‘The Planting a Bog, Blog’


Looking back at the August 2020 blog, we were just emerging from the national lockdown. I wrote at the time that regrettably the three B’s ‘Brambles, Bindweed and Balsam’ took control of many areas of the garden. This month the B’s ARE BACK and our attention has been frustratingly spent on tackling and removing these weeds. Once more our apologies if you’ve visited and seen grumbling gardeners lost in the brambles.

            Marwood's middle lake                                                                                          Eucryphia                                                               Astilbe Chinensis ‘Brokat’                         

middle lakeAstilbe chinensis Brokat


new astilbe variety



New Astilbe found

Some exciting news is that Malcolm Pharoah, our Astilbe National Collection holder, has discovered a new astilbe. This chance find has caused a great deal of excitement amongst our garden team. It is an arendsii type, a sport of ‘Lili Goos’ which is tall Astilbe,  90cm (3ft) in height and flowering in June. Instead of having red-pink flowers, this new find has a much more orange tint, it could be described as salmon or apricot in colour. We, alongside our visitors, are having great fun, deciding upon its name.





                                                                                   Summer Holiday          

Peony Garden August has been a great summer holiday treat. The tearoom is bustling, and the garden has been full of families stretching out across the lawns enjoying ice creams and cream teas. The garden is full of colour, especially the herbaceous borders and the peony garden. Hydrangeas are currently the star attraction, coming in various shades of striking blue, purple, white, pink and red (my personal favourite). Many visitors are noticing the unusual white flowering Eucryphia trees dotted through the garden. Also admired are the pink loosestrife surrounding the lake and in the bog garden, and the white flowering Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’. I hope you can visit us and enjoy this for yourselves.






This month we have been developing an area of the garden that the gardeners affectionately call the ‘marsh’. It’s the triangular section of land above the top lake found at the point where the stream enters the garden. In this area water cascades from a pool under a bridge and into the upper lake, creating a beautiful harmonious scene.

The ‘marsh’ has drastically changed in the last 10 years for many reasons. When the garden was first established this area was much drier underfoot than it is today. The skeleton of a dead tree gives testament to this.  The once thriving green oak tree, which stood at the head of the valley, sadly demised due to emerging springs. The lake is essentially a dam, catching all the silt and detritus that comes down from the upper valley. Despite our best efforts with a series of silt catching traps the lake still needs to be periodically dredged. The dredging work can be quite destructive especially to the bank side and consequently much of the original lakeside planting was lost. A bridge over the marsh enables visitors to enjoy stunning views down the valley, with a raised perspective to the astilbe beds and beyond. This summer I have often heard children on the bridge calling for billy goat gruff and a troll so maybe the marsh holds more secrets to be found.

Now that much of the landscaping work has been completed, the gardeners have begun clearing and redesigning the areas. At the water’s edge, mimulus, watercress, weedy grass species, Iris pseudocorus, and Carex pendula (Sedge) are being removed. These wildflowers and weeds although beautiful are tall blocking the views down the valley across the lake. Great care has been taken to not remove all plants along the lake edge as their roots prevent erosion and keep the lake bank together.

One group of plants that is certainly destined to be homed in this area is our Iris ensata collection (Japanese Water Iris) These irises flower in the month of June with large, magnificent blooms and with their preference for moist soil will be very suitable. This redeveloped marsh area should complement the impressive bog garden further downstream.


 Malcolm and PetaNew plantings above top lake

                    Peta and Malcolm                                                                                                       Marsh area development


We are so lucky to have a wonderful volunteer team at Marwood Hill Gardens. This month we welcome Scott, John and Sue to the team. It’s great to see our team growing with a mix of different ages and backgrounds. Some of the team prefer to work alone in the tranquillity of the garden, whilst others prefer group activities, but we all come together to enjoy a break with coffee and cakes. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to join in and volunteer, upcoming tasks include Hydrangea pruning, leaf clearance and propagation work. 


Upcoming Events

11th & 12th  September 2021. RHS Rosemoor Plant Fair, Devon.

We will have a stall and will be selling a range of Salvia’s, Astilbes, and other sought after herbaceous perennials that look good. 

It’s exciting to think what September will bring. 




 Astilbe Ice Cream

Marwood Hill Garden was featured on Gardener’s world this month!  It was filmed on a sunny June day in 2019 and featured Malcolm Pharoah sharing his expertise on Astilbes. It was great to see Malcolm get much deserved recognition for his dedication to the national Astilbe collection and to Marwood Hill garden.

We are now officially open. a quick initial opening of the plant sales area over the Easter weekend before an official opening of the site on 14th of April. The garden is starting to feel like its old self again. Our loyal season ticket holders have not forgotten us, with many choosing to renew their membership and visit the garden. Many holiday makers are already arriving coming from across the UK.

This month in the garden it has been all about the bluebells displays, enchanting flowering cherries and the more subtle flowering dogwoods. Everywhere you look plants are emerging and unfurling in the first green flush of growth. Blue sky, dry and sunny weather, has framed the garden beautifully.


Now is a great time to take a walk across Marwood Hill Garden, the floral scent is phenomenal. The weather has been amazing this past week. Blue skies, sun, and warmth. Let us hope it continues into the Easter weekend. Flowers are sprouting up across the garden in a colour explosion. With no frost to worry about, the magnolias have put on a great display with an eruption of pinks, purples, and whites across the garden, contrasting well with the whites, reds, and pinks of the late flowering Camellias.

As I write this month’s blog, the sun is streaming in through the window. The garden is very spring like, a small colony of white and purple crocus have colonized the tearoom lawn. Snowdrops and hellebores which are still flowering but will soon give way to the masses of daffodils that are spread across the garden. Camellias are in full bloom in shades of red, pink, and white and the magnolias are covered in fat flower buds promising a good display in the next few months. There is an air of optimism in the garden with many local residents and garden volunteers having already received their first vaccinations, so there is a feeling of real positivity and that normality is just round the corner.

November to mid-February, is an ideal time to look at tree work in the garden. With leaves removed the branch structure of a tree can be better accessed and with most bulbs and herbaceous perennials lying dormant and protected under the ground, falling branches can do little damage. Conifers put on a new flush of growth in April and deciduous trees tend to lie dormant in the winter months, with sap only again beginning to rise from mid-February onwards. which makes it an ideal time to prune trees.

With the leaves having fallen from the trees, the bones of the garden have now been revealed. The bright white bark of the birch and eucalyptus are very striking and many of the smooth-barked magnolias are covered with a wide diversity of lichen in an array of interesting colours, white, grey, orange, blue, green and yellow. Some flowers persist including early flowering Camellias and Rhododendrons which are starting to show, flashes of pink, white and red. The white bell flowers of Leucojum (Spring Snowflake) and early daffodils can also be seen emerging from the woodland floor.

November has been a quiet month. The November national lockdown meant that holiday makers and visitors to our gardens all but disappeared, despite this we felt it was important to keep the garden open to provide a place for people to get a bit of fresh air and recreation.

It’s October and despite the rather wet weather the trees are still putting on a good show. An explosion of colour has erupted from Marwood’s woodland canopy. Flame-like reds and oranges, cooler lemon-yellows vie for attention against the richer, buttery tones. Trees that have been quite indistinguishable during spring and summer suddenly draw attention.

Wow what a busy month!!! This September has been an unusually busy month. Traditionally September would be a quieter time in the garden, when we see fewer visitors, as summer holidays end and the new school year begins. This year has been quite different. Children may have gone back to school, but much to our delight, garden visitors have continued to come to explore Marwood. Which has allowed us to show off the late summer highlights in the garden.

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.

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.