I’ve arrived at garden journal time this weekend perplexed as to how the week has flown by, although as always, it doesn’t take me long to work it out, what with switching between homeschooling and working. Seriously though, despite some full days it does seem to have been another week of maximum effort, modest achievement.
What I can say is that it’s been another fully and engaging week of work in my field of ‘gardening’. It’s seen me up and down ladders whilst pruning in a heritage orchard, arranging servicing for machinery and contacting volunteers, and there was even a little COSHH thrown in for good measure.
There was a session of mulching ornamental borders, sowing seeds and moving some heavy ornamental pots. Pruning tools were cleaned, sharpened and oiled, and a good deal of my present book was thoroughly enjoyed – The Tulip, by Anna Pavord. Last but not least, there was another fascinating webinar with the discerning historic landscape expert John Phibbs.
And just like that it’s journal time, and as for last Sunday’s entry the weather has again brought huge change to my gardening week. It’s as if Mother Nature popped in on Thursday, waved a magic wand and said “let there be sunshine!”
It really does feel like spring has sprung if I’m honest but, (and there’s always a but) from a gardening perspective I wouldn’t get too used to these temperatures for they may very well be short lived. I’m certainly not wanting to pour water on these beautiful days though as they are so welcome, if only to prove to me that the growing season is actually happening – so I may just have to crawl out from under my rock and get used to it!
Week five into my 2021 Gardening Ways journal and even though we’re seeing wintry pictures from around Britain it seems like we’re picking up pace towards spring – and it’s never been more eagerly awaited. I do say this with a hint of restraint however, as whilst day length continues to draw out, the ever fluctuating temperatures will continue to tease and excite us one moment, only to nip us in the bud the next. It’s best to take things steady, to enjoy the moment and not to get too far ahead of ourselves.
Focussing on the here and now for a moment, all seems calm and steady in my home garden. Tasks remain thin on the ground but included, over two sessions some much needed path cleaning – oh the delights of an algae-loving north facing garden! This was mostly a case of scrubbing with soapy water which brought out the honey colouring a treat. Otherwise, a good sort through my containers was in order and these were rearranged with soon-to-flower pots brought to the fore so that we can watch their progress daily from the kitchen windows.
Something that lifted my winter spirits earlier in the week was a handful of Iris reticulata flowers that opened with an intensity presently lacking elsewhere in the garden, apart from a Viburnum x bodnantense maybe that is peppered with clusters of sweet scented pink flowers.
I was reminded after a quick look in my ‘Plant Names Simplified’ book that the Iris name is of Greek origin, it reads: “Iris, a rainbow, presumably in reference to the many colours of the flowers”. Their flowers are varied too, not just across the cultivars but on each flower itself – a deep blue, almost violet colour contrasted with a flash of bright yellow – they may be small but they’re certainly not going to be overlooked!
Welcome! Join me here regularly to catch up on my gardening endeavours in this #GardeningWays journal. I spend much of my time gardening professionally for Rachel de Thame in Gloucestershire, and my journal picks up on progress in her garden plus other horticultural highlights that might pop up during my week.
I join in with the #SixonSaturday meme that continues to blossom on social media each week, as I find it a perfect way to turn images into journal entries that will record my story. The text below therefore aims to give a little more background for each of the chosen images.
Well, the first full working week of 2020 has certainly felt like a long one! The weather on my patch has largely been kind for outdoor activity, so I’ve found myself postponing some administrative tasks in favour of practical ones, in order to again push projects forward whilst the sun shines.
The week included a visit to a wildlife site, pruning fruit trees, some tree surveying and the first clearance work beginning in the walled garden. It’s incredible that even in a relatively small area, I managed to cover just over 19 miles from Monday to Friday – it’s no wonder I need a sit down at lunchtime!
My first image below offers a dose of the brightest yellow to blow away any winter blues, it is of course the prickly gorse, growing here at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Brandon Marsh nature reserve in Coventry.
It was an absolute treat to wander around the trails that are woven amongst lakes, twisted trees, grassland and dense shrubberies – contrary to initial thoughts of a winter landscape – everywhere was alive with chirping and squawking. There were also a good few shushes thrown to my none too quiet boys who, despite not particularly wanting to go, were excitedly exploring the paths with their rotten lightsaber sticks – I don’t think they disturbed the wildlife watchers too much!
