The big wild flower meadow at the bottom of the manor is one of the most important parts of the garden. It is full of bulbs and wild flowers throughout the year and pulls the countryside right up to our doorstep. We only cut it once a year and the sight of the farmer’s tractor removing the hay always feels like a turning point in the season. Usually, we try and get this cut by late August after the wild flowers have set seed, but before the weather turns bad at the end of summer. This year, the cut has been delayed a little because the farmer has been so busy with his harvest, but it has been a good opportunity for some of our later wild flowers to bloom amongst the grass.
The devil’s-bit scabious, Succisa pratensis, has been looking particularly wonderful giving the best display I have ever seen. It is now quite a rare flower throughout England because of habitat loss, and it flowers particularly late, resulting in it being cut with the hay in most meadows, before it can flower and seed. We always leave a patch of our meadow uncut so that it can increase its numbers and this year, partly due to the late cut, the meadow is just full of this beautiful rare blue flower.
The big meadow can be cut and bailed by a tractor, although the rest of our long grass has to be cut and raked by hand as no machinery can practically fit. We use a pedestrian operated mechanical scythe, which is slow and steady, and the biggest patch we have to do is about two acres of orchard. This has to be cut by the time the apples are ripening and so we usually start at the end of August when the first earlies, such as Discovery, are ready for cropping.
This is quite an exciting year for our apples because, for the first time, we can take a crop from the trees we planted about three years ago. There are so many new ones to taste, although the best so far has been a variety called ‘Sunrise’, which I think must be one of the most delicious earlies there is! It is a beautiful red Canadian apple, resulting from a Golden Delicious/McIntosh hybrid, with ours being harvested at the end of August this year. The wonderful sweet sharp flavour is perfectly balanced and the juicy, crisp flesh and slightly waxy skin are a pleasure, giving a slight squeaking sensation as you bite in to it. Due to the range of varieties we grow, our fresh apple season runs from August right through to November meaning George has a good supply of fruit for the Manors menus!
You can read Tom's latest article in Country Life 'Disciplining the whips' on our Press Page.
Gravetye Garden Blog
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