Sunday, May 25, 2008

May update

Everywhere in the garden things are bursting forth, with plants and weeds enjoying the alternate rain and sun. The herbal maze is in flower, the potatoes are beautifully heaped, and the fruit is ripening promisingly.

We had a bit of a surprise a few weeks ago when we suddenly heard that we would no longer have access to the greenhouses during working hours, so we needed a very urgent complete re-think of the way we work. If the kids were no longer able to pot up and sow seeds in the greenhouse, what would happen to our seed-sowing timetable? Luckily we recalled seeing a roll of old polytunnel cover in the back sheds, and with the help of the building contractors, UPM Tilhill (thanks guys!) we covered the decrepit shade tunnel and transformed it – with a lot of hard work – into our new greenhouse replacement. Just in time for a torrential downpour during the school session last Thursday.

We also have a new tadpole tank, with some of the fattest tadpoles in town, and they are enjoying weekly free-range steak off-cuts from Mackens that send them into a piranha-like frenzy that is scary to behold. Don't put your hand in the tank kids..

Other park news
Building work has started. The portakabins in the back yards are almost gone, and construction of an enormous new compost heap is to start soon. The path alongside the lake is being re-routed and re-surfaced. The bricked-up arch from the A4 car park is reopened, and this now forms the new entry from the car park. The archaeologists in front of the café are happily digging away, logging and photographing the remains of the old service wing (stables, brewery, etc), and the volerie (Lady Burlington’s bird garden), old walls, pathways and drains.
The geese have had goslings, the moorhens have chicks, the mallards as usual have nothing. This year, after rolling two eggs off a sloping nest into the lake, the swans finally produced two cygnets, only for the male swan to die earlier this week, probably by crashing into the bridge defending his brood. The single mother is now working over-time; if you can’t see the cygnets, they may well be hiding on her back where they are almost invisible.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spring Open Day

It is true that we all got drenched just as the gates opened, and then it remained threatening but not actually raining, until the sun came out brightly - just as we shut the gates on the last visitors.

But: the keen plant seekers were still queuing at the gates for the best seedlings and were rewarded with many excellent quality, competitively priced and unusual plants. Where else can you browse through so many varieties of mint – lavender mint, ginger mint, orange mint, apple, pineapple, English lamb… all lovingly potted up through winter by the strict Mint Monitor. Herbs, flowers, vegetable seedlings surplus to requirement were snapped up.

The garden looked fabulous, though we say so ourselves, although it is early in the season and it will get even better. The tulips were lovely, held back by the cold and the wet, and all looked neat and full of promise. The treasure trail through the sodden forest was busy, storytime by popular demand starred the Gruffalo, and weet pea wigwams were woven by the brave (and we have a couple of extra ones to sell now, if anyone needs one).

The Bee Man showed off his hive and sold his special local honey, which is not only one of the tastiest in town, but also has, it is rumoured, special anti-allergenic properties for hayfever sufferers from the same locality as the bees. And let’s not forget the Breadshop, who have – along with the Bee Man – been to every single Kitchen Garden opening. They are always first to arrive for set up in the morning , and they always spend the first hour scratching their head over the gazebo, but they are still the first to be ready when everyone else is panicking. And they have a special place in our affections because, every week, rain or shine, all through the year, the Breadshop – based on Chiswick High Road, but with a few select branches throughout London - supply our school sessions with free loaves of their extremely delicious bread to accompany the salad picnics or soups that the school kids devour after their work sessions in the Kitchen Garden.