The next image below is a lighter hearted one taken on Monday morning as I prepared to start pruning in the orchard at work. Woodapuss was quick to check in with me to make sure I knew what I was doing and, as always, to remind me that she wouldn’t be far away!
It’s a relatively small orchard with some ageing specimens that have cropped well in recent years, so whilst I have pruned very carefully to let more light and air into the branches, I’ve also tried to retain as much fruiting wood as possible. Time will tell, but I’ll be watching carefully to manipulate re-growth as it happens.
Pruning is one of the tasks I can find challenging, as my inner artist takes over and battles with the form I want to create, against the form the tree is taking, especially with very mature specimens such as those above. I’ll certainly find a balance with those established, and also look forward to training some new fruit in due course as the garden develops – prepare for some fruity creations!
Sometimes I don’t realise that there is a lack of colour in my day until I suddenly notice a bright blue sky, or spreading blotch of orange lichen or, as shown above, I stumble across a pretty patch of flowers in a lawn. This group of pink cyclamen and aconites put things right very quickly and I couldn’t hold back from crouching down for a closer look at this patch of perfection.
Continuing the floral theme, it’s always with excitement that flower followers post snowdrop pictures each year. I had been tipped off that there were lots of snowdrops in my garden at work, and so I have been looking forward to seeing what emerges and where.
It turns out the little beauties are everywhere, and this little group are ahead of most of their neighbours by a fortnight or so. I look forward to getting down amongst the foliage over the coming weeks as I attempt to capture their wonder in this Cotswolds garden.
In my next image, I have broken a self-set rule and in difference to the ‘jungle’ type image at the head of this post, I have sneaked in an image after the work is partially complete – rather than leave you wandering how the clearance work turned out!
Essentially, the image above shows an overgrown east facing corner of the walled garden that is awaiting renovation. The photo shows the brambles cut hard back, along with a fig bush that had grown seriously out of hand – it had layered itself naturally around 4 metres away!
You might thinking the pruning looks harsh, and you’d be right, but it was essential and taken in stages so that I could understand where growth could be left to recover, to form a new framework. In my favour was fresh growth that had layered naturally, and I’ve taken some cuttings to try and root, so I’m confident we’ll see something bounce back before too long. *He says, whilst looking to the sky and whistling.*
My last image below was taken Friday, whilst surveying trees for safety. It goes without saying that with a historical site there are often many trees to be found with decay, holes and crevices, and it can be quite difficult to understand and assess some trees. On a positive note though, there is always opportunity with all trees to consider not just safety and aesthetics, but habitat also, and the tree below is one such tree.
A mature sycamore in a parkland setting, this tree is testament to careful and considered management over recent years, which has allowed what is essentially a high-rise habitat tree to be retained for the benefit of wildlife. Safety can certainly be managed beneath the tree, and hopefully it has many years left to decay in peace whilst offering an incredible deadwood habitat for a wide range of wildlife – long may it live!
So there we have it; another very full-on week of activity whilst out and about in Warwickshire, and working in Gloucestershire. In my quieter moments I have been thoroughly engaged in listening to The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and have been dipping into Lia Leendertz’ The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020. Both books are hugely informative and the latter will stay with me throughought the year (as the 2019 version did) to guide me through the monthly goings on both above and beneath the garden surface. Yet another image squeezed in below!
Before I sign off, I just want to pass on my thanks to those who follow my gardening progress via Twitter, Instagram and this blog. I have enjoyed great support from my new employers as I’ve settled into my new role – no need to name names! But as expected, there are many moments of isolation for any gardener in a largely private setting. (This may change as I look to recruit some volunteer help over the coming weeks – do DM me if you’re within easy travelling distance of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire).
Over the last few weeks therefore, I’ve been spurred on by contact from old friends, colleagues and family, by long time social network connections and many new friends too. Many thanks to you all – it has been inspiring to connect with you all, and I look forward to meeting some of you soon, to opening up my gardening experiences through 2020, and to learning from you too!