Garden Journal 16.5.20

Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire
Broadwell Manor

Today is a bit of an anniversary for me, marking the six month point working in a full-time role at Broadwell Manor. I had envisioned putting together a six-month-review sort of journal entry, although, and this is something I toy with daily – I feel the need to tread carefully where privacy is concerned, and as with my blog that continues to evolve, so is my gardening and social media output whilst I’m at Broadwell.

While I now work at an all-singing, dancing and traditional Cotswold Manor House garden, it is also a private home, so forgive me if I’m a little hesitant and changeable in the things that I post across Twitter, Instagram and now TikTok (Re. TikTok – Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – it’s getting a great many people through the nightmare that lockdown created…!)

Previously, my social media ‘presence’ was structured heavily around my work at Compton Verney; posting things that were largely aimed at boosting the profile of natural, historical and horticultural elements, at a public venue I passionately cared for. Presently though, whilst I’m engaged in very similar nature and horticulture focussed activities, and at a venue that is steeped in historical features; the property itself doesn’t exist to attract thousands of visitors, and so my ‘content’, for want of a better word, continues but in subtle sort of way.

Beautifully scented Wisteria doing its thing on the south wall….

It must also be said that again, as much as I’ve a keen interest in sharing my love for gardens and where I’m at, I’m not employed to spend time creating ‘content’, and I have an awful lot of practical gardening work to be getting on with! If only I could walk around with a live web-cam on my hat – you’d probably still struggle to keep up!

Six months though… It seems like nothing compared to some time-served gardeners, but it’s been so full of activity that it does seem much longer, and so much has been achieved. After a much more public facing role at CV, it did feel for a while as though I had gone into hibernation, and I’m sure some people were questioning my sanity but, I think I’ve finally worked out why I needed to change my core, daily role, after putting in so much hard work over the years at CV.

Allium breaking its silence in a border at home…

I simply needed to step away from pressure that had built, and to reconnect with the very thing that had sustained me for so long – gardens, nature and growing. I had been losing my connection with the very things that had driven, excited, encouraged and engaged me for so long. Although I might not have realised it at the time, I ‘simply’ needed to step away, to refocus and reconnect – and look at the door that eventually opened…

And so to the present, where you’ll find me actively engaged each day and completely immersed in horticulture once again, both at home and at Broadwell – the added filming elements and working for such a supportive and respected TV gardener (and lovely family) just adds to the daily wonder!

Yes, there is too much to do, I’ve lost weight despite upping my food intake, and I’m knackered on a daily basis, but every day is different and more importantly; every day is full of plants and flowers and wildlife – I have indeed reconnected and I feel grounded on a daily basis… What an incredibly challenging and life affirming 6 month it has been! Now, back to a swift finish for the journal proper…

The past week has been really varied to say the least. I usually structure my journal entry with a look back to the previous Sunday, which last week coincided with #GardenDayUK, This explains my first random image below where I put common sense to one side, and joined in by making my version of a floral crown – or floral hat in my case!

Floral Crown #floralcrown
My floral creation for Garden Day UK, all cut from my garden!

Although the weather had turned cold, with the usual British resolve many folk joined in and supported the initiative through a range of zoom-style online activity from quizzes to demonstrations and live chat – it was good to see so much support from some high profile and entertaining garden characters, and I think that for me, the day’s success was the home-style presenting that everyone was forced into doing, which worked really well.

There was plenty of floral creativity through the many flower crowns, and whilst I had lots of other things to be getting on with I enjoyed tuning in frequently. The reliable gardening people and their ‘we’re-in-this-together’ attitude was very evident and a good day was seemingly had by all! Crowns off to the many folk and Candide who made GardenDayUK a success.

On the work summary front, the past frost-threatened week looked a little like this: Monday – Tidied tulip borders. Watering. Began scything perimeter boundary to facilitate access for stone wall repairs. Tuesday – Scything and clean-up of boundary. Shear cut Lonicera shrubs and tidied surrounding area. Wednesday – Auricula session. Relocated stored debris to compost. Received compost delivery (Yay!) Mowing. Thursday – Mowing. Began digging south herbaceous border. Friday – Watered. Continued digging.

Scything, mowing, composting, digging, hedge trimming - a busy week indeed!
Scything, mowing, composting, digging, hedge trimming – a busy week indeed!

So there we have it, a somewhat reflective post again. (I can see a theme developing here…) At least in my struggles to post a useful journal entry each week, I’m being forced to be more creative with its content – hopefully when I look back at some of these posts in the distant future, there will be enough intent and meaning in the words to time travel me, you or my children back to this unique time I’m experiencing.

Regards & Happy Gardening, Gary

Garden Journal 9.5.20

We’re in the month of May, an absolute favourite month of mine for the sheer vigour and exuberance of plants in gardens and across the land. After last week’s sidestep to write about my efforts at growing my own, I return, largely, to my regular post style which is recording my week in gardening.

Firstly therefore, I want to write my weekly summary of horticultural tasks and experiences that have taken priority this past week, then, I shall then move onto a more creative piece I’ve been wanting to write for a while.

