A walled Croxteth garden is an oasis of tranquility

PUBLISHED: 17:51 03 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:49 20 February 2013

A walled Croxteth garden is an oasis of tranquility

A walled Croxteth garden is an oasis of tranquility

Linda Viney visits a walled garden which is an oasis of tranquility on the edge of Liverpool

Croxteth Walled Garden is open until the end of October except for pre-arranged private visits during the winter 10.30am to 5pm, admission 2.05 with seniors and children over three-years-old 1.30.

For more information telephone 0151 233 6910, email croxtethcountrypark@liverpool.gov.uk or visit www.croxteth.co.uk.

A visit to Croxteth Hall, set among rolling parkland, is like taking a journey back in time. It was the home and country seat of the Molyneux family the Earls of Sefton until the death of the 7th Earl in 1972 when it was inherited by Liverpool City Council as the Earl had no children.

Inside the high walls of the Victorian Walled Garden visitors can take a peek into the lives of the gardeners of the time, heated Flue walls, ornate fruit trees, a mushroom house and greenhouses where exotic fruit was grown.

The two acres produced a year round supply of fruit and vegetables for the household as well as flowers for floral displays in the hall. This practice continued until the death of the Earl, and now members of the public can enjoy the tranquility here as well as the history, including Liverpools Botanical Collection most of which is housed in the glasshouses.

The collection was founded by William Roscoe in 1802 and is one of the oldest horticultural collections in Britain. When the Royal Horticultural Society visited a few years ago they said the collection held some of the oldest specimens of Bromeliads theyd seen.

William was born in 1753, the son of a market gardener, and after leaving school at 12 years old he helped his father and gained his first insight into plants. By the time he was 15, he went on to train as a lawyer, later establishing a committee for the founding of a Botanic Garden for the city. Under curator John Shepherd, it developed an unrivaled collection of living specimens, many of which can still be seen today.

The walls act like a cocoon round the planting and members of the Croxteth Hall Garden Society which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year each have their own plot where they grow vegetables, fruit and flowers for annual cropping and green manure is sown for composting.
As with the rest of the garden, everything is organically grown with water only used for newly planted plants until they become established and there is also an area of the garden set aside for growing heritage vegetables.

The cultivation of mushrooms in their own special buildings began about two centuries ago and in the Walled Garden there is a fine example of a Mushroom House from the 1900s. Slate cropping shelves and a double roof, thick walls and heating pipes created a steady temperature as well as good air flow enabling mushrooms to grow all year round, there were no windows as no light was required.

The glasshouses hold three national collections of Dracaena with more than 130 different kinds of tropical plants, of Codiaeum, and of Solenostemon, where more than 60 different varieties are displayed.

Its easy to forget in the age of convenience, the trouble the Victorians went to grow their own produce, always striving to impress their friends with tropical fruits like melons and pineapples. Of course, the tropical plants needed heat and fires were built into the brick walls to heat them, these were stoked up at dawn to ensure continuity.

Beehives also form part of the story of the garden, as bees help with the pollination of the fruit trees and bushes. Here you have the opportunity see the different shapes fruit trees have been pruned into, described as tree architecture, the main purpose is to maintain growth and encourage fruiting.

Some varieties are over 100 years old and as they decay they are being replaced but the new trees are still trained in the old way. It is the first time I have ever seen an apple tree trained as a goblet, and indeed it is one of the very few places in the country where you will see this old way of shaping.

The metal hoop holding the branches to shape is still clearly visible. Open centre, fans, cordons and espaliers are other shapes seen here and there is a most magnificent pear arched walkway with blossom in the spring and later the fruit hangs down like drop earrings.

To encourage younger visitors to enjoy the garden George McClellan garden team leader from Glendale created a labyrinth of mown paths in the grass. It was carefully drawn out on paper before George marked it out and set to mowing. Although the notice requests you walk and not run round the path children do have fun running round, but you mustnt cross the lanes.

The garden is planted as it would have been in Victorian times herbs have their own well annotated area and the borders are bursting with heleniums, lupins, delphiniums and red hot pokers. Over the last two cold winters the statuesque phormiums were lost and the remains have now been removed.

Liverpool City Council work in partnership with Glendale to maintain and care for this delightful place while the council oversee the layout and projects. The garden is also used by other groups for students and people with special needs and disabilities gain both knowledge and pleasure from helping out, school children also have been involved with seed sowing. The site is now also being developed for functions such as weddings and corporate events.

Gardening tips for August

Take cuttings of tender perennials such as fuchsias and pelargoniums.

Stop feeding roses now as any new growth will be soft and prone to disease.

Warmer temperatures mean houseplants will need misting and watering more.

If you are going away mow the lawn and leave the cuttings on top to retain moisture.

Autumn/winter vegetables can be planted now.

Always make sure your plants are well watered, even in this unpredictable weather.

Brought to you by Bents Garden Centre

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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