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A recipe for soil health

A recipe for soil health

The tinker lab in the garden is at full tilt with fermented brews made from fish bones and food scraps, and not for the faint hearted with words like 'emulsion' and 'sludge' frequently cropping up. At the heart of it lies a back-to-basics approach, starting with soil....

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Thinking ahead to Spring

Thinking ahead to Spring

October and the mind is already racing. Beyond the clocks going back and the darker side of the year and head long into the first flush of Spring.

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Bubbling, fermenting and plant based brews

Bubbling, fermenting and plant based brews

After the marathon of July and August, the pace of September has slowed to a jog. A slow winding down end of season drowsiness that comes with its very own colour palette of feuille morte: of burnished and rusted yellowish browns and brownish oranges. Now is the time...

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Sowing biennials for next year

Sowing biennials for next year

Late July and there's rows of neatly sown pots in the glass house. Biennials for next year, an ideal job for the middle of the day, when the heat these past few weeks has been relentless. Buoyed by this year's display, we'll be growing even more for next year; more...

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Mosaic Meadows

Mosaic Meadows

The old proverb of ‘making hay’ kicks into gear come July, with tractors trundling up and down the fields and doing just that. It’s the time when some of the meadows at Forde Abbey are given their annual hair cut, but not all, as head gardener Joshua Sparkes explains.

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Horticultural meadows

Horticultural meadows

It’s time to say goodbye to the meadows and put them to bed until next year. Their texture and form has taken many stages through the season, and by July the tufted grasses are the colour of burnt sugar with a caramel brown tinge to them. There’s black grasses,...

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The June Dip

The June Dip

There’s usually a gap in June, or so the theory goes, when the efforts of Spring have been and gone and Summer is yet to get going. But never has a ‘June dip’ been more frothy and abundant, a baton relay of hesperis and lunaria, alliums and foxgloves - each stage of...

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Travels in Armenia

Travels in Armenia

Barely had the kettle switch been flicked, and questions started flowing forth about Josh's botanising in Armenia - what else would a plantaholic do whilst on holiday, after all, but study and take inspiration from flowers in the wild; taking notes on what mother...

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The Stone Path Project

The Stone Path Project

Towards the end of May, a snaking pathway up through the rhododendrons on The Mount is lined with the boldest and most luminous of blues. The turn of the meconopsis poppies, a slice of the Himalayan wilds recreated on a hillside in Somerset. They seem to thrive under...

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Heart of Oak

Heart of Oak

British oaks from the Forde Abbey estate could contribute towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral, following a joint effort from members of Historic Houses, the association for independently owned historic houses and gardens. So far more than one hundred donor...

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April Newsletter

April Newsletter

Welcome to April at Forde Abbey.... With less than a week of undiluted sunshine and the garden has burst into life. From creamy cups to pink-tinged goblets, a full spectrum of magnolias and a canopy of blossom is in bloom. The tapestry of Spring bulbs won't be far...

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A tapestry of Spring

A tapestry of Spring

It feels like a tipping point in the season. A surge of energy gathering momentum. Pink-cheeked magnolias keeping company with stellata, more spools of ribbon blowing in the breeze, but Joshua Sparkes has already got his feet firmly planted in the next season.

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Seasonal botanical prints

Seasonal botanical prints

Nature never stands still. Not for a moment. A restless twitching of energy framed by the seasons and textured by the very best of British weather in all it various humours, both light and dark. It’s what makes the mornings endlessly nuanced, and chasing light such a...

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Jobs in the Garden

Jobs in the Garden

First it was the snowdrops, softening the edges of February, then came the shoots and unfurlings. The wisps of pale mauve tommasinianus, before the full palette of purple crocus came bursting forth, with magnolia, hammamilis and the first flush of daffodils. An energy gathering pace, that has focused the mind and sharpened the tools in readiness. Jobs on the list over the following weeks include:

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What makes a good compost

What makes a good compost

Here at Forde Abbey, we’re going to be making our first ever compost heap. In previous years, it was put in a pile and used on the farm as silage and the garden predominantly ran on masses of leaf mould. This year, we’re keen to get a compost system up and running...

