• Kay

Big steps, little steps


Occasionally at Church Gardens, a massive step forward is taken in a day, and today was one of those days. Normally progress is slow, hopefully steady, sometimes glacial. This is because we are just normal people, in fact, Patrick and I are people not in great physical shape, working by hand, with limited time and funds. The big difference about today was Martin and his digger! Martin has worked here quite a few times over the years and has known us since we moved in. I would describe him as a master in his field. He usually has to use a small digger when working for us and it is a pleasure to watch him work. He is so careful and takes great pride in his work. Today we needed him to remove the nut tree stumps (stools). Patrick and his team (the girls and James) had to cut down 30/40 nut trees that were growing through the terrace and up against the wall. Having to remove so many trees sounds shocking but this was directed by our conservation plan to preserve the historic fabric of the garden. We have had to remove nut trees in the past when we were restoring walls and have many still growing! It was a good day for such work because we’ve had plenty of rain and our soil, which is beautiful, was nice and soft. We had hired a digger and a dumper…each stump had to be taken away in the dumper truck (mainly driven by James, but sometimes Patrick or Aideen). Martin delicately takes out each stump and then gently smooths out the area, manoeuvring the machinery with extraordinary care and precision. When he had finished, the results were breath-taking – the terrace has been revealed properly for the first time in centuries in its full glory. The far wall of the orchard is now clearly visible for the first time since we moved in.

My mind is working overtime about the new medicinal forest gardening border I intend to create along this stretch of wall, once it is repaired – but more of that later! The only problem with removing the stools is how to get rid of them. They are all substantial, some are huge. Burning them is not an option and we were having terrible problems finding anyone who was prepared to take them away. We contacted various ‘grab lorry’ operators but no one was keen to take tree stumps. Anyone would think we were dealing with asbestos rather than natural biodegradable stuff. Patrick had even asked me to come up with a solution for using them in the garden – I did devise a ‘stumpery’ around the viewing platform, but even me, with my ‘crazy flights of fancy’, cannot think of a use for this mountain of ugly stools…a nut tree is multi stemmed, it is not like a normal tree trunk and its cut off base is not a ‘pretty sight’.

The stools were piling up in a massive heap on a sheet of polythene at the end of the drive when someone had the sense to ask Martin if he knew anyone who could help. He immediately got on his phone and within the hour one of his friends of many years arrived to assess our pile of stumps. He was a very nice man and a deal was struck, he decided that they could be removed in two loads and he would take them first thing in the morning! Well, Martin is my hero, he is a man of few words but his ‘few words’ had saved the day!

After Martin left the ‘major project’ team (which today was Patrick, Aideen, Diane and James) continued using the dumper truck to transport bricks to the far corner of the orchard. We intend to get as much use out of the dumper as possible as we have 19 pallets of bricks to move (500 bricks on a pallet!).

Mean while, in the kitchen garden…Kay continues on ‘project dahlia’, alone, bar from the moral support of various cats! Whilst the exciting and dramatic work continues next door, I plod along trying to do all the actual gardening! I am still very achy but today, probably invigorated by the progress in the orchard, I make some progress (little steps!). By the end of the day, I have planted out the four smaller display beds beside but the fountain with dahlias and cannas. I have decided to mix some quite special varieties with a rather interesting combination of colours, including; cream/yellow peach, ‘café au lait’, Thomas Eddison (purple/magenta) one Kelvin flood light (dinner plate-yellow) and two dinner plate orange and dark red. Each bed only contains one or two of each colour but I’m hoping the combination will work with the cannas…only time will tell. There were about 15 plants in each bed and many of them required staking, particularly the few that had rooted themselves into the polytunnel bed. These have grown tall, and as a result, will need careful care for the next few weeks because they will be prone to wilting. Before finishing for the evening (9:30pm), I spend ages tying in the philodendron on the arch by the next display beds to be planted. It deposits lots of horrible prickly debris down the back of my Tshirt and one bit goes in my eye! I stagger up the path in great discomfort to wash out my eye – luckily no damage done! Before going in I deadhead the sweetpeas on the long sides of the fruitcage which were desperate again!!!

I then go in to prepare the dinner (having fed dad earlier); ‘Toad in the hole’, Lyonnaise potatoes and beans…James comments “that’s a hearty dinner, brilliant” because we are all ravenous and we sit and eat and watch Gardeners World on ‘catch-up’!

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