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Diary of a Cultural Gardener - January 2020

Our monthly diary to see what January has had in store for our Cultural Gardener, Katy Merrington.

With a little bit more light lengthening our days, January is a fascinating month to watch the season turning millimetre by millimetre. If you look closely there are many small signs of the coming spring – the bulbs are pushing their chartreuse green tips up through the soil, the buds are swelling on the cherry trees with the promise of blossom and the euphorbias are starting to send up zesty green shoots.

The weather has been relatively dry and mild, perfect for winter maintenance tasks including pressure washing the paths and topping up the mulch along the edges of our beds. I’ve also installed wires for the evergreen climber Holboellia latifolia (broad-leaved sausage vine) so that it can clamber up and cover the electricity substation in the south west corner of the garden. The weeds continue to germinate in mild spells with willowherb, clover and dandelion having the confidence and evolutionary prowess to germinate quickly all year round. However, they are easily and satisfyingly pulled out!

The herbaceous plants have dried into their winter forms, an array of browns and coppers and blacks. In this first year, the vegetation is sparser than it will be in future years once it has grown-in and knitted together. From next year onwards it will provide a fuller tapestry of colour and texture, but we are beginning to get a sense of how the garden will look at this time of year. The Hackonechloa macra are giving golden warmth and the seed plumes of Stipa calamagrostis are nodding softly in the wind. Tom Stuart-Smith does not design his gardens for carnivalesque winter colour, but rather elevates the naturalistic tones of the season, celebrating the beauty of vegetation in its winter form and creating a greater sense of contrast when the vibrant greens of spring arrive.

This currently mild winter has certainly so far been beneficial in helping our new garden settle in, but owing to my eagerness to see how the garden will look as it grows away this summer, I must admit to feeling impatient for spring to arrive.

Gardening provides a happy mix of patience and surprise as sometimes transitions in the garden happen achingly slowing, while at other times of year the pace of the abundant growth catches you by surprise.

I’m delighted that work will start at the beginning of February on the second phase of the garden’s construction. This will see the completion of the Woodland Edge planting and the building of a wall which will provide shelter for the garden from the Doncaster road. It will also see the restoration of the little gatehouse, bringing it back to life as a small catering kiosk, which will hopefully encourage people to spend longer enjoying our wonderful new garden and the wildlife that it is beginning to attract. There is lots to look forward to over the months ahead and it’s a very exciting time to see the garden develop.