Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journey. I say weekly, yet this post comes after an unplanned three week break from writing. The last few months have weighed somewhat heavy and, to save a fuse blowing, I just needed to step back a little and to let a few things go…
That said, my gardens are overflowing with growth, the task list is as full as ever, I’ve nibbled some chocolate and have summoned enough energy to drag this journal into July – covering the period 21 June to July 11 2020 – three weeks for the price of one (but not three times as long I hope!)
Anyone for Tennis?
In late June I was able to have a final, focussed go at completing the cleaning of a full size astroturf style tennis court where I work. The task might not have been directly horticulture related, (if only it was a grass court,) although it is part of the scene and as such, needed to be useable and presentable.
Power washing was begun with some very welcome volunteer help back in March, although ground to a halt when lockdown started. As Wimbledon week approached however, and as the commercial jet washing machine was again available for hire, it was time to get the job done. Suffice to say that with my hat pulled down tight and with some carefully chosen podcasts keeping me sane; the task was finally completed and the court, all but a fresh topping of sand is now ship shape and good to go.
In other news, it was a real treat to be name checked and pictured in the dahlia border with Rachel de Thame in a Sunday Times Home article ‘A Fresh Start’ on June 21. Mind you, even before that brief moment in the sunshine faded, those very dahlias around our feet were shouting for attention as the windy weather arrived. The sweet peas were also not far behind in the attention seeking race as they stubbornly refused to climb without a share of attention. I’m glad to report that both the dahlias and sweet peas are doing very well indeed, and oh; I won’t let the stardom hasn’t changed me, much.
As this is a catch-up entry, I’ll pop a key tasks list below instead of the usual day by day list:
Espalier and cordon fruit – summer pruning.
Containers – watering, feeding, dead-heading, supporting.
Mowing – lots of mowing as growth rate increases.
Tulips – reclaiming bulbs from containers and storing.
Kitchen garden – raised bed preparation, feeding and pest control.
Herbaceous border – bedding plant maintenance.
Roadside – reclaiming verges from woody weed growth.
Topiary – trimming and feeding.
Auriculas – feeding, watering, cleaning.
Wisteria – pruning and tying in.
Spectacular Summer Colour
Like so many others recently, my family has also spent time discovering local footpaths for core daily exercise. (Exactly what I need after a day on my feet in the garden I can assure you!) One evening last week we retraced our steps along a local circular route and I was taken aback by the amount of colour from so called weeds, or wild flowers found growing beside the road, footpath, and alongside the brook – areas that appear to receive little attention but for an annual mash-down, and yet were there with an abundance of spectacular summer colour.
The colour was brilliant, especially in the early evening sunlight, but what particularly struck me was their existence and accessibility so close to home, in an area that otherwise appears to be dominated by housing, roads and farmland. I felt a touch of guilt that I’d temporarily been blinded by the cosseted plants in my own garden, and had stopped looking beyond my garden gate. Indeed, as I look back on the colourful images, I am reminded of Horace Walpole’s quote about the landscape gardener/artist William Kent back in the 18th century: “He leaped the fence, and saw that all nature was a garden…”
Spider-Man at Hidcote Manor
Finally for this entry, I want to briefly mention a pre-booked trip out to the nearby garden Hidcote Manor. We were welcomed at the visitor reception gazebo to a short rendition of the Spider-Man theme tune from two cool ladies each wearing the oak leaf logo and a welcoming smile. I must add that they weren’t delirious, but full of spontaneity when seeing our youngest lad approach in his Spider-Man hoody! (On our next visit we might dress as the Von Trapp family so we can all join in with the singing!)
In some ways it’s a sad time to be visiting gardens as the impact from a reduced workforce and maintenance becomes evident. As an example, beside the door into Hidcote’s garden, a blackboard informs that the garden staff and volunteer team contribute 30,000 hours of time annually to maintaining the gardens, and so far 5,000 hours have been lost this year. That’s five thousand hours of preening, planting and pruning and engaging. I can imagine how the loss of time is weighing heavy on the team, but can’t begin to imagine what they must be thinking about the upcoming trimming of the miles of important hedging within the garden…
On a lighter note, I have to say that the visit – a pre-determined one way route through most, but not all of the garden, was exceptional. It may not have been financially advantageous for the property, but for me, the reduced visitor numbers actually added to the ambience of the visit, and I’m very thankful for the efforts to get the garden open and to keep it all going. One last thing to say on the visit, about the decision to open the lawn between the Red Borders for closer examination; a rare treat indeed – and it kinda made my day too! 👏🏻
Well, that’s it for this journal entry, I have to finish up as the garden jobs are calling. I hope you’re getting along OK in (and beyond) your garden; do let me know in the comments or elsewhere if you’d like. Until next time….