Supporting the Community

Last week I heard about a charity near Bridgend called B-Leaf. They run a trainee horticultural project based at Bryngarw Country Park for adults with learning and physical disabilities.

The charity unfortunately had made the news because thieves had broken into their containers and stole thousands of pounds worth of equipment. This included large machinery such as mowers and strimmers down to small hand tools. All the equipment the trainees require to carry out their daily gardening and grounds maintenance work.

It struck a cord with me for several reasons.

Firstly, most of us in the horticultural world know how therapeutic gardening can be for people from all walks of life and generally, with occasional business issues aside, even for ourselves. We are a lucky few who can work in an industry we are passionate about. For adults with learning and physical disabilities it is something social, achievable, provides routine, and the physical work can help aid both physical and emotional wellbeing. You can see the results of your work immediately which is always satisfying.

Secondly, as some of you know I have a daughter with Down Syndrome and even though I hope to be able to provide her with everything to make her happy, I know that charities like B-Leaf are often a life line of support for families in similar situations. They provide trainees with some direction in their life and a sense of accomplishment.

I spoke with B-Leaf last week and although they can claim some items on insurance many of the smaller tools are not covered. Due to this they have now set up a GoFundMe site to raise a small amount to go towards these purchases. The link for which can be found at the bottom of the blog.

Oxford Lawns and Gardens are very happy to be able to support B-Leaf and have made a small contribution towards their goal.

We wish them all the luck in achieving this goal and all future goals.

A Sigh of Relief in the Kitchen Garden

This weeks blog has been written by Jenny who is very busy tending the kitchen garden in our Chipping Campden garden.

It’s the first week of April, and today, at last, it feels like spring has arrived. The sun is out, the air feels warm, and I’ve just been visited by a very large bumble bee. The soil still feels chilly but maybe seeds will finally start germinating outside in the kitchen garden.

This year, I’m privileged to spend one day a week looking after a large kitchen garden for one of our clients. It is faultlessly structured, with many raised beds, a soft fruit cage, and a beautiful greenhouse. Last year, my lovely colleague set the bar high, tending a very productive and immaculately kept area. So the pressure is on…

With limited time available each week, the temptation is to sow seeds early in the greenhouse and outside in the beds. The stack of seed packets that could be sown in March, plus the even bigger stack for April begins to feel daunting. But with such a cold start to spring, seeds optimistically sown outside in March have yet to show (even under the cloches).

But on this beautiful spring day, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, neat rows of radish seedlings are peeking through the soil surface. This small victory, along with an array of flower and vegetable seedlings happily germinating in the greenhouse, is enough to boost the confidence levels again.

The onions, shallots, garlic, and broad beans planted earlier in the year are growing well, so actually the outside area does not look too bare. The greenhouse is also overflowing with overwintering pelargoniums, newly potted up dahlias, tomato, chilli, aubergine, and pepper seedlings plus brassicas ready to move to the cold frame for hardening off.

Experienced vegetable growers will no doubt point out that with such a cold start to spring, I could have started many other vegetables in the spacious greenhouse. Carrots, for example, sown into lengths of guttering and germinated in the greenhouse are then ready to slide straight into the beds when the soil is warm enough, leaving the roots undisturbed. This is very true, and I will keep note of lessons learnt for a smoother beginning to the vegetable growing season next year.  But for now, I will continue to hope for more warm days and for the bumble bee to carry on visiting. After all, it’s only April; let’s see what happens…

Rain, rain and more rain.

Yes it’s that very British trait to talk about the weather, but for those of us who work outside it’s very influential on how our day goes, what tasks we undertake and how we feel. I am fortunate, these days I only venture out a couple of days a week but the fabulous team are out all day, all week and this winter has been long, dull, cold and wet. The sort of winter where you want to hibernate, (for me that’s most winters). As I write, I can hear the rain outside and I’m glad it’s the evening and everyone is home.

My team have been out in all weathers except snow. Having to think on their feet which projects they can complete according to the weather. Luckily the cold means that weeds are slow saving us from having to tread on the borders, we also have done very little mowing. The long winter has helped us to achieve a large amount of pruning, formative and rejuvenation. In one garden we inherited an enormous amount of shrubs which had either not been pruned or had been on the receiving end of some unskilled secateurs, our client asking why they have never seen the shrub flower. Yes you know the kind, the round off every shrub kind. Aaarrrggghhh. These ‘poor’ looking specimens take a good two pruning seasons to flower. They are often the shrubs which flower on last years growth (Philadelphus, Forsythia) and if pruned too hard in one go will over produce long soft ‘bonkers’ growth. So it’s gently, gently.

In November we laid a large area of wild flower turf through an old orchard, and for once the rain has been a blessing, the turf is establishing well and we are very excited to see it flower this summer. The turf includes 33 species of wildflower, it is going to look fabulous. Before it was laid we spotted camassia, Narcissus poeticus and Tulip ‘Ronaldo’ throughout.

Yesterday we took a delivery of plants to reinvigorate a large stumpery which had over the last 2-3 years seen some plants become more invasive, angelicas and some hardy geranium varieties in particular, and we had lost some really lovely planting groups. So a ‘cull’ was carried out and a new collection of ferns, less invasive hardy geraniums to bump up existing numbers, hostas and aquilegia to mention a few were ordered. Interestingly the original aquilegias had never seeded round, yet in other gardens we are continually weeding seedlings out. The stumpery is on a north facing slope and the deluge of rain we had in the morning made it impossible for us to plant.

Finally, and let’s say now that’s enough about the weather, I would like to introduce our new website. The website has been made mobile friendly, linked to our Instagram page and gardens and photos have been updated. I can also do all these updates myself from now on, awesome. Our ‘About’ page introduces the team and they will also be contributing to the blog page. I have some clever wordy people working with me who definitely do not like the rain!