garden and wild garden as attention was taken away from these areas. However, in recent weeks we have begun to get on top of these.

Thankfully when lockdown was relaxed, many of our garden volunteers came back, helping us to catch up on those jobs that were put on hold. I must give special thanks for Fiona, who has single handedly weeded the tearoom beds and much of Tithebarn nursery. I must admit I do miss Marwood morning tea breaks where much coffee, tea and toast were consumed, but the volunteers have returned despite this. We have welcomed new volunteers such as Pat and Pete, Carol, Lesley and Gill.


New volunteers Pat and Pete tidying nursery

Seth Brewer

Baby Seth, Matt and Malcolm

Most recently we have had several celebrations. Lin one of our gardeners celebrated 40 years at Marwood in July. I celebrated the birth of my new son Seth, a true Marwood baby.

Most recently Malcolm Pharaoh (retired Head Gardener and Chief Garden Volunteer) was awarded Plant Heritage’s prestigious Brickell Award 2020. The Brickell Award (named after Plant Heritage’s founding member and current Vice-President Chris Brickell) recognizes excellence in cultivated plant conservation, and celebrates the extensive conservation work achieved by one of the charity’s 400+ National Collection Holders each year. Well done Malcolm, very well deserved!

Malcolm Pharoah receiving PHG Award 2020   Malcolm Award 2

Malcolm receiving award from Jonanthan Webster

Take a tour of Marwood Hill Gardens in April 2020

If you go down in the woods today.......

Spring has finally reached the garden. Marwood is now dotted with pink, reds and whites. The early flowering Magnolia, Camellia and Rhododendron are blooming across the garden. The richly perfumed pale pink Magnolia sprengeri. The dark pink cabbage sized flowers of Magnolia campbellii subsp. Mollicomata are looking amazing, contrasting well with the nearby magnolia purple-pink flowered Magnolia ‘Charles Raffill'. Salix gracilistyla 'Mount Aso' is looking resplendent, with its bright red winter shoots above its pink and silver fluffy male catkins (available for sale). Look out for early spring flowering herbaceous perennials such as strikingly blue daisy like Anemone blanda and dark blue flowering Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’.

After four successive storms Atiyah, Brendan, Ciara and Dennis, three large trees have failed in the garden. One large Eucalyptus has fallen into the upper lake, with two other trees coming down in the bog garden and folly area. Many branches and detritus litter the garden. The tree surgeons made clever use of a small boat and a winch to remove the eucalyptus from the top lake and the garden team have been busy clearing fallen branches and logs away. With so many fallen trees, much space has been created for new planting opportunities.

February is here, bringing with it the prospect of lighter evenings, much to the relief of the garden team. We are however not out of the woods yet; the continuing battle with the wet weather which has fully saturated the garden and the threat of frost is still a very real possibility.

Early flowering Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ was the first bulb to emerge throughout the garden followed quickly by snowdrops, Hellebores and most recently Leucojum vernum (Spring snowflake). Early flowering Camellias, Rhododendron nobleanum and R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ have provided splashes of purple, pink, white and red.

My Name is Matthew Brewer, I have recently taken on the role of head gardener at Marwood Hill Gardens.

In all honesty, before last June, I had never heard of this garden but for a chance visit to Marwood whilst holidaying with my family. Upon entering the garden we naturally headed for the tearoom. Halfway through a ginger scone, an impromptu interview with the Garden Manager and my fate was sealed. Before joining Marwood I was working as a woodland Horticulturalist at RHS garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, together with a hardy band of volunteers clearing and developing its woodland.