My last blog left off with us flail mowing the orchard and the meadow in readiness for our new event, Midsummer Lights. Although this now seems like a distant past I still feel the need to talk about it a little, mainly about the incredible hard work that went into it as well as the actual experience itself, although I’m not entirely sure how to convey the experience in words but I’ll give it a go.
The event began with the arrival of an articulated lorry stacked, Tetris style, full of huge and very well organised crates. Each crate was carefully labelled and overflowing with hundreds upon hundreds of strings of lights, cables, plugs & sockets as well as the odd lampshade! With this came five or six strong men to install it all, working long days in the searing 30c+ heat that helpfully coincided with the set up, and also into the night to test their work once the sun had set.
All in all, a huge amount of hard work, serious organisation, beautiful creativity and some incredibly in-depth spreadsheets and maps.
The Preview Evening
The preview evening allowed the garden team and other Rococo staff to dress up, bring a picnic and relax.
And this is where I become lost for words. We knew there were a lot of light bulbs, we knew that hours had been spent designing and installing and we’d met a lot of the performers, in fact we knew most of the secrets and a lot of the spoilers, but we hadn’t quite put it all together and come up with the right amount of awe, or of dreamlike, immersive escapism.
Armed with a glass of fizz each, and carrying a full belly of picnic we wandered aimlessly through tastefully coloured lights, dreamlike music and fascinating performances, all mingled together to make us forget reality, relax into a meditatively slow stride and marvel at exactly how tall some of our trees really are!
Seeing and feeling truly are believing so fingers crossed for a similar event next year, don’t miss it – you have been warned!
Alas, it’s not all soirées and socialising – we have actually done some gardening too…
The Hedge Cut!
This last month has seen some full-on hedge cutting as well as the erection of our professional new garden signs. Due to that pesky ‘c’ word, our fantastic Anniversary Maze had been closed for many months, but finally we have now been able to reopen it to our visitors. But before we could even consider taking down the ropes, first things first, and as many of you may have experienced, after months of lockdown our maze was suffering from a serious case of the Lockdown Locks, so overgrown in places that darkness loomed in the middle of the day.
Cutting our maze is no mean feat, it takes days of hard work. We start by cutting all the sides back which allows us to get in with our little scaffold tower to start tackling the tops.
But cutting the tops is a tricky task in itself: because the ground that the maze is planted on slopes away towards the garden, but we like the tops of the privet hedges to be level, they naturally must become taller and taller the further back you go.
To tackle this, we attach two spirit levels to the scaffold so we can make sure that it’s perfectly level and therefore know that the cut we do from the platform will also be level. It takes practice and an eye for detail and luckily it is one of my all-time favourite jobs in the garden. Not only does it have the creative side to getting it spot on, it is incredibly moreish; it also has great views and is a brilliant workout – if I haven’t lost at least 5lbs by the time it’s finished then I want my money back!
Our maze is so popular, it’s been heartbreaking to stop people from exploring it for so long so it’s an especially good feeling to get it looking sharp and open to visitors once again.
Next on the hedge cutting list is the tunnel arbour. Planted with hornbeam it had become a seriously crazy hairdo that needed to be tamed. Once again, our trusty scaffold tower and its spirit levels are used to complete the job.
August also sees the majority of our outdoor theatre. Nowadays located in the coach field above the car park we are able to host theatre events to even more willing viewers. It’s the perfect spot with a natural amphitheatre in the landscape.
This year we hosted the very popular IKP theatre company’s Beauty and the Beast which was tremendously funny for both children and adults. I’m still kicking myself for not queuing with the kids at the end to have my photo taken with the two leading characters. As well as IKP we hosted another regular production company – The Handlebards. This year the female crew performed Macbeth to a rapt crowd in their well known slightly crazy style. If you haven’t experienced any of our theatre, then please do keep an eye on our website for next years shows… I’ve heard rumours of Rapunzel – you heard it here first!!
August also saw us have a bit of a tidy of the pond. Armed with drag takes, the boat or our one size fits all (shoe size 12) waders, we tackled the Sparganium erectum (branched bur-reed) by literally ripping it out. A very satisfying, hugely smelly and, as it turns out, crowd pleasing activity. Visitors in large numbers watched and chatted with us as we sank waist deep in silty water to sling handfuls of the plant onto the side of the pond. Here’s a snap of Emma joyfully filling her boat with reeds. Annoyingly we have no ‘before and after’ photos of this task but the pond now looks much tidier and a lot bigger too.
No news from our new grass carp that I mentioned in my previous July blog, the pond weed seems to be receding but that may be due to the seasons changing but the heron has definitely been sighted so perhaps he can update us on the grass carp?!