Weeding in process with cleared fresh soil completed and weed encrusted soil awaiting a garden fork
A little weeding in a Broadwell border.

Monday – Mowing. Fixing tree guards following animal damage. Plant labelling. Weeding. Tuesday – Scything. Weeding. Watering. Harvested wild garlic. Mixed compost. Wednesday – Watering in KG. Removal of vine from eaves and guttering of house. Mowing. Thursday – Watering and feeding. Mowing. Composting. Friday – Upcycled a pallet to make a vertical garden.

A recycled pallet using to make a vertical planter
The half-pallet vertical planter awaiting decoration and sowing.

Now for that creative piece, where I want to record something that tops and tails each day of work*. This is of course, the journey itself. Don’t panic! I trust that this won’t be as strange as it might first sound…

You see, the roads emptied once lockdown tightened for so many people. I was used to giving way at the end of my road, to tip-toeing through my village whilst streams of kids and parents walked and cycled to school. Cars would criss-cross my path and lorries would have to double park to make deliveries. Then beyond the village, the road would open out into a cold, exposed and skeletonised landscape beyond. I think I made a new word there?! 🤔

Ribbons of traffic would thread along the Roman Fosseway as I headed south each day for the Cotswolds. I used to cross the Fosse on my previous journey to work, but for a while now I have been able to travel a good few miles along its route, where often I’ve marvelled at its engineering and historic associations. My historic imaginations whilst journeying though have always been momentary distractions, because the traffic always demanded focus.

Dandelions growing in the grass
Dandelions jagged teeth hidden in the grass…

A tracked tractor or tanker moving slowly. An artic’ lorry, with its steady speed adhered to rigidly mile-after-mile. Or worse by far, the ‘business’ folk who, with their evil eyed tourers or transit vans rapidly approached from behind, looking to dispense with my car as a piece of congestion that simply needed to move.

Some of these distractions are still there by the way, they never changed, for so many people just couldn’t ‘work from home’. In fact, in some ways the demon drivers just got worse, as I think they’ve acclimatised to emptier roads, and so the occasional obstruction like my self pooling along at the speed limit is even more intolerable, maybe. However, and here’s the thing, something so much bigger magically appeared during my journeying to work, and that was spring!

Dandelions speak on behalf of nature – do they love me, or love me not…?

With an amplified ‘SPRI’ and a ringing ‘NNNG!’, April arrived and SPRING surged forward with a strong push from behind by Mother Nature herself.

Previously mown roadside verges sprouted golden buttercups, dancing daisies and bright blue speedwell. As lush grass started to grow in the margins beyond, dandelions pushed their jagged leaves through, picking-up the sunshine yellow daisy centres with their beautiful bee feeding blooms.

Ditches became drained of their winter floodwaters and hedgerows beyond moved from a relative nought, to foliage, to flowering, in just a handful of weeks – even the blackthorn hung around to join the party.

Parts of my journey nearer to dwellings brought extraordinarily bountiful crops of cherry blossom that kept on blooming in the calm conditions, and as if in response, the hedgerows betwixt and between lit up with pure white hawthorn flowers that joined the blossom festival and continues to shine now into May.

Horse chestnuts, with dozens of flowers on each single candelabra-like panicle – just get up close to one if you can…

Larger and woodier specimens too have defied frosty mornings, surged sap, and their soft, verdant new season leaves have fully clothed the towering ash and richly textured oak trees. Although altogether more graceful and measured, the beech trees eventually joined in as well, although it’s the former two that appear most in the hedgerows that line the way and loop off over the gentle hills that run to the east and west of the Fosse.

Whilst I’m glad to be into my favoured May, I’ve had to take this moment to celebrate a spring that even for me, as someone used to being in and working with it, has been touched by its effect. Spring this year has arrived with such gravity and meaning that it’s been hard not to notice. The foliage and flowers have a new richness, and their presence this year in particular comes with more gravity and meaning than ever before.

These words have rattled around my head for a month now, because of my generally calmer journey to work. It’s as if the spring has paused everything, so that people could have a moment to really see what is going on outside our usual cocoons. Despite expert advice, I would say that the birds are singing louder to us, the lush new year foliage is greener and more calming than ever before, and the flowers are showing us their very best colours. Or maybe it’s just me?

When the road congestion builds anew and the general weight and pace of life returns to ‘a new normal’, I sincerely hope that new passions for plants and nature will play a bigger part for people. I personally look forward to watching the natural world around me continue to unfold, and I hope to more often be ‘in time’ wit the moment, with a new found sense of awareness – even if I do have to occasionally stop the car on the way to work, and take a moment to really look.

I think I’ll leave it there, for now…
Kind regards, Gary

*I’m thankful to be able to continue with my work over the past few weeks, I know this hasn’t been possible for so many people. From a working perspective, and as mentioned previously, I work at a single venue garden and pretty much ‘socially distance’ myself from the world on a daily basis! On the home front, I’ve only been able to continue working due to my good lady balancing childcare and home working – not an easy thing to achieve as you can imagine. But, things could be much worse, and we’re getting through Covid-19.