George Gilliland began work as the new Head
Gardener at Little Sparta in February 2012. He
is currently helped, on a part-time basis, by
Ralph Irving and monthly reports detailing their
activities and experiences are archived here.
Click on the images to view enlargements.
This Year's Reports
Work has been interrupted by the changes and
challenges of weather - rain and frozen
However there are some jobs which can be done,
and preparation and progress made for others.
The hedge at front entrance gate (Jean
Jacques Rousseau) has been cut back and
overhanging branches pruned and ivy cleared.
Work has also begun to cut back the leyandii
hedging around Julie?s Garden.
The Kailyard and allotment have been given a
final clear out and dig over for the season,
ready for the spring.
A final clearance of any remaining leaves and
pruning back perennial beds in front garden and
Temple Pool garden has left everything neat and
tidy for the winter.
Paths throughout the garden and woodland have
been kept clear, and the waterways cleared of
any blockages from leaves and kept running.
Smaller items of garden machinery have been
taken in for winter service (lawnmower,
hedge-trimmers etc) so will be ready to go again
The golden head of Apollon Terroriste
has been brought indoors and preparations made
for re-gilding (a good job for bad weather days
Other materials are being sourced for
renovation works in the spring (common bricks
for the garden paths) and wooden Raspberry
Camouflage poles will be repaired,
repainted or remade as necessary.
The loch has now drained down to its lowest
level, as the sandbag dam was breached again.
The decision was made just to leave it at this
level to allow for any more semi-permanent
repair works to be made in the spring, and also
hopefully the freezing conditions will help kill
off some of the weed before this needs to be
cleared out again.
The perimeter fencing at the far end of the
loch is badly in need of renewal (adjoining the
farmers land). Sheep have broken through where
the wire is rusted and holed - temporary repairs
have been made but will not be much of a
deterrent. The sheep do no damage in this area
which is moorland, but we will have to stop them
tramping through. Apparently the grass is very
much greener in Little Sparta....
Work continues to improve access to and
throughout the garden.
The ground level entrance to the Kailyard
has been built up to provide level access from
the front garden through to the English
The front entrance driveway has been top
dressed with a layer of sand and gravel, as have
all of the paths around the house and Temple and
the entrance through to the woodland and Claudi
Improving drainage has taken up a lot of time
but as has become apparent over the past season
is an essential issue to try and resolve.
The main areas where the ground has become
saturated have had drainage channels dug and
pipes put in with gravel along with rubber
ground reinforcement mats to strengthen the
surface, which has been top dressed with coarse
sand. These areas will require further attention
in spring with a further layer of top soil and
grass seed, but hopefully this will improve the
muddy walkways which have been such an issue
with the levels of rainfall this year.
The main areas are in the woodland - the Girl
into Reed grove; the pathway around the
top of the loch; the metamorphic trellis and the
stone bench walk at the lower end of the
parkland. As the ground dries out it should
become apparent if further work is required.
Other issues which have arisen - with the
cattle on the lane it has been a constant job to
try and keep access cleared of muck and the
level surface at the front gate - The
Fluted Land - has been badly broken up.
The cattle have now been moved indoors for the
winter, the lane has been cleaned and this area
is back to normal.
When it is not an issue to try and remove the
effects of too much water, it is also a job to
keep water supplies running - to the upper pond
/ aqueduct - the accumulation of silt at the
source on the hill has been cleared, and the
passage of the waterways maintained through the
The other main time consuming job at the moment
is leaves - these have now just about all fallen
and have been collected off beds and pathways
and cleared away. The first spring bulbs are
already showing through the ground - though they
may get a shock as the weather turns colder.
After all the rain we now have the first frosts
and icy bright clear short days. A chance to
step back and assess what needs to be done
before next year.
End of the visitor season and the garden is put
to bed for the winter.
The first job is to bring into storage all the
small or moveable fragile stone, wood, ceramic
and metal pieces. These can be cleaned or
restored as required over the coming months.
