Welcome to Winter in the garden, and all the many lovely shades of brown. So many seedheads, grasses and winter leaves are keeping the Old Pond Garden looking beautiful. November was incredibly wet but the Volunteers tackled some great projects. The shrubbery in the front car park has benefitted from a comprehensive weed and some marathon pruning. A soakaway was dug by the steps to the Montessori Nursery, so that parents can pick up the kids without needing waders. Then it was on to bulb planting – we predict a River of Purple (Alliums) through the beds next year!Continue reading OPG Diary – November/December
September started off with the tail end of The Drought and as it became wetter the Volunteers were very grateful to get back to some proper gardening. The great news is that we hardly lost any plants at all.
The Peace Garden has benefited from our attention, with the last of the annoying stones on the path edges being removed, and work on the shrubs and climbers along the walls making them look much more defined and trim.
In the Old Pond Garden, many perennials went to seed earlier than usual, due to the drought, but the seedheads are quite spectacular.
The Volunteers were thrilled to receive a donation of jars of honey from the Charlton House Beekeepers. The bees had a bumper year, partly due to our lovely gardens. To stop any squabbling, we held a raffle to decide who got a jar and the happy winners are shown here:
A lovely day was had by all, despite the rain, for our visit to Pashley Manor Gardens, on Wednesday 14 September. The first wow factor was the magnificent and absolutely huge 500-year-old spreading oak tree that is the same age as the frontage of the Manor House. The second wow factor are the gardens: exquisitely beautiful, divided into several colour-co-ordinated garden ‘rooms’ which lead to the fabulous terrace, with sweeping views of the long borders, lawns, lake (once a moat) and surrounding trees to the countryside beyond. After a refreshing coffee, many joined a half-hour gardener’s dahlia ‘talk and walk’ around sections of the garden’s long borders. I loved the gardens so much that I am aiming to visit again on a sunny day so that I can relax on the terrace and absorb the spirit of the place.
Our previous post was all about how well the garden was growing – and it really was – except it then just stopped raining, for ever! At the beginning of July, everything was looking nice and green:
But as the Summer heatwave went on, and ever hotter, the volunteers spent more time working in the shade..
And pretty soon all we were doing was watering. It has been heart-warming to see the volunteers arriving every Tuesday or Thursday, picking up their watering cans and setting off to save many of the plants we planted in to the Old Pond Garden just last year. We have lost remarkably few in the end, and as long as we don’t have a repeat heatwave/drought next year, most should get their roots down and become more resilient for the future. There have been a few casualties, and a few that clearly don’t like where they are. So as soon as Autumn comes, Jason will be directing some tweaks. As August came around, the garden’s colours and textures changed to become Autumnal.Continue reading OPG Diary – July / August
It’s been a while since there was an update on the walled gardens, it’s been busy! The Volunteers are going strong, and the Old Pond Garden is looking particularly wonderful.
The Long Border started to run away with us, but is getting under control and looking incredibly full and interesting, even if it doesn’t quite have that “designer” look yet! We are waiting for the quote for works to the vandalised iron gates and hoping to create step-free access to the gardens.
We are continuing to point out a “Star Plant” each week. The latest is Silene armeria ‘Electra’, or Garden Catchfly. The Catchfly group of plants exude a sticky brown substance on their stems, just below the flowerhead, where insects get stuck. Have a closer look next time you pass by!
New ideas: we have started a “What’s in Flower” display in Frilly’s café, to entice visitors to come into the garden and see the flowers in situ. Also an Information table in the gardens (when we are there) showing a bit of the background and pointing out the plants coming into flower that week. Looking for more volunteers to do this, if anyone is interested? It’s a sitting-down job!
Kathy was very pleased to be awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Volunteer Centre Greenwich/ RBG, although she considers that the recognition is for all the volunteers, not just her! Terry accepted the award on her behalf from the Mayor of Greenwich. Thank you to the Trust for nominating us, we do feel appreciated.
And here are some more recent photos from the gardens this month:
So nice to see volunteers back in the garden. A great weeding and planting session.
The potting-up team
The Long Borders Party
We even had a canine volunteer today, being good as gold (no squirrels around luckily!)
The Rockery Ladies.. Making a good start on the Rockery weeding, might need a bigger fork next time!
What a turn out for the Long Border. We had peak volunteer numbers, on a rather wet and nasty day. Thank you so much to everyone who came along, hope you come back (and please bring nicer weather!)
The start of a bird bath in the central bed! Thank you to the chain gang..
At the AGM a year ago, I nervously stood in front of the packed Long Gallery at Charlton House and gave a talk about the Old Pond Garden walled garden.
The Society has been meeting once a month at Charlton House for over 30 years, and yet a large proportion of our members (myself included until a couple of months prior to that) had no idea the walled gardens existed. Local Charlton members knew of course, but our membership is drawn from a wide area of South East London, so this was news for many of them.
