News from the Walled Kitchen Gardens NetworkBack to the grapevine

Dear Friends

Now fully into the new year, there are clear signs that spring isn’t too far away. Peaches, apricots and camellias are starting to flower in glasshouses; snowdrops, cyclamen and hellebores are being celebrated at festivals and open gardens from Cornwall to the highlands of Scotland.

The winter months have been far busier than we would expect – the zoom legacy of the last (nearly) two years have enabled many more people to become involved in talks, meetings and conferences such as the Chambord Conversations that wouldn’t have been previously accessible for most. (More information below).

We hope you haven’t been too affected by the recent storms, and have enjoyed seeing and hearing about the work going on in preparation for the coming year.

The Garden Diary of Dr Darwin – Susan Campbell

In 1986, Susan Campbell made the chance discovery of this previously unknown garden diary, spending the next 35 years researching the background, before bringing this book to publication. The diary was written between 1838-1865 by Dr Robert Darwin (father of Charles) and after his death in 1848, by Charles’ sister Susan. It describes the horticultural and domestic activities principally around the kitchen gardens at the family home – The Mount, Shrewsbury.

The Garden Diary of Dr Darwin was published in November 2021 and is widely available for sale at all good bookshops and online – with over 200 original illustrations it’s a fascinating insight to a kitchen garden during a time of exploration and discovery. Susan Campbell has donated the diary itself to Cambridge University Library. You can read Robin Lane Fox’s review, in the FT Weekend – 19 February 2022 and online.

European Symposium on the Conservation of Historic Fruit and Kitchen Gardens

Many of you have been able to attend the ongoing Chambord Conversations by Zoom. The horticultural skills and knowledge of our international friends has been at the forefront of many discussions and activities, and has been wonderful to see!

On the 3rd February, we held the seventh in the series of Chambord Conversations looking at the art and skill of training fruit trees, with two presentations, the first from Jim Arbury and Gerry Edwards from the RHS, on the pruning of both newly planted and old trained fruit trees, the use of rootstocks and more, followed by a wonderful presentation from Alexandra and Olivier Debaisieux of Enghien.

We next heard from Miranda Rock on the plans, still very much in discussion, for the restoration of the extensive and historic walled gardens at Burghley. It was an inspiring and very special insight into the expectations and risks behind such a big project; a stage that you’d seldom hear about.

The eighth (and last) of our online Chambord Conversations is on the 7th April. The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of the most significant restorations of walled kitchen gardens and associated buildings. It’s now 30 years since opening to the public, so we are delighted to have a three-part presentation – looking at the past, present and future of this iconic garden, from Candy Smit, archivist, Nicola Bradley, head gardener and Alistair Moore Gardens Director.

We meet for the final time at the Chateau de Chambord for the ‘live’ event on the 23rd June 2022. Details will be going out shortly to everyone registered for the Symposium.

If you would like to sign up for the last online meeting please complete the registration form and return to the email on the form.

Craft Skills for Garden Conservation: Trained Fruit Workshop

The Craft Skills for Garden Conservation project is an Erasmus+ (European Union) funded initiative that has been created by a consortium of European gardens and colleges. Its aim is to provide transnational training across a range of traditional garden conservation methods and approaches. Whether it be traditional soil management or care of trained fruit, there is something for anyone who is interested in or has responsibility for a heritage garden or designed landscape.

A series of online webinars introduce each topic. Each webinar is free to attend and involves a range of expert speakers from across the consortium. The trained fruit webinar takes place on 15 March 2022. Hands-on workshops will follow in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Russia and project leaders Norway. The first UK-based workshop focuses on trained fruit and the UK team are keen to find a suitable location for the workshop. If you have, or know of a garden with trained fruit (ideally of all types and ages) and would be willing to let a team of around 15 horticulturists loose on them in early September 2022, the UK team would like to hear from them. The trees need not be perfect – in fact, neglected forms would be very welcome.

Find out more about the project and book a place on one (or all) of the webinars: https://www.vea-fs.no/webinars-for-best-practice-in-garden-conservation/. Please note that these are temporary webpages: the project started in January 2022 and the project website will launch shortly.

If you would like to chat about a garden or other managed space with trained fruit that might be available to host a workshop, please contact Kate Nicoll (catherine.nicoll@vea-fs.no) , Workshop & Webinar Coordinator or Rebecca Slack (office@plantnetwork.org), UK contact for the project.

Parks and Gardens UK

Parks & Gardens UK is the on-line resource for historic parks and gardens. Working in collaboration with other organisations including Historic England and The Gardens Trust, the team at the Hestercombe Archive have been updating and setting out a plan for PGUK for the next 5 years and beyond.

As an open source research tool, PGUK preserve images and share knowledge of historic designed landscapes, for academic, horticultural and historic research.

To register a garden, the updated registration form can be found on the WKGN website page ‘Register a Garden’

You may also be able to help with the project to find and bring together Conservation Management Plans – of which nearly 2000 were written over the last 25 years, an astonishing amount of work to record landscapes and gardens, but many have been lost or destroyed. There are now nearly 800 found, and safely in the archive, many of which will be fully accessible online. Copyright and confidentiality is paramount, so if you think you can help with the project, please visit their website link: https://www.parksandgardens.org/conservation/conservation-management-plans

Finally – on the art of training fruit trees

Thoughts from conductor William Christie in conversation with Jacques Beccaletto:

‘You can put a tree like that [espalier] in the same category as a beautiful painting or a beautiful sculpture or a beautiful piece of music.

What is the difference? It’s the man, isn’t it? the artist, the craftsman? It is exactly the same thing, without the slightest exaggeration’

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