Tuesday, 20 January 2015

From the back of Church Farm I was greeted with  this view early today,  making my way back to the garden after talking with Austin Russell who was feeding the calves. Hard frost and a dazzling low level sun. Although this is the depths of winter it feels 'springy' with the birdsong and a Woodpecker drumming as well as the early flowering species such as Snowdrops, Cyclamen coum and the yellow Winter Aconites that will be carpeting the drive very soon.

Cyclamen coum at the top of the drive.
Nearly fifteen years ago I had naively thought that the Laburnum Walk would have years to go and the possibility of having to replace it never occurred to me. Fifteen years on and that moment has arrived; although during the last few years the penny did drop and this special part of the garden has been under my stare, gaze and scrutiny looking for solutions. It would be easy to fall into the trap of  'improvement' or trying to make this work of art 'better'; I've often said the Laburnum Walk and the corner of the garden it sits in is 'church like'. The approach needs to be respectful; but at the same time you must realise that the Laburnum Walk is not immune to the factors that affect all gardens.

Senescence, overcrowding, growing out of scale, reduced vigor, inaccessible safe havens for perennial weeds all in time come to bear on any part of a garden and must be tackled in the order that the Head Gardener and team see fit. We have a prioritised programme of cyclical work that we apply to the garden, seeing one or two areas being subjected to more intense work during the late autumn to very early spring period. Decisions are sometimes made for the gardener and a subsequent reaction the result. One of the original Laburnums died nearly two years ago and this became the catalyst for a plan.

I had noticed that over the years an informal practice of replacing the Laburnums had resulted in the original survivors dominating and out competing, due to their size, any subsequent replanting of new Laburnums. The large specimens also holding their flowers up higher and not as low as when the walk was in it's less tall glory days. So we are simply going to remove all the Laburnums and thoroughly work through the Bob Dash Beds that flank the Laburnums. We will salvage anything worth keeping e.g. Alliums, Epimediums, Penelope Hobhouse's Hostas  and then install five very simple angle iron arches that Michael Clifford (a local blacksmith) is making us. Wires will be run through the arches and finally the new Laburnums will go back in to  airy and uncompacted soil. Any decent Laburnum timber will be stored, seasoned and used at a later date. I'm hoping that in five years we will see a healthy and vigorous Laburnum Walk with it's best years, once again, to come.

Ben lifting Galanthus 'Atkinssi' from along the Laburnum Walk

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