By Nick Condron
With the start of September, autumn has seemingly crept up on us while we await a final burst of summer. According to Paul, the appearance of the white Cyclamen hederifolium is among the most reliable signals of its approach. Yet, as ever, there’s no resisting the changing seasons and here in the Garden we find ourselves immersed in a multitude of tasks, responding to the myriad natural shifts taking place.
We’re fortunate to have been joined by Olivia, a guest volunteer from Alvdal, Norway, who has a degree in plant science and is keen to gain some practical gardening experience with us and also at Goodnestone Park Gardens near Canterbury.
She tells me that the short three-month growing season and challenging weather at home can make it very difficult to garden year-round. On her return, she plans to acquire a polytunnel to help her grow the fruit, vegetables and flowers she intends to supply for the historic hotel that she runs with her parents.
Today, she’s working alongside Angela and Jane to give some of the potted plants we sell on our open days a much-needed tidy by weeding the cold frames, trimming off the old browned leaves, and dividing up some of the perennials. She’s also lending a welcome hand by pricking out some of the many foxglove and wallflower seedlings that we’ve recently germinated.
Elsewhere in the garden, tidying seems to be a recurring theme amongst other members of our team. Mel and Conker tell me they’ve been pruning away all the old raspberry canes to get the plants ready for next year’s fresh growth. Mel laughs as she says, “I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment, so it made me feel good and I avoided catching my thumb in the secateurs!”
Chatting over lunch, Michael proudly says he’s been “edging, watering, sowing seeds and helping to move tables around for events and mowing” and that he “feels good because of the achievement.” Daniel cheerfully says that the garden, “feels like a holiday!” Lee tells me he’s been, “cleaning all the weeds out from between the paving stones,” and he’s done an excellent job of it too!
Aaron has been enjoying watering all the tomatoes, which he says are “really good this year,” and judging by how delicious they taste he’s right! Brian and Michael have been keeping on top of their regular mowing of the grass, which has benefitted from the recent rain and is looking particularly green for the time of year.
In our craft corner, Rachelle has kindly dropped in again to support Linda, Charley and our doodlers with their pattern-making and colouring. Tammy and Maxine say they have both really enjoyed their morning’s work. Laura says that it “makes her feel good” and that she “enjoys the colours…pink’s my favourite colour and I like drawing flowers.” Karen proclaims “This place is happy and cheerful!” It’s really wonderful to see how stimulating and fulfilling the workshops have been for those taking part.
If you’re thinking of popping in over the next few weeks, it’s a good time to make the most of all the produce we’ll have available. There are plenty of bean varieties, our tasty tomatoes, the ripening sweet corn and much else besides.
Ollie has been harvesting our Duke of York potatoes and grading them by size. He’s thrown all the green ones and those full of bug holes on the compost heap, leaving a couple of crates for everyone to enjoy. He’s already sampled some mashed and one in its jacket with butter and reports that they taste “fresh and earthy, and very much of potato!” What more could you want from a garden?
Finally, Paul was delighted to receive our Margate Mayor’s Community Award in the Green Space category from Mayor Cllr Rob Yates at a community picnic and ceremony last month, held at the beautiful Sunken Garden in Westbrook. We were so proud to be included alongside so many other deserving local community groups who do so much for Margate.