Working in the landscape garden of Compton Verney is a real treat. On any given day I can see a new-to-me bird species, a flower bloom for the first time of the season or a unique cloud formation. Just now, the structure of the site is changing as deciduous shrubs and trees gain their leaves, closing off vistas and increasing the intimacy of the woodland walks.
Right now, as the ground begins to warm, the herbaceous woodland plants shoot from bare ground, with Dog’s Mercury and Lords-and-ladies, amongst others sprinkled liberally around. Daffodils are slowly going-over whilst other ornamental plants emerge from their winter rest.
The site is very active with numerous projects still in full swing. As the new welcome centre nears completion, attention has turned to the landscaping. The new path network will join with previously restored paths, and grading of the surrounding area needs completing before we can turn our attention to planting.
Across the lake, on Capability Brown’s grassy banks, wind flower, or Anemone blanda now look splendid once again, and elsewhere wild tulips are still holding their form and intense yellow colour.
Whilst we still have an arm full of bare-root plants to insert in our new ‘Wilderness Area’, our attention has had to turn to an even more pressing matter, that of our new allotment feature. This is a short-term allotment that we’re adding for 2016 in support of the summer exhibition titled Britain in the 1950’s – Design and Aspiration.
Thus far we have installed a fence to keep marauding rabbits away from the intended crops, and have cut new ground for the main vegetable beds. The ground, typically is still cold and claggy, but we’re getting stuck in (literally) with soil improvement on-site, and seed sowing into modules off-site.
We have some time yet to get the allotment up to speed, but have set the bar high by opting to use plant varieties that were available to 1950’s gardeners, whilst also growing them chemical free. It would seem that whilst the organic movement was getting going in the fifties, many gardeners were still turning to chemicals to keep pests at bay – we’ll not be taking this path!
We’re looking to re-create the feeling of being down on the allotment, and will as you’d expect be adding an authentic shed, cold frame and all manner of water collectors! If you have any spare items from the period that might add to the atmosphere, we’d love to hear from you. (The gardeners would be particularly thankful for some old but comfy outdoor chairs!)
The 1950’s allotment is already (ahead of its summer/autumn focus period) getting a good deal of attention as visitors stop to see what we’re up to, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing the crops rise from a previously blank canvas. I’ll be posting about the progress throughout the season.
Before I sign off, can I just mention that applications are still welcome for the new position of Horticultural Apprentice at Compton Verney, so please do pass on the knowledge if you know someone who might be interested. For more information, click here.
Gary Webb, Head of Landscape & Garden at Compton Verney.