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How to grow for the future

How to grow for the future

Longer Summers and warmer weather might strike a chord with our nostalgic notion of childhood, but the reality for the garden is far from idyllic. Going by last years crop of vegetables in the kitchen garden, higher temperatures had less than productive yields and...

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Perennial Tulips for a longer lasting display

Perennial Tulips for a longer lasting display

Velvety reds and purples under a canopy of acid green, and oranges, and whites intermingling with pinks. After the pared back minimalism of the Winter scape, a Spring catwalk of tulips and an exuberant flush of colour will be choreographed by Joshua Sparkes, our head...

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Propagator Job

Propagator Job

Senior Propagator/Sales Yard Manager An exciting opportunity has arisen at Forde Abbey for a Senior Propagator to join the gardening team to raise plants for sale through the plant nursery, and to work as part of the existing gardening team with the direction of the...

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Biennials

Biennials

No sooner has the tulip bulb order been dispatched, but the biennials are going in for next year’s display. Sown en masse, gently teased apart, pricked out and potted up, they’ll gather strength over the Autumn months in readiness for their part in next year’s...

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Designs on the long border

Designs on the long border

The potting shed is lined with row after row of seedlings, painstakingly pricked out and potted up for the next big project later this year; digging up the entire length of the long border and replanting it with the aim of bringing back the individual characteristics...

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In the potting shed

In the potting shed

Late July and the potting shed is lined with row after row of seed trays, freshly pricked out in readiness for planting this October. A rich mix of lunaria, anchusa, blood red wallflowers, verbascum blattaria alba and digitalis ‘Pam’s Choice.’ But as to giving them tlc, Joshua Sparkes has other ideas…

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A new way of working

A new way of working

Joshua Sparkes is curious by nature. Keen to question and look at alternative practices further afield. It’s this approach that won him a coveted Winston Churchill bursary and afforded him the opportunity to travel to America for a month in June and fully immerse...

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Forde Abbey Fruit Farm

Forde Abbey Fruit Farm

There’s no taste that evokes the English Summer any better than a locally grown berry. Freshly picked and still warm from the sun, they have an intense, sweet flavour. They don’t need much dressing up either. Delicious just as they are or to be enjoyed with a splash...

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Old English Dorset Meadow

Old English Dorset Meadow

The sweet vernal, crested dogstail and meadow foxtails have set seed and, left uncut until July, the meadows edging the garden are a rich tapestry of textures, tassels and tufts the colour of brown sugar. Flecked with Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids, they're...

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Tulips in Spring

Tulips in Spring

They’re the welcome burst of colour in the Spring before the garden really gets going. And with such variety, that ordering the bulbs in October gets more involved with every year. What started out as a display of 13,000 bulbs back in 2013 has rapidly grown to over...

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Meet the team

Meet the team

Introducing Joshua Sparkes, our new head gardener (crouching down in the photo of the gardening team). At 10.30am most days, you’ll find a neat line of boots outside the kitchen as the team down tools in search of a mid morning coffee - the perfect time to catch up...

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May Newsletter

May Newsletter

Spring is in full swing, with a beautiful display of blossom, buds and blooms. It's the perfect time of year to enjoy a wander in the gardens and pick up some planting inspiration in the nursery. Talk tulips with Anna Pavord later in the month and some dates for your...

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Save a South West Icon

Save a South West Icon

In 2018 we’re helping to launch a campaign to secure the future of the iconic M5 willow man who strides alongside the motorway near junction 23 at Bridgwater. Created by artist Serena de la Hey in 2000 as part of The Year of the Artist the willow man was conceived as...

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March Newsletter

March Newsletter

It's breathtakingly cold, and looking at the forecast for the end of the week, we've taken the decision to close the gardens on Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd March due to possible snow and icy conditions. Please check our social channels for updates, we'll keep you...

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February Newsletter

February Newsletter

The garden is beginning to wake up from its Winter slumber with swathes of snowdrops in abundance, the beginnings of a crocus carpet, Winter sweet, camellias, hellebores and mahonia in bloom. Along with the first signs of Spring, there's plenty of dates in the diary...

