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Trainees, tools and territorial ducks

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Trainees, tools and territorial ducks

Our Gardener Rachel Turfrey writes:

The last couple of weeks have seen some challenges in the Garden.  And not just for the gardeners, but for our ducks as well!

Firstly, though, in the last two weeks we have welcomed our new trainee gardener Alex. Alex joined us earlier this year as a volunteer and is a member of the WFGA ((The Women’s Farm and Garden Association) not just open to women!)  She joins us as part of WRAGS (The Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme).  Here she is getting stuck in with the concrete breaker we hired!  A hugely warm welcome to Alex and her little dog Flo who has also settled in beautifully.

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We’ve also had the help of two extra volunteers recently. Gemma and Sarah joined us for the day last week for a little break from their indoor office jobs. Their generous employers run an initiative to sponsor volunteer charity work and they spent the day helping us move more of our snowdrops in the Hidden Hollow.  They thoroughly enjoyed their day, and we were, as always, hugely grateful for the extra pairs of hands.

Talking of extra pairs of hands, I must include a note about our new work experience lad, Tom. Tom is joining us Mondays to Wednesdays during the end of March and throughout April, and has so far been hard working and fun, fitting in with the team so quickly and holding his own amongst a gaggle of assorted volunteers and staff.  Keep it up, Tommo!

After blogging of Monty’s successful arrival, it seems all is not quite as idyllic as previously thought.  We’ve witnessed challenges between Monty and the Drake of the pair of wild mallards that pop by from time to time.  It seems the pond just isn’t big enough for the both of them!  After a brief stand off it seems that our Monty is a bit of a push over and is now periodically banished to the sidelines when it comes to our two white, Cherry Valley ladies.  It’s been heartbreaking to watch but I suppose that’s just nature’s way.  On top of all of this, we’ve also had a pair of visiting Mandarin ducks drop by for a day or so here and there. And along with a random third visiting mallard drake, at one point there were eight ducks of varying colours and genders on our pond, all looking at a bit of a loss as to who was in charge.  Unfortunately my phone just doesn’t take a good enough photo from a distance but here’s an image of what our visiting mandarin pair look like... quite exotic!

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In other challenging news, the Garden team are in the process of replacing the tall posts that line the Exedra Garden.
The original, rotten posts were removed a few months ago while we replaced edging boards and had a tidy up of the plants. But now it’s time to put the new, very heavy, oak ones in.  This has been incredibly educational, but also infuriatingly hard as we found that the concrete holding the original posts in was just not budging. We tried everything to break up the large blocks, digging with spades, drilling with ridiculously massive drill bits, clawing with our finger tips, until we had to succumb and hire a breaker!  Trust me when I say that this is by far one of the heaviest tools we’ve ever had the misfortune to wield and we have sweated and sworn our way through the last three tough blocks of concrete until they have eventually been broken up and removed. What a week of work that was!

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On the up side, the new posts took no time at all to position and set in place and are looking positively swanky! Soon they will be joined up with thick rope and will replicate the 1748 Thomas Robins painting nicely.

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Incidentally, the Exedra garden right now is bursting with bulbs and the display has only just begun. The beautiful colours of the daffodils and the hyacinths are a welcome sight after the stark white of the snowdrops, not to mention, my personal favourite, the Snakeshead Fritillary with its fancy checkerboard flowers.  Around the garden in other places too, there are colours popping up everywhere, from the daffs and periwinkle to the pulmonaria and scilla, yellows, blues and pinks in their hundreds. Not to mention the stunning display of pure daffodils on our main bank.

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We’ve also been busy planting a large number of Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), along the banks of our main pond, which should create a stunning display of pinks, come May.

In the polytunnel right now we have been sowing both flowers and vegetables, including sunflowers, purple sprouting, Savoy cabbage and sweet peas. And we’ve been potting on plug plants that have been bought in ready for our Exedra Garden beds too.

We’ve also erected a last bit of fencing situated at the end of the Snowdrop Grove that runs along the boundary with our farming neighbour Phillip, who we fondly refer to as Farmer Phillip. The original fence had been damaged by falling trees quite some time ago which left Phillip without a field for his rams. This has now been rectified and we look forward to seeing it being used once again.

Plus this past week we’ve had a hand in creating and setting the table for the "Easter Garden Adventure" Trail. Make of that what you will! All is revealed this Easter holidays...  find out more about that here.

P.S. We have frogspawn!! Spring really is in the air!!

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