A View from the Garden Gate Project: Stonehenge dahlias, Asian hornets, plantings and crafts ahead of autumn open day

The Garden Gate team

By Nick Condron

Yet again, our cherished community has shared in an enormously constructive and creative past month in the midst of our green haven here at the Garden Gate Project, which if you don’t already know is located within the walls of the old Northdown House kitchen garden at Friend’s Corner, Northdown Park Road, Cliftonville, CT9 3TP.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Julie, Kathy and everyone else that made, donated and joined in eating all the cakes on our Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Morning on 28th September, which successfully raised £113.50.

Meanwhile, our intrepid Garden Manager Paul rode his bicycle all the way from London Victoria Station to Land’s End to mark his birthday. Along the way, he reported back that he’d encountered the revival of the Stonehenge Dahlia Shows after a hiatus of 180 years, being held from 29th September to 1st October.

Dating back to 31st August 1842 when the craze first took off, the passion for dahlias focused primarily on the beauty of the blooms that were only introduced here from Mexico as recently as 1798. Their rapid hybridisation into an array of colours and shapes and the trend towards alfresco entertainment during the nineteenth century, only added to the huge enthusiasm which saw up to 10,000 visitors gathering each time. It’s amazing what you come across when you set off exploring around the country and congratulations to Paul for achieving his impressive goal right on schedule!

Back here at the Garden, in light of several confirmed sightings of the invasive non-native Asian hornet in Kent, we have posted signs displaying details about how to identify and report them using the Asian Hornet Watch Phone App. They are particularly problematic as they can wipe out native bee colonies and destabilise the precious balance of our valuable ecosystem. Please keep an eye out for any that may appear in your own garden and report them appropriately.

Meanwhile, although many of our trees are still looking surprisingly green for the time of year, our autumn leaf raking is well underway as we once again begin the process of composting the next cycle of leaf mulch. We have also been busy planting out hundreds of foxglove seedlings for a big floral show of stately spires to illuminate our shadier corners come spring; as well as our beloved ruby and gold wallflowers; and some autumn sown Nigella ‘Love-in-a-mist’ in order to get the plants well established by next year. And having noticed that our geraniums seem to be under stress due to rust, we’ve taken plenty of cuttings to ensure that all is not lost on that front!

We’ve had a bumper crop of juicy, organic tomatoes and cucumbers which have been turned into chutney by Julie and our lovely co-workers. Plus, we were delighted to supply a crate of the latter to Jenny & Dominic at the new NYC-style Sub Rosa Bagel shop located in the heart of Margate’s Old Town at 24 King’s Street. Good luck guys, your bagels taste great!

We are especially looking forward to trying our ever-dependable Crown Prince squash as they’re fast ripening up now, and we hope to make a delicious and warming soup for our Falling Leaves Autumn Art & Craft Fair which is to be held on Saturday 28th of October.

In preparation, we’ve been making all sorts of curiosities ahead of the big day. Conker has been teaching us how to make apple and blackberry vinegar using a still. Some of us have been up-cycling sea shells with pretty, intricate painted patterns. Whilst others have been recycling shredded paper, to turn it back into reusable handmade paper which we’ve dyed with beetroot juice and decorated with herbs and flowers picked from the garden.

In the art cabin, the team have translated their doodling prowess into making some beautiful greeting cards. Whilst fragrant lavender bags have been made with the seed heads that were previously harvested and dried.

We’ll be open from midday until 3 pm, offering all our familiar favourites and we look forward to seeing as many of you that can make it as possible. Until then, do pop in if you’re passing; enjoy the golden light of autumn and above all, happy gardening!