Large works are wrapped or covered in situ to
prevent frost damage and reduce growth of algae
which discolours the stone.
The water sources are cleared and kept running
- the ponds and streams will have to cleared of
weed and undergrowth for next season.
The loch is still proving problematic as water
is escaping now around and below the dammed up
sandbag entrance to the sluice - the structure
of the sluice itself needs considerable
renovation or rebuilding work as make do and
mend seems to be no longer an effective long or
even short term solution.
Huff Lane hedging has been cut back - there are
a few gaps which could be filled out and
replanted with beech - which is giving lovely
autumnal colour at the moment.
All of the shrubs and planting along the
facades of Apollo?s temple have been pruned back
The Kailyard and Allotment have been tidied -
very little remains to be harvested now, apart
from some leeks which will benefit from the
Throughout the garden leaves change colour and
fall - and are gathered to make useful mulch for
Autumn blasts in with a flurry of gales and
driving rain - damage to the garden is limited
to the loss of several medium sized trees in the
parkland and woods plus numerous small branches
and limbs. It certainly ensures that there will
be a huge bonfire to mark the end of the season.
The rain and volume of water has continued to
play havoc with the grass pathways and the
For the pathways, especially in the woodland,
the amount of rain and saturation has not
allowed any chance of recovery for the grass.
`We have installed rubber ground reinforcement
mats in the most worn and muddy areas, with the
hope that this will stabilise and strengthen the
surface and allow grass to grow through next
year. If this proves an effective solution,
there are further areas of the garden where it
would be of benefit and could be a long term
solution to constant wear and maintenance of the
As for the loch, the volume of water coming in
has again led to the temporary sandbag dam
breaking on several occasions. This has been
rebuilt and is working effectively again,
however, a more permanent long term solution
needs to be found, as water is being lost from
the wooden sluice where the timbers are rotting
and the structure separating - the floor in
particular seems to be dropping, allowing water
to escape around and under the system, and not
retaining the required water levels.
In other areas of the garden - grass cutting is
now coming to an end as growth slows and leaf
gathering will take over to keep the lawns and
All the ponds have been weeded and tidied
again, and the water flow system maintained.
Nettles around the edge of the lower pond have
been cleared - as they are selectively weeded
throughout the more formal areas of the garden.
The raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes
have been pruned - in the front garden, Kailyard
and blackcurrant lane in the Parkland -
hopefully conditions will allow a better crop
Box hedges have been clipped into shape for the
winter, as has the large yew hedge entrance to
In the Hortus box hedging has also been clipped
and the beds tidied and the fruit trees have
The virginia creeper growing on the side of the
house, along with the ivy and hydrangea on the
Temple of Baucis and Philomen has been cut back
from around the eaves, windows and doorways.
Finally a bit of house keeping for a rainy day
- the main storage shed has been cleared and
reorganised which will provide useful space for
working in the winter.
Almost inevitably water and the waterways
continue to dominate work in the garden. Running
repairs and keeping everything clear and flowing
correctly takes up a lot of time.
The temporary sandbag dam for the lochan has
collapsed a couple of times due to the sheer
volume of water coming into the loch. While this
can be replaced quickly unfortunately this also
has the effect of losing a lot of volume from
the built up water level, which takes time to
fill up again. More pond weed continues to
appear - it seems to enjoy these conditions, and
is a constant challenge to remove and keep the
water surface clean and clear.
At the end of the lochan the ?Picturesque?
fence dipping into the water - the lettering has
been repainted and so stands out clear and
apparent as intended.
The streams are beginning to be overgrown and
the water flow slowed at the lower end of the
garden. The area around ?Pebbled Brook? has been
cleared and runs freely again, and a build up of
slit at the entrance to the lower pond dug back
and cleaned. Also a leak from the ?Diana
/Artemis? bridge has been dammed up and the
water flows over it correctly once again.
