By Nick Condron
As we begin June with our very own Platinum Jubilee tea party, the garden is looking royally splendid as it moves into summer.
Surveying the vegetable beds, Art says: “What’s lovely about this time of year is that everything’s bursting out. We’ve had the first flush of asparagus, which was quite late this year because of the cool, dry weather through March and April. Then the globe artichokes and the broad beans planted last autumn are ready for picking.
“So we’re starting to get produce off the garden now, which is absolutely fantastic. And we’ll shortly be turning over the first of the first earlies just to see if we’ve got any potatoes in there, which I’m sure we have. Plus it’s the time when you’re putting everything else into the ground such as the sweet corn, the courgettes, the squash, marrow, pumpkins, the runner and French beans, which have all gone in very quickly over the last three to four weeks.
“It’s a time of huge busy-ness around the garden, but equally you get the rain and you’ve got the grass to cut, and the weeds to weed. We’ve observed ‘No Mow May’ on the big Mountford Circles as we call them. And amazingly, around the pond all the dragonfly larvae are starting to hatch now which is fabulous. So everything’s coming alive, which is good. And I think it’s all that excitement of the drive of spring in full flow now and really edging into summer. But we could probably do with a bit more warmth!”
In the polytunnel, Zena tells me: “I’ve been busy repotting all the succulents, because we sold so many at the Open Day, and putting in some more lettuce, herb, and courgette seeds so we have a constant turnover. What I like to do when I’m here is to have a walk all around the garden, starting at the pond, going through the woods and the polytunnels, along the back and finishing up looking at the roses and the herb garden last. Then you know what’s going on and you see that the things that you’ve planted all those months ago have actually come up, because I lose track of it once it’s left the polytunnel.
“There are some white foxgloves over there that I planted probably two or three years ago, which ended up being filmed for a Hunter Garden Wear sponsored advert for the local Mahal Kita Flower Studio that was shot in the garden a couple of weeks ago. Then there are all the vegetables that I’ve put in, that have gone out to be planted now. I’ve been sowing plants since last October or November.” Summing up what the garden means to her after twenty years of volunteering, Zena says, “Peace, and it’s not like quiet peace, but actual peace.”
As rewilded and more naturalistic gardens garner particular attention at the recent Chelsea Flower Show and in light of ever increasing environmental awareness, this is perhaps an especially salient point for those of us minded to garden with an ever lighter touch. Here in the garden we like to think we’ve got a pretty good balance.
Garden manager Paul says: “We always try to leave areas that are under cultivated to do what they do, and to mix a lot of pollinating flowers in with vegetables to encourage pollination.”
And judging by the large number of bees efficiently busying themselves around our developing raspberries at the moment, it’s working!