Clovelly Court Gardens. Lucy Halliday, Head Gardener
July. Another week of extremes!
Our rain dancing finally came to fruition this weekend past – to such an alarming extent that no one could have been prepared. Looking back at our rain gauge records we literally had three months of rain in the last three days…to the decimal.
Although I’m overjoyed about the rain, the wind was rather catastrophic. I’ve spent most of the weekend holding down plants as they were being lifted right out of the soil. Hopefully we have not lost anything major. Many crops took a beating as they have not yet had a chance to get used to such vigorous weather this season.
Before the rain arrived
We had reached the point of spending most of the week watering. The productivity of the crops was beginning to slow down seriously in response to the level of drought. Simultaneously we were experiencing a very positive surge of interest in the garden produce. It has been a great week for visitors’ and villagers’ feedback on flavour. The Red Lion has also been enthusiastically championing local food with a beautifully presented starter, showcasing the first of our heritage tomatoes.
Aubergines and melons are nearing harvestable size. We continue to gain ground in our war on the pesky red spider mite. We have stepped up against this pest by bringing in an extra wave of beneficial insects as biological control. They are better adapted to the very hot, dry weather.
In the apricot house, we are undertaking some very considerable summer pruning. This may appear quite drastic at first, but one of the two mature fan trained trees has very much lost its way. The restorative pruning commenced will allow it once again to form a true fan shape – as best as a tree of advanced years can. This will take several years, but will combat its unbalanced growth and disease issues and ultimately prolong the life of the tree.
There will be much more head-scratching as the summer pruning season progresses. The team are learning ‘decision fatigue’, which just means you are giving it the proper amount of thought and attention. We are pruning the trees underlying biology in mind, not just its superficial aesthetic value for this season. Training fruit trees as a strategic game is more about manipulating the trees hormones. This will give the maximum yield and ornamental value in a restricted vertical space. It is a fascinating part of the work in this garden.
Developing the skills of the team
This has continued in the propagation of some of the tender perennials, such as Gazanias and Hedichiums. There is much more of this work to do and so build up a stock of interesting plants for sale from next year onward. We’ve also been able to offer growing advice to many interested villagers and visitors again this week. A garden is a wonderful place to learn. I, in turn have been learning on my visits to deliver produce to the Red Lion kitchen. They continue to enthuse me with the inventive use of the gardens produce. Long may this spirit of engagement continue.