Throughout the woodland and in particular the
lower part of the parkland, the grass pathways
have suffered badly from the ground being
saturated, and with the continual passage of
visitors, have not had the chance to recover and
have turned to muddy patches. These are
continually repaired, reseeded and leveled out,
but will require further attention once the
season is over again, and levels built up or
proper drainage put in.
The pathway of stone benches ?Centuries of the
Oak? has suffered particularly badly. The first
brick base plinth for these benches has been
rebuilt at a slightly higher level, since the
bench itself was sitting in water and not
draining away. The path has been temporarily
repaired with stepping stones set into the grass
to at least allow clear passage along the path.
Again, this will need a more permanent solution
The blackcurrant bush lane and ?Huff Lane? have
been trimmed back to allow clear passage, and
the Hortus and Allotment kept clean and tidy.
We have a had very poor crop of potatoes given
all the rain, but there is still hope for
further crops - peas, beans, onions and leeks
and hopefully some tomatoes from the greenhouse
which have been very late in developing this
All of the works are continually kept clean and
tidy and the grass cut regularly. We seem to
have bypassed summer in its entirety and looks
like autumn will be soon upon us - a very
strange shifting of the seasons, but each brings
a new aspect to the garden.
Rain and the after effects of rain continue to
dominate the garden. With the ground already
saturated standing water and flooding have
become major problems - but even throughout the
heaviest downpours the garden retains its unique
The most formal areas of the garden seem to
have fared best as all the water and occasional
warmth have brought on lush growth. In the front
and Temple gardens the hedging has been trimmed
back again and everything kept in check as it
threatens to overcome the pathways.
Directly in front of the house the stone ?Wave
/ Sheaf? has been repainted in its original
colours which had all but disappeared.
Also in the front garden the nine stones of the
Sailing Boat path have been repainted - ?Boomie
/ Cog / Muletta / Trimaran? etc.
The paths around the house and Temple have been
weeded and the drainage around each building
cleared to help cope with the volume of
In the English parkland the cobble bases for
?Woodland Flute? and tree bases have been tidied
- some replanting in proportion is required to
bring these works back to their proper scale and
It has not been possible to cut the grass in
the lower areas of the parkland due to the
sodden ground, but the appearance of wildflowers
in the meadow more than compensate for this.
Grass cutting - so necessary at this time of
year - has become something of a challenge
throughout without damaging the surfaces, but
still keeping the mown areas cut back as much as
necessary. The paths through the woodland in
particular and around the lochan need to dry out
before they can be properly repaired and
The ponds, pools and waterways are brimming,
but weeds are also dominating and it is a
continual round to keep them clear. The sluice
in the middle pond has been repaired along with
any other flood damage to the waterways
including the area around the ?Pebbled Brook?.
Large volumes of silt have been washed down to
the lower pond and this has been dug back so
that the pond and island retain their shape and
the water flows evenly.
The last few days have brought a change in the
weather - maybe this time the promised summer
A deluge of rain heralds midsummer - the ponds
and the lochan are suddenly brimming. While this
makes the waterways look good it also means that
many of the paths are flooded and sodden -
hopefully the water will clear away quickly as
we return to more usual seasonal weather.
Regular grass cutting continues (weather
permitting) - lawns and pathways throughout the
formal garden and woodland areas, the English
parkland and the area at car park by the
entrance have also been mowed.
Much time is taken up with keeping on top of
general garden maintenance - weeding and tidying
throughout and cleaning the artworks.
In the Hortus Conclusus box hedging has been
trimmed back again to maintain its formal
appearance and the beds tidied, along with some
new planting added and the cloud pool cleaned
from a build up of weed.
At source on the top of the hills outside the
garden, the water supply filters have been
cleared of slit build-up maintaining a clean
Unfortunately this does not stop pond weed
recurring - it is now a regular job to keep the
Temple pool, the upper and middle ponds in the
woodland, and the lower ponds and waterways in
the parkland clean.
