For most of the summer we had to concentrate on keeping our young trees safe in the searing heat and drought. Extreme conditions took their toll on the young plants in the nursery and in the new arboretum.
This inevitably pulled resources away from the garden. Watering the young trees was a constant on the ‘to do’ list leaving some areas of the main arboretum more Savanna than Devon woodland.
Along with many other gardens, we had to focus on the most vulnerable plants in the hope that the more established areas, with older plants, would pull back enough to survive the challenge, and rejuvenate over winter.
As the hot weather continued we concentrated our efforts in the most visible areas, and hopefully lessened the impact of the drought for visitors enjoying the much needed shade in the heat. Certainly, we still had plenty of favourable comments and visitors spent longer in the garden enjoying the shade and calm at a slower pace. We saw larger ‘mixed ages’ groups this summer with older and younger generations coming together in the arboretum to shelter from the heat.
As conditions became a little less extreme we were able to get back on track, tackling some of those ‘less-loved’ areas ahead of the winter. Even with our full attention, not all the mature trees escaped the extreme conditions, some look decidedly stressed coming into autumn. We have lost a few more to honey fungus this year – their demise no doubt hurried along by the drought.
Finally, the rain returned and the ponds are refilling. The water table is still low but we expect the ponds to recover fully. The pond by the entrance took the hardest hit. At one point, even I wondered if it would actually contain water again!
Work in the nursery. Nigel and Vaughan had some long days and some worry about what I might find on my return to the garden, after my Greenland trip. With no piped water to the new planting, it was tough physical work that took many hard hours. The low water pressure slowed things down in the nursery and polytunnel to such an extent that we had to ration water use, turning off the pipes at intervals, so that the tea room could have water and vice versa!
Not able to stick to the usual timings for transferring plants, moving everything out of pots in the polytunnels and into the ground was a significant achievement. The young trees suffered, to some degree, with more aphid damage and mildew than usual due to the prolonged period inside, leading to sappier, floppy stems on some plants. We are gauging next steps carefully as we approach winter. I will hold some of the trees back for another year to strengthen them. In a few cases, the combination of heat and pest damage has stunted growth too much. In other cases the additional time in the tunnels has caused tall, sappy growth that needs another year of thickening before moving on.
Fortunately, we have increased our production over the last few seasons and consequently still have a good proportion of older stock that could handle the dry conditions. This is now in good condition and available this winter.
Some maintenance tasks are only possible with many hands. With the generous help of Sticklepath and Okehampton conservation group, we gathered up material for two big bonfires, removing a large amount of brush and rubbish that had accumulated, and could not be removed, over the spring/summer. With their help we also removed all the old wire fencing, mesh and other old metal junk that had been building up around the estate. This went in a skip to be recycled. This was another step in clearing the way for safe access for visitors into the newly planted area, next spring.
Wild flower meadow regeneration continues. Neighbour Will Bromell has generously cut and baled the fields, at just the right time for wildflower regeneration, without cost to us. It is now even more important and difficult to keep costs down so I would like to thank all those who had the ideas and conversations that led to this.
New assistant gardener, Verity, started her new training role with us on 3rd Oct. It is great to have her on the team. She will gradually develop her own links with Friends as she works in the garden and becomes involved in updates through the seasons.
We are always glad to see our loyal regulars returning after the summer holidays and pleased to welcome Sally, Ciaran, Emma, Jazmine, Shelley and Susie to join Simon, Barry and Janet in the garden again.
Okehampton and Sticklepath conservation groups The weather was great for the group visits in September. We achieved a lot and enjoyed a very productive day. In addition, in one quiet moment, the Sticklepath group erected a plaque at the side of the zig-zag path in memory of one of their members, who passed away recently. Their plaque, placed by prior agreement, is a reminder of Don Reason’s contribution to Conservation and Stone Lane Garden.
The nursery is an important part of our income. It also fulfils a research and conservation function within our core charity objectives. The trial of the Trichoderma fungus product from Swiss company Myco solutions continues. We applied a 4th dose on 23rd September. Results will feed into trials data with results in due course.
As part of our work, we experiment and fine-tune propagation methods and raise wild-provenance trees for the arboretum and for distribution to other botanic gardens. This links into my Greenland research trip – some interim photos follow with a full report later, Paul. (Paul Bartlett – Stone Lane Garden Manager)