We proposed that a volunteer scheme should be set up to help renovate and maintain the gardens, since the RBG gardeners were too stretched to do more than trim and mow. We had the support of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, and with their help had applied for some funding from the Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund.
But it was a bit of a leap of faith- CABAHS has only ventured into volunteering once in its history, back in the 1990’s, when members helped run the garden and greenhouse at Greenwich Hospital. So in February we launched the volunteer scheme in the garden, on the weekend of Storm Dennis, with our carefully prepared flyers flying about everywhere, and everyone taking a quick look at the garden and running for cover (and coffee and cakes) in the House. But apart from the weather it was a success as we had 34 interested people sign up on the spot.
The volunteers started work very enthusiastically on a lovely sunny Sunday in late February, tackling the early weeds and brimming with ideas of what should stay, go or could be donated from their own gardens. So many discussions about what is a weed, whether the giant Phormiums should be kept, and whether forget-me-nots are invasive! We developed an Old Pond Garden committee, to administer and run the scheme (and deal with the interesting Health & Safety issues– eg don’t eat the plants). Volunteer sessions were very well attended, even as the nastier weather set in, and a tea and homemade cake routine developed alongside the weeding.
While enjoying our time in the garden, of course world events were catching up with us and we had to close the scheme on March 21st as the first Covid-19 Lockdown hit.
During that first Lockdown, the weather decided to become unseasonably hot, which was nice for all of us stuck at home, but totally fried the primroses and snowdrops we had planted in the garden. Behind the scenes, the Old Pond Garden committee carried on planning. Melanie and Kay filmed a 2 minute clip of the garden for the Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Open Gardens, which raised our profile tremendously and helped with funding for the Hospice.
June 30th and we were back on track! But by now we had even more volunteers, and they included local garden designer Jason Carty. The very professional and lovely planting plan that Jason came up with was quickly adopted and the Volunteers set to with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
After the March-June shortages of compost and seeds, it was great to be able to swap plants again, and the garden became a useful exchange point. We had to add antiseptic hand gel to our Health & Safety rules, but most gardeners wear gloves anyway and we learned all about the importance of hand cream after a grubby planting session! Homemade cakes were replaced with cellophane wrapped biscuits, and work carried on.
By August the garden beds were clear enough to be able to hold a Plant Sale with all plants grown and donated by members (THANK YOU!). There were also displays of the gardens in past times and our plans for the future. The public turned up in droves and we sold out by 2pm. Even the Mayor of Greenwich visited just in time to pick up the last of the plants, and we made over £1,000, for the garden fund and Hospice.
Other creative achievements: Some volunteers cut the remaining lavender in the garden, to dry, and other volunteers made bespoke CABAHS Charlton House Lavender Bags (applying for copyright!) for sale. The old cherry tree stump was dug up, after Herculean effort from David, and made into a wildlife area for the Stag Beetle larvae we disturbed. A leaf store was built, in readiness for Autumn leaf fall, to recycle the goodness back into the garden. A “Grand Designs Luxury Shelter” has been built, unbelievably from old building hoardings though you would never guess, and is now hidden in one corner of the garden. With coat hooks for volunteers’ coats, so practical!
In September we received £6,000 funding from Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund, a huge boost for our planting plans. The committee negotiated a 50% trade discount with Provender Nurseries and went on a shopping spree.
In October we took delivery of a new bench seat, to commemorate CABAHS 70th Anniversary, kindly funded by members subscriptions. We also received interest and some practical help from students from the University of Greenwich Landscape Architecture department. By November the second Lockdown had hit, but this time the weather was being more normal and plants were becoming dormant anyway. We got back to work in December, and carried on planting in the mild weather. There was a wonderful surprise from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, who awarded us £500 to buy some special plants for the garden (big thank you Melanie for applying!). In the week before Christmas, volunteers fashioned stylish wreath decorations forthe gates from leaves and berries from the garden itself and a socially distanced mince-pie-fest, courtesy Charlton Bakehouse, concluded the year.
January came and brought the Third Lockdown, but the garden is coping fine with two local volunteers a week popping in to check it over. The tree surgeon Amber Treecare paid a longawaited visit in the first week in February to give the garden a haircut. So much better and lighter, with a lot of overgrown Pyracantha removed and the ivy trimmed to the top of the walls. You can see the House properly again!
As we await the vaccine roll out, lots of virtual planning has been going on, with a new application for funds to extend the Volunteer scheme into the Long Borders garden in 2021. We hope to include the fabulous ancient Mulberry Tree enclosure in our care too, keeping it weed and rubbish free. Such a lot to look forward to and be grateful for.
See you in the garden soon, more volunteers always welcome!
Grateful thanks to all our Volunteers, and the Old Pond Garden committee: Vija, Terry, Kay, Angela, Mandy, Melanie, Juli and Jason. Also to Tracy, Edward and the staff at Charlton House.