JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 MUSINGSBack to the grapevine


Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire


The first Tuesday of January saw the Tuesday Team walking from the Mansion to Knutsford for a coffee, and then back to the Mansion’s Stables Restaurant for lunch. The weather was cold and the odd shower greeted us on our first working day. Most of the Team were busy cutting and burning brash on the east side of the Italian Garden. The rest were in the Orchard continuing the light remedial winter pruning of the freestanding fruit trees in the Orchard Lawn. At lunchtime the gardener-in-charge of the Kitchen Garden joined the Team so that future plans and ideas for the coming growing and cropping year could be discussed.

A cold but dry day found the ‘brash-bashing’ Team clearing the White Walk. In the Orchard Lawn 26 freestanding pear trees (in three rows of 8, 9 & 9) have now been given a pruning once-over. The 63 freestanding apple trees are next to be done.

The Green Glasshouse (formerly known as the Tomato House in a previous life, although it didn’t grow tomatoes when transplanted to Tatton, being mainly used for raising bedding and vegetable plants) has had its timeworn staging removed. The gravel floor is to be renovated and the walls painted white before the new tanalised staging is installed, hopefully in good time for the start of the seed-sowing season. In the meantime, the space is being used for the forcing of spring bulbs.  Adjacent to the back wall of the Victorian Fernery shelving is being constructed for the storage of pots. The Fernery is in the top ten of such in the UK, competing against those in botanic gardens, and in the top three in England.

The buzzards are circling and mewing on high thermals above a sunny Orchard Lawn. All of the Tuesday Team are pruning the apple trees and three gardeners are reducing the height of some of the apple trees, all glad of the sunshine because the temperature is low when the wind blows.

Cuttings are being taken of the red, white and black currant bushes, which are at least 17 years old and in need of replacement. These, together with the summer and autumn raspberries of a similar age will be dug out and the area grassed down temporarily to recover.

Whilst the Green Glasshouse is mostly empty the gardeners are busy constructing scarecrows for the Scarecrow Festival, which takes place at half term.

Another sunny but very cold typical ‘nose-drippy’ February day. This did not deter the Tuesday Team, nor it seems excited families swarming all over the gardens in search of the Scarecrows which this year are representing characters from Roald Dahl’s imagination, this being his centenary. The Team was glad of some warming work and set to with a will digging up the first rows of worn out autumn raspberries. Two of us continued to ‘fine tune’ the espaliered pears round the Orchard Lawn.

Another gloriously sunny day, the sort that makes one’s heart sing. The gardeners are in the formal gardens clearing the last of the winter debris; the Team are now digging out the old summer raspberries. The two areas where the raspberries were will be grassed over and later in the year will host a Giant Peach, continuing the Roald Dahl theme. The scarecrows are heading back to the Barn after their half term outing.

The apple espaliers and cordons were also fine-tuned. No more pruning will be done in the Orchard until mid summer. The fan-trained cherries and plums against the walls will be pruned later in the year by the gardeners, as this involves ladder-work.



Mike Kleyn

Elizabeth Smart wrote:
Just to let you know how much I love the Musings. Absolutely a joy. Anticipation as one arrives – never disappointed always a joy to read, Thank you.

Mike Kleyn

Maz replied:
Thank you Elizabeth for your lovely comments, so glad to share my observations and joy of volunteering

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