Elford Hall Gardens – Newsletter 62 – April 2022

April News

March brought us a taste of ‘proper’ spring with temperatures close to what would be appropriate for Maytime, but as the month drew to a close,  cooler, wetter, windier days returned with a vengeance.   This pattern has continued into April with unfortunate flurries of snow to add to the picture.   Plants and wildlife will have been tested by the return to the coolness – magnolias and camellias looked glorious initially but didn’t fare well in the frosts.   Our garden hedgehog took to wondering when the warmth arrived but hasn’t been seen since the frosts returned so I hope she’s hunkered down somewhere safe and warm!   At least the sun – when we see it – has some warmth about it.

Smashing Spring Splendour

In these miserable times of rising prices, rising virus infection and rising tension in Europe, it is uplifting to wander quietly through the walled garden and to imagine some normality in life (as we used to know it).   Spring is a great season for lifting the spirits and for offering some hope of better things to come.   Strolling through the garden last weekend was delight for me and the camera was really busy!   A sample of the sights on show can be seen below.  Not visited recently?   Get down there if you can as these delights will soon be faded jewels!

Above left, in the riverside woods, the wild daffodils are putting on a great show – soon to be followed by bluebells.    In the Giant’s Garden the forsythia is in full bloom, early tulips are about to flower and the hyacinths have been spectacular in their colour this spring.   Everywhere, plants are waking up and readying themselves for summer .

The daffodils around the orchard (above left) have again been great to see.   Here you see them beneath a mass of catkins, which have also impressed this year.   The early plum blossom is beginning to colour up and the remaining trees in the orchard will be in full flower within the next few weeks and will be attracting our busy bees.   It really will be spectacular!

During my stroll around,  I experienced a new delight!   I have recently had my  hearing aids replaced so I was able to enjoy the beautiful cacophony of birdsong again.   Butterflies were in evidence already and the insects were being busy around the early flowering plants.   I came away with a spring in my step (please excuse the pun!).

Craftsman Still Turning Cartwheels

Building an ancient farm cart virtually from scratch using traditional methods can’t be rushed and is a treat to be savoured during the process.   I think it’s fair to say the Dave Watton is really enjoying the challenge – and rising to it!  The 4 wheels are now rebuilt and some have already had their steel rims fitted.   New leaf springs have arrived and await fitting and work has begun on the wooden flat bed of the cart.   I’m not quite sure what function this part below plays but the hand carving is both creative and impressive.   Well done Dave!

Everything’s coming up roses…

Well, in truth, it’s the daffodils that are creating the spectacle at the moment but the roses are shooting strongly and the first flowering promises to be good!   The tables are in place in this perfumed sun-trap waiting for visitors to enjoy coffee from Vicky’s Camioncito which is now at the garden every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 -2.30 and until 3.30 on Sundays.

Ex-seedingly – good work

Behind the house in the plant nursery, Carol and Dorothy are working their green fingers to the bone sowing seeds, getting seedlings ready for planting out and rooting cuttings for sales or for planting out.   It’s a busy time for everyone…..

The grass is growing now that it’s a bit warmer, so mowing is beginning to take up some of Sue Clarke’s time and this will demand more input as the weeks roll on.   The rose garden above has already had its first cut and looks much smarter for it!

Having constructed the new gates to the materials store area (above left), Steve Clarke is now putting the final touches to make it look the business.   Can’t wait to see the mural when it’s finished!

As the soil slowly warms up, allotment holders have been busy preparing their plots.   With soaring prices, their produce this year will not only taste better but it will be cheaper too.   We try hard to be organic and environmentally friendly here at the Walled Garden.   Allotment organiser Terry Jones reminds me that the government ban on metaldehyde slug pellets came into effect at the end of March 2021 and a ban on use in March 2022.  This is because metaldehyde poses a serious risk to birds and mammals.  The toxins can also find their way into rivers,  posing wider harm to the environment and other wildlife. There have even been cases of dogs ingesting pellets leading to sickness and even death.

Good News from the RHS

Regular readers will know of our annual entries in the Royal Horticultural Society ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ event (where we do really well).   As a result, I’m now being sent a monthly news bulletin which is really interesting and informative AND IT’S FREE!   If I can keep my wits about me, I’ll attach the latest edition to my email.   At the end of the bulletin, it offers you the chance to sign up for your own free copy so if you are interested……

Another Brick in the Wall…..

Volunteers bring with them all manner of skills and knowledge to add to the project team.   A case in point is Phil Kellett who is a skilled bricklayer, which is exactly what is needed at a walled garden.   Now that frosts are less likely, Phil has been able to turn his attention to the crumbling brickwork in the vine house.   It is an interesting historical feature and Phil is blessed with the skills to do a ‘proper job’ of restoration.

Above is just a sample of his excellent work ‘in progress’.   The walls at either end are now secure and looking tidy and the steps are safe for volunteers tending the plants to use with confidence.   More of this in future editions….

And while we are mentioning special skills, to the left is Charlie Smith who is one of our Duke of Edinburgh’s volunteers.   He chose woodworking skills as one of his DofE elements.   Having already made a nesting box and a bat box, he has just finished restoring this old tool chest which belonged to his great great grandfather.   I bet the old chap would be proud as punch!

Keep your eyes on the boules…..

June and Roger have just announced the dates for Boules evenings this year.   Anyone is welcome to attend – equipment is available to borrow – and usually attendees bring a picnic.   It isn’t a serious affair – it’s basically a social evening with a bit of petanque thrown in – so no expertise is expected!   Come along and give it a try any time after 6pm on these Friday evenings:

29th April,  13th & 27th May,  10th & 14th June,  8th & 22nd July,  5th & 19th August and    2nd & 16th September

June writes “We will be very pleased to see you all again, with your drinks and nibbles for an enjoyable social get together, say from 6.00 pm onwards.   Please remember, you are of course free to use the boules courts at any time, not just at the suggested dates/times”.

That’s all from me folks….

I hope that you have found this contribution both informative and interesting.   More from me in June but in the meantime, try to get down to the garden and enjoy what our volunteers have created.

Best wishes,    Roger