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Growing happiness

Growing happiness

Sandwiched between the Christmas cheer in December and the promise of Spring, as it slowly starts to reveal itself in February, January can seem a lack lustre month. But now is the time for gathering resources. For browsing seed catalogues and making a ‘wish list’ for...

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Jobs in the garden in January

Jobs in the garden in January

The camellias are in bloom already and the snowdrops and hellebores are starting to make an appearance, not in the swathes that will line the drive and pathways in February, but slowly one-by-one, adding colour to the cheeks and fleshing out the bare bones of Winter....

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Artists in residence.

Artists in residence.

A landscape of Objects, Residency Exhibition 22nd September - 31 October Earlier this year, the Flow Gallery in collaboration with Somerset Art Works and with the support of The Arts Council grants arranged two residencies of one week for artists who work in urban...

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Volunteer & make a difference

Volunteer & make a difference

Working as a volunteer in the garden can be hugely rewarding and could involve anything from planting to pruning, to digging to weeding. It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors, meet new people and an opportunity to really make a difference. If you have green...

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A Landscape of Objects

A Landscape of Objects

On a cold and crisp day earlier this year, Katie Spragg and a group of artists donned welly boots, hats and gloves and enjoyed a wander around the gardens. Inspired by their visit, they returned to their studios and made a collection of objects and installations that...

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Toby’s Festival Programme

Toby’s Festival Programme

Throughout the Festival, we have hands-on practical demonstrations running in our Demo Yurt and around Forde Abbey, including in the beautiful Walled Kitchen Garden at Forde Abbey. Covering a range of country crafts and what-to-do-now topics, our experts will show a...

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Toby’s Garden and Harvest Festival

Toby’s Garden and Harvest Festival

16th and 17th September In just over a week’s time, we’ll be revelling in all the fun and flavours of the season, as well as showcasing the skills that shape our gardens and rural crafts of the region. It’s a two-day celebration of gardening and harvest hosted by Toby...

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Creating a corner of wildness

Creating a corner of wildness

One of the highlights in the garden this Summer has been a corner of wildness - interlocking wildflower swirls woven with a mix of over thirty different blooms providing pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees and a long lasting display with a succession of...

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A landscape of Objects

A landscape of Objects

Inspired by the the landscape of Forde Abbey, three artists have created a series of installations that echo the theme and textures of the garden and its history. Using willow they've grown themselves, Anne Marie O'Sullivan and Tom McWalter have woven a set of willow...

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Sweet pea Update

Sweet pea Update

Over the Summer months, the kitchen garden at Forde Abbey is filled with the gentle scent of sweet peas, an abundance of over eighty varieties lining the pathways on their twiggy supports and providing armfuls of cut flowers to display around the house and to make...

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Veg Growing Tips

Veg Growing Tips

The weeds have started to grow, a sure sign Danny say that it's time to direct sow flowers and veg. But if you want to enjoy homegrown before someone else gets there first, you'll need a few tricks up your sleeve. Here's some hard-won knowledge that might be of some...

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Jobs to do in the garden

Jobs to do in the garden

Now's the time to be sowing seeds, both flowers and vegetables, directly in the ground. If the weeds start growing, Danny, our gardener, is always of the mind that's it's a sure sign the ground is warm enough. For flowers, you can sow them using a variety of methods -...

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Sweet pea supports

Sweet pea supports

Last week Danny set about making a series of sweet pea supports for the kitchen garden - something for the sweet peas to scramble up when they’re planted out in a few weeks time, at the beginning of April. He used coppiced hazel - 8 foot in length, choosing ones with...

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Garden Photography

Garden Photography

The snowdrops and crocus are starting to make an appearance and Spring is most definitely on its way. To help you capture some magical moments in the garden this year, award-winning photographer, Andrew Maybury shares some of his trusted tips and techniques.  Light is...

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How to: sweet peas

How to: sweet peas

Over the Summer months, the kitchen garden at Forde Abbey is filled with the gentle scent of sweet peas, an abundance of over eighty varieties lining the pathways on their twiggy supports and providing armfuls of cut flowers to display around the house and to make...

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Historic Houses