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Well this year is getting off to an unexpectedly bumpy start. A week ago we were looking forward to an incredibly busy few months with lots of students on lots of courses, including a fully booked eight-week Introduction to Garden Design and our fourth, fully booked ten-week Certificate in Practical Horticulture. Instead we are emailing everyone to postpone the start of every course indefinitely. We are optimistic that ‘indefinitely’ will mean sometime in late February or early March, but in the meantime the Walled Garden gates are closed to students and the classroom is empty. We are very sad indeed, but hopeful that these will be the final weeks of major disruption caused by this awful pandemic.
Happily nature is not on hold. Plants take no notice of lockdown and even in the depths of winter and Covid gloom there are new signs of life out in the garden. There are narcissi, bluebells and snowdrop leaves pushing up through the grass or in the midst of otherwise dormant borders. And there are buds on many shrubs and trees. All of this speaks of spring around the corner and of the irrepressible optimism of nature.
We have been out in the garden a couple of times this week, sweeping up more leaves, raking them gently off borders, being careful not to damage any bulbs which are just appearing. We have also cut down some more collapsed perennials. Persicaria which the frost has well and truly finished off and some top-heavy cardoons, toppled by the wind. In amongst them we have found seed heads full of sprouting seeds which we will put into plug trays next week.
We have also been in the Rhino greenhouse. It is really important at this time of year to open the greenhouse regularly on all but the frostiest of days in order to maintain air movement. Otherwise you may find – as we have – some botrytis on your seedlings. We neglected the greenhouse for a week over Christmas and have paid for our neglect with some grey, rotted seedlings which we have removed this week, while giving the greenhouse a good airing. On cold grey days the automatic vents never lift to allow the air in, so the daily door opening is essential at the moment.
The wetter days this week have given us the chance to make plans for seed sowing and other jobs this month and next. We’ll be ordering more seeds and will keep you posted on progress.
We may not have any upcoming courses this month or next, but we will open again soon, and if you know someone who needs cheering up you could always give them a gift voucher for a future course. Get in touch to find out more.
Plant of the Week
Chimonanthus praecox is a deciduous shrub originating in China with a bushy, much-branched habit. In winter it has highly fragrant flowers which are solitary or in small groups, borne on leafless branches at the joints of the previous summer's growth. At this time of year you may pass it and notice the scent before you notice the shrub. It grows best in moist well-drained soil and in full sun.