MAY/JUN 2015 MUSINGSBack to the grapevine

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

After the sunniest April on record, May begins with high winds and heavy rain. After 11 years of volunteering, the special needs married couple, Kathryn and Stephen, are moving down to Gloucestershire to be nearer family, and hopefully to find another National Trust property to continue their good work. The Tuesday Team put on a farewell buffet at lunchtime, and afterwards the weather picked up so some work in the Kitchen Garden was achieved, mainly placing peasticks along the rows, and the inevitable weeding. It is interesting the different weeds we get, presumably brought in by the copious amounts of manure we acquire from the Tattondale Home Farm. The hedgerows are mainly frothy white with May blossom (Hawthorn), cow parsley, wood anemone, oxeye daisy, bluebells, field buttercup. Welcome “Weeds” in our own garden at the moment are English bluebells, white valerian and sweet woodruff. As for the wildlife: The two baby female blackbirds are now independent, their mum is building another nest. One evening I became aware of a sound like a steam engine, huffing and puffing. It turned out to be two hedgehogs a-courting, before enjoying special hedgehog nibbles for supper. I have found two hedgehog nests (one in the back garden, one in the front), completely ignoring the three custom-made houses in the back garden, which probably provide winter hibernation for the frogs and pretty wood mice, the latter doing a good job of clearing up spilt birdseed. We also had a wren and a robin roosting in our covered passageway over winter, and currently bumblebee nests in nooks and crannies and black ants in the Siberian Iris, plus wood mice nests somewhere in the garden. I regularly see from two to five buzzards circling overhead – did they follow us home from Tatton? I often wonder – If all this is happening in our very small garden, what an abundance of all kinds of wildlife there must be in the 50 acres of formal garden and 1,000 acres of wilder parkland here at Tatton, besides the two herds of deer and sheep – all four legged lawnmowers?
It has been very windy but sunny after torrential rain. We three pricked out more flowers for the formal gardens, and sowed more flower seeds together with some poisonous seeds (taking proper precautions wearing gloves) of Ricinus communis or castor oil plant, and also Angel’s Trumpets or Datura, a first for me. I shall not be having a nap under the hopefully resultant ‘tree’ as its flowers can cause hallucinations. The Gardens are busy with half term visitors and overseas visitors.

01 June is the meteorological start of summer; however, the weather had other ideas. We potted on more flowers for the formal gardens and American garden; planting of bedding plants is traditionally done early June. Bean poles are precision marching across one of the quarters in the Kitchen Garden, and a battalion of leeks has been pricked out, together with climbing beans and winter cabbages.
National Trust Volunteer Awards are presented in June. One lady received her 25 year Award (what an achievement!) and framed Citation from George (the former Mayor of Cheshire East and Japanese Garden Guide) as disappointingly for everyone no-one from the National Trust attended to show appreciation.
Sunny weather finds me out of the glasshouses and into the Orchard, where I tied in the raspberries and next year’s fruiting vines of the Marionberry (Loganberry cross).
The next task is to pick off the Pear Rust-affected leaves (which will take several weeks) and tie in the new growth on the espaliered fruit trees.
The two Fig Houses in the Kitchen Garden are undergoing restoration, which will take 12-16 weeks, so we are unable to use them for growing figs and tomatoes for the time being. The Herb Bed outside has been ‘squashed’ under the scaffolding poles.
Wild roses and ox-eye daisies continue the beauty of the hedgerows in the lanes.
I’ll leave you with a quote (author unknown) to think about: “Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds: The harvest can be either flowers or weeds.”

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