Spring at Chiswick House

Image above: Avenue of Robinas ‘before’ pruning; photograph Chiswick House gardeners

Tidying up the Italian Garden

The crocuses and daffodils are out and Head Gardener Geraldine King has embarked on a bit of a tidy up, ready for the thousands of people she is expecting to come and visit Chiswick House Gardens with the spring sunshine.

First on her ‘to do’ list is the restoration of the avenue of Robinas, framing the avenue leading up to the Conservatory through the Italian garden.

Image above: Avenue of Robinas ‘after’ pruning; photograph Chsiwick House gardeners

The Italian garden is a semi-circular garden, bordered with evergreens, with geometric flower beds cut into it full of bedding plants in bright colours. Designed by Lewis Kennedy, it was first laid out in 1812 for the 6th Duke of Devonshire. The Robinas are relatively young, part of the recent garden restoration.

Image above: How the Avenue of Robinas looks in September; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

An end to digging out weeds

In the Kitchen Garden they are instituting a ‘no dig’ policy. Instead of digging up weeds, they now cover them with cardboard, recycled from Chiswick House cafe in the main, and cover that with a thick layer of mulch. It smothers the weeds and keeps the goodness in the soil, says Geraldine.

Luckily for her business is booming at the cafe, because she needs enough cardboard to cover an area the size of a football pitch. She’s been experimenting with a ‘no dig’ policy over the past couple of years with the gardening volunteers and now they’re doing the whole Kitchen Garden this way. The Kitchen Garden is moving to becoming completely organic.

Image above: Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House (Library picture, taken before the pandemic); Geraldine on a tractor, covering the beds with cardboard and mulch, photographs Chiswick house gardeners

Trees in the cloud

When she told me their trees were “now in the cloud” I thought at first this was a reference to particularly tall trees, but no, Chiswick House Gardens has gone digital. The trees in Chiswick House Gardens are mapped, so each can be identified, along with its historical and environmental significance, which informs Geraldine’s decisions on how to manage them.

Throughout January and February 2021 a company called The Environmental Practice has been transferring this information to the cloud and now all Geraldine has to do it so press on screen and up pops the tree and everything she needs to know about it.

Image above: Trees in Chiswick House Gardens in Spring; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Camellia trail

Chiswick House Conservatory would usually be opening its doors for thousands of people to admire the collection of heritage camellias at this time of year. That’s not able to happen this year, but instead Chiswick House & Gardens Trust has designed a trail around the Gardens showing all the outdoor Camellia plants.

From Tuesday 9 March 2021 you will be able to download a map from Chiswick House & Gardens website

There are Camellia 13 trees, between the Italian Gardens and the Staveley Rd gate. The map will also suggest some activities for children – including counting how many lions you see on the way.

Image above: Camellias at Chiswick House Gardens; photograph Anna Kunst

300 years of Chiswick House Gardens

Garden Historian David Jacques, who was for many years a trustee of Chiswick House & Gardens, has written a book about the history of the Gardens: Chiswick House Gardens: 300 years of creation and recreation, and he has launched a GoFundMe page where you can pre-order a copy, to raise the cash for publication.

He has written a series of features for The Chiswick Calendar about the Gardens’ history, which you can see below.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: 300 years of Chiswick House Gardens – Part 1: Vision of Richard Boyle, 3rd earl of Burlington

See also: 300 years of Chiswick House Gardens – Part 2: William Kent becomes involved

See also: 300 years of Chiswick House Gardens – Part 3: the venue for Georgiana’s lavish parties

See also: 300 years of Chiswick House Gardens – Part 4: the Men from the Ministry

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