Early Summer, more jobs than hours in the day! Looking round the garden, winter damage is now just a memory with the storm-damaged trees safely felled during the winter and any remaining roots removed by the mini-digger before new growth began. Barry’s second bridge has been installed on the bottom pond with significant volunteer help and muscle. The bridge sits well, giving more focus to the island with the added bonus of easier access for all year planting and care. One or two of this season’s early sculptures are already looking at home here. More work is needed around this wilder area but we have already made a good start. Replanting will continue as the time-critical nursery work is completed.
Thinking about the nursery, tree sales this winter have been better than ever before and highlight that the nursery is an important part of our income, coming at a time of year when visitor numbers and admissions are necessarily low. However, it mustn’t be forgotten that the nursery also fulfils a research and conservation function within our core charity objectives. As part of that we experiment and fine-tune propagation methods and raise wild-provenance trees for the arboretum and for distribution to other botanic gardens.
In addition to sales, this year, 20 birch trees were donated to West Devon Borough Council, Tavistock, 180 were planted around the new path leading into June’s field and the rest replanted in the top nursery. This is part of our longer-term plan to support the new arboretum planting with our own trees and increase funds for wider planting though more tree sales. Our stock of 2-3 year old trees has now filled the top nursery and our current polytunnel nursery will not be able to hold all the next year’s new grafts. Decisions will be needed for next season.
Beautiful as they are, deer are becoming a problem in the garden as their numbers increase. They are also getting bolder and even venture into the tea garden. I have been collecting photo evidence on the trail camera and looking at ways to deter them while working out a strategy to protect the plants and trees for the future. I am open to suggestions!
Estate news, the top car park is now useable all year and in all weathers, keeping the main yard freer of traffic and much safer for us all when working or visiting. The small amount of matting remaining can make a drivable track down to the stage area so equipment can be driven closer to the stage for our summer theatre performance in August.
Our roadside hedges are cut by Friend and neighbour, David Slocombe, with the remainder left for a more wildlife-friendly management strategy. Broadening our scope, Pru kindly organised a hedge-layer to visit, to discuss teaching hedge laying skills to our volunteers. We hope to add this and other skills inputs to our Garden offerings.
In the new arboretum, with Annabel Crowley’s professional help, we are gradually moving towards the potential pathways and planting from Duncan’s Concept Plan. Alec Robinson and his team removed some old tree stumps behind the staff car park, tea garden, Salter and Easter Woods. Their careful work means these areas are already back in use, reseeded with wildflowers and grass. This work supports our next task in the new arboretum which is to create a path to take visitors into Kenneth’s field to a viewpoint, and then wind down and back into Salter Wood and the Tea garden. This work will be gradual and sensitive to the needs of plants, wildlife and good neighbours. As screening grows, we will be able to open more of this area to the public. The hidden risks are being removed eg old fencing, barbed wire and trip hazards from the area so that we can work safely.
As the garden changes we need to adapt the signs so that visitors can move around safely and easily. Our aim is to provide the information visitors need with as little visual intrusion as possible, to keep the simplicity and sense of quiet we all enjoy. Once the new signs are in place we can move the self-service admission to the small kiosk by the Tea Room and use the current visitor reception for displaying other information.
Assistant gardener: Volunteers continue to do a great job of helping maintain the garden, nursery and estate infrastructure but the garden has reached a stage where we need to employ an assistant gardener to help meet the growing work-load. Our ideal applicant would be a local person who would benefit from ‘on the job’ training with me and supplemented by distance learning. We hope we may be able to find some external funding for this position. Volunteer fund raiser Chris Griffiths and I have recently applied to the RHS Flourish fund which may be appropriate, especially as we are a partner garden. We will find out in July but would appoint sooner if the right person comes along. Please get in touch if you are interested or see more info in this link.
My thanks once again to Chagford, Sticklepath and Okehampton conservation groups who helped us to clear the derelict fencing and will help with future hedge maintenance. Plus an extra cheer for those who were able to come back for an extra visit, following an urgent short notice plea from me, to help plant the last trees at the entrance to June’s field – much appreciated.
Research will continue on the trial of the Trichoderma fungus product from Swiss company Myco solutions now that Spring is fully here. This could be a very interesting project for the right volunteer, with some work hands on and some remote. If you know someone who may be interested in working with me on this project, please get in touch.
Finally, my Greenland Expedition
I am very pleased to report that my much-delayed 2020 Greenland Expedition will finally be going ahead in August this year! This is the ideal time and ‘window’ to study the plants while they are still in leaf, but with fruits that are far enough advanced to have viable seed. This is a very exciting plant study expedition to the Qinngua valley of Southern Greenland, which contains Greenland’s only natural forest. A Polish dendrologist and I will be studying and collecting seed of Birch, Alder, Willow, and any other interesting and unusual species. It is likely that in such an isolated area, species have evolved with local differences to species found elsewhere, which will be interesting to study and add to our knowledge. Greenland is not served by roads, so travel will be complicated and involve helicopters, boats, pack-rafts and plenty of hiking. I look forward to reporting back and perhaps hosting one or two update afternoons or evenings at the garden in the Autumn.