NOVEMBER DECEMBER MUSINGSBack to the grapevine

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 MUSINGS by Maz
Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire
The two Fig Houses in the Kitchen Garden have now been restored, and are looking good. All the weeds that have accumulated in them during the summer whilst the glasshouses were open to the elements have been removed and winter salads and vegetables have been sown in the beds. The Herb beds in front of the glasshouses are also being weeded and restored, and rearrangements taking place.
Gales are expected, so trees in the Parkland were being inspected for likely problems. The Team planted at least 2,000 daffodil bulbs in the woodland where the path from the car park meanders through to the Stable Yard, from which the Gardens can be accessed, and of course the café, restaurant and shops. Only another 6,000 to go.
Having had a week away, more apples from the Orchard trees were lying in the grass, so two of us spent the day picking and sorting and barrowing the windfalls: the rotten ones went to the compost heap, the reasonable ones went to the Home Farm for the pigs, whose squeals of delight when they heard the wheelbarrow were a joy to hear. The chickens also appreciated some pumpkins, which make their egg yolks yellower.
Two Tuesdays of rain saw most of the Team in the Apple Store, sorting out and labelling the many old varieties, checking carefully for any peck holes made by the Jackdaws, followed earlier in the year by the wasps and ladybirds. We always know when the fruit is ripe for picking when the Jackdaws descend on the Orchard from the surrounding trees. This is handy for the late maturing pears and russet apples.
A fair Tuesday saw four of us picking up the late apples and pears blown off in the gales, and then checking the other trees, removing any mummified fruit and fruitlets which had not developed, and generally tidying them up. As soon as we moved off, the Jackdaws, who were lined up on the walls, swooped down to take their fill.
November and December are proving to be very windy months. Already we have had Storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh and Desmond. My husband says ‘fame at last’ having a storm named after him, but hastens to add that’s the only resemblance. ☺
A fairly unusual event in that the whole Team were working together in the Orchard area: some were in the actual Orchard, the others were clearing the borders either side of the Pergola at the side of the Orchard. These borders were sown with a wild flower mix and proved a real hit with everyone. However, their glory is now past, so the brash was cleared and the beds dug over for the winter.
On wet days in December when no gardening is possible, the gardeners usefully occupy their time by expertly making Christmas wreaths, garlands and arrangements both for decorating the Mansion and for sale in the Garden Shop.
Now all the fruit has been picked and the leaves have fallen, our next job is to do some maintenance pruning of the standalone trees in the Orchard Lawn. Now is the time to thin out dense growth and help the trees rejuvenate. The overall aim is to develop an open, airy tree with evenly spaced branches and a hollow centre: think wine glass or goblet shape. The crowns may also need to be ‘lifted’ where branches are growing downwards and preventing the mower from doing its job. This pruning task will take until at least February (if not longer), weather permitting; cutting away minor branches, rubbing, crossing or congested laterals. Long vertical thin shoots, called ‘water shoots’ should also be removed from the centre and from mature limbs. All this remedial pruning will be followed up next summer to complete the job and maybe the height of some trees will be reduced, to enable easier picking.
The Volunteers’ Christmas Lunch is the finale of our volunteering year. Most of the 70+ volunteers were able to attend, and a jolly time was enjoyed. We hope a summer buffet will come our way too as these occasions are the only time we can meet the volunteer teams from the other days of the week.
I hope you all had a good festive season. I also hope, if you enjoyed my 2015 Musings, that someone else will Muse as well. I end this year-end Musing in wishing you all a bounteous 2016.

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