Early summer saw the busiest time in the nursery and garden with nature in full swing and the set up for ‘Regeneration’ the 2021 sculpture exhibition.
Odd weather at the start of the season checked the growth of many plants, slowing things down by three weeks in some places, but it never seems to slow down the weeds! Staff and volunteers have been been very busy not just keeping the weeds down but re-stocking and significantly upgrading the infrastructure.
Our ‘resident’ population are no trouble (as pictured) but a very visible increase in the local deer population has increased damage. I have been observing their movements with a wildlife camera, moving it round the estate, aiming to see if there are any obvious behaviour patterns that we can disrupt.
This season’s extended planting areas of the pink candelabra primula Primula pulveralenta, around the middle pond and below, have really established and looked wonderful for months on end. The spring flowering Rhododendron Luteum from Georgia has also bulked out with more flowers this year than ever before. These should make a really attractive feature as they continue to establish over the next few years.
Clearing continues in the area above the bottom pond ready for re-planting soon. As part of the renovation we replaced the bridge handrails around the garden with more attractive rope. Barry’s fine new bridge is also ready and waiting to install when this year’s exhibition closes. It will have time to settle in well before the new spring growth.
Growth of a less positive sort continues as Honey Fungus makes progress in some areas. As mentioned last time, trustee Sandy and I have been in discussion with the Swiss manufacturer of a fungal product that can help limit the growth of honey fungus. I am pleased to report Myco Solutions agreed to supply product (at no cost to us) as part of ongoing trials to evaluate its effectiveness. It has been very interesting communicating with their chief scientific officer to identify the best method of running the trial in our situation. We plotted a trial area and have already started the program, which will last several years. If effective, this may be hugely beneficial for the health of the National Collections. This is a really exciting project, giving us another opportunity to be involved with cutting edge scientific research, broaden our educational reach and – hopefully – improve the health of our trees at little cost to us.
Beverley Sugden, of Plant Heritage, carried out her regular garden coordinator’s inspection of our National collections. I am pleased to report that she found everything in order. She was also very impressed with our new arboretum project.
Covid restrictions on travel continued and my long scheduled Greenland expedition was cancelled a second time. This should have taken place in 2020. I am disappointed but with so much planning and support now already in place I am ‘fairly’ confident that it will take place next Summer. The grant funders have been very understanding about the delay.
In the Nursery the annual cycle of planting continued. The unsold trees moved to the top nursery, leaving the polytunnel nursery a blank canvas ready for sowing with the ‘green manure’ Phacelia, much beloved by bees and hover flies. Our grafts arrived on time and after the usual intensive (sometimes manic!) burst of activity, and generous help from everyone, all were safely potted up. After a month of rapid new growth and ‘tie-ing in’ they were ready for planting outside. We seemed to survive the annual outbreak of aphids in the polytunnel with several packets of ladybird larvae and a lot of hope!
Juggling space, the herbaceous plants moved to our polytunnel in South Zeal and are growing on well. The few trees left in the polytunnel from the winter that are too small to go into the nursery have been relocated to our raised beds at our Friend Mo’s house in Chagford. The beds in the polytunnel had taken a battering over the winter and would have been out of action without Barry’s help. He refurbished the beds in the polytunnel and created two new benches outside to house the remaining herbaceous plants. These home-grown plants are selling well to visitors on the yard as long lasting souvenirs.
Hard work led by Chris and Tim secured a grant for the car park reinforcement matting. By a combination of hard labour (involving hundreds of metal staples being banged into the ground, my knees and Nigel’s back are still recovering!) and good weather, the surface was ready for hard use for both outdoor theatre events last month. Thanks to our volunteers, it will be a delight to finally have a car park that can be used all through the year with little risk. It will eliminate the need to keep changing road signs and improve the infrastructure to enable winter events to be considered.
The new arboretum continued at a pace with young trees coming into leaf with just a few casualties caused mainly by the really harsh cold weather that occurred in the spring. It was not long until we were glad of Tim and Anna’s kind donation of a water tank, which I filled and towed round the field on the back of the tractor, watering the trees just enough to survive during the early dry spell. Vaughan’s sweeping mowed path up into the top of June’s field created a lovely viewpoint. Visitors are enjoying this even more now that we have installed one of the two picnic benches generously donated by The Globe Inn, Chagford. Trustees would like to thank Mary and Graham for their kind donation.
The Sculpture Exhibition has been enjoyed here in in the garden and also on the website through Tim’s fantastic photos and Tom’s videos. I am grateful to Nick, Ruth and the team of helpers who did such a great job of organising the safe installation of the sculptures, making my life at a really busy time much more bearable.
We are also very grateful to Health & Safety Consultants, Arion Ltd. Their generous donation of professional time, expertise and support behind the scenes (in this difficult season) has helped make this exhibition safe for everyone. As always, to guarantee tree and plant ‘safety’ I had the last sign off for the location of the sculpture pieces. Nick and the artists were a pleasure to work with and sensitive to the need to maintain the integrity of the garden and avoid risk to the trees.
Volunteer news We have been joined by some great new volunteers this summer but had to say goodbye to both Naomi and George. Naomi was successful in applying for a job as head of wardrobe in a theatre in London, and George succeeded in landing an assistant gardener role at a large private estate in Scotland. Though we all miss them it is also lovely to think that these two hard-working young people have managed to secure good employment in these very uncertain times. In another step on a career path, we are very pleased to welcome our volunteer Jack as our first Stone Lane Garden apprentice. As Jack is our first apprentice, it is no exaggeration to say that we will be learning together. This opportunity was made possible by tapping into a very timely government training grant; Jack starts his 18 month period with us this week. It will be a privilege to be able share my skills and knowledge of the garden in this new way with one of our own volunteers. We are grateful for the support of Friends ‘old and new’ and send best wishes to you all, Paul.
PS Just time for a tree ad…
Tree Sales for winter 2021/22: don’t forget to purchase any trees in advance on-line as early as you can to avoid disappointment. Friends can then email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for their 30% rebate. Varieties available are listed via our on-line shop. Don’t forget that trees and guards, ‘Strulch’ mulch and Friends membership can make good gifts!