Journal 10.1.21

However, without wanting to lessen a serious situation, I’m going to continue drinking from my favourite KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON GARDENING mug, and I’m going to continue working as much as I can to prepare my work and home gardens for the year ahead. I will be sowing seeds, planting and generally focusing on all things green and pleasant, and if I can get out for a ‘local’ exercise walk around a local green space – I’ll be sure to focus on all things natural, bright and beautiful!

Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle.
The Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire.

Before the stay local rules were tightened, I was lucky to make a couple of trips out to nearby historic gardens, and I shall certainly dine out on the memories made for some time to come – they may be the last outings for a while!

The latter visit, to the English Heritage property of Kenilworth Castle – a family favourite, was as peaceful as could be and was used as usual to sweep away the Christmas cobwebs. To remember this more clearly, I’ve assembled a short YouTube video montage without sound, and will post a link to this at the foot of this post.

I absolutely love the romanticism of Kenilworth Castle. As if the massively impressive building and countless examples of age-old and very tasteful graffiti isn’t enough, the story of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley surely seals the deal. The reconstructed Elizabethan garden for me though has to be the jewel in this crown, where even in the midst of winter its enduring form more than makes up for a lack of flowers.

Unfortunately I can’t wax lyrical about Kenilworth right through this post, as Monday brought a return to work at Sulgrave Manor that was a little cool to say the least. The reduced week however still gave ample and much needed opportunity to reacquaint myself with a garden that had seemingly fallen to sleep over the festive period.

Hollowed out apples litter the ground – fresh fruit for wildlife!

I tried my best to step quietly into the new working year, looking as we do to ease myself in gently. But much as I tried to tread quietly along crunchy, frozen gravel paths, the bird life in no uncertain terms let me know that I was venturing into their space.

If the alarm calls as I approached any given space weren’t enough, there was plenty of evidence of activity throughout the orchard. Artfully hollowed out apples lay beneath the trees, confirming that leaving these in-situ wasn’t all that bad after all – in fact they had clearly offered a useful food source. Amongst others, blackbirds, crows, blue tits and a thrush were spotted during the week, and even a pheasant had taken sanctuary within the garden, which combined certainly made for a lively welcome back.

Breaking out the ice, then using cool water to refill.

Keeping on the bird theme, one thing I did do was to break up the long frozen ice in the bird bath. Other than maybe in other gardens beyond the boundary hedge, there’s no fresh water easily obtainable for our feathered friends – so this will be a frequent task in the chilly weeks ahead..

Apart from some TLC for our garden animators, other tasks included frisking the glasshouse plants to let them know that we still cared and to check for pests or decay, and also to add a drop of water here and there. We also added, finally, a touch of gentle heat to keep temperatures above freezing.

Elsewhere there were a few handfuls of bulbs that escaped the pre-Christmas planting frenzy, and these were potted up for later transference to border areas. These were placed outdoors and covered over for protection from squirrels and mice, and nearby the cold frame was worked through after discovering that a snail had taken a liking to a batch of Salvias.

Apart from the tasks mentioned above, some standard maintenance and cleaning of heavily trafficked areas, and a lengthy health and safety tour with a consultant, it was a week of planning and preparation for the weeks ahead – diary and calendar filling and such like. It always seems like such an insignificant thing, but I like to start the year knowing exactly where I’m heading – if I stop to think about it, there’s irony in there somewhere…

In the moment, in the garden… a stubborn hollyhock!

Away from the workplace, my last picture above shows a stubborn hollyhock flower beside a local village garden. The bloom was stoically persevering whilst overnight snowfall had tried its best to drag everything down. I enjoyed a few golden moments trying to capture its beauty, and more since looking back at the pictures – one of many natural delights seen during a local ‘exercise’ walk with my boys before home schooling lessons had to begin – yes, we’re back to those again…

I’ll leave it there for this week, but I want to first reach out and extend an invite for you to get in touch if you feel the need – either via comments, on Instagram or Twitter (DM’s are fine). I know how isolating this whole situation is becoming, and if you’d like to ask anything about gardening, or indeed if you just want to say hi – then please get in touch – if I can help I will. 🌿

Until next time… All the best, Gary.

(Here’s that link to my little video from Kenilworth Castle – Volume up!)

English Heritage website: Kenilworth Castle

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