One of the highlights of the year was the garden open day in June. Tickets were all sold out and it was inspiring to hear from the visitors how much they enjoyed and appreciated the gardens. It was a day to be proud about the garden and the community around it, which was made possible with the help of all the enthusiastic volunteers helping out in many ways.
Many things happened in the garden this year, but probably the biggest area of improvement was in the working facilities for the gardeners. It started with an electricity supply being brought up from the tunnel to the gardeners sheds. Followed by a new wooden cabin, which will soon be connected to the electricity and water so we can be warm and dry in our breaks with hot running water and facilities to make hot drinks. Its a huge improvement on what we had.
Another benefit of having electricity is that we have facilities to recharge batteries and we been able to expand our use of battery operated machinery.
The new cabin was partly a result of looking at issues of Health and Saftey in the garden, which is something I have been focusing on this year. With the support of Andrew Douig and the board I’ve been updating and improving all our health and saftey procedures and although this is time consuming and tedious it is of course essential that it’s done.
We have done quite a bit of work reducing some of the thickest sections of hedge. Most of the large Eleagnus cubes have been cut back by half. They had become so wide they were very difficult to keep cut. It looks a bit drastic when they are first done, but in the long term they will be thicker and stronger and much easier to maintain. Where we did this on the west boundary opposite the EF language school we took the opportunity to create a new border, which I thought worked very well through the summer and created a new area of interest on that side of the garden.
In the autumn we planted a lot of bulbs including hundreds of tulip bulbs, however it looks like the squirrels were following us around and and digging them up as we went. So I think the tulip display might be a bit disappointing this spring.
We had some tree work completed this year, most notably in the North Garden. The sycamores leaning over the road on the East side of the North Garden were reduced to keep them safe and stop them leaning too far over the road. The largest holm oak was also reduced and one of the smaller holm oaks was taken out to create more light and space for the others to grow.
I spent some time looking into various options for the Chichester Terrace border. Trying to find ways to make it less time consuming to maintain. Including getting some quotes for reducing the size of the border. The size of those quotes was a bit shocking and therefore the best solution seemed to be get more regular help to look after the border. So In the autumn we hired some temporary help to cut back, weed and tidy the border. This spring we will again look for some temporary help one day a week to help with the on going maintenance.
In the summer we commissioned a phase one habitat survey of the garden. The reason we did this is that I believe that one of the responsibilities and opportunities of having a garden in the 21st century is to maximise its potential for biodiversity. I thought a survey would give us a base line to work from and give ideas about how we can best support biodiversity and resilience for the garden in the future. Unfortunately I didn’t understand quite how basic a phase one habitat survey is and I now realise that a lot more surveys would have to be done to find out in any detail about the insects and fauna of the garden. So while it would be fascinating to know what fauna the garden supports, it would be hard to justify the expense of more surveys unless they are for a specific purpose like finding out about bat roosting sites. So it is probably only something that could be done with enthusiastic volunteers or maybe a student project.
However some useful things did come out of the survey- one of the key points I took from it was that we have a large and varied insect population, particularly bees and hover flies and one of the best things we can do to increase biodiversity is to support the insect population of the garden. This will not only support essential insect populations, but will also support the birds, bats, badgers etc that rely on them. One of the ways I would like to achieve this is to increase the area of lawn dedicated to wild flower meadow. So in the early spring I’m going to turn the area of grass near the hedge on the South West lawn into a wild flower meadow. It will take some time for the new area to establish, but I already have hundreds of plug plants that I have been growing from seed collected from our wild flower lawns in the summer and I will also sow more wild flower seeds. Once it has developed over several years it should provide feast for our eyes as well as for the butterflies and birds.
There are also other ways we will be looking to support biodiversity including putting up bird and bat boxes.
The border next to the new meadow in the SW corner is also going to be planted up soon. This border didn’t look it’s best last summer because I was trying to remove the bindweed that had taken over the area. I’m hoping that the bind weed has mostly gone and that with the new planting it will be looking good again this summer.
In the Secret Garden I am hoping that the flint wall is going to be renovated at some point and I’m therefore planning ahead for that. Quite a few years ago I started by planting a new hedge of euonymous outside the messy hedge that grows above the flint wall. This year I will be reducing that messy hedge as much as possible to give light and room for the euonymous hedge behind it to expand. My hope is that there will eventually be a new flint wall with a smart euonymous hedge above it, which will make a lovely background for the plants in the border.
I will continue to develop and improve other borders around the garden to make the 2020 the best it can possibly be.
Finally I would like to thank the great garden team of Patrick, Ben and the volunteers, whose hard work keeps the garden looking as good as it does.