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Volunteers' Blog - August & September 2019

Over the past couple of months the number of Volunteers working in the Garden, in any one week, was often reduced to a mere handful.  Friends would disappear only to reappear a week or so later to regale us with tales of children or more often grandchildren or far flung places visited.  However, despite diminished numbers, much has been achieved.

The planters around the outdoor seating area have been wonderful this year. To keep them looking their best, Volunteers have regularly smartened them up, removing the dead flowerheads and thereby forcing the plants to put their energy into producing more flowers, rather than growing fruits and seeds. It is not only the planters that have been splendid this year, the wildflower meadows next to the pond and adjacent to the lawn have also been a riot of colour. We always like to keep this spot tidy as it is where we relax and enjoy our refreshments after all that hard work!  Another area that has been tidied is the Children’s Garden. This sheltered area outside Mike’s Office, with its sunflower maze, vegetable beds, Wendy House and watering cans for the children to tend the plants was looking somewhat neglected.  It is said that ‘many hands make light work’ but this is not always true, as the small team of Volunteers demonstrated.  The yew leaves that covered the ground were soon brushed away, the grass and other weeds between the blockwork were removed and the planters, like those in the seating area, were smartened up.I’m sure the children will have appreciated our efforts.

As we were leaving the Garden one morning, we met a couple who were extremely concerned by the amount of Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) that was present in the Woodland Garden. They explained that they had taken over a garden a few years ago and had spent a considerable amount of time pulling juvenile Himalayan balsam plants to remove them. This invasive weed was introduced into Britain in 1839 and has now become naturalised. Each plant can produce 800 seeds, according to the RHS website, and spreads easily particularly along watercourses. When ripe, the seed cases open explosively, as is the case at this time of year, ejecting seeds up to 22 feet from the parent plant. Due to its vigorous growth, where it becomes established, it shades existing plants reducing the diversity of our native flora. Perhaps I should not encourage this but, I have found that uninitiated children, young and not so young, can be made to squeal in surprise if invited to touch ripe pods. Something to entertain grandchildren on an autumnal walk?  According to the couple we met, the best way to remove this plant, without resorting to chemical control, is to pull juvenile plants before they flower or set seed. It would seem that the Volunteers have another task to add to the list.

As Autumn approaches, we turned our attention to Spring bulbs. In preparation for next year, we removed the top layer of compost from last year’s planters until we could just feel the top of the narcissus bulbs that were contained within.  Having removed the old compost and weeds, a layer of fresh compost was applied and the bulbs left to provide us with what we trust will be a wonderful show next Spring.

In the continuing narrative of the Monarda ‘Bee Balm’ plants; after many months of nurturing, the plants were finally ready to plant out in mid-August. The transplanted seedlings have received excellent care from Mike’s team and have now reached two feet in height, with some already in flower.  All the plants were planted close, but not too close for obvious reasons, to the beehive where it is hoped they will provide nourishment for the bees for many years to come. That is, so long as the rabbits don’t notice them!

Alex Taylor.