Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden & Orchard
November: Ninth Roman month (novem, Latin for 9). Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, skipping 10 days that October, correcting too many leap years. The Anglo Saxons called November ‘wind monath’ because it was when the cold breezes of winter set in. We have already had a hailstorm, and our first frost. The upside is that the frost picks out the fine detail on lichens and mosses; the downside is that the big bed of dahlias in the Kitchen Garden are now as black as the Tuscan Kale (Cavolo nero) which is strutting its stuff, together with Swiss Chard of many colours and a beetroot coloured Kohl Rabi. The caterpillars on the winter brassicas have had a nasty shock, but the sterling volunteers are well wrapped up.
I prepared 9-cell trays and pricked out ‘a few’ wallflower seedlings for bedding out next year in the formal gardens.
I never got round to sorting the used pots out at the time of the RHS Show, as I have done over the past 12 years. Now all the pots (estimated north of 200) used during the year are randomly mixed and gathered together in one big heap, forming a very striking modern art installation in the Frame Yard. I ‘recruited’ a ‘willing helper’ and we spent a very cold day initially sorting the pots into sizes and then into the different patterns on the base. It will take at least another two days to get them all sorted and in good order, ready for use next year. We could be some time…… [Postscript: In fact it took the two of us three whole days, 28 man-hours – we have decided after 12 years of doing this to desist in future.] Most of the rest of the Team were sweeping up leaves from the Orchard and gathering the last of the apples. Others were in the Kitchen Garden sweeping the paths and digging up vegetables for use in the Restaurant and Café: Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapaceum), Salsify (or Salsafy) Tragopogon porrifolius, Scorzonera hispanica [Be sure to wear surgical gloves when preparing Salsify and Scorzonera or your fingers may be stained black.] Also Parsnips (Peucedanum or Pastinaca sativa). My mind loves to play with the word Pastinaca for some reason.
St Andrew’s Day (30 November) was bright and sunny, although only +2to4C; the winter midges were back-lit and amusingly doing an aerial highland fling above yellowing leaves.
December: Julian (Roman) calendar year’s tenth month (decem, Latin for 10). The Oak trees seem to be hanging onto their leaves later this year. Hopefully when we return in the New Year they will all be covered in snow so we can delay gathering 500 large sacks of Oak leaves for the Pineapple House until it is a bit warmer?
Our last working day started frosty but remained sunny. Ferns used in the show garden were finally potted up and put in their winter quarters. Once the frost had gone from the Kitchen Garden digging and manuring was rhythmically carried out.
Mid December sees the Volunteers’ Christmas Lunch, this year hosted by the Orchid House Stewards. As usual it was a most enjoyable occasion and a chance to see and chat with members of the other volunteer teams.
Well, this is the end of my (still) long distance loneliness of (again) being the only blogger on the Grapevine for 2013. I do thank everyone who had the kindness to say they enjoyed my Musings through the year and for them I shall continue in 2014. I know you are all busy people, but in 2014 I would like to have a bit of company here and to read the observations of other gardeners about the gardens they love to work in. Believe me- it is not hard to write a few lines once a week. I close with the following:
Quote by a Mr Reardon Smith of Joe Parham House, Essex: “Gardeners should not be control freaks; they should be passionate and imaginative, knowing when to step back and let things evolve.”
From an old Chambers Almanac: “January is the gate of the year, now open to let in the lengthening daylight.”