MAY&JUNE 2014 MUSINGS by Maz
Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire
Hurrah, Hurrah, for the First of May …. (I’ll let you guess what I was going to say!) The Hawthorn hedges lining the lanes on the way to work are a delight to behold. We can ‘cast our clout now the May be out’. However, in the 1700s May the month was still quite cold, so clouts weren’t cast until the end of the month. The word Hawthorn comes from the old English word ‘haga’ meaning enclosure (as by hedging). Hawthorn was thought to ward off evil and was hung by doors and windows.
Pricking out of bedding plants continues apace, and we are rapidly running out of room and nine-cell trays. Runner beans are being planted out in engineering precision rows of canes. (We have at least one engineer among our number on Tuesdays). Weeds are enjoying the moisture and warmth and are also growing defiantly well.
The red, white and black currant beds are being thoroughly weeded and will then be dressed with straw to conserve moisture to encourage good fruiting. The gooseberry bushes are next for the weeders to work their magic, followed by the raspberry rows.
A pair of ducks has nested in the damp corner of the Rhubarb Walk. Mother Duck and her entourage of nine/ten ducklings (moving too fast to properly count) patrol the Kitchen Garden and Orchard to the delight of the volunteers and visitors.
The Swallows and Swifts are returning, swooping over the Orchard and the Stable Yard. This Yard also houses a Carousel, originally steam driven, but now powered by a splendid diesel contraption which generates electricity to drive the ‘merry-go-round’ during school holidays. Whilst it is a delight to the day visitors, the staff hate it because the loud music, which is on a perforated sheet loop, has not changed in at least 12 years. We find it hard to chat when we are in the Bothy for lunch. We all wish the operator could find another sheet loop of different jolly music.
Whit holiday fun for the children sees a Bee Trail round the Gardens, organised by the Education Department. The squeals of the children when they find a large papier mache Bee hidden in the trees are a delight, and almost drown out the Carousel.
National Volunteer Week in June sees the National Trust Volunteers rewarded for 5, 10, 15 and 20 years service. The achievements of members of the other days’ teams of volunteers were recognised. This year several of the Tuesday Team (my team) received awards, including the special needs married couple, Kathryn & Stephen who received their 10 Year Award. They were so proud, as were their family and their fellow volunteers of their achievement. After the presentations the participants were given a conducted tour of the Formal Gardens by the Head Gardener.
Seeds for the American Garden plantings were sown; these will be over wintered and planted out next year, provided the rabbits are persuaded to go elsewhere. We have found that supposedly rabbit-proof grasses (Panicum) planted last year were no match for the Tatton nibblers. Hopefully they don’t like Echinaceas and Eupatorium.
The hedgerows on the lanes to work are now festooned with wild pink and also white Roses, plus Elder flowers, with skirts of Ox-eye Daisies and Cow Parsley. Blackberries are in flower, as is the pungent Ransomes, wild garlicking the warm air.
Good weather brings lots of school parties, visitors and organised garden groups and many seem to come to the Glasshouse at regular intervals to ask how to get to the Italian Garden and also into the Fernery, Show House and Conservatory. Either the garden maps are not clear or the signage, if we have to redirect a dozen or more times.
The Staff Midsummer Barbeque, to which the volunteers were invited, was good and some folk tried their skills at Segway driving; I’m banned due to my metal hips.
Tatton Park has been crowned Best Large Visitor Attraction in the country by the prestigious Visit England Awards. More than 300 attractions competed.
I spent a whole day potting up an assortment of weeds. No, I have not ‘lost the plot’; these are for the WWI Trench part of our Show Garden at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show next month. The Groundwork Team will soon be here and the deer will have to move to a quieter part of the Parkland