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Diary of a Cultural Gardener - June 2020

01 Jul 2020

After an extremely dry spring, the rain arrived with June. Thumping, heavy, raindrops fell and you could feel the earth soaking it in hungrily. Combined with the heat and sunshine that followed, the perennials have grown green and lush.

Throughout this midsummer month of long, light days the new garden’s sense of character and place has also been taking root. People come to meander the paths, meet friends for socially-distanced catch-ups, or sit for a moment of quiet contemplation. The garden is forming its own place in people’s lives.

One of the loveliest elements for me about working in a uniquely free and accessible public garden is seeing our community starting to use the space as their own. In the UK many beautiful gardens can be tricky to get to without a car, or you need sufficient funds to pay to enter. In transforming an open piece of unused land into a beautiful, free, public garden, we are keen to make a tranquil oasis that is accessible to everyone.

Our designer Tom Stuart-Smith was inspired to be part of the project through his understanding of the power of gardens, and well-tended green spaces to be socially transformative and in these current times this feels more vital than ever. The garden is still in its early days, but it means a lot to me when I hear different languages spoken in the garden and see families from different cultures and backgrounds using the space together.

It is curious to think that this time last year the majority of the garden was not yet planted and in a sense the garden existed primarily in its drawn form, on architectural plans, artist impressions and specifications. Throughout June Wakefield-based artist, Tony Wade has been coming to the garden regularly to paint beautiful studies of the complex meadow (pictured). When I see him sitting on the bench in the sunshine and thoughtfully capturing in watercolour, the way the light gives halos to the outline of the Echinacea pallida, I think how amazing that within a year, a garden that initially existed only as a drawn image, in its infant reality is already becoming an inspiration to artists and going back into imagery – full circle.

Throughout June I have been weeding, mowing and maintaining the garden. With the rain comes the weeds as they germinate prolifically. One of my goals is to catch the weeds before they set seed, as each individual can set forth hundreds. There is a saying amongst gardeners – ‘one year’s seed is seven years’ weed’. I graze the planting like a hippo, I feel chunky and cumbersome stepping in amongst the vegetation as it knits together. I stoop over to part the foliage and catch the sneaky specimens, which cleverly root themselves close to the crown of the other plants. Sometimes an Epilobium (broad leaved willowherb) evades my notice and I spot it weeks later peeping up above the perennials incongruous and have to whip it away before it seeds.

Throughout June the summer flowering bulb Ornithogalum ‘Moskou’ have looked beautiful with their tall white spires like freeze-framed fireworks. They have a smoky tail where the old flowers linger-on, as shadows of what they were. The second phase of our garden, the woodland edge, near the Doncaster Road is being completed by the contractors currently and we are really looking forward to the opening of our new garden café this summer, which is in its final stages of shop-fitting. We also have the great news that the gallery is going to welcome visitors again from Saturday 1 August.

Katy Merrington
Cultural Gardener