The allotment is now fully planted out and
regularly weeded and tidied. Only tomato plants
remain in the greenhouses.
All indoor plants in conservatory are tended
(vines, golden hops and geraniums) along with
general maintenance of this space and planting
around the house. All beds and containers are
weeded - the currant bushes and raspberry canes
promise a good crop.
The lochan has also been weeded so that the
water surface is clear and should now look at
its best for few weeks as the water level is at
its maximum and planting around the edges comes
In Huff Lane the hedges have been trimmed again
and the cobble bases for the benches weeded.
An ivy-camouflaged column has been placed in
the Temple of Baucis & Philomen alongside
the altar, completing the installation of this
Finally the paving stones which form the
?pretty? path have been lifted and and the text
painted - much of the letter carving was worn
away and illegible, so this gives new life to an
attractive feature and renews what it is meant
to be - a pretty path.
A spell of warm sunny weather after rain has brought abundant growth to the garden and everything has turned to lush green.
All areas of the garden have been requiring attention as tidying back, weeding, cutting and trimming have become the order of the day.
All remaining artworks which remained in storage have been placed out and cleaned, and ongoing maintenance and cleaning of those already in position has continued.
This includes cleaning the large stones 'The Present Order...', repainting the Claudi bridge (in a new and more sympathetic colour) and also the cube form by the entrance to the house.
All of the wood works (carved benches, gates, stiles) have been cleaned and treated with teak oil to preserve them for the coming months. Also the metalwork on gates has been cleaned back and repainted.
The raspberry camouflage poles have been set out and and the tree plaque 'All the noble sentiments...' repositioned on a tree overlooking the Middle Pond.
We have cleared out and repainted the temple of Baucis and Philomen - all that remains now in this room is an altar 'That gods exist may be proven...' and the cottage/temple now provides a welcome shelter (for gods and visitors alike) in inclement weather.
New Irish Yew trees have been planted in the containers at the back of the house between pillars ?Liberty, Equality....? refreshing this work, along with new additional planting by the back of the house. Also throughout the paved areas by the house and front garden, sea pinks have been positioned referencing the carved and painted stone works.
The large corinthian capital in the front garden has been repainted and the plants in carved containers throughout replaced or refreshed.
The 'aither/OR' stone by the temple to Apollo has been repainted.
The mare's tails which are a menace throughout the ponds and loch have been cut back to try and suppress them for the season, and the loch dammed and refilled.
Box hedging throughout the gardens and Hortus has been clipped back again to define shapes and new growth allowed to come through.
Grass cutting has begun in earnest throughout all the formal and infomal areas and pathways, and is a constant now for the weeks to come as visitors start to arrive in the garden.
The past month has seen an extreme contrast in weather - from one week of sunny clear blue skies and 23 degrees to the next of winter conditions again and freezing snow.
The work continues on however, and the main areas addressed this month are as follows.
All the pathways and paved areas throughout the gardens and woodlands have been power washed - again, there is a balance to be gauged here as some of the original brick work is fragile and breaks away when cleaning, but remains hazardous to walk on if left covered in algae. Part of the process and intention of the garden is decay and aging, but conserving this is also a practical consideration. However all areas are now clean as far as they can be.
Both greenhouses have also been power washed and sterilised and are ready for propagation, and bringing on plants.
The allotment has been cleared and replanted with herbs and vegetables, which should provide a colourful and productive display later in the season.
Work on the lochan continues and is ready to be dammed up and refilled in the next week or so.
General repairs have been made - a collapsed section of drystone dyke along front garden (adjacent to A Cottage. A Field. A Plough) has been rebuilt and step to gateway here repaired.
All containers around the house and garden have been cleaned and replanted as necessary, and positioned back in the garden by the artworks.
General gardening (weeding, clearing and pruning) continues as everything gets going for spring.
Some of the artworks have also been restored and renovated.
