Here is an update on what Jason and the Gardenauts have been getting up to in the gardens since my last post. Apologies it’s rather long, we’ve been doing lots!
December turned the gardens into a winter wonderland, and caused us to miss a few days volunteering, but gave some great photo opportunities. The prolonged cold period hit a few of the more tender shrubs quite hard and we lost some big favourites like the Teucrium.
January was about cutting back, the ivy in particular. The old walls cannot take the weight of the ivy so we are taking it off in stages and being careful of wildlife. Our efforts revealed the top of the doorway for the first time in some years!
We have removed the palms from the front lawn beds and the beds will be re-designed this summer. The Palms were planted as part of an annual bedding scheme years ago and never envisaged to get as tall as they have. The Tete-a Tete daffodils have all been lifted and will go in the woodland glade next year. The Summerhouse has had a good weed and tidy-up, as has the Mulberry. Snowdrops and Hellebores popped up in the OPG woodland side.
In February, we discovered our regular feline visitor is called Casper and he lives in Canberra Road but clearly considers the gardens his playground.
Our February meeting on Monday 20th, comprised our AGM, with the usual election of officers and presentation of the Annual Report, followed by a talk by Ruth Cornett on the work she has done on her Eltham Palace Gatehouse garden and her passion for roses.
Show Table Winners 2022 The Show Table cup is presented to the member who has garnered the most points on the monthly Show Table, over the past year. We have not been able to present the cup for the previous two years due to Covid, so we are delighted to be able to revive this tradition that has been running since 1955! This year, we had Joint Winners, namely Annie and Terry. Second place went to Pat K and Third to Anastasia. Well done all.
For the coming year, we have introduced an additional award, “Best on the Table” given to the best display each month. This time it was Sian’s turn, with her wonderful aromatic display of Mimosa.
As a Garden Volunteer at Charlton House Gardens, I was recently asked to explain what makes the walled gardens and estate “unique”. The question was born of a genuine desire to understand and perhaps help the gardens become better known. Of course, it’s one of those questions that you go away and carry on thinking about.. and wonder what you should have said.
I asked our regular Volunteers what they thought (they keep on coming back, so they must love it for some reason!)
Lots of great ideas came up around biodiversity and pollinators and sustainability. But you could argue that every garden is unique – what makes this particular combination of place and plants so special? We kept coming back to community spirit – particularly as the gardens have had only a tiny amount of external funding – the majority of their transformation has come from community fund raising and effort, and crucially, the use of a professional garden designer.
A good point was made that if you compare Charlton House Gardens with, say, Greenwich Royal Park, Charlton attracts mostly local people and not your average tourist – so there is an great feeling of ownership and responsibility. They may attract the discerning tourist in future (we certainly hope they do) but for now they are in “our” Trust.
We often call the Old Pond Garden the “Secret Garden”, after Frances Hodgson Burnett’s childrens story, but one Volunteer suggested the Lost Gardens of Charlton (Heligan) might be a better comparison now, as we re-discover and re-imagine the original spaces.
What do YOU think? Send in your ideas of why Charlton House Gardens are unique, we would love to hear from you (anyone, not just members) to email@example.com. We will encapsulate your ideas into one “unique” statement in the New Year – and hopefully answer that question.
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!
As Anna writes in the latest Newsletter, January and February are the months for snowdrops.
Joe Sharman, the owner of Monksilver Nursery and who has come to be known as ‘Mr. Snowdrop’ has produced a variety called ‘Golden Tears’, described as ‘A narrow-flowered yellow pterugiform with a very large mark and bright yellow ovary. Very beautiful and distinct.’ The bulb apparently sold for £1,850.
A few years ago, I visited the Snowdrop Sensation weekend at Great Comp where a number of specialist snowdrop growers had stands. Some very beautiful varieties were selling for £100/£100 a bulb. I thought this a bit of a stretch and compromised, buying one for £10.00. I have watched this like a hawk each year, willing it to grow. There would be a great many tears and gnashing of teeth if I bought a more expensive bulb and lost it. I cannot imagine what one would do with a bulb worth £1,850.
All these are in flower in the Old Pond Garden and Peace Garden, they just take a bit of hunting for at this time of year! Come and visit and see what else you can find – the gardens are open from 4 January 2022. 10am-4pm Monday to Friday.