Rather than wish anyone reading this a ‘happy new year’, which may sound trite after the unforeseen eventualities of the previous year and the ongoing uncertainties of 2021, I shall wish you instead the very best year possible and thank you for continuing to read and comment on my blog. As I said yesterday, the garden has been oblivious to whatever was happening out there in the big wide world in 2020 and, likewise, our garden blogging community has generally continued in its usual vein too, any restrictions beyond the garden gate mostly just hinted at, concealing any difficult personal circumstances that many have experienced. My thoughts and best wishes go out to all of you, in the hope that you will find joy and peace both in and out of the garden in this coming year.
Contrary to the maelstrom outside, the garden has had a great year, starting with our first February opening for the NGS (National Garden Scheme). I have no doubts about the joys to be found in the garden in winter, having progressively planned and planted to provide winter colour and fragrance in the last few years, and our February opening was designed to share these joys with our visitors and encourage them to think of adding seasonal interest in their own. February proved to be the wettest month of the year with Storm Dennis arriving the weekend we opened and flooding local roads – but we still had visitors, who still enjoyed their cold and damp visit, thus fulfilling the brief. The most rewarding part, however, came a few days later when I happened to bump into one of a pair of ladies who have visited each year the garden has been open, who told me not just much they enjoyed it, but how she had been trying to explain to another friend that this February visit was every bit as enjoyable as a June one…
Little did we know in mid-February that the year would go into freefall barely a month later and that our June openings and planned group visits would be cancelled. This proved, however, to be a bonus for the garden, essentially giving me a year to enjoy the garden without dates to work towards, an opportunity to observe and monitor and tweak, creating and carrying out projects almost on a whim. Combined with glorious spring and summer sunshine, the garden has done very well out of 2020, thank you very much!
There have been a number of notable and very satisfactory successes, like the outdoor sweet peas – always damp squibs until this year, unlike my early flowering greenhouse variety. This year they were sown at the end of January instead of in the autumn, and planted out into one of the new cutting beds created from reducing the size of the fruit cage, with a ‘proper’ framework of bean poles to clamber on. The result was glorious:
The cutting beds were possibly even better than ever before too, and definitely benefitted from adding horizontal netting for support:
Some things did really well with no help from me, like Magnolia ‘Susan’:
And roses and clematis throughout the garden:
The weeks and months without rain encouraged us to make the effort and install a water supply to the bottom of the garden and intervening points in between – I say ‘us’, but I only sourced the materials and it was the Golfer who did the donkey work:
Reassessing the garden and its content not only saw the removal of a number of plants that no longer sufficiently served their purpose, but also a rehashing of the layout of some of the borders, particularly the main herbaceous beds which were realigned to allow a path to pass through them. In the course of this, more than half the contents were removed and not all replaced, so it will take till next season to see how well the new layout and planting works:
There were several other ‘mini-projects’ throughout the year, mostly tweaking things to make them more user or visual-friendly, inspired by closer and more regular observation. However, around the same time as my building work on the revamped beds, the Golfer was progressively removing the overgrown oak tree that cast avoidable shade on parts of the garden, to the fascination and admiration of neighbours on all sides – a great achievement!
The increased neighbourliness fostered by the Covid pandemic inadvertently boosted my garden record-keeping by introducing me to a villager who was a professional photographer in possession of a drone, fulfilling my desire to have new aerial photographs of the garden to update those we had taken in 2002. I plan to have a set of 4 seasonal views, and now only await photographs from March. The latest view, taken in December, is below and the June and September views can be seen by clicking The Garden tab above.
Finally, an innovation introduced this year was the addition of a video to the end of month posts, as you may have seen yesterday. After months of wrestling with technology I have reached what may be an acceptable compromise and, for the first time ever, yesterday’s video was uploaded with no hitches whatsoever, albeit without any fancy subtitles, but serving the basic purpose of a video tour of the garden. Not everyone may choose to view the tour, but there have been positive comments from those that do, especially during full lockdown when the monthly tours were eagerly awaited by some, unable to visit gardens in the flesh for much of the spring and summer.
None of us know yet what 2021 has in store, but all being well I shall still be enjoying rambling in the garden and writing about it on this blog. Thank you all for your continued friendship, support, and generous sharing of knowledge, plants and seeds.