Fishing Vessel path (the first pathway into the front garden) - the 15 pavers which form this
work have been lifted and the lettering repainted (Brig. Schooner. Barque etc)- this was eroded by the weather to such an extent that the names were illegible.
Virgil's Shadow. The line of bricks in the parkland forming this work have also decayed since their initial installation, however there is a supply of these bricks available so I have remade the piece, extending the line through a grass pathway where the line was broken. The brick line shadow looks much more complete and rests easy in the landscape.
Shenstone barrow. The bronze wheelbarrow has been re-waxed and polished and the cobble plinth on which it stands has been cleaned and repointed with fresh mortar.
This month has been spent working round all areas of the garden and especially the ponds, pools and waterways.
I have completed all formal and informal hedging throughout the garden areas.
In the Front garden all box and yew hedges have been cut back and the shaped trees at the entrance trimmed along with the mixed hedging along the perimeter.
The large yew hedge between Kailyard and Parkland has been cut back and overhanging branches cleared away.
The mixed hedging in Huff Lane also cut back - there are some bare areas in this hedge which would need to be replaced with semi mature beech plants so that the whole is bulked out to a more regular shape.
I have also cleared out the Hortus Conclusus - box hedging trimmed, roses, herbs and lavender pruned, along with the espaliered fruit trees. The pool has been cleaned and the whole area weeded and tidied.
I have also started to clear the compost bins and use this as top dressing for the Allotment.
Julie's Garden - all the beds have been tided back along with cherry trees - the leylandii hedge here needs to be cut down radically to let light into this garden - this is a big job I hope we can complete later in the season. I have also repainted the artworks still in storage for this area (the Revolutionary Calendar fruitbaskets), so these will be ready to place out when the time comes.
Temple Pool garden - the pool itself was drained and has been weeded out and the edges of the pool redefined from overgrown reeds. All of the beds and ground cover plants have been tided and a lot of dead wood removed from the trees. Box hedging has been trimmed in this garden also, and shaped yew cut back. All of the trough containers have been cleaned out - these might require some replanting for the summer.
Moving into the Woodland all of the waterways and pools have been weeded and cleared out. Overgrown reeds around the edges of the Upper pool have been removed along with a lot of dead wood and crowded overhanging branches thinned back - I have also cleared away a lot of a lot of fallen wood and waste from the undergrowth around this area, so new growth will be much more vigorous and hopefully more pleasant to look at as visitors wander through from the pathways. I have completed the same process all the way down the course of the waterways and pools through the woodland and Parkland.
We have been experiencing some problems with water supply to the property, but as a result of this, and draining the pools, I am now familiarwith all the sources and workings of the water systems throughout the garden.
The last week has been spent in the lochan, again draining the water and raking away all of the build up of pond weed. This task is now just about completed - however the sluice and weir are in need of repair, as the wooden structure is rotted or collapsing and will require attention or rebuilding in due course. In the meantime, this will be patched up and the lochan refilled.
Next month sees the cleaning of the pathways and paved areas, and the start of more general gardening maintenance as everything starts to grow.
The past month has seen the changing of the garden out of winter into the first signs of spring.
Many of the art works now covered will be cleaned and put in place for the forthcoming season, while those which have remained outside over the winter have been given a first wash and brush up for the season. Paths and paved areas are to be washed - there is a constant balance to be a achieved between the appearance of aged overgrown decay and practical requirements.
Overhanging branches in the English Parkland have been cut back clearing the vista to the obelisk at the bottom of the garden, and other fallen trees and branches throughout the garden and woodland areas have been cleared and burned.
The lochan, pools and ponds are to be cleared of weed and overgrown reeds. Many hours of wading chest deep through sludgey waters lie ahead.
The Kailyard and Allotment have been dug over and are ready for planting out later in the season.
The weather remains mild, and all of the bulbs are showing through after the first abundant flowering of snowdrops - the Roman Garden and Temple Pool garden have been a sea of white. Now crocus, bluebells and daffodils are on their way.