Monday, 27 May 2013

Time to stand and stare ...

Time, in the life of a garden, is particularly fleeting, and this week so much has been happening that there has been little time to stop and reflect on the moments of beauty ... the blog post this week is firstly about catching up, and then about taking the time to "stand and stare".

ground awaiting turf
The new turf has really transformed the space inside the walled garden, giving definition to the central path and bringing that delicious sense, redolent of picnics and lazy summer days, that green grass always has the power to inspire. Roughly half the project has been completed and the north western corner, which is still looking a bit like a farmer's field freshly ploughed, will be finished next week. The logistics of watering such large areas of turf - should the weather turn warm and dry - has meant that we have had to split this project into two halves. It means we will all have to exercise a little more patience, but the end result will surely be sweeter for that.

new pale gold pathway
Outside the walled garden, we have laid a new path of pale stone chippings this week too. This small project has gone largely unnoticed, but is another important step in our restoration of the pleasure grounds. The golden stone adds contrast with the greens of the grass and trees, as well as the dark stone wall, and helps to focus and pull your eye through to the distance. On the right hand side is a specimen shrub border containing many species contemporary with the original garden circa 1740 and although these are only young at the moment, they will mature into real beauties over the next few years. We will also be planting up the front of the border with a riot of colourful annuals this summer, again reprising an idea that was much in vogue when the garden first sprang into existence.

volunteers Les, Phil & Geoff
Whilst the big projects will always be those that grab our attention, and rightly so, the everyday upkeep of the garden remains a full time job. The arrival of warmth and rain provides the perfect growing conditions for those plants in the wrong places: weeds. We're lucky that our biggest issue is with bittercress; a weed that combines a speedy 6-week life cycle with explosive seed pods able to scatter its fruits up to a metre away (and more if it's windy). Sure, there's always plenty of them to pull out, but at least they're shallow rooted and easily removed. Docks, dandelions and creeping buttercups are our common, more deeper rooted foes. This type of general maintenance is often undertaken by our volunteers, without whose invaluable help, the garden would not be half the wonderful place it is. Thank you all.

What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?--
(W H Davies | Leisure | 1911)

Please do take time out to stand and stare at some of May's minions at Gibside this week:
humble & cheery forget-me-nots (Myosotis)

glacial & refined Camassias
pretty & promiscuous Aquilegias

Dicentra's bleeding hearts

Rhododendrons' rich goblets ready to open

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