Paul’s Garden Manager Update

Things have moved on in the garden and nursery since my last report.

Several areas of the garden are enjoying significant rejuvenation with the help of our staff and volunteers. The ongoing work includes some major felling and replanting. 

A gap in the clouds and some late sun hits the wet tree bark. It’s an encouraging end to another winter day in the garden. The snowdrops are here and spring is coming!

However, the prolonged spell of wet and mild weather over the winter has resulted in some difficult working conditions.

To some extent, this hampered our efforts to keep the garden as tidy as we would like and slowed our programme of rejuvenation. Ideally, we still need some sustained cold weather to harden and dry out the ground to enable access with the tractor. Currently, we grab the odd ‘dry-ish’ day, to use the tractor and try to be as delicate as possible over the ground (though it’s difficult to tiptoe in four wheel drive!). But, as always, we make the best of it and hopefully will be back on track soon.

The nursery is working in a very productive manner with a lower maintenance regime.

We have propagated several hundred candelabra Primulas for planting in the garden this year. This will bulk out the planting in our boggy areas and give an attractive and long-lasting splash of colour.

Hopefully, we will have surplus stock to pot on and sell at visitor reception later this year. We will try to send an email to Friends before these go on general sale.

The ferns that Duncan ordered for planting, in a couple of key areas near the Gunnera patch and Fitzroy pond, have been planted and mulched. It will be good to see how they look when they start to grow.

I am also glad to report that the green manure in the nursery worked very well and is now rotting down into the beds. We have noticed an additional benefit as we lift the trees for dispatch; the stems of the plants act as a mat when walking down the rows which lessens the soil compaction and helps tread in the green manure. The experiment has been a success and I shall be continuing the sowing of green manure in the spring, throughout the nursery.

Thanks to Friends, old and new, who pre-ordered and bought trees over the winter.  Sales have gone very well, with almost everything of a saleable size now being sold out. The ordering system on the new website works well. The new season trees are being grafted and we are already accepting reservations for next year. Have a look online.

Other news and help in the garden:

I have given illustrated talks to several garden groups over the last 6 months. This is a valuable activity for us, by helping to broaden public awareness of our garden and conservation, it also builds local support for our work. The informal sessions (with lively Q & A’s) always seem to go down well. Let me know if you have contacts with local groups who also might enjoy the garden in this way.

Volunteer Barry Tibbetts has renovated several benches in the garden. He is currently working on a curved bridge to replace a plank bridge at the far side of the Fitzroy pond. This should make a simple
but attractive feature in that top corner of the garden.

All our volunteers continue to be a great help in the garden and nursery. We are grateful for the time each person commits. Like the garden, the volunteer group grows and changes.

Following my recommendation, hard working ‘two days a week’ volunteer, Sandy has applied for an apprenticeship with RHS Rosemoor. The RHS decision is due soon.  Sorry to lose her hard work and enthusiasm, we explored the possibility of splitting her practical training between Rosemoor and Stone Lane. Unfortunately, that’s not an option as RHS Rosemoor is taking only full time students, this year. Whatever the outcome, Sandy will remain a Friend and stay in touch.

The Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation group did a great job by helping to clear a large area of overgrown shrubs near the bottom pond. We will be redeveloping this area through the spring
and summer.

The Chagford Conservation Group undertook a similarly great job around the Ilex tunnel and we shall also be improving this area, this year.

Nigel Way has joined us (one day a week) for this next busy period. He is proving to be a useful and hard-working assistant, allowing us to achieve more on the heavy jobs, and freeing me for more technical, skilled tasks. Vaughan continues to be a very good right-hand man on his one day a week here. A good support for me, his experience helps provide ideas and solutions for our work in the garden. His knowledge is also a great resource our volunteer gardeners.