It’s a wet Monday here, not a good start to Half Term week! Never mind. It was wet last Friday too, with torrential showers coming and going all day. Overall, since Christmas – and certainly by any comparison with last year – it seems to have been a fairly dry winter (though anything short of Noah’s Flood bears fair comparison with last winter). At The Farm the river level has dropped steadily since the beginning of January, and the water no longer laps up on to the bottom of the lawn. This hasn’t deterred the Mute Swans, who have adopted the Walled Garden as their roosting spot of late. They spend the days across the river, paddling up and down en famille – two adults and two ‘first year’ cygnets – looking very picturesque. Their droppings, however, deposited overnight on the grass are rather less appealing: it’s surprising how much mess four swans can make!
I had a few ‘wet weather’ jobs to get on with. First of all I took out a dead apple tree from the – not altogether convincingly-named – ‘Orchard’. This actually amounts to 8 (now 7) apple trees planted in a very exposed and wind-blasted corner of the gardens. They do fruit quite well, I am told, but they’re not grown or pruned for fruit-production but for their appearance. One of them – and I don’t have the plan with me, so I can’t tell you its variety (they are all different) – had died and so I took it out. In fact it was so dead and shallow-rooted that the whole thing – a tree 10’ tall – came out with a few good heaves. All of the apples seem to be very shallow-rooted, and it may well be that this patch has a fairly thin topsoil covering rubble or other rubbish dumped there in the past.
The plan is to replace not with another apple, but with something more properly ornamental. As I say, we don’t need or really want more fruit, and the site is not really well-suited. I’d like to plant a var. jacquemontii birch, but they’re not great chalk-lovers, though they don’t mind wind. Most probably I’ll put in another row of three trees, as well as replacing the dead apple, to balance up the planting.
I also took the opportunity to dig a circle of earth around the remaining apples, which had been left with the grass growing right up to their trunks. This means they can be properly fed and mulched, as well as not being knocked by the mower – and looking neater.
Then it was over to the Walled Garden, or rather the area just outside, where I started on the trench which will take the hedging I am putting in. This will provide a screen for the bonfire/compost heap area, and steer people – visually and physically – toward the gate in the wall which gives access to the garden proper. It’ll be a native hedge, so will provide good habitat for wildlife too. The bare-root trees will be arriving this week, so I needed to get ahead with preparing the ground for them. The area to be cleared of rough grass and weeds is about 15m long and 1m wide – I will widen it slightly to allow a double, staggered planting. A decent bit of rain won’t do any harm, as the ground will be good and moist when the trees go in.
And yes, it is a bit wonky – don’t worry, I’ll straighten it up next time…