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.

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December 2012

Work has been interrupted by the changes and challenges of weather - rain and frozen conditions.

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 next year.

The golden head of Apollon Terroriste has been brought indoors and preparations made for re-gilding (a good job for bad weather days to come...)

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....

December One

December Two

December Three

December Four


November 2012

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 Parkland.

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 Bridge.

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 garden.

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.

November One

November Two

November Three

November Four


October 2012

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 and tidied.

The Kailyard and Allotment have been tidied - very little remains to be harvested now, apart from some leeks which will benefit from the first frosts.

Throughout the garden leaves change colour and fall - and are gathered to make useful mulch for the spring.

October One

October Two

October Three

October Four


September 2012

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 lochan.

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 walkways.

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 pathways clear.

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 next year.

Box hedges have been clipped into shape for the winter, as has the large yew hedge entrance to the Parkland.

In the Hortus box hedging has also been clipped and the beds tidied and the fruit trees have been pruned.

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.

September One

September Two

September Three

September Four


August 2012

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 later on.

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 year.

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.

August One

August Two

August Three

August Four


July 2012

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 atmosphere.

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 rainwater.

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 effect.

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 maintained.

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 will begin.

July One

July Three

July Two

July Four


June 2012

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 water supply.

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 into bloom.

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 space.

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.


June - Water

June Nautilus

June - wayside

June - flowers

May 2012

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.







April 2012

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.


Snow, April


More snow!

March 2012

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.



February 2012

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.




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