Winter in the garden is a quieter time, when we can tackle the jobs that we haven’t time for in the growing season. Fewer visitors also means we can get some of the heavier work undertaken. Brambles have been cleared from many areas around the garden and ditches/streams cleared of debris. We removed overhanging branches from several large trees in the border hedges, helping our plants and trees thrive. Several trees were blown down in gales. They were all suffering, and close inspection of the broken and rotten roots suggested honey fungus as the cause. These were all processed and removed from the garden.
We have worked to renovate the area above the bottom pond. Verity and I transplanted several Bog Myrtle (Mirica Gale) from another part of the garden and also split and replanted a large grass and a Giant Rhubarb (Rheum).
We continue to spread our snowdrops around the garden, by splitting the larger clumps and replanting them over an ever-expanding area.
Our paths and bridges require regular maintenance, and we have undertaken some path repair and replaced timber on one of the bridges.
Research We are carrying out ongoing propagation trials, to improve our methods for tree production. Dan Crowley of Westonbirt (National Arboretum of the Forestry Commission) visited the garden recently. He is involved in tree conservation work for Westonbirt and BGCI. He is a useful contact for us, as we strive to play a useful role in ex-situ conservation work, something we proved with our successful Megrelian birch project (Georgia).
Nursery Tree sales have been reasonably good this winter, with several local orders for large numbers of trees. Sadly many of last years grafts grew too leggy, being confined to the polytunnel in the drought. So they were too tall to ship as ‘small’ trees this winter and had to be taken off the shop. However, they will be good to sell as ‘medium’ trees next winter. Our grafter received this year’s grafting material in late January and I expect to hear how successful he has been in the next few weeks. With the alders, we undertook a lot of hardwood cutting propagation in March and also carried out some layering. We await the results of that work with interest. We will soon start germinating the majority of the Greenland seeds, which will be very exciting!
Finally, in preparation for the Spring, we are busy lifting all the unsold trees in the nursery and lining them back out ready for another year of growth.
Estate The pedestrian gate on the way into the yard from the car park was considered a hazard as people occasionally tripped over the sill (you had to step over it). We have now made a new pedestrian gate and farm gate, removing the hazard. A brand new gate would have cost £400 minimum, so by re-using existing materials we saved the charity some cash. This is a principle we apply wherever we can around the estate.
New Arboretum Several trees died during the drought last year. These have now been replaced. We have also ordered in the materials we need for new plantings in the new arboretum.We have just received about 40 trees from our Trustee Keith, mostly originating from Keith’s expeditions. These will go into the new arboretum. The majority are seldom seen in the UK, so will be of future interest to visitors and botanists, as well as being lovely trees in their own right.
Sculpture Exhibition We will be removing the few sculptures that are still left from last year’s exhibition, with the winner going to a new site on the estate.
Volunteer Barry has made a metal tray that can be fitted on the 3 point linkage of the tractor to help with lifting and transporting heavy pieces. This will be good for everyone’s backs!
Visitor experience The signs my brother printed for us have mostly been erected around the car park and yard.
With the moving of the Admissions kiosk to the top of the yard, visitors cannot fail to see how to pay and it is a more obvious and welcoming arrangement. I am arranging for a 3D map of the yard area to be created by the same artist who designed the map in the car park. This can go next to the admissions kiosk. Anna and I will also discuss how best to make use of the old admissions area.
Staff and volunteers Verity, our new trainee assistant gardener has proved a real asset. She has been learning grafting, hardwood cuttings, layering, seed sowing, vegetative splitting, principles of pruning, using hand tools, lifting and planting trees, tree packing, botany, using 2 stroke and 4 stroke petrol engines, using rotavator, Health & Safety.
Chagford Conservation Group very kindly spent another session at the garden, clearing out the bottom pond and de-silting the silt trap, among other useful tasks.
Our regular volunteers are back on a Friday. They are all doing a a great job and we have also welcomed Sally’s new puppy Po. Sadly it looks unlikely that Simon will be re-joining as a volunteer. He has worked tirelessly and with a very positive spirit for a long time and is sorely missed. But circumstances of his employment mean he can no longer spare the time to volunteer.