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Garden Newsletter: February

Time to start on the Newsletters again! Although looking outside at present – grey skies and heavy rain – you might doubt whether it’s time to start gardening again! In fact the regular weekly volunteers have been coming throughout January. Taking a short break from Newsletter writing doesn’t mean that the volunteer gardening has stopped!

The recent high winds and rain have brought down quite a few trees, including a very large beech tree across the footpath at the bottom of the hanger, a willow across the field centre gates, one trunk of a large ash tree near the bonfire, several small trees broken in the adjacent area, and three large maples in the park, as well as tearing pieces of many other trees.  The most recent storm was on Saturday 25th January – I was down on the coast at Langstone and so missed much of the ferocity of the storm as it passed across Alton, Selborne, Petersfield, and Southampton. The A3 was blocked with fallen trees, as was the London Waterloo to Portsmouth main train line.

It’s interesting to note Gilbert White’s comments in his Naturalist’s Journal about the weather 250 years ago:

At the start of the year (1764) he makes the following observation:

This year begins as the former concluded with continual heavy rains, & vast floods. There has indeed been little else but wet weather (a few short intervals excepted) ever since the 29th June.

And then on the 31st January 1764 (nearly exactly 250 years before I compiled this newsletter), he goes on to describe the weather:

Vast rains, & storms of wind. Prodigious inundations all over England, Holland & Germany.

What’s new??!!

In the six quarters we are beginning to prune the old roses. There isn’t much colour, so what there is immediately attracts attention. The orange berries of the stinking Gladwin (Iris foetidissima) stand out in the grey dampness, as do the bright yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) flowers beneath the tulip tree. At the last count there were 43, but there’s hopefully more to come… this time last year there were 47, so no great change. There are still red berries on the prickly dark green plants of the Butchers Broom, and the snowdrops are starting to bloom under the tulip tree – here they are mainly double. I won’t go on at any length about snowdrops here, as I am preparing a short article in the next few days which hopefully will go up on the web site soon. Watch that space!

The snowdrops are just beginning to open their buds – there are large drifts all over Bakers Hill: Arnold has arranged the hoops of hazel to mark the path up through them for the spring. They will, of course, be followed by daffodils, fritillaries and wild tulips. The shrubs at the bottom of the orchard walk look like they have red berries, but in fact these are the fallen berries from the cotoneaster overhead. Confusing for a second! At the top of the walk, the last of the dead walnut tree has removed, and we have erected new screens to block the view of the parked gardeners’ vehicles.

So here is this month’s selection of the hundreds of jobs to be done in the garden  

  • Pump out pond water and clear away surplus bulrush and bog bean
  • Finish cutting Yew hedges
  • Finish cutting hedges on Bakers Hill
  • Fit last dipping platform in the pond when possible
  • Re-assemble rear frame by barn
  • When feasible, Clear cutting beds and rotavate, adding compost
  • Attach fixings for greengage on Fruit Wall
  • Cut out old rasp canes & Weed pits in orchard walk
  • Cut down Elder plants in pond garden
  • Plant new Quincunx
  • Prune right hand vine in herb garden
  • Weeding & Cutting down in herb garden
  • Tidy up and replace damaged signs in the plant sales area
  • Clear old hot bed & make a new one when feasible
  • Clear cornfield weeds area in pond garden and lightly rotavate
  • Sow wild flower seeds in pond garden
  • Take ivy off the house near kitchen (ass Lynne first for access)
  • Continue to clear away tree seedlings etc next to the new field centre
  • Mend fence in park when large beech has been removed.
  • Plant a new hedge of holly/maple/thorn & hazel near car park & maintenance area
  • Move/ make new fence to protect new hedges near car park

……..and much, much more!