Sunday, March 30, 2008

BBC's Jelly the Frog comes to film

Spring is sprung and we have had some glorious days – and one or two really nasty cold wet ones, usually when one of the toddler groups has been visiting. Seeing their little hands all frost-bitten as they try to dig in a howling gale, sometimes makes us wonder if we are being too tough on them. But then, again, they each went home with a planted pea in a pot, and apparently they are all happy and want to come again, so I guess we were not tough enough.

The early potatoes are in, the broad beans are growing away, the first rows of parsnips and carrots have been sown. Heaps of leaf mould and compost have been enthusiastically barrowed around the gardens by wobbly learner drivers. This week we started to sow all the tender stuff in the greenhouse – aubergines, chillis, tomatoes…

Wildlife ‘pond’

We have ‘acquired’ a large water tank that was in danger of being demolished, and some frog spawn has been rescued from the jaws of the ducks in the lake, another blob from a drying-up puddle, so we plan to install some kind of rough and ready wildlife pond this weekend. We hope to build up some logs rescued from the tree felling in the park to create a happy frog paradise around the tank, and camouflage it a bit; perhaps we will plant the resulting structure with some alpines that we have been donated. Hopefully this will be done on the April drop-in session.

Famous visitor: A frog named Jelly...

A propos, frog paradise, Jelly - who is a fluorescent green frog puppet - from Cbeebies (BBC digital children’s TV) came to visit the garden to do some filming. This meant little to those of us who are over five years old, but it turns out Jelly is a big star… Some children from St Mary’s came to help Jelly plant potatoes, spinach and peas, and the Kitchen Gardeners tried very hard to talk with a straight face about vegetables to a chatty frog puppet. The episode should be transmitted next year (!) and we will of course be boasting about it nearer the time. Congratulations to the children who had to barrow their load past the camera so many times that the worms in the compost got quite dizzy.

Dukes Meadows wildlife garden
The plug plants that some of the kids planted up in autumn have been transferred up to the new wildlife garden in the old paddling pools, and planted up by Cavendish school. They don’t look like much yet, so if anyone is up there, don’t play on them! Hopefully there will be a lovely meadow up there soon. Many thanks to Barretts for providing the subsoil, and to Burleys – the park gardeners – for transporting the plants over. And of course thanks to all the kids, under the firm direction of Nicky Milligan, for all the planting.

Park news

Tree cutting has finished for now, in order to let the birds get on with some nesting. The camellia shrubbery in particular, and the far bank of the lake saw quite a bit of felling. The archaeologists are moving in next week to check out the area that is to be covered by the new café, which was the old stable area, and part of the volerie (bird garden) of Lady Burlington (opposite the current café). Otherwise all is waiting on the appointment of a new site director, and the start of works, initially around the access yard (behind the conservatory).

Duke of Edinburgh Awards

These have been held on alternate weekends, but are about to switch to Mondays after-school. If anyone can’t make the after-school sessions, they can continue with the monthly drop-ins, along with some additional help, for instance at the Open Day.

The team is very strong this year (well, there are lots of them, anyhow) and they have cleared ivy and brambles from a row of elderberry trees, with some finishing touches from some muscular Belmont school parents, so we hope for elderberry champagne and cordial later in the year. Then the teenagers were dragged through bushes backwards in the undergrowth of the northern garden to retrieve useful bits of wire, and emerged tousled but triumphant.