Monday, 31 March 2014

Spring Show

The Northiam Horticulture Society's spring flower show was this past weekend. Fergus, who is the society's President, asked if any of us wanted to enter, so three of us did (plus Fergus). Having attended the autumn show without entering, I wanted to participate this time around. 

The society was founded in 1897, and has around 300 members (I didn't know 300 people lived in Northiam!...yes, I'm joking). From what I've seen and been told, it's a very keen and active group. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and the high quality of work. I'm not aware of anything quite like it back home. It's a great tradition and one that I hope continues for many years to come. 

Entries grouped in specific categories 

We had to drop off our entries between 9-10:30, and then return for the award ceremony at 4 pm. There are 20-30 categories in which you can enter. You could even enter homemade breads, biscuits, marmalade or chutney. Although I've enjoyed making bread lately, I did stick to the flowers. I entered two categories (for the grand price of 40 pence), and was pleasantly surprised to get a first prize for one!  It was for "One variety tree/shrub (up to 3 stems)," for which I entered a Corylopsis pauciflora (which is looking stellar in the garden right now by the circular steps, under the mulberry). I was happy just to be a part of the tradition, but winning a prize made it all the more memorable. I am proud to say that Maria and Yuko both won a prize as well- it was a notable representation from Dixter! 

The winning specimen! 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Student Work Weekend

Last weekend we hosted a student work weekend. Fifteen student-gardeners from around the UK showed up to take part. There were students from 
Aberglasney, Audley End, Chelsea Physic, Fulham Palace, Gravetye, Kew, 
and Wisley.  

Most of the students arrived on Saturday morning. We had a coffee and intro to the garden, led by Rachael. 

Rachael leading the group through the Barn Garden

Rachael and Ed did most of the planning and organizing for the weekend, and Maria, Yuko, Yuichi and I also coordinated group tasks that Fergus delegated. Tasks included: digging over and composting the Exotic Garden, weeding and tidying the Barn Garden and the Upper Terrace, potting up plants in the nursery, and gathering pea sticks from Dixter Wood. Fergus was very generous to give up most of his weekend to oversee the different garden jobs and spend time with the students. 

Thankfully the weather was perfect all weekend! We were able to get quite a bit accomplished, while enjoying the garden and each other's company. 

Aaron kindly prepared wonderful meals (including the largest loaf of bread I've ever seen!) for the group and made sure we didn't wreck the house, which we ate and slept in. After work Saturday, Fergus gave a short talk with slides. Then we all gathered for dinner in the Great Hall, and spent the evening talking, with a nice fire going in the fireplace. 

Sunday was a bit slower and more relaxed, which was nice, but we still took the tractor down to Dixter Wood to collect pea sticks. We hauled up two trailer loads, some of which were bundled for sale and others were piled up for our own use in the garden this year. Students were also given a brief demonstration on wood work outside the barn, including how to split and shave coppiced lengths.  Then we had lunch on the front lawn since the weather was so nice. After lunch students did a bit of shopping in the nursery before heading off. 

I think I can speak for most of (if not all) the people who attended the weekend when I say it was a special and exciting time. Yes, we were all tired after working a long week, but I think we were all energized by the exchange of experiences and ideas. I think it's so important to form these sorts of gatherings. We're often too busy competing and hoarding our ideas, but we have so much to learn from each other, and that's what this weekend was about. I hope all of us will continue to provide and promote these sorts of get-togethers in the future, wherever we are- I'm excited to see where this talented next generation of horticulturalists ends up! 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Spring is in the air

Rain or (sometimes) shine...Despite an onslaught of rain the last 3 months, we've managed to stay afloat thus far. This week is actually the nicest weather we've had in about 3 months! 

First bulb pot display in front of the house

It's beginning to feel and look more and more like spring at Great Dixter! I know, I know, it's only the start of March- there's still plenty of time for cold weather to make an appearance, but the very thought seems out of place when you stroll up the front walk, or down through the orchard, amongst a sea of Crocus, Snowdrops and early Daffodils. 

Crocus and Narcissus in the front meadow

A tapestry of bulbs in the orchard 

I love this time of year; everyday there seems to be something new flowering or budding up in the garden. The sense of anticipation, like that of a little kid leading up to Christmas, stirs inside of me.  I make a point of walking around the whole garden sometime during the day with my journal and a camera- you never know what new surprise might be waiting for you! 
Rhododendron 'Seta' blooming in the High Garden

Luzula sylvatica ‘Aurea’ with Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Fruhlingshimmel’ 

Cardamine quinquefolia, Helleborus x hybridus and Cynara cardunculus