Ian’s Gardening Tales from the Weald…
Ian is a Gardens Manager living in Crowhurst, working as part of a team in three large country gardens in the Sussex and Kent Weald, where he is passionate about natural gardening.
First of all, Happy New Year! It doesn’t seem too long ago I wrote for the newsletter – We’ve enjoyed the shorter days running up to the Winter Solstice but now we’re reclaiming daylight hours back, week by week, day by day and our busiest time of the year is not far away!
February can be a mixed bag weather wise, offering cold sharp, crisp days to winter storms & tantalising glimpses of spring. There’s early nectar in the gardens – Mahonias, winter jasmine, crocus, snowdrops, pulmonaria, hellebores, winter flowering cherries, sarcococca and viburnums.
Of late, we have been in the process of winter pruning. All our hedging is cut from September through to late February, starting with the evergreens then moving onto our deciduous hedging. One must mention the importance of evergreens. Without them, the gardens in winter would be bare and forlorn places.
In January & February, our orchards are pruned. In the three large country gardens we work, we have – apples, pears, plums, medlars, cobnuts and walnuts. Two of our gardens have apples growing above meadow grass. This is easy to manage. The meadow gets cut in July or September, the trees are pruned when dormant in winter and the meadow is left to grow from April around to cutting time again, allowing for the orchard to be harvested from September onwards.
When we prune fruit trees or ‘top fruit’ one could say it’s a complex job to do, but once you’ve learnt the basic principles and put these to practice over a length of time, it can become a calming and therapeutic task. Recently, I have been atop an orchard ladder happily snipping & sawing accompanied by the wishful singing of a male song thrush hoping to attract himself a mate for spring!
At the end of February, we’ll have come full circle and it’ll be time to start cutting back our ornamental grasses and flowering perennials again in our large prairie garden in Kent. Once this task is complete and the borders are weeded and mulched, we go tumbling head on back into another English spring!
We’ll meet again at the peak of spring, in May, where we’ll hopefully pleasure you with more of our ‘Gardening Tales from the Weald’.
See you then!
Ian Donovan: Hips and Haws Gardening, Crowhurst